On a research visit to Northern District Library in 2009, I was struck by the serious atmosphere of this branch, how its vast main floor reminded me of a university library. To wander among its extensive shelves took a pleasingly long time, and an hour had passed before I realized I’d better wrap up my notes and fetch some food for dinner.
Idly glancing up, I noticed grid patterns on the ceiling that resembled an upside-down waffle. The flat lights were the waffle’s indentations, and the beams which framed the light-grids were the square raised ridges.
As I walked under the pale waffle, I passed leather couches near the entrance and headed over to the large Children’s Area in the southeast corner. Reading benches were placed near the tall windows, creating ready perches for when the call to read struck. An inclusive display of books was propped on top of a non-fiction shelf: Goddesses, Heroes and Shamans, Sikhism, and Many Ways: How Families Practice Their Beliefs and Religions.
A striking feature of the children’s section was a functional art piece entitled Appleapes. Composed of wood, it contained a row of coat pegs integrated into the body of a mama ape who was clutching red apples in the digits of each lower limb. Above the maternal primate were four babies hanging from the red wooden border overhead. They shared their parent’s love of apples, happily clasping the fruit in their hands.
As I meandered through the rest of the library, I marveled at the size of the foreign language collections: French, Serbian, Chinese, and Estonian. ESL and Literacy materials abounded, and a North Toronto Local History Section was available for researchers.
My last stop was the Skylight Gallery. Located upstairs, it consisted of a semi-circular stretch of wall that curved underneath an uplifting window to the sky. After a moment of relishing the quiet space bathed in natural light, I trotted back down the stairs and emerged into the afternoon bustle of Yonge and Eglinton.
In the two and a half years between my first and second blog post about Northern District, a renovation occurred and I added camera skills to my blogging toolkit. (Furthermore, after a recent visit to take pictures for an upcoming photography exhibit, I edited the 2012 photos and added new ones for good measure.)
In 2012, the main differences I noticed were a glass-walled program room (where my friend Ellen and I led a Culture Days program in 2011), luxurious new study booths in the teens section, a snacking zone, and three beautifully contemplative study rooms.
Two other important changes were the shifting of the children’s section into a different corner of the library (minus the Appleapes) and the creation of a spacious reading area in its place.
I liked the way the new reading room seemed to thrust the readers into the heart of Yonge and Eglinton — all the city dynamism without the noise!
The final difference between the 2009 and 2012 versions of the library was the presence of a striking art display by Afsaneh Shafai in the upstairs skylight gallery.
Northern District Library, it’s been a pleasure to witness your evolution. Keep bringing the scholarly energy, support for the arts, and willingness to change!