For half a century, the Centre for Sexuality has normalized sexuality and sexual health in Alberta and across Canada. From the beginning, we’ve been a trusted source of information, and we have always believed that informed decisions are empowering.
I remember when I started at the Centre in 2001, we had a lending library with dedicated volunteers who put their time into organizing our collection of books, magazines, and videos, and ensuring resources were up to date. It was utilized by a wide range of people, and the library itself was always a hub of community organizing.
Today our website is our library of information, support, and resources. We’ve been working to improve centreforsexuality.ca, and we’re so proud to share our brand-new site with you! Click here to check it out and learn what the new site has to offer.
From the very beginning, the women at CBCA knew that it was critical that we had credible, factual, non-judgmental information to provide individuals regarding their sexual and reproductive health. That is still a critical part of our work at the Centre today. We know from decades of experience that information can be liberating and openness, life changing.
President & CEO
Centre for Sexuality
Lending Knowledge: The Story of Our Library
Our website may be a critical source of sexual health information now, but of course in 1972, we had to use good old-fashioned paper.
As the Calgary Birth Control Association (CBCA) was getting established and more women were seeking counselling, it was essential that our volunteers were well-trained and well-informed to best help clients. As a result, the founders began to gather books, articles, and videos to produce a volunteer handbook.
Calgary Birth Control Association President Vern (Price) Slater talking to the volunteer coordinator Irene Michon. “Calgary Birth Control Association”, [c. 1980], (CU2349500) by . Courtesy of Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary.
Volunteers weren’t the only ones to benefit from this initiative, however – we quickly realized that members of the public were seeking this same information for their own research. These materials were rarely found outside of university and medical libraries, so were difficult to come by.
Vern Price was appointed librarian, and in a letter to the sales manager of Nefertiti publishing company, she writes (1974): “At present we have a small library of books, paper, films, models, etc. for our own training needs. This collection also serves as a reference library for university, nursing and public-school students on subjects such as abortion, where other city sources are minimal or non-existent. This year over 300 people worked on projects or papers in our office- more than one request a day. Books are also loaned to other towns.”
Over the years, the CBCA dedicated funds and energies not only to the collection, but also to creating original pamphlets, booklets and videos on topics where good resource materials were scarce. The CBCA library remained a trusted resource in the community for many years to come.
This also led to the publication of newsletters over the years, to connect with supporters and highlight important information emerging in the field.
The focus of providing accurate information and making it widely accessible was a cornerstone of the organization 50 years ago. As evidenced by our new, comprehensive website, it remains an essential element of our work today.