Cool Libraries – The Church of the Good Book

This post is linked to Ludwig Keck’s Monday Windows


Maison de La Litterature

church sign 2

Have you ever been to a church library? No, not the type where you check out Bibles and Sunday School Manuals, but a real library – located in a church – featuring the likes of Clive Cussler, Jamie Oliver, and Peppa Pig.  You’ll find several of these church/libraries in Quebec, and if you’re visiting you’ll want to check them out.

Apparently organized religion is on the wane in Canada and many magnificent old meeting houses are becoming obsolete. Last year in Quebec alone, 434 churches fell into disuse, and that’s up from 270 last year.

new quebecThe good news is that rather than destroy these beautiful structures, the citizens of Quebec have come to the rescue. While it costs millions for a makeover, many churches of historical importance have been reimagined into theatres, cultural centers and best of all – libraries.

In the perfect blend of inspiration and education, one can now sit in divine tranquility among stained glass windows and soaring ceilings while enjoying a favorite book, or maybe even writing one of your own.

If you’ve followed the Library Lady for long, you’ll know I love cool and unusual libraries. So when my travels took me to Quebec, church/libraries were on my agenda. I found three – two right next door to each other – and another one 10 minutes away, and while I was thrilled at my good fortune I couldn’t help but wonder why all these churches were available.

My favorite, the Maison de La Litterature is particularly striking with its glowing white interior. Thanks to the immense leaded glass windows, the building is suffused with light and lifts your spirits as you enter.

church bar

One of the more interesting aspects of the Maison is the bar near the entrance. A bottle of beer in the reading room? Maybe it’s just me, but this seems wrong for so many reasons. First of all, I know from years as a Library Lady that books and liquids don’t mix. Neither do churches and alcohol, or loud drunks in libraries. On the other hand, if this is a fundraiser for the library, I have to admire someone’s ingenuity. It’s certainly a novel way to raise money for new books.

While the bar is an unusual feature, the fact that churches are now home to secular books is another twist of irony. In the 19th century, the Canadian clergy forced public librarians to remove books that were deemed a threat to piety. Now those same books rest in peace on the church bookshelves.

This next church had a totally different atmosphere. More dark wood and stained glass. The exterior is distinctly middle ages, with mossy stone walls and a towering spire. There’s also a cemetery on the grounds surrounded by ancient trees. The lovely interior is highlighted by stained glass windows and a baptismal font.

The best part is the ceiling. This library feels dignified and reverent, It’s the perfect place to ponder the complexities of the universe or study for tomorrow’s final.

brown church

The Stairway to Heaven? Not really, but it’ll take you to the auto repair manuals on the second floor. There’s even a book drop in the front door.


church stained glass john

This last library is a little different.  The Morrin Center has worn a lot of hats over the years, but it began as a monastery and now serves as a cultural center and library.

church morrin statue

church morrin class

There are more church/libraries in Quebec. I would have loved to see the Monique-Corriveau, a modern building with lofty angles and a showy exterior, but my time was limited.

So here’s my question, and maybe somebody out there has the answer. Why have so many Churches in Quebec and Canada fallen into disuse? Is it just a general lack of interest in religion? A tour guide suggested that Canadians were once compelled to go to church and now that they’re free to choose they avoid organized religion.
Whatever the case, I think this is an interesting phenomenon, and something I’d love to hear from my readers about. Why are Canadians skipping church?

Thankfully, some of these beautiful buildings are being spared, but it’s hard to think about all the others that didn’t make the cut.

If you’re ever in Quebec and want to visit some cool libraries, here’s how.

Maison de la Littérature library
Public library
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Closed ⋅ Opens 10AM · +1 418-641-6797

Library Claire-Martin
Public library
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Closed ⋅ Opens 10AM · +1 418-641-6798

Morrin Center
44 Chaussée des Écossais,

Québec, QC G1R 4H3, Canada

Library Monique-Corriveau
Public library

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

This post is linked to Monday Windows – for more beautiful windows and fun posts pop on over.

Also, for a knock-your-socks-off article about Ancient Ethiopian Churches read Donna’s article at Born With Gypsy Shoes.

Here’s another fun post  by Bluesyemre  about cool library restorations in Chicago

49 thoughts on “Cool Libraries – The Church of the Good Book

  1. I live in Ontario, Canada– we turn decommissioned churches into condos. Turning them into libraries is such a wonderful idea. Once travel opens up again, I’m due for a trip to Quebec. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Fascinating post and I’ve bookmarked it to peruse more closely again later. Wow! It gave me the idea for another post on my blog. We made a quick walk-through tour of the public library in Bologna. I’ll put that together soon. Your blog is so interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful library. In answer to your question about why churches are falling into disuse the same thing is happening here in Australia. There is a marked decline in followers of traditional Christianity. At the same time the evangelic ‘born again’ type churches are getting massive followings. Some churches are being used by such groups but many are being deconsecrated and sold off to the other purpose.
    On another issue. I owe you an apology. I was replying to your comment on my blog ‘Being in Nature’ when my fingers slipped on the keyboard and I accidentally disappeared your comment. I can’t seem to find it anywhere though I will keep looking. In answer to your question about whether following Being in Nature will automatically send you to my new blog “Mapping Uncertainty” I don’t think so. I will try and set this up but no promises. I am lousy at technology. If you are interested in following my new blog please do so there but could you please wait till tomorrow. I am flat out here today on another matter but will get to the new blog tomorrow and set up the Widgets, the Follow options and the About page. Thanks very much for expressing an interest. Sorry to muck you round – Suzanne


  4. Interesting social phenomenon. The libraries look magnificent in these ornate religious buildings. I could peruse books for hours in there. Anyways, I wonder if more religious people are leaving the traditional catholic/protestant buildings and worshipping in more modern coffee shop type places. I know evangelicals here in the U.S. tend to congregate in more modern-looking buildings. Nevertheless, thanks for sharing this insightful post!


