Welcome Gallery in New Central Library
Calgary,  Culture

Inside Calgary’s new Central Library

Welcome Gallery in New Central Library
Visitors will be greeted by this amazing view in the Welcome Gallery when they first enter the New Central Library.

Welcome to the new Central Library! This new icon in Calgary’s East Village area was four years in the making, but it is totally worth the wait when you finally see inside this newly reimagined library. In the digital age we now live in, it may seem like libraries no longer have a place in society. But the new Central Library will offer up so much more than books as it sets itself up to be a truly collaborative community hub to help Calgarians learn, grow, and connect with others. And best of all it is completely FREE for all visitors! Calgarians should be very proud and excited of this world-class facility right here in Calgary.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the beautiful spaces and places that you will fall in love with at the new Central Library.

The architecture of the new Central Library

There’s is much to appreciate in the design of the new building – inside and out.

The Archway leading to the new Calgary library
The wooden Archway also shows a view of two of the TRIO, a public art installation featuring bobbing ‘drinking birds’ outside the building.

To enter the library, you will encounter The Archway. Made of stunning wood panels, and inspired by the chinook arch clouds, this entrance way also acts a pedestrian corridor connecting downtown to the East Village. You will also meet the TRIO, a set of ‘drinking birds’ that will greet you on either side of the building.

The Prow section of the New Central Library
The Prow, apex of the building sits over top an LRT line.

What’s cool is that the library is built over a C-train line! The Prow juts out over the mouth of the Calgary Transit tunnel to create the apex of the building. The first 18 months of building construction was just to encase 150 metres of LRT track with concrete foundation to build the base for the new Central Library. This is quite the engineering feat and the first time this was done to an active LRT line.

Oculus skylight brings in tons of natural light to the new Calgary library.
The Oculus skylight bathes the library in Calgary’s sunny light.

Inside you will find The Oculus, the central skylight that will bring in Calgary’s many bright sunny days.

The Children’s Library

Families will be super excited to explore the 12,000 square feet of space that has been put into the kids area. The Children’s Library will give the youngest of visitors room to explore, nooks to play and read in, spots for storytime, tons of books and even a Nursing Room for parents to use too.

Questionarium learning area
Overlooking the Questionarium learning area.

As you walk through the space, you’ll see each section age up to accommodate different learning stages for kids going from picture books and play areas to full fiction novels and a virtual reality school setup. The Questionarium is for older kids to solve challenges through games, artmaking and more.  Many free Calgary Public Library programs will be made available from baby programs, family storytime to after school programming for kids and teens.

Moms' Stairway in the new Calgary library
Moms’ Stairway offers seating and play space for families.

Among many highlights in this area is the Moms’ Stairway that honours all moms past, present and future. This area connects the inside LUKES coffee shop to the start of the Children’s Library area. Hang out with other parents on the steps while your kids are off playing.

Interested in taking a class at the library but don’t have a babysitter? Not a problem – the Calgary Public Library is piloting a new child-minding service at the new Central Library so parents can drop off their kids as they pursue their own learning opportunities. How great is that!

Children's Library filled with books
The Children’s Library extends 12,000 square feet.
Playground in the kids area
There’s also a playground for the kids to burn off some extra energy. Yes, I am inside the playpen area. No, I don’t have any shame 😛

Public art in the new library

Not that the building isn’t beautiful enough, but the new Calgary library is also home to a variety of public art pieces.

Window inscription new Central Library
Calgarians could make a donation and put their own sayings and quotes on the windows.

Throughout the building, donors were able to provide their own custom inscription to add to the unique window sills of the library. These legacy pieces were a way for Calgarians to make their own mark on the library. I donated and can’t wait to go find my name on the window.

Fish artwork mural
Here fishy fishy

Over 11,000 books were used to put together this custom fish artwork by Christian Moeller. Don’t try to pull a book out (I only know this because I saw someone try. It wasn’t me).

Aboriginal public art
Putting the finishing touches on the artwork.

Beautiful murals are located throughout the building. This piece is three separate works completed by local Aboriginal artists.

3D replica of the new Central Library
“What is this, a library for ants?”

Art exhibits are also located throughout the space. The library’s architect Snøhetta has a limited-run exhibit showing different 3D renderings of the new Central Library.

Technology and meeting spaces at the new Central Library

One of the most important goals of the new Central Library is to make it an inclusive and safe space for all Calgarians to enjoy and visit. There is honestly a space for everyone to enjoy – loud spaces, quiet spaces and everything in between. The new library is providing tons of new programs, resources, and technology in addition to the traditional beloved books. All of this is available with your free Calgary library card!

Tons of seating space lets people hang out
Tons of different seating options are available at the library.

There are over 33 meeting rooms that library cardholders can book for free. A variety of seating spaces are available throughout the building from comfy chairs, hidden nooks and traditional study cubicles. Students and freelancers can rejoice! I see the library being a great meeting space for all kinds of community groups and gatherings moving forward.

Quiet Room
Inside the TD Great Reading Room

For those that love the traditional library feel, the TD Great Reading Room is a designated quiet space where you can find a little peace from the hubbub of the rest of the library.

Lukes coffee shop at the library
Inside LUKES exterior coffee shop.

There are two LUKES café options – one inside the library by the Moms’ Stairway and an exterior restaurant as well. Drinking coffee or eating a snack is allowed in designated areas of the library. Woohoo!

Recording studio and equipment rooms
A green screen inside one of the recording studios you can book for free with your library card.
Digital Learning Lab has tons of computers.
Hop onto one of the 200 public computers available at the library. $5 of free Calgary Public Library printing every month with your library card.

Over 200 computers are available to the public or even borrow a Chromebook to use from the Digital Learning Lab. If you’ve been interested in starting your own Youtube channel or creating your own podcast, the library is making free recording and production studios available with all the equipment, green screens and tech you need to get started. You’ll also find gaming stations and a variety of video games on-site to play to your heart’s content (or until your video game character gets axed).

Performance Hall theatre space
A new theatre space inside the Performance Hall.

The Performance Hall is also a great theatre addition for Calgarians and can be booked for very affordable rates. Priority will be given to not-for-profits who need the space for conferences and other events.

Aboriginal tipi sits on the 4th floor.
Indigenous placemaking at the new Calgary library.

On the 4th floor is where you’ll find Calgary’s Story. The library has pulled out tons of items from their archives to make it more accessible to the public to use and view. You’ll also find workspaces where an artist-in-residence, author-in-residence, and historian-in-residence will be on hand working and sharing with members of the public.  Space is also set aside for Indigenous placemaking and an elders guiding circle  to allow them to set office hours and meet  with members of the community at the library.

If this sounds like a lot going on, I’ve barely scratched the surface at all the different things that will be going on at this new library. It’s truly amazing how many community activities have been jam packed into one building. Visit calgarylibrary.ca to check on hours, activities and upcoming programming.

Irene Seto is a Calgary lifestyle influencer supporting local from all angles.


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