The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) has ambitious plans to contribute to Ottawa’s transformation into a world-class city by creating a modern, iconic Central Library that responds to today’s rapidly developing technology, increasing customer expectations, and changing demographics. The initiative is supported by the OPL Board (April 2015) and has been identified as a Term of Council strategic priority by Ottawa City Council (July 2015).
When it opens its doors in 2022, the Ottawa Central Library will be one of a number of new city-building projects and facilities alongside light rail transit: Zibi, Arts Court, and the Innovation Centre – each propelling Ottawa towards realizing its full potential as a G7 capital.
A library for the future, the Ottawa Central Library will be a ‘creative placemaker,” a place that:
- Inspires learning and fosters collaboration from the moment you walk in;
- Sparks curiosity with displays, exhibits, presentations and other visual elements; and,
- Offers many multi-use spaces to connect people.
The Ottawa Central Library will be an innovative and iconic building that will serve as a city-wide service, a local branch and a destination. In the heart of the Nation’s Capital, the architecturally distinct library will be a destination for all residents and visitors to our great city. The potential strategic collaboration with Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is an opportunity for the two institutions to build on shared values to deliver a richer customer experience and offer joint programming and shared services, providing a unique offering in Canada.
Public Engagement Framework
In May 2016, OPL’s Board approved a public engagement framework to build upon the previous public input. This strategic framework is designed to inform the public about the project’s details, as well as to collect feedback and perspectives with respect to:
- Where the Central Library should be built;
- What the Central Library should include; and
- What the Central Library should look like.
These three distinct areas align to key decisions OPL’s Board must make with respect to this project.
The history of the Central Library Project
The Ottawa Central Library has been an evolving opportunity. It is informed by detailed studies, your input, and best practices in libraries across the world.
In November 2012, the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) Board approved modernizing the 40-year-old main library branch located at 120 Metcalfe Street. It appeared at the time this option would result in much needed infrastructure repairs and renewals, improved service and accessibility, and would allow for modern library service delivery.
A preliminary program plan was developed based on current program needs and best practice trends in public library service delivery across Canada. A program plan outlines what activities and functions will be undertaken in a building or space. This program plan identified that the minimum size required to deliver best practice programming in Ottawa was 130,000 square feet.
Several options were studied on modernizing the existing branch. Each was unable to resolve important issues or to add enough space for necessary services. In July 2014, OPL’s Board approved investigating a new build in addition to modernization as a way to resolve all issues and satisfy space requirements. Through the completion of a business case for modernization, it became clear that a new build would cost the same as a full redevelopment of 120 Metcalfe, and offer lower risk and best value for money.
In June 2015 the OPL Board approved a new build as the preferred option for the Central Library. In July 2015, Ottawa City Council approved the Central Library Development strategic initiative in its 2015-2018 Term of Council Priorities.
In January 2017, the OPL Board approved:
- Collaboration with Library and Archives Canada (LAC);
- Size of approximately 216,000 gross square feet (with an estimated 133,000 gross square feet allocated to the Ottawa Central Library);
- Location at 557 Wellington Street, a site owned by the City of Ottawa proximate to Light Rail Transit;
- Procurement through a Design-Bid-Build process; and,
- Approval in principle of the estimated City-funded portion ($99 million) of the total estimated project costs ($168 million, Class D estimates).
The recommendations were approved by Ottawa City Council on February 8, 2017. Next steps are pending Government of Canada approval for the collaboration with LAC, and Council approval of funding sources for the OPL / City portion of the project.