Weyburn, Saskatchewan, (Fighting for) Library Service, 1905 * 1930
Weyburn, Saskatchewan, (Fighting for) Library Service, 1905 * 1930
(Fighting for) Library Service,
1905 – 1930.
by Kam W. Teo
Adventures in Canadian
Library History Network, Winnipeg,
1 June 2013
Outline (Part I)
The Creation of Library Service in Weyburn: 19051919
• Mechanics’ and Literary Institutes.
• Saskatchewan’s Establishment of Free Libraries
• Population and economic boom (1900 – 1920).
• Mr. A. Kennedy (founder), City Hall (1914) and the
Great War (1914-1918).
Outline (Part II)
Weyburn Public Library: the first decade (1920-1930)
• Library board (and board responsibilities).
• First librarian.
• Relationship with City Hall and the province.
• Library policies, promotion, memberships,
Outline Part III
• Research Challenges & Conclusions
Weyburn Mechanics’ and Literary Institute 19061911? (located in Assiniboia School)
The Creation of Library Service in Weyburn:
• Mechanics’ and Literary Institutes began in Great
Britain in the early 19th century in order to educate
“young working men and promoting their moral
and social improvement.”
• Originally, meant for “working class young men”
over time Mechanics’ Institutes became
organizations of (and for) establishment figures in
communities throughout Canada.
Legislation – Northwest Territories (Future
provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta)
In order to create a Mechanics’ and Literary Institute:
• A minimum of 30 men to pay a dollar; (during an
era when the average worker earned $375 a year)
• Have evening classes to instruct “students”;
• Establishment of a reading room. (a club that does
not lend library books)
Weyburn Mechanics’ and Literary Institute
• Originally located in a public school, some of its
original dues paying members included the mayor,
local MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly),
and a lawyer.
• Newspapers and magazines included: Toronto Daily
Globe, Manitoba Free Press, Strand, and Illustrated
• Open Monday’s and Wednesday’s from 4 – 6 pm.
Saskatchewan: Establishment of Free
• Public libraries to be created by a petition of 10
percent of municipal residents followed by a by-law
supported by 60 percent of qualified voters.
• A library board (appointed by a municipality)
responsible for submitting a budget, buying
materials, and maintaining the library.
• Library to be maintained by an annual levy with
material expenditures to be matched by the
Weyburn and southeastern Saskatchewan
• In 1901 Weyburn (became a city in 1913) had a
population of 113 grew to 2,210 a decade later.
• Saskatchewan became a province in 1905.
• From 1896 to 1914, 600,000 Americans entered
what is now Alberta and Saskatchewan.
• Courtesy of promotion of cheap land which was
part of the immigration policy of the Laurier
government to recruit European and American
immigrants to the prairies.
• Immigrants from Europe or the US arrived via the
Soo Line railway that begins in St. Paul,
Minnesota, going through Estevan, SK., Weyburn
and Moose Jaw.
A. Kennedy (founder of WPL)
• Mr. A. Kennedy was a superintendent of public
schools in Weyburn including the school that
housed the Weyburn MLI.
• Told (in 1911) by town officials that the there
would not be a public library unless there was a
new City Hall.
• In 1914, the teacher became a founding member of
the original Saskatchewan Library Association and
applied for Carnegie funding (which fell through).
• US industrialist Andrew Carnegie believed that
public officials needed both (private sector)
financial incentive and popular sentiment to push
for govt. funding of libraries.
• Incentive offered: a library building to communities
contingent on localities’ ability to maintain a
library with public funds.
• Branch of Regina Public Library (1912)
• North Battleford Public Library (1917)
• There was no correspondence available from 19141918, (Saskatchewan Archives Board) which lead
to my conclusion that the Great War got in the way
of building a library in Weyburn.
• In 1919, A. Kennedy placed pressure on both the
City of Weyburn and the province with the latter
promising a provincial grant for a library.
• Weyburn Public Library created in January 1920.
Additional context for the creation of the Weyburn
Public Library (and public libraries generally in SK):
• In 1901, the literacy rate in what became SK was
65 percent; by 1921, this had risen to 87 per cent.
• Women fought for right to vote in Saskatchewan in
Part II: Old Weyburn City Hall (1914-2002)
Weyburn Public Library on 2nd floor
Weyburn Public Library: the first decade
• Initially a reading room only and not a circulation
• Caretaker at City Hall hired to “supervise” the
library at $15 per month.
• Contrast: board agreed to spend $175.00 for the
• Budget for 1921 for materials was $1,000.
• Foundation of WPL collection came from the
Weyburn Mechanics’ Literary Institute.
• Magazines bought included:
Ladies’ Home Journal
Popular Plant Engineering
Board members (1920)
• W. J. Jolly (chair 1921-1929)
• Muriel Miller (secretary-treasurer and spouse of a
• A.W. Massey (school principal)
• John Marshall (school principal)
• Book & finance committee:
• A. Kennedy (founder of WPL & supervisor of
Weyburn area schools & board member in 1925)
• Selected by and reported to Weyburn city council.
