In 2013, the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) began its public engagement for a new central library. Over the next three years, more than 3,000 people provided input into the new library’s vision. They told the OPL what they wanted in a new facility, and this input has been used at every stage of the process to inform its design.

In 2016, City Council and the Ottawa Public Library Board approved a collaborative project with Library and Archives Canada (LAC) to explore how the two partners could move ahead with a new joint facility that would serve as a national institution, a city-wide resource, and a community gathering space. A public engagement process was initiated to receive input into the selection criteria for a location for the joint facility, as well as the facility’s joint functional programming. Over 1,300 people participated in in-person workshops and a general population survey.

In late 2018, award-winning Diamond Schmitt Architects and Ottawa-based KWC Architects were selected to design the new joint facility. In December 2018, the architects made their first public appearance, and clearly stated that, in line with the LAC and OPL’s direction, they planned to connect and collaborate with the public in the development of the new facility’s architectural design.

“Our process is collaborative because we know from experience that our best projects are the result of a collaborative process, a conversation, a synthesis of program and a resolution of functional need,” Don Schmitt said.1

A public engagement on the design of the joint facility – billed as the “Inspire555 Series” – was held in 2019. More than 4,000 members of the public participated in in-person and online engagement activities that have helped shape the design.

As part of the Indigenous engagement stream for the joint facility, the architects and project partners also met with Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg and the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, to ensure Indigenous contributions from the host nation were integrated into the design. Additional engagement that includes meeting with the Urban Indigenous community of Ottawa, including other First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, as well as representatives from national organizations to better understand their needs and interests, took place throughout 2020.

Further, a series of pop-up events were held throughout the city to connect with even more people and incorporate their thoughts into the design.

All told, over the past six years, over 7,000 people have provided valuable input that has helped inform and inspire all aspects of this new joint facility – inside and out.