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What’s the deal with those empty shelves at the library?

The south extension of the main branch library in Downtown Sudbury is being rejigged to accommodate a new children’s area in a process expected to conclude this summer
Greater Sudbury Public Library CEO and chief librarian Brian Harding is seen in the south extension portion of the main branch library, where shelves are being cleared to make way for a new children’s area. 

A stroll through the Greater Sudbury Public Library’s main branch in Downtown Sudbury reveals an unusual sight for a library — numerous empty shelves.

The library is creating a new children’s area in the south end of the building, Greater Sudbury Public Library CEO and chief librarian Brian Harding told

This is their first major reconfiguration since before the pandemic hit, and would usually involve shutting down the library, he explained.

Instead, they’re chipping away at it over a period of several weeks in order to keep the building operating and not affect service levels.

“There’s a large amount of effort involved, removing all the books, the shelving, bringing in new furniture and doing refurbishments,” Harding said.

The existing shelves, which tower over people’s heads, will be replaced with smaller ones only three feet tall, which Harding said will make children feel more at home in the space.

“It’s about the people and ensuring the spaces we provide are welcome and inclusive for all,” he said, adding that the message tall shelves tell children is “this is a space for your parents to navigate for you and hand you materials.”

The current children’s area is spread between three separate rooms, and the new space will be one larger space children will easily recognize as being for them. 

There will be a special focus on “play-based learning,” he said.

Although non-fiction and large-print books, which previously occupied the space, have been cleared out, Harding said a rejigging of all the library’s resources mean not any one area of their collection is being targetted for divestment. Or, as librarians put it, “weeding.”

“Weeding is a daily process across the system,” he said, clarifying that although there might be a temporary reduction in the branch’s collection, it will be replenished over time through the purchase of new materials.

But, why go through all this effort at the MacKenzie Street library when it’s slated to be replaced by a new main branch library by the end of 2026.

(The City of Greater Sudbury is working toward the Cultural Hub at Tom Davies Square project, which would repurpose city hall at 199 Larch St. into a new central library.)

The new library project has been bandied about in different incarnations for 10 years, Harding said, adding that they couldn’t put off making improvements for a decade.

Although optimistic the Cultural Hub will proceed as planned, Harding said they’re still unwilling to put off improvements, particularly when it comes to the children’s area.

“That would stop us from delivering that kind of high-quality service we want to provide to patrons of all branches,” he said.

That said, he clarified that changes being made at the MacKenzie Street library are not expensive. 

Shelves are being repurposed from surplus, and the biggest expense will be furniture, which can shift to the new library whenever it opens.

The library’s new children’s area is expected to be ready within a few months, Harding said.

As for the space vacated by the old children’s area, Harding said they’re not quite ready to divulge plans yet, but that it would tap into their commitment to Truth and Reconciliation “to create spaces that reflect Indigenous identity within our branches.”

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for


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Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for
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