The History
of the Swan River Valley
Manitoba, Canada

History of the North-West Regional Library
Swan River & Benito

Negotiations for a library in the Town of Swan River started in 1958 under Mayor George Scalf and an organizational committee was formed under Mayor Claude Hinchliffe. The first library in Swan River was opened on a temporary basis in August, 1965 in the Matthews Block with Mrs Florence Johnston as the librarian.
The Women’s Institute of Benito were active in getting a petition up and presenting it to the town council requesting a library in Benito. A library vote, held in 1964 favored the establishment of libraries in both Benito and Swan River.The Benito Branch first opened its doors on December 1, 1965 in the Sas Block with Mrs Macooh as the Librarian. On January 4, 1966 Mrs. Vivian Hogg became the Librarian with Mrs. Mabel Cooke as the assistant-librarian.

An organizational meeting for establishing a Regional Library was held in Swan River on March 22, 1965. Representing Swan River were Ken Campbell, elected as Chairman and Dr. L Matthews elected as Vice-Chairman. Representing Benito were Les Hall and Mrs. F. Coe elected as Secretary-Treasurer. On February 26, 1966 the North-West Regional Library with branches in Swan River and Benito held duplicate ceremonies to officially open both branches. In attendance for both the openings were Attorney General The Honorable Stewart McLean, Mayor Hinchliffe of Swan River, Mayor Les Hall of Benito, George C. Noble, head of the University of Manitoba Library Extension Department, D. Craw, Chairman of the Provincial and Regional Trustees Board for Libraries and Miss M. Morley, Provincial Librarian.
The branch at Swan River was located in the former Manitoba Telephone Building at 114-5th Avenue North. The first librarian was Mrs. Florence Johnston. The first library membership card was given to Miss Gwen Hickman in recognition of the many hours of work she had volunteered in helping Mrs. Johnston.

In 1967, the R. M. of Swan River joined with the Town of Swan River and the Village of Benito, two members from each point forming the Library’s Board of Directors. At this time they saw that the quarters in Swan River must be expanded to handle the growing number of books required to meet the ever increasing demand.
On November 8, 1971 the official opening of the new building housing the Swan River Branch of the North-West Regional Library took place. The new library was located at 200 - 6th Avenue North. Mrs. Johnston had retired in July of 1971 and Mrs. Elizabeth Brown was the new librarian.

In 1980 it was decided that with the high readership per capita and the lack of adequate space it was practical to construct a modern library in Benito at the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue West. The grand opening of the new library was held on October 29, 1981. The librarian was Mabel Cooke and the assistant-librarian was Evelyn Gade.

There have been many staff changes over the years but in 1997 Mabel Cooke celebrated her 32nd year with the library at Benito and Iris Hrappstead celebrated her 25th year with the library at Swan River.

Beginning in 1994 computers were introduced to the library. By 1997 both Swan River and Benito had all their books catalogued on the computer so there was no longer a need for the wonderful wooden stands that housed the card catalogues. The computer was also used for the circulation of books to the public. In 1997 the Internet became available for use by library patrons.

The library has continued to grow over the years with the continued support of the dedicated readers as well as funding from the Town of Swan River, Village of Benito, R. M. of Swan River and the Provincial Government.

Submitted by: Bonnie Ray, Librarian - North-West Regional Library December, 1997

Manitoba's Swan River Valley is an area rich in history. This material was a part of the 1998 Pioneer Centennial History Book project. If you would like the history of your area available online, have your historic group contact the Key Rock Group for information on electronic publication.