2nd January 1882
Guille and Alles open their library
Thomas Guille and Frederick Alles’ library opened in the former Assembly Rooms, in St Peter Port’s Market Street, on 2 January 1882. It gave access to 15,000 books arranged in five varnished pine cases, as well as the full book collection of the Mechanics Institution. There was a table between each bookcase for the exclusive use of female readers.
Initially, the building was leased from the States of Guernsey, but the pair had an option to buy it from the very beginning. They exercised this option within the first couple of years and extended the building 1888. In doing so, they gave it a new, more impressive entrance befitting its status as a place of reference and learning.
The library operated on a subscription basis for almost 100 years – from its founding until 1978. By then it was facing financial hardships. It seemed unlikely that increasing the £5 annual charge would return it to solvency, so instead it entered a partnership with the States of Guernsey. The States now leases the building from the trust that once ran the library and, as a result, has made it a free, open public resource, maintained for the good of the island.
The Star reported on the library’s opening, upon which it had done very good business, with locals taking the opportunity to see inside. “Many were the expressions of admiration of the entire arrangements,” wrote the paper’s reporter
It wasn’t home to just books, though. The collection also included several pictures, including a water colour drawing of Fountain Street and an engraving of Queen Victoria, who had visited the island almost 40 years earlier.