Thursday, March 21, 2019

500 Central Library, Calgary, Alberta, Canada --First Visit

I've been waiting more than three years to visit this library. In 2015 I drove from Minnesota to Glacier National Park by way of Banff. I had planned to visit the Calgary Central library on that trip. It was the 4th of July weekend and I was in Canada because US libraries would all be closed, but I had not reckoned on the famous Calgary Stampede. Traffic (pedestrian and vehicle) overwhelmed me, and my gps was unhappy. So I gave it up and visited the Crowfoot Branch of the Calgary library on my way west.

I learned on that trip that a new Calgary Central library was in the works, and I discovered a web cam that posted new pictures of the construction site at ten-minute intervals. I started following the site and printing screen captures every week or so. My earliest is dated 9/24/2015, and I was fascinated by the encapsulation of the light rail. My most recent is dated 3/16/2017, when enough of the
building was enclosed that there wasn't much to see. But I kept following progress on the library website with vague idea that I would visit when it opened.

At Christmas I learned from a relative with Calgary connections that the library had opened, and I decided that I'd use spring break from the University of Minnesota to make a short trip to Calgary. I arrived with about an hour to spare before an architectural tour, so I wandered around and took the pictures you see here. Today I will return and spend time more systematically, and I will make a second blog entry for this amazing place.

One thing I noticed even before arriving here at the entrance was that everyone is aware of and proud of this library. The young man at Customs, hearing why I was visiting; the shuttle van driver; the parking valet at my hotel; several people who helped me find my way between the hotel and the library...all spontaneously commented along the lines of "That's a great place!"

This three-panel mural was painted in place by three First Nations artists. I learned on my tour that the panels represent past, present, and future. A library staff person said that the figures in the center panel are the artist's wife and child.

I followed a long, curving ramp along one outside wall and eventually reached the children's library. The first thing that caught my eye here was this wall with many ways to look out. The space behind the wall was full of kids and parents having a grand time. Perhaps I'll have another chance to show it.

I sat to rest by these wonderful paintings of dogs, and read an explanation of the project. Local fourth graders "adopted" shelter dogs, learned about "their" dog, and had lessons in empathy and painting. What a wonderful project for the kids and a great chance to draw attention to dogs needing forever homes.

This is a view along the children's library. The windows should look familiar from the exterior picture.

The non-fiction area of the children's library is designated a "Questionarium." A brief exchange with a staff person led me to believe that calling it the "non-fiction area" is not correct; it goes beyond that into interactive stations and much more. The orange boxes here are metal "lockers" that hold books waiting to be discovered.

Here's a self-explanatory activity, encouraging movement and perhaps some discussion of the features at the far end.

Here are two more activity stations, a tower puzzle and a large supply of what I think are Kapla blocks.

A glass wall between two levels of this area boasts an amusing mural that makes the spaces distinct while keeping the sight lines open.

This 400-seat auditorium is in regular use for a variety of programs. I understand that the curtains at the left can be opened, allowing passers-by and audience glimpses of each other. A sound check was underway for a performance that evening.

As the architecture tour ended, we looked up at the oculus over the lobby, a major source of natural light.

And now I will put my shoes on and head back to the library, to wander, take notes and pictures, and get some lunch at Luke/s Cafe. Then I will tackle the next challenge, finding a way to get to the airport for a very early flight, without breaking the bank! Check back with the blog in a couple of days to see what my further explorations found.