History of the Library

Compiled by: Violet Basarab (former librarian)
Updates added by: Tracy Ireland (present library manager)

The library started from very humble beginnings in 1952. Some dedicated people, namely, Mrs. A.D. Randall, Mrs. (Dr.) Tredger, Seth Smedstad and others rented the shop area of the old McIntyre Pharmacy building on the corner of 52nd Avenue and 50th Street, former site of the General Service Garage. The tiny Community Library was stacked with donated books and it was well used as soon as it opened.

In 1953, the Library moved upstairs in the old town office next to the present Library/Museum building. In February, 1967, the move was made to the new Library building on the corner of 53rd Avenue and 49th Street; it's present location. The Library was re-named The High Prairie Municipal Library and occupied the west wing of the building with the High Prairie Museum in the south wing. The Library was changed to Municipal Library to enable the Library Board to obtain grants from the Town of High Prairie; these and the Government grants were given on a per capita basis. Later a grant was obtained from the I.D. #17 on their per capita basis; this made a great difference to the Library. It had been managed all this time with volunteer staff, so it enabled the Board to hire a part time Librarian. Mrs. Violet Basarab, who was on the Board, accepted the position. The Library Division in Edmonton and the U. o f A. had a special Library course to offer rural librarians, which Mrs. Basarab and two other board members, Mrs. Diana Rutter and Mrs. Venice Taylor agreed to take. They received certificated from Mr. Ted Wiltshire, head of the Edmonton Library Division. At this time we had almost 3,000 volumes and a few magazines, and only $2,000 for shelving.

Starting in December, 1969 , Mrs. Basarab had nine regular school classes weekly, to teach students how to use the library and enable them to do their own research. Also, three Daycares came in twice a week for films and stories. A "Tots Storytime" was started on Wednesday mornings, later being changed to Saturday afternoons for children three years and up. A small film projector was donated to the Library by the Northern Library Development Services, so the Librarian was able to show cartoons, which the children enjoyed very much.

"Storytime" was very popular, there were always at least 55 children of all ages. Some of the board members and Mothers came to help at each session. A craft period was added on to "Storytime" which was very popular with both children and parents. Some time later, a resident who was leaving High Prairie, donated about twenty beautifully handmade puppets. The Librarian later on made a small puppet theatre with red and gold curtains, the theatre being constructed from a large cardboard box. The children loved it, as they were able to do the puppeteering themselves.

In August, 1979 , Mrs. Basarab welcomed her first paid Library Aide, Mrs. Dorothy Jobin, who stayed until February, 1981. In March, 1981, Mrs. Jean Imrie replace Dorothy until August, 1981, when Mrs. Imrie became Librarian at the Junior High School in High Prairie. Shauna Peever became the new Aide from September, 1981 until February, 1985, at which time Mrs. Debbie Mastervick replaced Shauna. On April 14, 1992 Malcolm Duncan took over as Librarian until August of 1995. Janet Lemay then became Library Manager for the library upon Malcolm's departure until September 2014. It was during this time that the library moved to its new location in the Moostoos building. Janet retired September 30th 2014 with Tracy Ireland stepping in to take over the position of Library Manager to present day.

The Town of High Prairie built on to the East side of the building, into which the Museum moved, giving everybody much needed space. The official opening of the South Wing of the Library was December 5th, 1981, at which time the Honorable Mary LeMessurier presented Mrs. Basarab with a book about Alberta and Mrs. Jean Lewis, President of the Board, presented Violet with a gold and enamel Alberta crest charm, in appreciation of past services and in commemoration of this special day. The Library now had an area of 3,940 square feet, complete with new carpet. On February 27th 2004 the High Prairie Municipal Library moved to the lower level of the Moostoos building located at 4723 53rd Ave on its 50th Anniversary.

The Summer Temporary Employment Program (S.T.E.P.) commenced July and August, 1982, which relieved the Librarian of an immense backlog of work. Also , the S.T.E.P students designed and built a float on a particular theme each year for the Stampede Parade. They won First Prize for several consecutive years.

This same year, the Librarian brought in work experience girls and boys; a different one every semester. It helped enormously with all the book covering, etc. and gave the students an opportunity to use their individual skills for typing, art work, and working with the public. They especially loved storytime and crafts with the little ones. A large print book exchange program with other libraries in the area was started in 1982. Also, a comic book exchange with local students proved very popular. A Summer Reading Program was launched in July, 1982. It was most successful and has been available every summer. The Library staff and board members had "Summer's End", Hallo ween and Christmas parties every year.

The High Prairie Town By-Laws were placed on the Reference Shelves August, 1982. The local community found this very helpful. University Teleconference courses commenced at the Library September, 1982; then after two or three years, they moved to another location. September, 1982, the Library Board purchased a canon Copier, which also enlarged and reduced, a great boost to overworked and understaffed librarians.