For Deirdre and Ian Harris, storytelling plays a pivotal role in building community and honouring the lives of ordinary people.

“If you can get kids interested in stories and coming to the Library, it can change their lives,” says Ian, reflecting on one of the first items his parents got for him and his siblings—a library card.

His wife, Deirdre, is equally passionate about reading and libraries, and fondly recalls reading her way through all of the books in the library at small town where she grew up.

When their close friend, Judith Umbach, announced that she was making a legacy gift to the Calgary Public Library a few years ago, it made Deirdre and Ian realize that ordinary people can commit to make a gift in their will—legacy gifts aren’t only for multimillionaires.

“We considered many different charities. In the end, we felt a gift to the Library has the potential to benefit every Calgarian,” says Ian. “Libraries provide accurate information and facts in a world that is full of misinformation. Today, the Library is more important than ever.”

As a former Calgary Public Library board member, Deirdre is familiar with the Library’s mission, “Inspiring Life Stories.” With the naming of the Williams & Harris Shared History Centre, Deirdre and Ian are delighted to offer Calgarians the opportunity to share those life stories.

Today, the Williams & Harris Shared History Centre features several special collections of images and maps of Calgary and Southern Alberta’s history, which Calgarians and members of First Nations can access with a free Library card.

The Williams & Harris Shared History Centre at the new Central Library will invite Calgarians and visitors to contribute to our city’s shared history, complete with technology to capture and share stories, an old-media lab, and programing to facilitate and enhance these contributions.

”Deirdre and I wanted to honour our parents and their stories, because their history is our history—the history of Calgary,” says Ian. “Everyone has a story. Regardless of where you’re from, or what year it is, everyone has a story that deserves to be recorded and kept. The Williams & Harris Shared History Centre will make it possible for all citizens to record and make their stories accessible to build on Calgary’s rich history.”

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