Toronto Public Library Pilgrimage of 100 Branches

North York Central (West Side): Gateway Services and Assorted Meeting Rooms (2010 Visit)

Located on the first floor, west side, Gateway Services was devoted to TPL-card-carrying youth. It featured The Young Adult Collection, a computer Learning Centre, and The Hub (a teenager-friendly space for study and socializing). Within The Hub’s zone was a tall gazebo-like structure whose roof consisted of a pink circle crossed by parallel white boards. This gazebo sheltered a red-tiled wall in the shape of the letter “S” (mirroring the red wall on the first floor of the east side) and four jukeboxes.

Dominating the north wall of Gateway Services was a mural in chunky faux-graffiti font that spelled TORONTO PUBLIC LIBRARY. In my view, the mural also spelled TRYING TOO HARD TO BE HIP IN ORDER TO “REACH” DISAFFECTED URBAN YOUTH.

Regardless of the patronizing mural, this lively floor did not lack for patrons or activity. I noticed two intense chess games in progress, even though the players hadn’t seen their teens for five decades. In The Hub, a young laptop user appeared permanently grafted to the red upholstered bench that was attached to the curving red wall. Another student slouched on the floor, his back supported by the interior wall. And a group of friends crowded round a low table, deep in conversation.

Four old-fashioned juke boxes stood near the curving red bench area under the gazebo. These Rock-ola Nostalgia beasts had carved wooden arms and a solid 1950’s presence. When I studied the song selections, I beheld artists like the following pairs: LeAnn Rimes and Prince, Luther Vandross and Amy Grant, Ozzy Osbourne and Elton John, The Beastie Boys and Simon and Garfunkel, R.E.M. and Reba McEntire, plus Janet Jackson and The Cranberries.

Footsore and saturated with jukebox details, I was relieved to discover that the second floor of the west side only had several meeting rooms, a large auditorium where I later attended a talk by Holocaust survivor Denise Hans, and a kitchen. The floors above the meeting rooms contained offices that weren’t open to the general public.

Tired as I was, my enthusiasm for the library super-system known as North York Central did not quail. Before I embarked on my second exploration of this massive branch, I had no idea it boasted a music room, a Legal Aid office, a sound effects collection, a second-hand bookstore, and a galaxy mural on the 6th floor. With unexpected resources around every corner, North York Central is a colossal attraction for fans of the Toronto Public Library.

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