In Praise of Public Libraries

We renewed the family public library card on the weekend. This morning I used my public library membership to search for news articles using a database that the library makes available. I love public libraries.

Consider, I can walk into any of the more than 300 libraries in Alberta, I can consult with a search expert, access services and a vast collection of material, including newspaper databases. All for $20.00 a year for my entire family – a fantastic value. Some of the P. Mireaus have eReaders, so we are also able to borrow eBooks from our library without even leaving the house. This is the kind of library service that is available in Alberta even for a library in a town with a population of 1021. Fantastic. Innovative. Wonderful.

Public Libraries in Alberta have been supported by The Alberta Library since 1997. This province-wide consortium serves public libraries, regional library systems, university, college, and special libraries, allowing them to find better ways to provide services. Their mission is strengthening commnuities through collaboration and they fulfill it very well. Congratulations to TAL as they celebrate 15 years.


  1. It seems that Albertans truly appreciate their public libraries. Here is a quote from an article on the resurgence of Slave Lake after the devasting fires in 2011, in the University of Alberta’s New Trail alumni magazine Spring 2012:

    Slave Lake’s library, which was housed in the same government building, has also been challenged to recover. “They lost everything,” says Anne Moore, who arrived in October to take on the daunting task of managing and rebuilding the library from scratch. But again, an overwhelming generosity from individuals and organizations has the library already re-established in an interim location with a collection of about 30,000 items — nearly twice the size of the original. “I don’t think people often realize what a library is; it’s like the hub of the community,” Moore says. “It’s tied to so many community organizations, adult education, home schooling. I think people see the library as a symbol of Slave Lake. It really is somewhere where your soul can just relax, and that’s what people need right now.”

  2. Fees for using a public library? I’m not a librarian, but I would have thought that one of the central tenets of a public library was that it was free.
    A quick Google search seems to show that in some other provinces that is the case; the BC Library Association has this statement on the issue, and I believe the Ontario Public Libraries Act has similar rules respecting fees for core services.
    I’m sure this has been a topic of discussion amongst library professionals . . .

  3. Fees for public libraries. Largely irrelevant to most of us if they are nominal but $20 can be a fair chunk of money to some people.
    Not a problem where I live; there are no public libraries in remote Northeastern Ontario (north of Cochrane). Used to be but not any more.