New WPL branch opens in Eastside

A new place to read, relax and connect—the Waterloo Library Eastside Branch has opened 

Waterloo has a rich landscape of public libraries. For many people a library is more than a place to read and borrow books. Libraries are vital to communities as they offer a wide variety of programs for all ages and ways of life: their (e)books and movies help develop language skills for children or newcomers to Canada, the programs connect members with each other and their community, help marginalized groups find free internet access and give teenagers a place to hang out. 

The new WPL Eastside Branch opened to the public on May 7 at the RIM Park Manulife Sportsplex. David Jaworsky, mayor of Waterloo, said this neighborhood is young and vibrant and the new library location closes a gap in the system. 

“It fills out our library system, it makes it complete. Now we have a library on the east side of Waterloo for the first time ever,” Joworsky said. “It will make for a world class complex for families to enjoy.”

RIM Park was  already a gathering space for the community. 

“Now I can take my younger children to the library while my son plays soccer instead of just waiting. The new library is convenient. A big bonus is also that free parking is available and plenty,” a happy visitor said. The architectural design by John MacDonald Architect Inc. and Ward99 Architects Inc. features high ceilings, inviting lounge areas, light-filled interiors and an outdoor nature courtyard. Emma Martin,a visitor on opening day, said the interior of the new branch is impressive and inviting at the same time. 

“I like the lighting and how open the space is,” she said. 

An important concept of the architecture is to blend the building with the natural environment surrounding RIM Park—the trails and meadows around have always been a popular destination for families and nature programs. 

The Eastside Branch includes a natural outdoor space that will be used for programming and an art installation called Forest of Curiosities. 

Local artist Lucy Bilson created a mural featuring the story of wildlife and plants native to the surrounding area. Trees, plants, insects and animals of the Grand River are depicted to remind us of the beauty of this land. Lucy Bilson was inspired by the work that was done to revitalize the watershed along the Grand River. In a statement on the WPL website Bilson elaborates on her artistic vision. 

“The hope for this work is that it is not only enjoyed visually, but that it helps visitors to draw a personal connection to the environment: encouraging curiosity, teaching stewardship, and fostering relationship with the natural environment,” the statement reads.

Jaworski added that even the light bulbs of the library interior play into the concept of bringing nature in as they symbolize bubbles in waves in the Grand River. 

The Eastside Library is attractive for customers of all ages. A dedicated space for children with toys and room for programming is common among public libraries but the Eastside Branch accommodates teenagers as well: a Gamer Space will allow for public computer use and collaborative gaming and a Digispace offers high-end audio and video components which can be used for both music and podcast recording. 

Lara, 15, said  that all books in the teenage and young adult section are well researched and reflect current trends in youth literature. 

“Seeing the full shelves of books that I really like and are recommended by BookTubers is going to motivate me to read more. I am very excited to have access to all of these great books for free,” she said. 

The new library design is addressing another challenge of our times—climate change and energy consumption. A trombe wall provides passive solar heating for the building and works actively towards reducing the carbon footprint of the building. 

All the spaces for making and creating, relaxing and lounging show the architects and designers of the new Eastside Library Branch had a space in mind that attracts all audiences, a place to gather and connect with each other and the environment.