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Branch improvements

The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) has 33 branches scattered across Ottawa’s large geographic area. OPL branches stretch from the downtown into urban areas inside the green belt and out to suburban and rural areas beyond the green belt.

OPL has adopted a Facilities Framework which

  1. Provides staff with an approach to ensure that existing library facilities are properly maintained, renewed and/or retrofitted in order to deliver modern day library services that meet customer needs.
  2. Describes and defines when and where new library facilities are built.

This was detailed in a Report to the OPL Board on September 6, 2016.

Facilities Framework

The categories of activities that are undertaken as part of the Facilities Framework include:

  1. Lifecycle Improvements of Existing Buildings
    • Ongoing replacement requirements to maintain facilities (e.g. carpeting, roofing, HVAC)
  2. Retrofits of Existing Buildings
    • Sections of buildings needing to be retrofitted for specific service delivery needs (e.g. RFID, Makerspace)
  3. Renewal of Existing Buildings
    • Aging buildings which have become unable to deliver modern day library services
    • Poorly designed libraries and buildings which have become too small for the community they serve
  4. New Buildings
    • Needed in underserved areas experiencing significant population growth
    • Funded with Development Charge funds and operating budgets

Lifecycle Improvements to Existing Buildings

The City of Ottawa provides annual funding for lifecycle renewal and replacement works for existing buildings. Lifecycle projects include a wide assortment of work, such as roof replacement, building preservation, building mechanical and electrical systems, property elements, hard landscaping, facility equipment, and unplanned emergency work.

The annual priorities and programming allocations are set by the City for all service areas including OPL.

Retrofits of Existing Buildings

Ottawa Public Library has been undertaking a program of branch retrofits since 2012 to convert its collection and all aspects of processing and checking out materials at branches to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. Key elements include self-checkout stations, updated security gates, automated book returns, and single point of service counters. This multiyear retrofit process will be completed in the final branches by early 2018.

Renewal of Existing Buildings

On May 14, 2012, the OPL Board approved the Facilities Planning Committee Report which identified the top eight branch renewal priorities among OPL’s 33 branches. Staff were directed to incorporate these priorities into long term planning and renewal action during 2013 to 2021.

The Main branch was the number one priority and progress has been made on moving forward on replacing this facility with a new Ottawa Central Library for OPL, at 557 Wellington Street.

Three other branches on the 2012 priority renewal list have been completed.

In 2013, OPL was able to expand Emerald Plaza with the acquisition of adjacent mall space. This expansion included a renovation to a large portion of the existing space and creating a much needed larger and more welcoming branch to this vibrant community. The expanded and completely renovated branch opened in July 2013. The branch was able to almost double its size to 10,528 sq. ft.

The Constance and Buckham’s Bay Community Association partnered with the City of Ottawa’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, and OPL to expand their community centre in 2013. This provided OPL the opportunity to leave its former 519 sq. ft. Constance Bay branch for a bright new 1,100 sq ft. ground floor location in the new addition. The relocated branch opened to the public on September 3, 2015.

Elmvale Acres (7,493 sq. ft.) was refreshed in 2013 with a new layout, carpeting, paint and new furniture and shelving. In 2015, it underwent a RFID retrofit which added a new accessible entrance to the branch along with self checkout units and a new service hub. The branch reopened to the public after this second phase of work was completed on December 9, 2015.

On September 6, 2016 the OPL Board approved the following branch renewal priorities for 2016-2021:


  • Type: Standalone
  • Ownership: Owned
  • Year Built: 1918
  • Last Date Modified: 1982
  • Size (sq. ft.): 6,089
  • Renewal Requirement: Renovation


  • Type:Standalone
  • Ownership: Owned
  • Year Built: 1967
  • Last Date Modified: 1989
  • Size (sq. ft.): 9,744
  • Renewal Requirement: Renovation

North Gower

  • Type:Archives Building
  • Ownership: Leased
  • Year Built: 1972
  • Last Date Modified: 2016
  • Size (sq. ft.): 2,364
  • Renewal Requirement: 20% expansion


  • Type:Standalone
  • Ownership: Owned
  • Year Built: 1995
  • Last Date Modified: -
  • Size (sq. ft.): 17,183
  • Renewal Requirement: Renovation

New Buildings

The 2016 Library Facilities Investment and Growth Planning Study (LFIGPS) provides an updated growth analysis for all areas of the city. The report then identifies specific areas of the city where future needs for library facilities exist to serve these communities over the next 20 years.

The LFIGPS projections identify high levels of growth in the south suburban district of Barrhaven/Riverside South with significant levels of growth in the west (Kanata/Stittsville) and in the eastern (Orléans) suburbs. Smaller amounts of growth were identified in the central urban areas inside the Greenbelt (resulting from intensification). Finally, small amounts of growth were also seen in the rural districts.

Facility requirements were determined as a result of a gap analysis which compared the current amount of library facility space in twelve geographic zones with projected future requirements based on the growth data analysis. The overall facilities gap is projected to reach 59,457 square feet by 2023, and will continue rising to 92,502 square feet by 2031.

In light of the LFIGPS findings, staff recommended addressing this gap through a program of new branches in Riverside South, Orléans, and South Barrhaven starting in 2018. Building this new infrastructure is contingent on population growth and the City’s approval of required capital and operating funds. A facility in the Riverside South community is OPL’s current new branch priority. Public consultations on this project will take place before and after the start of the architectural design phase.​