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Grand Bibliothèque...cultural and architectural marvel or costly white elephant?

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SSLL
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Grand Bibliothèque's opening soon, not just a central library, but an archive of literature and history. What do you guys think of it? Is it a cultural masterpiece? An architectural beauty? Should other cities get it? The article mentions Vancouver having a recent new Central Library, and I know Ottawa's itching to replace their outdated one.


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New library aims to get Quebeckers reading
Grande Bibliothèque is worthy of its name, CEO says. But will it create book lovers?
By INGRID PERITZ
Friday, April 29, 2005 Page A14

MONTREAL -- It's shaped like a shoebox and its colour is best described as hospital-gown green. To the passerby, Montreal's vaunted new megalibrary might not look like the shrine to literacy and culture that its boosters had promised.

But after years of debate, the Grande Bibliothèque du Québec is finally ready, rising on an entire block in the bohemian -- if slightly seamy -- Latin Quarter of Montreal.

The monument lifts Montreal into the growing list of cities, from Seattle and Vancouver to Paris, that have made large central libraries the newest pet civic project. Montreal's new library is modern, high-tech and central. But the provincially funded project, which cost $97.6-million to build and another $44-million to stock and equip, is also a gamble: Will it get Quebeckers reading?

"When it comes to public libraries, Quebec was behind, and Montreal was especially far behind," said library CEO Lise Bissonnette, who used to be known for her trenchant pro-sovereignty editorials when she was publisher of the daily Le Devoir.

"I can't solve all the reading problems in Quebec," she said in an interview. "But this is an indispensable tool. It brings Montreal to an excellent level in North America with a library worthy of its name."

The library is certainly an impressive undertaking. Scheduled to open to the public tomorrow after its official inauguration today, the six-level building is in the heart of eastern downtown and offers a collection of 1.2 million books. It has lots of comfy armchairs, 400 computer stations, and plenty of music CD listening posts. The interior is airy and inviting, and the children's section takes over the basement. No fustiness here: A café with outdoor terrace is planned for the main floor and space for second-hand booksellers will be outside.

"We call it a citizens' meeting place," Ms. Bissonnette said. "It's the new cultural institution of the 21st century."

In addition to being Montreal's central library, it also houses Quebec's "national" library collection, which includes virtually everything ever published in the province -- from 18th-century catechism texts to Mordecai Richler's acerbic critiques of Quebec nationalists. One-third of the collection is in English.

The library is earning kudos in a city that takes culture seriously, yet hasn't built a major public project related to culture since the early 1990s. Still, the nagging question is whether one grand monument will help create a province of book lovers.

Montreal's neighbourhood libraries are criticized as being understaffed and underfinanced. Public libraries across the province stock 2.5 books for each Quebec user, compared with three in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. Quebeckers borrow 5.9 library books a year compared with 10.1 in the other three provinces. Quebec has about one-quarter the number of librarians in its public system that Ontario does.

The poor showing is often called a legacy of the Catholic Church; according to popular lore, when advocates obtained a $150,000 grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation for a new Montreal library in the early 1900s, church authorities forced them to refuse it.

"For the Catholic Church, books were very dangerous," said Réjean Savard, a professor of library sciences at the University of Montreal. "The truth wasn't supposed to be found in books, but in the priest. So the church blocked libraries' development. You can understand why we're behind today."

How to solve the lag? Experts say the best way to prod the public into libraries is through welcoming, neighbourhood branches. A child won't walk downtown to do his homework or attend an after-school program.

"To foster the culture of reading and literacy, branch libraries are so important," said Don Butcher, executive director of the Canadian Library Association.

Funding will also be crucial. Premier Jean Charest will be on hand to inaugurate the library today, although it was the preceding Parti Québécois government, which saw the library as an expression of its cultural ambitions, that approved it. Over the weekend, 20,000 to 30,000 people are expected for an open house. Once the library gets going, 5,000 visitors are expected to step through its doors each day.

"This library will fill a major void, because we didn't have a decent main library," Prof. Savard said. "We're making the gamble that by building a big library, we'll raise the level of the entire network. I think it will work. But what I'm worried about is that we'll say we've made the effort, then stop.

"We're far from having caught up," he said. "And the battle isn't over."
 

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The design isn't too bad, I do object to the colour though, but that is a personal preference. From those renderings though, it doesn't look all too "grand", but from the sounds of it it's pretty big.

Sticking the kids section in the basement doesn't sound all too great, as we want kids to be interested in reading, and a nice airy atmosphere will definitely be more inviting than a basement, no matter how nicely decorated.
 

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moonage daydream
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It sure is big, Ill have to go check it out.

Can we build a Museum of Natural History next, that is something else this city lacks.
 

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It's ugly. Why is it so bland/boring/ugly? I wish they would have built something like Vancouver's Library. Can, that city gets everything right. We got a problem here in Montreal.
 

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^^^^^^^^^If you think Vancouver get's everything right then you must be referring to Vancouver Washington.
Vancouver is very ill conceived with poor transit, no public places and horrible theatre and arts. I will give you one thing thou.........I really do like the central library, now that is something Vancouver did right.
As for the new Montreal one???.......just looks like a glass box.
 

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www.mtlurb.com
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the exterior is bland, and opinions aren't unanimous about it.Maybe its the beginning of a bigger vision for things to come for that corner (UQAM new buildings coming up across the street). Maybe a piece of a new puzzle.

The interior is something else, most critics have been raving about it. Its grand, cozy and inspiring. A place where you would want to stay.

Plus the collection is very rich.
 

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I think its a nice building for Montreal, just don't like the exterior's color. The inside was very nice too. Here are some pics of inside.





 

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The Mighty.
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I think that's actually a very good idea. Nice place too.
Obviously it would be a costly mistake if you added one of those to a city like mine, but for Montreal it makes sense.
I don't even think it would do very well in Quebec City.

Ottawa sounds like a plan, as did Vancouver.
If we were to see others like this, I would make a stab at the cities of Calgary and/or Edmonton to recieve this.
 

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I wouldn't call it a masterpiece but not a mistake either. Halifax is planning for a new central library in the near future as well.
 

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www.mtlurb.com
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I went on a mission tonight, is the new library better looking at night?

I think it is IMO.





The kids corner is down there, they'll get some sun light even tho its located in the basement.




On this back street, will be held an open air used book market.




For some reason, graffitis found their way thru glass ;)





Small street connecting to St-Denis Blvd:



Rolling mini hills... weee fun :)
















Did architech think of that spot as being a corner where strong winds will bring trash... :???:




 

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Its good news for the city to have a new library. I'm not crazy though about the exterior, looks like a better than average big box store. Hopefully the interior is better, and that there are some decent books purchased for the library.
 

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SSLL
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
It's great that Canadian cities are reinvesting in libraries. It's a great community center. Halifax, Vancouver and Montreal having new central libraries. Who's next up? I don't love Toronto Reference, but it's better than Ottawa Central (eww...).
 

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samsonyuen said:
It's great that Canadian cities are reinvesting in libraries. It's a great community center. Halifax, Vancouver and Montreal having new central libraries. Who's next up? I don't love Toronto Reference, but it's better than Ottawa Central (eww...).
Winnipeg is renovating their library.. by Patkau



 
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