Inside Calgary’s New Central Library

The new four-level library in East Village has a 12,000-square-foot children’s library, a cafe and restaurant, a performance hall and more. Oh, and lots and lots of books.

Photograph by Alana Willerton.

After four and a half years of construction, Calgary’s new Central Library officially opens in East Village on November 1.

Spanning 240,000-square-feet, the new Central Library establishes itself as an architectural marvel before you even step inside. The building was built over an active LRT line, which took almost a year and a half to encapsulate at the beginning of construction. Then there’s its curved, ship-like shape, which is covered in nearly 500 hexagonal panels and is accented by features like a beautiful western red cedar archway and three outdoor public art sculptures.

Bookworms will find plenty to love inside the new building too, like the 12,000-square-foot children’s library on the first floor, the beautiful fourth floor reading room and the library’s collection of nearly half a million items. But the space also goes far beyond what you might expect of a library — the new Central Library features free recording and production studios for audio and video projects, a performance hall, 30 meetings rooms that can be booked for free, several pieces of public art, a cafe, a restaurant, lots of free programming and more.

Check out the new Central Library in all its glory during the grand opening celebration on November 1 or swing by for some of the special programming taking place over opening weekend. On November 3, you can even take advantage of free public transit to get there. You can also learn more about the library in general and/or the new building’s architecture on one of the opening week tours.

Central Library, 800 3 St. S.E.,


Take a look inside the new Central Library

The stunning Oculus skylight bathes the building’s main lobby in natural light. At the top of this first set of hemlock stairs is one of the Indigenous Placemaking art pieces that are displayed in the library. Artist Lionel Peyachew created the metal sculpture by using words in Indigenous languages to form the shape of a buffalo. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


Watch your returns take a ride on the library’s “bookscalator,” a system that takes books and other returned items up through the ceiling, to the second floor and into the sorting room on a conveyer belt. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


Just past the main entrance is an area called Create Space, which features interactive activities. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


Gareth Lukes of Lukes Drug Mart and chef Eric Hendry (formerly Bar Von Der Fels’ executive chef) teamed up to offer two dining options in the library. This small cafe is located on the first floor just before the children’s library and serves baked goods, coffee and eventually soft serve. There’s also a casual Lukes restaurant that you can access from the exterior of the building that offers breakfast and lunch/dinner options like porridge, brown rice congee, sandwiches and more. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


Spread across 12,000 square feet of the first floor, the children’s library was created with both children and their parents in mind. This area is home to a nursing room, stroller parking, a play structure, seating areas like the Moms’ Stairway, an activity area called Questionarium and program rooms. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


One cool feature in the children’s library is this play structure that features a bouncy floor and fun elements like a mini climbing wall area, a bridge and nets. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


Further into the children’s library, you will find activities and games at the Stream Station and an area called the Questionarium. The latter is a new feature being tested at the Central Library. The Questionarium currently has an underwater theme, but that will be switched out for a new theme every three months. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


A look between the stacks of the fiction section on the second floor. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


This art piece on the third floor was created by Christian Moeller, who also created the three public art pieces outside the library. The piece is made with 11,000 custom bound books to create the image of a fish. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


Bar seating runs along some of the library’s inner walls, giving you a view of the skylight and architecture while you work. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


The library’s teen area features some unique seating options, a space for gaming and a stage that can be used for live performances. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


Visitors can take advantage of 220 computers around the library. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


Spaces like this digital learning lab focuses on promoting digital literacy. On the wall, there’s a locker where you can use your library card to rent out a Chromebook for up to three hours. These can then be taken anywhere in the library to use. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


If you need some quiet work or reading time, grab a seat at one of the custom white oak tables in the stunning TD Great Reading Room on the fourth floor. Be sure to check out the book displays in the entryway and along the walls of the room before you leave. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


The fourth floor is also home to the Elders’ Guidance Circle, the offices of the artist and historian in residence, a vintage media lab, a digital story studio and an interfaith room. The current artist in residence is Nicole Wolf and the current historian in residence is Kevin Allen. Photograph by Alana Willerton.


The fourth floor also features the Central Library’s archives. Look for the shelves marked “Calgary’s Story” to learn more about the city’s local history in books and old newspapers or check out the digital display called “Living History: Glimpses of Our Past.” Photograph by Alana Willerton.

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