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Alexander Calhoun Library

Calhoun thenAlexander Calhoun branch under construction, 1953 (CPL_105-28-01)

Named after Calgary Public Library’s first chief librarian, the original Alexander Calhoun branch opened in South Calgary Park on March 24, 1954, with Mr. Calhoun himself in attendance.  The new branch proved to be immediately popular with nearby residents. It was the first branch to use a professional architect, J.H. Cook, and the building contract was awarded to Bird construction.  A large bas-relief in the modern manner was done by Calgary sculptor Luke Lindoe.  Over the years, the library became too small for the community that it served and required serious upgrading.  Since the architect’s report showed renovations to the branch to bring it up to modern standards was more expensive than replacing it, trustees agreed to replace it.  A new Alexander Calhoun Branch, designed by J.H. (Jiggs) Cook and Associates and built by Thor construction as an innovative partial earth building, was opened on March 23, 1985 at 3223 14 St. SW, and the old building was demolished.  The original 1954 Luke Lindoe mural was preserved on the original site and is now an attractive feature in the parking lot.

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Bowness Now  Bowness branch, circa 1964 (CPL_105-24-02)

The town of Bowness, despite several economic downturns over the years, eventually managed to get its own library which opened on December 13, 1958.  The library was first located in the town hall, and later in a shopping centre and then the community recreation hall.  When amalgamation with the city occurred in 1964, Bowness brought along its library to the Calgary Public Library system.  On January 5, 1970 the library moved to new quarters at the Bowness Shopping Centre.  The branch gained a new lease on life when reopened on August 1, 1979 in its present location at 7930 Bowness Road.  Always active in the community, Bowness over the years has offered many programs and speakers such as Canadian author W.O. Mitchell and bead work displays by the Stoney Indians from Morley.

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Castell Central Library

Central now  The newly opened Central Library, 1963 (CPL_104-20-01)

The Central Library at 616 Macleod Trail S.E. was opened to the public on June 15, 1963 by Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor, J. Percy Page on the site of a former service station and livery stable. The architects were J.H. (Jiggs) Cook and Associates, who also designed Toronto Dominion Square, and the new library was built by Poole construction at a cost of $2 million. The interior included a 201 seat circular auditorium complete with stage and a movie projection room, a paneled board room, public meeting rooms, executive and administrative offices on the 6th floor; a workshop, a receiving and cataloguing area on the 5th floor; Fine Arts and Recreation with records, films and a listening room on the 3rd floor; a reference and technical library with “Photo-electric copying service” on the 2nd floor; Adult fiction and a browsing area on the main floor, and a children’s section, storytelling room and newspaper reading room in the basement. Innovative features included the book chute and central vacuum cleaner. "The interior designers used an orange, gold and blue-green color plan, with teak book shelves and catalogue cabinets. Naughahyde upholstery, white formica tables and blue and nutmeg carpeting and airy saranette drapes complete the scheme."

In 1974, a 6-storey addition, the same size as the 1962 building, was constructed by Cana Construction to the north of the original building, on the site of the former Nagler’s Furniture Store.  The expansion, which included a 500 seat theatre, was officially opened April 21, 1974 by renowned Canadian author W.O. Mitchell and renamed the W.R. Castell Central Library in honour of the former Library Director (1945-1972).  In 1990, there were renovations including reorientation of the front entrance. In 2011, there were renovations to the main floor to accommodate the new City Hall LRT platform.

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Country Hills Library

When it opened in Cardel Place in 2004, Country Hills Branch, at 11950 Country Village Link NE was anxiously anticipated by the 60,000 Calgarians living in north Central Calgary.  Built at a cost of $4.6 million, the 18,000 square foot branch opened with a technology discovery area, Teen Zone and fireplace reading area.  Along with the Crowfoot branch, this branch was among the first buildings in Alberta to meet the internationally renowned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification for Energy Efficiency with a gold designation.  The Georgina Thomson multipurpose room keeps alive the memory of a local author and outstanding Calgary Public Library reference librarian.

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Crowfoot Library

Crowfoot ThenGroundbreaking Ceremony 2002: (CPL_275-89-03)

Partially funded by the Infrastructure Canada-Alberta Program the $6.7 million Crowfoot Branch at 8665 Nose Hill Drive was, along with Country Hills Branch, among the first buildings to meet the internationally recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (Leed) Certification for Energy Efficiency, when it opened on January 24, 2004 with a silver designation.  Located on the Crowfoot Regional Recreation Centre land at 8665 Nose Hill Drive, it has over 28,000 square feet of space and opened with a collection of 100,000 items to serve the 100,000 residents living in the city’s North West.  The architecture, engineering and landscape design for the 28,000 square foot branch were provided by the Cohos Evamy Partners, who also built the Nose Hill Branch. At the grand opening of the Crowfoot Library, Lieutenant-Governor Lois Hole described libraries as “free and open public squares where men, women and children of all cultures and economic backgrounds can share in the collective wisdom and imagination of humanity.”  This “green” branch includes an inviting fireplace reading area overlooking a 180-degree view of the mountains and downtown skyline.

