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History of SLA


Originally formed in 1914, the Saskatchewan Library Association (SLA) consisted of a group of 17 people from urban centres who pressed the government to take steps to provide rural communities with library facilities. By March 1915, they had stirred the government to the point of promising to look into the matter. After that, there are no records beyond the known fact that the Association ceased to exist in 1918.


SLA formed again on April 27, 1942 when the Canadian Library Council was developing and needed provincial representation. SLA’s first board was elected in late May 1942 for a three year term. There were 20 original members of the association.  Personal membership in 1942 cost 50 cents while institutional membership cost $3.00 that year.

Dr. C.C. Lingard (Chief Librarian at Regina Public Library) was appointed SLA’s first president for 1943-44. Miss I. McLean (Saskatoon Public Library) was vice-president, Miss Emma Bell (Regina College Library) was secretary and treasurer, and J.M. Lothian (professor and librarian at the University of Saskatchewan) was counselor.

In its first ten years, the SLA helped to revolutionize the whole concept of libraries and librarianship in Saskatchewan. The Library Act was overhauled, grants were increased, scholarships were set up, a Regional Libraries Act was passed, the Provincial and Legislative Libraries were changed and expanded, an archives department was established, expenditures increased fifty-fold and more professionals were hired.

SLA gave strong support to the Canadian Library Council, later the Canadian Library Association, as well as to the campaign for the development of a national library. It also became very active on the provincial scene politically and professionally.

SLA’s first conference was held on May 31, 1943 at Regina Public Library. In 1946 the association debuted its first publication: the SLA Bulletin.


Since that time, SLA has been actively involved in legislation changes, particularly as they relate to public libraries, in presenting briefs to the Minister in charge of Libraries and in the evolution of the provision of library service in the province. The activity has continued through the years. SLA was an important contributor to the Library Inquiry Committee Report of 1967 and the subsequent legislative changes that established the one library system concept of co-operative library service that is unique to Saskatchewan. For many years SLA presented an annual Brief to the Minister-in-charge of Libraries on the concerns of its members about libraries and librarianship in Saskatchewan.

SLA held its first joint conference with the Library Association of Alberta in Banff in 1962.

The Mary Donaldson Memorial Lecture was established in 1967 to honour Mary Donaldson, who served Saskatchewan as an outstanding Provincial Librarian from 1951 until her death in 1966. An award is also made in Mary Donaldson’s name to a student graduating from a library technician program.


In 1976, the SLA began sponsoring Saskatchewan Library Week (SLW), established one year earlier by an ad hoc group of librarians. It is a celebration of libraries and their services, formerly held in March, now held the third week in October. In 1977, the Summer Reading Program was initiated.


SLA presented its first brief to cabinet in 1980. SLA also had representation on the 1981 Library Legislation Review Committee, presented a brief, and responded to the committee’s report.

In 1982, Frances Morrison partnered with SLA to create the SLA Frances Morrison Award, which is an award of merit for outstanding service to libraries. Frances Morrison was one of Saskatchewan’s exceptional librarians, serving as Chief Librarian of the Saskatoon Public Library from 1961 to 1980. In 1981 she was awarded the Canadian Library Association’s Outstanding Service to Librarianship Award, and in 1999 she received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit for her contributions to library services in Saskatchewan.

In 1984, SLA presented a brief to the Minister of Education’s steering group considering the recommendations contained in “Directions,” the final report of the Advisory Committee on Curriculum and Instruction.

In 1988, SLA hosted the Echo Valley Library Forum, a search conference to examine the future of libraries and library services in Saskatchewan.

In 1989, SLA appointed Judy Livingston as its first executive director. Association membership had reached 189.


SLA unveiled its first stylized logo in 1990.

In 1992, the document Independent But Together: A Vision for a Multitype Library System for Saskatchewan was published with the help of a grant from the Sask Trust for Sports, Culture and Recreation.  This work eventually led to the establishment of the Multitype Library Board (MLB) in 1996.

