June 13th, 2024

Chinook Arch celebrates 30 years of library service in southern Alberta

By Ry Clarke - for the Lethbridge Herald on April 13, 2022.

Chinook Arch Regional Library System is celebrating its 30th anniversary in the community.
The service started in 1992 in April helping municipalities in southwestern Alberta come together and deliver library services across the region.
To date, the organization includes 33 libraries across 41 municipalities providing sustainable cost-effective library services through intermunicipal collaboration. Library services across rural Alberta have provided residents with a hub for community activity, while also offering resources and collections to aid patrons.
Robin Hepher, CEO of Chinook Regional Library System, said that at the time of its founding, the southwestern Alberta region was the only area that didn’t have a regional library system.
“There were six other systems across the province. And for some reason, this corner of the province didn’t yet have one […] they developed a plan of service, like a proposal. And then in 1992 councils signed on to that agreement.”
Since that time Chinook Arch has been joining services creating a network of 33 libraries which provide services to residents in the southwestern region of Alberta. Areas like Vulcan County can share resources with other regional library systems, such as Cardston and Magrath, creating a network of information and resources accessible across larger distances. Chinook Arch is continually looking to expand its network of resources, adding Nobleford to its services in December 2021.
Cardholders with Chinook Arch can access books, movies, music, and video games along with access to online resources like eBooks and educational courses. Following the impact of COVID-19 and restrictions, Chinook Arch made accessibility a key goal. Moving eCards online for easy registration with a 16 per cent rise in electronic usage, and expanding its electronic collection by 13 per cent.
Under the Libraries Act of Canada Chinook Arch is considered a library, operating under the governance of the federal institution. Through funding from membership fees, library boards, and provincial operations through the Government of Alberta the organization offers many programs providing communities with classes and resources. Through government funding Chinook Arch was able to create its “Fundamental Digital Literacy Skills Program” teaching integral skills to participants through skills like understanding computers, mobile device awareness, and Internet security.
“When Chinook Arch was formed, it brought an extra million dollars into the area for library services that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the community,” said Hepher.
Chinook Arch has been providing help to libraries and communities for 30 years with services that help rural cities get access to more information and learning opportunities, and providing more time for staff to work with the public, easing behind-the-scenes workloads.
“A lot of our focus over the next couple years will be reminding people that the library is still a key service in the community. They offer the same great services and materials that they always have.”
Hepher hopes to work with members assessing the needs of communities and expanding the options Chinook Arch brings to the community.

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