Chinook Arch celebrates 30 years of library service
For 30 years the Chinook Arch Regional Library System has been helping municipalities in southwestern Alberta collaborate to deliver high-quality public library services. The system was formed on April 1, 1992 and today it includes 33 libraries in 41 municipalities.
“Alberta’s library systems are one of the finest examples of intermunicipal collaboration,” says Robin Hepher, Chinook Arch CEO. “By working together, Chinook Arch member municipalities provide sustainable, cost-effective public library services in even the smallest southwestern Alberta communities.”
Innovation has been part of the Chinook Arch ethos since the beginning. In the mid-90s, Chinook Arch was the first system to connect all of its members to the automated check-out system, and to provide database-backed websites for its member libraries. This was followed by the RISE network, which brought videoconferencing capability to public libraries long before it was common. One of the most recent accomplishments was the installation of two automated book lockers in Waterton and on Piikani Nation.
“In 30 years, Chinook Arch has accomplished a great deal,” says Marie Logan, Chinook Arch Trustee for Lomond. “It certainly has made a difference to rural libraries and the rural way of life. I have always believed if you want families to live in rural Alberta, there needs to be services that expand the quality of life for the residents. One of these services is that offered by the local library.”
“Over the last thirty years, Chinook Arch has transformed our local library into a dynamic hub of community activity, as well as a technically sophisticated wide-ranging resource,” says Christopher Northcott, Chinook Arch Trustee for Milo. “Thanks to them patrons can find what they need and access collections from further afield.”
While innovation and technology have always been a part of what Chinook Arch provides its member libraries, the biggest impact it has may just be the responsive service it provides to its members.
“I started working at the Champion Library in August 2002,” says Patty Abel, Library Manager of the Champion Public Library. “I didn’t know what to expect, but Chinook Arch sent someone out to help me with the day-to-day operations of the library. Through the years the staff and CEO have helped with any questions that needed answering, and if there was a problem with computers or printers, they were here to fix them as soon as possible. I couldn’t imagine being a librarian and not being a part of the Chinook Arch Library System. It’s wonderful to have so many caring and knowledgeable people available when needed.”
“When I first started working at the Vulcan Library I was pretty green,” says Connie Clement, Manager of the Vulcan Municipal Library. “Chinook Arch was here to help me, and help me they did! I really don’t know where I would be right now with everything I needed to learn as a library manager if it weren’t for their team. Every time I have a question or need guidance an email or phone call is answered promptly. I talk to several different team members and everyone follows that same work ethic. Happy to assist me in all my crazy questions, coming out to my library, and going above and beyond with helping me with some of my community projects.”
What began as a fledgling organization with one staff member now boasts 30 staff members all working in various ways to support member libraries and their needs.
“The work we do for the member libraries of Chinook Arch provides more time for library staff to work with the public face of their library,” say long-time staff members Gill Watkinson, Cataloguing Lead and Rhonda Shearer, Library Technician. “If we can ease the behind-the-scenes workload of purchasing, cataloguing, and processing material a library adds to their collections then we are truly helping libraries provide the exemplary services they do.”
Thanks to forward-thinking staff, partners, members - and an incredibly supportive board - Chinook Arch is well-positioned to help libraries and communities thrive for another 30 years and beyond.