House of Books No More

If you open a browser on your phone, tablet or computer and search for the definition of a library, you might find the following:

“A library is a place set apart to contain books, periodicals, and other material for reading, viewing, listening, study, or reference, as a room, set of rooms, or building where books may be read or borrowed.” (

While historically accurate, this definition pales in comparison to the modern day library’s design, structure and use.

On July 6, 2015 at the OLA’s Annual Institute of the Library as Place, four Ontario libraries alongside partnering architectural firms received the OLA Library Building Award for outstanding renovations to libraries. Below, we present a virtual tour alongside accolades for the award winners, and we’ll demonstrate how libraries are learning commons, discovery labs, and community hubs – and not just a house for books.

Carleton University MacOdrum Library (Diamond Schmitt Architects)


“The library has transformed from a dark, unloved and difficult place to use, to learn, into a bright, functional and beautiful space. The rigid geometry of the space is off-set by the sculptural, warm, staircase, providing a dose of whimsy in the space, enlivening the reading space and reflecting the warmth of the built space. The reflective qualities of the façade, and transparency of the glazing under certain light conditions, and the opaque nature of elements, combine to provide a highly emotive, rich and inviting building that invites learning.”

More photos ….

Kitchener Central Library (LGA Architectural Partners)


“The architects and library staff have succeeded in a spectacular transformation of the Kitchener Central Library. The newly created and renovated spaces have established the library as a destination of choice with spaces that invite both engagement and contemplation.  “Flux”, the dramatic public art installation at the main entrance, the playful floral wall in the children’s program room and the beautifully preserved mural in the great room welcome library visitors and create a sense of wonder. The design allows for views through the building making it easy for visitors to orient themselves to the library and there are myriad spaces provided for collaborative discussions or independent study. Every element was designed with a focus on offering Kitchener residents a reason to be proud to call their transformed Central ‘my library’.”

More photos …

Ottawa Public Library, Beaverbrook Branch (Moriyama & Teshima Architects)


“The architects have created a strong public gesture by framing the library’s key public space sequence and defining entry through well integrated and playful public art component. The articulation of a wooden interior to the architectural frame and the use of two story wood mullions creates a material richness at the threshold of the public realm. This is a great example of a modest budget, strategically deployed for maximum effect.”

More photos …

Toronto Public Library, Mount Denis Branch (G. Bruce Stratton Architects)


“On the leading edge of the neighbourhood improvement process, the refreshed Mount Dennis library has a strong presence on the street, with welcoming views into the library “living room”.  The inviting redesign of the interior layout maximizes the full potential of the 11,350 square feet space, leading intuitively to several different program areas that respond to the diversity of the community. Special features include a new KidsStop interactive early literacy centre, an art lounge, and an outdoor reading garden created by transforming an adjacent alleyway.  Every square foot is effectively used!  Dynamic library space for a developing neighbourhood.”

More photos …

Annesha Hutchinson is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Ontario Library Association. She currently tweets for @ONLibraryAssoc. She can be reached at ahutchinson [at]

Colin Ellard & the Meanings of Space

Colin Ellard is a professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo. His obsession is space … how we navigate through it and make sense of it.

Colin Ellard

Colin Ellard

“I’m fascinated by the many ways that the settings of our lives affect how we think and feel. The stories of our lives can be told using maps—maps of migrations, travel adventures, old neighbourhoods, the insides of our homes, and our social networks. Our relationships with space and place reach into every corner of our lives from the mundane (how do we find our way to the grocery store?) to the sublime (what is it about the space inside a large cathedral that takes our breath away?).”

Ellard was the keynote speaker at the 2015 OLA Annual Institute for the Library as Place. I interviewed him just before he spoke.


Michael Ridley is the Editor-in-Chief of Open Shelf. He is a Librarian and Instructor (First Year Seminar program) at the University of Guelph.