About our Library

Orillia has had a public library since 1911. Renovations and extensions to the building were done in 1961, 1967, and 1981 respectively. But other than a new roof in 1992 and some upgrades in 1998 and 1999 to meet fire codes, the library building saw no further improvements after 1981.

Time does not stand still, however, and while the community grew and demand for library services evolved and increased, the library’s facilities were not keeping pace. A study revealed that the library would need to more than double its size for the current population, and more than triple its size to meet library standards for the population projected for the next twenty years.

Orillia Public LibraryOrillia’s Public Library needed a new home in order to meet growing demand for its services—a fully accessible building that would provide those services to the entire community.

Now, with the new library close to completion, the community can be justifiably proud. But there is still work to be done in order to ensure the goal of opening a state of the art library for the community to enjoy.  Funding for special projects like early literacy, restoration of our extensive art collection, preservation of our local history and enhancements to our accessibility, still needs to be achieved.  To this end, the Orillia Public Library is turning to individuals and groups in the community to make our library the best library it can be.

A Little History…

‘Bursting at the Seams’

It was April 2000 when library staff completed a building needs study, which documented the library’s very serious space deficiencies: the lack of shelf space for existing collections of books and other materials; no space for quiet study areas for the public; no meeting or proper programme areas, and very limited staff work areas. These conditions were not only hampering the library’s ability to serve the community, they were also jeopardizing the library’s continued viability as an important community institution.

Woman in stacksThe issue was framed in this context: Where should the Orillia Public Library be located in order to bring it up to established library standards and to enable it to deliver an appropriate level of service to the maximum number of citizens over the next twenty years?

Orillia’s Civic Jewels

“I think Orillia should do what cities strive to do everywhere. Which is to honour, restore and preserve the best aspects of our visible past, while progressing and keeping up with the rest of the modern world.”

- Mark Elgar (Letter to the Editor, Orillia Packet and Times. Wednesday, November 5, 2008)

Realizing that Orillia’s historically rich downtown core could be greatly enhanced, the Building Steering Committee recommended that the new Orillia Public Library be built on the Market Block. In 2003, representatives of the local Farmers’ Market, the Opera House, the Orillia Downtown Management Board, local Councillors and City Staff attended a Building Steering Committee meeting in order to consider that option.

It was unanimous: everyone in attendance encouraged the library to stay on the Market Block in order to serve as an anchor for the downtown business community and as a means of attracting customers for the Opera House and the Farmers’ Market. It was strongly felt that the 650+ people per day visiting the library would bring commerce to core.

Indeed, by keeping the new library on the Market Block, it will be able to continue its historic role of providing economic diversity and supporting a cultural focus, which this quadrant of our City’s main intersection has done for our downtown since the early part of the past century. The traditional roles of a library as a community gathering place, as a downtown destination, and as a future force for revitalization will continue to be part of our city core by locating the library on this site.

Furthermore, once finished, Orillia will have a downtown that it can point to with pride. This revitalized civic hub—the Opera House, the Farmer’s Market, and the Orillia Public Library—will invigorate Orillia’s downtown core.

Today, we see that the beautiful 47,000 square foot facility is taking shape in our midst. We should be very proud of what we have achieved thus far as a community and what we have to look forward to once the building is complete.