Toronto Public Library Pilgrimage of 100 Branches

Parkway Mall’s Information Emporium: Maryvale Library (1987)


Located next to The Flower Emporium at Parkway Mall, Maryvale Library shares a lot in common with its mall-library cousin, Eglinton Square. Both branches opened in the 80’s (1987 and 1983 respectively), occupy one room, and refuse put on airs. Marvyale even has the same wooden letters spelling “CHILDREN’S” on the wall as Eglinton Square does, although the Cat in the Hat inhabits the letter “C” instead of a monkey.

I like the Maryvale Cat’s jaunty bow-tie and playful expression. (Photo taken in 2015).

When I visited Maryvale in 2012, I noticed a fold-out series of Peter Sis illustrations of Sleep Safe Little Whale by Miriam Schlein on a high shelf near the irreverent Cat. A wide variety of sleeping animals appeared in the paper panorama, but I found the panda bear mother and her cub in a hollow tree especially endearing.

One of Peter Sis’ illustrations of Sleep Safe Little Whale by Miriam Schlein

Another nearby shelf provided a platform for a white mama rabbit with a baby stitched to her arms. The older rabbit wore a pink ruffled apron trimmed with a floral pattern, and the inside of her ears were lined with same floral cloth. The pair appeared to be party-bound, for they both had festive bows sewn to their upper foreheads.


Throughout the library, a certain randomness to the decorations prevailed. Wooden birds faced Lord of the Rings posters on the other side of the room. I saw a Renoir print, some aging travel posters, and an odd paper-craft item (a square within a square with a dangling tail) over the check-out desk. Clutching the registration sign overhead was a superhero toy with a cape.


Despite my lukewarm response to Maryvale’s 2012 decor, I don’t mean imply that the value of a library lies in its appearance. After all, Maryvale branch is a friendly, well-stocked facility that offers materials in Chinese, Greek, French, Arabic, Tagalog, Tamil, and Hindi. It just seems unfair that some branches have received more investment in their image than others. For example, why does Beaches Library have a a timbered ceiling and a window seat overlooking Kew Gardens while Bridlewood Library* has a rocket made of construction paper?



IMG_3245A simplistic formula such as “wealthy neighbourhood = elegant library” cannot fully explain the imbalance, for some of the most lovely branches — Riverdale, Kennedy/Eglinton, Malvern, Cedarbrae — reside in deprived areas. My wish for less showy libraries like Maryvale is for them to be models of beauty in a wasteland of suburban malls.


Reading Program Display, 2015
Reading Program Display, 2015

*(Note: Bridlewood’s paper rocket is no more! See this post for Bridlewood’s newer look. Moreover, the Mama Rabbit, wooden birds, and the posters are no longer at Maryvale; nor are there any objects dangling from signs above the check-out desk. On my 2015 visit, I was impressed by the new laptop counter that had been installed by the windows).

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