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Theatre Alberta Library

Get to know the Theatre Alberta Library

By Chris Profiri Date: January 28, 2020 Tags: Theatre Alberta Library

Welcome to the beginning of a new blog series in partnership with Theatre Alberta! Over the coming months, you’ll hear more from librarian Chris Profiri about the Theatre Alberta Library and their latest reading recommendations.

Did you know anyone in Canada can borrow books from the Theatre Alberta Library? The library will mail items to any members across the country. A member can borrow up to 10 items at a time for a period of 28 days. Learn more about the Library’s services!

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Poster sign at the Theatre Alberta Library in between bookshelves

Tucked away in a back corner on the top floor of a repurposed government building in Edmonton is a glowing gem: the Theatre Alberta Library.

The library thrives because of and for the theatre community in Alberta, providing access to more than 22,500 titles. True, there are some reference materials, periodicals, and monologue books, but the focus is scripts. More specifically, Canadian scripts.

The collection was initially developed and managed by several provincial government departments as part of the Alberta Culture Library. As a result, there are some interesting, uncommon publications in the collection, dating from 1902 to the present. The collection was transferred to the Alberta Conference for Theatre in the early 1990s, which eventually became Theatre Alberta.

I have been honoured over the last sixteen years to be a steward of this collection. My name is Chris Profiri, and while earning a Master of Library and Information Studies degree at the University of Alberta, I was welcomed into the Theatre Alberta family as a part-time librarian. After graduating, I worked at several other libraries, but after a short, misguided detour into a library at an engineering firm, I gratefully returned to full-time fun at Theatre Alberta.

Theatre Alberta is a registered charity that works to grow and support live theatre in Alberta. Maintaining and operating a circulating script library is a key part of the resources and services we offer to the community. Our library mandate is to collect materials for our membership based on the following priorities: newly published Canadian plays, published plays from the current Alberta theatre season, member requests, award-winning scripts, and festival plays. We also get to browse publisher catalogues to see what’s new. That’s my favourite part.

Students read at the Theatre Alberta Library

No, wait. My favourite part is looking through the boxes of donations that we receive throughout the year. We accept donations to replace scripts that are a little worse for wear and add titles that we don’t have to the collection. For my inner archivist, this is a fascinating process. It is really cool to see what was popular and what other people collected over the years, not to mention the trends in the publishing world! We have had generous donations in the past from two universities in Edmonton as well, which really opened my eyes to alternative ways of building such a collection. Then, in the ultimate recycling move, we offer everything we can’t use to walk-in members free of charge (okay, maybe this is my favourite part!).

We collect plays for children, young adults, adults, and seniors. Musicals and vocal scores, scenes and monologues, Christmas plays, and religious plays fill our shelves, as well as full lengths, one acts, and collections of the same. We subscribe to three theatre periodicals (American Theatre, Canadian Theatre Review, and Dramatics), dating back to the 1980s, which also makes my inner archivist happy. These are an ultimate source for trends in American and Canadian theatre history, and feature interviews with prominent actors, directors, producers, and theatre craftspeople. At one point we had a whole collection of unpublished scripts written by Alberta playwrights, but they are now housed at the Provincial Archives of Alberta due to our space restrictions.

A bookshelf at the Theatre Alberta Library with Shakespeare books

Right now, I am reading You Will Remember Me by François Archambault, translated by Bobby Theodore, and Ben Hur by Patrick Barlow.

In 2020, the first event we are going to take part in is I Read Canadian Day on February 19. The event is really for children’s literature, but hey, Canadian plays need love, too! 

Students at the Theatre Alberta Library

I hope you will enjoy reading about my world in future posts! Come discover the collection and #ReadTheatre!

Images courtesy of Theatre Alberta.

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