The history of the Cardston Library dates back to 1903, when W.O. Lee had plans to open a public library. He rented a small building, just north of the Allen Store, which later became known as Laidlaws. In this building he placed his own bookshelves, lamps, heater and furnished nearly 300 books from his own library. These books included one of the earliest editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica and the library became a mine of information.
D.H. Elton, Dr. Brant, Robert Ibey, Mrs. Follet, Wm Burton Sr., are others that donated to the public library.
The early beginning of the library was a community centre and many books were read by the Cardston Pioneers. For three or four years the library was kept open by the Generosity of W.O. Lee. The records were kept by his oldest daughter, Miss Louis Lee. Robert Ibey also helped many nights at the library.
There are several other stories of the early history of the library, though no one is certain of their authenticity.
Credit for starting the town's first public library seemingly must go to the Cardston Pharmacy of 1911, as the earliest reference found to this important community asset appears then in the Star which announced the start of a circulating library at the drug store, opening with 100 books.
Prior to this, of course, an excellent supply of good books had been accumulated in the school, but they would all be lost in the big school fire of 1915. In the next 19 years, not much was known about the library except that it had disintegrated in the late twenties. Fortunately two very public-spirited progressive citizens soon came forward to promote and later establish what would become the splendid, well-stocked library Cardston has today.
On March 12, 1931 the eloquent lawyer, Byron F. Tanner, began the campaign first with a front page letter in the Cardston News. Fromthen on, assisted by the editor D.O. Wright and others, in the darkest hours of the great depression they kept the ball rolling. The town was canvassed to round up books from the previous library and get others donated, along with magazine subscriptions and cash donations from individuals and organizations, particularly the Rotary Club. Finally eight months later with 2,000 books, $100 worth of magazine subscriptions, a $350 government grant and $20 per month promised from the Town Council, The Cardston Public Library opened its doors November 16, 1931, in the old Tithing Office where the Cardston Clinic would later be located.
Out of more than a dozen applicants for the $15-a-month job Mrs. Earnest Lowe was chosen to be the librarian. She proved to be an excellent choice and served faithfully and well for eleven years. During that time in 1940, the new Town Hall was built incorporating the library. The library grew and more space had to be added in 1962.
In 1942 Mrs. Lynn Leavitt became the librarian and served for two years, after which Mrs. Myrtle Olsen began her long term of dedicated service which lasted until 1965. From 1965 to April 1981 the library was in the capable hands of Mrs. Gertie Worth. She was instrumental in obtaining the new premises which the library now occupies.
In February of 1981 a large new addition was added when the town office vacated and the whole main floor became the library. The new library opened in March.
Library Historic Profile
Nov. 16th - The Library officially opens in the Old Tithing office, where the Cardston Clinic is currently located. Its collection includes 2,000 books, $100 worth of magazines, a $350 government grant, and $20 per month from the Town Council.
A new Town Hall is built, within which the Library is incorporated into.
Renovations are made to increase space within the Library.
The Town Office is moved, allowing the Library to expand to the entire main floor of the building. This building served as the town office and as a police station, with jail cells still in the basement.
The Library begins automated circulation services.
The Library's front stairs are replaced with a ramp.
The Library joins the Chinook Arch Regional Library System.
The Library's front entrance is renovated and an automatic door isinstalled.
Fundraising campaign begins for a new library. Generous donations and grants are received to build a new library facility.
The libraries moves to the temporary facility at 321 Main Street.
The old library is demolished and new construction begins.
The new Cardston library opens its doors as the Jim and Mary Kearl Library of Cardston Alberta.
Great community support as collection and furniture were moved into the new facility.
Four new public access computers were added.
Adopt A Magazine program was more successful than ever.