Four Favourite Features of Calgary’s Central Public Library

Calgary’s iconic Central Public Library has just celebrated its first birthday.  What a phenomenal year it’s been, both for the library and for the city’s emergence onto the global architectural stage.  With the location having opened its doors to welcome more than a million visitors since opening on November 1st, 2018, the Central Library has secured its place in the city’s East Village as, not only an invaluable resource and enabler to the community, but also a top Calgary tourist attraction.

Here are four fantastic facets that we’ve loved about Calgary’s new Central Library

1. Location and accessibility

Despite living in an outlying neighbourhood of Calgary, we still love to (and make an intentional effort to) visit the Central Library as often as we can, sometimes for no reason other than to just enjoy being there.

I love that we don’t have to deal with the traffic congestion or parking challenges that come with being in the downtown core.  The location in the East Village makes you still feel like you’re downtown without being downtown.  Paid street parking and city parking lots in the East Village is still reasonably readily available and affordable, with visitors needing to walk the equivalent of a few city blocks, at most, to get to the library.

C-Train access from the City Hall station from either the red or blue lines is effortless.  Numerous bus routes pass nearby the location, with stops on 3rd Street SE and 9th Avenue SE. Read more about getting around Calgary here.

There is easy bicycle access via dedicated cycle paths with ample lock up facilities at street level around the building.

Access ramps and elevators for visitors with mobility challenges are also readily available.  Click here for more accessibility information.

To my knowledge, there is no physical barrier as to why one shouldn’t or couldn’t visit the Library.

www.iamcalgary.ca I Am Calgary New Central Public Library
Street view of the new Calgary Central Public Library after opening in November 2018 (corner of 3rd St SE and 9th Ave SE)

The only remaining question is WHY should you visit the Library? Here are some of the reasons why I love to visit.

2. Amenities

Some of our much-loved amenities are:

  • Library staff: There always seems to be a friendly and knowledgeable library staff member nearby willing to answer your questions.  Whether you need answers about library facts, location of resources or access to wifi, just look out for the blue bibbed staffers who will be only too happy to assist you.
  • Library Express: Not too unlike a drive-through, this section of the library literally offers books-to-go.  With new and recommended titles on display and with quick check-out scanners nearby, one can arrive and leave with your loot within minutes.  Library staff display an ever-changing choice of books, media and even art for visitors to easily access, explore and select without the daunting task of having to search for material from the millions of titles on the upper floors of the building.
  • Easy check-out: As long as you have your library membership card, number or government-issued identification with you, check-out from numerous points throughout the building is speedy and literally effortless.
  • Inter-library transfers: In the unlikely event that you couldn’t find your favourite title at the central library, they will most likely be able to locate it for you and have it sent to your neighbourhood library for easy pick-up.  It’s almost like door-to-door delivery!
  • Child-heaven: We constantly gloat at the amazing facilities available to children at the library.  From climbing walls, jungle gyms, slides, quiet reading booths and technology tools, this is heavenly.  So parents, bring your kids here for play dates, particularly as the winter weather drives us indoors!
  • Connectivity: Free Wi-Fi is readily available throughout the building to library members.  You will need to know your membership number and password. Once you’re in it’s free surfing from there on out.
  • Audio, Video and Production Studios: Although I’ve yet to make use of these facilities, it’s an amazing service and facility that the public library offer to the public.  Free reservations are required and can be made online.

3. Kicking Back

  • Seating spots: We love the diversity of working spaces throughout the library.  My go-to spots are the informal seating area near Christian Moeller’s public art wall called FISH on level 3; the Simmons-Harvey Community Living Room on level 4; or the numerous hot-spot stand-up desks located around the Oculus that enable quick connectivity for on-the-go use.
  • Games and entertainment: ask the Library Staff to see the election of board games available for public use.  Alternatively, try out some of the gaming consoles in the Teen Centre on level 3.
  • Lukes Cafe: Settle in at the library for the day knowing that you can enjoy a variety of refreshments from the popular kitchens of Lukes Café.  With two venues available on the premises, visitors are never too far from their favourite (hot) beverage or a healthy snack.

4. Ambience

  • Moods: It’s great to be able to visit the Library and enjoy a bit of ambient noise.  Most levels of the library offer this.  Migrate closer to the kids’ zone for more of a playground feel.  Alternatively, head towards the northern end of Level 1M where you can enjoy the aromas and a coffee shop vibe around Lukes Café.  For those who want morgue-type silence with minimal distractions, you’d do well to isolate yourself in Level 4’s Great Reading Room.  There is no shortage of diverse seating, atmosphere and views from across the different levels of the library.
  • Space: There is oodles of space in this place.  Offering over 286,000 square feet of space, one isn’t short of a variety of locations to lose oneself in a book, study, work on a project, catch up on social media or connect with a friend.
  • Natural lighting: I love that the library space utilizes so much of Calgary’s abundant natural sunlight.  It lifts the mood and creates a very natural feel throughout the building, with minimal artificial lighting required during daylight hours.
  • Art, woodwork and design: I love that the library has incorporated a variety of indigenous, modern and traditional artworks throughout the space.  The use of sweeping surfaces of natural wood that introduce not only beauty but functionality to the expanse enriches the interior.  Finally, the design of interconnected and contiguous areas on each floor and then from level to level via the walkways surrounding the central oculus is brilliant.
The large windows allow for extensive natural light to illuminate the spaces while also affording visitors a variety of cityscape views
The chinook arch-shaped entry way to the library’s main entrance creates a sweeping wooden gateway between the city’s East Village and downtown core
A trio of indigenous murals welcomes guests as you enter through the front doors into the lobby
FISH by Christian Moeller is a mural created by coloured book spines that offer a pixelated look to it from close-up but takes on a captivating art piece when seen from afar

There remains little wonder – and it is a great honour – that Calgary’s Central Library occupies a position in TIME Magazine’s “The World’s 100 Greatest Places of 2019”.  Have you visited our architectural icon yet?  And, if so, what are your favourite elements of the library?

Find out more about Calgary’s exceptional public library system from our previous publication, ‘Putting the “Public” back into Public Library’.

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