100 Libraries

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

012 North York Central Library

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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011 Spadina Road Library

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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.

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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.

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010 City Hall Library

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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.

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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?

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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.

009 Parliament Street Library

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IMG_6325The Parliament Street Library is an important community centre for people in the Cabbagetown area. This Branch offers a lot of programming options, including business classes on financial management and debt reduction. There are also the usual non-holding loans that we have come to expect from neighbourhood branches such as entertainment packages and pedometers. The Library has also captured the musical spirit of the neighbourhood by offering a piano practice room. This makes sense, as Cabbagetown has been the home of Avril Lavigne and Amy Millan.

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Cabbagetown is undergoing rapid gentrification, as the previous residents are being priced out of the area by young professionals. This is seen in the newer materials being acquired by the Library, including a healthy selection of the latest magazines, increased study spaces and a local history collection. Still the multilingual collection persists and the Branch has an impressive array of multilingual children’s materials as well.

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008 Bloor/Gladstone Library

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The Bloor Gladstone Library (previously Dovercourt Library) is one of those conspicuous heritage giants in the City, straddled by a show-y modern extension. The day that I arrived at Bloor Gladstone was not a particularly sunny day (note the rain drops on my Library Passport), yet the grandeur and bookish excitement of the building is not lost to the weather. The architects did a good job of preserving the heritage elements and character when planning the light and open addition. The Library was closed for a whopping three years for these much-needed revitalization, though from the results, it seems like it was well worth the wait.

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Upon entrance, you will be presented with the wide open entry leading up to the Principal Reference and Information Desks. The atrium has wide ceilings and thankfully the heritage features were preserved in the 2006 renovation. There is also a Learning Centre to the right of the entrance which contains study spaces and computers. It was certainly packed on a Sunday afternoon.

IMG_6383The Dovercourt Branch was opened in 1913, making it the first Toronto Public Library branch that was wholly funded by the City of Toronto. The Bloor West area was not always the affluent community that we have come to know. For much of its history, Bloor Gladstone catered to itinerant and high needs users. There is a local history collection with resources specifically for the area immediately surrounding the Library. With the price of housing sky rocketing in the city centre, the main users of the Branch are now young professionals and their families. Thus the Children’s Collection is perhaps one of the bigger collections I have seen in a neighbourhood branch. The community is also home to Hollywood and entertainment luminaries, including a certain Canadian singer-songwriter. There are also many students in the area, who often congregate in one of the many study rooms available in the Library.

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The Library received its heritage designation from the City in 1993 and underwent a massive transformation in 2006, adding an entire extension with the Toronto Public Library’s first green roof. The design of the addition compliments the aesthetic of the older building, and it won an architecture award from the Chicago Athenaeum.

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Though the building is often praised as a hallmark of the neighbourhood landscape, the holdings inside the Library are very on point for the needs of the gentrifying neighbourhood. One of the most interesting displays to me at the Bloor Gladstone Library was of large print art books. They were conveniently placed next to a reading room between the old and new wings of the building with a lot of charming heritage touches. The reading room is also home to the Branch’s periodical collection, available for browsing. There is also a large culinary section, with Nigella Lawson’s newest cookbook in pride of place.

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Overall this is a charming heritage library with a lot to offer and see. Come for the building, stay for the books.

007 St. Lawrence Library

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St. Lawrence Library is maybe one of the most interesting neighbourhood libraries I have encountered yet. The Branch opened in 1982 on the rented premises. It has been in operation here ever since, with a short closure for renovations in 2002.

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The Library is not particularly remarkable on street level. In fact, there is no entrance where you would expect, on Front Street. Instead, you have to enter a residential courtyard to get to the main entrance. This was because when the Library was opened there was almost no pedestrian traffic on Front Street. The Children’s Collection and programming space allows for unobstructed views of the street, perfect for a quiet read or people watching.
The history of the surrounding area is just as strange and delightful as this quirky Library. The St. Lawrence community was IMG_6357planned, as previously there was only industrial and transportation infrastructure in the area. This changed in the 1970’s, when City Council decided to redevelop the area into a mixed use neighbourhood. The City envisioned an area of “true diversity”, an area where residents interacted regardless of socio-economic status.

Due to this decision, integration is very even, thus making it difficult to find a defining feature of the Library’s collection. There is a small Local History selection, which is worth a look. I believe that the unremarkable-ness of the collection reflects the reality of the success of this mixed use development.

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Up to the point of this writing (January 2016), St. Lawrence remains a neighbourhood library. However, there have been plans since 2010 to redistribute library resources in the area. With the on-again off-again talks of First Parliament Place, St. Lawrence may be closed or relocated in favour of a larger district library in the new site. Although infamous for its sluggish decisions and development rates, if you want to see this fascinating little library, I would recommend you go visit sooner rather than later.

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Special thanks to Dulce Gomes for the tour of the library and an incredible explanation of the community!

006 Queen / Saulter Library

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From the outside, one would assume that from the age of the building, the Queen/Saulter Library was one of the original library buildings in Toronto. In fact, this library location was only opened in 1980, occupying an older postal station. You may recognize the architecture as the handiwork of one E.J. Lennox, who was also responsible for Old City Hall and Casa Loma, among other iconic buildings in Toronto.

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IMG_6342As mentioned, this Library was once Postal Station G, and that fact is commemorated with a hand painted plaque outside of the building. This neo-classical space is not solely inhabited by the Queen / Saulter Library, it also houses a community centre and day care. In fact, you will find a window above the Children’s Collection in the back that looks directly into the day care. I know this because I accidentally made eye contact with one of the Early Childhood Educators on staff there.

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The interiors of the Postal Station have been painstakingly kept and remodelled to fit the needs and functions of a public library. The Reference Desk preserves the original marble counter tops of the Post Office counter. The Library also allows local artists to display their work in various gallery and display areas.

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The community that the Library serves is largely young professionals with families and their Story Time offerings are very popular. There is a dedicated children’s programming area in the back of the Library, which is both elevated and separated from the rest of the library.

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Special thanks to Judy Leung for showing me around the Queen / Saulter Library!