Public Library marks centennial as gathering place, literary nexus
If a civilization's libraries are an indicator of its health, self-awareness and concern for the future, as Carl Sagan once suggested, Moose Jaw must be doing fairly well.
© Justin Crann
Robert Currie (centre), former poet laureate of Saskatchewan, discusses the importance of the Moose Jaw Public Library during the facility's centennial celebration Thursday.
At 100, the Moose Jaw Public Library is still drawing many people, including modern literary luminary Robert Currie, the former poet laureate of Saskatchewan.
Currie was one of many from the community who was on hand to celebrate with the facility. He told the audience of his personal connection, first as a boy with an insatiable appetite for literature, and then as a writer struggling to find a quiet place to work.
When he took an unpaid leave of absence to write, Currie was given access to the library's archives for free — his quiet place. There, he shared the company of the late Leith Knight, and set his mind to his work.
"At least some of every book I've ever published has been written here, in this library," he said. "No wonder I'm excited to be a part of this tribute."
Currie is not the only Moose Jaw writer to make use of the facility. Anastasia Cornea, 10, is another library patron who has had work published, and she was on hand to give a reading during the celebration.
The success of the Moose Jaw Public Library is the direct result of the vision of those who built it, suggested Brian Bell, president of the Moose Jaw Heritage Advisory Committee.
"When they built this building, they didn't go cheap. We know they had a budget of $80,000, but they said, 'You know what, let's throw some marble in.' That was another $20,000," he said. "It's neat when you see the wear on the marble stairs. ... They're still good for another 100 years, and there's no doubt about that."
Bell spoke to the importance of the library within the community.
"Architecture should be inviting to people. It should be a place for people to gather. This library certainly represents that," he said. "This is truly a gathering place of the town that everybody is proud of, and I think of all of the groups in town, and all of the volunteers who work on activities ... a lot of good things have come out of this building."
Patrick Boyle, Moose Jaw's current deputy mayor, discussed the importance of the library in his family life. He said his wife and son are both regular patrons.
He also focused on the staff of the library, whose ability to adapt "speaks to everyone's effort in the community to integrate this building, and continue to maintain the culture and the heritage we have."
"The library has electronic books and audio books," Boyle said. "It is (adapting) in a really progressive way."
His sentiments about the importance of the staff were echoed by Terry Gabel, chairperson of the Moose Jaw Public Library Board.
"As beautiful as this building is, for the last 100 years, it has been the staff of the library who have given it a heart and soul," said Gabel.
It is the spirit of the people, and the efforts of Moose Javians to "raise our minds," that has made the library such a fixture, suggested Currie.
"This library has played an important part in the lives of many Moose Jaw citizens," he said. "I know it has in mine."
Click here for a slideshow of photos taken during the ceremony.