History of Wheatland Regional Library
In the early 1960s, three rural women from the Stranraer district, Edith Stephenson, Helen McCuaig, and Erna Wiens began their journey to organize a regional library in west central Saskatchewan. The regional library system had been tested elsewhere in Saskatchewan, but not in the west central district.
The Launch of the Bookmobile
In July 1963 a demonstration bookmobile was provided to the region for a maximum period of two years. This gave patrons the ability to borrow books regularly and to see the large number of books a regional library would provide.
The bookmobile began its service on May 25, 1964. The official inauguration of the service took place at Stranraer on September 28, 1964. The schedule provided stops at 27 towns, villages, and hamlets, with over 1,600 books inside the bookmobile. The bookmobile met with great response.
The two-year experiment ended on May 31, 1966 with the establishment of Central Services in the basement of the Saskatoon Public Library.
The Wheatland Regional Library
The Provincial Government proclaimed the Wheatland Regional Library(WRL) on March 1, 1967. It had taken seven and a half years to organize.
The work began to process 18,000 books purchased from the pilot bookmobile and an additional 10,000 books purchased to meet demands. Sixteen branches were opened between October 5 and December 31, 1967. Seven branches opened in 1968. By the end of 1971, 31 Wheatland Regional Library branches had been opened.
Central Services Moves to Duchess St.
In November 1972, Central Services moved from the basement of the Saskatoon Public Library to its present location on 806 Duchess Street. Branches 32 and 33 were opened in 1972 and purchase of the first book bus took place, providing stops to four communities.
The Book Bus Delivers Paperbacks
In early 1973 “book bus too” was purchased as a backup unit. This was stocked entirely with paperbacks to experiment with borrowers’ reaction to a paperback collection. By mid-1975, the mobile branch, with its 20 stops, had the highest branch circulation in the region.
By the end of the first ten years, Wheatland Regional Library had 35 branches and three bookmobiles serving 27 communities.
In November 1977, a start was made on data conversion. This meant placing Wheatland Regional Library records in a computer. This project was completed in just under a year.
In February 1979 Wheatland produced its first book catalogue using computer prepared material. By November 1981, the system produced the first microfiche catalogue of the entire holdings of 35 branches and distributed them amongst the branches. It could be said that Wheatland had entered the technological age years ahead of the other regions.
In 1987, Wheatland Regional Library saw 37 branch libraries and 30 bookmobile stops.
The End of the BookMobile
Since then, much has changed in the way library service is delivered. On November 30, 2004 the Wheatland Regional Library Board announced the end of its bookmobile service at its 27 locations. It was the last bookmobile service offered in Saskatchewan.
In 2005 our newest branch, Dalmeny, opened bringing our total to 46 branches. Unfortunately, in 2014 the closure of our Sonningdale branch took our total back down to 45 branches.
In October 2008 the Provincial Government committed $5.2 million over 4 years for the creation of the Saskatchewan Information & Library Services Consortium (SILS). In the fall of 2010 SILS became a reality for Wheatland when all 46 branches and Central went live on the new system on September 28th. SILS is a reflection of the cooperative spirit that exists in Saskatchewan. No other province has been able to include all public libraries under one system and one set of policies.
The Library Today
Today WRL continues to be an influential part of the province-wide public library system. WRL serves approximately 105,000 people living in a variety of RMs, hamlets, villages, towns, and cities in a 49,933 square kilometer area.
The library today is not just a place to pick up a book. It has become a society hub for groups within the community, a chance for neighbours to sit and visit, an opportunity to search for a job, as well as a place to find the next great read. Today’s library is not confined to one specific building – ebooks, electronic resources, and smartphone apps have enabled your library to be accessed from wherever you are. Our libraries have unlimited potential.
For more information on the history of Wheatland Regional Library please refer to Don’t Cry Baby… We’ll Be Back! The History of Wheatland Regional Library 1967-1987 by Rusty Macdonald, 1987