24 Things to Do at Calgary Public Library – Your Kid-Approved 2024 Family Guide

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Are you looking for what to do at the Calgary Public Library? 

Whether you’re a local looking to make your first trip to the iconic library, or perhaps like me, a tourist only visiting for the day, we’ve put together a list of the top things to do at the Calgary Public Library. I can say that this is by far the most elaborative, architecturally beautiful, and engaging library I’ve ever been to. Even though I’m not from the city, I know I’ll check it out again on my next visit. 

This is an interactive and innovative approach to the traditional library from the “teens only” centre to the physical play area for toddlers, podcast hubs you can book out, and incredible art and history collections. Speaking of innovation, there is a train that runs through the library, no easy architectural feat. 

So let’s start by learning a little about one of Calgary’s most treasured gems and then dig in and discover what to do at the Calgary Central Library.

Calgary Public Library

the director of communications at the calgary central library standing in the main hallway

The Calgary Public Library-Central Location opened its doors in 2018 to Calgarians. With a 250 million dollar investment, all parties were committed to creating a globally recognized evolution of community space… a place where democratic spaces were crafted and everyone is truly welcome. Now that sounds very official, but simply put, it is a place where everyone is welcome, in a beautiful space that will be a legacy for years. As Mary Kapusta, Director of Communications said, “A place that belongs to you.”

many bookshelves and desks inside the Calgary Public Library

Innovation and evolution were at the forefront of the designers of the Calgary Public Library-Central Location. With guest experience at the forefront, every aspect of the library has been re-created, leaving a new norm for how everyone engages in a library. Gone are the days when libraries were boring places you only go when you have a project due. Today, Calgarians line up upon opening, waiting to sneak away to their favourite corner of the library and engage in their activities for the day. 56% of Calgarians are active library users and Calgary is a city that loves its libraries, and it’s easy to see why! The CPL system is Canada’s second most used library and North America’s 6th most used library!

What to do at the Calgary Public Library – All Ages

1. Take A Tour

two women are sorting books behind the scenes, part of the Calgary Public Library tour

Start your visit to the Calgary Public Library by taking a free tour led by one of their wonderful volunteer guides. The tour allows visitors to be able to learn the history, architecture and workings of the whole library. We even got to go behind the scenes to see the book return automation and the robots at work that help make the process move efficiently and get the books back on the shelf as quickly as possible.

2. Take In A Modern Storytelling Experience that Honours Indigenous Histories

indigenous puppets sitting on chairs in a classroom at the Calgary Public Library

The power of storytelling is a key area of focus within the library with special opportunities for elders to connect with each other and share their culture, stories, crafts, and traditions in the proper setting.

teepee set up inside the Calgary Public Library

No detail was overlooked in these classrooms, from the custom light feature that can showcase the evening sky, to the configuration, to the practical aspects (like refrigerators for gatherings with food) to the fabrics and materials that were borrowed to be displayed in the room. It’s clear that this is a special place for learning, sharing, and growing.

3. Hang Out With Friends In The Open Community Spaces

large seating and gathering area inside the calgary central library

Long gone are the days when you’re “shhhhhhhed” inside a library. With large floor-to-ceiling windows and comfortable chairs in groups, this library encourages you to come and visit with friends, work on projects, or build community and make new ones! This space was so beautiful I could see spending a whole day working here, setting up meetings, and enjoying the scenery.

4. Explore The Architecture – A Library That Embraces The Land That It Was Created From

center architectural view of the calgary central library

The oval-shaped building replicates the arched clouds made by chinook winds in Alberta. The western red cedars catch your imagination as you wonder where you should wander off to first. Built as a collaboration project by architects Snøhetta and Alberta-based DIALOG, this urban centre for the community is grounded in the place that it calls home.

Traveler tip: The stairs are a popular spot for taking photos.

5. See A Train Run Through the Library

outside view of the Calgary Public Library central location with the c-train running through it
Photo Credit: Calgary Public Library

A CT train runs right through the first level of the library, where the kids ran to the window to watch it pass beneath them. The ingenuity of allowing the transit line to continue and ensure the connection of the city’s communities was a testament to how this place is a gathering space for the community and the people who live here and visit, and that any problem can be overcome when everyone is willing to innovate.

6. Go On An Art Walk

indigenous art statue inside the Calgary Public Library

There are art displays for you to explore throughout the Calgary Public Library-Central Location.

metal sculpture of a buffalo inside the Calgary Public Library

From full-scale metal artwork to large-scale paintings, to smaller sculptures and creations in cases, there is a lot to see, so move slowly and with intention of appreciating it all.

