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The new Calgary Central Library’s first six months

For the past almost six months, Calgary’s new Central Library has been one of the city’s most popular hangouts.

Since its opening on Nov. 1, 2018, roughly 825,000 people have passed through the four-story building’s doors, said Sarah Meilleur, the director of service delivery at Calgary Public Library.

“We’re anticipating two million visitors this year. And I think we’re on track to hit that,” she said.

There’s been a buzz about this place among Calgarians of all age. In its short lifetime the new Central Library has attracted more than 30,000 new members, and nearly half a million books have been checked out since the grand opening. During the spring break between six and seven thousand people daily visited this new architectural phenomenon in Calgary.

“The community loves their new library and is flocking here. We are busier than ever on the weekends. The old library used to be quiet and sleepy on the weekends, and this place is a going concern,” Meilleur said. 

Compared to the old library, the new one has drawn more than double the visitors and offers nearly double the programs.

“People’s response to the library is more than we’d ever dreamed.”

The kids’ area is one of the most used services that the library provides. It’s particularly “a hive of activity” during the school professional development days. The teen area’s popularity has also been an unanticipated but pleasant surprise.

“Fridays after school, there can be up to 100 teens hanging out at the library, which is a pretty great place for them to be, and they’re having a great time, too,” Meilleur said.

During these past six months, the new library has been one of the main tourist destinations in Calgary. In the past February, the new Downtown library hosted the 7thWinter Cycling Congress, where experts from around the world gather to discuss making cycling a year-round activity in cold climate cities.

This new Calgary attraction has also faced some challenges in its first months. Being located over a curved LRT line made the accessibility to the building difficult for those with mobility challenges. But the growing communications and efforts in improving the pathways and making changes in the building has gradually improved accessibility.

At Central Library there’s also been a big focus on Indigenous placemaking here and creating a welcoming space for Indigenous communities.

Elders Guidance Circle is a space where people from the community, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, can come in and meet one-on-one and talk with elders.

“People are having really intimate, wonderful learning experiences, which is so important as we all move forward on our path towards reconciliation,” Meilleur said.

The Central Library has brought national and international attention to Calgary making the city one of the most desirable destinations for the year 2019.

Calgary Public Library is planning to maintain this popularity by offering a variety of programs many of which are launching in the next coming months.