100 Libraries

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

Tag: Local History Collection

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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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.

 

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!