Love Letter to the Toronto Public Library: Spadina Road


Spadina signThis is part two in my 99-part love letter to the Toronto Public Library! I began with Sanderson sort of randomly (I was just walking by and spontaneously Made the Grand Decision to begin this series); having the Spadina Road branch as my subject today is almost as random. I say almost because I spend a good deal of time near Bloor West and Spadina Road and to my shame, horror, and confusion, I realized last week that I’d never actually been inside this branch.

Hold on while I go get my hair shirt.

I’d been dreaming of beginning my intrepid trips to suburban branches immediately, but this was a gap in my experience of both this city and the TPL that neither I, nor the universe, could bear any longer.

The Spadina Road branch is very wee. It is one sweet room, well-lit and encouragingly filled with patrons. I felt too shy to ask a Challenging Question–a game proposed by the lovely Stefanie–but I have a question ready for my next visit (location not yet decided upon).

In the meantime, there are several things about the teeny Spadina Road branch that you should know. The library has been running a bookmark design contest for kids this summer and some impressive examples were on display at Spadina.

Spadina bookmarks

Friends, not only would I not have been a contender in this contest when I was a child, I would not be a contender now. If I were to enter this contest, pretending to be 9 or something, upon receiving my entry the library would try to make my parents send me to a doctor to see if I had some kind of motor skills handicap. It would be awkward after they found out I’m almost 38. I can think of other more awkward things, but that would be pretty awkward.

As one of my aims with this endeavour is to learn something new at every TPL branch, I am happy to report that this visit was a success. I learned, from one of these talented young makers of bookmarks, that marshmallows have a more rich and complicated inner life than any of us has ever given them credit for.

spadina marshmallow

Had I known, when I was a little one with giant glasses, crossed eyes, and buck teeth that marshmallows enjoyed reading as much I did, I might have actually had friends.

Now, this post isn’t going to be all shits and giggles; it’s also going to be about things that are awesome in a serious way. I didn’t mention this in my post on Sanderson, but it had great big sections devoted to Portuguese and Vietnamese books and other resources. Similarly, the Spadina Road branch has all kinds of materials about Native culture, history, literature, etc. It’s just two doors down from the Native Canadian Centre.

spadina native centre next door

The Toronto Public Library branches don’t merely reflect the communities in which they’re located–they inhabit and foster them, they contribute, and are generally what libraries should be–designed for the people they serve. The internet tells me that this branch was created (incorporated? that’s not the right word) in 1977 (July 16, to be precise–happy belated 36th birthday, Spadina Road!) at the behest of the NCCT. Also, “The building has the name written in Cree syllabics and roman orthography on the front of the building, Mahsinahhekahnikahmik, meaning “the lodge or place of the book.”

spadina wall

The lodge of the book; that is so unabashedly book-proud that it’s making me a little emotional. Moving on.

Outside the library you will find the Spadina subway station; many, many restaurants of varying quality; a park kitty corner that is full of 500 baby rats growing fat on the garbage of those restaurants (the ratlings all came and watched me eat my lunch one day; they liked looking at me but became quite nervous when I looked at them); two Second Cup coffee shops, which is the only thing wrong with the neighbourhood; the Jewish Community Centre; and three really good secondhand bookstores–all within a 10-minute walk.

And right beside the library and under a sweet shady tree is the most comfortable park bench I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting on. I wish I were sitting there right now, enjoying Don Quixote and a caffeinated beverage of extreme deliciousness. You do, too.

Spadina bench

Dear Spadina Road branch, you’re lovely.

Xoxo, Colleen

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Stefanie says:

    Love it! I look forward to hearing what your challenging question is next time. Kid art is so much fun to look at. I had no idea marshmallows read either but I am glad to know they do. That is definitely a nice bench. So clean looking too, it begs to be sat on.

    1. Colleen says:

      I tried to sit on that bench yesterday but it had been claimed by another. Le sigh.

      Also, all the bookmarks had been taken down when I went in yesterday–my timing was pretty lucky on this one!

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