The first library was a special project of Mrs. Henrietta Muir Edwards and was originally sponsored by the Local Council of Women in the spring of 1931. It was located in a storeroom at the back of Struthers Clothing Store on Main Street. The rent was $3.00 a month. The only money available at first was from membership fees - $1.00 per year for adults and $0.50 for children. Early board members were: Mrs. G.R. Davis, Mrs. Sam Heap, Mrs. E.G. Hillier, Mrs. M. Jordan, Mrs. Mary Perry, Mrs. James Mckay, Mrs. George Skelding, Mrs. Sutherland.
The library consisted of one wall of around 300 books contributed by the Extension Library of the University of Alberta, the Victoria League of London and individual donations. Furnishings were a table and two wooden chairs; the books were old, well-used and signed out in a ledger. The library was open on two afternoons and Saturday evenings for a long time but it was found that not enough people patronized it to justify more than Saturday afternoons and Saturday evenings. Many efforts were made to get an operating grant from the Town of Macleod and the provincial government. The province gave a starting grant of about $15.00 but later grants were on the basis of an amount equal to that spent on books.
Among the local ladies who volunteered their time to the library were: Mrs. Margaret Greenwood, Mrs. Annie McGowan, Mrs. Mary Perry, Miss Anna Taber (Jessup), Miss Clara Taber (Jones) and Miss Gladys Taber (Dowsett-Mckay).
In March 1937, Mr. Struthers passed away and the library moved to a room above the Silver Grill for three months. In May 1937, a permanent location was provided by Dr. A.H.N. Kennedy in his old office building - two rooms were for the library and two for a museum. This building currently stands in Lionette's Park at the southwest corner of 2nd Avenue and 21st Street. An opening tea was held on October 9, 1937 and $20.90 was raised.
The entrance room to the Library contained reference books and encyclopedias, with beadwork and First Nations' basketry displayed on the walls. The main area with the librarian's desk had a small pot-bellied stove converted to gas; it was cold in winter, too hot in summer, and always smelled of gas.
Among the volunteer workers assisting Librarian Mrs. Eloise Davis were: Mrs. Wynne Anderson, Miss Mary Beall, Mrs. W.A. Day, Mrs. Fern Dersch, Mrs. Bea Grier, Mrs. Margaret Greenwood, Miss Hyssop, Miss Henry, Mrs. Olive Lamb, Mrs. Leather, Miss Blossom Lyons, Mrs. Jessie Ingram, Mrs. Clara Jones, Mrs. Emma McCrea, Miss Florence McKenzie, Mrs. Blanche Moses, Mrs. Patterson, and Mrs. Charles Reach.
In May 1938 a tea was held in aid of the Museum - a Board of Trade project - and $12.50 was raised and used to buy pictures. On October 12, 1938 Rev. Father MacDonald of Calgary gave a talk to 15 people in the library. In 1940, a sign was made by Mr. Moses. In July 1940 a Sunday tea was given by the Junior Red Cross to raise funds. The Young Business Men's Club painted the building. The Town of Fort Macleod paid the utilities. Mr. J. Sharp donated linoleum for front room. The Women's Institute gave a cash donation. Dr. Kennedy donated the brick walk, books, etc. In addition to the building, the M.D. of Willow Creek gave a small annual grant from 1962 based on the number of rural subscribers divided among the libraries in the district.
In 1975 the library relocated to the south side of Main Street to its present location, sharing the building with the Senior Citizens' Welcome Mat. George Buzunis, chairman of the library committee, was responsible for the construction of the Fort Macleod Public Library during his term as mayor. The sod-turning took place on April 20, 1974 with George Buzunis and Eloise Davis, volunteer librarian for over forty years, officiating. Mayor Charles Edgar, Leighton Buckwell, M.L.A, A.A. Meddow, President of the Old Age Pensioners Association, and councilor John Davis all spoke on the occasion, after Reverend Father John Maes gave the convocation prayer. The complete structure was officially opened on December 14, 1974 with R.C.M.P Inspector A.J. Niedzwiecki cutting the ribbon. W.A. Day, oldest active businessman, burned the town's mortgage on the street in front of the new building and Honorable Host Schmid, Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation, cut the ribbon to the library proper and A.A. Neddow cut the ribbon to the drop-in centre.
