Have you noticed the wave of rebirth Toronto has experienced in the last 10 years? It seems city bodies are remodeling and annexing outdated architecture and revamping communal spaces with more purpose and frequency than ever before. ‘Old’ is being infused with ‘new’, and classic is being blended with contemporary. For example, have you seen the sparkling renovation of the Bloor/Gladstone branch of the Toronto Public Library? If you haven’t been lately, you must!
Allow me a moment to provide context for my library experiences: I was born in suburban Oakville Ontario to immigrant Brits, and initially lived in a neighbourhood so new it had zero amenities beyond the orchards across the street that would imminently be bulldozed for yet more suburban dreck. The elementary school was completed just as I turned five, but up until its completion the only resources I had to the world of words were our weekly visit to the ‘Bookmobile’, which was effectively a large truck converted into a mobile library that would park on the street for an allotted time each week.
As I grew older, my parents took we kids to a massive buildings chock-a-block full of books. My parents would set us free to choose a handful of books for the week, and occasionally we would stay for sit-down story-telling sessions in the space dedicated just for children. I have happy memories of those times.
I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I get the sense that over a period of time the library became unfashionable. Perhaps it was the rise of television, video games, and all the other distractions that pull children away from reading, but I think it was considered ‘lame’ for awhile.
But maybe I’m the one who got distracted. Happily, I’ve rediscovered libraries.
*Image courtesy of Ottawa Magazine
I originally headed over to the renovated Bloor/Gladstone Library to see exactly what a $119 Million face-lift looked like. I was pleasantly surprised at how successfully the transformation integrated the classic, elegant elements from the original building with contemporary additions and finishes. And with all the new life breathed into the vintage architecture, the staff were smart enough to breathe new life into its operations. There’s wi-fi, free computers with games plus CD and DVD rental. Plus they let you snack! The place was packed!
I recommend this delightful article that appeared in Now Toronto magazine – the tongue-in-cheek commentary is spot on.
*Image courtesy of junctiontriangle.ca
Admiring the dichotomy of old and new, it occurred to me how the architectural renovation paralleled the evolution of the library experience itself; now the city is using new technology, modern aesthetics, and revised programs to revitalize and repackage what’s been called an outdated establishment. And it seems to be a hit!
So, while a library visit today bares little resemblance to chasing down the Bookmobile of my youth, the Bloor/Gladstone branch demonstrates that it’s possible to revise and adapt without losing the bricks and mortar of what has always been a valued experience.
The next time you balk when someone says they’re “off to the library”, maybe tag along and see how these revamped shared spaces are still bringing communities together.
*Image courtesy of skyscrapercity.com
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Check out these other blogs about the community: The Common On Bloor In Bloorcourt/Dufferin Grove, West End YMCA At College And Dovercourt, November Home of the Month – Dufferin Grove, We Love Dufferin Grove Park!
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