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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Banff Public Library, Alberta, Canada

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, November 27, 2016


Last month I embarked on an 8,000 mile train trip that started and ended in Chicago, doing a circle to the west, then crossing the width of Canada, and then returning to Chicago, all in slightly more than two weeks.


The group tour consisted of 38 train fans who never complained about rough track, the never-ending locomotive whistle, crossing lights and bells, or rocking back and forth in your berth all night.


No one complained when the locomotive died near Spokane, knowing that a freight railroad didn’t want us blocking their tracks and would use their own equipment to drag us into Seattle.


We stood in the Great Hall of Chicago Union Station saying goodbye to new friends from all across the nation and promising to stay-in-touch by email and share our photos.


Those of you, who know me, realize that I didn’t leave libraries alone during my “holiday,” as Canadians call vacations.


We exited VIA Rail’s Canadian in Jasper and rode a tour bus on the Glacier Parkway (complete with 6 inches of snow in October) to our stay in Banff, Alberta.


Banff is a beautiful little town located completely within the national park, and we had half-a-day to explore the town nestled between ranges of the Canadian Rockies.


While other sauntered from one gift shop to another, I spotted the Banff Public Library, located in a beautiful building at the end of the street.


I didn’t identify myself, as often librarians panic at another librarian snooping around looking over their operation.


The Library is next door to the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, which served as a sponsor for the public library which dates to its founding in 1949.


The current building was constructed in 1985 once the library became an operation of local government.


The library is colorful and nicely arranged providing all of the services that American public libraries offer today.


It is part of the Marigold Library System which serves south-central Alberta, Canada by linking the collections of libraries in that area through the TRAC Regional Automation Cooperative.


The system appears to operate much like our own SEO Regional Library System which connects 92 Ohio library systems providing an automation product.


Access to eBooks, eMagazines, and various downloadable products were available with the use of your Banff Library card, just like our own systems.


Books requested from other libraries likely take a little longer to arrive given the enormous size of the Province of Alberta when compared to any state in the U.S., but the system operates online just like ours.


The Banff Public Library appears to offer a large number of books in other languages, as well as materials for English as a second language as Canada has a more diverse population than I expected.


I went next door to visit the Whyte (pronounced White) Museum, centered on the artwork of Peter and Catherine Whyte, and learned about the history of the Canadian Rockies.


Tremendous work has gone into the permanent and rotating collections of the Museum.


Banff was established in 1883 when their transcontinental railroad was being constructed and the workers discovered the hot springs in the area.


Lake Louise is several miles to the north and was another stop on our trip.


To my surprise, even though Canada has converted to the metric system and kilometers, their railroads continue to use “miles” as it would be too difficult to change.


I don’t know if the Banff Public Library even noticed me checking them out or not, but I enjoyed seeing their library.


Every view in Banff included a white-capped mountain of the Canadian Rockies, and I commented that to a waitress in one of their restaurants, to which she responded;


“Oh yes, the mountains.”


Often the things we see every day disappear to us.