Library Love

From halifaxpubliclibraries.ca

From halifaxpubliclibraries.ca

It’s not too often I post about what I’m doing on any given day. But today was remarkable! Our fine city has opened its new Central Library which was in the works for 4 years. I must point out I had absolutely nothing to do with the planning, building and opening of the library. I am just commenting as a citizen! And of course, all of us librarians are library users, too.

Photo: halifaxpubliclibraries.ca

Photo: halifaxpubliclibraries.ca

The new library is a stack of glass boxes. Do you know how much I love modern architecture? Inside, 3 of the 5 floors are mezzanines connected to each other by bridges and stairs. The top and bottom floors each have a café with gorgeous Italian coffee. One overlooks a busy intersection and the other is cantilevered out over the street and provides views of our historic citadel and the nearby harbour.

Pristine library before opening day

Pristine library before opening day

Art by Cliff Eyland Photo: halifaxpubliclibraries.ca

Art by Cliff Eyland
Photo: halifaxpubliclibraries.ca

Detail

Detail

Central Library is filled from top to bottom with things that draw you in. The first thing you see is a colourful mosaic wall. Coming in for a closer look, it is an art piece made up of thousands of tiny paintings the size of catalogue cards. (The installation is by Cliff Eyland). The far end of the first floor has a professional theatre space. Library geeks will watch the conveyor belt that brings your returns from the outdoor book drop to the automated sorting area! Floor 2 is for kids and teens. It flows together so that 8-12 year olds can place themselves anywhere along the continuum. Both ends of Floor 2 have video gaming and computers. What I love about Floor 2 is all the hands-on stuff! The kids’ area has a Lite Brite wall, LEGO and Duplo tables, and fun foam furniture that you can tumble around on. The teen area has a creative lab and recording studio. The staff are exceptionally cool and they’ve created a “maker space” vibe that somehow includes everything from iPads to 3D printing to knitting to making comics.

Very quiet before opening!

Very quiet before opening!

And...not so quiet! (Photo: the chronicleherald.ca/metro)

And…not so quiet! (Photo: the chronicleherald.ca/metro)

Floors 3, 4 and 5 are geared to grown-ups with all of our books, CDs, DVDs, study spaces and meeting rooms and computers. There are areas for literacy and language learning, cultural displays, local history research, author readings and events. I am not sure which I like best: the mix of places to socialize and the tucked-away quiet reading nooks; or the ranges upon ranges of gleaming new books, far surpassing our previous selection. I am always in a tizzy about what to read next and this will not help! I can actually see myself going here when I am not working in my own library. It feels like a vast, sunny plaza in which to bask in books and leisure (or in higher education and enlightenment, if you wish!)

Customers on opening day not using the self-check machines! (Photo: globalnews.ca)

Customers on opening day not using the self-check machines! (Photo: globalnews.ca)

People I know have two questions for me. They want to know if the library system will keep all its local branches and the answer is yes. Not everyone likes or is able to travel downtown, and I will be keeping my job in the suburbs! They also want to know, given all the new technology including self-check machines and automatic sorters, if staff will lose their jobs. Resoundingly no: the library has added over 60 new jobs at Central, and is freeing up staff from repetitive tasks so they can be out in the library assisting customers  all the time: whether it is teaching teens how to use the media studio or running through the workings of the theatre space, or all the things we did before, like setting up your iPad with Overdrive so you can borrow free e-books, or suggesting what you should read next when you’re up-to-date on your Sue Grafton mysteries. Oh, and 27 new staff were hired for the cafés!

Many more books!

Many more books!

Some people are wistful and ask me if the ultra-modern space is soulless. It is anything but. The whole thing is built for personal interactions. Or they joke, “Do you still have books?” Yep, 50% more than before. I have been in the new library 3 times this week including its grand opening this morning, and I will probably spend the next few months touring everyone I know through it. Now you know where to find me!

30 comments

  1. Dar, what an amazing library, I would find a way to be there a couple times a week just for the views and all that light, well plus more books than I have had at any library around me in many years.

    I like the idea of the library rather than Starbucks being where people can hang out and having that right in the library will make that happen.

    • The old library was crowded, had few places to sit and nowhere to charge your phone or laptop. Magnitudes of difference! The staff here are really, really happy that a local independent coffee shop won the contract for the cafe service.

  2. Fiona

    Right, that’s it – we’ve moving to Halifax! I wouldn’t be able to drag my 10 year old away from such a great facility (or myself!) What a great mix of services to attract people, not just to the library but presumably to the whole surrounding area. It sounds so appealing to sit in the ‘harbour view’ café – complete with good coffee and a book! How exciting – it must be a very dynamic library system to work in!

    • I didn’t post any pix of the kids and teens area (didn’t want to post anyone else’s kids and teens!) but I hope I will be able to link to some later. It really has the feeling of a place kids go to “do” things. It would be great to relax with coffee and a good book in a sunny spot. Too bad you can’t bring a cat 🙂 Please do come to Halifax. You might want to pass on January, though!

  3. Fiona

    Oh – I just typed ‘Halifax Central’ into my Overdrive and up came the collection (a mere 17,500 km away!) I love your French ebook / audio book collection!

  4. I like the new digs. Very creative feel inside and out.

  5. Alice

    Wow! That’s a masterpiece of modern architecture! All these facilities sound to be terrific and so many new jobs, too! It will be the city’s landmark or not? It’s really amazing! You are so lucky!

  6. That looks amazing! And the kids floor sounds perfect. How lucky you all are to have such a great place to visit.

  7. Whoa! I am so impressed. All different kinds of libraries appeal to me but I can see this one holding a special level of interest for kids and teens! And even better that this project has resulted in more jobs 🙂

  8. Wow what an amazing library!! While I like little, old cozy libraries of yesteryear, I think it is important to “keep up with the times” and move libraries into the future in order to draw in new users and keep up with the latest in technology because all learning is good learning! Plus I am envious–while we have a great library system in Las Vegas, none of have cafes in them and cafes seem to just go with books. I will definitely add “go to Halifax library” to my bucket list!

    • I like the “idea” of little old cozy libraries, but in real life, they usually leak or have no elevators or not enough electrical outlets or have outdated books and technology. I am surprised you don’t have library cafes! Please do come to Halifax for a visit; we can meet up!

  9. Wow! Much as I like old buildings, this is a modern masterpiece. How wonderful to have such a library to visit!

  10. Oh wow, how lucky you are to have such a fabulous library. A good library is on my of “must haves” when researching potential living locations. Are you able to reach this central branch easily from home?

    This sounds good too doesn’t it?

    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2014/dec/07/taipei-bookshop-eslite-tourist-attraction

  11. That library is BEAUTIFUL! I love the minimalism and clean lines in the architecture. Also love the art. Wow. I wouldn’t mind studying in there. ^_^

  12. Yay! After all that hard work, it is done and looks great! Like the wall of writing books!

  13. Ginger R

    Wow! I love how libraries are reinventing themselves to keep up with the times. I would love to be in the teen area with the creation activities. Coffee bar? I’m there. The architecture is absolutely wondrous. Now – I want to come visit.

  14. What a beautiful library! It is uplifting to see, in this era of user pays and economic rationalism, such a magnificent public structure and for a library, not for a council or parliament or bureaucratic office.

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