University of Calgary

Libraries Turn New Page

Submitted by tdroden on Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:42.

Libraries Turn New Page

With so many new libraries in the works — Central Public Library and four in the suburbs — it was only fitting that two major conferences on the future of library design take place at the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL).

Libraries Turn a New Page

Bold, Hi-Tech Designs Rule


Rob Adamson, MEDes’89, paces the stage, excited as he tells upturned faces how the bold new Calgary Central Library he’s working on will transform the bustling city’s urban landscape.

“We’re going to build an amazing, 240,000 square foot iconic piece of architecture that all of us in this room will one day be very proud of,” says Adamson, Studio Managing Principal at the architectural firm DIALOG Calgary, at a convention centre hall.

He wears a light blue shirt, dark suit and no tie, a hint of business-casual in a city that prides itself as maverick rather than conventional. As he discusses the $245-million project slated to open in 2018, it’s anything but business as usual for the city’s well-used (second-busiest in Canada and sixth in North America) library system.

Rob Adamson

As print melds with digital, libraries aren’t dying. They’re thriving, rising phoenix-like as iconic city landmarks.

A central public library has a responsibility to be a recognizable building for a city, the Calgary-born architect says after the autumn presentation. “It makes a statement that the library is a significant and important place to go.”

DIALOG is working with Snohetta architects in New York and founding partner Craig Dykers. Norway-based Snohetta also designed the September 11 museum in New York and the library in Alexandria, Egypt.

Building For the Future is Challenging

The new four-storey Calgary Central Library (at 3 St. S.E. and 7 Ave.) will link downtown to the East Village, sink its floor in line with the LRT tunnel, pattern a walkway after a Chinook arch and feature a four-storey central atrium capped by a huge skylight. (The old W.R. Castell Central Library property, nearby at 616 Macleod Tr. S.E., will revert to the city and likely be sold).

It’s one of a handful of striking new libraries being built across Canada that will help put their institutions and municipalities on the cultural map.

The structures are similar in their forward-thinking designs and modernity, particularly acknowledging the use of emerging technologies. Libraries have already changed from go-to places for printed books into multifaceted learning spaces. The new designs invite all kinds of public uses, from enjoying convention spaces to exploring hi-tech research facilities.

At the University of Calgary Designing Libraries third annual conference in September, librarians, architects, planners, designers, technologists and educators toured the state-of-the-art Taylor Family Digital Library. It has received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification and houses 260 kilometres of data cabling that allows speedy access to information.

One of the major challenges when building a new library is trying to plan for game-changing technology and advancements in the future, Tom Hickerson, UCalgary Vice-Provost (Libraries and Cultural Resources) and University Librarian, told the conference.


Adapt With Hidden Features

“Our focus has changed from ubiquitous access to information to the act of knowledge creation itself,” said Hickerson. “Our attention in the library of the 21st century must be on what our users will do with the information and what tools, methods and styles they will employ in this effort.”

Print collections are increasingly being moved into high-density storage, freeing up space within libraries that Hickerson describes as “collaboration spaces, maker-spaces, with great electrical and network connectivity...”

Architects are accommodating these changes in the TFDL, new Calgary Public Library and others, with features such as raised access flooring (imagine it as a kind of inverted attic space), which allows for full connectivity in the building. It is also a very efficient and healthy way to provide heating and cooling.

For the new Calgary Central Library, Adamson says providing raised flooring is a way of designing for the future when technology is changing so rapidly. “It’s a common approach in buildings that may be face with a high degree of change in the future.”

Other Libraries Rising to the Occasion

The nearly $100-million Ridell Library and Learning Centre at the campus of Mount Royal University, planned to open in early 2017, will celebrate the evolution of a library from a traditional, austere facility to digital hub and social collector, according to DIALOG architects John Souleles and Stephanie Yeung.

There will be four new suburban libraries opening in Calgary with construction expected 2016 through 2018, says Calgary Public Library Foundation president and CEO Paul McIntyre Royston. “These are going to be great designs, as Calgarians are appreciating better architecture.” Three of them will be in recreation centres in the city’s northwest (Rockyridge) and southeast (Quarry Park and Seton). The one stand alone new library will be in Symons Valley.

The eight-storey, $112 million Student Learning Centre for Ryerson University in downtown Toronto, planned to open January, 2015, will feature a transparent glass skin that houses a variety of learning environments including technologically rich, barrier-free spaces for study and a bridge connection to the existing library.

Adamson says new libraries require political will and there is a pent-up public demand that is helping to drive the projects. “I think the service offering of libraries is different now and will be in the future. It used to be primarily about books. Now it’s about tech and arts and music and so many other things.” Looking ahead as the new Calgary Central Library rises downtown, Adamson says that while he can’t predict the future, he can plan for it.

“The new library is as future-proofed as it can be.”

by Mike Fisher