Sunday, 29 April 2012

Sunday April 29th, 2012 Brodie Resource Library: 100 Years and Counting

When was the last time you looked up and noticed the architecture of the Brodie Resource Library as you walked in its front door? Or, once inside, when did you last take a moment to enjoy the stained glass panels above the windows? As today marks the 100th anniversary of this branch of the Thunder Bay Public Library, we are wrapping up a month of events, programs, and displays that celebrate its rich history.

On April 29, 1912, the Brodie Resource Library opened its doors to the public as the Fort William Public Library. Prior to that date the Library was housed in several locations, beginning with the C.P.R employees’ library (attached to the bathhouse for the West Fort William roundhouse) in 1885. Several more moves (including a seven year stay in the basement of the Fort William town hall) landed the Library in a position to receive grant money from the Carnegie Foundation in 1908. That grant ($50,000 to be exact) allowed the city of Fort William to begin construction on a proper library and hire its first librarian, Miss Mary J.L Black. Miss Black remained in her position as the Fort William Public Librarian until her retirement in 1937 (though her memory remains in the Mary J.L Black Branch Library on Edward Street South).

The building’s original design incorporated many standard elements required of Carnegie sponsored libraries. Most notable of those include the parapet inscription above the main entrance and the interior columns on the main floor. While stained glass inserts were also a standard feature within Carnegie libraries, the panels installed in this building are unique in that they portray notable authors and literary figures. Renovations completed in 1956 and 1980, as well as further technological improvements, have brought the Library far beyond its original capacity.

The Brodie Resource Library has had a varied history since opening as the Fort William Public Library. The first travelling libraries were sent out to New Ontario from the Fort William Public Library in 1910. In 1912, the Library had very strict rules regarding behavior. For example, all gentlemen were required to remove their hats upon entering the building and all smoking was reserved to the downstairs smoking room. Fort William experienced the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918, during which rooms of the library were converted into an emergency hospital for overflow of patients. Miss Black was keenly interested in the artistic community of Northwestern Ontario, and began developing a collection of art that could be borrowed by patrons of the library. Many of the pictures still hanging on our walls have a date due card attached to the back. In 1940, the ground floor of the library was offered to billet men enlisted in the Lake Superior Regiment. The Thunder Bay Historical Museum resided in the library for almost 30 years before moving into a separate building nearby. The library also hosted an office of the National Film Board from 1947-1967.

A report from 1910 indicates the Fort William Public Library carried Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Reference materials for adults and children. The entire collection comprised nearly 63,000 items. The current Library collections are made up of physical and electronic materials with circulation statistics for 2011 almost reaching one million. As the Library continues to develop, think about stopping in to Brodie and wish it well on its anniversary.

Jesse Roberts

Monday, 23 April 2012

Sunday April 22, 2012 Brodie Resource Library History


Over a hundred years a lot can change and the Brodie Resource Library (formerly Fort William Public Library) has seen many changes.  Not only do we have materials in our collection that didn’t even exist in 1912, but even the building has been adapted to meet the needs of our community.  In the 1950s we needed more room and so added an extension to the original 1912 Carnegie building.  Where previously there were only stairs now we boast an elevator to make the building accessible to all patrons.


Of course it isn’t just the library that has moved forward but also the environment surrounding it.  If you look at the photo from 1957 you can see we were in a residential area.

The image from 1962 is from a slightly different angle and shows the old City Hall, and our most current photo shows the new District Social Services Administrative Board building.

To find out more about the history of this building and our region check out the Local History Collection at the Brodie Resource Library.  Browsing the Gateway to Northwestern Ontario History through our website will allow you access to digital images like the ones included as well as books, drawings and artifacts from the libraries and museums of Northwestern Ontario.  Our physical collection includes Newspapers on Microfilm - From 1875 to the present (Fort William and Port Arthur), an extensive map collection covering many subjects from mineral deposits to shipwrecks, and of course books pertinent to our city and region.

I hope this piques your interest in the fascinating    history of Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario!

 Visit the Library's Web site for details about Brodie Centennial celebrations!

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Sunday April 15th, 2012 100 in 2012

On April 29th, the Brodie Resource Library will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. But we won’t be the only ones celebrating the big 100 in 2012.

This August join The Pipes and Drums of Thunder Bay as they celebrate their 100th anniversary. First formed in 1912, the band officially became known as The Pipes and Drums of Thunder Bay in 1970. They have performed all over the world and continue to provide outstanding performances. Check out their website for more information about their anniversary celebrations.

On Labour Day weekend, head to the Hymers Fall Fair to support their 100th anniversary. The two day celebration will include food, shows, exhibits, animals, contests, and much more. More information on the daily events is available on their website.

Calgarians will be partying this year as they celebrate 100 years for both the Calgary Public Library and the Calgary Stampede. The first Calgary Public Library, which was the first public library in Alberta, was funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (who also provided funding for the building that is now the Brodie Resource Library). There are now 18 branches of the Calgary Public Library.

