The new Central Library of the Calgary Public Library is bright, creative, inspiring, and simple. It’s filled with open spaces, jaw dropping art and architecture, and filled with so many nooks and crannies, you’ll discover a new favourite place each time you visit.

Me and my sons were invited to an exclusive tour before the grand opening (Treaty 7 artists were still brushing on the murals at the front entrance).  Here’s a peek at what you can expect when you visit the Calgary Public Library’s Central Library.

Central Library Exterior. Photo by George Webber.

Calgary Public Library Central Library
800 3 Street SE, Calgary, Alberta, T2G 2E7
Directions and more info at


The Oculus is the central skylight celebrating Calgary’s bright sunshine that streams through the entire library.

The Archway uses red wood cedar (bent to mimic Calgary’s chinook arches visible from this entrance) sourced from BC to double as a pedestrian passageway between City Hall and the East Village.
The Curtain Wall features more than 460 hexagonal panels around the outside with numerous windows streaming light in from every angle and giving peaks into downtown and the East Village.
The Prow Community Living Room. Photo by Neil Zeller

While the old central library was dark and gloomy (brutalist design will do that), this new Central Library of the Calgary Public Library is open and inviting across every floor.

Calgary’s downtown feels cut off from the East Village. With rail lines, City Hall, and the C-Train cutting across the core of the city, the new Central Library acts as a bridge between the East Village and downtown.

The biggest hurdle for the project was building the library over and around an existing transit line. They spent 40,000 labour hours to encase 150 metres of LRT track with 53 roof panels before any of the library construction would start above.

The Oculus, The Prow, The Archway, and The Curtain Wall are all unique features that bring this architectural gem to life.


More than 11 000 cloth bound books make up Christian Moeller’s art installation “Fish.”

Window Seat. Photo by Neil Zeller.

On our pre-opening tour, there was the requisite over-dressed glammed instagrammer taking whimsical photos with her tripod at the large windows of The Prow and along the tall Moms’ Staircase (named by one of the benefactors after the small library their mother would keep under their stairs).

There are angles and curves and images to be taken everywhere. From the chinook arch inspired look of The Archway, to looking up in the front lobby, to looking down from the top, to spotting the Calgary skyline through the windows.

You may be coming here to learn, get a book or do some research, but you’ll want to bring your camera.


The vintage reading room on the top floor is a modern throwback to classic, thoughtful study spaces.

Libraries in 2018 are so much more than books. There are special and thoughtful touches throughout Calgary’s new Central Library that will have you smiling and saying “wow!”

There are artists in residence, authors in residence, and historians in residence. There is a cafe where you can have a coffee, some ice cream, a snack, and yes, even a tipple – in the library!

Now if you do need to study and get some quiet time, the reading room on the top floor is where you can find a quiet nook, dig deep into some research, and even explore vintage pieces from the library’s collection.


Teen Gaming Center. Photo by Neil Zeller.
There are a series of video and audio suites (along with editing rooms) where you can record podcasts and shoot videos complete with green screen!
The main floor Create Space features vintage typewriters.

Yes, there are books in the Calgary Public Library’s Central Library (we’ll get to that below), but my sons’ eyes lit up when they walked into the gaming area.

There are large screens with video game consoles attached near The Prow inviting kids to play together. There’s a collection of old school board games off to the side if you prefer it to be more analog.

Then around the corner are the multimedia suites where you can record a podcast, edit your vlog, or film something magical using a green screen. Your Calgary Public Library card can get you access to online media like audiobooks, music, and movies. You can also go online with your card and learn through, Rosetta Stone, or even audit university courses through Gale – all for free!


The children’s section of the library wraps around the outside. Each step up you get older books, and off to the inside are various play places to imagine and learn.
The Questionarium is a room where older kids and learn and explore different topics that change every few months.
There are areas where your library card can access a locker to get you use of a ChromeBook for a few hours, or you can sit down to a desktop and get some work done.

The Children’s Library spans more than 12,000 square feet and includes an Early Learning Centre, Nursing Room, and Questionarium. There are large play structures that encourage movement and collaboration, there’s cozy reading nooks and quiet spaces. As with much of the library, it’s bright and inviting.

There will be plenty of programming for kids and families at the Calgary Public Library including family story time twice daily, every day.

There’s also a room where classes can for Library School! There’s a special classroom on Level 4 where students and teachers can book ahead and spend a week of hands-on, inquiry-based learning at the Calgary Public Library’s Central Library.


The history of Calgary gets its own special section at the  Central Library. With a collection of old newspapers and digital archives that would rival the Glenbow Museum, this is the place to learn Calgary’s story and add your own chapter to the tale. There are books and maps celebrating the city, southern Alberta, and Western Canada.

The Living History: Glimpses of Our Past is a digital display and interactive installation. It can help you find out more about a certain topic, person, or place within the collection.

Then your Calgary Public Library card also gives you access to‘s Library Edition – for free! (They’ll even help you out with the searching – we had a CPL genealogist help dig into our family trees by researching materials at other libraries in Canada and they were FANTASTIC!)


Photo by Neil Zeller
Library express is easy for people from downtown to grab and go with bespoke curation of recommended books from locals (like the Mayor!)
The bookscalator in the Library Express area brings materials here to be sorted and shelved.

But yes, there are books for loan at the Central Library too! Right when you enter there’s a selection of grab and go books from new releases to popular titles. There’s also a kiosk where you can cycle through your interests to get recommendations.

With more than 600, 000 Calgarians holding a library card, more than 7 million visits are made to the CPL each year. And with those visits comes books and materials coming in and going out. More than 12 000 items each day are sorted across the Calgary Public Library system, with most of that work happening downtown.


I admit I didn’t visit the previous incarnation of the Calgary Public Library’s Central Library very often. In fact, after nearly 9 years living in Calgary, I had only visited it once. I got a book I needed, and left. The old library was dark, cramped, and just didn’t feel safe.

This new public library will do so much to change the face of downtown Calgary. My sons are excited to go and play the games and record in the studios. I’m excited to take pictures, spend some quiet time alone, or have a snack and visit with a friend. Oh, and we might wander the stacks and find a book too.

I love how the new Calgary Public Library Central Library is so much more than a place to get books. It’s almost like a community center for your soul! We have places where we meet with neighbours to play and exercise, this building will be a place where community comes to learn, create, and relax.

For more information (and to get your FREE Calgary Public Library card!) visit

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