Back in 2008, Downsview branch was my 50th library, a large and self-contained building with an enormous main floor and smaller basement level. As I entered the library, my head tilted back in appreciation of the wealth of light and space above the shelves. I felt like I was in an extraordinarily spacious white tent.
As I walked through the aisles, I noticed the big Spanish, Italian, and French collections, as well as smaller ones in Gujurati, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Vietnamese, Bengali, and Chinese. A group of animated teenage boys were playing cards in the magazine section. A stuffed toy parrot supervised a display of books about the outdoors.
In the southwest corner of the main level was the children’s zone. It was separated by a low wall with a special entrance in the form of an eight-foot high red cylinder with a large circular opening for a gate. I don’t think the cylinder was supposed to be a rocket or a tomato — just some liminal space to pass through into magical world of reading. A librarian had posted lots of chicken jokes high on the walls of this section: “Why did the turkey cross the road? Answer: To show he wasn’t chicken.”
When I finally returned to Downsview with my camera four years later, the wall and portal had been removed in a mini-renovation. The chicken jokes had also vanished, but the windows shimmered with a springtime scene, painted by the youth group.
On my first visit, I wanted to finish looking at the library quickly because it was almost four o’clock, and there was another branch to visit before the Saturday closing time of five o’clock. Picking up the pace, I strode over to the staircase that led to the basement.
Just at the point where the landing curved to meet the first flight of steps, there was an open space between the landing and the set of windows spanning both floors. Two blue butterflies hung from the ceiling of the main floor in this open space, supporting strings that dangled all the way to the basement level. Paper cranes in red, pink, yellow, blue, and green clung to the two long strings, creating an origami cascade down to a book display of summer reading below. (Alas, the cranes were absent in 2012).
The basement level was more down-to-business, what with its careers section, shelves of adult non-fiction, and extensive ESL and literacy collection. I selected a pronunciation book for one of my classes and scooted past long rows of dark green bookcases for a quick check-out. Thus endeth my fiftieth library encounter!