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Authority record
Jewish Public Library
Corporate body · 1914-

The Jewish Public Library (JPL) was founded as a "folks" library, a library for all, in 1914. The creation of the JPL was a result of the consolidation of smaller, organization or ideology-based libraries already in existence. Key to the establishment of the JPL was Keneder Adler editor Reuben Brainin. Already active in Yiddish culture of the Montreal Jewish community, Brainin was a leader in the newly formed JPL until he left Montreal for New York in 1916. Brainin's archive collection was donated to the JPL upon his death in 1939.

Until 1950 the Library was an independent body in the Jewish community. In 1952 it became a full member of the Allied Jewish Community Services (today known as FEDERATION CJA), an umbrella organization that conducts annual campaigns and is responsible for providing funding for its constituent agencies. The Library remains independent in that it is not part of the City of Montreal library system. The JPL was also a founding member of the Montreal Association of Independent Libraries.

The operating language of the Library for the early years of its existence was Yiddish. Not just a place for reading, the Library was central to preserving a place for Yiddish culture in the lives of thousands of newly-arrived Eastern European Jewish immigrants. The Library became a venue for visiting authors, such as Sholem Aleichem in 1915, as well as a space for people to connect to a community as well as learn about their new city. At various points in its history the Library also provided learning opportunities under its Jewish People's University, YIFO. YIFO offered a wide variety of subjects taught by various instructors such as Melech Ravitch and Irving Layton. The Library was also the first home to Yiddish youth theatre, led by the then-newly arrived Dora Wasserman.

Today the Library collects material and offers cultural programming in five languages: English, French, Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian. While the majority of new acquisitions, and thus the collection, remains focused on Judaica, the Library also provides general interest fiction, non-fiction, movies and music. The Library is further broadened by its Special Collections, which include the Jewish Public Library Archives, a community-based repository focused on social, cultural and educational history, a rare book collection, a Yizkor book collection, the Irving Layton Library Collection, a German Judaica collection, periodicals and Jewish Canadiana and international Jewry ephemeral collections.

In 1929 a children's library section was added to the JPL. Now known as the Norman Berman Children's Library, children and their families can access a full-service children's and young adult library offering Judaica and general interest reading (fiction and non-fiction) in the five languages of the Library. In addition to the book, CD, DVD and reading kit collections, the Norman Berman Children's Library also offers year-long programming for children from birth to 14 years of age.