Chetwynd breaks ground on new public library

Friends, family, residents, and community partners gathered Friday afternoon to break ground on the new public library being built in Chetwynd. Construction is slated to begin later this month.  

The event also commemorated the life of Yvonne Elden, an avid reader and pillar of the community. She was well-known for her work in creating the first library through the Little Prairie Ladies Club, in addition being a School District 59 teacher, board trustee, and librarian for many years.   

Yvonne’s son, Charles Elden, spoke of his mother’s dedication to the community, joy in helping others, and love of books. The family has donated $5,000 to the new building, carrying forward her legacy.  

“She would wholeheartedly support this project, as she was a lover of books, learning, and helping the community grow. She often said it doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you read,” he said.  

Charles added that his mother spent many hours volunteering at the library in the 1960s, when he and his siblings were just children, and was grateful for the exposure to a world of stories and information at a young age.  

“Here was a cornucopia of books we could read to our heart’s content, new worlds to explore long before the days of internet and immediate information availability. Mum might have had similar influences in her youth, as my first recollection of going to a library was visiting her parents in Armstrong, where my grandmother was a librarian,” said Charles.     

The new library is expected to be far more than just another library, serving a community centre for the region and its residents.  

Over four million has been contributed by the PRRD Electoral Area E, the District of Chetwynd, the Chetwynd Public Library and the Northern Development Initiative Trust, all partners in the $5.2 million dollar project.  

Coastal GasLink and Surerus Murphy Joint Venture also donated $50,000 each to the project, acknowledging the value and need for the project. West Fraser Chetwynd Forest Industries and the Canfor Chetwynd Sawmill are donating lumber to aid construction of the project, utilizing locally sourced timber.  

Area E Director Dan Rose thanked everyone involved for their contributions and said he’s honoured to start the next chapter of the library’s life in Chetwynd.  

“The purpose of this event is to celebrate the occasion of a new chapter in the book of the Chetwynd Public Library, and to acknowledge the time and effort of many people and organizations who have worked on this project,” he said.  

The original library was established in 1959, becoming a well-beloved fixture of Chetwynd. By 2016, the PRRD had decided that a new building was needed, where it will be place next door to the skate park. 

Melissa Millsap, Director of the Chetwynd Public Library said the library has always been more than just books, it offers quality of life and opportunities for residents living in the South Peace. She added that the current library has long outgrown its space, with a new building greatly needed.  

“Throughout the years, the library staff met community needs by keeping up with trends and technological changes. As we continue to strive and serve our patrons, we once again find the library bursting at the seams,” she said. “Needless to say, we are very grateful and extremely excited about this new space. Being a community hub, the Chetwynd Public Library knits our community together.” 

A storytelling space, a children’s program room, a teen seating area, makerspace and virtual reality room, a multi-purpose room and an outdoor patio are all included in the new design.   

Chetwynd councillor Mel Deck said he’s excited to see the new library begin to take shape.  

“The new library is a welcome addition, and we anticipate that it will continue to be a community hub as the existing library is, but in a facility that reflects the value and respect the community has for literacy and connectivity,” he said.  

Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative.  

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