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Ottawa Public Library Main Branch: Have your say!

By Jessica Green on March 19, 2015


Jessica Green is a book addict and library card holder since the age of 3. She’s a librarian at the Ottawa Public Library and currently the Apartment613 Librarian-in-Residence, sharing a compendium of literary thoughts and tips.

After the Imagine Campaign run by the Ottawa Public Library back in 2013, it was pretty obvious that many citizens of Ottawa wanted either a major facelift or a completely new building for the Main Branch located downtown on Metcalfe. Many news articles and reports later, it’s looking to become a reality. On March 31, you can get involved in the initial public session being held at City Hall from 7-9 pm through registering here at

If you cannot attend the session in person, you can always join in on the online forum happening at the same time ( And if you miss that, anyone can submit their opinions and suggestions online through April 6, 2015. The webcast will be available for viewing during the entire online submission period. Finally, you can also visit the Main branch from March 21-27 to write comments on idea boards located around the branch.

What should we be hoping for at the new Main Branch? Let’s look at some recent renovations and new builds to see:

Halifax has just opened their new central branch in December 2014 right downtown on Spring Garden Road, the main shopping area of Halifax. It’s a neat building that has a lot of glass and a cantilevered section hanging out over the road. The building (pictured above) is 129,000 square feet, with five storeys and cost $59.7 million dollars. Within those five stories are two cafes, a rooftop terrace, local history collection and Books of Remembrance, a First Nations circle, gaming and IT, a learning lab, plus a creative space and media room. That’s on top of all the books, magazines, newspapers and other items normally found in a library. Scroll down to the twitter feed located in the above link and you can see the neat meeting spaces and other areas all found within the building.

Calgary has just broke ground for their new central branch, so it’s a work in progress but if it looks anything like the pictures in this article, it will be a stunner. This building will be four storeys tall, with 240,000 sq ft housing over 600,000 books, as well as “special programs and spaces for children and teens, a technology commons and laboratory for innovation, a centre that supports inclusive community integration and advancement through skills development” to name but a few elements. They’re building it in what looked like a parking lot with LRT tracks to one end, so that seems like a good re-use of space in the downtown area.

Rendering of Calgary's new central branch.

Rendering of Calgary’s new central branch.


I was a few months too early to see inside the new Main Branch of the Madison (Wisconsin) Public Library when visiting friends in 2013, but it looked really cool from the outside. Opening in 2013, the $30 million expansion upped the area in the building from 95,000 to 120,000 sq ft, and has created a new Children’s space, a comfort room where parents can nurse or calm children, a green roof, a digital media lab and the Bubbler, a Makerspace where you can learn everything from beer brewing to 3D printing to cheesemaking (it IS Wisconsin!). They also incorporated local artists and neat art pieces into the space which is very clever. I don’t know which I like better; the book ends installation or the light up question mark.


All this to say that there are many ideas and things that can exist at a new Main branch. Come out to the public session on March 31st to have your say.

You can join in on the Big Library Read happening from March 17-31st. During this two week period, anyone can download the book Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates on demand (so no waitlists!). The book tells of the “true-life tale of Shakespeare professor and prison volunteer Laura Bates as she teaches about the playwright in supermax solitary confinement, developing a friendship with a brilliant, dangerous convict.” For more information, click here and to download the book, you can click here.

Quick picks:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: A really interesting novel about the end of civilization due to a virulent flu. All the characters are linked together in very clever ways. Very riveting and intriguing.

Working Stiff by Judy Melinek: A memoir of a forensic pathologist who started her training in New York two months before September 11th. If you’re a fan of any police procedural, you’ll enjoy this book.

Flirting with French by William Alexander: It’s a memoir that many of us can empathise with as Alexander attempts to learn French as an adult and has many mishaps along the way. A fun read.