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

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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

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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.

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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!

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016 Centennial Library

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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!

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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.

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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

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(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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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