Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the grand re-opening of the main branch of the Kitchener Public Library. After four years of construction, the renovated and expanded facility epitomizes the role of the public library as a community gathering place, described by library board chair Dan Carli as a place for community partnerships and personal connections. Mayor Carl Zehr emphasized the role the library plays in connecting communities. As he put it, “Our library brings the world to all of our citizens.”
The library’s Chief Executive Officer Sonia Lewis was bursting with pride as she hosted the opening celebration. She and all of the library staff sported shirts with the new KPL logo and vision, “Where community connects”. The asterisk logo is brilliant. As the library puts it, “It is an indication of more to come; a reminder to watch for something special.”
One of the highlights of the proceedings for me were the remarks from project architect, David Warne of LGA Architectural Partners. As ever, it’s the architect who understands the mission of the library best. After all, they have to translate that vision into reality. David Warne clearly understands the library as a collaborative, creative space. He emphasized the role that libraries and librarians play in facilitating community building and creativity, and described the library as a “public living room”.
Several of the dignitaries commented about how the library had intersected with their own lives. I can picture mayor Carl Zehr as a teenager seeking research assistance with his homework. Deborah Moss of Moss & Lam, creators of the public art installation Flux, talked about her life as a “bookish” teenager, and the role of her high school librarian in stimulating her imagination and connecting her to diverse ideas with the library’s eclectic collection.
The event and the excitement of the people assembled captured a world of possibilities. Public libraries, despite some predictions, have not only survived but are thriving and leading the way, fostering collaboration, community-building, creativity and sense-making in our increasingly complex information world. Kudos to the KPL staff for making this happen in our community.
Link to CTV Kitchener’s video coverage of the opening ceremonies.