Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Community library visit in Toronto

What's a trip to Toronto without a stop at some TPL branches? A waste, I say!

The husband and I checked out two this time; the first was a small renovated library in Thorncliffe Park. Thorncliffe Branch has been around since the 60s, and the current building dates from 1970. A renovation begun in December 2007 was finally completed in April this year and involved doubling the size and adding a KidsStop, Teen Zone, meeting rooms and an adult reading area.

As you can see from the photo at left, the neighbourhood is very densely populated and features many high-rises. I counted at least 8 within sight of the library. According to city info, 68% of occupied private dwellings in the ward are in high-rise apartments. The area is predominantly South Asian (I was the only white girl on the street, for sure); 11% of the ward speaks Urdu as their mother tongue. Interestingly, the population is also quite mixed (30% indicated "multiple response" for ethnic origin) and highly educated (the ward is 7% higher than city average for residents with a university certificate, diploma or degree).

Given that Thorncliffe's reno was only very, very recently completed, I will forgive them their unpaved (and extremely narrow!) parking lot; I would imagine, like Rideau, that many of their patrons walk to the branch. At right is a photo of the exterior of branch; when we pulled up, a police cruiser was pulled up outside, and the police were chatting good-naturedly with a large group of local kids and teens. The building is shared space with a community centre, and you enter the lobby and ascend a flight of stairs on the right to enter the library. Alas, we didn't have time to explore the whole centre, but I gather it includes a gym and fitness room, a teen lounge, and a daycare (although the whole reno wasn't entirely without its issues).

Inside the library, it's slatwall city. I continue to love how TPL places many of its stacks on an angle, although it is hard to do because it eats up so much more space. I like how they slatwalled the entire wall at the entry way, too; why waste the space? Tucked in behind the second doorway in the photo at left is a small space for hold pickup and a photocopier/printer. Strangely, Rideau has similar light fixtures! Overall, I really like how the entryway draws you in: the slatwall is enticing and the lights create a kind of pathway feeling.

The branch also made the most of storefront windows by creating a lovely reading corner (at right). This looks out onto the street (you can even see the front hood of the police cruiser I was talking about at far left!). First words out of the husband's mouth: now why didn't you guys get chairs like that? He's right too: the leather (or fake leather - whatever) is probably more hygenic. I wonder if these chairs came with tablet desks, too, though... 'cause we really needed those tablet desks. The husband was not a fan of the carpet though; I like it. Anyway, note use of slatwall again, and those lovely cube display units (each is a separate piece). I adore them.

The teen zone is just off the main entryway, and has a bunch of computers (see photo at left), a TV screen (on mute), cushy seating, and teen collections. The hanging kits you see on the right of the picture are part of the languages collection - I can't remember specifics now, but they definitely had books in Urdu and Gujarati, and some Hindi movies (ha! All those years I hung out with Seetha, and I managed to escape watching an entire Hindi movie beginning to end. Which is not to say I am not familiar with the tropes of the genre, or the actors and actresses...! Perhaps more from the Ms of SAM², though!) Where was I? Oh yeah, teens. Well, that was it. I'm happy to see a smaller branch manage to have a teen zone. Damn. I wish we could carve out the space.

Et bien - la pièce de résistance... The KidsStop! Talk about maximising the space. I will let the below photo speak for itself (note pre-literacy skill activities tucked into the letters). Genius.

On a side note, we also serendipitously visited North York Central Library (thanks to location assistance from a friend via text!), because it is my friend Lora's home branch and it wasn't toooo far from the location of Seetha's wedding (incidentally, check that second link out. The temple also houses the Canadian Museum of Hindu Civilization). North York started life as the first stand-alone facility for the North York Public Library in 1959 and it still has a ton of resources and programs, including a legal aid clinic and a teen book club - in French! Puts us to shame! Architectural highlights of the branch include: swirly stacks (puts me in mind of the swirly stacks at the Idea Store in London!), a secret fort in the kids' dept. with aquariums (dudes! It took me forever to spell aquariums properly. My fingers wanted to auto-complete it as "acquisitions" - sad!) and some good lookin' owls (which Laura - I know, another one, confusing, eh? - says might have at some point been a TPL symbol?)

P.S. I still haven't read the literature that I picked up on these two TPL stops - more updates on that if there is anything remarkable!

P.P.S. I also forgot to mention, when talking about Seetha, that she and her brother (both doctors) diagnosed my osteoporosis themselves (or at least, suggested I get a bone density test) after my second broken wrist. Told ya she was a superstar!

I leave you with the owl. I like him.

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