Edmonton Public Library (EPL) continues to write the book on innovation

Back in February I had the opportunity to attend a Lunch & Learn event at the Edmonton Public Library. I joined nearly two dozen Edmontonians at the Stanley Milner library downtown to find out more about EPL and what they have been working on. Pilar Martinez, EPL’s Deputy CEO and Tina Thomas, Director of Marketing & Fund Development at EPL, led us through a brief presentation about EPL’s history and then told us more about two key initiatives they are raising money for. We finished with a tour of the Makerspace.

Normally I’d start with a photo of the library, but instead I want to share this colorful application of EPL’s Spread the words brand.

EPL Parkade
EPL Parkade by Ian McKenzie

I’m a regular user of the library so I feel like I know it well. But I still learned quite a bit during the lunchtime session! “Our history is all about innovation,” Pilar told us. To gain a better understanding of that history, we watched this video which was made to celebrate EPL being named Library of the Year in 2014:

Being named “Library of the Year” is the equivalent of winning the Stanley Cup in the world of libraries. EPL is the first ever Canadian library to receive the accolade.


The library is about more than books. It has been for a long time.

If you take a look at the EPL website today you’ll find the Digital Content tab. That’s your gateway to a whole other world of resources, including e-books, audiobooks, magazines, databases, open data, online learning, and more. In fact, EPL says they offer more than 5 million digital resources.

Here are some of the ones I use most frequently:

I’m continually amazed that I can access these resources for free using my computer without ever having to step into a branch. And I’m barely scratching the surface of what’s available!


The other non-book resource that I use all the time is the Makerspace, especially now that it features two recording booths. You won’t find any books in the Makerspace, unless of course you print one using the Espresso Book Machine! It’s a place for technology, exploration, and fun. Graham and I meet there every week to record Mack & Cheese and we always find it busy and full of activity.

On the tour we learned about the space from Peter Schoenberg, EPL’s Manager of Digital Literacy and Web Services. He explained that the Makerspace offers tools and resources to help people learn about things like 3D printing, graphic design, and more. And while you could in theory use the resources there to start a business, you’d quickly outgrow the space (and EPL is happy to help you get to that point).

Inside you’ll find computers and workstations in an open concept. The space works well for hackathons! You’ll also find the aforementioned Espresso Book Machine and a green wall for photography and video work:

EPL Makerspace

There are three 3D printers (they had to add another recently to keep up with demand):

EPL Makerspace

There are a couple of gaming spaces with Xboxes and these incredible overhead cone speakers that keep the sound minimized to the local area:

EPL Makerspace

And there are two sound-proof recording booths with computers, mics, mixers, amps, and instruments:

EPL Makerspace

The Makerspace is an incredible resource and if you couldn’t tell, I’m a big fan. Check it out if you haven’t already done so! You can request a tour here.

Welcome Baby

One of the programs I didn’t know about before the luncheon was Welcome Baby, a program that puts books and early literacy resources in the hands of newborns and their parents. “A library card, books and story times are the first steps to a love of reading and success later in life.”

Through a partnership with AHS, the program is being brought to parents when they visit a clinic for their child’s two month immunizations. Babies also receive a library card, free of course. “Early literacy is the foundation and EPL is focused on it,” Pilar told us.

Each Welcome Baby Early Literacy Kit costs $25 and EPL is hoping to raise $1.5 million total. You can donate to Welcome Baby here.


The other program we learned a lot about was epl2go, a new literacy van initiative. Before I spoil it, watch this entertaining promotional video:

The idea is actually an old one (EPL used to have book mobiles that would travel to different neighbourhoods). epl2go vans will bring programs and services from the library to Edmontonians who don’t have easy access to an existing branch. In today’s parlance, we might describe epl2go as a pop-up library!

EPL is looking to raise $1 million to have four epl2go vans – one for each quadrant of the city. You can donate to epl2go here.

Facelift and more for Stanley Milner downtown

Let’s face it, the Stanley Milner library downtown isn’t incredibly attractive. It certainly doesn’t fit with the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Winspear Centre, City Hall, and it’ll look even more out of place when the LRT starts running past the front door. It’s also not super functional, with poor connections to Churchill Station and an insanely congested sidewalk/bus stop out front. We’ve been talking about this for years in Edmonton, with ideas for renovations and updates frequently being proposed (here’s one from 2010 for instance).

Edmonton Downtown Library
Edmonton Downtown Library by IQRemix

The good news is that the building is going to be renewed thanks to Council’s decision to fund the $61.5 million project last December. The City is providing $51.5 million of that while EPL will need to fundraise the remaining $10 million. The goal is to open the doors of the new facility in late fall of 2018 so they’ll have to move quickly. EPL hasn’t yet figured out what the donation campaign will look like, but they’re working on it.

We’ll have to wait until the full plan for the building renewal is revealed to know everything that’s going to change, but we do know that internal systems will be upgraded so the library can achieve a LEED silver designation at minimum. We also learned at the luncheon that EPL intends to use the opportunity to greatly improve the utility of the interior of the building too, with lots of work spaces, meeting rooms, and other community facilities. And yes, the Makerspace will also receive upgrades and additions, like potentially a kitchen space.

Connect with the library

Check out @EPLdotCA on Twitter, edmontonpl on YouTube, and EPLdotCA on Facebook. If you don’t already have your free library card, you can learn how to get one here.

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