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History of the Library

The Kaslo & District Public Library Association officially incorporated on December 18, 1920….

…thanks to a petition signed by A.T. Garland, A.W. Anderson, R. Hughes, Vidler Papworth, L. Hanna, S.H. Green, John Keen, Ronald Hewat, Helena N. Keen, W. H. Burgess, and Sarah Carney. Before then, there were public reading rooms with budget activities recorded as early as 1897. A long-running advertisement in several 1898 editions of The Kaslo Morning News enticed people to move to Kaslo, “The City of Energy!” listing many services including public reading rooms.

The first location for the Kaslo library was in a janitor’s closet in the Kemball building. In 1924, the library moved to the top floor of City Hall. Our first librarian was Miss Charlotte Fawcett. Her name appears in the January 18, 1912 edition of the Kootenaian inviting people to borrow from 80 library books shipped from Victoria in an article titled: ‘New Circulating Library’. Miss Fawcett continued as volunteer librarian until she passed away in 1938.

In 1953, Library Commissioner C.K. Morrison “toiled up the steep stairs leading to the top room of the …. tower of City Hall, [to find] a faithful and gracious ‘library lady’ still holding the fort.” He described the collection as “an unhappy conglomeration of moth-eaten books” and helped Kaslo to make a “fresh start” with a “new library board” and “money from the Public Library Commission, matched by a like amount by the City Council.” This funding made it possible for the library to purchase books and move to the main floor of City Hall, where it operated for the next 29 years. (from A Book Pedlar in British Columbia, p. 42)

The longest service record at the Kaslo & District Public Library goes to Mrs. Joan Matthews. She served on the board from 1961-68 as chair, secretary, and treasurer and volunteered before that. It is unclear when she became a librarian, however she completed the new Provincial Community Librarian training in 1971 and became our first Community Librarian. A retirement celebration was held for Mrs. Matthews in 1985.

In 1982, after major renovations led by board chair Debra Barrett and with help from Katimavik youth volunteers, the Kaslo & District Public Library moved to the basement of City Hall. This space operated as the jail from 1898-1913 and then became a storage space for public works. It had a dirt floor when renovations began! This was not the only renovation challenge to overcome. Visit the Local History room to see some before and after pictures of the exterior. The Local History room was created in 2008 as part of a BC150 celebration project to open the 1898 “dark cell” to the public with interpretive panels of library and jail history.  Please drop by and enjoy!

In 2011, the library moved out of City Hall during renovations. This was the first time that the library had operated outside of City Hall since 1924. The community enjoyed the convenience of having their library on Front Street. The renovations completed by the Village in 2011 improved the lighting, wiring, heating (to geothermal), office workflow, wheelchair accessibility to the washroom, and fire safety with the addition of a fire suppression system. In 2013, with the help of generous donations and a grant, the library installed new automatic glass doors at the entrance. In 2015-6 most of the shelves were replaced with newly constructed shelves thanks to a talented and generous volunteer, volunteer work parties, donations, and a Western Financial Group grant. Our library shines thanks to our dedicated board, staff, and volunteers.

Seventy-seven people from our community gathered on ZOOM to virtually celebrate 100 years of library service in Kaslo on December 16, 2020 (2 days ahead of the anniversary). The covid-19 pandemic prevented us from gathering in person and challenged us to create a fun event using an online meeting tool. Leading up to the big day, we generated enthusiasm by having a countdown poster on the door, a large birthday card to sign at the library, and gift bags with event schedules & goodies to open during the virtual event. Mayor Hewat provided an opening statement, we sang the birthday song, enjoyed stories & poetry, and drew names for 6 local door prizes. It was fun.

An illustrated copy of Celebrating 100 Years of of the Kaslo & District Public Library 1920-2020 (complete with news clippings from 1897) can be found in the Local History room.