INNISFAIL — It was a proud moment a decade ago for Tracey Kinsella when the municipality officially unveiled the new Innisfail Library/Learning Centre.
The 19,375-sq.-ft. public facility, which includes the town’s public library, the Henday Association for Lifelong Learning and its fabulous Community Room for public events, officially opened its doors on Jan. 23, 2012 at a cost of $8 million.
It replaced the former cramped downtown-area quarters inside the old Telus building, which served locals since the early 1980s.
The time had come for Innisfail to move forward with a vital public institution but it was not an easy ride, especially for town council, which faced some strong opposition to the new west-side location at 5300A - 55 St. Cl.
“That was a tough decision, a quick decision,” said Kinsella, a former three-term town councillor who was on town council at the time. “One of my proudest moments is that I love seeing my name on that building, even in the face of it not being a popular decision.
“We had hiccups but we had strong administration and leadership that led us through that, and that location and that facility is perfect. It all worked out the way it needed to be.”
Kinsella, who has been chair of the board for the Innisfail Public Library for the past seven years, said she’s proudly attending the June 4 Community Carnival celebration from noon to 3 p.m. that will honour the facility’s first decade.
“Libraries will never outgrow our needs,” said Kinsella. “What is important here about our library is community.”
By June 4, citizens coming into the parking lot for the event will be greeted with a nearly completed brand new 49-foot by eight-foot sidewalk mural, one that celebrates the enduring power of reading and learning.
The free event will include a barbecue, crafts and games, and plenty of good old-fashioned fellowship.
Kinsella noted the huge technological changes created in the age of the internet, and the more recent challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had staff serving Innisfailians with curbside kit-based pick-up, ramped up online service for programming and for resource materials, and always being available to help anyone by phone or email.
“Because we have been so innovative, and we have transitioned exceptionally well, that is just one amazing way we have adapted,” said Kinsella, who praised the current library staff. “We are blessed. They’re our community treasures. Their love and passion for that facility and that learning can never be replicated.”
The library is led by manager Tara Downs and assistant manager Lindsey Budd. They are supported by Sherry Driezen (Miss Sherry), the children’s programmer, and the circulation team of Benita Dalton, Michelle Harder and Jenni Cyman. This summer student Landon Wright will be helping out.
Downs said the June 4 celebration is designed to be a “family-friendly” event with carnival-style games supported by community partners, including the Henday association, the Town of Innisfail, Innisfail Family Day Home Society, Youth Action Innisfail and the local FCSS office.
Budd said the community partners will be inside at separate stations offering different types of family-fun activities for all ages.
Downs said a big reason why the celebration is family orientated is because the library used to do literacy festivals every January, and the June 4 event is a similar format as the last literacy festival that was hosted in 2020 before COVID took hold.
“It’s kind of nice to be able to do something that we kind of used to be able to do but in celebration of the library building in general,” said Downs, adding that hosting a special celebration for the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre is a must for the community.
“It’s a community icon. A lot went into getting it up and running. The town council at the time was instrumental in it, and the Friends of the Innisfail Library Society was also instrumental in raising funds for it. It was a big process.
"Celebrating the 10th anniversary is important. We are bringing the community all together for this.”