Calgary’s newest library is now open to the public as of November 1, with a weekend of planned events including free city-wide transit on November 3.
The New Central Library is an incredible monument to education and life-long learning in downtown Calgary, with a unique location in the heart of the city.
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Serving as a gorgeous entrance into the currently revitalizing East Village neighbourhood, the library creates a walking path over the C-Train line, which was active 99% of the time during the building’s construction.
The library itself is was built with sustainably sourced resources, and with convenience, service, and Indigenous place-making in mind during the entire construction process. Inspiration from the landscape and Indigenous cultures is evident throughout the building, which also houses artwork from local Indigenous artists.
On the second floor of the library is the 12,000-sq-ft children’s area. Complete with books, toys, an indoor playground. and a free daily story time, this area is a year-round destination for families and caregivers.
The higher you go in the library, the more mature the audience is in mind. You scale the steps and accessible ramps upwards from the children’s area to grade-school students’ books, to areas more dedicated to serious work and research.
Over 220 computers are for public use, including lockers full of Chromebooks available to use for up to three hours — and that’s not where the high-tech resources stop. There are audio and video recording studios available for up to two hours by reservation, complete with all the hardware and software you could ask for… (we’re talking to you, podcasters).
Of course, there are traditional reading places with access to countless books of fiction and non-fiction. On top of that, the library also is home to an accessible archive of Calgary’s history with copies of newspapers and magazines, making it a perfect place for local research.
The purpose of a library
Something that is obvious from the moment you walk into the library is that the role of a library in a community is wider than just a place for the public to read books.
“Libraries have been around for a very long time, but the role of the library has certainly evolved,” said Mary Kapusta, the Director of Marking and Communications with Calgary Public Library.
“There are lots of ways to get information in this day and age but what we do know that people require is accessible, barrier-free places where they can find community hubs.”
This idea is seen everywhere in the library, from the ergonomic design of every room in the building to the indoor playground on the children’s level and the cafe on the ground floor.
“How many places can you go today that are truly free, you can go and be comfortable, sit and learn and develop? Having those spaces is important,” Kapusta said.
“I think if the public knew how many people sit around a table and just dream of ways that we can contribute to your quality of life… That’s what it really comes down to.”
To Kapusta, a library is ultimately a community centre: “A safe and welcoming place for all, a democratic institution, and more importantly it should be fun, innovative and a place where you can go and feel renewed.”
Bill Ptacek, the CEO of the Calgary Public Library, agrees with this idea of a broader purpose for libraries.
“This is a place where people can come together. People from different backgrounds, people from different parts of the city can come together here and enjoy the space in a civil way which is really great,” said Ptacek.
“This is all fuelled by a really important underlying philosophy that we provide free and open access to ideas and information to everybody in the community.”
Ptacek spoke about the current events that are driving curiosity, like Alberta’s desire to diversify the economy, the influx of immigrants from around the world, and the twisting and turning political landscape.
“The library seems like we’re right in the centre of all those things. This building kind of symbolizes that, but whether you’re down south at the Fish Creek Library or up north at the Nose Hill Library you’ll be able to experience that in all of our facilities.”
The New Central Library will be open from 9 am to 8 pm Monday to Thursday, 9 am to 6 pm on Fridays, 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays, and Noon to 5 pm on Sundays.
A full weekend of grand opening events can be enjoyed between Thursday, November 1 and Sunday, November 4.