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.
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.
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.
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!)
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!
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!