History of the Library

The genesis of the Strathmore Municipal Library occurred sometime between 1945 and 1948 when local educator Samuel Crowther organized a committee and contacted the provincial government department responsible for libraries. The committee held a drive to collect good used books and a government representative was sent to the town for an organizational meeting. It was agreed that the government would grant a credit of $300 for the books collected in the drive and would match it with an equal grant of $300 to be spent on new books. The government offered to match the amount spent on new books to a maximum of $330 per year.

For a number of years the library committee struggled to establish the library. The Town of Strathmore gave a donation of $25 per year and letters soliciting donations were often sent out with discouraging results. An annual bake sale and raffle was held to raise funds for books and to cover operating expenses. Initially the library was run mainly by volunteers - usually members of the library committee.

Nellie Hanson was the first paid librarian employed by the Strathmore Municipal Library. During her time as librarian the library was open Tuesday evenings, Saturday afternoons, and three days a week for the use of schoolchildren. The library also depended on volunteers to stay operational. Some of the people who devoted many hours during these early years were Lyda Martin, Marjory Hagen, Willeta English, and Phyllis Gray.

The library was originally located in an upstairs room in the old town hall. From there it moved into a small room in the newly constructed Samuel Crowther School and then to a room in the new town office. During these years Lyda Martin and Dr. Stan Cockx served as volunteer librarians.

In 1967, the Town of Strathmore passed a by-law establishing the library as a municipal body thereby guaranteeing per capita funding for its operation. A library board was established and for a number of years it endeavored to save money to build a permanent home for the library.

Because of crowded conditions at the town office, the library was relocated to a small shack at the south end of the Strathmore Hotel in 1977. Much of the collection was put in storage due to limited space. In 1978, Doris Bessie was hired as librarian and the next year the library moved again to a larger building. Doris increased the library's operating hours and she hired an assistant librarian. A year later the library moved again to another building located on Main Street.

During the late 1970s the library began collaborating more closely with the provincial government and other libraries throughout the province. Alberta Culture set up an interlibrary loan system for the province and the library was able to obtain materials not held in its own collection for patrons. Foreign language materials and Talking Books for the visually impaired were also made available for the first time. During 1977 to 1980 the provincial government funded a program called the Southern Alberta Library Services which provided books, training, and professional help to small libraries. In late 1981, the Marigold Library System formally came into being with the Strathmore Municipal Library as one of its founding members.

For two years following the move to the building on Main Street, the board worked hard to raise funds for a new facility. They received further grants from the Recreation Board and the provincial government. They also sponsored a successful 'Mr. Strathmore' pageant in 1980 and 1982 and used the proceeds to purchase shelving and furnishing. Finally, in April 1982, the library moved into spacious quarters in the newly completed Community Centre. The library's new premises officially opened on February 19, 1983.

The library began to automate in 1985 using a borrowed computer to place interlibrary loans. In 1986, an Olivetti M24 microcomputer was purchased and it served until at least 1992. In 1990, Margie Lavoie took over as librarian. 

In 1995 Industry Canada administered the Community Access Program (CAP). This program provided the first public access computer in Strathmore. Due to high demand, the library held a "Beef up the Library" fundraiser to purchase more computers. Tickets were available up to three months in advance, and the raffle winner received a steer during Pioneer Days. In the end, the event raised over ten thousand dollars, and the establishment was able to purchase more public access computers with Columbia software. 

In 1996, the county of Wheatland withdrew membership to the library. As a result, significant non-residents fees became mandatory for individuals from the county. The same year, the Strathmore Lions Club committed to a yearly donation of 500 dollars to increase the audiobook collection. Consequently, the video collection also increased at this time. 

Margie Lavoie hosted some historic events during her time as manager. Towards the end of 1996, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada helped organize a "Night Watch" event where the entire Town of Strathmore turned off their lights to view the starry night sky. A short film about the viewable night sky played at the Joyland Theatre before the event, and seventeen telescopes were set up on the library grounds. Several years later, "Night Watch Again" was hosted on the Strathmore Golf Course.  

In 1997, the library's system transferred onto Dynix software. Following this transition, the Strathmore Municipal Library joined The Alberta Library system allowing academic, special, and public libraries to share materials throughout Alberta.  In a similar vein, The Regional Automation Consortium (TRAC) became an integral part of the Inter-library loan system in 2001. These partnerships are still in service today. 

The construction of the Strathmore Centennial Civic Centre presented an opportunity for the library to move into the main hall of the now renamed Lambert Centre. A 'Friends of the Library' committee was set up to coordinate the fundraising. Through their hard work and the generous support of the townspeople, the Marigold Library System, and the municipal and provincial governments the library was up and running in its new space by December 2002. The official grand opening ceremony took place on April 6, 2003. Volunteers were vital during this time.

Before completing the move, the library hosted a fair entertained by The Society for Creative Anachronism. Twenty-nine group members attended, providing swordfights, Shakespearean readings, medieval ornaments, food kiosks, and more. The event aired on the News several times.

