Toronto Public Library Pilgrimage of 100 Branches

North York Central (West Side): Gateway Services (2010 Visit)

Located on the west side of the first floor, Gateway Services is devoted to TPL-card-carrying youth. It features the Young Adult Collection, a computer Learning Centre, and The Hub (a teenager-friendly space for study and socializing). Within The Hub’s zone is a tall gazebo that shelters 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 is a mural in chunky faux-graffiti font that spells TORONTO PUBLIC LIBRARY.

On the day of my visit, Gateway Services lacked neither patrons nor activity. Even though the players of intense chess games in progress had not seen their teens for decades, their gently mocking banter radiated youthful energy. In The Hub, a bona fide adolescent was bent over a laptop while perched on the red upholstered bench affixed to the curving interior wall. Another student slouched on the floor, his back supported by the same structure. And a group of friends crowded round a low table, deep in conversation.

Four old-fashioned jukeboxes stood near the undulating red bench under the gazebo. Exuding a 1950’s vibe, these Rock-ola Nostalgia beasts boasted carved wooden arms and an extensive range of music. When I studied the jukeboxes’ song selections (each one matched to a capital letter and a number to punch in), I beheld artists like the following who were paired on the same white rectangular label: 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.

Gateway Services was my last stop after having visited the entire North York Central facility for the second time. Despite the energy needed to cover six large floors of this branch, enthusiasm did not quail. Before I embarked on my second exploration, I had no idea the North York Central contained a music room, a Legal Aid office, a sound effects collection, a second-hand bookstore, and a galaxy mural on the 6th floor. With varied resources around every corner, North York Central is a massive attraction for fans of the Toronto Public Library.

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