SLA celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1992 by organizing a celebration at the Regina Public Library, the site of its inaugural meetings. To mark the special year, SLA collaborated with Coteau Books to publish a reprint of the first 25 Mary Donaldson Memorial Lectures, entitled Survival of the Imagination.

Also in 1992, K. Fisher, was appointed as SLA executive director. In 1998, Judith Silverthorne, was appointed as SLA’s new executive director.

In 1998-99, SLA partnered with the Saskatchewan Provincial Library, Industry Canada, and the Government of Saskatchewan to present Every Library Connected, which enabled the distribution of 300 computers to rural and urban libraries throughout the province.


In 2000, SLA teamed up with the Saskatchewan Provincial Library and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to distribute computers to libraries for Internet use in lower income areas in the province. A total of $951,675.79 was donated, 107 computers were purchased, and a number of libraries were connected to High Speed Internet. This project was completed in 2002.

In 2001, SLA signed an agreement with the American Library Association to use the @ your library trademark. Initially a five year international advocacy campaign to promote libraries, all libraries worldwide are now free to use the trademark.

SLA also partnered with the Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice (SYRCA) – The Willow Awards in 2001. This award is designed to promote reading among the students of our province.

In 2002, SLA began administering the Saskatchewan Libraries Education Bursary in partnership with Saskatchewan Learning and the Saskatchewan Provincial Library. (This bursary was later renamed the Maureen Woods Education Bursary, and is now administered solely by SLA.)

In 2003, SLA partnered with Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples (LSSAP) to begin work on an Aboriginal Storytelling Week to start in 2004.

Also in 2003, SLA partnered with Saskatchewan Publishers Group, Saskatchewan Book Awards, Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, Saskatchewan School Library Association. Saskatchewan Recording Industry Association, and Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association to begin work on the Saskatchewan Designations Project. The project identified and designated Saskatchewan works in libraries with the use of a specially designed spine label to go on all materials. The project was completed in 2005.

In 2004, SLA had representation on the E-library services Promotion Committee, which was designed to promote online library services to the public. This was also the first year that SLA presented Saskatchewan Library Week materials in French as well as English.

Also in 2004, the first meeting was held in March between the executive directors of SLA, the Ontario Library Association (OLA), the Library Association of Alberta, and the British Columbia Library Association. The result was the formation of The Partnership, which manifested into a nationally presented Education Institute, and development of the OLA Store (renamed OLA Marketplace).

In 2005, The Partnership continued, expanding to include almost all provincial organizations across the country and SLA pursued other options of revenue through this vehicle, embracing and broadening involvement with the Education Institute.

Also in 2005, Saskatchewan’s centennial year, SLA launched  the Lt. Governors Celebration of the Arts: Libraries and Authors Tour, The 100 Favourite Saskatchewan Book ballot contest, the CBC Saskatchewan Centennial Web site, and Saskatchewan Literacy Committee to provide the Spirit of Saskatchewan: Celebrating Excellence in Books catalogue. This was the first year that SLA joined the national TD Summer Reading Club.

In 2006, board members reviewed and refined SLA’s Strategic Plan, effective Feb. 1, 2006 to Jan. 31, 2009. Action plans for five initiatives were developed: establish financial stability, increase advocacy, strengthen membership, increase educational opportunities, and promote diverse cultural development. This plan enabled SLA to focus activities and note successes in an explicit way.

In 2006, advocacy activities became more of a focus. The advocacy committee responded to threatened public library funding in Saskatoon, responded to budget news, commented on literacy funding and the importance of school libraries in Saskatchewan’s education system.

In 2007, Caroline Selinger was appointed as SLA executive director.

In 2008, a joint conference, titled Prairie Partnerships, was held with the Manitoba Library Association in Regina. SLA’s journal titled Forum migrated to an OJS online format. A brief was presented to the Minister of Education.

Also in 2008 the last print issue of Forum was published and the first online issue debuted later in the year.

In 2009, a new mission and vision statement was approved at the AGM. The SLA Board of Directors developed a new strategic plan for 2009-2012. A new website and a. Libraries Matter campaign and booklet were also launched. Saskatchewan Health Libraries Association became an associate member.


In 2010, a continuing education workshop grant was introduced. SLA became a member of Heritage Saskatchewan.

