By Junelle Mah
The University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and Camrose community came together on Wednesday, February 13 to open the new Nordic Ski Library, named in honour of Garry (Gibber) and Dorothy Gibson. The dedication was celebrated as a “Tea and Ski”, where, in true Gibson fashion, stories and beverages warmed up the crowd while a hearty handful of students, staff and faculty took to the trails post-ceremony for a brisk -17-degree celsius loop in honour of the day.
The cross country ski lending program is the first of its kind in Canada, according to Augustana Interim Head Librarian Katherine Koch, and is a multi-department collaboration between Augustana’s Campus Recreation program, Student Life department and the Library. The Dr. Garry & Dorothy Gibson Nordic Ski Library allows Augustana students, staff and faculty the opportunity to borrow classic cross country skis, boots and poles in the same manner as they would check out a library book.
“Our values at the University of Alberta Augustana library include collaboration, inclusivity, innovation and service,” said Koch. “What a great opportunity to collaborate with athletics and create the first Nordic Ski Library in Canada.”
The initial concept of a winter gear lending library began a few years ago. Augustana’s dean, Allen Berger, sought an opportunity to encourage the community to take part in a more active winter lifestyle, which married well with Augustana’s rich Nordic ski history and prime location on the edge of 16 km of groomed ski trails. Funds were raised to purchase 20 full sets of equipment, plus an additional ten sets of poles and ten pairs of boots—which are currently being stored in old library card catalogue cabinets. The capital was made possible through a grant provided by the U of A Dean of Student’s office, multiple donors through Augustana’s November 2018 Giving Tuesday event and the generous matching donation from former U of A Protective Services Sergeant Tony Thomsen.
In his dedication speech to the Gibsons, Berger spoke of the passion and dedication to recreation and lifelong fitness Gibber and Dorothy have given the Augustana and Camrose community for over 40 years. In 1973, Gibber helped develop Augustana’s biathlon and cross country programs, and in 1976 he developed the outdoor education program based on his research to complete his PhD in physical education. Dorothy worked hard to manage and support athletes and teams every step of the way, in every capacity one could imagine. This dedicated duo’s hard work and generosity continue to extend to the students of Augustana through student awards, recreation and athletics, chaplaincy and outdoor education, just to name a few.
As the program is in its initial season, this lending library is currently only available to Augustana students, staff and faculty. All participants must attend a short, one-time-only orientation session with Campus Recreation staff to size their gear and learn the basics of trail safety and etiquette. Campus Recreation and the Vikings Nordic Ski Team also provided opportunities to learn or brush-up on their cross country skills through their weekly “Learn to Ski” programs and informal ski meetups throughout the year.
For more information on the Augustana Ski Library, please visit the Augustana Campus Recreation website.