How one of Canada's first outdoor libraries is bringing a growing community together

When Thanh Phung recently visited one of Canada's first outdoor libraries with her two-year-old daughter, Mia, she could see that the surrounding community was already benefiting from the modernized space where families were gathering to read and play together. 

Until the new outdoor library and playground was unveiled last June in the growing, lower-income neighbourhood of North Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, the Dartmouth North Community Centre (DNCC) playground and Halifax Public Library Branch hadn’t been revitalized since their construction more than 20 years ago.

According to Halifax Public Libraries, the population density surrounding the DNCC is relatively high, and the facility has the potential to attract over 7,500 people within a reasonable walking distance.

"It was great to see so many lively and excited faces enjoying the space," said Phung, a lifestyle blogger who took Mia to the unveiling of the library in June to enjoy an outdoor story reading and play with other kids.

"With all of the indoor and outdoor activities available, you could see that the community centre is a place the entire family can enjoy."

The new library was created as a result of a joint effort between TD, Halifax Public Libraries, the Halifax Regional Municipality, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. For TD, the upgrade is also part of the bank's commitment to revitalizing green spaces, and creating opportunities for communities and individuals to come together under an initiative called The Ready Commitment.

The outdoor library is also one of the first in Canada—a modern public space where individuals and families can watch movies in the open air, play board games outside, lie on the grass while using iPads or flip through the books that are wheeled outside on a cart each day from the indoor branch that's connected to the outdoor space.

Åsa Kachan, Chief Librarian and CEO for Halifax Public Libraries, said the Dartmouth North Library is one of the busiest local branches, and that the former indoor space no longer met the needs of the people living nearby.

"It's a community where most people are in apartments – from seniors and newcomers, to young families – and they didn't have access to green space that they could call their own," said Kachan, adding that every service and design element needed to be personalized to serve the distinct needs of the Dartmouth North community.

"For example, when we would close for the day, we would not turn off our public Wi-Fi because we noticed that local residents were coming by after-hours to use it. They would sit on the grassy knoll outside while they FaceTime with family or scrolled through their news feed. This was just one of the many things we needed to account for in re-designing the space."

According to  the TD GreenSights Report<, 95 per cent of Canadians surveyed believe that access to community green space will be important to their quality of life in the future. Seventy-seven per cent of the respondents in the survey, however, said the green space closest to their home could be better.

L: Councillor Tony Mancini District 6 - Harbourview - Burnside - Dartmouth East
R: Tina Murphy, Manager, Community Banking and Charitable Donations, Atlantic Region at TD Bank Group.

"This is a lovely story of individuals coming together," said Kachan. "With the help of our like-minded partners , now friends can grab a seat on the new patio while using our iPads and Wi-Fi, families can gather to watch movies in the open air, and children can be active on the new playground."

Scott Belton, Senior Vice President, Atlantic Region, for TD Bank Group said as our cities and pace of life evolve, spaces like this are critical to ensuring we have a legacy of healthy, vibrant green spaces for everyone to enjoy.

"What is particularly special about this revitalization project is the many benefits it has. The community now has the opportunity to connect through programming and free time, the space to enjoy nature, and even greater access to reading and educational services for generations to come."

To learn more about the other green space projects TD has helped revitalize visit The TD Common Ground Project.