idea exchange old post office

The Idea Exchange is an old post office that's also Canada's first bookless library

The Idea Exchange in an old post office is a renovated historic building that's redefining the traditional concept of a library in Canada.

The impressive limestone structure, which was once a post office back in the 1800s, is situated along a stretch of the Grand River in Cambridge, Ontario that many may recognize from the popular TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

It recently underwent a massive award-winning revitalization project to meld its historical roots with a notably more modern look and use — seen from the exterior that and now has glazed glass rooms jutting out from the old masonry — as it transitioned into the newest branch of the local public library.

And though it is technically a library, it has one quite integral thing missing: physical books. In fact, it is the first bookless library in the country.

The township's library chain rebranded itself as Idea Exchange just a few years ago to reflect a new vision for libraries as not just places to borrow books from, but as active community hubs full of information in all its different formats.

The Idea Exchange Old Post Office embodies this ethos with its ample makerspaces, lounges, cafe, reading room, outdoor terrace and children's discovery centre, as well as extensive and engaging community events programming. 

Its lower-level creative suites offer the public studios for audio, video, photo and even podcast production, along with video game systems, musical instruments and rentable virtual reality headsets.

On another floor, visitors can play around with embroidery and sewing machines, laser cutters, 3D printers and more in a space that inspires gathering to work on projects "while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge with other community makers."

Basically, nothing like a musty old library.

These spaces all aim to encourage the coexistence of learning, creation and collaboration in a newer, more broad sense that other library systems around the world are quickly adapting. 

The entire redesign was executed extremely well, with architecture firm RDHA managing to restore and pay homage to the historic structure while also bringing new life to it.

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