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A6 - PRAIRIE POST - Friday, June 28, 2013

Southeast Alberta

Shortgrass Regional Library System celebrates 25 years B Y R OSE S ANCHEZ — rsanchez@prairiepost.com Shortgrass Library System officials marked a milestone recently, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the regional organization. A special luncheon event June 19 with about 130 people in attendance was an opportunity for past and present board members and member librarians to gather and commemorate the special anniversary. After a few years of initial meetings and gaining support from throughout southeast Alberta, Shortgrass became the fifth regional library system established in Alberta in March of 1988. “We are pleased at the opportunity to celebrate our system’s successes with our member municipalities, libraries and partner organizations,” says Shortgrass Board Chair Kathi Herman. “Shortgrass only exists because the municipalities agreed to collaborate to provide better library service to their residents. Everyone benefits when we pool our resources and expertise.” Member libraries include Alcoma Community

Southern Alberta Newspapers photos by Peggy Revell

Monique Treiber, from Bassano Library, looks through some of the photos on display June 19 at Medalta as the Shortgrass Library System celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Library in Rainier; Bassano Memorial Library; Bow Island Municipal Library; Brooks Public Library; Duchess and District Public Library; Foremost Municipal Library; Graham Community Library in Ralston; Medicine Hat Public Library; Redcliff Public Library; Rolling Hills Public Library; Rosemary Community Library and Tilley and District Public Library. The celebration was a chance to recognize the successful partnerships which have been created through the non-profit organization. That was one of the biggest challenges Shortgrass faced regarding its existence in the 1980s. The geographical boundaries of Shortgrass were set early in the process in 1982. Then it took the work of those behind the idea of a regional library system, to sell it to other municipalities to become members, says Petra Mauerhoff, CEO of Shortgrass. That promotion to library boards and municipal councils received a big push in 1986 and was so successful that Shortgrass is the only library system in the province whose membership includes all the libraries within its boundaries. Other changes seen over the last 25 years have been in the area of technology. “Technological changes have been so huge,” says Mauerhoff. “We went from card catalogues to now e-books and tablets. People don’t even have to go to the physical library as (databases and e-books) are available from their homes or at the bus stop” from their handheld device. In the past two years, work has been done to move to a new catalogue called Bibliocommons. It is easy to use and offers patrons the ability to interact with one another by seeing what others are reading and leaving their own comments. Through Shortgrass, all libraries in the system also have new websites — something some of the smaller libraries likely could not afford on their own. While a lot has been

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done the past 25 years, Shortgrass officials are always looking toward the future and the challenges for libraries to stay relevant for community members. Mauerhoff says recent statistics show more KATHI HERMAN, Shortgrass than 85 per cent of library patrons go to the Library System Board Chair. library to access fiction for pleasure reading or to take out movies or music. Libraries have been marketing themselves as places to get information, but based on this latest statistic, there needs to be a shift in marketing. “There’s always a need for a library as a place — a community space to get together,” points out Mauerhoff. “In rural communities, libraries play a very important role for bringing people together.” Even in an urban centre, individuals are looking for a space to be other than in their own homes, and it is often because they want to socialize. People can be in a library and there is no need to spend any money and no pressure to purchase items or leave in a certain amount of time. “You can just hang out and be,” adds Mauerhoff.

A pronghorn wordcloud, describing Shortgrass Regional Library System, created by Shortgrass summer students.

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