Library celebrates 30 years of history
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 10:38 am
Some Diamond Valley residents can recall the days when library books were delivered to their doorstep, but that was more than 30 years ago.
Now, avid readers enjoy a 10,000-square-foot state-of-the-art library facility offering not only books, but movies, Internet access, courses and a variety of programs and activities.
“When we moved here there was really no library,” said Turner Valley resident Barry Odell. “We used to get books from the University of Calgary sent by mail to our address in a box and you could read the books, pack them back up in the box and send them to the university again and there was no cost.”
All that changed 32 years ago when residents were able to borrow from a small selection of books at the Griffith’s Memorial Community Seniors Centre. A few months later, a group of residents decided a public library should be created and a location was established in the basement of the Black Diamond Municipal Building, said Sheep River Library board chairperson Diane Osberg.
In 1983 a partnership was struck between Black Diamond, Turner Valley and the Marigold Library System to form the Sheep River Library.
It didn’t take long for Odell to hop on board and eventually become chairman of the Sheep River Library board due to his own love of reading.
“I liked reading ever since I was in my teens,” he said. “It’s just one of my activities that I enjoy the most.”
In celebration of its 30 years of operation the Sheep River Library board is inviting the public to a ceremony on March 23 starting at noon highlighting its accomplishments.
The celebration includes a display of plaques honouring board members, a pictorial timeline of activities and major events, a new donor display, a scavenger hunt of library facts, the launch of Untitled Production’s video “What Sheep River Library Offers to the Community” and speeches by dignitaries with the cutting of a cake at 1 p.m.
Joining in the celebration will be Black Diamond resident Evonne Smulders who served three terms on the library board from 1992 to 2001.
Smulders helped create a lifelong learning centre that offered courses through Foothills Continuing Education and a variety of other programs.
“It wasn’t just about books, it was also about a place people could meet for workshops, talks and book clubs,” she said. “It’s so important that the library become a community hub.”
This move meant taking risks during a time when the Internet was growing in popularity, said Smulders.
“We introduced Internet usage into the library,” she said. “It really pushed us to look at the bigger picture of what a library really is. It isn’t books versus the Internet; it’s about creating community and a place for people to share.”
Although no longer a board member, Smulders is still a vital part of the Sheep River Library teaching a number of popular permaculture and gardening courses.
“I’m promoting permaculture in southern Alberta and trying to teach people more sustainable ways to garden and to live,” she said. “The library is the perfect vehicle to do that.”
Smulders said her effort to educate the public about gardening is well supported by the library staff. In many cases employees ask her which books they should carry to support her sessions.
“That forms partnerships in the community that someone can take a course in the library and go to the library and take out a resource,” she said. “I think it’s amazing that the library is such a vital force in the community. I love the relationship that I have with the library.”
Osberg said the Sheep River Library is much more than just a place to get books, it is a multi-use facility.
When she joined the board in 2007 she said the library boasted a membership of about 1,000 people. Today that number has more than doubled.
She said it was also around that time that discussions about a bigger facility began and soon the Sheep River Library was granted approximately $1 million each from the provincial and federal governments. The Town of Turner Valley donated land and $750,000 toward the building and Black Diamond later contributed $250,000 for a new facility which opened in April 2011.
“We only had 3,000 square feet in Black Diamond and they agreed we needed a bigger library,” said Osberg. “The Friends of the Sheep River Library went on a huge campaign in 2009 and 2010 and raised a $250,000 for furniture and equipment. Instead of four donated second-hand computers we have eight brand new ones and eight laptops.”
For 30 years the Towns of Black Diamond and Turner Valley, along with Marigold and the Province, share the monthly expenses to operate the library, said Osberg.
“It’s a fabulous example of cooperation, collaboration and partnership,” she said. “The people in these two towns have been working together for the good of both of our communities.”
When planning the 30-year celebration, Osberg said the board decided to hold an essay contest among its patrons to learn exactly how the library impacts them. Almost 50 essays were submitted and are being judged by authors and professionals and the winners will be revealed at the ceremony.
“They are great testimonials of why people love the library,” she said. “Some of them are really meaningful about why the library is important to them and why they think it’s a great place. They think of the library as the family room of the community.”
Although Odell doesn’t often make it to the Sheep River Library anymore he knows the importance of having such a facility in the community.
“The library has got their new building now in Turner Valley and that’s a big boost for the library and the people in the towns and area,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing that we do have a library that people can use. It’s a good social place to go and meet other people.”