For some time in its early years, Red Deer’s library existed in City Hall, next to the city jail cell.
It was a home good enough that the library board poo-pooed a city proposal to turn the old Red Deer Creamery into a dual-purpose space — the home of a new library and a public toilet station.
The library eventually did get a new home, operating on the floor beneath the city police force in a building on Ross Street.
Though staff had to deal with leaky ceilings caused by the showering habits of the single constables who lived upstairs, the location sufficed for a decade.
The downtown branch of the library that Red Deerians know today came into being in 1967 as part of Canada’s centennial celebrations.
But it was an initiative that locals did not wholly support; the first plebiscite calling for funding failed at the ballot box and the second only succeeded when the amount taxpayers were asked to fund was reduced.
A couple of the prominent locals leading the charge for the new library were Charles Snell — who donated $55,000 to the cause — and Ethel Taylor, the city’s first female councillor who was a devoted campaigner for libraries and their funding across Alberta.
“Books for every man’s and every child’s needs in a Centennial Library — at hand for each day of each century. … What other centennial commemoration could afford such satisfaction to all of our citizens for today and for tomorrow?” Taylor wrote in her appeal to the city.
The downtown library that opened in that centennial year was small compared to what exists today. A second storey was added in 1979, the children’s library was opened in the old armoury next door in 1994, and the Kinsmen Link connected the two spaces the next year.
The Dawe branch opened in the 1980s, providing service to North Red Deer.
That branch was incorporated into a community centre with both a Catholic and public elementary school, a collaborative setup the public library will be a part of again with the opening of the Timberlands branch in September.
The branch will exist within École Barrie Wilson, a new public elementary school also set to open in September. It will be the first such incorporation of a public library in a school under the province’s P3 school building program.
Library CEO Christina Wilson said she would like to see another branch opened in east Red Deer in the near future.