Cost of the building was $151,000. The federal government contributed $20,000, and Peter Lougheed, Premier of Alberta, donated $45,000 on behalf of the provincial government on October 13, 1972. Another $45,000 donation was presented by Dr. T.M. Walker, coordinator of Alberta R.C.M.P. Century Celebrations Committee, on behalf of the Provincial government at an open house December 14, 1974. Businesses that dealt with the town but do not reside here donated $5,330 and local businesses also donated funds. The New Horizons grant of $10,000 was received by the seniors to furnish their centre.
Mrs. Joyce Nowicki, a qualified school teacher, was chosen by the town council to be the first librarian of the new library in December 1974. She had completed a librarian's course offered by the Department of Extension and had run the Stavely Library for three years on a voluntary basis. The first library board elected in December 1974 consisted of Noel Doherty (Chairman), Donna Campbell (Secretary-Treasurer), and members Eloise Davis, Chester Davis, John Viens, Eileen Mason, Alvi Larson, Ralph Webb, Eva Pedersen and Jim Burger. Mr. Joe Forsythe, library development officer from Edmonton department of Culture, was present at the initial meeting.
The tremendous task of moving the books from the old library to the new premises began on January 1975. Volunteers were called out to assist and came willingly to move the heavy boxes of books packed by Joyce Nowicki and Margaret Moses. Shelves were dismantled and some were used in the office and basement of the new library. Two meetings were held a month by the board to assist procedures. A regular volunteers' day was set up weekly in the library for help with sorting, organizing and culling the books. Those unsuitable for further use were for sale after the library opened. Margaret Moses, council representative, assessed the needs and obtained extra typewriters and other essentials for processing and cataloguing the books. A package deal of shelving, tables, chairs, a pedestal and a desk and filing cabinet were supplied by the town for $13,000. This was augmented by gifts from organizations and individuals so that by opening date, the library was attractively furnished. On loan was a large showcase from the provincial museum with a historic display changed every three months. Memberships were set at $5.00 per family, $3.00 an adult and $1.00 per child.
Assisted by many volunteers, Mrs. Nowicki completed the task of preparing and shelving the books from the old library and the many new books purchased and donated so that the official opening was set for June 7, 1975. The successful opening drew over 200 guests from town and surrounding areas. The library was open every day the first week and from then on three days a week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Children's hour was Saturday from 1-2pm, with stories read by volunteers. All occasions were celebrated with a Christmas party culminating the year. Local artists displayed their work on a monthly basis. A traveling art show featuring established Alberta artists was also displayed. Every March the local schools used the library for their arts and crafts showing. In 1977 a display cabinet was added to the library in which collections were shown. These were varied, attractive, and encouraged craftsmen and collectors.
Visits from other libraries and from schools were encouraged, with St. Gerard school in Edmonton participating along with local Hutterite groups. A new feature introduced in 1977 was a visiting author day. Herman Linder of Cardston was the first guest and this drew many people as he was a well known Stampede performer. The same year, Archdeacon Swanson of Calgary visited and autographed his book.
Southern Alberta Library Services organized in 1977 to aid rural libraries with book exchanges and advice. Librarian Joyce Nowicki, an elected member of this board which met monthly in Calgary, was also on the board of the regional Library Committee which held meetings in surrounding towns. Derek Hoskin acted as chairman of the Regional system. With the dissolution of S.A.L.S. in 1980, our library received large donations of valuable books. Derek Hoskin replaced Noel Doherty as chairman of the board in 1978. A zenith line was established to link large libraries to rural areas for information. Also foreign books and cassettes were available for rural areas.
In April 1979, Joyce Nowicki retired and was replaced by MaryAnn Hardy. Betty Gregory was hired as assistant librarian, and was later replaced by Sharon Hartle (Edwards).
A photocopier was purchased to be available to patrons on a paying basis. In November 1979 the hours of operation were extended to include Friday afternoons, increasing the library's weekly hours to 16. Fees were raised in 1980 so that family memberships were $7.00, adult $3.00 and children $2.00. The year end report showed a large increase in circulation with the increased hours. A new feature promoted in 1980 was an entry into Midnight Days parade with a successful float decorated at the home of Verna Hatton. Mrs. Hatton used her talents as board member to decorate the library with displays for every season and was a valued board member.
In 1983 MaryAnn Hardy retired and was replaced by Sharon Edwards and assistant librarian Carla Niers. The library is presently managed by Darlene Hofer.