In 2014, more than 14.1 million visits were made to the Edmonton Public Library, either in physical or virtual form. 10.4 million items were borrowed, and 347,995 people participated in 13,532 library-run programs.
EPL has more than 16.6 million items in its collection including books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, video games, and online resources. There are 21 branches, the oldest of which is the Old Strathcona Branch, opened in 1913. The newest is the Heritage Valley Branch, which opened in April 2018.
The history of the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) begins in 1912, when the cities of Edmonton and Strathcona began to consider the creation of two public libraries in the region. By the time the two libraries opened in 1913, Edmonton and Strathcona had amalgamated, and so one fledgling library system started with two branches. The Strathcona branch was the only branch to the south of the North Saskatchewan River that divides the city of Edmonton, and it would remain so until 1955. The branch on the north side of the river was temporarily located in the Chisholm Block, above a meat shop and a liquor store.
Between the years of 1914 and 1923, the Edmonton branch operated out of various buildings in the downtown area. In 1923, the Central Library building was opened with help from a Carnegie library grant, which sat on the site now occupied by Telus Plaza. It would remain in service until 1967, when the Centennial Library opened on Sir Winston Churchill Square, only a few blocks away, remaining in downtown Edmonton.
Beginning in 1941, the Edmonton Public Library began to operate traveling services to meet the needs of the community. The first service operated out of a streetcar. In 1947, trucks and buses were pressed into service as bookmobiles. These were replaced by book trailers in 1974, some of which were decommissioned in 1982 as a cost-saving measure. These decommissioned trailers were replaced by the more traditional bookmobile format. 1982 also saw the implementation of data radio in the bookmobiles, which enabled them to communicate directly with the main EPL database. This allowed staff to utilize the electronic database and to review customer accounts from the bookmobile itself. The bookmobiles remained in service until 1991, when they were decommissioned. In 2014, traveling services were reintroduced with the launch of epl2GO literacy vans.
Between 1950 and 1970, seven branches were opened throughout the city of Edmonton, followed by five more between 1970 and 1990. In 1996, the main branch located at the Centennial Library was renamed the Stanley A. Milner Library in honor of the chair of the library board from 1963 to 1968, who had worked so hard to make the Centennial Library become a reality.
Currently, the Edmonton Public Library operates 20 branches and continues to expand with the City of Edmonton.
Edmonton Public Library currently has 21 branches across Edmonton, including two new branches opened in 2014 in Clareview Town Centre and The Meadows. These combine library branches with sports and recreation centres. The newest branch, Enterprise Square, opened January 2017. In 2000, 5 branches were in malls, and they were Abbotsfield, Capilano, Londonderry, Mill Woods, and Southgate. The first to leave was Southgate which closed in 2002 and became Whitemud Crossing. Abbotsfield & Mill Woods relocated to nearby locations in 2010 and 2015. As of 2017, the only 2 that remain are Capilano (moving in 2018) and Londonderry. In 2018, the Londonderry Branch moved to a new location within Londonderry Mall, which is more accessible and modern.
In addition to a large collection of items, the libraries offer services to people with special needs including: braille materials, large-print materials, talking books, descriptive DVDs and home service for those unable to visit the library. It also offers assistive technologies for customers such as: TTY for the deaf, closed circuit TVs that enlarge or enhance print, magnifiers, specialized software, LEAP computer work stations, and alternative keyboards.
EPL delivers free programs and events for preschoolers, children, teens, and adults in all of its branches. Program information is provided in the "Library Guide" printed three times per year, and through the EPL website. Services include:
Information and reference services
Access to full-text databases
Free downloadable audiobooks
Hoopla, an online book/movie/audiobook database.
Internet access, through desktop workstations, Chromebooks, and Wi-Fi
Reader's advisory services
Programs for children, youth and adults
Delivery to home-bound individuals
Makerspace area with equipment such as 3D Printers, an Espresso Book Machine, creative workstations (PCs & Macs), digital conversion hardware, gaming consoles, a green screen, and sound booths.
Outreach services including literacy, education and social support for at-risk Edmontonians.
Rooms and theatres for rent
An online record label that licenses and distributes locally-released music from Edmonton called Capital City Records
The Edmonton Public Library maintains partnerships with the University of Alberta, Edmonton Public Schools, Edmonton Catholic Schools, the Centre for Family Literacy, the Arts District, and Edmonton Transit System. Each branch is assigned a regional list of public and Catholic schools for which is provides many services. EPL also works with community groups such as the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, Multicultural Health Brokers and a variety of literacy-based organizations.
EPL is a member of "The Alberta Library" (TAL), a province-wide system that allows access to material from every member library in Alberta. EPL is also a member of the Metro Edmonton Foundation of Libraries.
Winner EPL is the first Canadian Library to be named 2014 Library of the Year by Library Journal magazine and Gale Cengage Learning - the highest library honour of its kind.
Accolade EPL CEO Linda Cook receives the Canadian Library Association's highest honour - Outstanding Service to Librarianship Award
Accolade EPL CEO Linda Cook receives the Library Association of Alberta President's award for making a province wide impact in the library field.
Winner Public Library Association (PLA) Polaris Innovation in Technology John Iliff Award for the ME Card
Honorable Mention Urban Libraries Council Top Innovator Nominee in Community-Led and Safe Communities Initiative
Winner American Library Association (ALA) Cutting Edge Service for the ME Libraries Card
Winner Minister's Award for Excellence and Innovation in Public Library Service
Winner Jasper Place Branch received an Award of Merit for architecture at the Prairie Design Awards
Winner Ad Club of Edmonton (ACE) Distinction Award for the centennial timeline video
Winner Summit International Creative Award for the centennial timeline video
Winner Summit International Creative Award for outdoor advertising
Winner Summit International Creative Award for the centennial marketing campaign
Winner International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Edmonton Award of Excellence for the centennial marketing campaign.
Winner Community Librarian Amanda Bird received the CLA Emerging Leader award
Winner Jasper Place Branch received an Award of Merit for architecture at the Edmonton Urban Design Award
Accolade Linda Cook received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
Winner Deputy CEO Pilar Martinez received the CLA/Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship
Winner John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award
Winner Urban Libraries Council Innovator Award - Brand Launch
Second Place 9th Annual International Federation of Library Associations International Marketing Award
Accolade Marketing Director Tina Thomas received the Library Journal Mover and Shaker
Winner Canadian Library Trustees Association Achievement Award for Literacy
Winner International Association of Business Communicators Capital Award
Silver Summit International Creative Award Poster Design
Bronze Summit International Creative Award Booklet Design
Winner Getting Attention! Tagline Award Winner
Gold Summit International Creative Award Logo Redesign
Gold Summit International Creative Award Collateral Redesign
Silver International Davey Award B2C Campaign
Silver International Davey Award Billboard Campaign
Silver International Davey Award Transit Campaign
Silver International Davey Award Low Budget TV Commercials
Bronze Summit International Creative Award TV Campaign