Building Program

Building Program and Space Requirements - June 2008 (14mb  pdf)

Between Februray and June 2008, Halifax Public Libraries hosted three public consultation meetings (0.7mb  pdf) to seek input into the new Central Library. Based on public feedback, the Partnership of Culture and Learning was the preferred model during the extensive public consultation rounds. It blends the best of traditional library services with new and innovative space, making it a vital centre for learning and culture in the heart of the city.

Some of the key features include:

Lobby / Arrival

The lobby and arrival area will be the first space that the visitor will experience. It will have an open and inviting feel to it. An information desk will be located in such a way that people will clearly be able to locate it and will be able to consult with staff. From the lobby / arrival area, visitors will be able access all areas of the library, either by elevator, escalator or stairs. Way finding signage will clearly provide directions to each of the services in the building. The café and the public meetings spaces, including the auditorium, will be accessible from the lobby area.

Access Services / Book Circulation Services

The primary purpose of the Access/ Circulation Services is to manage every aspect of the collection in regards to checking out and checking in library materials. In addition, this area will be where library users go to sign up for library cards. Publicly accessible space will be required for library users picking up their books on hold. The sorting of all the books returned will take a large portion of behind the scenes space.

In response to the positive feedback from the other public libraries currently using the self check-out and self check-in process, it is recommended there that there be multiple self-check units available throughout the building allowing patrons to manage their own circulation processes.

Registration for programs, meeting rooms, general tours of the library, promotional sales and a public copy centre will operate out of access services.

Public Computers

Public computer terminals will be located throughout the Central Library. People visiting the library will have access to computer terminals to look up information regarding library collections and locations of materials and will be able to access the Internet. The computers will be located on each floor and will be laid out in such a way that they will be visible and accessible. These computer terminals are not intended to have individuals spend an extended period of time doing research but to browse the topic on which they are seeking information and locate the books, DVDs or any other information that satisfies their search. Other computers intended for research purposes will be located the various age-level service spaces.


The café is a special component of the library. It will be conveniently located within the Library and will offer a variety of food and beverage options. It is not intended to function as a restaurant but as a place where patrons will be able to enjoy a cup of coffee and a snack while meeting with friends or causally reading a book. A good sized seating area will be provided within the library but during the warmer months it is envisioned that the café will spill out onto an outdoor area where visitors can take advantage of the landscaped street and the outdoors.

Adult Services

The Adult Services areas will occupy the most significant portion of the building and will be composed of print and media non-fiction and fiction collections. The collection is based upon a projected 200,000 items - books, DVDs, CDs, etc. Computers and seating areas will be interspersed throughout the adult services sections of the building. Within the adult section, staffed information areas will be provided to function as major public service points for information, reference and research assistance.
The adult services section will provide a large and diversified collection. It will also be a place where the public will be able to take advantage of the various types of seating provided and where they may enjoy an extended or abbreviated visit to the library. Several meeting rooms for group work and instruction for the public will also be made available. These meeting rooms will accommodate up to 10 people and will be fully equipped with tables, phone and internet capacity. Specific quiet areas have also been identified.
The Newspapers and Magazine area is intended to provide an intimate space for people to enjoy sitting in comfortable chairs while reading the current paper or magazine of their choice. The large cross section of people from many cultures within the Municipality will be able to access newspapers and magazines from around the world.

Local History / Genealogy

The local history and genealogy collections contained in this area are focussed primarily on the Halifax Regional Municipality. They include materials on regional history, items of local genealogical relevance, maps and documents. Historical information can be found in both print and microfiche / microfilm, e.g. the Daily News, Chronicle Herald and the Mail Star. Some older and rare government documents, city and telephone directories and archives will be contained within closed stacks. The space will be climate controlled and special furniture will be made available for the older artefacts. Additional map stands and cases will be provided for the placement of maps and other items as required for research or display. This is a relatively small component of the Library but is an essential one and every effort should be made to ensure that all the materials are well handled and cared for. Comfortable seating and appropriate lighting will also be a part of the development of the space to ensure it is a welcoming environment that reflects the history of Halifax.

