Who Are EPL Branches Named After? Get to Know the Namesakes

Most branches at the Edmonton Public Library are pretty easy to identify: just look at what neighbourhood the branch resides in and you can be pretty sure of its name.

But there are a few that aren’t so straightforward. These are, of course, branches that bear the names of people.

Why, you might wonder, does EPL choose to name a branch after someone? What does it mean?

On rare occasions, EPL locations are named to “recognize exceptional support, contribution and advocacy for the Edmonton Public Library and/or for library services and values,” as per EPL Board Policy B-2013.

While financial contributions to EPL can be considered part of the overall support, we don’t name branches based on donations. Interior library rooms or spaces, however, may be named based on donor support—such as the Shelley Milner Children’s Library.

Stanley A. Milner

When you think branch names, this one is sure to be top of mind. As EPL’s downtown main branch (and our largest location), the Milner Library is hard to miss—especially as renovations progress on the multi-year revitalization.

But Milner was (and still is) the name of a man before it was the moniker of a library.

A strong library supporter to this day, Stanley A. Milner led the push for a new library to mark the Canadian Centennial in 1967.

Born in Calgary in 1930, Milner’s father was in the Canadian Forces, so the family moved a lot. He told Todd Babiak in Just Getting Started: Edmonton Public Library’s First 100 Years, 1913-2013:

“I moved around a lot and didn’t have a lot of friends, a lot of protection. I realized the safest place to be, during a recess or after school, was in a classroom. I did a lot of reading. I came to love books.”

Science degree from the University of Alberta in hand, Milner went into oil and gas, where he founded a successful company. His friend, Elmer Roper, a man who later became Mayor of Edmonton, convinced him to run for City Council and later join the board of the Library. He even made an (unsuccessful) run at the Mayor’s seat.

As Chair of the EPL Board in 1963, Milner sought to follow the lead of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who provided the grant to build then downtown library branch Central Library, and started making a case for a new downtown library to celebrate the Centennial.

Milner told Babiak, “We all grew up with this idea that Carnegie was a robber baron. Then you see he had this whole other side to him. He had come from nothing and he built libraries to help other people do the same.”

The City wanted to knock down the Carnegie-funded library, but as Chair of the Library Board, Milner refused to sign over the land until the City agreed to use the proceeds to build a new library—a deal they eventually agreed to.

The new branch was originally called the Centennial Library when it opened in 1967. It was renamed Stanley A. Milner Library in a ceremony on August 22, 1996 to recognize his extraordinary contributions to EPL.

Penny McKee

Penny McKee came to Edmonton from Ontario and was named Director of EPL in 1990.

She quickly set about the work of redefining the library and preparing for its future while also defending readers’ interests and calling for sustainable funding.

EPL’s new mission stated: “The purpose of the Edmonton Public Library is to help the people of Edmonton meet the challenges of the future by providing the widest access to the collective knowledge and culture of the world. The Edmonton Public Library will achieve this by collecting and organizing resources, by cooperating with other institutions and community groups and through the aggressive use of technology.”

McKee was the Library’s seventh director. During her time in the role, she spearheaded the Library’s first capital fundraising, known as Foundations of Learning, in order to build three new branches.

She retired in 1996 and died in 1997. When a branch was opened to meet the needs of the growing neighbourhood of Abbottsfield in September of that same year, EPL decided to name it in her honour. It was the second of the three branches that had been fundraised through her campaign.

Lois Hole

Lois Hole served as the 15th Lieutenant Governor of Alberta from 2000 until her death on January 6, 2005.

A successful businesswoman, bestselling author, education advocate and community supporter, she was the second woman in the province’s history to hold this position.

Hole was a passionate champion of public libraries, so when EPL opened a new branch in Callingwood in September 2008, the Library decided to name it after her.

As an avid gardener and the author of no fewer than six books on the subject, she has also been recognized with a reading garden and a sculpture by Danek Mozdzenski, both located at the branch named after her.

Hole was also an environmentalist, so it seems only fitting that the branch that bears her name was one of the first EPL branches to be LEED certified for energy efficiency.

A Library within a Library?

Shelley Milner

While it’s not an EPL Branch, Shelley Milner’s name does grace the children’s library in our Stanley A. Milner Library.

Shelley was Stanley’s daughter. A generous donation from her father fully funded the children’s library at EPL’s downtown branch. Later, in 2010, he made another donation that allowed the space to be drastically renovated and expanded.

The children’s library was named after Stanley’s late daughter, Shelley Milner, that same year, with a dedication taking place on May 4, 2010.

The Milner Library is currently undergoing construction in a multi-year revitalization project. When it’s completed in 2020, the children’s library will be three times the size of the previous space.

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