Discover Your Roots - Local History

Discover Your Roots - Local History

Posted on Thursday May 05, 2011 at 11:09AM

When I first came out to Elk Point, I began a conversation about the town: “I presume there are elk in Elk Point.” When I received a negative response I was a little confounded, but continued: “Is there at least a point?” I was informed that an early settler to the area liked the spot as it reminded him of where he had come from, and so named it after his hometown. I liked that idea.

Moving to a small town where everyone knows everyone else, it becomes important to have some knowledge of the place. Many towns and villages in the area have (or at one point had) an historical society that capture the past of the place and preserve it for posterity. While never a real history buff, I’ve always enjoyed stories of people and places. What motivated them? Why did they end up where and how they did? I’ve also found that awareness of a town’s history can build a sense of pride in the community.

What can your library do to meet the needs for local history? Partnering with the Historical Society is one way. You could provide the space and resources; they could provide the knowledge and speakers for a program. Sessions on local history, how to research local history, historical landmarks, tools and sites could be geared towards a variety of audiences, from young children to seniors. Displaying information produced by the Historical Society, or even individuals in the community, further develops partnerships and local awareness of the past. Unless these items become irreparably damaged, local history items can remain in a collection well past standard weeding guidelines.

People in your community are an invaluable resource when it comes to answering reference questions on local history. A few months ago, I did some digging for a gentleman in England about a stamp he had which was post marked Kaleland, AB in the early 1900’s. Normally for Ask A Question I respond with a list of resources to try, making sure the patron will actually find something at those sites. This time I had trouble finding information, which led to telephone conversations with people in the Town Office in Two Hills, being connected to an elderly gentleman who had lived in Kaleland for a time, and finally locating a book with a two pages about the former hamlet. We sent copies of the two pages to England, but I would not have had the same information if I had just looked at books and websites. History is made by people.

Get your community involved by sponsoring a local history day. Have seniors come in and tell about what they remember of times gone by. Work with local schools to have students create a book for the library on the history of your town, based on old town and church records, and interviews. These projects have been done by libraries in NLLS in the past, and have been effective. Not only does it draw the town together and create pride of place, it can also be captured in print on video for future generations. You could even provide space on your library’s website for local history, with contributions from young and old alike.

Create history. Build a time capsule and have the community contribute, making plans to open it in 20 or 25 years. Work with local newspapers to preserve current issues digitally for future history buffs. Properly label with the date and names of individuals on all photos taken in and about the library. Make you library a place where history happens.

• Local newspapers
• Local museums
• Historical Societies
• Town Offices
• The Glenbow Museum
• The Provincial Archives of Alberta

• Library Managers’ Advisory Council is May 25th. Training for the Summer Reading Program runs concurrently, so don’t forget to bring an extra staff member!
• The Centre for Family Literacy is running a contest for libraries in Alberta. The prize is 50 children’s books, to be awarded to one library in each of the seven systems! Contact me for more details.
• At this year’s NLLS Annual Conference: Full Speed Ahead – The Library Superhero we will be having library produced music videos (in place of the drill cart competition) and a poster session for you to show each other what you’ve done in your own libraries. The more who participate, the more fun it is for everyone!
• Alberta Art Days is coming September 30 – October 2. Do you have plans?
• The Alberta Library Trustee’s Association is working on developing training materials online. They now have some of this available at: Check it out!

Author: Northern Lights Library System


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