100 Libraries

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

New Article: Moving in the Circle

I’ve been meaning to write this up and share it for a while. In February, my friend Julie Blair and I wrote an article around solidarity actions that librarians can and should take in their professional practice and their personal lives. It heavily emphasizes relational work as being a key cornerstone to working with Indigenous communities. Everything begins with relationship and trust building.

Please find the article linked below. It’s available open access through the Partnership Journal, but is attached below for your convenience.

Blair and Wong – 2018 – Moving in the Circle Indigenous Solidarity for Ca


Review, Special Collections: A to Z

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The new exhibit in the TD Gallery Space at the Toronto Reference Library is a relatable and refreshing take on the often intimidating world of Special Collections. Though rarely discussed, the Toronto Public Library actually has significant holdings in Special Collections. Totalling over four million holdings, the Special Collections cover a wide breadth of topics, from Canadian History to Science Fiction and Fantasy. There are numerous Special Collections across the TPL System, including: the Merrill Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy, the Baldwin Canadiana Collection, the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, the Special Collections in the Arts and, of course, the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection. The Toronto Public Library has been faithfully collecting historic and quirky items since 1884. Sidenote, I have had a tour of most of the Special Collections and am proud to say that I wrote about some of these items before this exhibit came out.

By placing the items in alphabetical order, the exhibit allows for the familiarity of the alphabet book-like format to capture the imagination of its audience. There is also an impressive breadth of items on display, as the exhibit is not bound by any specific theme. The world of rare books and special collections can be frustrating and intimidating to novice users (trust me, I would know, I’m an archivist!), and this exhibit is a wonderful peek into the holdings of the TPL. Where the exhibit is especially brilliant is how the format and the exhibits work in tandem to reach audiences of all walks of life, without alienating anyone. The alphabet, paired with topics as diverse as Arctic Exploration, Zero Gravity and Sherlock Holmes is sure to capture the imaginations of younger and older viewers alike. That is not to say that the displays are infantile, or meant simply for children. There are an impressive array of rare and first edition books, such as The HobbitDracula and Metamorphoses. But the exhibit does not rely on bibliographic or visual items alone; I was delighted to find significant historical artifacts from Upper Canada and Toronto. No matter who you are, you will see something that will interest or delight you.

All in all, Special Collections: A to Z is one of the finest exhibitions ever put together by the Toronto Public Library Team and is sure to capture the imaginations of anyone who attends!

What did you think of the new exhibition at the Toronto Reference Library? Let me know in the comments below!

017 Bayview Library


Bayview Library was founded in 1966 by a motion of the North York Public Library System. It was placed in a rented facility, and has expanded and contracted in the space, as needed or mandated. It is part of the Bayview Village Mall, making it the only branch to be physically located in a retail facility. The Branch was refurbished along with the entire mall in 1998, and underwent renovations as recently as 2003. This Branch is largely a neighbourhood library, and therefore has a small collection, including best sellers lists and a small collection in Chinese, Korean and French.


The space itself is whimsical, decorated to match the upscale retail located at Bayview Village. The installations and art within the branch are very modern, and look forward to a more avant garde vision of the Pubilc Library. Upon my visit, the study areas were filled with users of all walks of life, using the various resources, such as the periodical collection and the Children’s Collection. It should be noted that while the Library is physically located in the Mall, it is not accessible through any mall entrances, and has a separate entry. One cannot help but feel a sense of transience for the Branch, since it is planning on undergoing a move to a facility in the Besarion neighbourhood. Visit this unique branch while its still here, people!


016 Centennial Library


The Centennial Library was opened by the North York Public Library in 1966, and was brought into amalgamation with the Toronto Public Library in 1999. The Branch itself was renovated in 1997, and its hours were increased in 2010. Although this is a community library, it is surprisingly large, and it has very poignant and interesting features. Let’s dive in!


The Branch serves a large community of new immigrants to the country. Thus, the Collection features very extensive multilingual holdings. These include holdings in Russian, French, Hebrew, Korean, Spanish and Tagalog. There is also a multilingual audiovisual collection. The Branch also collaborates with the local YMCA to bring newcomer resources to the Library. This includes free English Classes and an onsite settlement worker. Everyday at 12 PM, a settlement worker mans a desk to provide their resources to the community.



The Branch also has a few notable programming options, including a knitting club and a Youth Ambassadors Club.

