The Toronto Public Library is a beautiful thing; not a perfect thing, maybe, but a beautiful thing. Howsoever it may be imperfect is not my concern here; I’m interested only in singing its praises, exploring its myriad faces in terms of architecture, collection development, community, etc. I have assigned myself a Project, which it will take years to complete: I plan to visit all 98 branches of the TPL and post about each one.
No doubt what I find interesting enough to write about will change, but for me the important thing is the commitment to visit even the furthest flung reaches of TPL’s expansive galaxy. (Friends, I’m going to have to go into the suburbs. There be dragons in big, gas-guzzling cars driving down streets without sidewalks there.)
Why do I love TPL, besides the obvious reasons for loving any public library (a beautiful notion made concretely manifest in part by the early efforts of the brilliant Benjamin Franklin)? Lots of reasons, but that’s actually a completely adequate reason for this project, in my opinion. However, the Quest is also inspired in part by the fact that I fell deeply in love with the library the week before I defended my thesis: I went to a branch near my home to prepare for my defense; instead of engaging in said preparation, I randomly grabbed and then ended up getting completely absorbed in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Yes, one afternoon at the library planted the seed of my current obsession with the nineteenth century! That alone is enough to justify the gushing hyperbole I’m about to throw down.
So, a love letter in 98 parts begins here. First stop: Sanderson.
The Sanderson branch is at the semi-dodgy corner of Bathurst and Dundas in Toronto. It sits, in all its concrete 70s-style glory, kitty corner to a McDonald’s, a Tim Hortons, and fittingly, a hospital. It is housed in a larger community centre; behind it, there is a skate park and a pool; it is serviced by the very busy Bathurst streetcar line and the even busier Dundas line; it sits at the interstices of corporate facelessness and righteous indie pride (Kensington Market is a 5-minute walk away); it is hemmed in by subsidized housing on its east side and an extremely gentrified Little Italy on the other. It’s classic Toronto, in other words.
I had never been inside before and I was dazzled by its interior. It’s full of natural light, it’s got lots of wood paneling and concrete walls and ceilings. It really is a dream of 70s architectural ambition; it reminded me both of classrooms from my early university days and the lovely room where I got married (the Wedding Chambers in New City Hall–nothing says “Stay with me forever and forever” like wood paneling, concrete, and fake flowers).
Sanderson made me feel immediately cozy and nostalgic, in other words.
It was packed to the gills, as every TPL branch I’ve ever been to always is. And people were properly lounging in those chairs, feet in the air, heads resting on their chair backs, and being generally awesome in their quiet readerliness. I just wandered around a little, opened some books at random, admired everything about the branch, wished I worked there, took some photos, and then went back outside into the gritty grit of a hot summer day.
A photo montage of my delightful foray into Sanderson:
What a lovely time we’ve spent together in the library today. Next time, I’ll try to both learn more and to get more photos of self being the creepy adult watching the puppet show with the childers–unless you have suggestions for other ways I can both explore and celebrate the TPL. If you can make such fantastic suggestions, you’re clearly cleverer than I am, Fancy Clever Person, and I will allow your genius to partially direct me for the duration of this Project.
In the meantime, go give your local public library a big hard squeeze.