A newly-opened library in Frog Lake First Nation, about 200 kilometres east of Edmonton, aims to help the community grow while keeping its cultural identity alive.
This is the community's first library and according to Chantelle Desjarlais-Fiddler — library manager and Frog Lake First Nation member — this is also the first library in Alberta to have a board made up entirely of Indigenous members.
Desjarlais-Fiddler said she and the board share a vision for the library to become a community hub, as it not only offers books but also programming like guitar lessons, public speaking, story telling sessions, drum-making and singing.
"Just a lot of little different things that we're in the plans and workings of, so it's been really wonderful," she told CBC's Edmonton AM on Tuesday.
The library is located in the auditorium of the Tus-Tuk-EE-SKAWS High School, although Desjarlais-Fiddler said it's not a permanent location.
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"It's a location that we partnered with our Frog Lake Education Authority just to get our feet off the ground and to get some space to open up and have programming and have our library open to community members and non-community members," she said.
They do plan on eventually getting their own space and adding their own archives, Desjarlais-Fiddler added.
Mary Jane Quinney, one of the board members, had the vision for a library in 2011 after Frog Lake built a playground for its community.
"I read this quote that said that, 'Educational outcomes improve in communities that have playgrounds and libraries'. We have the playground now, so I said, well, now we need a library," Quinney told CBC.
The road to getting one wasn't easy: there were collaborations that fell through, funding barriers to overcome and a pandemic that caused a lot of delays. But more than a decade after Quinney's desire for a library, it opened on April 4 to the community of 1,850 people. Another 1,541 Frog Lake members live off-reserve.
"It was extremely exciting to have that accomplished since it had taken so long to get it," she said.
"Somehow we persevered."
The first 500 books ordered for the library were all by Indigenous authors and artists, Desjarlais-Fiddler said.
She said reception to the library has been slower because they are still getting the word out, but they have had some support from community and even non-community members.
"It's picking up and we've been able to start our programming in the evenings and the people are opening up to it, you know, and it takes time because we just opened up," she said.