5 Things I Loved About Innovative Halifax Central Library

August 8, 2017 | Ab. Velasco

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Halifax Public Library Atrium
The zig-zagging stairs and bridge in the open atrium were quite striking.

As someone who works for a library, I often get inspired by the innovative work of other library and cultural organizations. To be innovative, I think it's important to also look outwards and to learn from the great work others are doing. Like many of my peers, when I travel, I like to visit the local library - jokingly calling it corporate espionage.

My family is currently on an East Coast roadtrip. Today, on a rainy Tuesday morning, we visited Halifax Central Library.

Since it opened in 2014, this modern, innovative, and stunning library has won design awards, was featured on Amazing Race Canada, and is currently #2 of things to do in Halifax on TripAdvisor.

I walked around the library like a tourist, took photos, had ideas sparked about things we could do at TPL, and most fun of all, I experienced a library through the eyes of a new patron.

 

Halifax Central Library
One of several reading lounges with great views of the city.

Modern and Open Design

When Toronto Star architecture columnist Christopher Hume recently wrote about TPL's renovated Albion Branch, he said that "gone are the formality, hushed tones and dimly-lit interiors, replaced by open spaces filled with natural light and comfortable furniture."

Libraries around the world are embracing this design philosophy. Stepping into Halifax Central Library, I immediately loved the openness, the abundance of natural light, the juxtaposition of white walls with bold brightly-coloured walls, the comfortable furniture, the sleek shelving with touchscreen tablets at the ends for catalogue search, well-merchandised library materials, reading lounges, computers bars, funky work spaces, and floor to ceiling glass walls with nice city views.

Standing on the balcony outside the Local History Room, on the 4th of five floors, I admired the open atrium and art gallery-feeling zigzagging stairs and bridges.

 

Halifax Public Library Media Studio
The Media Studio at Halifax Public Library.

Creation Spaces with Technology Access

Public libraries today have or are introducing creation spaces that offer access to emerging technology and training to understand and to use that tech. At TPL, our six Digital Innovation Hubs and six Pop-Up Learning Labs offer tech programs on 3D printing, robotics, virtual reality and more - with more spaces planned for 2018.

Halifax's Media Studio offers access to two acoustically-treated recording studios and six Mac workstations. During my visit, both studios were booked and in use. The staff member I spoke with said that most customers are using the space to record and edit audio, music, podcasts, and more.

 

Halifax Central Library Gaming Station
One of several gaming stations at the library.

Welcoming Spaces for Kids and Teens

The second floor was buzzing with activity. Brightly-coloured and open spaces provide a juxtaposition of a wealth of library materials with program and activity spaces and technology stations.

There's a Make It room that provides a range of low-tech to more high-tech activities for kids. My two-and-a-half year old son got lost in the children's play area, which reminded me of TPL's KidsStop Early Literacy Centres, and quickly claimed a toy truck toy as his own and threw a short tantrum when we took it away to move on with the rest of the tour. *blush*

For teens, there were gaming stations galore. On this rainy summer day, several groups of teens found a welcoming escape inside the library.

 

Halifax Central Library Paul O'Regan Hall
Paul O'Regan Hall programming and rental space.

Programming Spaces For All

Libraries have a long tradition of offering literary, literacy and cultural programs. TPL offers a range of programs for kids, teens, and adults. Adult programs include those held at the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon premiere rental space.

Halifax Central Library's Paul O'Regan Hall located on the main floor is a really lovely programming and rental space - with its wide wooden floor space and stadium-style seating that looks out to an outdoor garden. Even on a rainy gray day, the space was very striking.

 

Halifax Central Library Rooftop Patio
Rooftop patio with great views of the city.

Rooftop Patio with City Views

We ended our tour at the Sunroom on the fifth and top floor. By this time, my son was restless, so I appeased him with a large cookie and water from the second of the two cafes inside the building.

I stepped out to the rooftop patio. Rain was lightly spitting and the sky was gray, but the panoramic view of Halifax was lovely. I could only imagine what a sunny day was like - and I thought about the outdoor reading garden that will be added with the North York Central Library renovation.

There was a couple out on the patio with me. They were visiting from Alberta and I told them I was from Toronto and we shared our mutual admiration for this library.

 

Halifax Central Library Shelving
Sleek shelving with great merchandising of books and touchscreen tablets for catalogue search.

 

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