Wakaw Library turns 65

Carol Baldwin/LJI Reporter/Wakaw Recorder A display at anniversary celebration for Wakaw Library.

Carol Baldwin
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Wakaw Recorder

The Wakaw Library celebrated its 65th anniversary on Friday, May 17. A short ceremony was held at the library Friday afternoon and coffee and cake were available from 2-4 p.m.

Sixty-five years ago on March 2, the Wakaw Branch of the North Central Saskatchewan Regional Library was opened to the public. Located on the lower floor of the nurses’ residence, the new library was met with much enthusiasm by school students who visited in the afternoon and by the adults who visited in the evening of opening day. The opening day recorded 226 of the nearly 1,000 books which filled the shelves of the newly opened library, had been borrowed by patrons.

Mr. A. Phaneuf served as librarian and Mrs. E. Brown functioned as assistant librarian. One month later, an article found in the Wakaw Recorder archives reports that the popularity of the library continued, and the average number of books borrowed every week surpassed the number borrowed on opening day. The number of books available grew to 1200 on the library’s shelves, but many more were requested and ordered from Prince Albert where nearly 52,000 books were housed, including one on Ukrainian cooking which the borrower discovered had measurements in metric, a very surprising detail in 1959.

The Wakaw Public Library is part of the Wapiti Regional Library which was created in 1950 as the first regional library in Saskatchewan and operated under the name of the North Central Saskatchewan Regional Library. The name changed in the mid-70s when the Saskatchewan Government, using Wapiti as a model, established a province-wide system of public libraries. As a member of the Saskatchewan Information Library Services Consortium (SILS), Wapiti lends resources to other library systems in the province and borrows materials from those library systems in return, which results in patrons having access to over three million items.

From May 17 to Sept. 15, 2024, patrons can use their Wapiti Regional Library card to check out a Regional Park Pass for up to 7 days and explore one of Saskatchewan’s nearly 100 Regional Parks. The Park Pass must be returned to the same library it was borrowed from and is on a first-come-first-serve availability. The pass is for entry only and any additional costs such as camping fees are the responsibility of the borrower.

Much has changed in the 65 years since the Wakaw Library first opened besides the number of items available to borrow. People can now borrow audiobooks, music, movies, puzzles, and Regional Park passes. From movies for kids on non-school days to workshops on wild mushroom foraging, librarian Vera Trembach has continued the tradition of keeping the library a central feature of the community.

Quoting from a write-up she did for the Wakaw Recorder in 2021, Vera wrote, “While your librarian has not delivered books by horseback, the dedication is there,” and it shows. Special activities in 2023 included a performance by classical guitarist Sean Bougie, book readings by Saskatchewan Writers Guild authors, Candace Savage and Amber Antymniuk, a garden seed exchange, book bingo, sketchbook journaling, and rhubarb fest to name but a few. Also, when Kids Klub did operate during the summer of 2023, the library stepped up to provide several activities throughout the summer to help the children pass the days of summer.

This spring the library enrolled in the Neighbourhood Forest program. Parents, caregivers, and grandparents had the opportunity to sign up for a free tree to plant during Earth Week. The program, which was initiated in 2010, has engaged with over 500,000 families across North America through partnerships with school libraries and youth groups, and in its inaugural year here in Wakaw, had over 25 registrations for trees. The trees are free, and if the registrant wishes they can donate the $5 cost involved in getting the trees to children, back into the program to fund even more trees. The tree plugs delivered were suitable to the Saskatchewan climate and were available for pick-up at the library. Hopefully, the program will be available again in 2025, and Wakaw’s neighbourhood forest of library trees will continue to grow and ‘green’ the town and community.

That first library only opened for two hours in the evening, three days per week, but it grew in size and usage to become the library the community enjoys today. Established through the determined efforts of the Wakaw Home and School Association, it was run initially by volunteers until 1964 when the librarian was finally paid a salary. Today, thanks to technology and the evolution of eBooks and e-magazines the library is available when you are. Despite the prediction that eBooks would replace physical books, experts were reminded that reading is a multi-sensory experience, and many readers still preferred the sensations that accompany holding a book in one’s hands, the feeling of turning pages, and the sensory stimulation those actions bring. Thus, we still need libraries. The librarian is paid by the Wapiti Regional Library, and through the generous financial support of the RM of Hoodoo #401, RM of Fish Creek #402, and the Town of Wakaw, the Wakaw Public Library continues to fill a vital role in the community. 

Through the Wapiti Regional Library system, patrons can borrow from the thousands of books available in print, digital, and audio formats as well as by using the Libby app, the app for library2go. Checkout, download, place a hold, read, listen, enjoy. Hoopla is another app available through the library system that offers online and mobile access to thousands of movies, TV shows, music, eBooks, audiobooks, and comics. With Hoopla, patrons can borrow, instantly stream, and download content. For those fans of Japanese pop culture such as manga, manhwa, anime, and anime movies, they can also be found using the Hoopla app. Hoopla syncs across all your devices, so titles are available immediately to stream or for whenever you are in the mood or have some time. Most titles can also be downloaded to your phone or tablet and it’s all FREE thanks to your public library! 

The Town of Wakaw provides the library with the physical building space where patrons have access to books, magazines, puzzles, games, movies, and public computers and where everyone can feel comfortable. All that is needed is a library card. Through the card, the vault of digital resources opens where patrons can find eBooks, e-audiobooks, and now magazines galore for all ages to download and read on iOS and Android devices 24/7.

The current hours of operation are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:00 to 5:00 and Saturdays from 10:00 to 1:00.