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Library celebrates 50 years with words and more

“A book is the ultimate form of entertainment.” — Author Cliff Burns

NORTH BATTLEFORD — The Lakeland Library Region celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 24, with a slate of events running from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the North Battleford Public Library.

The celebration opened with remarks from the North Battleford Public Library’s head librarian and Lakeland Library Region public service manager, Colin Evans. Dignitaries and members of the Lakeland Library Region also offered greetings to the guests and comments on the celebration.

“I’m honoured to welcome such a distinguished group of individuals to the North Battleford library…” Evans began before acknowledging that the celebration was being held on Treaty Six Territory and the homeland of the Metis. Evans affirmed the library’s relationship with the Metis and Cree people.

Though unfortunately absent, Rosemarie Falk, MP for Battlefords-Lloydminster, offered her congratulations to the Lakeland Library Region on celebrating 50 years of continuous operations, as Evans read from her regards.

“The library is a cornerstone in the community and plays an essential role in the development of education, recreation and culture to the people of Saskatchewan.”

Falk added that she is excited to see the library grow by adopting new technology and advancements that will serve the Battlefords in the coming years.

The Honourable Jeremy Cockrill, MLA for the Battlefords, was also unable to attend, as Evans addressed the crowd on Cockrill’s behalf. Cockrill acknowledged the milestone, adding that the Lakeland Library Region and the North Battleford Public Library have brought the community together, while also touching on the importance and benefit of reading.

“Through reading, we can glean knowledge, advice, enjoyment, adventure, personal growth and inspiration. It can also teach us virtues such as kindness and humility. Reading brings light to new ideas and expands our horizons, whether it be through books or the internet.”

Leslie Clark, Regional Board Chair, offered in-person greetings, saying that May 10 marked 50 years since the Government of Saskatchewan announced the creation of the Lakeland Library Region, the province’s sixth library region, which began operations on June 1. The Lakeland region has grown to 32 branch libraries, with over 100 employees and access to almost five million books across the province. North Battleford alone has 72,000 books, Lloydminster has 68,000, and small centres have a few thousand.

“To this day, I congratulate everyone that has been involved. I think you’ve done an incredible job. Thank you.”

Jake Marion, Executive Director, also gave in-person greetings.

“I’ve had the great privilege of serving as the regional director for the last two years, though I'm originally from Ontario, I’ve been impressed by the great kindness and natural beauty of Saskatchewan.”

Marion spoke at length about the diversity of Saskatchewan and how the provincial flag represents the great togetherness of Canadians despite regional differences.

“We embrace the same philosophy of the flag, though we are separated by great distances, we know that we’re all in this together and doing the best we can,” Marion said, speaking on the trials and tribulations faced in his two years at the Lakeland Library through COVID-19.

At 11, featured local author Cliff Burns spoke on topics close to his heart, including censorship, free speech, communication, and the importance of libraries in his life. Burns has published 16 books and has been writing for over 30 years.

Burns began by thanking Colin Evans and Carla Lamontagne for inviting him and that he was delighted to be involved in the celebrations.

“I am uniquely suited to speak about the importance of libraries and the critical role they take in people’s lives. In my case, the school and community libraries of my childhood ignited my sense of wonder,” Burns said in his speech.

Burns still owns The Secret Hideout by John Petterson, one of the books he’d purchased from his beloved childhood scholastic book fairs, which he says influenced his childhood. Burns also mentioned several books that were essential to him in his youth, such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Beowulf: Dragonslayer by Rosemary Sutcliff, and The Great Adventurer by Peggy Albion-Meek.

“A book is the ultimate form of entertainment,” Burns said, calling reading a collaborative experience. He says a word is worth a thousand pictures, not the other way around. Burns asked the crowd to ponder how many images the words love, nature, god and sky create, then to imagine what words could do when combined and wielded by a master of the craft.

Though unable to attend the opening remarks, North Battleford Mayor David Gillian was able to attend the cake cutting at noon. From noon to 1:30 p.m., the library served free cake and held a barbecue. At 2 p.m., magician “Danny Kazam!” was present. The library thanked Concern for Youth for offering their barbecue for the occasion and No Frills for donating burgers.

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