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Film Loan Services for Schools

During the 1930s there was a growing awareness of the potential of educational audio-visual resources to support instruction. The Audio Visual Instruction Branch of the Department of Education was formed in 1941 for the purpose of establishing a provincial Visual Aids Library with resources that could be used by schools in the province, and for developing educational radio programs. At this time a grant was also provided for every school district that purchased projectors or radios for schools; Morley P. Toombs became head of the branch. The library that was set up included both silent and sound 16 mm films that supported curricula. The films were loaned to schools free of charge, although schools were required to pay for the costs of Transportation. Later, the Branch also assumed responsibility for making available other types of resources such as filmstrips, slides, maps, charts, pamphlets, bulletins, and pictures: the rural schools of the province were thus able to access a broader range of materials for teaching.

In January 1942, the Audio-Visual Instruction Branch assumed responsibility for supervising the National Film Board’s public information programs throughout the province; six circuits were set up, and in each circuit there were twenty communities where a program was presented every four weeks. Later that year the number of circuits was expanded, and the Branch worked with the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool to offer the service to a broader range of communities. Approximately 300 communities received this service at the time. The National Film Board projectionist often provided assistance in showing educational films in cases where the school did not have a projector, and service was provided to both adult and school audiences. This arrangement with the National Film Board continued until the 1954–55 school year, when the NFB established its own office in Regina for distribution of its films in Saskatchewan.

In the 1944–45 school year, there were several changes to the organization of the Department of Education: Henry Janzen became director of Curricula, with audio-visual services as one of his areas of responsibility; Morley Toombs left the Department to work for the NFB; and E.F. Holliday assumed responsibility for audio-visual loan services as supervisor of the Visual Education Branch. The Branch included services related to production and distribution of audio-visual aids and accompanying teacher guides, as well as to the organization of rural circuits and the presentation of film programs for the National Film Board. J.W.Kent became supervisor of School Broadcasts. The audio-visual loan service proved to be very popular with teachers, and by the 1945–46 school year plans were in place to set up film circuits and smaller film libraries within the larger school units in order to meet the increasing need; these smaller libraries were intended to draw from the central collection based at the Department offices in Regina. Schools were encouraged to build up their own libraries of 2” x 2” slides and 35 mm filmstrips, as these were comparatively inexpensive.

By the 1945–46 school year, about 20 school units had established circuits for the use of audio-visual aids, coordinated by teachers who presented films as curriculum support resources. These travelling teachers, with the use of portable power units, carried the audio-visual service to the rural schools, under the supervision of the superintendent.

The teacher education programs in the province provided support for audio-visual instruction, and in 1948 an audio-visual course was offered at the University of Saskatchewan Summer School. Twelve scholarships of $50 each were given by the Department of Education; in 1962–63, two scholarships were awarded in the amount of $150 each. In 1959–60, projectionist courses were offered to teachers in the province, and students in attendance at Teachers Colleges in Regina and Saskatoon were trained to operate projectors. Libraries of films and filmstrips were set up at the Teachers Colleges for use by the students.

As time passed, the loan service for filmstrips and other lower-cost resources was discontinued, but the educational film loan service continued for many years. Anne Davidson assumed the position as supervisor of Visual Education in the 1964–65 school year, replacing E.F Holliday; she continued to be responsible for educational film acquisition until 1981, when she was promoted to associate director of the Instructional Resources Unit with responsibility for film loan services, School Broadcasts and Telecasts, school library consultative services, and the Department’s Resource Centre. Diane Neill assumed responsibility as educational consultant responsible for educational film services at that time, and served in this capacity until 1987. The service operated from Saskatchewan Education offices until 1976, when it was transferred to SaskMedia. The Department continued to have responsibility for evaluation and purchase of programs.

In 1983, the service was transferred back to the Department when SaskMedia was dissolved. The Educational Media Services Unit handled the distribution of films while purchasing decisions were made by the educational consultant in the Instructional Resources Unit. In 1989, operation of the loan aspect of the service was contracted to an independent service provider, with film titles still being purchased by the Department of Education. In 1997, with a stronger emphasis on video and electronic formats, the film loan service was discontinued.

Delee Cameron

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