This spectacular geometric structure of four stacked glass boxes is Halifax’s new flagship library and since opening in 2014, it’s been causing a stir.
Among many accolades, the building won the Governor General's architecture medal and made finalist for the World Building 2015 award at the World Architecture Festival.
Most recently, the Halifax Central Library made Wired magazine’s list of the 10 most beautiful libraries on earth.
But the striking architectural design is just one of many innovations you’ll find here. Sharon Haley-Mancini, Branch Manager, took some time to tell us about the inspiring developments unfolding inside the library.
“Halifax Central Library, like many contemporary public libraries, was designed to be a community hub,” she explained. “The image of a place where you’ll find the librarian with her finger raised to her lips is one of the past. Libraries are open, more sensitive to ever-changing needs of communities, and they present a feeling of freedom and welcome.”
The new library is the embodied vision of a public space that could serve as a venue for community gathering, entertainment, learning, and also as a quiet retreat.
For bookworms, the library is still the place where you go to get books. And with 156,000 square feet of space, the Halifax Central Library now has more room than ever to house all of the classics and new bestsellers a reader might desire: With the expansion, they were able to grow their book collection by 40%.
“I do believe books are integral to libraries,” said Haley-Mancini, “but we have many hearts that keep us going.”
For Haley-Mancini and her colleagues, libraries are “launching points for great ideas.” And while, for a long time, books reigned as “the primary source of inspiration and imagination,” that just isn’t true in a multimedia world.
So, in addition to more books, the Halifax Public Library has more room for…well, everything.
“Today we also have apps on iPads, recording equipment in media studios, spaces for small and large social gatherings and exchanges, and auditoriums for entertainment and expression,” said Haley- Mancini.
On any given day at the library, there might be patrons producing a recording in the media studio while other visitors enjoy a symphony concert in the auditorium. Students are tucked away in quiet corners with their studies, undisturbed by the bustle of children exploring the youth floor or honing their tech skills in the designated programming spaces.
> Auditorium – Featuring 300-seats auditorium with collapsible bleachers, this space allows the library to provide a variety of free public entertainment.
“We have had stand-up comedy performances, theatre performances, large concert performances as well as some very high profile speakers including Romeo Dallaire and His Excellency Governor General David Johnston,” according to Haley-Mancini.
> Media Studio – Here, visitors or small groups can record and edit music, videos, and images. People are welcome to bring in their own instruments or equipment, or they may borrow items from the library.
> “The Sun Room” – A cozy café on the building's fifth floor provides stunning views of the city, with access to a rooftop garden area. There is an additional café on the library’s main floor.
> Environmental sustainability – LEED Gold certification from the Canada Green Building Council was awarded to the library for incorporating energy and water saving design features such as rainwater harvesting for flushing water, computerized building management, use of local species in landscape design, and automatic lighting control. Low-emission interior finishes have been used to improve indoor air quality, and a green housekeeping policy seeks to reduce exposure to contaminants.
This new Halifax Central Library was designed with the current age in mind, and with an eye to the future.
“In the upcoming years, this spirit of reflective inclusion will continue to grow and transform,” said Haley-Mancin. “You will see it in increased collaborations between community and library staff and in the new technology we embrace and share.”
She added, “By seeing our relationship with our communities as interdependent, we will always be ready to adapt to their needs and to help them meet their futures.”