Calgary

Calgary Public Library ready for next strategic plan

Over the last year, the library has been open to the public, and it's been closed. It served readers curbside, shifted its focus to digital services and adapted to pandemic punches. 

After adapting to pandemic punches, library CEO looks to the future

The Calgary Public Library is building a strategy around Calgarians and their new needs. (Sarah Rieger/CBC)

Over the last year, the Calgary Public Library has been open to the public, and it's been closed. It served readers curbside, shifted its focus to digital services and adapted to pandemic punches. 

CEO Sarah Meilleur says she's entering 2022 with lessons from the past two years still in mind to build a strategy around Calgarians and their new needs. 

Putting one strategic plan to bed, Meilleur is ready to focus on a new vision for the library that centres around economic recovery, students, diversity and inclusion.

"We're excited to help the community think, hopefully, about what the future might bring," Meilleur said. "I think libraries are places where people find themselves. They are the opportunity for people to realize their potential, whatever that potential might be."

As the economy recovers, Meilleur said Calgarians need a place to print resumes, hold meetings, find jobs and build new careers or side-gigs. 

Students and educators will need support to recover from the impacts of pandemic closures and shifts to online learning, Meilleur added. Some have fallen behind, and the library wants to be there to help students and teachers get back up to speed. 

Sarah Meilleur, CEO of Calgary Public Library, says she is ready to focus on a new vision for the library that centres around economic recovery, students, diversity and inclusion. (Helen Pike/CBC)

"There have been so many interruptions in school and kids being able to learn and kids being able to connect," Meilleur said. 

According to the library's data, teens have been its top returning users since doors have reopened, which shows that the publicly accessible in-person space is essential for that age group. 

One big goal for Meilleur is to make the case to a new city council that Calgary is a growing city, and it's time to build more libraries. She's already talking to city councillors about these needs — along with ideas about how the city can re-invest into inner-city infrastructure. 

New council, new priorities

"I think libraries are this critical infrastructure that everyone wants a library in their community," Meilleur said. 

The pandemic has helped Meilleur and the leadership team learn how people are using the space, and what is important within a library branch. Those lessons are already being put into practice as the Saddletowne and Shawnessy branches are renovated. 

And with creating spaces for Calgarians, Meilleur added it's important they reflect the community and are welcoming spaces for all. 

Diversity and inclusion

The library has long focused on diversity and inclusion within its mission and vision. Meilleur said it's a matter of continuing the work they have already begun. 

"Continuing to really deliver on the promises of the 94 'calls to action' and White Goose Flying Report at the city of Calgary around, you know, sharing information and programming around the residential school history and also really supporting language." 

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