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015 Pleasant View Library


(apologies for the lack of photographs, my phone died right after I took the exterior photos)

Pleasant View Library is a neighbourhood library in the North York Region, which was opened in 1975. Originally, it was part of the North York Public Library system until amalgamation of the Metropolitan Toronto System and the North York System added multiple branches. It was retrofitted in 1995.


This Branch is located near a vibrant Chinese-Canadian community, especially in the Van Horne area. In response to the community, the Library has a large print collection in both Chinese and French. The Library also offers the usual non-print holdings, such as Pedometer Lending and Audiobooks.

The building itself, does not appear to be particularly remarkable, as its non-descript brick exterior is meant to match the community centre it is near. Though the exterior of the building sits non-offensively in the neighbourhood, the interior treats patrons to a whimsical and somewhat unusual space. The Children’s section in particular includes whimsical arched frames of animals, in characteristically 90’s kitschy painted columns.

Perhaps the most interesting features of this Library may be the fact that as a neighbourhood library, it features an auditorium and a kitchen. The auditorium is very large, and can hold up to 170 audience members. Auditoriums are rare amongst non-district libraries, and the Branch conducts much of its programming for the community here. Kitchens are also a feature of a bygone era, as these are certainly not essential or installed regularly in many other branches.

014 Fairview Library


Fairview Library is a large district library, tucked away behind the behemoth shopping mall CF Fairview Mall. Its proximity to the mall is surprising, given that such a large library is ensnared by this massive retail space. The Branch was relocated from a previous rental space at 5 Fairview Mall Drive and officially opened in 1976. Included in this opening was the 292 seat community theatre that is still functional today. Although the two entities share a space, and often collaborate on programming, they are still two separate and autonomous organizations.


The current Fairview Library was renovated from 2012 – 2014, with both the Library and the Theatre undergoing a major transformation. The addition of an airy study space, replete with windows gives the older concrete bunker a more open and welcoming feeling. The natural light cannot be understated in this building.


Part of the charm of this Branch is the broad array of users, using its many resources. The Library serves a diverse community of new (and old) immigrants, young families, elementary and secondary school students and the elderly. Among their diverse collection is a multilingual collection that includes Tagalog, Hindi, Urdu, Chinese, Gujarati, Persian and Tamil. The student population was strongly represented upon my visit (since it was the end of a school day). In fact, not only is Fairview a popular after school spot for local students, it provides one the most diverse array of programming. Fairview may offer the most programming options in the Toronto Public Library System.

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013 Fort York Library


Fort York Library is one of the newest branches in the Toronto Public Library System, opening its doors in May of 2014. The architectural style of the building compliments the newly developed area around it, with its mostly glass and metal frame. Around the perimeter of the public facing sides of the library are lines from Margaret Atwood’s Journals of Susanna Moodie. The letters are cut by Bhadari and Plater Inc., who have made signs for the Aga Khan Museum, the Bata Shoe Museum and the Royal Conservatory of Music. Right next door is the colonial era settlement of Fort York, from which the Library derives its name.


From all of the cranes in the above image, it is clear that this is an area that is undergoing rapid development. You may be surprised to find that there are a large number of new families in the area. In fact, of their various programming options, baby classes and story times are some of the most popular. This may be because young professionals are moving into the area, starting families and staying in their condos. In any case, during my visit, there was a very well attended Mommy and Me Class, which certainly surprised me.


I would be remiss if I did not mention the Digital Innovation Hub at the Fort York Library. There happen to be two hubs, one that offers 3D printing and digital imaging services and another focused on digital media. Digital Innovation Hub 1 is a maker space, that features a suite of iMacs loaded with the Adobe Suite and SCAD software. With these resources, the Branch is able to offer 3D Printing Certification classes (which are needed to use the TPL 3D printers), HTML & CSS classes, Python classes and a whole range of other technological programming.


Digital Innovation Hub 2 is a media lab that features a green screen, a giant tv  set and an iMac with video editing software. This allows the Library to offer unique programs like green screen classes and DJ-ing sessions. This is one of three innovation hubs in the TPL System, the others being located at Toronto Reference Library and Scarborough Civic Centre. These hubs are open to the public to use, with appointments. The cost to use the 3D Printer is 5 cents per minute with a 1 dollar surcharge. The media lab has been used by a wide range of users; from high school film makers to aspiring actors. This is also likely one of the only free recording spaces in the City.

