Elliot Lake Library: An Ontario Treasure in Algo Centre Mall

On a recent weekend visit to remote Elliot Lake, Stewart and a friend who was living there indulged me in a visit to Elliot Lake Library when we could have gone directly to a lake. My friend took us inside the town’s quiet 1980’s mall, where we found a wonderful Bibliothèque/Library. It was much larger than the Toronto mall libraries I’ve visited, such as Woodside Square, Eglinton Square, Maryvale, Steeles, Bridlewood, Black Creek, and Bayview.

With large glass windows facing a wide mall corridor, this library contained spacious east and west wings. The entrance was on the west side, which housed non-fiction, reference, and a collection of computers. A giant quilt tapestry showed off Canadian-themed appliqués, and across the room was a giant dream catcher. Around the corner from the visionary piece stood a display of fishing rods, tackle, and thick booklets in English and French about fishing regulations. Stewart also noticed a large section devoted to Mining Environmental Assessment Reports.

Crossing over to the east wing, I discovered an entire wall devoted to French books. I’m not sure why this surprised me; maybe I thought small towns and monolingualism went together. To my knowledge, the only Toronto Public Library branch with a comparable French collection would be North York Central.

Opposite the French-materials wall was a fairy-tale mural painted by L. Finn in 1992. Springing from the pages of a children’s book were a host of classic characters: Ali Baba, Alice in Wonderland, Puss-n-Boots (who was struggling to remove his famous footwear), Little Red Riding Hood, and Babe the Blue Ox. Not far from the lively mural, the family reading area had all the necessary elements for library entertainment: a plastic globe with a talking airplane, two rocking chairs (one large and one small with painted jungle animals), and kid-size mats with triangular wedges for upper-body support. Although this section was mostly empty, it was easy to imagine how cozy it would be with more families present.

Walking over to the check-out to pay for some old National Geographics, I handed over a dollar and marvelled at my purchasing power (four magazines at a quarter each). It felt odd not being able to check anything out, but then again I wouldn’t want to drive for seven hours to return a book. At any rate, why complain about lack of borrowing privileges when I just got to visit my most northern branch to date!

Join the conversation


  1. Yorkville and Parliament have large French collections, perhaps unaccountably. St. James Town claims to have uniligual French patrons from Africa.

  2. I loved the idea of a Library in the mall! So easy to access! Wondered why this was not more prevalent. With the loss of our Mall, there was a loss of treasures in the Library…historical papers, all those books..some can be replaced, but many will not be. There was some special art there, donated by supporters of OUR Library and art lovers. All this was trashed, without the ability to rescue the irreplaceable items….politics and insurance? We have managed to survive nicely in a temporary space, and eventually will be relocated to our new Plaza, under construction, with a safer environment and no leaky roof! It is so nice to read these comments, as much about the mall collapse has been negative. We did have it good at one time! Thanks for sharing this!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.