Put your cowboy hat on and head to the Calgary Stampede this July for 10 days of food, fun and entertainment. The Calgary Stampede was organized by an American cowboy named Guy Weadick who rounded up $100,000 to organize the big event. To learn more about the fascinating history of the Calgary Stampede, go to the Calgary Stampede Historical Committee’s website.

Need a little celebratory snack? Have some Oreos and Life Savers, both turn 100 in 2012. To celebrate its birthday on March 6th, Kraft Foods Inc created a birthday cake flavoured Oreo (I thought it was delicious!). The Oreo cookie was created in the U.S. by the National Biscuit Company but was not introduced in to Canada until 1949. Even today, the Oreo is still stamped with the same 12 flower design.

Created by Clarence Crane, the first Life Saver was peppermint flavoured. 1935 was the start of the Five Flavour roll with lemon, lime, orange, cherry and pineapple Life Savers. Over the years, new Life Saver products have been introduced such as gummies, sugar free, and sour flavoured.

For 100 years, Universal Studios has brought us great movies such as Jaws, E.T., Psycho, Jurassic Park and To Kill A Mockingbird. The first feature film to be produced by Universal Studios was called Traffic in Souls. To commemorate their 100th anniversary Universal Studios will be releasing 13 of their classic films digitally remastered.

100 years ago today, April 15th, the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. From the over 2,200 passengers and crew, more than 1,500 lost their lives. From Halifax, Nova Scotia to Belfast, Northern Ireland, events will be taking place to remember the world’s worst ocean disaster. In 1997, director James Cameron released his blockbuster hit Titanic. This April, Titanic was re-released in theatres in 3D.

For everyone else celebrating 100 years in 2012, congratulations! Celebrating 100 years calls for a party and the Thunder Bay Public Library has one planned. For more details about our centennial celebrations, see our newsletter and website.

Lindsey Long

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sunday April 8th, 2012 Memories of Brodie Resource Library

I was born in the Brodie Library! Yes, that was almost the headline I could have begun this article with, but alas, it is not quite true. My mother did visit Brodie to get books to read in the hospital just before I was born, and I certainly spent time there in utero, but I didn’t actually visit in person until I had spent a few weeks in this world. Considering the significant role that the Brodie Library has played in my life, being able to say that I was born there would have been perfect.

My earliest memories of Brodie relate to the first day I was given my library card. Up until then, one of my parents had signed my books out, but one day we approached the tall children’s desk at Brodie and requested a card for me. The librarian peered over her glasses down at me and said,” How old are you dear?” When I told her that I was almost four, she kindly explained that I needed to be going to school and reading in order to get my card. I thereupon grabbed a book and began reading aloud to her to prove I was worthy of my own card and so I basically charmed (or was it brow-beated) her into breaking the rules and giving me my first card. I vividly recall that Leif the Lucky, Boy Viking was the book I chose and I must have read it eighty times before it had to be returned. What I learned: Books are wonderful and Librarians might look a little scary but they are actually very nice indeed.

In my memory, not only the books but the library had its own unique smell and feel. The stairs going upstairs smelled of stone and evoked a monastery or church, while the children’s department smelled of glue and crayons and warm wood. Going to the Museum which was housed at the Library at that time, and later to “Mrs. Tripp’s Art Class” in the auditorium, brought new sensations as I painted, drew, sculpted and chalked my masterpieces. What I learned: Books are wonderful but the Library had even more than books to offer. And children notice everything about a place.

The first Children’s Librarian to be hired by the Fort William Public Library was Phyllis Taylor in 1952. By the time I was using the library, children’s services were well established and we had the entire downstairs of the Brodie Library to explore. In addition to writing and working at the Library, Dorothy Reid offered a weekly storytime on the local radio called, “Magic Carpet Stories”. Unfortunately, it ran at the exact time my family went to church. I petitioned, this time unsuccessfully, to be allowed to stay home to listen to the stories. I even offered to go to Mass twice on the following Sunday, but to avail. It is one of my enduring regrets that I never got to listen to those stories. What I learned: you can love books and still love other media. Also,never underestimate the power of the story.

Every week my father drove me and any of my neighbourhood friends to Brodie to exchange books, do homework, listen to records or whatever else we felt like doing. Walking to the circulation desk I would pass my teenage neighbor who was usually sitting at a desk sorting date due cards. What I learned: you can share your love of books with others through the library and it would be a good place to work.

Every once in a while I would see the Library Bookmobile cruising around town and I was excited by the idea of a mobile library. It started up in 1976 and ran for many years bringing books and other materials to citizens in more remote areas. Librarians would also visit my class at school to tell stories and talk about using the library. What I learned: the Library wasn’t just a place, it would come to you!

