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William O. Carson

b. Mar. 8, 1874, London, ON; d. Sept. 27, 1929, Toronto, ON


Graduate of London Collegiate Institute


1906-1915 Chief Librarian, London Public Library
1916-1929 Inspector of Public Libraries, Department of Education, Ontario


Carson , William (1909). “Reference Work in the Library.” Proceedings of the Ontario Library Association Annual Meeting: 22-35

Carson, William (1909). “Newark (Modified) Charging System.” Proceedings of the Ontario Library Association Annual Meeting: 68-69

Carson, William (1912). “The Status and Training of the Public Librarian.” Proceedings of the Ontario Library Association Annual Meeting: 106-14

Carson, William (1914). “Book Purchasing.” Proceedings of the Ontario Library Association Annual Meeting: 110-16

Carson, William (1915). “The Canadian Public Library as a Social Force.” Proceedings of the Ontario Library Association Annual Meeting: 36-42

Carson, William (1917). “The Librarian and Library of Fort William.” Ontario Library Review 1, 3 (May): 92-95. [Carson`s tribute to Mary J.L. Black]

Carson, William (1917). “Libraries in War-Time and Some Factors That Require Consideration.” Proceedings of the Ontario Library Association Annual Meeting: 59-62

Carson, William (1921). “The Ontario Public Library Rate,” American Library Association Bulletin (15, 7): 126-28

Carson, William (1924). “The Public Libraries of Canada,” in British Association for the Advancement of Science, Handbook of Canada, p.73-77. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Carson, William (1926). “Canadian Considerations,” in American Library Association, Libraries and Adult Education; Report of a Study Made by the American Library Association, p.93-102. Chicago: American Library Association.

Carson, William (1927). “Public Libraries of Ontario.” Library Journal 52, 9 (1 May): 451-56


President, Ontario Library Association, 1914-1915.

American Library Association: member of the ALA Council (1928-1929); the Board on Library and Adult Education, the Curriculum Study Advisory Committee, and the Committee on Legislation.


After becoming Chief Librarian at London Public Library, Carson introduced a number of progressive ideas: open access to book stacks, revamped reference and reading rooms, in-service training for assistants, a children’s room with story hour, improved cataloguing, and the appointment of a children’s librarian. He established London’s first neighbourhood branch (East End) in 1915 at Dundas and Rectory streets.

After becoming Inspector of Libraries in April 1916, he transformed this branch into a central coordinating body for public library activity in Ontario. His most lasting contributions were the establishment of the Ontario Library Review, which continued in print from 1916-1982; a completely revised Public Libraries Act of 1920, which served as a framework for Ontario legislation for more than four decades until 1966; and professional training and certification of librarians at the Ontario Library School, 1916-1917. Carson worked to greatly expand the Department of Education’s public libraries branch which dispended increased provincial grants to libraries, promoted library education, and worked to establish new libraries across the province. Beyond Ontario, Carson was an active member of ALA. His most important contribution came as a member of the Commission on the Library and Adult Education which surveyed the adult education field for two years, 1924-1926.

To commemorate his contributions, in 1961 the London Public Library renamed its relocated eastern branch on Dufferin and Quebec Streets the W. O. Carson Branch Library.


“Mr. W.O. Carson,” Ontario Library Review 14, 2 (Dec. 1929), 40-41
“New Library Legislation in Ontario,” Canadian Bookman n.s., 2, 4 (Dec. 1920), 18-19
Samuel H. Ranck. “The Ontario Library Law and American Libraries,” American Library Association Bulletin 15, 7 (July 1921), 128-30.
Bruce, Lorne D. “Carson, William Oliver.” In: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15. Accessed June 24, 2015.
Carson’s annual reports with statistics for his department appear in the Report of the Minister of Education, Ontario, for the years 1916-28.

history/biographies/carson_w.txt · Last modified: 2018/07/15 20:31 by tbodak