• Oversight of finance and book committee.
• Purview of the board to handle correspondence
(grant applications) dealing with financial issues
throughout the 1920s.
• John Henry Leggott, first librarian. (with previous
experience at the library of the Saskatchewan
legislature and was, perhaps, in his 70s).
• Weyburn Public Library becomes a lending library.
Paternalistic promotion of the Weyburn Public
Every intelligent person readily admits that a good
library is one of the great assets any community can
possess . . . [and that society’s] intellectual and moral
progress is largely dependent on the use we make of
Context of the times: ALA report from the 1920s
stated that public libraries should be centres of
“community intelligence service” and that staff
should have a “college teacher’s familiarity with the
Asking for donations!
while grateful to those who have generously
responded to the appeal [for book donations the library
board] ventures to hope that a considerable portion of
the citizens will evince their interest in this movement.
Women were more involved in starting libraries in SK
with members of the Imperial Order of the Daughters
of the Empire (IODE) being the most prominent
organization pushing for libraries.
• Throughout the early 1920s donations in the form
of cash or second hand books came from:
Young Fellows’ Club
Women’s Christian Temperance Union
Knox Presbyterian Church
Weyburn Security Bank
Library policies of the 1920s
• Weyburn residents had to pay initial fee of 10 cents
for membership plus five cents annually to renew
• Non-residents had to pay a two dollar refundable
deposit to use the library.
• Formal woman’s dress and formal shoes can be
bought with two dollars.
Library Open Hours (mid -20s)
• Newspaper room 10 am to 10 pm
Monday to Saturday
• Reference Room 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm (Monday to
Tuesday & Friday evenings 7:30 – 9:30
• All borrowing customers had to be fourteen years
of age or older.
• Books could be borrowed for 14 days with special
“seven day books” to be designated by the
• Fines for overdue books: two cents per day up to a
maximum of fifty cents.
Historical (and literary) tie-ins from Weyburn and
establishment figures to add colour and context to
Here was the least common denominator of nature, the
skeleton requirements simply, of land and sky –
Saskatchewan prairie. . . . It [Weyburn] was made up
largely of frame buildings with high peaked roofs . . .
We were all headed for the Little Souris [River] for our
first swim of the year. Naked, of course, and watched
by several outpatients from the provincial mental
hospital just upstream from our swimming hole.
W.O. Mitchell (1914-1998)
Weyburn Mental Hospital
Built in 1920 (ca. 1940s)
Library Board (and Weyburn establishment)
• In 1925, board chair, W. J. Jolly, ran for the
federal liberal nomination for MP.
• Jolly lost, but if he had won he would’ve run
against conservative Thomas Hilliar, the spouse of
board member, Grace Hilliar.
• Secretary-Treasurer of the board, Muriel Miller,
was also married to M.A. Miller, executive member
of the liberal party in the area.
other establishment figures that were board
• H.O. Powell (mid-1920s) founder and director of
the only bank founded in SK (in Weyburn).
• R.M. Mitchell, director of the Mental Hospital, city
councillor, former speaker of the legislature and
• And they all went to the same church. . . .
Knox Presbyterian Church
Grace Hilliar (ca. 1910s) & H.O. Powell (ca.
1924 – library had 439 members.
1926 – library had 1,171 members.
1928 & 1929 – library had “approximately” 800
• 1926 – 12,662 books borrowed.
• 1927 – 11,434 books borrowed.
• 1928 – 12, 343 books borrowed.
• 1929 – “over 13,000 books” were borrowed.
Number of books in the WPL
• 1924 – 1,666
• 1927 - 2,605
• 1928 – 2,800 fiction; 200 non-fiction
Research Challenges & Conclusions
• Microfilm of the Weyburn Review (founded in 1908)
only available from 1920 onwards.
• Could only read headlines from 1923-1924
Weyburn Review (important formative years)
• Greatest number of documents at SK Archive
Board were from the early 1920s.
• Correspondence in the library only goes back to
Saskatchewan Archives Board
• Created in 1945 by the government of Tommy
• Before leaving office in 1944 the Patterson
government culled materials from the legislative
library (original archives). Historians and other
researchers have noted the gaps in government
documents from the 1930s.
• Today, research @ SAB now limited to Tuesday,
Wednesday, and Thursday.
• From 1925-1930, except for annual reports and a
rare event, Weyburn Review no longer reported on
the Weyburn Public Library.
• Great dependence on board minutes.
• This evidence (or lack thereof) meant that the
library was no longer in danger as a public
In the 1920s, library survives with the library board
• Weyburn, province, and (donations) local partners.
• Improved relations with city and province coincides
with economic (and population) growth.
• Library board and librarian promoted library use
and asked for donations of money and books (via
the Weyburn Review).