Once operations were functioning within the Lambert Centre, the Community Access Program (CAP) provided funding for more publicly available computers. At the time, there were 5 computers available for patrons. 

In 2005, the County of Wheatland renewed their membership permitting county inhabitants to pay the resident fee again. The annual Plant Exchange Program commenced at this time.

After 15 years of service, Margie Lavoie retired. When she left, there were thirteen public access computers, and the library's hours of operation had nearly doubled compared to when she began.

In 2008, Susan Oxford managed the library until Jessie Traquair took over the following year. During his time as manager, the library systems transferred onto Polaris as part of TRAC. Additionally, the library installed a new CAP computer for the visually impaired in an effort to make the computers more inclusive.

In 2010, Carmen Erison was hired as interim director while the director was on parental leave.  When the director returned, Carmen was hired as the new assistant director of library services.  

The first library social media account debuted in 2009. Simultaneously, free wireless high-speed internet became available. The following year, the social media account began to advertise ongoing programs and services. On November 23rd, the official website launched.  The monthly newsletter "Booker's Buzz" was also established within the year.

In 2011, the first "Food for Fines" event encouraged patrons to pay their fines by donating to the Wheatland County Food Bank. Technology also continued to advance, and grant funding enabled the purchase of the first Adaptive Technology Computer. This computer replaced the CAP computer and succeeded in achieving inclusiveness. The following year, technology continued to advance as the e-reader lending program began. Moreover, exam proctoring became available at this time. 

Rachel Dick Hughes became the director of library services in 2013. Within this year, programming became more frequent, the annual Mother Goose in The Park partnership began, and the first yearly Strathmore Municipal Library Day event was curated. Following this string of accomplishments, the Strathmore & District Chamber of Commerce awarded the Strathmore Municipal Library the Community Spirit Award for an Organization.

The next year, funding from the United Way of Calgary and Area generated several new programs such as the influential Technology Tutoring program.

2015 sparked some revolutionary achievements. The initiation of the Visiting Library program allowed library services to reach individuals with limited mobility. Community enhancement continued as funds were made available for Little Free Libraries— small bookshelves posted around the community encouraging individuals to trade books. Seasonal programs such as the Halloween Costume Exchange Program, Edible Book Day, Spring Market, and Christmas Market also began around this time. Finally, the library hours expanded to remain open for an additional hour on weekdays compared to previous years.

Betty Whalen and Alexis McKenzie temporarily directed the library in 2016 as the official director left for maternity leave. The first Little Free Library was officially placed in the community the following year.

In 2017, The Lambert Centre underwent significant renovations to expand the library. During this time, the establishment was moved to a temporary location on 3rd avenue and operated with reduced space and services. 

Volunteers' efforts were not only required but also very impactful during this time. In fact, it only took one day to pack the entire library! The temporary space had laptops for public use, a limited collection of books, a small children's place, and a miniature ILL workstation.

During this time, the Summer Reading Program operated in the upstairs lounge at the Strathmore Family Centre Arena.

The Lambert Centre was scheduled to re-open on October 1, 2017, but due to complications, the grand opening was delayed.  Donors received a sneak peek, and after a month of no service, the library re-opened on December 4, 2017. The renovation created a staff room, a meeting room, a program room, and additional offices and workspace. It also transformed the art gallery into a proper exhibit to display art and feature local artists.

In 2019 Miranda Johnson temporarily directed the library, as the official director was on her second maternity leave. During this time, the SAIL program began to serve the community.

The following year, Food for Fines expanded to include the Siksika foodbank. Unfortunately, COVID-19 drastically influenced operations in 2020. The library closed on Monday, March 16th, and resumed operations through the Curb-side Pickup program in April. The Visiting Library service became vital during this time, as many patrons were uncomfortable or unable to leave their residences. The premises officially re-opened to the public in June with increased safety protocols and reduced hours of operation. 

Many programs transferred to an online format during this time. On December 12th, the library closed for a second time but continued to offer virtual and curbside services.  

The library has always been dedicated to providing exceptional service to the community; here's to community enhancement, educational programming, and new programs during the upcoming years of service!

Works cited

Castella, Betty. "History of the Strathmore Library from a letter by Phyllis Gray." Strathmore Municipal Library, Strathmore, AB. 19 February 1983. Speech at Grand Opening.

Erison, C. (2020-2021). Personal communication [personal interviews].

Jensen, L. (2020). Personal communication [personal communication].

Henderson, L. (2020-2021). Personal communication [personal communication].

Hughes R.D. (2020-2021). Personal communication [personal interviews].

Keeling, A. (2020). Personal communication [personal communication].

Lavoie, M. (2021). Personal communication [personal interview].

Purwins, M. (2021). Personal communication [personal communication]. 

Sonsteby, Paul. 100 Years of Memories: Celebrating Strathmore's Centennial. Polished Publishing Group, 2012. Print. 

Strathmore History Book Committee. Strathmore, the Village That Moved: a Story of the Town of Strathmore. Red Deer: Adviser Graphics, 1986. Print.

Strathmore Municipal Library. (2006-2019). Annual Reports.