The Ottawa Public Library and Library and Archives Canada announced Tuesday night they're working together on a "partnership opportunity" for a new central library branch.

Ottawa Public Library board chair Tim Tierney, an Ottawa city councillor, said it could be a "defining moment for the city and its landscape" at a public meeting.

After the meeting, Tierney explained Library and Archives Canada approached the board with a letter of intent for this partnership idea a few days ago.

"We don't know what the scope of the entire project is but having a federal government partner is definitely a benefit," he said.

"We've heard a lot of discussions in the past about the size, the footprint and what it may offer. Some of that may change now but it doesn't disclude any of the people who have come forward, expressing interest… everything is still on the table, now we just have the opportunity for a federal government partner to be a part of that process."

Tierney said they have no idea if they would share a space or how this would affect the building's design, location or cost.

Current branch built in 1970s

Ottawa's municipal government has been working on a plan to replace the current downtown central branch at the corner of Metcalfe Street and Laurier Avenue, with debate over where it will go and what it will look like.

A consultant's report released last year recommended spending $86 million to build a new library rather than refurbishing the existing one, which was built in the mid 1970s.

That report was approved by Ottawa city council, with a plan for library staff to issue a request for construction proposals and report back to the city in summer 2016.

Tierney said they'll let staff re-evaluate timelines now that Library and Archives has come forward.

Construction had been expected to begin in 2018, with public consultation to come before then.

New branch subject of debate

Another focus of Tuesday's public meeting was the release of the findings of a Nanos Research public opinion poll on a new central branch.

Among the findings:

  • Most people get to the current central branch on foot.
  • Convenience of location and proximity to transit are important to respondents.

Various groups have advocated for the new central branch to stay in the downtown core.

Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna was elected on a platform that included fighting for federal infrastructure money for a bigger central branch than the one recommended by consultants. 

Library and Archives Canada falls under the Department of Canadian Heritage and its minister Mélanie Joly.