In the library with Diamond and Schmitt

Nipissing University and Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario, recently opened the Harris Learning Library, ushering a new era of academic study in northern Ontario.

“The students, faculty, staff and members of our community can access the world of knowledge and understanding in a building that is truly beautiful,” says Nipissing University president Lesley Lovett-Doust. The three-storey, 56,000-square-foot library serves as a new gateway to the shared Nipissing and Canadore campus and doubles the size of existing collection space and student user space.

“This building creates a strong new identity and is positioned as an entry beacon for the campus,” says Gary McCluskie, a principal with Diamond and Schmitt Architects. “Equally importantly, the library will act as a gateway to learning by providing access to digital and print collections as well as a range of different study spaces.”

Key architectural elements include two large, fully glazed volumes that bookend the building with a double-storey study hall at one end and service space at the other. A three-storey skylight atrium serves as the axis for student orientation and provides natural day lighting throughout. A unique feature is a terraced reading area with built-in seating on a gentle grade between the first and second floor. The periodical reading room provides views over the evergreen forest landscape.

This library serves equally as a resource centre and a town square for information exchange where students can access group study space, computer rooms, distant learning facilities, informal study space and traditional reading rooms. The configuration transitions from social learning on the lower floors to study space that is quieter and more focused on the third floor. A special feature of the library is the Treaty Learning Centre, designed for studying the experiences of First Nations in Canada.

Diamond and Schmitt Architects ( has designed more than 30 public and academic libraries that have garnered multiple awards for innovative design excellence. The firm provides sustainable design solutions for a wide range of building types, including academic and research facilities, the performing arts, healthcare, residential and recreational facilities. Current projects include the Montreal Concert Hall, the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and Bridgepoint Hospital in Toronto.