Pictures courtesy of the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library-Calgary Public Library.

The Fish Creek Library is the library I grew up with. I developed a pretty regular routine during the summers as a kid – cycling there, grabbing as many books as I could fit and rushing off for home, returning a few weeks later to shamefully pay my egregious late fees with my allowance and grab another stack of books.

Few things have changed about my love of the library over the years – now I visit the Central Library or Louise Riley branches the most frequently, and I’m paying off those late fees on my debit card (sorry librarians, I still can’t keep track of time when my nose is in a good book).

The library is pretty magical – how a place can simultaneously be a secluded isle of calm and a bustling hub for learning is absolutely beyond me. In honour of the Library’s 100 year anniversary, and their One Book, One Calgary program celebrating Awesomeness, here are a few neat facts and reasons on why the Calgary Public Library is awesome:

  1. The Calgary Public Library is the second most used system in Canada, and the sixth in North America – despite being much lower in funding than many other major libraries.
  2. As of 2009, 72 per cent of Calgary households used the library – 5.6 million in person visits per year and a total annual circulation of 16,012,748!
  3. The first library was opened in Alberta in 1912 (Memorial Park Library) after a donation by Andrew Carnegie (yes, the Carnegie that inspired Scrooge McDuck was actually a great philanthropist).
  4. When Memorial Park Library opened, Calgary’s population was only 43,000. Now, with a population of well over one million, the library has 18 branches.
  5. Memorial Park Library was featured in Season 3 Episode 21 of the television show Community as part of the fictional Greendale Campus.
  6. The library has hosted a number of celebrities and famous authors over the years – such as Leonard Cohen, Sofia Loren, Timothy Findley, and Margaret Atwood.
  7. They’re not only concerned with the past, but the future. Right now, the library is preparing to bury a time capsule that will be opened in 2062 – 50 years from now – with messages from ordinary Calgarians.
  8. Their collection is always growing – every six minutes, a new item is added!
  9. You can take out up to 99 items from the library at one time.
  10. More than six million people visit the library’s website each year:
  11. They’ll help you out if you can’t make it in to a branch – as well as making use of their virtual library to provide e-books, the library provides books to the elderly and nursing homes.
  12. The Calgary Public Library wants to foster literacy, as well as encouraging reading. They provide 20 learning programs supporting basic literacy, digital skills, and language learning.
  13. Over 200,000 guests visit the library’s programs and events each year.
  14. Only 900 employees and over 1800 volunteers keep the library running in tip-top shape.
  15. Since 1912, the library has grown from 12,795 printed books to 1,757,046 printed books, and from zero programs offered, to well over 1,000!
  16. The library in Calgary was started by women! Annie Davidson, the head of the Calgary Women’s Literary Club, went door to door in 1907 gathering signatures to prove the need for a public library – she delivered the 563 signatures to city council in April of 1908.
  17. You can borrow a person! Through the Calgary Public Library’s Living Library, you can borrow a human to learn more about the diversity in Calgary.
  18. In 1995, Calgary had the busiest library system in Canada.
  19. Want to check the energy consumption in your home? Borrow the library’s Kill-A-Watt Meter!
  20. In 1947, the Calgary Public Library became the first service in Canada to loan record albums.
  21. Calgary librarians care about sustainability! In the 2011 Commuter Challenge, Calgary Public Library employees placed third – saving over 1,400 km. by not driving that week.
  22. Not only written language, but sign language – the library partners with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Society to teach sign language to children under 12.
  23. Interested in playing music, rather than reading about it? As well as occasionally hosting live concerts, the Calgary Public Library has a sheet  music collection of 151,841 songs.
  24. Calgary’s first attempt at a college took place from 1912 to 1915, when classes were held in the basement of Memorial Park Library. The first chief librarian, Alexander Calhoun, said that the library should be, “a people’s university.”
  25. In 1987, the library decided to start the Writer in Residence program to support local artists and mentor the local arts community.
  26. It’s not just about reading – the library’s Sunlife Financial Arts and Culture Pass allows low-income Calgarians access to hockey games, concerts, rodeos, and other local events.
