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. It was the belief of the Committee that by working together, public libraries in eastern Alberta could better use their material and human resources. Thanks to several years of effort and active lobbying on the part of volunteers and project staff, the Northern Lights Library System was established in April 1990, with provincial operating grants made available the next year.
As outlined in the original plan of services, the new System worked to:
- Increase collection size at member libraries
- Provide centralized purchasing and processing of library materials
- Establish a contract with Lloydminster Public Library for assistance with reference and interlibrary loan requests
This contract ended in December 1999, and a reference contract is currently in place with Yellowhead Regional Library System. With receipt of provincial funding the system then focused on:
- The purchase and renovation of a building in Elk Point to house System Headquarters
- Full automation for System Headquarters and member libraries
- An official grand opening in September 1992
From 1992-1998, NLLS maintained a steady membership of 14 municipalities and their libraries. With the development of provincial initiatives on resource sharing, such as The Alberta Library (TAL), and electronic networking, through Alberta Public Library Electronic Network( APLEN), system membership rapidly increased. By the end of 2001, there were 46 member municipalities in NLLS, representing 38 member libraries at 40 sites, and attention was turned to new priorities:
- Headquarters moved to current location in Elk Point, (formerly owned by Pan Canadian), in December 2001
- Partnered with Marigold and Yellowhead Regional to form The Regional Automation Consortium (TRAC)
- Worked with TRAC to provide an integrated, automated library system and catalogue for all member libraries
The TRAC online catalogue, known as TRACPac, contains bibliographic holdings of more than 2 milllion items and some 132,000 patrons. In December 2003, the Peace Library System joined TRAC, adding its holdings and patrons to the database in May 2004.