  5. Pingback: How to survive retirement – Happily … after retirement

    • This is such a great article. Have you ever written professionally? There are so many magazines for seniors that would pay for articles like this. Anyway, you made me think about things I’m looking forward too in retirement, I used to take fiddle lessons, and would love to pick that up again. Also do volunteer work, and figure out a way to go horseback riding once in awhile. Lots of good advice here. I wish we could sit down and compare notes on retirement and life in general. 😊


  6. I adore the images you took and would love to visit these amazing church/libraries. So wonderful to know that the beautiful old buildings are standing tall and proud. And to think they are now housing the written word for one and all. Very very special. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I won’t enter into the debate about why the churches are no longer receiving church related traffic, but I am glad they’re being repurposed – and as a library. These are stunning – and just the place that I’d love to browse.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the idea of repurposing those beautiful buildings. The bar for fund-raising … perhaps that’s a key to why the churches are getting less interest – there is an increase in the message that reading a good book while sipping wine is a good thing on social media. Did you find out how they stay open – if they’re not fundraising in some way, and they don’t have parishioners contributing, how do the libraries stay open? Very intriguing post, Geanie, thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, if it’s like the library I work at it’s funded with taxpayer money. I’m assuming there’s some type of government support for these too although Canada is a completely different animal than the U.S. so I’m not sure. I wish I’d asked a little more about the bar – maybe it’s just an entrepreneur but I suspect it wouldn’t be there unless there unless there was a pretty good reason for it. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It appears to be a case of chapter versus chapel. Interest in organized religion is on the decrease. I think that is sad because with some exceptions ( i.e. the crusades, the holocaust, and jihad) church going tends to soften and brighten our cultures. But I suppose that if churches must be used for other purposes, libraries are a good choice. Libraries also help to brighten and soften the harder edges of society. And maybe if the world read the best books we wouldn’t have some of those previously named exceptions.
    Just my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a wonderful comment. We certainly need things that soften and brighten our society. The best books and places that harbor quiet spirits are a good way to start. Thanks for your thoughts.


  10. What a fascinating reuse of churches! So beautiful and I would love browsing in one 🙂

    Here many have stepped right away from organised religion, in fact those churches still in use have mostly older congregations. One can only suppose as they die off those churches will also be put up for reuse. Here there is a lot of anger about the child abuse that was so prolific and although it’s now been investigated those religions are still reluctant to pay their dues to the few survivors who haven’t suicided … my disgust is that it was covered or avoided for decades as lawyers made packets of money deferring cases.

    Anyway I’ve not seen or heard of any churches here used as libraries. Most are bought privately and converted into quirky homes. Have seen one as an op shop, some churches convert them to offices for delivery of their aged care service. But institutional religion has had a rapid decline here

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting comments Kate. I’m wondering where here is? Such a sad state of affairs first for all the damage that was done, and now for people – understandably – losing their faith over it. At least like one commenter said, some of those beautiful buildings have survived so something good is coming out of the chaos.

      Liked by 1 person

      • exactly, I’m in Australia and we had a huge Royal Commission into institutional abuse … eg church and state. The evidence was overwhelmingly damning but still the churches are arguing about payouts … feels like they are trying to draw it out until the last few die!
        That is the institution, many have strong beliefs just won’t engage with the institutions ..

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Your “little photos” are wonderful, and more importantly illuminating and enlightening. You have shared more than windows but a story about churches, faith and the appreciation of communities for their historic buildings. Well told, and nicely illustrated. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

      • They are closing many libraries here – due to a lack of borrowers, I guess. The ones that succeed diversify their library space and a church building could really facilitate that. Plus they are generally cool so they wouldn’t need to air condition everything.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. A very interesting question Geanie. My friend and I were just pondering that last week after attending a church here in Florida. While it is growing and has a lot of young families, our church is declining with only a few families with children. I don’t have the answer, but wish I knew how to get all the children of the members of our church and their kids to come back. I do like that churches that have become decommissioned are being used for libraries or cultural centres instead of being torn down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carla, I know, for some reason the young people are leaving. I honestly think there’s too many distractions today. Social media and streaming T.V. , cell phones, books, blogs etc. There’s so much to do that we just don’t make time for spiritual things. The last time people really got back into organized religion was right after 911. I wonder what it’ll take this time? Anyway, thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. We live in western Canada and hadn’t heard of these ovely buildings being repurposed. What a great idea. I’m not sure everyone’s reasons for no longer attending church, but in general, interest in religion has been declining in Canada for a few decades. Many people that we know don’t have a strong belief and there have been a few too many scandals with various churches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Maggie, thanks for your insight. I agree with you, I think interest in general is declining and suspect that if I looked into it the problem would be widespread and not just in Canada. But at least Canada is trying to do something positive with the fallout. These churches were amazing. My little photo’s don’t begin to do them justice.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. What a remarkable topic – I had no idea such a thing existed! On one hand, it is sad that so many churches are closing. I suppose it reflects the fact that many people consider themselves “religious nones” – unaffiliated with any particular denomination or faith. On the other hand, however, I think this is a wonderful re-purposing of these beautiful buildings. Thank you for your intriguing post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response Donna. I was surprised by this topic too. I was just looking for libraries in Quebec becuase I always do that whenever I travel, and up popped all these wonderful libraries that were housed in old chrches. That got my attention.
      I just re-read your great post on Ethiopian churches and have to compliment you once again. The video of the chant was haunting.


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