Colne’s first recorded lending library was set up in 1793 by a group of local men. In return for their subscription members of the Coln Book Society were able to borrow books for a certain number of days – a penny was charged for each day a book was overdue. Only those members living more than 2 miles away were allowed to borrow more than one book at a time and membership was very much drawn from the middle and upper classes of local society. An annual general meeting was held on the first Friday in April to appoint a committee responsible for the selection of new stock.
These and the rest of the society’s rules, along with a catalogue of its books and periodicals, were published in 1819.
By this time the library held thousands of books, all of them sounding quite highbrow.
There is no evidence of how the society went on from the publication of 1819 until 1853 when only 16 members were left. The diary of William Earnshaw, landlord of the Hole in the Wall Inn, records the demise of the society. The AGM of that year was held at the Red Lion where it was decided to call it a day and divide the books among the remaining members.
Sources: The Coln Book Society, W M Spencer, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire; Coln Book Society rules and catalogue, Lancashire Archives reference DDX 752/19