New Central Library opens in East Village with four-day celebration

The new Central Library will literally (and literary-ily) be an open book this week, as the long-awaited new building opens its doors to the public.

To celebrate the occasion, the Calgary Public Library will showcase the East Village location with a series of events, including special guests – author and astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield, Calgary’s own Tegan and Sara – along with tours of the stunning facility, live music, food trucks and an introduction to the branch’s regularly scheduled programming, such as free story time and a tech lab.

But the star will be the building itself, 240,000-square feet of gorgeous architecture and design geared towards making it a welcoming place for the community to gather, experience and learn. It has more than 30 free community meeting areas, a performance hall, outdoor plazas, a 12,000-square foot children’s library, dedicated teen spaces, recording studios and, of course, lots and lots of books – 450,000 of them.

“We’re so eager to see what the public thinks,” says Mary Kapusta, the library’s director of communications. “This is your Central Library. We want to challenge what you think of as a library. There is lots to discover.”

The week kicks off on Thursday, Nov. 1, with the grand opening (official ceremony at 10 a.m.), an all-day event with live music that includes Indigenous drummers and dancers, the Calgary Jazz Orchestra, Oliver Miguel, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Pop-Up Opera. Activities range from demonstrations by Telus Spark, a selfie station, balloon installation, Pied Piper story time with Dan the One-Man Band, Poems on Demand, Tech Mentors and a demonstration of how to create moccasins.

And that’s just the first 10 hours.

Kapusta says opening week will showcase everything the library has to offer – which is so much more than books.

“It’s the idea of a hub. It’s a gorgeous building but it’s so much more than a building,” she points out. The design of the Central Library and what’s available inside is the result of everything learned as other branches opened around the city, especially from the people who use them every day.

“When you see the incredible architecture, you’ll understand how the design is informed by what Calgarians’ needs are and what the system has taught us, across the community libraries,” she adds. “We have free story time every day, great workspaces, you can grab a coffee from Luke’s and use the free wifi.

“And, of course, we have great collections.”

Thursday’s opening night will feature a presentation from Hadfield, author of The Darkest Dark and former commander of the International Space Station, that, apologies, is already sold out.

On Friday, Nov. 2, the Calgary Library Foundation is hosting the Lit Gala fundraiser. Hometown faves Tegan and Sara are the keynote speakers and will also perform a short acoustic set. The money raised at the event will provide enhancements for the library system, including the launch of a Spotlight Speaker series featuring world-class thought leaders.

On Saturday, to ensure as many people as possible get a chance to experience the new library and the Opening Family Fun Weekend, public transit will be free from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the cost covered through donations to Add In – the Campaign for Calgary’s Library.

During the weekend, guests will enjoy free programming and tours, along with some of the activities available on Thursday, along with balloon artists, a Giant Lite-Brite, Virtual Reality and an Interactive Science Exhibit by the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. See the full schedule here.

Kapusta expects 40,000 people to come experience the new library over the opening weekend, including 10,000 on opening day. Over the course of the year, they’re expecting two million people to walk through the doors and experience everything the new Central Library has to offer.

Central Library opening week:

  • Thursday, Nov. 1: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., grand opening celebration with opening ceremony, live music, free tours and remarks from special guests.
  • Friday, Nov. 2: Calgary Public Library Foundations’ Lit Gala with keynote speakers Tegan and Sara.
  • Saturday, Nov. 3 and Sunday, Nov. 4: Opening Family Fun Weekend, with free programming, tours, live music, craft stations and more.

(Photo of Tegan and Sara courtesy Pamela Littky,)