When Fraser-Hickson Institute opened 1885 it was the only public type library in Montreal. In 1870 local businessman Hugh Fraser left $200,000 to establish a library, as per his will, dedicated to “the diffusion of knowledge by affording free access to all desiring it.” For more than 70 years it was housed in Burnside Hall at the corner of University Street and Dorchester Boulevard. In 1956 it received an extraordinary bequest of $1 million from professor J.W.A. Hickson. Three years later it moved to property on Kensington Avenue in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. In October 2006, facing costly property maintenance, the Institute's Board decided to sell its property and began looking for a buyer and a new site.
The library left its locale in February 2007. In September the building was sold to a private school. It has continued to provide home delivery service for the mobility impaired. Most of its collection of over 200,000 books and materials were put into storage, retaining a small collection for the home delivery service. The Institute is currently entertaining various proposals from the community.
The search for a viable sequel has been actively pursued by a dedicated team in the intervening years since 2007, one that is at last showing real promise. The challenge is how to provide wide public access to the library’s 100,000+ books, audio materials and publications at sustainable cost. For over 40 years, Fraser-Hickson has delivered books to the homes of its mobility-restricted subscribers. This concept of bringing books to the reader is now being expanded. A pilot project is underway in partnership with the NDG Y Centre that equips “micro” library units, each appropriate for the age group involved, with a pre-selected collection that is changed periodically from the Fraser-Hickson warehouse. Special focus will be on literacy development in the very young. As the project develops, users will also be able to borrow books using the Library’s online catalogue, in hard copy and digital formats, which will be delivered within a few days or downloaded onto an e-reader. If the pilot is successful and financial support is available, the service can be installed with any community organization, including daycares, schools, cultural groups and seniors’ residences.