Library and Archives Canada (LAC)—Ottawa Public Library (OPL) Joint Facility Project


  • In November 2015, LAC responded to the City of Ottawa Request for Expressions of Interest to explore a potential innovative collaboration in regards to the Ottawa Public Library’s new Central Library Project. In January 2016, LAC and OPL signed a Letter of Interest to investigate the terms of a collaboration project.
  • As part of this project, all public services LAC currently offers at 395 Wellington Street will move to the new joint facility. LAC’s Published Heritage Service Collection will continue to be stored at 395 Wellington.
  • The City of Ottawa is responsible for the delivery of the project. Ownership of the joint facility will be split, with the City owning 61 percent of the facility and LAC owning 39 percent.
  • The site of the joint facility, 555 Albert Street in Ottawa, was chosen following one of the most robust site evaluation processes ever held for a Canadian public library. The evaluation process included representatives from LAC, OPL, and the City of Ottawa, as well as external experts and a fairness commissioner. Public input was sought in developing the site evaluation criteria.
  • The 2018 Federal Budget announced the government’s intention to contribute $73.3 million for LAC’s share of the construction costs of a new joint facility, as well as ongoing annual funding of $4M per year for building operations. The federal funding does not cover certain transition activities or additional progam costs. The total costs of the project, including the City of Ottawa/OPL share, is $192.9M. The City will contribute $104.2M toward the construction of the facility, along with $18.1M for a 200 space parking garage, and LAC will contribute $70.6M for its share of the project.
  • LAC received formal Project Approval at an indicative cost estimate of $77.2 million ($86.6M including HST of $9.4M) and Expenditure Authority of $11.1M ($12.4M with HST of $1.3M) for the Definition/Design Phase of the project in November 2018. The Project Approval amount of $77.2M includes funding for LAC’s share of capital costs to design and construct the facility ($70.6M) as well as LAC project costs (project team, some transition projects).
  • In December 2018, LAC, OPL and the City of Ottawa signed a governance agreement which details the governance, ownership, cost-sharing, decision-making, dispute resolution and ongoing operations for the project and the future joint facility.
  • In December 2018, the team of Diamond Schmitt Architects (Toronto) and KWC Architects (Ottawa) was announced as the architects for the joint facility project. The selection process, which was overseen by an external Fairness Commissioner, included a request for qualifications (May 2017) for which 33 submissions were received and from which the City shortlisted five teams to participate in a request for proposals (May 2018). The team of Diamond Schmitt Architects and KWC Architects ranked highest.
  • In January 2019, the design team started to work with the partners (LAC, OPL and the City) and the public on the schematic design of the joint facility.
  • Construction of the new facility is expected to begin in 2021 and be completed in 2024.
  • Public Services Branch is coordinating the internal budget request and leading a series of multi-year service transition projects in preparation for the move to 555 Albert Street in 2024. These transition projects include the development of a new LAC orientation venue, the digitization of finding aids, the creation of a virtual reading room, the development of the curated collection, addressing collection security, the move of collections, and services renewal to meet the demands of an expanded clientele in the joint facility.


  • The project and LAC’s participation in the project has received broad public support.
  • Media coverage of the project has generally been positive.
  • The project is now in Schematic Design phase, which includes significant public consultations and Indigenous engagement. The first public consultation workshops (February 28 and March 2) were successfully attended and positively reported in the media. Participation in the online engagement was also significant. On-site attendance and online participation increased for the second public workshops (June 1 and 3). The third workshop is scheduled for August 21 and 22 and a fourth workshop will be held after the federal election this fall (November 2019—TBC).
  • The unveiling of the design of the joint facility is planned for Winter 2020 (January 2020—TBC).

Key messages

  • The heart of LAC’s mandate is to connect Canadians and others with Canada’s documentary heritage. This new facility will offer modern, integrated and streamlined access services for both its archival and published collections in a striking and purpose-built facility.
  • This new 20,060 square meters (216,000 square feet—roughly the size of four football fields) world-class facility is expected to attract 1.7 million visitors annually. This will be a great opportunity to increase awareness of and access to Canada’s history, culture and knowledge.
  • Public consultations, specific discussions with LAC stakeholders and employees, and Indigenous engagement are an essential part of the design process. Meaningful engagement will ensure that the facility reflects the needs of users, visitors and employees while respecting the historical and cultural context of the land on which the facility is built.
  • LAC will maintain and improve its current service offerings and standards in environments that researchers have come to expect. Yet new venues that are open, accessible, interactive and tailored for broad appeal will add a layer of inclusive and democratic access.
  • LAC spaces will include an orientation space to LAC’s programs and services, reference services, a reading room with a curated collection freely available for visitors to explore and access within our new readings rooms, and a working preservation lab that will provide visitors with a first-hand view of conservation techniques used to preserve and maintain LAC’s holdings. Shared spaces with the OPL will include a museum-quality exhibition gallery, a genealogy centre, and public meeting spaces, including a multi-purpose auditorium space that will be used to further enhance and expand our public programming activities.
  • The funding identified in Budget 2018 will be used to finance LAC’s portion of the building, both for its acquisition and its ongoing operations and maintenance.


Date modified: