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Innisfail Public Library marks 120 years of connection

Innisfail's venerable institution hosts an anniversary celebration with Olive the Owl taking centre stage for the arrival of a soon-to-be cherished mascot

INNISFAIL – Olive the Owl was carefully removed from her travelling carrier.

There was a chorus of oohs and ahhs from the crowd for this magnificent bird of prey.

The five-year-old great horned owl then flapped his wings vigorously, not to alarm but to perhaps prove there was a proud new owl in town on par with the famed Otis the Owl.

“Otis is still working and still a part of the community and programs but Olive is doing a lot more now,” said Erin Young, education coordinator for the Medicine River Wildlife Centre, following a well-received hour-long wildlife presentation during the Innisfail Public Library's 120th anniversary celebration at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre (ILLC) on April 13. “They can now share the workload because it was getting a little overwhelming. They’re a nice team now.”

And Olive’s appearance was perfect for the event, as the owl was about to be officially proclaimed an important fixture for the library.

Organizers for the anniversary event from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. also celebrated the institution's glorious past with an impressive binder display going back to the first pioneer days in 1904 when the newly incorporated town had its first library in Miss Simpson’s drug store.

For the first 57 years the town’s public library was entirely run by volunteers.

In 1959 Mary Morton became the library’s first paid library manager, a role she proudly held until 1975.

Today the library is considered a magnificent modern multi-million-dollar jewel on the west side of town, proudly known as Innisfail’s “Community Living Room.”

The 120th anniversary celebration began with generational storytime from Sherry Driezen; the library’s beloved master of children’s programming since 2003, and better known by all as Miss Sherry.

She read stories on owls and seeds, which nicely set up the event’s theme of honouring the past, seizing the present and looking confidently into the future.

Amy Ramsay is the current manager of the Innisfail Public Library. She spearheaded the 120th anniversary celebration.

“The past is looking back at the library growth. The mascot is coming out, so that's the present piece, and the future is the seed library,” said Ramsay, noting the mascot choice was an easy one.

“Readers are quite often night owls and I'm a night owl. (The mascot) was going to be an owl, just flat out I knew it was going to be an owl,” said Ramsay, noting there are four proposed names for the new mascot; Birch, Hoo-Dini, Hoolio and Page.

With the public’s help on the naming, Ramsay hopes a final mascot moniker will be announced this week.

As for the future, Ramsay said volunteers from the Friends of the Innisfail Library Society helped the library from April to June to create a seed library.

“Sometimes when you go to the store you buy a pack of seeds, and you never use the whole package, or maybe you need more, just a little bit more,” said Ramsay. “So, you can come to the library and just leave the extra that you had, or take what you need.”

She said there will be a small plaque on top of the seed library that says, ‘Innisfail Public Library established 1904, Innisfail Seed Library established 2024.’

And there was one more important piece to mark the 120th anniversary; a time capsule from an old steamer trunk.

Ramsay said for the next few months citizens can bring in items to put in the time capsule, such as old books laying around the house.

“For people that maybe can't think about what to put in we have old-school, sign-out library cards for checking out books the old-fashioned way,” said Ramsay. “We're encouraging people to write on the cards the best memories of library things they've done over the years, and what makes the library special.

“We are then going to put those cards in the time capsule.”

She said the old steamer time capsule will be safely stored high on top of a ledge inside the library until it's opened 30 years from now for the library’s 150th anniversary.

Following Olive the Owl’s sensational inaugural appearance in the ILLC’s Community Room, anniversary cake was served.

There was a noticeable feeling of community pride for the town’s noble institution that evolved from a corner in a drug store in 1902 to a cherished Community Living Room 120 years later.

“People are always up for a celebration in Innisfail,” said Coun. Janice Wing, town council’s representative on the library board. “The library has evolved to a place where it serves people of all ages and people of all demographics, which is so incredibly diverse in the Town of Innisfail.

“The library has become a real community connection point.”

Johnnie Bachusky

About the Author: Johnnie Bachusky

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