The Claresholm Public Library was the idea, hope and dream of the members of the Col. Lyndon Chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, I.O.D.E. The dream was first conceived from a comment made by Mrs. Marion (Tom) Riddle in the mid-1930’s: “It is time this organization did something to justify it’s existence” and she further suggested that the town needed a library.
The Canadian Legion kindly donated the entrance room of their hall (located south of the present Claresholm Motor Inn); light, heat and rent were free. The official opening was February 1938. All books were donated and the hours were Tuesday and Saturday afternoons.
Because of the keen interest and patronage of the public it was soon necessary to locate more space. The library was moved to the Men’s Club room in the I.O.O.F. Hall. Later it occupied the room south of the Men’s Club, and finally it took over both of these areas.
Since day one, the library had been plagued with inadequate quarters, and as we expanded this problem became critical. Having to deal with leaky roofs, cold and draughts, mice and even bats, the Board decided to start a building fund and undertake the building themselves. When the Rotary Club got wind of these plans, they decided this would be a good project for them to help with. But in the meantime, rumors of a possible move of the library to the Town Office began circulating. We couldn’t believe that such a thing could happen, but it did - in the fall of 1976, when the I.O.O.F. Hall was sold to speculators, the library was moved into the basement of the Town Office (presently the site of Learn-A-Lot Play School).
The only thing that kept us going during those dreadful two years was the fervent promise from Town Council that a new Library was in the works. Construction began in 1977 and in June 1978 we made our big move. The official opening was in October 1978.
In 1991, the Claresholm Public Library was one of the libraries to join the Chinook Arch Regional Library System at the initial stage. Vera Mattoon spent many hours working on the steering committee to get the System underway. We are sincerely grateful to Vera for all of her hard work and efforts.
In 1998 the Library Board recognized that the library had outgrown its present space. They presented to Town Council the idea of expanding the building. Council decided that the present location did not offer enough room for expansion, and added finding a site for a future library to the Town’s list of goals and priorities.
The services provided by public libraries changed greatly in the 1990s. Along with books in both standard print and large print, they now offered talking books to the print impaired, books on tape and CD to regular patrons, videos, DVDs, maps, magazines/newspapers, a variety of programs for all ages, and a whole range of technology services. All of these services required space the the library's building did not have.
In 2000 the Alberta Government announced the Centennial Legacy Grant Program. There were two main projects presented to the Town Council for their endorsement: expansion of the golf course, or building a new library. It was decided that the two groups should meet with MLA David Coutts and ask for his input. He stated that the government was looking for communities that presented a proposal which consisted of multiple projects and that Claresholm could demonstrate working together for the betterment of their community. Town Council asked the two groups to work together and submit a joint proposal. $250,000 was received to be split equally between the golf course expansion and new library build.
The Town purchased land from Rod Dryholm south of Amundsen Park and designated it for the Louise McKinney Centre, which would house the Community Literacy Program, Public Library and Town Archives. Construction started in November 2003 and the library moved into the new facility in May 2004. The official opening was June 14, 2004 with Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor Lois Hole attending.