Adult Learning Centre

Public libraries play an essential role in the ongoing and lifelong development of learning for people of all ages. The purpose of the Adult Learning Centre is to create an environment that will promote education and skill development for adults who wish to strengthen their literacy skills or newcomers to the Municipality who wish to learn English language communication skills. The area designated for this use must be well equipped in terms of materials specific to language development or other relevant topics that may assist individuals in the ongoing advancement of learning. It should be a welcoming and engaging space that will provide privacy for independent learning in addition to group spaces to accommodate one on one tutoring or group meetings when appropriate.

The space will be well equipped in regards to technology and will allow for opportunities for adults to take literacy or English language classes. Computer stations and laptop capabilities will also be provided to allow for flexibility in addition to providing services for individuals who do not have access to computers at home. Staff will offer assistance when required and will coordinate the regional adult learning centres, English Language classes and literacy programs available in the branch libraries.

Centre for Technology and Innovation

The Centre for Technology and Innovation will be a dynamic and interactive space within the new Central Library providing many opportunities for patrons to learn about and experience the newest of technologies. This Centre is geared towards people of all ages and is meant to be an exciting place where workshops will be held for such activities as editing videos and music, production of digital media gaming and the introduction to all of the latest technologies and computer developments.

The Centre will be situated in close proximity to the Teens Services and Adult Services areas. It will be located in an area that is easily accessible but does not interfere with visitors who are looking for a quiet space to read, study or meet. It will be clearly identified through signage and an environment will be created through a design that reflects the type of activities that will occur within this space.

Teen Services

Teens range in age from 13 to 18 and require a defined and interactive space that is specific to them. This age group is transitioning from childhood to adulthood. As such, they are discovering new and varied interests and developing a sense of independence. At the same time, they want to be a part of the Library that they grew up with and have a sense of familiarity.

The physical space that will be developed for teens will include a collection of 15,000 print and media resources. Interactive learning opportunities will be provided. There will be a gaming and computer area to promote technology as a component of learning. Teens will feel at ease within this space and will be able to communicate with one another at a level normal to them, as it will be designed in such a way that noise levels be contained. Group study rooms will be provided and will include access to the Internet and other technologies. Seating throughout the entire space will be comfortable and interesting and durable enough to withstand active teenagers.

Children's Services

Children’s Services is an area oriented to families and young children aged from birth up to 12. This particular section is a dynamic and creative area that plays the unique and exciting role of introducing reading and learning to very young.

The Children’s Services area within the Central Library will be a visually stimulating space. Comfortable seating with tables and reading nooks will be dispersed throughout in addition to specific spaces for the storytelling, puppet shows and programs. Computers and shelving appropriate to a child’s height will be placed throughout in open and bright spaces. A special area for preschool age children will focus on early childhood literacy. Resources for elementary school age children will assist with their educational needs. The collection will be broad and varied enough to accommodate the reading and learning needs of children of all ages. The program spaces will accommodate school groups and groups from child care centres.

Program & Meeting Spaces

Program and meeting spaces within the Central Library will confirm the Library’s significant and exciting role as a cultural asset for the community. A mixture of various size spaces for performances, workshops, and meetings in an accessible community focal point is much needed in HRM. The program and meeting areas are intended to provide opportunities for local artists and cultural groups to showcase their work in a major public cultural and educational institution.

The most notable space dedicated to performance is the Paul O’Regan Hall that will provide fixed seating for 250 people. The hall will be dedicated to author readings, musical performances, plays, presentations and discussions. Exhibits will be mounted in the foyer of the hall and on wall spaces that are intended specifically for such displays. In addition to the hall, six other meeting or conference rooms will be made available for use by the public. The meeting rooms will be available in a range of sizes, accommodating from 25 people to 125 people, providing flexibility and availability for community organizations that require space for meetings during the hours that the library will be open. The hall will be made accessible and available for after hour performances and the foyer/exhibition space will be able to host receptions and other significant social events.

