LETHBRIDGE, AB - This summer the Lethbridge Public Library will celebrate 100 years in the community, but before that the Galt Museum & Archives has created an exhibit to honour the institution.
The library's "Connecting Community: 100 Years of the Lethbridge Public Library" exhibit is now on display, detailing how the LPL has been a cornerstone in the cultural life of the city.
Library CEO Terra Plato says a museum is about history, and what they're doing in partnership with the Galt is showcasing the history of the Lethbridge Public Library.
"We've been around for 100 years and not a lot of organizations in the community can say that. To me it really speaks to the enduring value of public libraries in the community. We've changed a lot over the years, but our value as a community hub hasn't changed. We're still as relevant today as we were 100 years ago."
The importance of the public library to the community is shown by the dignitaries who made time to attend the event on Thursday, Feb. 13.
Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder, Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips, and Mayor Chris Spearman all spoke glowingly about the history and impact the library has had in shaping the community we live in today.
Plato says one of the things that was a little surprising to her is that while they have changed and evolved over time, it's not as much as people think.
"The library has always been about a place for people, it's not just about books. Even the earliest visionaries for the Lethbridge Public Library knew that it would be a safe place for people to go and it still is today. We have changed a lot over 100 years, don't get me wrong, but people I don't think always have a complete understanding of what public libraries are there for. I'm really excited that this exhibit will help people learn some things that they weren't aware of and what role we play in the community," Plato stated.
The exhibit will help people discover the early history of the library as a gathering place for curious minds, and its evolution as a means for Southwestern Albertans to connect with resources, ideas, and each other.
There will be celebrations throughout the year to commemorate the anniversary, according to Plato.
"We've always had lots of programs and events at the library, but this year we're going to be doing things a bit bigger and better," she continued. "You'll see some bigger authors, speakers and events at the library this year. August is our official anniversary date, so we'll have a big birthday party on August 17th at the library and we'll also be unveiling a time capsule."
Galt Museum Curator Aimee Benoit says that they were pleased to partner with the Lethbridge Public Library in creating this exhibit, given it's a really important time to look back and think about the role the library has played in the community.
"The public library has really been a foundation within the cultural community of our city. That history is very interesting and shows how the institution has really grown and changed alongside the community, and how the role of the library has also evolved to reflect the changing needs. I think the exhibit provides a bit of historical context to understanding what an important role the library plays in our community today," Benoit said.
With 100 years of source material, there's a lot to choose from to include in the exhibit. Benoit explained it wasn't hard to choose because they're lucky to have a very rich collection of materials both within the Galt Museum & Archives as well as the public library's own collection.
"Of course, there's people in the community who have all of their memories of what the role of the library has meant to them as well. We start with all of that range of materials, and the story comes out of that. I think the story is really reflective of people's own personal experiences and connections to the library itself."
The foundation of the library, how it came to be, is something Benoit believes has a really interesting story connected with it.
"It's kind of reflective of the role of the library within this particular community. It was founded in part with some funding from the Carnegie Foundation, but the Lethbridge community decided to use its own name on the library. Right from that beginning point, I think the citizens of our community have really been foundational in shaping what the library is, what kind of institution it is, and what kind of programs it offers. That through the history is something that really stands out to me."
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