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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Reading My Grandmothers - Library history

A smidge of library history for you:

The first library at Melfort, Saskatchewan to which my Scottish-Canadian grandmother would have had access was opened in 1928, by which time she was 24 years old, married, with two babies. Even if she hadn't had babies and farm work to contend with, Melfort was 26 km from Fairy Glen (where her school was), and even further from her farm.

Current Melfort librarian Penny Markland wrote me about that first library:

Rules about the use of the library were rather more stringent than they are today.  Members were to have no more than 1 book at a time for no longer than 2 weeks.  Those with overdue books were strictly dealt with, being expelled from library membership after the 3rd offense!   In 1932 the librarian’s salary was $120.00 per year.  $51.84 was spent on books that year.   I don’t think children were necessarily allowed in the library back then, although I’m not totally sure.
Isn't that last bit fascinating - and scary - when we consider how many children nowadays learn to love books and become lifetime readers because of free storytimes at the local library?

Not that the library looked like a particularly child-friendly place anyway. It was on the second floor of the post office, though, so at least it was centrally located for anyone who did get into town once a week from the surrounding countryside and villages.

This is the new library:

It has all the services we take for granted nowadays: not only books and magazines but computers with Internet access, storytimes, kids' crafts, book clubs, classes for all ages, general interest programs and specialty guest speakers.

The one thing that hasn't changed, I bet, is that the librarians still do their darnedest to encourage children to explore the boundless worlds between the covers of books.

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