Hillhurst branch Story Hour circa 1950The origins of the Calgary Public Library date back to the first decade of the 20th century when Calgary was emerging as western Canada’s fastest-growing farming and ranching centre. At the time, men of the frontier city predicted that sustained economic growth would soon cause the population to increase tenfold to 100,000. Women suggested that a great city required a great library.
Prominent among those women was a literary enthusiast named Annie Davidson who led the successful drive to have Alberta’s first public library built in Calgary. With an endowment from the Carnegie Corporation, the Calgary Public Library opened to the public in early 1912. Over the ensuing century it continued to prove its value to city patrons. Much more than a repository for books, this award-winning institution provides a cornucopia of services and programs to empower, enable, and excite the imagination of Calgarians.
In The Calgary Public Library: Inspiring Life Stories Since 1912, the Library’s official history book, award-winning popular historian Brian Brennan introduces us to the principals in the Library’s ongoing success story. As he connects the stories of those who made a difference to the Library and to Calgary, Brennan paints a vivid portrait of an ever-evolving community resource that will continue to provide valuable service for centuries to come. He begins his narrative with Annie Davidson and inspired founding librarian Alexander Calhoun, and ends it with Mayor Naheed Nenshi and library visionary and leader Gerry Meek. In between, Brennan tells of beloved former librarians Louise Riley and Georgina Thomson, of patrons, artists, and politicians, of late-fee amnesties, story hours, and architecture, of expansion, of cost-savings, of equal access to the Library for all, of finding joy in a good book. In the end, the story of the Calgary Public Library becomes the story of Calgary itself.
Annie DavidsonOnce dubbed “the friendliest door in town,” the Calgary Public Library remains a welcoming haven for people of all ethnic, linguistic, political, religious, and socio-economic stripes. In the history of this dynamic city, no place has touched more people, more powerfully, and in more ways than the Calgary Public Library.
The Calgary Public Library: Inspiring Life Stories Since 1912 by Brian Brennan is available in libraries and bookstores or at goodread.ca