City of Calgary Coun. Evan Wooley; Calgary Public Library chief executive officer Bill Ptacek (with scissors); Greig and Brenda Nicholls, and children of Calgary cut the ribbon to open the Nicholls Family Library at Westbrook Station on April 23. Photo: Rob McMorris, Calgary Public Library Foundation.
Calgary is a global city defined by its sense of community.
Few places embody the spirit of our city – a young, well-educated, ambitious population – like the public libraries that serve the people who make Calgary a centre of innovative thinking in the knowledge-based economy. The possibilities of where access to knowledge, learning and inspiration can take anyone were spelled out at the recent opening of the Nicholls Family Library at Westbrook Station by one of the donors to the Calgary Public Library Foundation.
“A library is infinity under a roof,” Brenda Nicholls told a packed opening of the Calgary’s first transit-oriented community library.
The library is where a city’s “human capital” is often first inspired on the path of lifelong learning. That is critical for the knowledge-intensive industries of the future and becomes a catalyst for the community’s long-term economic development.
In challenging economic times, more people than ever are turning to libraries to support their reading, career and skills development needs. The Calgary Public Library eliminated fees for library cards in 2015 and that corresponded with a record 6.2 million visits to libraries in the city – or 1 million more visits than in 2014.
In total, Calgarians attended 14,665 programs and borrowed more than 16 million physical and digital items in 2015.
The $1-million gift from the Nicholls Family is part of the Calgary Library Foundation’s $350-million Add-In campaign that has a self-acknowledged “audacious goal” to create the best public library in the world for Calgarians. The transformational initiative is almost 85 per cent of the way to reaching its campaign goal thanks to the generous support of more than 10,000 - individual donors.
The New Central Library is the showcase of the ambitious funding raising campaign. The landmark public architecture is under construction across from City Hall and will be the hub of a city-wide library system when it opens in 2018.
The $7.4 million raised from donors in 2015 was a record for any Canadian library and a testament to Calgarians sense of community.
This is a unique time in Calgary's development and, with the New Central Library as their catalyst, the Library Foundation is working to engage the community, individuals, and companies, in creating a legacy which will inspire the lifelong learning support of Calgary's children and all citizens for generations.
“At the heart of every great city is a great library, said Brent Buechler, Vice President, Calgary Public Library Foundation. “Add-In is an investment in the potential of all Calgarians - and the future social and economic prosperity of our great city.”
Libraries are increasingly seen as social incubators and part of an interconnected community as well as an important economic generator. A 2013 study for the Toronto Public Library calculated the economic impact of the city’s public libraries at $1 billion annually. The Calgary Public Library and Library Foundation will release a Community Benefits Study this spring. They are part of a small group of libraries quantifying their impact through estimates of return on investment and economic impact.