The circulation area on the first floor serves as the primary point of entry and exit for the east side of North York Central Library. When I first came in, the sheer intensity of activity was overwhelming. Long lines of borrowers resembled busy supermarket queues, and library staff were doing their best to hustle through the check-out process. At least there were no price checks!
The restless pace of book borrowing was rendered more frenetic by the overstimulating decor. Bright colours and geometric shapes competed with the press of people and objects, leaving the eye with few places to rest. However, one structure provided a clear visual boundary in a disorienting space. It was a waist-high wall in red tiles. Shaped like a letter “s” that just kept on curving, the wall demarcated where the browsery ended and the Children’s Section began. Continuing the curve where the wall stopped was a red bookcase that also managed to undulate.
Behind the red wall was a yellow castle tower with green eaves and a semi-open roof made of green boards arranged in a radial pattern. A gold ball capped the centre of the castle roof, which was approximately eight feet high.
On the floor near the entrance to the story-castle was a stone sculpture titled “Mother Bear and Cub” by E. B. Ox. This small but solid art object had inspired many young expressive artists, judging by the wild streaks of green, red, burgundy, pink, and turquoise crayon that decorated the stone bears. In my view, the colourful dialogue between artist and viewers proved the sculpture’s appeal and added to its stature.
When I went to look inside the castle, I was delighted to discover four aquariums on shelves. These fish tanks had been placed at mid-level on the castle wall, and underneath the shelves were two reading cupboards without doors. With cushions at floor level, the cubby-holes were the perfect size for a parent and child to crawl into and share a story. At the back of the reading nooks were wooden bars that created a non-threatening dungeon effect. Who knew dungeons could be fun?
The fanciful tower wasn’t the only story venue at North York Central’s Children’s Section; it also boasted a separate story-room. On the day I visited, the room was packed with youngsters and their caregivers listening to a very animated educator. After she finished her story, she led the audience in a rousing rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot.”
On the east wall near the story-room was a striking piece of art carved in the shape of an abstract tree with branches that arched up and out. The sculpture’s branches and leaves contained a vast range of figures from fairy-tales, myths, First Nations culture, and the animal kingdom. It took me at least ten minutes to absorb all the images, for they were packed together in close proximity. Inhabiting the tree were bears, a snowman, a dinosaur, a gingerbread man, a jester, a totem pole, a Viking ship, Pan, a snake wearing a hat, Hercules, a canoe, a peacock, Pegasus, a frog king, and a woodcutter (among others).
If I wanted to learn more about frog kings or gingerbread men, I could step right over to the impressive Children’s Literature Reference Section, a category which I hadn’t seen in any other TPL branch (although Lillian H. Smith branch has a Children’s Literature Resource Collection). Equally impressive was a large collection of children’s books in French, German, Hindi, Chinese, Korean, and Russian. A smaller number of materials was available in Arabic, Persian, Serbian, Japanese, and Spanish.
The final feature of interest on the first floor was the Kid’s Help Desk, which managed to combine the whimsical with the informative. The curved desk was framed by claw-shaped side columns topped by teddy bears. A toy moose head loomed directly behind the librarians’ heads. Presumably, the moose was the final authority on all book-related matters.
Having no questions for the moose or his librarian attendants, I headed down to the Concourse Level.