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