Local artist Douglas Jones has created this centenary poster for the Nelson Public Library.

COLUMN: Mark your calendars for library’s centennial

The Nelson Library was founded in 1920 and will celebrate on Jan. 17

By Anne DeGrace

In 1920 historian and writer Pierre Berton was born, Agatha Christie published her first mystery, young readers couldn’t wait to get their hands on Glinda of Oz and Tarzan the Untamed, and Nelson celebrated its first official library. Yes, the earth undoubtedly shook. And why wouldn’t it? It was an excellent year for readers, with the stage set beautifully for future generations.

Books and reading have been a part of Nelson’s history since newsagent Gilbert Stanley became custodian of Nelson’s first reading room in 1891. By 1899, a Nelson Miner reporter had trouble finding his way through the library — by then located at Baker and Ward streets — because of the crowds. Now, in the digital age, libraries have changed, but love of reading and learning and coming together is as fully embraced as it ever was.

What’s not to celebrate about the centenary of Nelson’s literary love affair and library-centred conviviality? And so, celebrate we shall.

On Friday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. join us at the Capitol Theatre to celebrate 100 years! We’ll have two-time Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour award-winning novelist (and huge supporter of libraries) Terry Fallis, introduced by Leacock-award-winning Nelson author Jenny Craig. All 21 members of the Playmor Junction band will offer a big brass accompaniment to the festivities, Slava Doval’s DanceFusion youth companies will perform, Corazon Youth Choir will serenade us, and the multitalented Bessie Wapp will be our emcee. Indigenous elder Donna Wright will open the evening and, in a tradition enjoyed since the dawn of humanity, transport us with a story. Tickets are available now at the Capitol Theatre.

There’s a video competition underway for birthday greetings, with the winners to be shown on screen at the event (go to nelsonlibrary.ca for details). There are some great prizes, too.

On Sunday, Jan. 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. we’ll open the doors of the library for an afternoon of music with Rose Nielsen and Dan Obradovich, a historic re-enactment of the signing of the incorporation documents with actor Don Thompson, a fun photo booth with photographer Thomas Nowaczynski, period costumes, local brass — and cake, of course! It’s all free and open to the public.

I am particularly thrilled with our Official Centenary Artist Douglas Jones. Doug lives here but works everywhere (like so many of our talented residents), and includes in his portfolio of clients The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, Reuters, and American Airlines, among many others. He’s created a centenary poster image that speaks to reading, imagination, and the place we call home, and when we saw it we were instantly captivated.

Doug is also creating four illustrations that will represent the library’s journey through time. These have been created specifically for the walls of our Touchstones Nelson exhibition in the fall of 2020, and you’ll see them on commemorative bookmarks as well. Again, with a nod to storytelling at the heart of libraries, each tells a tale of the times.

Libraries are steeped in story. We are a place where stories are kept — yes, in print, video, audio, and digital formats — but we are also a place where stories begin.

They begin with babes-in-arms at our Baby Goose and Granny Goose storytimes, and they spread into new friendships as young parents get to know one another and connections between generations grow. People meet in the library and begin their own stories. Stories have begun through New-to-Nelson Potlucks and literacy programs, teen book clubs and community partnerships.

At the library, we celebrate stories while building new ones by connecting people with reading, learning, and each other. As 2019 draws to a close, we’re looking back at our legacy and forward to our future. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating 100 years of storytelling and storybuilding — and raising a glass to the ones we’ve yet to write.

Anne DeGrace is the adult services co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information on All Things Nelson Library go to nelsonlibrary.ca.

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