OPL The library is coming! The library is coming!, Councillor Jan Harder, City of Ottawa

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OPL The library is coming!  The library is coming!, Councillor Jan Harder, City of Ottawa

The main branch of the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) that is currently on Metcalfe Street will be changing locations and expanding to become a 21st-century space that is worthy of its role in a city such as ours.  The Metcalfe site is no longer modern or spacious enough to accommodate the multifaceted uses that modern libraries serve today.

Early last year, Council approved a partnership with Library and Archives Canada (LAC) to create a joint facility that will house both OPL’s main branch as well as the LAC.  The site location is at 557 Wellington and space will be shared between the two institutions.  The OPL will have 216, 000 sq. ft. and the remaining 133,000 sq. ft. will house LAC.  The two institutions will share some common spaces that allow a better integration of services, be more cost-effective and create a multi-use space that will provide meeting spaces both indoors and out.

The estimated cost at this time is $174.8 million and as it is a shared building, funding will be split between the City and the Federal Government according to the square footage each respective institution occupies.  At the last federal budget, the government agreed to fund the LAC portion.  The cost-sharing arrangement means the City portion is $104.2 million (to be funded by the City and OPL) with the Federal portion at $70.6 million.  Careful financial planning has taken place and all of this can be accommodated without increasing taxes.

OPL and city staff have been working diligently on choosing a site and design that will be both centrally located and visually representative of our City.  Its location was chosen for its proximity to public transportation; the future Pimisi LRT station will be 300 metres away, and improved pedestrian and cycling networks will encourage visitors to leave their cars at home and lessen the stress on the roads. The City will operate a parking garage that will accommodate those who need to use their car.  Parking spaces will be limited to encourage the use of alternative methods like cycling, walking and public transit.

The beauty of institutions sharing a space is that it allows for a larger venue both inside and outside.  The OPL and LAC will be sharing outdoor grounds where both programs and activities will take place; meeting spaces; a café; large areas that can accommodate meetings and events; and an exhibition space to highlight the vast collections of both organizations.

The timeline for this huge project is set to begin this fall when the building designer is chosen. The actual building process is to commence in early 2019.  The projected date of completion is slated for the end of 2024.

As past Chair of the Ottawa Public Library Board, I am truly thrilled to see this vision come to fruition.  The traditional view of a library as simply a book-lending place is outdated and this new institute will be a reflection of the new role that a library serves in our society.  From lending books to laptops and musical instruments, from research to a hobby, from the public to the private, this unique space will accommodate all of Ottawa’s educational, cultural and social needs.

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