History of the Library

Melita Library History

The library is one of those institutions that has always been around or that is the perception, but in actuality the library is quite young compared to the town which was formed in 1883. A committed group of people in the fifties had the foresight to start a library in their community. According to the Our First Century history book, in 1953 the Women’s Institute obtained a collection of books which could be borrowed by the public. The Chamber of Commerce organized a meeting in 1958 between the R.M.s of Arthur and Edward and the Town of Melita at which it was decided to have a ratepayers’ vote on setting up a regional library. The RM of Arthur and Town of Melita passed the vote and signed agreements regarding funding but the vote was defeated by the RM of Edward.

A library board was formed and after many meetings and a lot of hard work, the library was officially opened on August 28, 1959.with a stock of 1800 books. Mrs. Hilda Ross was hired as the head librarian and the library was situated in the Sures building or the present Susan’s Hair Boutique. In 1970 Rose Fewings accepted the librarian position and the library was moved up the street to the south portion of the bowling alley or present fitness centre with a collection of 10,000 books and magazines. The village of Napinka joined the system in 1977 with a very small library in the Napinka Drop-In and a new branch was opened in Pierson in 1978 in the RM office. Barb Walker replaced Rose in 1980 and Val Wray was the assistant until she became the head in 1982, a position she retired from in 2011. Sandra Sterling took over the librarian duties at that point. In March 2012, Elissa Greenlay became the assistant. Sandra Sterling retired in the beginning of 2022, and Elissa Greenlay is presently the librarian. In 1997, the library relocated again to the corner at 149 Main St. which had previously housed The Esquire Shop, the New Era and a grocery store. The building was completely renovated with funding received from Community Places, Community Services, Thomas Sills foundation, Melita Lions, Melita Kinsmen, Melita Legion, Centennial Fund, RM of Arthur and Town of Melita as well as private donations and much volunteer work.

Over the years many people served on the library board with council and citizen appointees, working to maintain the standards set out by provincial guidelines, securing the funding and hiring staff to run the operations at each location. The present board consists of Alana Vansteelandt (Chair), Jodi Malnati (Vice Chair), Aileen Tucker, Bob Renwick, Rhonda Verplanche, Keith Jones, ClaraLea Green.

Melita housed two focal collections with a grant from Public Library Services – one of audio books and the other for classic films which were shipped all over the province to other libraries and sight-impaired patrons.  The province discontinued funding in 2013 but other libraries pay the postage to borrow the audios and Canada Post subsidizes the free shipment of audios to sight-impaired clients.  Automation of library procedures occurred with computers replacing card catalogues and bar codes and scanners used for checking items in and out rather than names on a card. Public access computers with printing and faxing services are a well-used service as locals and strangers alike come to the library to use the technology and free Wi-Fi.  Val Wray felt that being able to read books digitally was the biggest change she saw over thirty years and e-Libraries Manitoba continues to evolve with digital downloads of e-books and audio books becoming an everyday occurrence. Many upgrades have been made to the library in the last three years including fully accessible electric doors, central ductless air conditioning, improved street front with a large planter and bench and shingles and eaves-troughs. Using a matching grant from Western Economic Diversification the library was renovated in 2013 with interior painting and re-organization of shelving and work-space which involved moving a lot of books several times.

Many different staff members, students and volunteers helped at the checkout desk and most of these can be found in the photo albums which will be in our display. Servicing the reading community with books, magazines, e-books and dvds is the main goal, but additional programs such as book club, children’s events and class visits, art displays and open houses all are part of today’s library. The library continues to evolve in a fast-paced world, but preserves its role as a meeting place for locals, newcomers and visitors who are looking for recreation, information and services.


Pierson Library History

Pierson Branch Library has seen many changes over the years. In 1977, residents of Edward Municipality moved forward on the formation of a library in their community of Pierson. A by-law was read on March 31st, 1978, and a new branch was formed within the Southwestern Manitoba Regional Library.

The library opened on October 13th 1978, in the upstairs of the R.M. office in a 13.5 by 17 foot room, and Sandra Sterling was the first librarian, and Vicki Miner was the Assistant Librarian. Around 1988, Sandra and Vicki switched positions, and Vicki became the Head Librarian with Sandra being the Assistant. Sandra stayed on as the Assistant until she left in 1996, and Deborah Forsyth was hired in the Assistant Librarian position. She remains the Assistant today. Vicki was the Librarian for twenty years, until 2008, at which point Mary-Anne Minshull was hired as Librarian at Pierson Branch. She holds the current position now.

Within a few short years of the library’s inception, it had gotten too big for it’s britches, and on April 30th 1982, it opened its new doors, where it filled the basement of the municipal office. The renovations for getting this new library space ready was shared 50/50 by the R.M. of Edward and the Department of Historical Resources and Cultural Affairs. The library continued to expand in this space, and as such, the furniture, shelving and collections were constantly being moved around and weeded out to accommodate the needs of staff, patrons and the addition of new material. In the Fall of 2013, the Edward Municipality decided it was time to build a new office, and they informed the librarians that there would be space in the new building for a library, and that it would be up to us to furnish the interior. A new building committee was formed, which consisted of council members, librarians, library board members, and community members. The new building was built in Cartwright Manitoba, and moved to its location at 64 Railway in Pierson in January 2015. During those months, lots of decisions, funding requests and writing grants were done. The existing furniture and shelves were used, and there was enough money from donations and grants to add more shelving and furnishings to make the space welcoming. The new space was to be fully accessible, and almost double the size of the old one. Pierson Library closed for a month in May and June of 2015, while all the furniture, shelves and books were packed up and moved next door into the new building, after cleaning, painting and organizing. The grand opening was on August 9th 2015, and it was a wonderful celebration with Beef on a Bun, kids games, cake and ice cream, and a dedication of the building to former Reeve and Library Board chair Ralph Wang and former R.M. Councillor Fred Raynor, for their outstanding 70 combined years of municipal service. The patronage of the library has almost doubled since moving into it’s new location.

Pierson Library has been able to run it’s own operation and build it’s own collection of books and materials, because it has had the opportunity as a branch library to spend funding from local taxation and government grants, rather than by the main branch. Along with municipal and government funding, many grants have been applied for and acquired, which have helped the library complete projects through time. Individuals from the community have also donated funds to the library in the past to put towards projects. The Pierson Library houses a collection of about 8100 items, which includes books for all ages and from many genres, DVDs, audio-books, and magazines. The library has consistently been open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through the years, an average of 12 days a month.

Highlights and activities in Pierson Branch’s past include: Children’s story hour, which ran for 6 weeks in the Fall and 6 weeks in the Spring, and through the years has evolved into a once or twice a month event all year long. Organizations such as the Carnival of Crafts Committee held their meetings in the library. Antler River Recreation District has had a presence in the library, and has teamed up to run programming with library staff often. Many other organizations in the community have teamed up with the library for projects as well. Arts West Travelling Art Gallery has been shown every year. Adult programming every month, since moving into the new space in 2015.

How fortunate we are in this little community to have over 300 patrons that utilize our library in many more ways than just reading books. It’s location on Main Street has been an important information and gathering center for many years.