The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

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After a decade of planning involving three university presidents, 36 months of construction, and $100.4-million invested, Mount Royal University’s (MRU) new 16,000 square-metre Riddell Library and Learning Centre is the answer to a long standing problem.

Since the official opening of the Lincoln Park campus in 1972, Mount Royal College had its eyes set on becoming a university. It was named a university in 2009 but its library at the time was considered “woefully inadequate” by the province.

University librarian, Meagan Bowler, says the former library was “never purposely built to be a library. It was renovated to make it work for what we needed at the time.”

riddelbowlerBody2Meagan Bowler says library staff are eager to hear student feedback about new Riddell Library and Learning Centre. Photo by Courtney Ingram

From 1995 to 2007, 14 applied degrees were launched at MRU. By 2008, new undergraduate bachelor level degrees were added in Nursing, Business Administration, Arts and Communication.

Despite each step forward, there was still one major obstacle keeping the school from reaching a high level.

Bowler recalls, “I’m remembering that library and I remember walking around noon, you know, in kind of November, busy time and seeing students sitting on the floor around a power outlet. You know, it was all we had. We did everything we could to open up that space and welcome people in but we were just out growing it.”“I’m remembering that library and I remember walking around noon, you know, in kind of November, busy time and seeing students sitting on the floor around a power outlet. You know, it was all we had. We did everything we could to open up that space and welcome people in but we were just out growing it.” – Megan Bowler

Following a review in 2006, Mount Royal made building a new library the highest priority and a focus point for the 2009 transition of Mount Royal College to Mount Royal University. In 2008 the provincial government provided $2.8-million to plan the new Riddell Library, which was opened officially September 7, 2017.

John Souleles, project architect with Dialog, joined the Riddell Library project four years ago.

“One of the first steps that Mount Royal has made in terms of converting itself from a college to university is that now it starts to take itself from an island in the inner city which used to be just sort of out in the boonies… to the point where the city has grown around it and it needs to engage the community in a meaningful way,” said Souleles. “The success of the university and the success of the library is really going to be about how they connect with others.”

Souleles says the most important thing when designing a library is being aware of the different ways of learning. Thus, they tried to create diverse learning spaces, including singular pods for the introverted learner and group study spaces for the extroverted learner.

The Riddell Library is composed of many distinctive features, read more about the most notable of them in the related story.

MRU student Daniel Schmidt considers the library to be“... a great addition to the university… and is a step in the right direction for MRU to potentially become a more desirable university to attend.”

“From a design standpoint, it’s excellent,” said Jasmine Jackson, a fourth year interior design student.

Jocelyn Adam, a third year psychology student says the facility “definitely competes with U of C’s library.”

But not every student user is satisfied with the new facility. Car Lumby, a first year general science student said: “I think they used the space quite poorly. They focused too much on it being modern and cool looking instead of what students actually need. The printing system is also very disappointing and quite a hassle.”

The Riddell Library and Learning Centre is also open to the general public and people are welcome to borrow books and use the facilities with a free MRU Library community borrower card.

The southwest quadrant of the city now has five public libraries with the addition of the Riddell Library.

Sarah Meilleur, director of service delivery, city centre community libraries and the new central Calgary Public Library says, “The more beautiful and amazing libraries that we have that provide great service to the community, is better for the community at large.”

Meilleur says that the library profession is a collaborative one and the Calgary Public Library staff are thrilled that the MRU library is open to the public.

RiddellentranceBODYMount Royal’s new library has more to offer than just books. Photo by Courtney Ingram

The Riddell Library staff plan to get feedback from the student body about the new facility in the future. Bowler says that the staff are most eager to see how the students use the space.

“We can imagine how we think the students might use it, but then you know that students go in and they move stuff around to fit what they actually need,” she said.

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Editor: Ashley King | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.