History of the Library
60 years – Squamish Public Library History
Prior to the establishment of Squamish Public Library, Squamish residents could occasionally access a traveling book collection sponsored by the PTA. All of this changed in 1955 when an intrepid group of locals (under the leadership of a Mrs. E. Hansen), trekked out into the cold autumn air to canvass local citizens for $1 library memberships. Their efforts not only raised $393 in membership fees from a population of just under 1300, but also entitled the village to a $250 grant from the Province’s Public Library Commission. One hundred adult books were purchased and housed in cupboards on the second floor of the Legion. On February 1, 1956 the little library opened offering this small collection for public use on Mondays and Fridays from 3 to 5 PM and Wednesdays from 7 to 9:30 PM. Between openings the collection and equipment were locked away because the space was needed for other purposes. Volunteers carried out all library functions and worked hard to meet rising demand. G. McLellan, the first librarian, noted in her 1956 annual report that “Our main problem, and one which will continue to increase, is one of space.” After less than a year of operation the collection had already grown to 751 books. Growing demand, tight space, and staffing concerns were issues for the library right from its inception.
The first library building, a project of the 1957 Squamish Centennial Committee, was dedicated on Thursday August 7, 1958. The structure, just under 1000 sq/ft, was next to the village hall and was build at a cost of $10,000 but did not yet have heating or sanitary equipment. This original library saw renovations and additions over the years that increased the space to over 3,000 square feet. However in the 1980s the roof began to leak and this was followed in 1990 by one of the main floor joists giving way under the weight of the growing book collection. The book collection had now grown from 751 books in 1956 to over 27,000. The Library Board began planning for a new facility. By the time a new facility was started in 1996 the original library space was filled with floor to ceiling bookshelves to hold the 35,000 books and there were only two small study tables, two carrels and four chairs. When the new facility of 12,000 square feet opened in October 1997 residents of Squamish were delighted with the spaciousness and brightness of the new library and made immediate use of the meeting room, gallery space, and the many tables and various seating areas in the new building.
Active library membership was enjoyed by 40.1% of the library service population in 2013. The number of annual hours the library is open has increased from 382 hours in 1965 to 2,487 in 2013.
In 1997 the Library expanded access to free books for Squamish residents when it became a member of InterLINK which enables residents of Squamish to join any of 82 branches of libraries from Hope to Pemberton without having to pay a non-resident fees. These service boundaries were extended further with the implementation of the BC OneCard developed as an outcome of the Province of BC Libraries without Walls Strategic Plan.
The first computer arrived at the library in 1990 and by 1997 Internet access and tutoring was available for the public. The technology age had arrived. The Library began expanding its resources into non-print format and subscribed to the first online database in 1999. Our online resource collections expand annually and now include language learning, eBooks, eAudiobooks and eMagazines. Most are available 24/7 from the comfort of your own home.
Storytimes and summer reading clubs have been library offerings from its early years. As well the library has offered a variety of special events ranging from visits of the Vancouver Touring Opera Company to speakers from UBC and the BC Museum. Guest authors have included Robert Munsch, Susan Musgrave, William Deverell, Kate Braid, Katherine Monk and Bill Richardson. A lecture series partnership between Quest University Canada and the library brings discussions on a wide variety of topics to the residents of Squamish.
For many years the library has presented cultural displays and programs partnering with various groups in our community. In the 1980’s the library first showcased art provided by the Squamish Arts Council and art displays became a frequent exhibits in the library over the following years. When the new facility was built the intention to continue bringing art to the community was realized when a large foyer area with three display units was included in the building design. Monthly displays of works in the Foyer Gallery, by artists in a variety of mediums, are now a treat for all library visitors.
While records don’t tell us how many visitors there were to the library over the early years, in 2013 we had 113,291 visits – this works out to almost 46 people visiting the library each hour it was open in 2013.
We’re sure the visionary group of citizens who canvassed for the initial purchase of books in 1956 would be proud to see the library they instituted providing such enrichment and enjoyment to so many Squamish residents 60 years later.