Red Deer Public Library, Canada – from fire hall to downtown branch

Written by Rut Costa

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Nestled at 49th Ave, in the heart of Downtown, Red Deer Public Library has been open since 1994.

It is a major branch of Alberta’s third-most-populous city, after Calgary and Edmonton. This historical building was an armoury built in 1914 to muster troops to the First World War. It was converted into Fire Hall No. 1 for the City of Red Deer Emergency Services Department from 1961 to 1992.

Architecturally, it is a two and one-half storey rectangular solid brick building in Edwardian Free Style. Elements of this past, like the brick and stone building, a pole or the big windows can still be seen at Children’s Library. Outside, a big sculpture depicts a scene with two volunteer firefighters responding to an emergency call.

Red Deer Public Library (RDPL) has 2 entries: one next to City Hall with its beautiful civic square, and the other is walking distance to the central bus terminal. It has 4 levels, and it houses nearly 150.000 documents in all formats. On the basement, The Kiwanis Art Gallery displays temporary themed exhibitions and the Snell Auditorium hosts concerts, workshops or book sales. Selected activities are streamed live on the library webpage. On the first floor there is a coffee shop, Children’s library, the front desk, the book shop and security station. Fiction, Audio-visual, Large Print and Art Lending Program can be found on the second floor. The third floor includes Administration, a Meeting Room and a Teen Area, and the fourth is for Non- fiction, Internet, Newspapers, Magazines, Quiet Zone, and the local history sections.

Kiwanis Gallery on the basement

Children’s Library on the first floor

Large Print Books on the second floor

Local History Section on the fourth floor

Internet Station on the fourth floor

The historical wing of RDPL houses the Children’s Library that promotes children and family activities creating different spaces and environments. Tours, Story Time, craft activities, Puppet Show, Super Fun Saturdays, Toy Lending Room or Nature Backpacks are all different resources where children can have fun and learn at the same time. This section includes materials in foreign languages such as French or Spanish, Braille adaptations and audiobooks. Library staff is friendly and helpful.

Detail of the Children’s Library counter

Tribute to puppet show

Toy Lending Library allows to borrow games and educational toys for home.

Owl’s Nature Backpack Display

All documents at the library are available to borrow except the local history section, recognizable thanks to a big R on a yellow tag meaning Reference. Membership is free since

2017 due to the 150th anniversary of Canada. According to Candice Putman, Youth Services Manager, this fact made a positive impact and the number of sign ups has increased significantly since then. Ms Putman declares that a goal for the future is to promote Physical Literacy and activities outside like the group ride ‘Cycling for Libraries’.

RDPL Downtown Branch opens 7 days a week and offers a huge variety of programs for children, family, young people and adults.

The most popular are ‘Reading Tails’, a program for 6-12-year-olds with trained therapy dogs and their handlers. Early Literacy Programs (Stories, songs, rhymes and other activities), Super Fun Saturdays (Art and Creation activities in family), Coding Club, Tech Programs (Basics or Help Drop In) or Travel Memories (Experience trips around the world). You can check The Link (Red Deer Public Library Program Guide) on paper or go to the Library Program webpage

Other activities and services promoted at the library are bi-annual Book Sales, Book Shop, Books on Bus and the Cafe Noir (one of the first full-service coffee shops in a Canadian library). A singularity of this branch is that food and drinks are allowed inside the library. An example is the lunch concerts at Snell Auditorium. The only restriction is when you use a computer terminal.

RDPL supports Metis and Aboriginal Culture and you can have a sensory experience with the sculpture Chief Silent Looker.

Finally, two curiosities. First, at the Children’s Library you can find a gumball composition and, second, the logo of the library is a design based on “Open Book” by Paul Klee.


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