100 Libraries

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

Category: Old Toronto

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 The community has since been replaced by young professionals and their families, shifting focus back to the Children’s Collection.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!

004 St. James Town Library

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The St. James Town Library is a medium sized library next to the Wellesley Community Centre. It offers both programming in collaboration with the Wellesley CC and its own programming like children’s services and book clubs (more on that later).

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IMG_6308It serves the most densely populated community in Toronto, as the area that it is in offers many high rise lodgings. As such, although it is a smaller library, its collections reflect the enormous diversity of its population. It has an immense array of multilingual materials including what appears to be the only Nepali public library material available in the Toronto Public Library system. It also offers resources in French, Chinese, Russian, Urdu, Korean and Spanish.

This compliments the programming services offered by the library, including a full children’s collection and a story time. St. James Town also collaborates with the Wellesley Community Centre programs such as summer camps, after school programs and day cares. During the day time, you will see a number of users from all walks of life gathered around the various multilingual resources, using the offered technologies or participating in events.

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The Children’s Collection and Programming Space

Perhaps what is most unique about this library branch is its initiative to bridge digital and physical spaces. Their latest foray in this manner is Pod-Club for the online series Serial. Branch Head Michael Warner tells me that the Pod-Club is trying to connect library users using digital media. This combination is a new concept but one that I hope picks up steam and is soon offered at more TPL locations. The Library does also offer traditional Book Club programming, including a pride themed book club called “Proud Readers Book Club” (due to its proximity to Church Street).

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Special thanks to Michael Warner for his introduction to the St. James Town Library.

 

003 Toronto Reference Library

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And here we are at the Toronto Reference Library. This whimsical building was designed by Japanese Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama. There’s a lot to do and see here, so let’s dive in.

Upon entry, you are faced with the difficult choice of going to Page and Panel or Balzac’s Coffee. I am a tad biased, since Page and Panel is probably one of my favourite stores in Toronto, so let’s focus on that.

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Page and Panel is affiliated with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which is an annual comic arts festival held at the Toronto Reference Library. There are quite a few exotic wares in this shop, including a selection of book related ephemera, Studio Ghibli books (My Neighbour Totoro, anyone?), manga and anime gifts. For the bibliophiles in your life, this is the perfect place to buy book themed merchandise. I digress.

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There’s also the infamous Arthur Conan Doyle Collection. The Collection consists of items relating to Doyle’s writing, not simply his Sherlockian exploits, though those are a big feature. There are the issues of The Strand where Doyle originally published Sherlock Holmes but also his work on prehistory, faeries and spiritualism. Also included in the Collection are things that you wouldn’t expect, like TOEFL books that reference “Elementary, my Dear Watson” in their phrases and a certain literary beagle. The Friends of Arthur Conan Doyle also put on lectures, quiz nights and other outreach programs relating to Doyle and his works. Recently, they had a lecture by David Arquette, who was playing Holmes in Toronto.

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Of course, no description of the Toronto Reference Library would be complete without referring to the wonderful events at the Reference Library including the Book Lover’s Ball, the Eh List and a whole host of other programs.

I attended The eh List! event with André Alexis on January 11, 2016 at the Toronto Reference Library. For a recap of that experience, please click here.

001 Lillian H. Smith Library

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“The love for a good story, well told, lies deep in every human heart.” – Lillian H. Smith

IMG_6286The Lillian H. Smith Library was founded in 1922 and named after the first professionally trained children’s librarian in the British Empire. Lillian Smith was 25 when she joined the Toronto Library system due to a growing demand for the children of the city. Housed within the collections of this library are The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books and The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy. All of course guarded by the two stone gryphons at the front doors.

In fact, Smith was instrumental in bringing the Osborne Collection to Toronto. Edgar Osborne was a British Librarian who moonlighted as a children’s book collector. After some time, he managed to collect over 2 000 items which represented three centuries worth of children’s reading materials. Upon meeting Smith, he was so impressed that he committed all of his collection to Toronto. Those 2 000 items have now grown to a tripartite collection represented by 100 000 items.

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IMG_6279I have often found that children’s books allow writers, illustrators and creators to be the most innovative, and the Osborne Collection did not disappoint. There are a number of interesting children’s books and childhood items in the collection including a horn book, a vellum copy of Aesop’s Fables from the 14th century and (until 2002) the world’s smallest book.

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There are circulating exhibits in both the Merril and Osborne Collections and the curators of the collections often run seminars including “Ask a Curator” on Saturdays.

(Oh and for all of you “Where the Wild Things Are” fanatics, there’s a small celebration of his work at Lillian H. Smith right now as well.)

002 Yorkville Library

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Yorkville Library was built through a grant by Andrew Carnegie, as one of the infamous Carnegie Libraries. As such, Yorkville Library is part of a rich legacy left behind by the magnate, along with being part of a series of 2 509 libraries in the world.

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This library was opened in 1907, relocating services from an earlier Northern Branch. The site was designated a heritage site in 1973 and  expanded in 1978. The branch was designated a heritage property in 1973, receiving its Toronto Historical plaque in 2007. One of my favourite features is the gallery like quiet study space at the back of the building.

Of note in this library is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Collection. Although it is disseminated widely throughout the general collection, you can find a variety of books, magazines and audio visual materials on topics relating to the LGBT community.

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Although it’s a smaller library than the massive Toronto Reference Library, the setting offers a more intimate atmosphere.

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et pour mes lecteurs français, il y a une collection excellente des livres français au coeur de la bibliothèque Yorkville!