Yorkton's Early Story

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Yorkton's 125th Anniversary

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Local Library Lore and
the Lighter Side of Library Life

While settlement of Yorkton dates back to 1882, it was not until 1903 that the community began discussions to establish a library. Progress seemed slow, prompting Samuel Hadden to write a letter to THE YORKTON ENTERPRISE, February 11, 1904, complaining that young men might not frequent billiard rooms and hotels if only the town had a library. As it turned out, they would be forced to languish in bars and pool halls until 1907, when a library was set up in a basement room of the new Town Hall.

At some point, a two-story house on the corner of 2nd Avenue North, south of St. Andrews Church became the library. All librarians were strict about handling of books, checking kid's hands for cleanliness, etc. Some engaged in censorship. On one occasion, a local minister wanting a newly arrived book as reference for his sermon was denied access to it!

Over the years, newspaper articles bemoaned the fact that Yorkton did not have a well stocked, permanent library. In 1926, the Yorkton Rotary Club took on the challenge. The library was established in the Patrick Block on Third Avenue North.

In times past libraries adhered to a tomb-like atmosphere, with posted "Quiet Please" signs. Noise was not tolerated beyond whispering and the sounds of flipping pages. In the early 1940s, children were refused admission by one librarian. Board Chairman, William Morrison managed to convince the librarian to institute a six-month project whereby children were allowed access to library services. His daughter Nancy states that at the end of the test period, the librarian decided that she actually preferred having children around than the adults!

At some point, the library moved back to its first location-City Hall; this time in the upstairs rooms. In 1955, after City Offices relocated to the newly renovated former Post Office building across the street, the library moved to the vacated main floor. After thirty years of service, the Rotary Club transferred the responsibility to the City of Yorkton on January 19, 1956. The library was now on the city budget. In 1960, when the old city hall was demolished, the library moved to a historic building, 57 Broadway Street East. Crowded, cold in winter, hot in summer, patrons sitting in these conditions tended to be unappreciative of the heritage ambiance.

With the coming of the more liberal seventies things around the library became more relaxed. There was "Story Time" for children, and up to date best-sellers. Not all liked the new novels. Some prim and proper women complained: "That book should go in the garbage! I would never have read it if I had known what it was like!"

In June of 1979, City Hall decided the library would relocate to the former Safeway store at 93 Broadway West. The spacious renovated facility was a great improvement. "Story Hour" times increased. "Madame" Lori Barsi told fortunes. Starting in 1983, Librarian Dan Calef introduced a special feature "Dan the Storyman." The Yorkton Genealogy Society added to the book collection of the Ernest Bauerle History Room. In 1985, a new project brought Writer-in-Residence, Mick Burrs, who with local writers founded the Parkland Writers' Alliance. Computer work stations were introduced in 1996. The library became a place of rendez-vous for many local organizations. With increases in resources and programs it is an important research centre and a favoured place of relaxation.