Over the years many stories are told about the difficulties encountered in the establishment and maintenance of a French bookstore that could serve the many small francophone communities scattered all over the province.
In 1898, things seemed simple enough. Franco-Albertans could buy their French books at M. Bossange’s store in Edmonton. As of 1909, M Peters carried a good assortment of French authors. Years later, in 1934, M Pigeon’s store on Jasper Avenue sold the French books that were used to teach French in Alberta and Saskatchewan but that were not found in the Alberta Book Store because they were not authorized by the Department of Education.
In 1946, however, M. Pigeon closed his store and left the Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (ACFA) scrambling to find ways of filling the gap. The Libraire française de l’ACFA was quickly organized but it offered a very limited service. The Association des éducateurs bilingues de l’Alberta (AEBA) who kept an eye on French education in Alberta (by ensuring program development and evaluation etc.) offered a helping hand but neither the ACFA nor the AEBA had the necessary ressources.
In 1960, the Montreal based Fides opened a store on Jasper Avenue and 115th street. The members of the community were very pleased, but their happiness was short-lived. On December 20th 1963, Fides informed the ACFA that they would close the store at the end of the month. The ACFA quickly organized a committee that was reponsible for the establishment of the Librairie Schola Bookstore Limited. Schola seemed to meet the needs of the community for a few years but unfortunately it was not a long-term solution. The store closed its doors in 1967.
The members of the Franco-Albertan community were at a loss. In 1973, they decided that a mobile cultural center would be the best way to ensure access to French reading material in all of the Franco-Albertan communities. The Centre culturel mobile would not only offer a selection of books but also a variety of other cultural products. Unfortunately the bibliobus that had been purchased was often prone to mechanical breakdowns and was vandalized on many occasions.
Meanwhile, the Caisse Francalta, the French Credit Union, accepted to store the ACFA book. This marked the beginning of a new bookstore. In 1975, this new venture already carried a selection of several thousand books and three hundred French records. Officially named Le Carrefour in 1977, the business operated a store in Edmonton as well as many small services throughout the province.
The following year, the Carrefour moved its main store to a new location on 109th street. In 1983, the store moved a few doors down from its previous location on 109th street. In 1991 the store moved to Centre 82 on Whyte Avenue. Meanwhile the branch store opened in Calgary in 1979 and the many small services located throughout the province were closed.
In 1996, la Librairie le Carrefour Bookstore was amongst the first tenants of the new City francophone. In order to answer the needs of the various Franco-Albertan communities, the Carrefour organizes several annual book fairs called Les Salons du Livre. The Carrefour is now known for its excellent selection and its staunch support of Franco-Albertan artists.