7. Plan Your Next Adventure

a woman sits reading a canadian rockies guide book while sitting a grey chair in front of a bookshelf at the Calgary Public Library central location

While we were on a trip to the Canadian Rockies I thought it was a good time to grab this book and seek inspiration and advice (and let me be transparent, it was the perfect photo op!). But if you are in the travel planning stage, this is a great place to go.

8. Go On A Photo Tour

looking up at the wooden ceiling inside the Calgary Public Library

With so many incredible places to take photos, take your camera to the library and spend hours wandering through and practicing your skills. Be sure to take photos from different angles (like this one, which was taken from the lower floors looking up at the ceiling).

9. Tour The Outside Of The Library

outside entrance to the Calgary Public Library central location

The outside of the building is as beautiful as the inside and worth taking time to walk around and appreciate. An incredible legacy for this city and future generations, encouraging literacy and community, one library visit at a time.

10. Find A Smart Wall At the Calgary Library

boy using cell phone at interactive display at calgary central library

Just around the corner from the Teen Center is a Smart Wall, where paintings “come alive” through an interactive app. Unlike other libraries, kids are encouraged to get their devices out and learn about the history of the land by engaging with the app and seeing the features on the wall come alive.

11. Play In a Pod

young girl sits inside a reading pod at the Calgary Public Library

These pods are perfect for sitting back in with your favourite book or cuddling in with a youngster to read. I love how many different places there are throughout the library to settle into, in whatever way is best for your body and brain, so that you can enjoy the whole experience, from body to mind.

12. Go Online (And Plan Your Next Adventure?)

desk with a computer sitting on it inside the Calgary Public Library

If you’re looking for WIFI or a computer you can get it at the Calgary Public Library-Central Location (this can be especially helpful for those who are traveling and don’t have access to a personal computer).

13. Attend a Free Public Event

a circus act performs inside the Calgary Public Library central location
Photo Credit: Calgary Public Library

Throughout the year the Calgary Public Library-Central Location transform into a space where free events for all ages take place. From live theatre to musical performances, to story time to educational talks, there are a variety of engaging events that happen at the library. Be sure to keep an eye on their website, as new events are being added.

14. Visit the Author in Residence Studio

author in residence studio sign inside the Calgary Public Library
Photo Credit: Calgary Public Library

The Calgary Public Library offers local authors to take up residency in the library in the Fall so they can work on their writing and “to champion the joy of reading, foster an understanding of the craft of writing, and connect readers and writers.” So be sure to take a peek if you visit in the Fall to see what the local authors are working on.

What to do at the Calgary Public Library – Toddler & Preschoolers

15. Take your Toddlers to Teetering Toddler Time At the Calgary Central Library

toddler height bookshelves at the calgary central library

Imagine a board room with toddlers crawling on the tables and architects and library staff challenging themselves on how they could build these little people the perfect library. While I doubt this actual meeting took place, the concept of a child-centered library was clearly a motivating factor for everyone involved in the creative and functional process. The toddler section of the library is designed to be accessed at the average height of toddlers, with shallow accessible carts displaying the best hard-covered books in arm’s reach of the little readers.

16. Let your Preschoolers Explore At Calgary Public Library

older child area and playground at the calgary central library

Progressively the stairs from the toddler section go up to the preschooler’s area, and the design slowly transitions to a perfectly inclusive space for preschoolers. The height of the shelves and the design of the space flow so seamlessly that if it isn’t pointed out, you’ll easily miss it. “Design is so simple, that’s why it’s so complicated,” says Paul Brand. The books are wrapped with a ribbon of welcome, with cozy corners and cuddly rugs to snuggle into and read a book.

What to do at the Calgary Public Library – Elementary Aged Kids

17. Check Out The Indoor Playground at Calgary Public Library

round circle windows on the side of the kids playground structure inside the Calgary Public Library

Do you have an adventurous reader who may have too much energy to settle down? No need to leave the library, rather invite them over to the built-in, middle-of-the-library playground (yes, that’s not a typo) proving that reading and physical education should all be considered in your experience when you’re a teetering toddler or adventurous kid visiting your favourite library.

18. Pick up a Grab-and-Go Activity Bag

grab and go take home activity bags for children at the Calgary Public Library

Want to take your Calgary Public Library-Central Location adventures home with you? Children 3+ are invited to take a grab-and-go activity bag that has a special activity inside that they can do at home!

19. Cozy Into Kids Corner

2 kids sitting on the floor inside the kids area in front of a curved bookshelf at the Calgary Public Library

With the library being so customized to each age group, kids will easily find books of interest and a cozy spot to dig into a new story. We loved these rounded bookcases that felt like the books were surrounding us with a big hug. So inviting!

