The storied history of the Swift Current Library is being celebrated during 100th anniversary of the long running city amenity.
Swift Current’s initial Library Board was formed back in 1918, and shortly after a reading room was opened in the former City Hall on May 14, 1918. Swift Current’s first library was situated in the basement of the old City Hall, and there were 440 books available for early patrons to peruse.
“Its been really, really interesting,” admitted Andrea McCrimmon, Manager of the Swift Current Branch Library. “I hadn’t really delved to much into the history until this past year. And we’ve had some really interesting things in our history.”
During the early years of the library they got by with an annual contribution of $500 from the city, and a provincial government grant of $200 a year.
They also faced adversity during those early years, as a fire at City Hall destroyed the library just two and a half years after it opened. Fortunately they were insured for $1,000 and replaced many books, in addition to being able to dry out some of the water damaged collection.
John Treliving, who came from England in 1907, became Swift Current’s first librarian in 1918, serving until 1930. He originally requested a salary of $50 per month, but the original library board decided they could only pay him $25 per month. Ironically, his wife Fanny Treliving took over as librarian, serving from 1930 to 1949.
And having made a trip through the fascinating history of the library, McCrimmon marvels at how far they have come over the years. In 2018, the library had over 103,000 in person visits. The public computers were accessed almost 15,000 times, and people participated in over 10,000 library programs.
“I’m sure they could never imagine what we do in the library now, 100 years later,” McCrimmon said of her earlier predecessors.
“I think they’d be really pleased, and just really proud of what they started. The idea of the library was to improve people’s lives, to give them more access to information and educational opportunities, giving everyone a chance to succeed. And that hasn’t changed, that’s still what we do.”
“It looks like the library has changed a lot, but really we’re still doing the same type of work. We make people’s lives better. We give people access to information. Now, a lot of that information comes through technology, so we’ve kind of changed to support people’s technology learning needs.”
McCrimmon chuckled that libraries are far removed from the days of quiet spots where patrons are shushed to be quiet.
“People always joke to me about shushing people all day. And I think ‘you’ve never been to our library have you.’ Because we have a loud library. Its got a lot of people doing things and having fun and enjoying themselves, and communicating.”
“It’s different things to different people. We do try and have quiet times for people who need some quiet. But we also think it’s really important for people to be using the library, and that means a bit of noise.”
The next celebration for the library will be on May 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. when they host a garden party and barbecue. The event features highlighted events such as live music, a storyteller, and a bouncy castle.