100 Libraries

"A library is also a place where love begins." – Rudolfo Anaya

The eh List!: André Alexis

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The first instalment of the eh List! author series at the Toronto Reference Library featured Giller Award winning writer of Fifteen Dogs, André Alexis. The eh List features authors Canadian authors who have significant contributions to the Canadian literary world. Alexis was featured in conversation with Deborah Dundas, a reviewer and editor at the Toronto Star. Throughout the hour long program, Alexis did a reading of a passage from Fifteen Dogs, chatted with Dundas about the influences of his book series, answered questions from the audience and finished up with a signing.

IMG_6399Fifteen Dogs is the second in a series of books written by Alexis that take the theme of divinity in different contexts. The first book in the series was Pastoral, which was published in 2014 and the next instalment of the series is to be expected in 2017. Alexis tells the audience that the next book will be continue with the contextual divinity theme, with ghost stories and a take on Treasure Island. To me, the most interesting discussion between Alexis and Dundas revolved around the concept of the divine. Fifteen Dogs is an apologue and thus starts with two dramatis personae, Apollo and Hermes, who are drinking in a Toronto bar. It is in this book that divinity makes an actual appearance, rather than in an abstract or deux ex machina role. The inclusion and direct intervention of the gods is the catalyst of the events of the book, which is what drew me to the read in the beginning.

As a reader who is interested in classically inspired texts, this book offered much as a new twist on the apologue style of narrative. However, for others, I would still recommend the book, as Alexis has a fanciful way of mythologizing Toronto which is at once foreign and incredibly familiar. Other themes that Alexis explores in his book are that of language, consciousness, love and death. With the theme of love, Alexis explains that he wanted to explore the relationship between what he sees as two contradictory elements: love and power. He also discusses whether language makes us conscious or not. In the book, one of the dogs writes dog poetry that is quite ingenious through Alexis’ explanation (I will not ruin the surprise).

This was my first TPL event, and I must say it was well facilitated for an audience of obviously hungry readers. For more information on The eh List!, including future events, please follow this link.

 

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005 Riverdale Library

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Riverdale Library was one of the Carnegie Libraries gifted to Toronto by Andrew Carnegie. It opened its doors officially on October 10, 1910. It is one of the oldest libraries in the Toronto Public Library system and was also home to one of its first children’s collections and multilingual collections.

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The Library first opened the doors to the Boys and Girls addition in 1927, and was one of the first of its kind to have holdings specifically designated for children. Today the Children’s Collection for the Library still occupies the space, and though little has changed in terms of the physical features of the building (with one very major exception, see the Children’s Collection Entrance below), a few whimsical design elements, including a small tree and a sailboat, are sure to delight.

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Both the physical structure and the community have undergone significant changes, which is reflected in the collections and the role of the Library over time. In 1973, in response to an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong and Vietnam, a Chinese and Vietnamese Language collection was added to Riverdale Library. This was the one of the first multilingual collections in the Toronto Public Library at the time. However, over time, the real estate in the area has increase in value and older Chinese immigrants have moved away from Riverdale. The community has since been replaced by young professionals and their families, shifting focus back to the Children’s Collection. There are still a number of users of the Chinese Collection, notably recent immigrants and students from China, though the Collection has seen a change from Traditional Chinese to Simplified Chinese materials.

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The building has been expanded twice (1928; Boys and Girls Addition, 2010; modernization expansion) and renovated three times (1937; Kenneth S. Gillies, 1969; after a fire, 2010; modernization). Riverdale Library has been designated a heritage property since 1977 and was awarded a Toronto Historical plaque in recognition of its history in 2006.

With the gradual gentrification of the surrounding community, Riverdale Library will continue to transition into its new role in Children’s Holdings and collections catering to young professionals.

Special thanks to Niki Lawrence for taking the time to show me around the Library and teach me about the history of the community!