John Mansbridge was Selkirk College’s longtime librarian. Photo submitted

Selkirk College librarian’s legacy lives on in the Minto Room

Mansbridge came to the college in 1965 and spent more than three decades as its librarian

The man who named Selkirk College and amassed a large Kootenaiana collection for its library has died at 83.

John Mansbridge came to the college in 1965 from Moose Jaw and spent more than three decades as its librarian. When he arrived, however, the institute was using the provisional name West Kootenay Regional College.

In a book published to mark Selkirk’s 25th anniversary, Mansbridge recalled how inspiration struck.

“I was up skiing at Red Mountain in the spring of 1966 one Sunday with a geologist from Cominco … The sun was hot and while discussing the probems of the world and admiring the scenery we concluded that these were the Selkirk Mountains and that might not be a bad name for the college.”

The following day he suggested it to principal Gordon Campbell, who recommended Mansbridge create a formal proposal.

“This I did using such grand phrases as comparing Selkirk’s new breakthrough in education to the recently completed Salmo-Creston Skyway through the Selkirk Mountains … I likened the road to the development of the college, which was also creating new roads in education, because we were the first community college which involved more than one school board in BC.

“This seemed to go down quite well and a request was made for a more detailed report and of course a critical examination of Lord Selkirk’s background.”

Lord Selkirk’s righteous life checked out and the Selkirk board quickly endorsed the name. Before that point they had considered and rejected such names as Confluence College and David Thompson College.

Mansbridge also began collecting historical material related to the Kootenays, or by Kootenay writers, which “wasn’t a problem, because there wasn’t very much.” This eventually led to a dedicated space for the local collection, known as the Minto Room after the sternwheeler that plied the Arrow Lakes.

Mansbridge received a phone call in 1976 from historian and writer Bruce Ramsey, who found the ship’s old name board in the East Kootenay. It was installed above the door to its namesake room, where it remains.

Mansbridge also obtained grants in the 1980s to create the largest collection of microfilmed Kootenay newspapers outside of Victoria. Under his watch, the college’s archival collection was enriched with major donations from local historian Elsie Turnbull, labour figure Al King, and others.

Mansbridge was born Nov. 13, 1935 in Oxford, England and moved to Canada with his family during World War II. He and his three siblings grew up on the Key Indian Reserve in Saskatchewan.

An avid outdoorsman, he could frequently be found on the local waterline trails, doing maintenance and building new pathways. In 2016, he published a short autobiography entitled 71 Delafield Road.

Mansbridge died at his home in Castlegar on Feb. 11. A funeral service was held Wednesday. He is survived by his children Celia and Chris.

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