In 2011, SLA adopted a new governance structure, a member-driven vision, and revised its articles and bylaws.

In 2011-2012, SLA’s Governance Task Force conducted a review and published a report with recommendations: new structure for the board of directors with fewer members, more inclusive terms of reference for board positions and various committees. That document is here. A new strategic plan was developed for 2012 to 2015.

In 2012, Loraine Thompson was appointed as SLA executive director.

In 2013, SLA’s Articles of Continuance and Bylaws were updated and approved by the membership to endorse a new governance structure.

In 2013Dan Danforth was appointed as SLA executive director.

In 2014, Freedom to Read Week and Culture Days grants were offered to the library community for the first time. SLA was accepted as a pilot organization by SaskCulture to develop a diversity plan with the assistance of a facilitator.

In 2014, Judy Nicholson was appointed as SLA executive director.

Also in 2014, Book Spine Poetry was launched during SLW.

In 2015, a new strategic plan was developed for 2015-2018 to incorporate the diversity plan and to create a renewed vision for the future.  SLA’s Continuing Educations Grants program was renewed and actively promoted. Members were consulted through a survey and a report was published.  There was also a member consultation session at the annual conference in Regina. The conference was titled “Open To All” and focused on the theme of diversity and diversity programming to the library community.

Also in 2015, SLA participated on a national working group to draft guidelines for a new federation of provincial and territorial library associations and related stakeholders.  This was in light of the dissolution of the Canadian Library Association in 2016.  A report with recommendations was endorsed across Canada, including the SLA membership.  The federation’s new name was the Canadian Federation of Library Associations-Fédération Canadienne des Associations de Bliothèques (CFLA-FCAB).  The federation’s board would include regional representation of associations.  SLA and the Manitoba Library Association (MLA) would share a Prairie Provinces seat on the federation’s board of directors.  MLA would occupy the seat for CFLA-FCAB’s first full year of operations in 2017.

In 2016, SLA’s annual conference “Co-operation Saskatchewan Style” theme celebrated the 20th year of the Libraries Co-operation Act that led to the creation of the MLB. A board member published an article about the history of library co-operation and the MLB.  The article is available here.

In 2017 SLA hosted a forum, Finding Common Ground, and invited several Saskatchewan based library associations and related stakeholders to discuss a number of matters of mutual concern. The report is available here.

In 2017, SLA worked with various stakeholders in the province on emergency advocacy work to help successfully reverse the Government of Saskatchewan’s decision on massive funding cuts to public libraries in the 2017-18 tabled budget.  An article about the funding cuts crisis, written by SLA’s president, is here.

In 2017, SLA celebrated its 75th anniversary and held its annual conference at Waskesiu.  Celebrations included a poster session that displayed some of the association’s history and a large birthday cake for all conference attendees.  The association also unveiled a new logo and the visual branding standards are here.

At the 2017 AGM, members endorsed the 10 recommendations presented in the CFLA-FCAB Truth and Reconciliation Report and Recommendations. Details are here. SLA also introduced a new stylized logo.

Also in 2017, Dorothea Warren was appointed as SLA executive director.

In 2018 SLA filled the seat of Prairie Provinces Representative for a two year term on the CFLA-FCAB Board of Directors. The seat will subsequently rotate between MLA and SLA every two years.

Also in 2018, the Saskatchewan Libraries Conference was part of a themed week-long event in Regina called Libraries! Convergence under Living Skies. It was an opportunity for libraries of all types and places from across Canada to work together to identify commonalities, share experiences, and build on success and plan together for a shared future.  The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) and the Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) held members meetings while the CFLA-FCAB hosted its first National Forum.


During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, SLA was forced to cancel some of its programs and move others online. There was no Saskatchewan Libraries Conference held in 2020, and in June 2021, SLA partnered with the Manitoba Library Association to host a joint virtual conference. SLA also created a number of program videos libraries could use instead of hiring in-person performers as usual during the Summer Performer Tours, and was able to keep members engaged through other virtual programming.

In May 2022, SLA was once again able to hold an in-person conference.