OFF THE SHELF: Celebrating 75 years of the ORL

As the Okanagan Regional Library celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, here’s a look back at some highlights, with special attention to the Vernon branch:

1935 – A referendum was put to 60 municipalities and unorganized areas of the Okanagan asking the voters if they wanted to participate in the Okanagan Union Library. The answer was “Yes” and the provincial proclamation forming the library system was signed on March 13, 1936.

1936 – The first board meeting was held, and by a close vote decided to establish a permanent headquarters in Kelowna rather than Vernon.  Mayor E.W.D. Prowse of Vernon brought down a budget of $11,125 and Miss Muriel Page, from the Toronto Public Library, accepted an appointment as the first librarian.

1953 – The Okanagan Union Library’s name was officially changed to the Okanagan Regional Library.

1964 – Muriel Page Ffoulkes retired, and Peter Lofts, the assistant librarian, was appointed as her successor.

1966 – A new branch library (sharing space with the museum and art gallery) was built in Vernon as part of centennial celebrations; other centennial libraries were constructed in Penticton in 1965, in Oliver in 1967, and in Armstrong and Summerland in 1968.

1967 – Bookmobile service began based out of the Salmon Arm branch; a second bookmobile was added in the south two years later.

1969 – Penticton officially left the ORL because of opposition to a new tax assessment method.

1981 – Music was added to the ORL collection in the form of cassettes

1987 – Peter Lofts retired as chief librarian, and is replaced by current executive director Lesley Dieno.

1989 – The current Vernon branch was completed, nearly tripling its size to 13,000 square feet.

1990 – The ORL moved into the world of automation with a computer-based catalogue and circulation tracking system.

1991 – Bookmobile service ended, a casualty of automation and increased mobility of library users.

1996 – A new 38,000 square foot branch was completed in Kelowna.

1999 – The ORL entered cyberspace with the launch of its own website.

2007 – The online catalogue and circulation tracking system was upgraded.

2010 – Plans to build a new 30,000 square foot Vernon branch were finalized, with a downtown location at the corner of 30th Ave. and 28th St.  Construction began in November, with completion scheduled for early 2012.

2010 – The ORL unveiled its re-designed website; with 1.36 million hits in 2010, this online branch is by far the busiest in the ORL.

2011 – The ORL celebrates 75 years of service to over 360,000 people in 29 branches, from Golden to Osoyoos, and Cherryville to Princeton.

–– Maureen Curry is the chief librarian at the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library. Her column appears every second Sunday in The Morning Star.