The first time I visited this beautiful branch, the flanks of Malvern Library reminded me of old-fashioned silver ice-cube trays turned on their sides to drain.
In addition to the silvered straight lines of the portico, the triangle above the entrance made a strong geometrical impression. In fact, the exterior lines seemed so formal that I was unprepared for the warmth and organic spaciousness of the interior. When I walked into the library on my 2009 visit, I felt like I’d just taken off my parka and stepped into a scholarly wooden chalet.
To support the high central ceiling, long planks fanned out from stone pillars, creating a strong overhead structure with artistic flair. As I admired the ceiling, imagining it as the skeleton of an upended ark-in-progress, my stationary reverie created an obstacle to browsers.
Below the ark, a fleet of windows summoned sunlight to nourish patrons and tall potted palms alike. I also loved the flowing patterns of light that draped the interior by the windows.
As I wove between the aisles, I noticed shelves of books in Urdu, Tamil, Hindi, Tagalog, Punjabi, Gujurati, and Chinese. In addition, I saw a three-dimensional castle puzzle (fully completed) on top of a bookshelf in the children’s section
Near the castle puzzle was a much larger one: a fort for young readers to defend themselves against boredom. This structure contained seats in turrets and large portals for studious knights and ladies to crawl through. A long carpeted reading bench was the perfect place to recharge for the next joust.
The final details of Malvern that gladdened my heart were the extensive window seats in the southeast corner and a black armchair with cat ears and green eyes. No wonder children were literally running to the doors of this fun branch!
All in all, Malvern Library impressed me as an outstanding example of public resources well-spent. I loved how it challenged stereotypes of crime-ridden, stigmatized Scarborough.
The next person who teases me about living in Scartown or declares that Pape Station is their easternmost limit is going to get a firm invitation to visit Malvern Library. If they could expand their narrow map of Toronto and spend time at Malvern, Cedarbrae, and Kennedy/Eglinton Libraries (and many others), they would experience the beautiful way these branches serve communities under pressure. And they would better understand why I’m proud to live in Scarborough.