  27. Travelling through Alberta? The Calgary Public Library and Edmonton Public Library have a partnership, allowing card-holders at one institute to access the other.
  28. Before becoming a library, the land in Memorial Park was actually Calgary’s first park – a nursery for a tree-planting program.
  29. You can buy books, rather than just borrow. Venture down into the basement of the Central Library branch and you’ll find a number of discarded books for sale for $0.50! Often the library also holds book sales – an awesome time to pick up a few books for cheap.
  30. It’s a crime not to read – the library, in partnership with the Calgary Police Service, sends police offers to read to kids to get them excited about both reading and the law.
  31. Ever wanted to host your own movie or video games night? The Central Library’s John Dutton Theatre can be rented out by the hour. 
  32. They’ve received a whole lot of awards – too many to list here. Check out their website for more information:
  33. The library loans out music, blu-rays, comic books, magazines – and they have more items available for use at each branch, such as newspapers and maps.
  34. Internet and computer service and wi-fi are free with a library card! No more buying multiple coffees just so you can finish your download at Starbucks.
  35. You can even eat and drink in the library – as long as you stay away from the computer keyboards.
  36. The library has a pretty sweet mascot – Curious, the Chameleon. You can check him out in the Sweet City Lip Dub video for Calgary 2012.
  37.  New to Canada? The library offers an orientation to Calgary, community referrals, and counselling from local immigrant serving agencies, as well as a variety of ESL programs and clubs.
  38. Need help with computers, research, or finding a job? Stop by one of the library’s Learning Labs, for a class or to talk to staff.
  39. Some library computer are expanded ‘Creation Stations’ – with resources like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere available for use, free of charge.
  40. The library has a ton of blogs that are frequently updated, from blogs for individual branches, to those covering topics as widespread as design, staff book picks, career resources, and health tips. You can find the full blog directory here.
  41. Art at the library – six different library branches showcase art exhibits featuring local artists.
  42. Want to access the library’s many collections on your phone or iPad? There’s an app for that. 
  43. Not sure what to read next? Library staff have a staff picks selection, both in-branch and online. Or, if you’d rather not browse, their NextReads e-newsletter service sends out book recommendations.
  44. The Calgary Heritage Triangle – all within a two block radius of each other, the Calgary Public Library, Glenbow Library and Archives, and the City of Calgary Archives all work to bring Calgary’s heritage to Calgarians.
  45. Interested in the theatre? As well as individually published plays, and everything Shakespeare, the library has 7,981 play listings, many of which that aren’t found in standard play indexes.
  46. If you’re curious to see how fashion has evolved over the years, you can check the library’s archives to see photos of library staff and volunteers dating back to 1913.
  47. Long before the food truck revolution, there was the bookmobile, a travelling branch of the public library that visited different areas around the city starting in 1956, with 4,000 books in tow.
  48. Librarians are still an amazing, knowledgeable resource. Even though they no longer have to complete a written test on European politics and a critical analysis of Shakespeare, like they did when they were first hired for the Calgary Public Library in 1912, they’re still a great resource to help you with whatever you need to know.
  49. There’s actually a book about the library’s fascinating history – from Alexander Calhoun in 1912 all the way up to interviews with Naheed Nenshi in 2012, written by award-wining historian Brian Brennan – that you can check out from the library! Talk about meta.
  50. The Calgary Public Library has books – and books are awesome!

Featured upcoming events with One Book, One Calgary: 

  1. A Chef’s Awesome Eats – Discover what Calgary’s top chefs cook and eat at home! November 13 and 15.
  2. Creating an Awesome Music Experience – Poet and songwriter Cort Delano on what your music collection tells you. November 20.
  3. Yoga – How you can focus on the simple pleasures in life. November 13, 14, and 24.
  4. Making the Most of Your Non-Work Life – With Dr. Patrick Finn. November 19.
  5. Inspired Art Journals – Sharing techniques for capturing awesome moments. November 15 and 24.

Calgary is Awesome is a proud supporter of One Book, One Calgary.