Circulation Department, Central Library, 1963
Calgary Public Library Archives: Our Story in Pictures, CPL 104-03-01
The Central Library officially re-opens today after the floods closed us down for more than two months. It is good to be back. We opened quietly to shake out some of the new procedures last week and it was so good to see many of our old customers return to welcome us.
Our old building took quite a beating but just like its staff, it has proved to be resilient (mostly, we’re still not 100%). In the 50+ years this building has stood, even before it was built, it has faced all kinds of adversity. A citizen challenged the legality of the city borrowing money for the new Central Library without requiring a vote on a money bylaw. A judge ruled that because the library would be built using funds held in reserve, council could proceed without a vote. That was in 1962. At this time the Memorial Park branch was so crowded that administrative offices, the technical services department and the reference and technical library were moved to building on 6th Street and 9th Avenue, more than 6 blocks from the main library.
The building of the new central library was long overdue, according the Mr. Castell, the head librarian at the time. The location of the new branch was to be next to the new police building and across from city hall. That raised some eyebrows as well, as the “East End” as this area was known in the 60s, was kind of a shady area. But council stuck to their guns, claiming that a new central library would be the starting point for a regeneration of the east end of the city. It was, in fact, said Mayor Hays, the safest place in the city, what with all those policemen all over the place. The plans went ahead and the new library was officially opened in June of 1963. It was a very different place from what it is now. The children’s department was in the basement (I’d always wondered why the fixtures in the staff bathroom down there were so low) ...
Children's Department in the New Central Library, 1963
Calgary Public Library Archives: Our Story in Pictures CPL 104-05-01
...and there was enough extra space that the Glenbow had a gallery on the 3rd floor. There was a bindery, administration offices, an auditorium on the 6th floor and a sweeping staircase to get customers to the reference library on the second floor.
Glenbow Gallery, 3rd Floor of the New Central Library, 1963
Calgary Public Library Archives: Our Story in Pictures CPL 104-09-01
Over the years the library has been extended, with an entire new building added to the north side in the 1970s, and renovated and rejigged to keep up with changes in the way we use the library and to make room for innovations like photocopiers, online catalogue and circulation systems, public access computers, coffee shops and the like. Though it seems that libraries are staid and conservative and have remained unchanged since the library at Alexandria, they are actually constantly in flux and continually change to meet the needs of the customers. We will look on this latest “reconfiguration” as just another opportunity to adapt, since we are so good at it.
Check out our archives photos if you want to see the Central Library in its original state. And drop by to say hi – we’re delighted to be back and would like to see you all again. We missed you.
New Central Library under Construction in 1963
Calgary Public Library Archives: Our Story in Pictures, CPL 104-19-01