"The People's Place:" How Placemaking Can Build Today's Best Libraries

Megan MacIver
Jun 29, 2011
Dec 14, 2017

"State of the Art" Library Opens in Nova Scotia

Visitors say "The People's Place feels like a place to live"

For all those who feared the rise of the Internet would mean the fall of the library here's a story of hope. Last week, June 26, the city of Antigonish, Canada, celebrated the grand opening of The People’s Place, the product of a community-initiated Placemaking process led by Eric Stackhouse, Chief Librarian of the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library in partnership with local “Zealous Nuts,” PPS' term for all the enthusiastic community leaders who get things done.

“You don’t expect to be shhhhhshed here”

Today’s best libraries so much more than places to check out books.  Built within a paradigm of place, "The People's Place" has become a civic center at the heart of this Nova Scotia community- and an important node on the town’s main street.  As Stackhouse explained, to build a truly state of the art library, “librarians have to think about our spaces differently: our role is heading toward more community development.”

This great video from CTV interviews visitors who say The People’s Place feels like a “place to live. ” Local press calls The People’s Place a “state of the art library” -and we couldn’t agree more.  This library points the way toward building public buildings within a paradigm of place. It starts with including all those who will use the space in deciding how the space will look, function, and feel.

The People’s Place Building Committee “firmly believes that to create a great place, you have to build it for people.”

Computer stations at "The People's Place"

On the library’s opening day, organizers estimate about 6,000 people (out of a population of about 18,000!) showed up to celebrate. The vision for the library was guided by PPS’ principles and was designed to serve as a multi-use destination civic center- a place where people can read, learn, enjoy art, and get to know one another.

Stackhouse says “we managed to include every idea the consultations came up with, which resulted in community ownership and the result is a 100% community thumbs up. [The library is] a green building, designed to integrate into Main Street and support the businesses, and flexible. Best thing I ever did was learn the process from PPS.”

The People’s Place is a $5.5 million joint project of the Municipality of the County of Antigonish, the Town of Antigonish, and the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library. Funding was obtained from both Federal and Provincial government sources as well as significant contributions from the community at large and the Friends of the Antigonish Library to make sure that when the library was completed it would be true to the community’s original vision.

Many local non-profits also use the library- making The People's Place a destination for people of all ages.

As well as a modern, welcoming public library, the facility hosts a Community Access Program (CAP) site, the Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA), and Health Connections. Also, several multi-purpose meeting and gathering spaces are included which can be used at no cost by non-profits. All these agencies and spaces are combined together in order to share resources and provide a single point of access by users.

Public Art is a Major Component Throughout several visioning sessions, community members agreed that public art should be a major component including over 20 pieces of sculpture, woodworking, visual art, textile, poster art, and more, including a mural by Alan Syliboy titled “The Dream Canoe”.

Libraries can change the world! Resources to make your libraries and civic centers great community places:

Get inspired by all the ideas the Antigonish community generated on this page.

Plans for the library were sensitive to its context within the rest of the town. Site plan prepared by Archibald and Jones Architects Ltd.

Tell us about your community's library: how are you making it a great place?

Megan MacIver
Megan MacIver
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