The need for a new library to meet the community’s growing demand for library resources and services was first identified in 1999. The current library was built in 1962 and no longer adequately meets the needs of Kitchener’s estimated 213,305 residents.
The Kitchener Public Library commissioned a series of studies and assessments of the Main Library and solicited public feedback regarding a new Central Library from 2000 – 2003.
In September 2004, the Kitchener Public Library presented City Council with a business case documenting the need for a new Central Library. An improved and expanded Central Library would allow KPL to address the need for:
- Space for Services and Programs – The format and display of collections and library resources continues to change and space allocations must be flexible to accommodate new and expanded services and programs.
- Services for Teens and Children – Crowded and outdated areas for teens and children work against the changing role of the public library as a desired destination.
- Accessibility – The current Main Library meets the minimum requirements of the building code but does not reach the standards indicated in the City of Kitchener’s Accessibility Plan. The new Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act will introduce customer service regulations that will challenge the library’s accessibility standards.
- Ambience – A library can provide access to wonderful collections, programs, and services, but if the atmosphere is not inviting and comfortable, people will not visit and linger.
- Building and Technology Infrastructure - The Main Library is now a 45 year old building with aging building and mechanical systems. The technology needs of a modern library are challenged by an inflexible technology infrastructure.
In 2005, the City of Kitchener committed up to $32.5 M towards the construction of a new Central Library. KPL contracted with Levitt Goodman Architects and Phillip Carter Architect to finalize the Library Building Program, to prepare conceptual drawings for a new Central Library, and to provide a cost estimate for the project.
In May 2006, the City of Kitchener held a Centre Block Citizen Forum to solicit public feedback on the development of the Centre Block. There was support for an “improved and enhanced central library”. Members of the Citizen’s Forum did agree that “the library needs support and an enhancement of services”:
- A strong central library is critical
- Library services need to be expanded
- There needs to be a redefinition of what a library is ... to include a broad offering of services
- A strong central library is the anchor to a strong branch system.
The community expressed support for an expanded and improved Main Library on the current site.
In 2007, KPL initiated a study with Levitt Goodman Architect to access to what degree the existing Main Library building and site could meet KPL’s future space and functional requirements. After careful study and evaluation of the current Main Library facility and site, the architect’s findings indicate:
- There is space on the existing library site to expand
- A renovated and expanded Main Library can meet the space and functional requirements identified by the library and community
- Adding additional library space will allow for services, collections and programs to be reorganized and expanded.