Calgary's 'just amazing' Central Library attracts more than 50,000 visitors in 4 days

The Calgary Public Library also clocked more than 3,000 new members — which is 235 per cent more than it garnered over the same four-day period in 2017.

Long-awaited facility a bustling anchor in East Village

Many Calgarians lined up to take in the newly opened Central Library last Thursday. (Dave Dormer/CBC)

In just four days, the Calgary Public Library has smashed attendance forecasts. 

From Nov. 1 to Nov. 4, more than 52,000 people flocked to the newly opened Central Library in East Village — and they weren't just there to check out books. 

"It was just amazing," said Calgary Public Library CEO Bill Ptacek. He said there was a steady line to get in the door all weekend, leading from the C-Train station to the new building. 

"Just everything in the building is being activated the way we thought it would be ... folks in Calgary really have it figured out," he said. 

The opening kicked off last Thursday at 10 a.m., and events were planned for the entire opening weekend.

Citizens were treated to family fun in the new space, and on Saturday, Calgary Transit was operating for free. The popular promotion caused some train delays through the day.

The library clocked more than 3,000 new members. And officials say that is 235 per cent more than the library garnered over the same four-day period last year. 

In the next 12 months, officials expect more than two million people to pass through the doors.

The new downtown library has about 450,000 pieces of content, including books. (Dave Rae/CBC)

The project was nearly 14 years in the making. The library was originally dreamed up in 2004 under former Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier, and he took one of the 66 tours of the new building on opening day.

So far, more than 20,000 items have been checked out from the new Central Library.

Ptacek said the big opening was just what the library and staff needed to work out any hiccups in everyday operations.

He said the elevators were too fast, so they slowed them down. Mostly, the first run-through showed them little things that needed to change, like, moving a garbage can out of the way and getting some of the new technology in the building right. 

From the centre of the building, you can see all the way up to the sky. (Dave Rae/CBC)

With the big flood of people over the weekend, he said things have calmed down, but there's no lull in enthusiasm. Meeting spaces are booked up, and there are events lined up for weeks and months to come in some of the library's many community spaces. 

And although it might all sound a little hectic for the peace and quiet that library-goers usually seek, he said people were still able to find a peaceful nook for reading despite the buzz of the opening weekend.

"There's no lack of spaces to go," he said. "We've kept the best part of this building for the patrons. Within that there's no lack of places to go." 

The project cost about $245 million and construction on the building began in the fall of 2015. 

The new library includes 240,000 square feet of space with meeting areas, outdoor plazas, recording studios and more than 450,000 collection items.


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