What to do at the Calgary Public Library – Teens

20. Visit the Teen Center at Calgary Public Library

teen centre sign and bookshelves inside the Calgary Public Library

Pointing at the sign, my children quickly noticed the strict rules that were being broken “Teen Centre 13 – 18 years ONLY” pointing to me and my cousin, directing me to leave!  The excitement that there was an age restriction for PARENTS thrilled them and they quickly enforced the library rules, modeling behaviour they have been taught for so many years. Once inside the teen centre at the Calgary Central Library, they found compelling displays where books of all genres could be showcased like a feast for the eyes.

21. Go Gaming In The Teen Center

gaming area inside the teen centre at the Calgary Public Library
Photo Credit: Calgary Public Library

The designers of the Calgary Central Library had the teen’s interest (and probably consultation) in mind when they designed this part of the library. My kids couldn’t believe their eyes, questioning if they were in an arcade vs a library. With gaming systems next to oversized couches, socialization pods, sound booths for producing podcasts, and even video production rooms complete with lighting and green screens, there was an integration of modern technology that was unparalleled to anything I’ve ever seen.

What to do at the Calgary Public Library – Students & Working Professionals

22. Explore The Beautiful Study Hall

study hall with multiple long tables with chairs

A photographer’s dream is also a student’s haven, this incredible study hall located on the top floor of the Calgary Central Library, is one where work gets done, brain cells get challenged and you’ll walk out of the building a better person.

corner study space with a round table and bookshelves behind

Of course, none of this is officially verified but being in a place so inspirational and well designed leads me to believe that only magic can happen here.

23. Have a Private Pod Meeting

a desk and benches make up an orange meeting pod inside the Calgary Public Library

Have you ever had to have a meeting where you were distracted by the outside chatter? These pods are cool to hang out in but also are more efficient as they help to lower the outside noise and help the whole team concentrate.

24. Live The Legacy

a young girl sits on the floor reading a book in front of a bookshelf, the photo is taken above her looking down

The seeds that have been planted with this library will bear fruit for generations to come. From the environmental design that embraces each guest as they enter the main hall, to the hands-on and innovative library experience, to the new technology and ways of learning, to the sheer volume of resources available, this keystone library is something that will serve the community for generations to come, leaving a legacy beyond literacy with Calgarians and visitors alike.

Calgary Public Library FAQs

Is the Calgary Public Library free?

Yes, it is free to go in and visit. If you want to sign out books you’ll need to sign up for a free library card.

What is the most beautiful library in Calgary?

While I haven’t visited them all, the Calgary Central Library is my favourite. With so many thought-filled designs that are as Instagram-perfect as they are functional, I think it’s the most beautiful building, inside and out.

When To Visit The Calgary Central Library

outside the Calgary Public Library central location, the building and two bird like art statues stand in front

If you’re visiting family and friends in Calgary and are looking for the perfect indoor adventure, the library is a great place. We were only there for an hour and it wasn’t long enough for any of the members of our group. Here are other reasons family travelers could easily incorporate a trip to the Calgary Central Library into their itinerary: 

  • Somewhere cool, unique, and fun to explore. 
  • Rainy days – when you need a break to warm up.
  • Heatwave days – when you need to cool down.
  • Snowy days – when it’s just too chilly for an outdoor adventure! 
  • When you have time between checking out of a hotel but before your flight.
  • When you want to research your next Calgary adventure. 
  • When you want to access complimentary wifi.
  • When you want to check out one of their drop-in family programs.

Sponsorship Disclosure: While this experience was hosted on behalf of Travel Alberta, Tourism Calgary, and Calgary Central Library, the opinions, thoughts, recommendations, and media is all my own. I only recommend companies that I would trust my family and friends with and that I would invest resources into myself.

About The Author
Jami Savage
Jami Savage
Jami Savage is one of the top Family Travel Writers in Canada, and has been featured on CTV and Vancouver Sun, and more. Go here to read our families story about how we went from backyard adventurers to world travelers, and how you can do the same. If you want to send Jami a quick message, visit her contact page here.
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  1. This article beautifully showcases the innovative design and community focus of the Calgary Central Library. I’m intrigued by the mention of a CT train running through the library. Can you share more details about how this unique feature enhances the library’s connection with the community and its visitors?


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Jami Savage

Full Time Travel Writer, Mom who is passionate about empowering and educating travelers on how you can use your own tourism dollars as a catalyst for positive change worldwide. Click here to learn more about us, our family, and how we lead an adventure filled life!

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