Renovations: Why Renovate? Part I

I planned to continue the renovations discussion with a post offering a bit of back story when I realized that there was likely enough to fill three shorter posts (for ease of reading for busy lawyers and those on the go!).  This post, the first, will serve as an overall background to why we’re renovating.  The following post will look at the library specifically, while the last will focus on the barristers lounge.

Opened in 1986, the Ottawa Courthouse has been the home of the CCLA since day one.  We have a formidable space on the second (or, depending on how you look at it, main) floor, with a goodly amount of library stack space, areas for reading and study, and a combination of permanent and temporary offices.  We have the wonderful advantage of being on the east-facing wall of the building, so plenty of natural light floods into the space.  Even more fantastic is that the windows in what is currently our reading area will be overlooking the new green roof being installed at the Courthouse.  You could say that we have some great bones to work with – plenty of room, lots of windows and natural light, and a great location.

So why do we want to renovate?  There are a few reasons.  One of the first reasons, likely the most apparent to a visitor of the library, is that the age of the space is showing.  While 25 years old isn’t all that much in building years, some construction and design materials simply need to be updated regularly.  Would the courthouse have been built with marble floors and walls, perhaps not, but the wallpaper, paint, and carpet treatments are all in desperate need of repair or replacement.  The refurbishment of these items alone would be a wonderful improvement to the space.  While this is a concern in the library, it’s also very readily apparent in the adjoining barristers lounge.

Another major reason for the renovation focuses on the how the space is currently configured, and how it is no longer fit for purpose from both a staff and library users perspective.  We have more staff than permanent offices.  In fact, it’s not even close.  We’ve taken some measures to “make” more space (the subject of a future blog post), and offices with modular walls have been created, but neither are ideal.  One of the main reasons is that the offices with modular walls don’t have ceilings.  This means sound carries, right over into one of the more popular reading areas in the library.  We very much do not want to disturb library users with the noise that goes along with the business of a law association.  It’s also not great for having confidential conversations, with clients sitting directly out side ceiling-less offices.  Ultimately, it isn’t a great arrangement for staff or library users.

Following on that, re-configuring the space would also have the absolutely wonderful added benefit of being able to change the way the library staff interacts with clients.  We’d love to see a space where we’re much closer to the reading and computer area, where we’re not behind two layers of desks when you need assistance, and where we can see what is going on in the library.  There’s also the possibility with a re-configuration that we’d be able to introduce a more diverse selection of work spaces – room to work quietly and alone, space for working with another lawyer, or a more comfortable seating area for more relaxed reading.  A new training space or area for medium-sized gatherings would be particularly exciting to our events staff – the possibilities for learning events and social gatherings with a new space such as that would be endless.  Currently, space in the courthouse matching this description is either non-existent or very hard to come by.

Going forward, these are some of the major issues we plan to address with the renovation.  We have tonnes of ideas for ways to make the space better, and we’re sure you do as well.  While we will be having meetings with many stakeholder groups to help shape the area, we certainly welcome your feedback and ideas.  If you would like to send in any feedback for the renovation in confidence, please email me, or our Executive Director Rick Haga.

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