Construction began late last year on a new library for south Winnipeg which Ed Cuddy, manager of Library Services, reports will be the second busiest facility in the Winnipeg library system. The building of the Bill and Helen Norrie Library, which is intended the replace the current River Heights library, is part of a multi-year rebuild of most of the City of Winnipeg’s existing library system.
The late Bill Norrie was a long time and popular mayor of Winnipeg while his wife, Helen, was a librarian.
Up until roughly 1960, there were only three libraries in Winnipeg – one north, one south and a central library downtown – which had been in place since the early years of the century. The still standing north Winnipeg St. John’s Library and the south Winnipeg Cornish branch are Carnegie Libraries – built during World War 1 by funds from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation.
Between 1960 and 1980, more than a dozen new libraries were built throughout the city. In the mid-1990s, a new central library was opened in the heart of the downtown – with the resultant closing of the old former central library.
In 2011, a City of Winnipeg audit of library services determined that the existing branch libraries were no longer adequate and needed to be replaced. Cuddy notes that a long-term redevelopment plan was approved in 2013 which called for the replacement of eight existing branch libraries and the expansion of the two Carnegie Libraries. To date, Cuddy notes, four of the libraries have been replaced and the St. John’s Library expansion has been completed while work continues on the Cornish branch.
The current River Heights Library is relatively small and lacks parking. The new Bill and Helen Norrie facility, being built just a few blocks away, will measure 14,000 square feet – all on one level – and have a fully accessible public space, more parking, proximity to public transportation, tutorial and programming rooms, improved study and leisure areas, and an outdoor reading and programming area.
Cuddy notes that the contractor for the project is Gateway Construction while the architect is LM Architectural Group.
The new library is being built next to the Pan Am Pool on a piece of land which is envisaged to be part of the Grant Park Recreational Campus – which would eventually include a new arena once City Council approves the funding.
“The City policy now is to develop campuses wherever possible,” Cuddy says.
Cuddy reports that the Norrie Library is being constructed based on an open design. “There won’t be a lot of pillars to divide the space,” he says. “And there will be a lot of glass so that the space will be really bright.
“We are aiming for 3 Green Globe Certification,” he adds. “And it will be one of the first buildings in the city with all-gender washrooms.”
There will also be a large outdoor space – including a large deck – which will allow library patrons to sit outside and read or use their cell phones.
Cuddy points out that each of the city’s new libraries has elements that reflect the neighbourhood or history of the neighbourhood. The location of the Grant Park Recreational Campus and the nearby Grant Park Shopping Centre was built on a former community that was known as “Roostertown” and that will be reflected in the new library design.
The $9.3 million Bill and Helen Norrie Library is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year with the opening slated for early in 2021.
Cuddy reports that the timing of the replacement of three more libraries is still to be determined.