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. Under her guidance the library's collection, staff, and services continued to expand and by the mid-1990s space was once again at a premium. 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. Since then, the library has continued to change, grow, and adapt itself to the needs of the community it serves. Here's to another 60 years of service!

Works cited

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

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.