As Calgary Public Library moves into the new Central Library in East Village, we’re also saying goodbye to Central Library, our beloved downtown home for more than 50 years. In this month’s Library Stories, longtime staff, volunteers, and patrons reflect on their favourite memories and spots at Central Library. What’s your favourite memory of Central Library? Share in the comments at the bottom.
Maureen Proctor, Library Volunteer
Pictured at Engine 23 on the main floor
“This fire truck is my favourite part of Central Library. It’s just such a welcoming thing for children, for people of all ages. It’s always the first thing I look at when I come to Central. I come here to volunteer, mostly with the Library’s Special Events team, including events at the John Dutton Theatre. I’ve volunteered at various libraries since 2002, starting with the TD Read with Me Program. I still volunteer with the program and am mentoring an eight-year-old girl.
"I started volunteering because I wanted to give back. I like the fact the Library is open to everyone, people from all walks of life. The Library provides really incredible services — and the price is right! I’m excited about everything at the new Central Library, especially the Maureen Proctor Reading Nook. I’m volunteering to lead tours at the new Central Library, and I can’t wait.”
Susanna Hartmann, Customer Services Clerk
Pictured at her desk on the third floor
“This move, it’s like when you give up a family home. This has been my home for 35 years. This was my first job in Canada when I came from Hungary, and my only job since, my life. So, this is really like leaving a family home — the only home you’ve ever known, behind, and starting all over again. It’s very exciting, but you know, it’s just as sad at the same time.
"There are so many memories. We had so many friendships develop here. We had parties, we had baby showers, and welcomed new family members. We had retirement parties and Christmas celebrations. I built my life here. If I could say just one thing to this building, it would just be ‘I love you.’ I love you, I love you! I will never forget you. It is very sad for me to leave this place, but I know it will be good, and I know our new home will awe everybody."
Jerry Fawcett, Civic Literacy Librarian
Pictured in the Law section on the third floor
“The third floor at Central has been my home for much of my Library career [since the fall of 1989, after starting at what is now Judith Umbach Library]. Many patrons come to the Library trying to deal with difficult life circumstances, which frequently touch on legal matters. Providing basic information or informed referrals often can get them started towards resolution.
"I am frequently reminded how simply listening, showing compassion, and making appropriate referrals can make a difference in someone’s day. I hope the new Central Library will continue to be a place where people who need help feel welcome and safe.”
Gerry Burger-Martindale, Senior Transition Lead
Pictured near the east windows on the third floor
“I’ve worked on the third floor since 1982, and it used to be such a dark floor. On the east side there were what we always assumed were fake window frames, with horrible 40-year-old Mylar covering the glass. The old Remand Centre and courtrooms were smack up against the east side, so you’d think it was one building. Then, when they were removing those buildings (moving to the new courthouse and renovating for Bow Valley College), they removed those buildings and left us standing — and suddenly there was light!
"Morning light is so amazing in Calgary. In short order we started picking off the Mylar … and we could see out to the east. Now the seats in the east windows are the most popular.
"Unfortunately, only the third floor benefitted in this way, as we were the only floor with the “fake” windows, except for the women’s washroom on the north side — from where you could see beautiful sunrises, but someone was concerned about our modesty and covered it up with Mylar!”
Bill Dyck, Patron
Pictured at his favourite reading nook on the third floor
“I come to the library just about every day. It’s quiet, it’s a place to go — plus, I mean, books! I usually finish one or two a day, but always at least one. I read about 300 books a year, and if I were to buy them, they’d be hugely expensive. And if you buy it, so what? Then you own a book, but you only really read it once, maybe twice if it was really good. You can always check out a book again if you want to. Or come sit and read.
"This is just a really nice, quiet, private spot where you can sit and nobody bothers you. You can relax. It’s peaceful. It’s consistent. You know when it’s open, no surprises. And when I finish the books, I like going to [listen to] the author speak. Just about anybody can write a book, but why did you write this book? Why did you need to tell this story? Why write about aliens? What were you thinking? As a reader, you wonder. That’s the kind of stuff I want to know.”
Kevin Allen, Incoming Historian in Residence
Pictured in the Local History Room on the fourth floor
“I started work here in 1989 when I was 18 as a Sunday circulation employee. I worked here all throughout my university years and early career — always part time. I eventually gravitated toward the magazine and newspaper department, stored in the basement, that was tragically flooded back in 2013. That was heartbreaking for me because I had spent so many years walking through those stacks.
"When I started Calgary Gay History Projectopens a new window in 2012, I went back to magazines and newspapers and luckily pulled a bunch of citations before they were washed away. These included old issues of Macleans and Chatelaine magazines from the 1960s, as they were among the first publications to feature articles sympathetic to gay and lesbian people. Of course, I spent a lot of time in this Local History Room.
"I think there’s something really important in large urban centres about the big, downtown library as a repository for researchers and access to information in general. I feel like the Central Library historically, and hopefully into the future, will be that place for Calgarians.”
David Plouffe, Library Volunteer
Pictured at the Idea Lab on the fifth floor
“My relationship to Central Library has been that of a living book, a volunteer, and as an Idea Coach. Central Library is also the place I pick up my books when I work downtown.
"As an Idea Coach, I always ask this question: what seed might we plant together today that can make the most difference to your idea? Planting that seed and encouraging the minds of Calgarians is what being an Idea Coach is all about.
"Moving from this space over to the new Central Library, I think people will not only be drawn into the space, but in awe of it. Even better is that it’s a space for patrons, whether they’re reading, using the computers, or visiting the Idea Lab. Being an Idea Coach, I think the space will help stimulate new thoughts and ways of thinking.”
Richmond N’goran, Patron
Pictured on the fifth floor
“I come here three times a week, sometimes more. I come here to use a Chromebook, or sometimes I take books from the third floor. If you’re looking for a certain book, people are always there to help you find it. And if it’s not in, they’ll let you know about other books. I like to do homework here, because there’s all the necessary things I need.
"I usually come here from school. I’m studying English now at SAIT, and in the winter I will start my main program, Architectural Technologies. I came to Calgary almost three years ago, from Ivory Coast, and did not know any English. I like all the services provided at the Library. If you can’t get a Chromebook here on the fifth floor, you can go to the third floor and use a computer for two hours. I also read eBooks online, and I like that too.”
The Library makes a difference in the lives of Calgarians every day. Read more Library Stories »