Multi-Million Dollar Renovation Planned for One of Mississauga’s Oldest Libraries

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When the City of Mississauga announced its proposed budget for 2019 (a budget that will be approved this month), an interesting tidbit of information stood out.

The long-standing Central Library, located beside the Civic Centre on Burnhamthorpe Road, is about to undergo extensive redevelopment after remaining relatively untouched since it opened on Sept. 23, 1991.

The project is estimated to cost up to $42 million.

While $42 million might sound high, it is interesting to note that no major interior renovations have taken place since the building opened 27 years ago. In fact, it's only received necessary maintenance work.

"Some of the major building systems that had reached end of life, including the building envelope (skylights, walls and roofs), mechanical and electrical components (including boilers and chillers), have been replaced over the years," says Lori Kelly, director of Library Services.

The library, which is spacious and centrally-located, welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.

In 2017 alone, almost 800,000 visits were made. During peak times such as high school exam week, March Break and Christmas break, over 3,000 people visit the Central Library each day.

Like all libraries, it has had to adapt to a changing learning and reading landscape. Now that students—and even just casual learners—can no longer rely on books alone, the library also has to offer quick and easy access to numerous online resources. Beyond books (and the library offers both print and electronic versions, naturally), Central Library also offers 3D printing, a newcomers centre for new Canadians, a career centre and the Open Window Hub, a new centre for residents struggling with homelessness.

So, what can residents expect to see after the redevelopment?

Kelly says visitors will see a renovated facility with updated fixtures, fittings and furniture, with an emphasis on creating a modern library that prioritizes public space, flexibility, and multiple uses.

Kelly also says the renovation will allow the facility reclaim up to 20,000 sq. ft. from closed off spaces for public access, along with an expansion of the fourth floor for an additional 6,000 sq. ft.

Students will be happy to know that they can expect an increased number of both single-use quiet study spaces and multi-use rooms, both of which will be designed to support a wide range of programming, meeting and study needs.

There will also be an interactive and creative childrens' space offering opportunities for enhanced programming and gathering, modernized spaces for the Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre to support starting, building and growing businesses, an enhanced Open Window Hub to support homelessness outreach and prevention and a quiet room/reflection room for prayer and meditation.

Visitors can also expect to see technology throughout the building that will allow customers to access digital collections and services—such as checking out materials—from anywhere in the library. There will also be a permanent digital hub and maker space that will support "STEAM programming," including robotics, digital creation, specialized PCs and software, sewing machines, digital conversion stations and sound recording and podcast booths.

"All crucial to the development of digital literacy skills," says Kelly.

Kelly says the Glass Pavilion will become a flexible space equipped with PC and tablet technologies to allow for after-hours research and study capabilities during an extended hours service.

"[There will also be] technology in the Breezeway to allow for customers to vend physical materials with their library cards to provide just in time access to physical items and kiosk-like screens to access our digital collections and allow for immediate downloads of library eBooks, movies and music. A series of library holds lockers will allow customers to pick up materials that they have online after hours," says Kelly.

The Noel Ryan auditorium will be also up updated, so residents can expect updated technology that will allow for streaming and simulcasting as well as a flexible space configuration.

Hungry studiers will be happy to hear that commercial food services will be introduced on the main floor, and art lovers should note that a public art installation reflective of the library's prominence in the city will be built.

"In addition, we will be able to offer customer service in new and innovative ways, removing big reference desks in favour of mobile technology equipped staff offering service throughout the library," says Kelly.

As for what prompted the city to redevelop the library now, Kelly says the renovation of the is a recommendation in the city's Future Directions Master Plan.   

"There are several reasons for the timing of the renovation," she says. "The building is 27 years old and the building systems and the interior finishes require modernizing to respond to how customers use the library today. The library is a key community gathering space in the downtown, referred to as the "third space" after work and home and building enhancements are required to ensure a safe space to meet, study, collaborate and learn."

Kelly also says the library needs to expand to meet the needs of the community. With more and more people moving into City Centre—in fact, 46 new condo developments have been proposed for the neighbourhood over the next 10 years—and Sheridan College also expanding, a larger facility is necessary.

"More public space is needed to respond to the significant increase in both the resident and student population. There's been more than a 50 per cent increase in the downtown population since the building was opened in 1991 and more people are expected to move in."

The newly-renovated space will also give customers better access to technology.

"Technology offerings have become an expectation of customers in the same way books and programs are expected, so the renovation will improve modern, barrier-free access to new and innovative technology to improve digital literacy and inclusion and most importantly, bridge the digital divide," says Kelly, adding that the Central Library was built before the internet and mobile devices became a staple of modern life.

"The electrical and power infrastructure as well as the technology the library offers requires upgrading to meet customer needs," Kelly says.

As far as inspiration for the new space goes, Kelly says city staff have been following renovation projects in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Ottawa and Toronto.

"They will be looking to learn more about how the library projects have progressed and the lessons learned so they can be applied to the Central Library."

The new space is also being designed in response to customer needs. Over the years, Kelly says visitors have asked for quieter, individual study spaces, as well as group collaboration space. She says visitors also expressed interest in a quiet/reflection room.

Kelly also says residents have asked for more flexible furnishings that can be moved and grouped to meet a variety of customer needs, more technology offerings, including updated technology in Noel Ryan auditorium to allow for streaming and simulcasting, more variety in food offerings and access to library services after hours.

"The renovation will deliver on all these requests and more," she says.

As for whether or not the extensive renovations will require the library to close its doors temporarily remains to be seen.

"No final decision has been made on whether the library will remain open or closed during the renovation. Once the detailed design is further along a decision around our services will be made and a comprehensive communication plan will be developed so staff and customers know well in advance what the plan is," she says.

As for how long the redevelopment will take, Kelly says it construction could take up to two years to complete.

Are you excited for the library's facelift?

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