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Fish Creek Library

Fish Creek NowFish Creek ThenThe “pyramid” in Fish Creek, 1995 (CPL_275-72-01)

Opened June 1, 1985, this landmark “pyramid” library at 11161 Bonaventure Drive S.E. was built to replace the small Macleod branch that opened in 1979, which had previously served the south end of the city.  It was designed by architects Ian McDougall and Ken Hutchinson with an initial collection of 50,000 books. Calgary Herald columnist Patrick Tivy described it as follows:  “This impressive piece of oil-boom architecture is the closest thing in Alberta to a pharaoh’s tomb”, showing that this branch successfully accomplished the library’s mission of making a strong statement.  By 1994, the branch was serving a population the size of Saskatoon (186,000) and was circulating more items than any other branch.

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Forest Lawn Library

Forest LawnForest Lawn thenExterior View, 1980's (CPL_318-14-02)

The former town of Forest Lawn added a library in 1951.  In January of 1962, when Forest Lawn was annexed to Calgary, their little community library became the seventh branch of Calgary Public Library.  Previously housed in the basement of Bow River School and then moved to a two-room section of the Forest Lawn town office, the library eventually moved into a strip mall in the 3400 block of 17th Avenue SE in 1962.  Continued growth eventually led to the construction of a new $94,000 Forest Lawn branch.  Opened July 16, 1973 at 4807 8 Ave SE, it was designed by architects J.H. Cook and Associates and built by Priddy Brothers construction.  It boasted a 165 seat theatre in the basement, a stage, and a projection room equipped with a 16mm projector to show reel-to-reel films.  Future mayor Naheed Nenshi was a frequent visitor at the branch when growing up.  An extreme makeover doubled the size of the building when it reopened on February 2, 2004.  A community garden will be a highlight for 2012.

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Glenmore Library

Glenmore Now

Glenmore ThenGlenmore Square renovations, July 5, 2001 (CPL_275-91-01)

The Glenmore Square branch at 7740 18 St. S.E. in the Glenmore Square Shopping Centre,  opened in 2001, and replaced the former Millican-Ogden Branch which had opened in 1986, and operated in the Lynnwood Shopping Centre.  At the party to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2011, one of the unique features of the day was the Guest book.  Visitors were asked to sign on a ceiling tile which, along with painted tiles done for Alberta Arts Days, now appears on the ceiling of the branch.

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Louise Riley Library

Louise Riley Now


The desire for a branch in the Hounsfield Heights Briar Hill area started as early as June 1956.  However,  it wasn’t until the fall of 1958 that plans for a $75,000 library building were approved.  The new branch at 1904 14th Ave N.W.  was named after Louise Riley (1904-1957), Calgary Public Library’s outstanding  children’s librarian and author, who was a major force in promoting children’s literacy and fondly remembered for her weekly radio broadcast The Children’s Story Hour.  This branch, the sixth in the system, was designed by J.H. Cook and Associates and built by Larwill Construction and opened on September 30, 1959.  A portrait of Louise Riley by artist H.G. Glyde was commissioned and placed in the branch in her memory January 1964.  A major expansion in 2009 by Sahuri + Partners Architecture involved talking over the adjacent medical building, which to this day reminds customers of getting their flu shots.  A 50th birthday party was held October 17, 2009 with dancing, celebrating the art of oral storytelling and a magic show.

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Memorial Park Library

Memorial Park NowMemorial Park ThenMemorial Park Library, circa 1912 (CPL_103-21-01)

This beautiful classical building in the beaux-arts style is the home of Memorial Park Library and is located at 1221 2nd St. SW.  It opened its doors January 2, 1912 and became the first public library building in Alberta. It was financed primarily by American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  The architects, Mclean and Wright from Boston, based the plans on a similar Carnegie library in Attleboro, Mass.   Former alderman Richard Brocklebank became the contractor and George Christie, the head stonemason, used yellow Paskapoo sandstone quarried from the Oliver Quarry.   Under the leadership of Alexander Calhoun, the first Chief Librarian, this cultural heart of the city was home to many educational and arts groups including the Calgary Women’s Literary Club and Calgary’s first university courses.   It was the main branch of the library until the W.R. Castell Central Library opened in 1964.  The building was leased to the Glenbow Foundation from 1964 to 1973, and was declared a historic site in 1976.  It reopened October 16, 1977 after a major rehabilitation project.  The top floor, formerly home to the Muttart Art Gallery and Alliance Francaise, is now home to the library’s volunteer services and foundation offices. 

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Nose Hill

Nose Hill NNew

Nose Hill ThenNose Hill branch, 1988 (CPL_275-78-01)Nose Hill branch, at 1530 Northmount Dr. N.W. opened its doors April 15, 1988 and replaced the Atco trailers used for the Varsity branch.  Designed by the firm of Cohos Evamy and built by Stuart Olson Construction, the branch was made possible thanks to the efforts of the community group Friends of the Library.  The branch was renovated in 1996, and again in 2005, when it gained 1000 square feet of space.

