Gilroy, Marion (1912-1981)

Marion Gilroy
Saskatchewan Archives Board

Marion Gilroy, Saskatchewan’s first Supervisor of Regional Libraries, was instrumental in developing the earliest regional library system in the Prairie provinces. Centred in Prince Albert, the North Central Saskatchewan Regional Library (now Wapiti Regional Library) was officially established in 1950.

Born in Nova Scotia, Marion Gilroy came to Saskatchewan in 1946. Blessed with “a sparkling wit, an abiding faith in adult education, and a practical approach,”1 she brought a wealth of relevant education and experience. With degrees in both history and library science, she had worked for Nova Scotia’s Public Archives and Regional Libraries Commission. In Saskatchewan, Gilroy was charged with determining which area of this province was best suited to inaugurate a regional library. With the support of the CCF government and a newly-minted Regional Libraries Act (1946) she travelled widely throughout the province in even the most inhospitable weather. Inspired by the methods of Helen Gordon Stewart in British Columbia and Nora Bateson in the Maritimes, Gilroy built bridges with communities through their women’s organizations, home and school associations, service clubs and local governments to ensure that libraries would be sustainable.

Gilroy’s contribution to the library profession was broad in scope. She served as President of the Maritime Library Association from 1941-45, the Saskatchewan Library Association from 1948-49,  and the Canadian Library Association from 1951-52. Sporting one of her trademark hats, she was featured in the 1961 NFB film “Books for Beaver River” which presented Saskatchewan’s regional library system to a national audience. In 1963 she took up a teaching position in the School of Librarianship at UBC, and inspired a new generation of librarians.

As a final gesture of her love for Saskatchewan and its libraries, Gilroy bequeathed $200,000 and a painting to the Wapiti Regional Library. The region’s headquarters in Prince Albert was named in her honour in 1985.

1. Morton, E.H. (1970).  Canadian Library Association. In A. Kent & H. Lancour (Eds.), Encyclopedia of library and information science (Vol. 4, p. 187).  New York: Marcel Dekker.

Sue Adams

Further Reading

Braithwaite, M. (198-?). Like being a millionaire. [Prince Albert, SK : Wapiti Regional Library].

Clemence, V. (2004). Saskatchewan’s own: People who made a difference. Calgary, AB:  Fifth  House.

Kerr, D. (2005). A book in every hand: Public libraries in Saskatchewan. Regina, SK: Coteau  Books.

Marion Gilroy (1912-1981): Librarian, historian. Retrieved December 20, 2008, from

Morton, E.H. (1970).  Canadian Library Association. In A. Kent & H. Lancour (Eds.),  Encyclopedia of library and information science (Vol. 4).  New York: Marcel Dekker.