Story: Growing up at St. John’s

Natasha Stetski, Student, spoke at the  Campaign Launch event June 12, 2014.

I’ve lived most of my life at St. John’s. I grew up sheltered in there, walking in from a cold day to librarians that know me by name, imagining what it’s like on the balcony, huddled by the radiator in my favorite section of the library. Now that I’m older, I’ve taken the kids I babysit to the library and helped the next generation love books. Admittedly, it is hard to drag 4 kids and a stroller up the stairs, but that’s one of the reasons I’m so excited for the re-vamping of the library. Elevators and ease of accessibility will make the library an even more enjoyable place to be, for people of all ages and abilities.

The Summer Reading Program at St. John’s has also been a part of my childhood. Every summer, mum would sign us kids up. Not only was it an excuse to read, but the more we read, the more likely we were to get prizes!! I remember one summer, I won most or all of the prizes, including the Grand Prize, which was Goldeyes tickets, although I don’t particularly enjoy baseball!

All in all, the St. John’s library has been long fond in my memory, and although I haven’t been around for most of its 99 years, I hope to be around for a long while with it!

Send us your memories of St. John’s Library. We’d love to hear from you!

Literary References – Cornish Library

Bethany Barclay-Goddard remembers reading Rae Bridgman’s Serpent’s Spell when she was a kid, and “thinking how cool it was that a book was set in Winnipeg with the Cornish Library as one of the settings.”

Ardythe Basham of the Friends of the Cornish Library notes that there are a lot of references to the Cornish Library in Miriam Toews’ The Summer of My Amazing Luck.

She also mentions Catherine Hunter’s In the First Early Days of my Death. In this book, the protagonist, Wendy, has been seriously injured in the first chapter, and as she lies in a coma her spirit floats over the neighbourhood, observing people and places she knows. It’s set in Wolseley, so the library would be the Cornish Library.

 At night, while the world of the living slept, I could hear the dead whispering, calling me, coaxing me toward them. At these times, I took shelter in the library. I feared their siren songs, feared my own despair, the great temptation to surrender. And books were the only refuge I had ever known from such strange longings.


I’d always wanted to be all alone in the library at night, and now I could be. During the bustle of the day, surrounded by books that I didn’t have time to read, I’d often imagined sneaking in after hours, stealing the luxury of time. I had time now, in abundance.


The dark rows of shelves were beautiful under the dim night lighting, as I’d always imagined they would be, tall monuments, like rows of gravestones in a cemetery. I’d always thought that if I could get in at night, I’d finally have a chance to explore the library thoroughly, to browse through history, biography, cookbooks, atlases. But now that I was here, I found myself drawn back to the children’s section, to the bulletin board that should have been changed last week, to my own desk, my unfinished paperwork.


I saw all the tasks that needed to be done. The unshelved volumes in the back room, where no child could ever find them. A box of shiny new animal books that hadn’t yet been catalogued. A forgotten stack of paperbacks about the weather, left over from the display we’d made in spring, when we studied the wind and made those kites.


I wandered into the fiction section. My favourite shelf was the one with the Children’s Classics, the hardcover collection. The broad spines of the books were blue, green, deep chocolate brown, and ruby red, the titles stamped in golden, Gothic script: Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland, Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, Peter Pan.


Peter Pan! I would have given anything to open that volume and look at the watercolour illustrations, read that story again. To get past the covers to those thick, creamy pages, those letters, words. Sometimes I thought this was the very worst part of it all. The saddest. The least bearable.”


From In the First Early Days of My Death, by Catherine Hunter



Recollections from St. John’s

Thank you to St. John’s Library Branch Head Harriet Minuk for the following recollections.

A few things that out when speaking of St. John’s – the convenience of the branch, friendly and helpful staff, as well as the variety of programming that has been offered.

Specific recollections include individuals who came as children and were directed to the downstairs area until they “graduated” to the teen section upstairs.  This was a really big deal as it signified something akin to a rite of passage.

Also, for several families, Saturdays meant a trip to the library.  The regularity of these trips was facilitated by the constant presence of the branch in the neighborhood – a stable force in lives that were often tumultuous.

Send your memories and stories to us! We’d like to hear them.

CBC Radio Interview

Thank you to host Terry MacLeod, CBC Radio Weekend Morning Show, for an interview with Honorary Campaign Chair Helen Norrie and Chair Sandy Hyman on  Sunday June 8, 2014.

Listen to the interview:

Centennial Renewal Campaign Launch – Cornish

Thank you to everyone who was a part of the launch of the Centennial Renewal Campaign at Cornish and St. John’s Libraries this week.

Photo credit: Cathy Auld

Photo credit: Cathy Auld

Sandy Hyman, Chair, and Helen Norrie, Honorary Campaign Chair, were on hand to greet visitors and guests.

See more photos of the Cornish event. Thank you to Lyle Penner of the Winnipeg Public Library


Centennial Renewal Campaign Launch Event – St. John’s

Rick Walker, Head of Library Services, acted as Master of Ceremonies for the events.

Rick Walker, Head of Library Services, acted as Master of Ceremonies for the events.Cene

Thank you to everyone who was a part of the launch of the Centennial Renewal Campaign at Cornish and St. John’s Libraries this week.


Greetings from Gord Mackintosh

Gord Mackintosh, MLA for St. Johns, was unable to attend the Centennial Renewal Campaign launch at St. John’s Library on June 12. He sent the following remarks:

I wish I could be there with you to celebrate the 99th anniversary of our beautiful library, and to kick-off the Library Foundation’s exciting Centennial Renewal Campaign.

I have a fondness for the St. John’s Library due to my involvement with the citizens’ coalition that fought to keep the branch open in 1993. We saved the library for future generations and are fortunate that it still serves our community.

When it opened its doors in 1915, it was the first branch of the growing Winnipeg Public Library system and served an expanding neighbourhood of new Canadians. Today, it is not only a place where people of all ages can find a good book; but it’s also the place for families to come for ‘Story Times’, and for area students to find a supportive after-school homework club.

The dark oak woodwork and antique reading tables are a reminder of a bygone era and the many generations the library has served, but the time has come for renewal.

I support the Winnipeg Library Foundation in their plans to renovate our beautiful old library and wish them the very best with their fundraising campaign.

Story: “It was 1949…”

Many thanks to Ken Goldstein for his memory of St. John’s Library.

“It was 1949.  I was seven years old.  And my library was the St. John’s Library on Salter Street.  I had been going there since I was four or five, usually with my mother, but now I was there on my own.  I even had my own library card.  And I wanted to take a book out of the library – The Adventures of Robin Hood.  But there was a problem.  I did not want to take out the abbreviated version from the children’s section; I wanted the full book from the adult section of the library.  And the librarian said “No”, it was against the rules.  I left, and returned with my mother, and, together, we persuaded the librarian that I could be trusted to take the adult version home.  So the St. John’s Library helped me learn three things:  First, to love books.  Second, to love libraries.  And third, to push back against bureaucratic rules that made no sense.  I’ve been doing all three ever since.”

We’d like to hear your story too! Please send it to us.

Cornish Library – Campaign Launch

Cornish Library is 99 years old!

To celebrate, join us for a party as we kick off the Centennial Renewal fundraising campaign that will raise money to renovate this beautiful building.

Enjoy cake and local entertainment and learn about the exciting plans for this library.

Tuesday June 10 • 2:00 pm
Cornish Library, 20 West Gate