Sarah McLachlan helps launch musical instrument lending library in Winnipeg

Winnipeggers can now borrow E. Annie Proulx's novel Accordion Crimes from the public library — and borrow an accordion at the same time.

Collection of instruments — available free to those with library cards — expected to grow

Sarah McLachlan signs a guitar during the launch on Friday of the Millennium Library's music lending library. (John Einarson/CBC)

Winnipeggers can now borrow E. Annie Proulx's novel Accordion Crimes from the public library — and borrow an accordion at the same time.

Or take out Günter Grass' novel The Tin Drum and sign out, yes, a drum. Or get E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan … well, you get it.

On Friday, the city announced the launch of a musical instrument lending library at the Millennium Library downtown.

"Music is a big part of our city and now citizens will not only be able to borrow a book on how to play guitar, they can borrow a guitar, and then they can go record themselves in our sound booth. It's just wonderful," said Betty Parry of the Winnipeg Public Library.

The music library is sponsored by Sun Life Financial, which has donated $140,000 and more than 150 instruments, cases, and accessories. Instruments available include guitars, mandolins, violins, portable keyboards and various types of drums.

The music library is sponsored by Sun Life Financial, which has donated $140,000 and more than 150 instruments, cases and accessories. (John Einarson/CBC)

"Music is very powerful and affects the way we think, feel and act, which is why the joy of making music is something every Canadian deserves to experience," said Sun Life's Paul Joliat.

Anyone with a Winnipeg library card can access and borrow the instruments at no charge.

Grammy and Juno-award winning Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan was also on hand to sign and donate a guitar that will be on display at the library.

"I'm here because I believe in the power music has in making all of our lives richer," she said, adding music got her through a "pretty tough" adolescence.

"It gave me an amazing emotional outlet and a lens through which I could kind of make sense of the world. Through music, I found my voice and my purpose."

McLachlan was part of the launch because Sun Life sponsors her non-profit school of music (in Vancouver, Surrey, B.C., and Edmonton, Alta.), which offers free music education to children and youth facing socio-economic barriers.

Sarah McLachlan says music gave her an emotional outlet and a lens through which she was able to make sense of the world. (John Einarson/CBC)

"I believe that we all need music in our lives and of course, with funding being pulled from public school systems for music education and many children with little or no support to learn music, this lending library becomes even more important," she said.

"It opens a door that I don't think ever should be closed. Like knowledge and the many books that grace these halls, that access and opportunity should be available to everyone, allowing young and old, regardless of means, to pursue their dreams and to express themselves."

McLachlan, who was treated along with others in Friday's audience to a pair of performances by teenage musicians from an inner-city music program, raved about their talent.

"Those are both original songs so, at 17, if that's what they're writing, I can't wait to hear what comes next," she said.

"There's always been so much talent in Winnipeg. This is a huge music city and a huge arts city."

Sun Life musical instrument lending libraries have been launched in 11 libraries across Canada. This is the first in Winnipeg.

The Millennium Library also launched a donation drive on Friday, hoping to add to the collection so no one has to wait for an opportunity to play.

All new or gently used guitars, banjos, ukuleles, violins, drums and portable keyboards can be dropped off at the downtown branch or at the Long & McQuade music store on Pembina Highway.

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About the Author

Darren Bernhardt


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories and features. Story idea? Email:


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