Fairview Library resembles other concrete-heavy TPL branches built in the 1970’s, such as York Woods (1970), Albert Campbell (1971), and Albion (1973). While some people might shy away from Brutalist architecture, I really enjoy the solid unpretentiousness of Fairview’s interior. Being in this branch felt like sailing on the deck of a freighter ship, its hold packed with international literary cargo.
It could be my Midwestern sensibility that finds beauty in Fairview’s jolie laide building. If Carl Sandburg were alive, I think he would write a poem about it. And if he didn’t feel like doing that, he could marvel at the range of languages represented at the library: Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, French, Gujarati, Korean, Persian, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, Turkish, and Urdu.
On my first trip to Fairview, its vibrancy was apparent right away. Every chair was taken, every table space utilized, its two levels humming with life: study groups, individuals in private study rooms, newspaper readers, and family groups. I felt inspired by so many patrons acting upon their dreams.
When I returned to the branch in 2012 to take pictures, I was lucky to find one of the ten individual study rooms free. I loved these pockets of serenity in an older district branch under pressure from so much enthusiastic use.
As I walked by the occupied study rooms, I noticed how each inhabitant took full physical ownership of his or her haven. Positive possessiveness radiated in the air inside the glass doors (and a few feet outside of them). Bent over their work, the scholars’ body language declared: “This quiet cell is mine and I’ve earned it!” There was no need for Do Not Disturb signs, for such private intensity deserves automatic respect.
After admiring the work ethic of the study booth residents, I raised my eyes to Fairview’s immense ceiling. I liked how the exposed ducts added active interest and grubby industrial chic to the library’s atmosphere. They presided over the plants, patrons, and shelves with matter-of-fact grandeur.
Sheltering in the northeast corner of the building was Noah’s Ark II. As I approached the ark to take its picture, I could hear some voices coming from the interior of the boat. I couldn’t see anybody at first, but when I got close to the animal portraits, I discovered two teenagers scrunched up together against the hull working on a school assignment. (It was really clever of Noah to stock his ark with flirtatious teens).
Not far from the ark, I spied some colourful books about Chinese New Year and hurried to check them out so I wouldn’t be late for my class. The disembodied hand on the Express Check-Out screen helpfully pointed me towards the world outside this weighty fortress of learning.