There were no shushing librarians at the Halifax Central Library on Saturday as the building marked its fifth birthday.
Instead, well-wishers gathered to sing Happy Birthday to a building that has become an iconic part of downtown Halifax.
“From day one it has become such an important part of the community,” said the building’s architect George Cotaras of FBM Architects on Saturday.
The purpose of the library was to create a space for everyone and Cotaras said that they took a community approach for coming up with the design.
A series of public consultations helped to shape the building into what it is today.
“They were very involved in the design from day one, which was a very first for us as a firm and a first for Halifax,” said Cotaras.
The modern design, full of open space and featuring exterior walls of transparent glass, has been a hit with Haligonians and the world.
It made CNN’s top 10 list of eye-popping new buildings in 2014 and it has been a draw for the municipality’s visitors.
Canadian city’s like Ottawa, Calgary, Saskatoon and Edmonton have begun to use the Halifax Central Library as a model for what they could build in the future.
And although libraries are traditionally known for being quiet, dark places full of musty stacks — that approach went out the window with the new space.
“We invite people to move their furniture around. We invite them to slip their shoes off and tuck their feet up, we invite them to talk and collaborate and unpack their lunch,” said Åsa Kacha, CEO of Halifax Public Libraries.
The approach has worked.
Halifax’s old central library welcomed approximately 400,000 people each year.
The new library has tripled that figure, bringing approximately 1.5 million through its doors each year.
Although the building itself may get older, the goal is to keep the facility modern with new programs and spaces created to evolve with the community’s needs.
“We do not want this library to be a model 2014 library,” said Kacha.
“We want this to be a library that works today and works tomorrow.”