Library History

 A History of the Bonnyville Municipal Library

 Evelyn Thurston
Mrs. Evelyn Thurston’s activities were many and varied, but the one that left a lasting mark and whose effects can never be fully assessed was supplying reading material in the Bonnyville area in the early 1930's.

With great effort and perseverance she secured a variety of reading materials from her friends in England. With the help of Mrs. Mary Boyd, the local postmistress, she packaged and sent bundles of books to each family in the rural districts of Rife, Hoselaw and Moose Lake.

Mrs. Thurston carried on with her collection until she had enough books to start a small lending library, of which she was solely responsible. In time a room was built on to her home for this enterprise. In 1946, when the number of books became so large and the work involved became too much for her, she called a meeting to form a library committee.

At the meeting a library board was elected and a decision was made to move the books to the Rife School, where the teacher would be expected to act as librarian. More than 3,000 books were moved, catalogued and shelved. Eventually, the interest in the care of the books waned, partly due to the fact that the Rife School had closed.

In the late 1940’s a group of Bonnyville citizens united to organize a community library. In 1953, Mrs. Thurston was approached with the idea of turning over her collection of books to Bonnyville to help form a library there. In tribute to her tireless dedication and work in providing books to the surrounding area, the new library was named the Thurston Memorial Library.
From its inception to 1967, the library was housed wherever possible. The yearly budget was minimal and paying rent was impossible, so the Library Board had to be satisfied with whatever free space was available.
In 1967, the Town of Bonnyville and the Municipal District of Bonnyville No. 87 combined finances to construct a Centennial Building that would house the town offices and the library. In 1981 the Town Council expanded and renovated the premises. Eventually this location proved to be too small and in 1989 a new stand-alone 6200 square foot library building was constructed. The Bonnyville Municipal Library was moved into its present location in February 1990.
It is interesting to note that in 1979, the Library Boards of Bonnyville, Cold Lake, Grand Centre, Iron River, Medley and the M.D. of Bonnyville No. 87 promoted the establishment of a co-operative library system to provide quality public library service throughout the Northern Lights area. It was hoped that as finances and interest dictated, the area served would take in most of the northeast corner of Alberta. In 1985, following three successful years of cooperation among the five libraries serving the M.D. of Bonnyville area, the Northeast Library Steering Committee was formed to investigate the feasibility of establishing a cooperative library system in the region. The Northern Lights Library System was established in April 1990.