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Hidden Gems: The New-Look MacOdrum Library at Carleton

By Maksim Apelfeld on November 4, 2014

A few years back, as I was entering my final undergrad year at Carleton University, I had the feeling that I had campus all figured out. After spending three years at a school you tend to know the shortcuts to get across campus in a hurry, the places to go for a cheap meal, and most important of all, the best spots to study. The MacOdrum Library was never on my list of go-to study spots. Though the old library had some cosy areas and a few decent study spaces, it was not up to par with the other buildings on campus, and was usually fairly crowded. With that in mind, I typically set up camp elsewhere, opting for smaller and more comfortable spots in Minto, University Centre and Loeb Building. Aside from that, I found the front of the old library looked oddly-similar to the side of an old cruise ship, with its grey tones and tiny square windows. Not exactly the ideal place to study for your midterms.

MacOdrum Library prior to renovation. Photo from

MacOdrum Library prior to renovation. Photo from


A few years down the road, and following a $27 million renovation and expansion project, it is clear that things have changed at Carleton. The revamped MacOdrum Library was unveiled at the end of 2013. At the centre of the renovations was a contemporary 5-storey, floor-to-ceiling glass facade, bringing natural light into the interior of the building. The focal point of the new glass facade is a wooden helix staircase spiralling up from the ground floor. The side and rear facades have also been retouched with aluminum finishing and exterior shading designed to increase energy efficiency by reducing the need for air-conditioning in the summer months.

New metal facing on the side facade. Photo by Maksim Apelfeld.

New metal facing on the side facade. Photo by Maksim Apelfeld.

On the functional side, the project has added about 75,000 square feet of new floor space housed in the two new East and West wings. Another 35,000 square feet of existing space has been renovated. The result is over 1,000 additional study spaces, including dozens of new group study rooms available to campus patrons.

Space has also been set aside for a special music and concert area on the fifth floor, featuring a piano donated by Hamilton Southam. The addition of new art is also a welcome sight, and should help brighten the library interior and make it a more pleasant space for students and faculty. In the name of maintaining student health & well-being, two treadmills have also been installed in the new Discovery Centre on the fourth-floor. Equipped with study surfaces, the new machines will allow students to catch up on their readings while burning off some stress and those extra calories.

With the addition of a modern new facade, expanded study space, and a ton of interior upgrades, Carleton has transformed it’s outdated library into a new campus gem and re-established it as the go-to place for students.


Maksim Apelfeld is a contributing photographer for Ground Floor Photography, a local, Ottawa-based blog and online print shop, specializing in fine-art photographic prints for home décor.