Morinville Community Library reflecting on its first half century

by Stephen Dafoe

Fifty-one years ago, Morinville resident Pheobe Clarke had the idea to establish a library in the Town of Morinville. Together with John Wozney, Lorraine Ferguson, Angeline Leduc, and Lil Boddez, the group worked hard to form a library, and the group became the first library board with Clarke as Board Chair. Albert Ouellette was the Town Representative on the board.

Lil Boddez is the last surviving member of the original board. She served for ten years until 1977 and for another four or five years after the 40th anniversary a decade ago.
She has fond memories of the early days getting the library up and running. “Mrs. Phoebe Clarke was the driving force. She recruited people who liked to read, but everything was done under her direction,” Boddez said. “She was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Her motto was a book is forever, and affordable to everyone. It can be your best friend, your counsellor, or just plain entertainment.”

Boddez said Clarke wanted Morinville’s Library to bring all of those intricacies of books to everyone.

“We were a handful of volunteers who cleaned, indexed books, and worked the opening hours,” she said. “Mrs, Clarke did all the legwork as far as funding, accepting donated books, etc. I have to say, looking back, it was a very rewarding experience, and I am so glad that I experienced it. It contributed to my love of books and reading.”

Looking a half century beyond those early days, Boddez said she is proud of how far the small contribution she and her fellow volunteers made to the community so many years ago has come.

“I think we have one of the most exceptional libraries around,” Boddez said. “It has certainly come a long way. It is one of the most needed and integral parts of our community. I am also very proud of the fact that I was a part of it fifty years ago. Mrs. Clarke would be so happy as well as the other four board members. Actually, proud doesn’t even come close to how I feel when I look at it now. It’s almost a sense of awe.”

Lots of change in last 15 years

Boddez is not alone in being pleased with how far the library has come. Although current Library Manager Isabelle Cramp cannot look back a half century, she has seen many changes over the past 14 years. Cramp has been the manager since 2007 and began working at the front desk four years earlier in 2003.

When she joined the library in 2003, the library occupied a smaller space in St. Germaine Plaza. Renovations in 2012 gave the library a good bit of additional room. But nearly a decade and a half ago there were fewer staff, hours, materials and fewer programs on offer for library patrons.

“When I first started, I was only doing one evening shift per week,” Cramp recalls, noting although the library was open six days per week, it was nowhere near the hours presently offered. “Story Time and the Summer Reading Program were the two big programs we offered.”
Though she’s seen many changes, specific change is a hard thing to pin down in an industry that is ever changing.

“It’s a funny thing to say because libraries are ever changing and evolving and never stagnant. There is definitely constant change. The biggest difference between now and then is how much busier we are in every aspect, and how much more involved we are in the community. We’ve really expanded our role outside the walls of the library.”
But if pressed for one significant item, Cramp points to technology.

“Technology is the biggest of the changes. Anyone has a library in their pocket now. You are on the go – pull out your iPhone, your cell phone, and you can just about do everything.”

Lots of activities planned

The Library has a day of celebrations planned for Saturday, Sept. 9, starting with acting workshops by the Live History theatre group from Ottawa. They will run two workshops, one for juveniles one for teens and adults.

Although the workshops are free, registration is required due to limited space. Those interested can register at the library’s front desk.

The library has partnered with the Musée Morinville Museum to host Circa – an interactive mystery show play put on by the Live History actors. The play will incorporate local history.

Tickets for the performance are $5 each and can be purchased either at the library or museum.

A week of milestone celebrations will culminate in what the library is calling an “incredible gala” at the library. The evening will include drinks and hors d’oeuvres, a performance from special guests Rooney and Punyi, door prizes, a live art performance, and other entertaining features.

Tickets for the gala cost $25 each and can be purchased at the library. Space for the ticketed events is limited. Those interested are asked to contact the library early to secure tickets.

Cramp said she and library staff are grateful of the efforts a half century ago that lead to where the library is today.

“I cannot express how thankful I am that a handful of people back in 1966 decided that they wanted a library in Morinville. They made it happen in 1967 – Sept. 9. They had the foresight to know this was going to be important and spent the time to organize it, plan it, and advocate for it.”

For more information on the weekend events contact event coordinators Ashley Cain or Cheryl Pasechnik at 780-939-3292 or email info@morinvillelibrary.ca.

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The Morinville News is an online daily and bi-weekly print publication serving Morinville and surrounding area. Our print publication is distributed on the first, third and fifth Wednesday. You can also follow us online on Twitter @MorinvilleNews and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MorinvilleNews

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