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Related search: Varsity

Saddletowne Library

The newest branch of the Calgary Public Library is Saddletowne, located at 7555 Falconridge Blvd NE, with the opening ceremonies occurring on January 14, 2012.  The ground breaking ceremony for this complex was held on June 23, 2009, and it is part of the Genesis Community Wellness Centre, a facility whose architecture is designed to express the diverse cultural interests of users.  As far back as 1994, residents of Martindale, Saddle Ridge and Taradale approached the city with a vision to develop a community centre to meet the specific cultural and recreational needs of the North East.  In 2000, Calgary Public Library joined the YWCA as partners in the new development and by 2005 joined the North East Centre of Community Complex partnership to operate and manage the facility.  In 2009, after consultation with the community, it was proposed to use the geographic name of Saddletowne Library for the new branch, which matches the name of the planned LRT station for the area.


Shaganappi Library

Shaganappi NowShaganappi ThenShaganappi branch, circa 1970 (CPL 105-27-01)

When Shaganappi Branch opened in August, 1970 it was integrated into the city’s $500,000 Shaganappi Tri-Services Building at 3415 8th Avenue SW.  At that time, it was – at 7,970 square feet – the largest of the Library’s branch libraries, and included a large auditorium on the lower floor seating 166.  Built as a first attempt to unite medical and social services at the neighbourhood level, the complex included a health clinic, daycare, and community services office as well as the Library.  It replaced the former Westbrook branch, which opened in 1964 in a shopping centre.  It was briefly home to the Temple B’nai Tikvah in 1980.  This branch was renovated in 1994.

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Shawnessy Library

Shawnessy Now

Shawnessy ThenShawnessy branch under construction, 2000 (CPL 351-03-20)

The Shawnessy Branch, opened in the fall of 2001 in the $40 million recreation complex in nearby Shawnessy Towne Centre, where its neighbours included a YMCA, two indoor arenas, and Bishop O’Byrne High School.  The new branch was an immediate hit with the area’s 167,000 residents.

The Shawnessy Library celebrated its 10th Anniversary in 2011.

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Signal Hill Library

Signal Hill Now

The first branch designed with internet access in mind was the $3.4 million Signal Hill Branch, at 5994 Signal Hill Centre S.W.  The money for the Signal Hill Branch was largely donated by the developer of the West Hills community, and when it opened on January 1, 1998, this branch was the 16th library in the city.  The 11,000 square foot library was designed by the architectural firm of Culham Pederson Valentine and built by Ellis Don Construction.  Then-alderman and future mayor Dave Bronconnier was a strong supporter.  It had cathedral ceilings, wooden beams, a stone fireplace, and a state-of-the-art technology centre, reminding many of a cozy, high tech chalet and became a model for community libraries.  In 2008, the library had the highest circulation in the system, and so was expanded to 18,000 square feet, a 65% increase in size.  Signal Hill reopened in March 26, 2011 with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

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Southwood Library

Southwood NowSouthwood ThenSouthwood branch, 1966 CPL_238-11-07

Southwood Branch, at 924 Southland Dr. S.W. was opened on October 17, 1966 by Alderman Roy Farran.  Determined residents presented a petition to city council, signed by 1000 people who urgently wanted a library in their neighbourhood.  City council agreed, and the land was purchased in 1965.  With the new library, designed by J.H.Cook and Associates and built by Bayker construction at a cost of $72,128, Southwood became the 11th neighbourhood to acquire a branch.  For the first few months, customers were 95 per cent children, and in the early 1970s, this branch had the highest circulation in the system. It is known as the heart of the community and many customers come in regularly to chat with staff and neighbours.   Southwood has undergone many renovations, the latest being in 2011. Developing a community garden will be a highlight of 2012.

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Thorn-Hill Library

Thorn-Hill Now


Thorn-Hill branch, at 6617 Centre Street North, is so named because of the communities that it serves, Thorncliffe and Huntington Hills.  This branch opened on October 5, 1974 in a civic tri-services building. It was designed by Parsons and Singleton Architects and became a Calgary home for the educational resources of Athabasca University.  It has been renovated three times, the latest in 1990 due to damage by arson.  It served the north part of the city until the opening of the Country Hills branch in 2004.  Renovations by Sahuri + Partners Architecture were completed in January 2006 with a redesign of the main entry and circulation areas.

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Village Square Library

Village Square Now

Village Square ThenVillage Square branch, circa 1983 (CPL_318-14-11)


Village Square branch, designed by Stevens Graham McConnell Milton Partners, replaced the temporary Properties branch and opened in March, 1983 in the Village Square Leisure Centre.  The branch was renovated at a cost of $5 million and unveiled in June 1993 with a selection of books in 20 languages, reflecting the ethnic diversity of the community.  It was renovated again in 2006 by Sahuri + Partners Architecture to increase the size and provide a fresh, modern and bright library.  In 2006, SAHURI + Partners Architecture Inc. completed the renovation and modernization of the Village Square Library.

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