Prince Rupert's first library originated as a Municipal Reading Room located beside the Fire Hall on Fulton Street. The reading room opened its doors in 1913 with a stock of magazines and newspapers -- most of them in foreign languages -- and became a favourite haunt of men off the boats and the older men of the city looking for the latest news and gossip.
As the city continued to grow and thrive, the citizens of Prince Rupert realized the need for an official library. After a whirlwind campaign for a bylaw to form a public library, the Prince Rupert Public Library came into existence as a one room shack, lined with shelves and heated by a large wood and coal pot-bellied stove. It was located on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 4th Street, where the City Hall fountain exists today. Miss Cruikshank managed a small, but growing collection of books, raised by an appeal for donations. After one year, the library had 1300 borrowers and circulated approximately 3000 books per month. People predicted it to be "influential in the life of the city."
During the thirties the library outgrew its small, wooden building and expanded into a two-story building, that it shared with the museum. This was located next door to the Government Agent's home on 2nd Avenue West where the current Post Office is now. Olive Van Cooten was the librarian, aided by an assistant, May MacDonald.
After the Second World War, when the army moved out of the Civic Centre, the library moved in. There were two main rooms: a public lending department and a separate reference and reading room. It was opened to the public thirty-two hours a week and was manned by two full time and three part-time employees. It was during this time that Miss MacDonald took over as Librarian, a position which she filled from 1950-1965.
The library continued to provide a popular service to the public until a disastrous fire broke out in the Civic Centre on April 20, 1968 that completely destroyed the library. Since the fire, the library had many homes. It lived in the Friendship House and later in the basement of the Christian Science Church, located beside one of the cinderpaths in CNR Park. Ruth Robson, the Librarian at this time, began rebuilding the bookstock and the Library Board began plans for a new building.
Two and a half years later on January 14th, 1971, the new building opened its doors at 101-6th Avenue West. It had an area of 6000 square feet and had an effective book capacity of some 20,000 volumes.
In the years following the opening of the new facility it was clear that the library needed more space to accommodate books. There were proposals to relocate the library to the Pride O' the North or the Rupert Square Shopping Centre. It was even suggested that it be moved to a mobile library bus. City council decided that the library be left in its current location and that 7000 square feet of space be added to the building.
In 1982, renovations to the building added a basement and a second floor, with more space for books, a proper workroom and staff lounge, a children's activity room, and a multipurpose room. In 1992, the library switched over to computer automation to organize and compile its booklist.
In January 1997, the Internet Room was born. It was set up in the Multipurpose Room at the library and consisted of 7 PCs connected to the Internet. Previous librarians Michele Cook and Allan Wilson, along with many volunteers from the community and lots of hard work and preparation, are responsible for the creation of this increasingly popular service.
In January 2002 the library improved its Internet services by installing new desks in the Internet Room and increasing the number of PCs to 14.
From a small, wooden shack with a wood stove to a modern library, with a large collection of books, numerous computers, and public access to the Internet, the Prince Rupert Library has certainly become an integral part of the community. With plans for a new facility in the making, the library has a bright and exciting future.