It was probably inevitable that I would seek at job at the library when I turned 13 and I was thrilled to be able to work as a “Page” shelving and repairing books at the Brodie Library. When the staff found out that I had an artistic bent, I soon became the person who created the displays and designed the posters for puppet shows and storytimes that I had once attended. What I didn’t know was that my love of reading and great affection for the Library would stay with my for my entire life, and that even after I got my degrees in Philosophy and English and lived in Toronto, I would feel drawn back to Thunder Bay and to that wonderful place I had known since I was almost born there – the Library. After getting my Masters degree in Library Science I was still deluded enough to think that I could enjoy working in a corporate library, or doing illustrations for a children’s magazine, but after learning that there was a short-term contract available in my home town for a librarian – well, I said goodbye to Bay Street and winged home happily to begin my first professional job in the Library. What I learned: love of learning and reading and libraries is a life-long thing.

Now that I am in the position of Head of Children’s and Teens services, I can still see the library from my childhood and teen perspective, even as I integrate new services and technology into what we offer. When people ask me, “Do people still use libraries?” I peer over my glasses at them and say, “Yes they do. We are busier than we have ever been!” Much has changed in Children’s & Youth Services over the years – we retired the 16mm films, records and once-new and exciting filmstrips, the card catalog’s cards were all recycled, and computers are not merely a way of life but an integral vehicle for delivering services and promoting what we have. But there are some things which do not change and I see it every time I visit “my” Brodie Library or any other branch. There is magic here. Magic in the books which speak to our imagination. Magic in the librarian who finds just the exact right book for a child. And magic in the moments when parent and child are snuggled together reading or childhood friends are giggling and working together on an assignment at one of the Library tables. The Brodie Library is one of four branches of your Thunder Bay Public Library and this year we are celebrating that it has been weaving that magic for one hundred years. It is astounding to imagine all of the children, like myself, who have used it and who will never forget the experience. Happy Birthday Brodie. May the magic live on !!!

Angela Meady

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Sunday April 1st, 2012 Library Humour

Libraries have long been thought of as quiet places filled with serious people working on important projects. While this may be true some of the time, Library staff also find a lot to laugh about at work. From books on dog training which come back chewed, to interesting items found in the book drops, we do find a lot of humour in our work.

It’s always a bit strange when you see someone out of their usual context. When children see their favourite staff person outside the library we never know what they will say. Bev Fisher, who conducted Children’s programs at Mary J.L. Black Library for many years knows this well. “The children were always amazed to see me in public places and I had many names besides “Miss Fisher”. There was Mrs. Fisherman, Puppet Lady and Story Teacher. I heard one small voice say, “Look Mommy, there is Mary Black!””

The show must go on, and puppet shows are no exception. Two staff members were booked to perform “The Old Black Witch” puppet show one afternoon. One of them was not feeling well, but was encouraged by the other, who happened to be her supervisor, to stay and do the show. You can imagine how bad the supervisor felt when he found out the next day the staff person was suffering from appendicitis and had emergency surgery that night! She received a lovely bouquet of flowers at the hospital addressed to “The Old Black Witch”!

Our circulation desk staff have heard a lot of stories from people with overdue materials. One of my favourites is about a woman who was quite sure she had returned three books on time. She returned to the Library a few weeks later with the books and sheepishly admitted she found them in her freezer! She had been shopping and gathered up her groceries and books and put them all away in the freezer.

Sometimes people are reluctant to ask questions at the Library, even though we are here to answer them. One staff member had observed a teenage boy wandering around the Library obviously looking for something. She asked if he needed help, but he became embarrassed and said, “No.” It was obvious from his body language that he was becoming more and more confused. Thinking it was something serious, she approached him and explained that at a Library no one judges you, so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and that it’s important to have reliable information. She was thinking the whole time that he was going to ask about something like birth control, STDs or drugs. Finally in a quiet whisper he asked, “Who wrote Shakespeare’s Hamlet?”

Many staff members started working at the Library as teenagers. One Librarian confessed that for her first shift as a thirteen year old “Page” she was told she would be working on a Saturday “ten to one”. Thinking this was a strange time to start work, but perhaps a test of her promptness, she reported to work at 12:50 p.m. only to discover her shift was almost over! She was as red-faced as only a teenager can be, but is still here thirty years later!

Periodically Library staff go through the collection and remove items that are dated, in poor condition or just not used. This process is called weeding. We have found a few interesting items when weeding. One gem of a book is “Dee Snider’s Teenage Survival Guide or how to be a legend in your own lunchtime”. Dee Snider was in the heavy metal band Twister Sister, an unlikely candidate for a teenage role model! For more about books like this, visit the blog At this blog library staff share interesting items weeded from library collections – it’s always good for a laugh!

Do you have a funny story about the Library? Share it on our Facebook page!

Joanna Aegard