« Back to Civic & Community Engagement

Building Bridges

Calgary Public Library

Problem Statement

To build community through skills and knowledge development and embracing of cultural diversity.


Building Bridges: Engaging Communities includes expansion of existing services and development of new and innovative programs incorporating awareness raising, skills and knowledge development and civic engagement. It promotes long-term change in attitudes and behaviours through collaboration and inclusivity. The project is developed in partnership with the Calgary Centre for Culture, Equity and Diversity and funded by the United Way of Calgary and Area and the City of Calgary Family and Community Support Services. The pillars of the project include:
  • Living Library – This innovative program supports Calgarians in learning about diverse social identities by borrowing a “living book” speaking to that identity. It includes the development of a community resource database and provides opportunities for newcomers to share their knowledge and experience.
  • DiverseCity – These programs promote diversity through celebratory and interactive programs for the public. A Speakers’ Series, for professional development of Library staff and other agencies, and a Cultural Literacy module will enhance services to all Calgarians.


Originally developed in Denmark by the Human Library Organization, Calgary Public Library’s Living Library program was the largest launch to date. Implemented in partnership with community partners the Calgary Centre for Culture, Equity and Diversity, and the University of Calgary, it was held at 5 locations on one day in 2009. Since the launch, 7 additional Living Library events have been held, 72 Living Books have been recruited, and hundreds of checkouts recorded.

A variety of successful programs were held to promote and celebrate diversity throughout the last year, including:

  • Dalai Lama educational series (in alignment with his visit to Calgary);
  • World Languages Fair;
  • ESL Listen and Learn presentation series;
  • Author readings;
  • Hidden Gems Film Festival; and
  • “What is Black History” panel discussion.

These programs were developed with a variety of community partners, strengthening the library’s connection to the community and building community capacity.