Outdoor Space

The majority of the outdoor space connected to the Central Library will be located at the front of the building along Spring Garden Road. A 70 foot setback (21 metres) from Spring Garden Road to the façade of the School of Architecture and Planning will create a large open area that will provide an opportunity for outdoor performances, festivals and general accessibility to the public. There is a grouping of trees located at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Queen Street which will be incorporated into the overall landscaping plan for this space. Along Queen Street on the west side of the proposed Library, a setback from the street will be provided which will allow for a sidewalk, some landscaping and paved outdoor space that will be connected to the Library. The intent is to create outdoor reading opportunities and to provide indoor and outdoor accessibility from the cafe located on the main floor of the Library.

Universal design

The Central Library will incorporate universal design to ensure that the building and its services are accessible to all.

Public Restrooms

Public Restrooms will be located throughout the Central Library and will be easily accessible and identified through clearly visible signage. Separate washrooms will be provided for the staff and the public on each floor of the library and all washrooms will be barrier free. All washrooms will be designed to exceed the required minimum standard as required by the Nova Scotia Building Code.

Regional Services

The Regional Services offices include the Library’s senior management who are responsible for the overall management of the Halifax Public Libraries system. A Board Room for use by the Library Board and other community groups will be adjacent to this area. The area for each of the offices is based upon the standards used by HRM.


The maintenance component of the Library will be a behind the scenes function and will not be accessible to the public. Within the designated maintenance area, the building systems will monitored by qualified staff who will be responsible for providing appropriate heating, ventilation and air conditioning climates to ensure a comfortable climate for those visiting the Library.

The janitorial office will be situated within this area. All janitorial staff responsible for the overall maintenance of the building will function out of this specific area. The workroom associated with the responsibilities of the janitors will be located adjacent to the janitors’ office as well as to the storage room.

Staff Facilities

Staff Facilities is an area of the library that will be solely dedicated to the staff and will not be accessible to the public. Within this area there will be lockers where the staff will be able to place their personal belongings in a secure place. Adjacent to the lockers there will be a small kitchen and lounge area for staff breaks. A sick room will be situated in this same area. The sick room will be large enough to accommodate a stretcher and emergency personnel.

The overall environment for the staff facilities will be a calm, relaxing and inviting space.

General Storage

This area will function as the main storage area for all aspects related to the library. It will be directly adjacent to the loading dock. It will be necessary to have the loading bay directly accessible from the service road, at the rear (south side) of the building, so that delivery trucks may have convenient access to the loading dock which also provides access the storage room. All shipping and receiving will occur through this area and, although it will be a functional space, it will be as modern and bright as the rest of the Library.


Parking will be located underground and access will be made available from the rear of the building off the proposed service road. Currently the existing site of the Central Library is a surfaced parking lot and contains 111 parking spaces under the ownership of the Province which is currently leasing the site to Dalhousie University. It is understood that it will be necessary to replace the existing parking on the site. This is an agreement which will ultimately have to be worked out by the Province and HRM. An initial calculation has been provided in the overall area analysis of the Building Program and is based on 376 ft2 (35 m2) per parking space. This area includes factors in the physical parking space, flow of two-way traffic and the radius required for turning. As a result of underground parking being an expensive option, it is preferred that it is kept to a one floor minimum, which will accommodate 103 parking spaces. This will include staff parking and the required number of stalls for accessible parking.


The Central Library will be a sustainable and environmentally conscious building. This ideal will be reflected through the materials used for its construction and its furnishings, with the ultimate goal of achieving a LEED Silver accreditation1. The Central Library will be a flexible space so that it may evolve over time with the advances of technology but will remain an efficient, friendly and functional facility.

1 LEED Silver [33-38 points] - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design v2.2. Certification granted by Green Building Council.