1954 - First work began by the IODE to establish a new library in Olds
December 29, 1958 - Town of Olds Council appoints the first library board
June 6, 1959 - Olds Municipal Library officially opened in the Olds Bank of Commerce Building (5009 51 St)
January 1, 1970 - Olds Municipal Library officially joins Parkland Regional Library
March 17, 2004 - Building Ado Committee Formed to explore a revitalized facility
November 12, 2010 - New library building officially opened
January 2019 - Olds Municipal Library board offers free library cards to celebrate library 60th year of service in Olds
June 6, 2019 - Olds Municipal Library celebrated its 60th anniversary
Olds a History, p. 366
Before the library could officially open, groundwork needed to be laid. After it's official opening the library continued to enjoy a rich history!
As early as May 1954, The Baron Tweedsmuir Chapter IODE began to work to promote community interest in a Public Library and to encourage the Olds Town Council to provide accommodation and support for such a project. With the opening of the new Post Office in 1958, the Old Bank of Commerce Building became available.
The Mayor, Ted Miller, was most supportive and co-operative in offering it to the IODE as a home for the Olds Municipal Library. Twenty-one years later the library was still operating in the Bank of Commerce location. The build, while sound, was in very shabby condition and many hours of voluntary work went into it, with Mr. Dines and Mr. Christensen notably productive, making and finishing shelves, repairing floors, painting walls, etc.
Nearly 800 books were donated and Lee Street held "Processing Bees" in her home, helped by Edna Clarke, Ruth Hanson, Kay Stott, Dorothy Harrison, Hilda Anderson and others. In the first year, the IODE allocated funds of $500, the town of Olds gave $75, while $687 was received from local organizations and there was a grant of $550 from the Provincial Government. The first Olds Library Board, appointed by the Town Council on December 29, 1958 consisted of Chairman Mrs. J.E. Huget, Mrs. T.W. Clarke, Mr. H. Teskey, Mrs. Lee Street, and Mayor Ted Miller.
The Olds Municipal Library official opened on June 6, 1959 with over 1000 books. Membership for a family was $2.00 annually, individuals $1.00. The Library was open eight hours per week, (two afternoons and one evening). Librarian services were provided by local organizations, each taking responsibility for a month. By the end of 1959 there were 170 family and individual memberships and the circulation of books for the six month period was 4336.
In the first year there were donations of money by many organizations. Many residents of the community donated books and helped in numerous ways. There seemed to have been a break in library service toward the end of 1960. Mrs. Street, the secretary, was unable to continue due to illness in her family and librarian service was becoming a real burden to the sponsoring organizations. When financing became a problem, the library was temporarily closed. However Board meetings were resumed with a new board chair by Mr. Clarence Emard and the library was reopened April, 1st 1961. Later in the year a list of eight regular librarians was established, stabilizing the service.
Financing was still very much a problem. In 1963, a new per capita grant provided an annual income of roughly $2200. The annual appeal to local organizations was continued until 1968. Thank you coffee parties were held in the library to encourage the public to visit and become members. By the end of 1963, a film system had been completed, a children's area established and volunteer librarian service much improved. Circulation of books for this year was 12,600.
In August, 1965 a part time librarian was employed on regular salary of $100 per month for 80 hours, and library hours were increased to 15 hours per week. Mrs. Garner was the first to hold the position and during the latter part of the year she started a preschool children's Story Hour on occasional Saturdays, held by Mrs. Fern Olson. Both of these ladies completed the Provincial Librarian Course, sponsored by the Library Board. By end of 1965, membership numbered 395 and circulation was 19,000.
In 1967 Children's Story Hour was held regularly on the 4th Saturdays of each month. The Board sponsored another candidate for the Librarians Course, Mrs. Dorothy Ross. They also invested in a record player and records to start a music service. An assistant librarian was employed on an hourly rate. In this year the problem of lack of space began to be evident. There was little room to accommodate the 15 to 30 Story Hour children. There were no shelves for more books. By a tricky rearrangement of shelving, another island was accommodated during 1968 and that was the end of the available book space.
With the establishment of Provincial Regional Libraries, after much discussion and exchange of information it became evident that benefit could be obtained by inclusion in a large unit. The Library Board recommended to Town Council that Olds Municipal Library become affiliated with Parkland Regional Library, and this affiliation became effective Jan 1, 1970. The affiliation worked very well, (and continues to), though they received a smaller number of books per year under the scheme than they had previously purchased. One reason was the rapid increase in the cost of books. Secondly, the school libraries required building up in the first ears, and this was given priority. Olds Library continued to charge a small membership fee and fines for late return of books. The Town Council provided finances to cover general operations of the building and salaries.
At the Annual General meeting in February 1979, they had 580 memberships and circulation was roughly 20,000.
Personal Recounting Joe Gustafson, (Community Member):
Helen Smith was chairman of the library board when the new library was proposed in the 80s. The need for the library had been something that was discussed for many years both by the library board and the community as a whole. The basement of the old bank building was used to store props and costumes for a theater group, the upstairs was used by the pottery group and other artists. The main floor was all library and very small and inadequate to meet the needs of the town.
The Kiwanis Club at that time was seen as the major fund raising club and the one most likely to make a new building happen. Dr. Rick Dvorak was president the year the project was started. He and Ann moved to New Mexico and Rick as since passed away.
Burgess Fullerton, a club member, did all of the drawings and had them engineered, the library board did the design, picked colors, carpets etc. The Kiwanis Club did not get involved in that part but rather left it to Helen and team.
A cost estimate was established at $300,000 with the Ag Society giving 10 ft of land on the back side to be added to the Town property. Without this addition, the property would not work. The campaign started with Rick driving Dale Saby’s cat and making a huge mess of the property. People took this as a sign the project was going ahead and donations started to come in. We did a door to door campaign and I believe the biggest donation was around $5000.
The club was concerned about raising that sum of money so we approached the town to see if they would guarantee payment of a loan if the club had not retired it in 3 years. There was a concern that an ongoing debt would drag the club down. They agreed and a loan was procured from the Royal Bank. The donor board in the old library showed the success of our campaign and as I recall, no part of the loan was ever used. It must be recognized that the Lions Club contributed to the project and thus the library never had the Kiwanis name attached – just on the donor board. Audrey Dodd, who was a retired bank teller from the B of M managed all of the money and coordinated receipts with the Town as the Kiwanis could not give charitable receipts. The town managed the money and paid the bills. The club did the landscape work and planted trees etc.