Two notable mentions are the display of Graphic Novels in the Teen section and the glass overlay of a map of Old Fort York behind the Reference Desk. Flipping through the titles, there is a quality graphic novel section available for patrons of this Branch. Unfortunately, the glass overlay did not photograph particularly well, but it is important to remember that this area was one of the first European settlements in North America. If you are visiting the Fort York Library, be sure to seek out these hidden gems.



012 North York Central Library


North York Central Library is probably one of the most diverse collections in the Toronto Public Library system. As a caveat, I must advise that no amount of writing in this post will do this library justice. It is a massive, six floor complex attached to the North York Civic Centre (seven if you count the study floor on ground level). This branch opened in 1987, replacing an earlier branch, the Gladys Allison Building. The name North York Central Library is in reference to its proximity to the pre-amalgamation North York Civic Centre. Immediately surrounding the Library is Mel Lastman’s Square, where you will find community events and farmers markets in the summer and skaters in the winter.


IMG_6476If the interior of the Library reminds you of the Toronto Reference Library, this is no accident. The library was designed by Moriyama & Teshima Architects, the same architects that designed the Reference Library. The vast expanse of the Library incorporates six floors with six separate collections, separated by an open atrium. A word of warning, staring down the middle of the library is not for the faint of heart. On the First Floor, you will find the Children’s Collection and the Teen Zone. The wide array of children’s holdings is surrounded by an inviting wall covered in fanciful creatures and colours. My favourite was the moose above the reference desk. The Second Floor is home to both the Fine Art and Literature and Language Collection, as well as the Art Gallery on the opposite side of the atrium. On the Third Floor is the Society & Recreation Collection and Library Administration. The Fourth Floor houses the Business and Urban Affairs Collection and the Collections Development Department. The Fifth Floor is devoted to Science and Technology. Finally, the Sixth Floor is home to the Gladys Allison Canadian Room and Canadiana Collection.

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Sadly, I did not get an opportunity to explore all of the floors at length. I did, however, stop to see the Canadiana Room and Collection. The Canadiana Room features many genealogical resources that are otherwise unavailable to many family history enthusiasts in the Greater Toronto Area. This includes national censuses from other provinces, Early Upper Canada Land registries and other genealogical data. These are all made available through the many volumes littered around the floor, as well as on microform (microfilm and microfiche). Afraid of microform readers? ScanPros got you down? Have no fear! The reference staff on the floor will teach you how to use both the collection and the microfilm readers.


As a special bit of trivia, the Canadiana Collection also features a large ornamental lion from the Golden Lion Hotel (go figure). His name is Henry and he is on permanent loan to the Novotel Hotel, which is just behind the Library.


This is a library that definitely deserves more time towards its exploration. Every floor is an adventure in and of itself and I will definitely have to go back.


011 Spadina Road Library


Spadina Road Library was opened in 1977, in collaboration with the Native Canadian Centre. The location was originally on rented premises at 10 Spadina Road. This location was then purchased by the Toronto Public Library in 1980, where it has securely remained ever since. The Branch serves a large First Nations community, and has an impressive array of Ojibway and Cree materials within their collection. The Collection appears to have been in existence since the beginning of the branch, as there are both older materials and new media created specifically for First Nations audiences. It is encouraging to see such an extensive First Nations centric resource available in the heart of downtown Toronto.


Outside of the Library is the word “Masinahhekahnikahmik” in both romanized and Cree syllabics, which means “house of books” or library. This central focus is also reflected in the art works on display and the display cases.

Although the space itself is not particularly large, it is an important resource with an interesting connection to both the present and past community and history of the land.


010 City Hall Library

City Hall Library is often overlooked, as it is in an area that one would not expect a library to be. It houses a smaller collection of items, but notably a large selection of Chinese language materials. This is due to the location’s proximity to old Chinatown in response to its users.


Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library


The Library itself has a surprisingly long history, starting life in 1911 as the Municipal Reference Library. The Municipal Reference Library closed in 1928 and did not transfer to New City Hall until July 1, 1992. Although its space and its hours have been reduced, the library still sees a vibrant community of users who use the library as a community development resource. Can’t you just imagine Rob and Doug Ford passing by this library branch everyday, muttering angrily to themselves?


This is a community resource especially for the community facilities operated by the city. Here you will often find storytime programming and other early childhood literacy programs despite the relatively small collection of children’s materials. This space also offers study spaces and both one hour and fifteen minute internet work stations. The City Hall Library also happens to offer most of the museum passes available through the Toronto Public Library.