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January 9, 2012

Wild Libraries I Have Known: Frances Morrison Children's Library

Alexis Kienlen is the author of 2 poetry collections- She dreams in Red and 13. She currently works as an agricultural journalist, and writes a weekly book column for The Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune. She is a great lover of books and libraries and has a special place in her heart for teenagers and teen fiction.

The children’s library at the Frances Morrison Branch in Saskatoon is one of my favourite libraries. This particular space is what made me a library lover. Just look at how beautiful it is!

The giant Pooh bear has been there for years, and the entrance way and door to the treehouse haven’t changed since I was a child. I love that this library is created in a way that pays homage to a great literary character. (Note- the Disney version has never crept into this place.) Check out the decorations about the mudroom area, and the door to the treehouse storytelling area.

This space is wonderful, and always has been. This big window looks out onto the street, and you used to be able to watch the activity at the Saturday Saskatoon farmers’ market. You can also see City Hall and the park in front of it, where my teenage friends and I used to play a creepy, made up game called “Bone Yard” late at night. If you sit up here in the window, you feel like you’re spying on people.

The Children’s Library is on the second floor of the library in its own room. The location is designed specifically for children, with a step-stool so children can sign out their own books at the check out desk, and water fountains at the perfect height for both parents and kids.

Pooh Corner is over 45 years old, and the branch held a homecoming to celebrate their 40th anniversary on November 4, 2006. All past patrons were invited to the celebration, and the library even created a blog and asked people to send in their memories of the space.  (I liked the story about the family of three generations who visited Pooh Corner, and the story of the riot.)

I’ve travelled and moved a lot, and I’m convinced the children’s library at the Frances Morrison Branch is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I grew up in Saskatoon and used to go here as a child to take out books and to attend story time. The story times were held in the Pooh Corner treehouse, which was shaped like a little cave. If I remember correctly, there are lights on the ceiling. It was here that you would get to hear great puppet shows and stories. (Apparently children went into the space with only a few adults. I bet that’s not the case today)

Many of the staff members have worked in the library for over 20 years. Some of the storytellers and librarians that I knew as a child are still there. And some of them were just wonderful! I remember one particular woman, Judith Benninger, who is now retired. Judith recited  “The Cremation of Sam McGee” as creepy shadow puppets acted out the story behind her. All I have to do is think about her telling the story and I get chills up my spine.

One of the incredibly special things about Pooh Corner is the positive memories people have about the space. When I was working in the northern Alberta city of Grande Prairie, I met children’s writer and former librarian Linda Smith, who has since passed away. When Linda found out I was from Saskatoon, she got very excited and told me that she had loved working in Pooh corner and had fond memories of the best. “That is the best children’s library,” she said.

(As I left the library after taking pictures for this post, I ran into an acquaintance, who introduced me to his friend, who is the current director of Pooh Corner. Serendipity!)

5 thoughts on “Wild Libraries I Have Known: Frances Morrison Children's Library”

  1. Sheree says:

    Thanks for this. It is an amazing space. Pooh was my first. I’ll let it go at that. Also, thank you for introduction to Alexis Leinlan—

  2. Sara says:

    Hey, this was my first too!
    Somewhere I have a Star Phoenix picture of the actual Frances Morrison reading to a group of children which included my brother and myself. Also, one of my brother sneaking up to peek behind the little puppet stage. Fond memories!

  3. Sara says:

    Could it really have been Frances Morrison? Perhaps it was Muriel Clancy. Hmm.

  4. Lori says:

    Frances Morrison was originally a Children’s Librarian

  5. Kat says:

    I worked at Frances Morrison Library from 1977-1981, (my name was Kathy Evans then), and it was one of the BEST times of my life. Frances Morrison and Alice Turner were my heroes. I also will never forget Irene Cameron. I worked in Circulation on the main floor, then spent a happy year and a half in the Children’s Dept. I have worked in libraries all my life because of my experiences with SPL.

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