Cote Saint-Luc’s first Chief Librarian has passed away. The namesake of the Eleanor London Cote Saint-Luc Public Library died Thursday morning at the age of 80. Eleanor London name was inextricably linked to Cote Saint-Luc beginning in the mid-1960s. She lived to see the 50th anniversary of the founding of the CSL Public Library, just last year.

As Acting Mayor in December 2015 I wrote, “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this incredible public library, I am reminded of my many visits to its original location upstairs at the Cote Saint-Luc Shopping Centre and to hundreds of other visits through the years. It is a place that has and will continue to make Cote Saint-Luc the envy of many other residents across the region and still is an oasis for its thousands of patrons.” Eleanor London figured prominently in my thoughts, as I recounted the many story-time sessions as a youngster sitting in front of the towering librarian who captivated the audiences of young, impressionable children.

The Eleanor London Cote Saint-Luc Public Library (Photo: Montreal Gazette)

“I knew her well, since the age of 5, and stayed in touch with her by phone even this past year,” said Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, remembering the early days of Eleanor.

“I am really very honoured to have had the privilege be part of this great library all of these years and I thought I might take this opportunity to talk about greatness and what is it that makes a public library great,” Janine West said in her remarks at the 50th anniversary celebrations. “First and foremost you have to have a clear vision. And here I have to thank Eleanor London our founding librarian for giving us her vision of a people’s library where the library is built for people first and foremost and not just for books. Eleanor’s legacy has been remarkable and her contribution to CSL, the library world, and how her vision continues to influence the library (and me personally) remains unmeasurable, West said.”

The city council established a citizens committee in December 1964 to look into establishing a public library, under the leadership of Alderman Bernard Lang. The city hired Eleanor London and the Côte Saint-Luc Public Library opened its doors on September 7, 1966. Its 4,322 square feet were originally located on the second floor of the Côte Saint-Luc Shopping Centre. It moved to its current 23,000 square feet of space in 1986.

Councillor Mike Cohen curently holds the portfolio for Library and Culture.  Last fall Cohen said, “I recently spoke to Eleanor London, who said that due to health problems she will not be able to join us (at the celebrations). She is a legend in our circles.”

Eleanor London (back row fourth from left), surrounded by her library staff (including current director Janine West, back row, third from left) as construction takes place on the Cavendish Boulevard site that became the City Hall / Library complex in 1985

Wikipedia indicates that, “the city’s Eleanor London Côte-Saint-Luc Public Library was named in honour of Eleanor London, the first librarian hired to set up whatever vision of a library she wanted. She continued in the capacity of chief librarian for 36 years. The Eleanor London Côte-Saint-Luc Library is one of few libraries in North America that is open every day of the year.”

In her retirement, Eleanor was a strong supporter of mine in each election campaign, always willing to lend her name and her time in making phone calls on my behalf. She was so proud when Anthony Housefather, Mitchell Brownstein, Ruth Kovac and I lead the demerger forces to withdraw from the Montreal mega-city and re-establish the City of Cote Saint-Luc a dozen years ago. Eleanor felt that mega-Montreal was dismantling our vibrant city. When Montreal tried to swallow up our all-volunteer Emergency Medical Services, Eleanor spoke up again, and was very pleased that the efforts of the community under Anthony, myself and Ruth together with Lawrence Bergman, saved our EMS.

She never hesitated to speak out and give her opinion. That was Eleanor’s way. The flamboyant and dramatic tall woman with long flowing silvery hair was a giant not only in the library world, but throughout the city. Her face was iconic and her name forever linked to our town.

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has ordered the flags at City Hall to be lowered to half mast in tribute to Eleanor.

Condolences to Eleanor’s daughter, Mala, and to her family. May Eleanor forever be remembered as a woman of great valour, who taught not one, but several generations of Cote Saint-Lucers and West-Enders. Her book may have ended but her story will live on.

A memorial book will be set up at the Eleanor London Cote Saint-Luc Public Library for members of the public to sign. It will be presented to Eleanor’s family.

Read: Montreal Gazette