Albert Library has been serving Regina’s inner city community since 1913. The Branch provides basic library services enhanced by an in-depth Aboriginal collection, and culturally based programming. The branch also provides a safe environment for neighbourhood children and youth.
The Albert Community Library Committee
In 1979, a report written for the Regina Public Library Board recommended reducing the hours of service at the Albert Branch because circulation levels did not meet library standards for a branch. Community representatives argued that the reason the branch was not being used to its full potential was because it did not meet the needs of the community it served. A First Nations community member (Theresa Stevenson) stated that she would like to see Aboriginal art work on the walls, library staff to smile at her and make her feel welcome at the library, and perhaps, offer her a cup of tea.
There was a series of meetings between the community, represented by the North Central Community Society and the Regina Public Library Board. The objective was to find a resolution satisfactory to both the community and the library board. The outcome was a formal agreement between the North Central Community Society and the Regina Public Library Board establishing a community advisory committee for Albert Library in 1980. The Library Committee is a subcommittee of the North Central Community Association. The agreement gave the community an advisory role in the areas of staffing, programming, and collection development. The community library committee was to bring the needs of the community to the branch staff, thus helping to define the services the library provided. This agreement is renewed on an annual basis.
The community library committee meets at least ten times annually in order to fulfill the responsibilities set out in the agreement. Membership on the Albert Library Committee is open to anyone living or working in the North Central community.
As a result of the library committee’s independence from the library system’s administration and board, the Albert Library Committee has been able to go to outside funding agencies for support of a number of programs and services over the years. Included in these efforts are:
- In 1995, the Albert Library Committee funded and hosted the first Canadian meeting with inner city library patrons and staff. The library committee secured funding for travel, accommodations, & meals for the participants. The conference brought inner city library patrons and staff together to discuss the past, present, and future of library services in relation to the dynamic communities of Canada’s inner city urban landscape. The conference was an unqualified success. Delegates from diverse communities quickly recognized many common patterns about the library services they provided in their community.
- The library committee obtained funding for various culturally based programs. For instance, in 1994, Albert Library received a grant of $10,000 for Aboriginal content programming. Cree classes, pow wow dancing, beadwork, cultural awareness, and storytelling were some of the programs offered at the library. The highlight of the year was a field trip to a First Nations heritage park, called Wanuskewin, for the inner city children and youth, and their parents. Circulation statistics greatly increased during this period.
- With the committee’s recommendation, gallery space for artists to exhibit their work was established. The branch hosts an annual art exhibition for the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College’s Indian Fine Arts Department. The gallery space provides an opportunity for students to promote their work, with the potential to sell their art as well. Albert Library also had Aboriginal artwork, created by students of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, painted on it’s exterior walls. This partnership no longer exists due to staff changes at the First Nations University of Canada.
- The library committee received a grant in 1996 to host The Asokhan Storyteller in Residence Project for one year, with a First Nations traditional teacher as the resource person. This project integrated storytelling into the library’s regular programming. As a result of this project, storytellers in the community worked together. Young people were taught First Nations oral history, interviewing and collection methods, materials were published, and storytelling skills were passed along to the younger generation. The storyteller-in-residence project also provided an opportunity for members of the community to participate in three significant day trips to First Nations reserves. During these day trips, participants were taught various First Nations protocols, such as how to pick sweetgrass.
- One of the Albert Community Library Committee’s goals is to bridge the technology gap between those who have computer access and those who do not, by providing a computer lab for the North Central community. A computer lab was established at the Albert Library in 1998, with a federal Community Access Program (CAP) grant, in partnership with two other Regina organizations. The project was developed to allow lower income communities with little access to computers, the opportunity to gain computer knowledge. This would provide education advantages and potential economic benefits. The Computer Lab is open at no cost to the community. People can book a computer for one-hour time slots. The lab has a paid Computer Lab Facilitator in the room at all time to provide assistance.
- The library committee fund-raised to send representatives to present papers at international conferences relating to library services for Aboriginal peoples. Papers were presented at: IFLA – Library Services for Indigenous Peoples in Tromso Norway in November 1998, and the International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum in New Zealand (1999), Sweden (2001), and Australia (2007).
- The library committee produced a video about the branch and the community it serves, to show at conferences and presentations.
Circulation and general library usage have increased steadily since the community was given a definitive voice in the operation of the Branch.
It is the community that gives the Albert Library it’s direction on how to best serve it’s residents. This is exactly what the Albert Branch strived to accomplish.