CBC Radio Interview

Early yesterday morning I got to talk about my library blog on CBC Radio! I was thrilled and a little nervous, but host Matt Galloway did a great job of putting me at ease. Thank you Matt for an engaging and fun interview!

If anybody would like to hear the interview, please check out http://c-raine.com/catherine-cbc-20100315.mp3.

It’s been a great season for the blog, as there was also an article about it in last Thursday’s Torontoist. Toronto loves its libraries!

Library Blog Interview!

I was delighted to meet Vit Wagner, Publishing Reporter for the Toronto Star this afternoon. We spent half an hour at a cafĂ© talking about my quest to visit and write about all 99 Toronto Public Libraries. Afterwards, there was even a photo session in front of Saint James Town Library, courtesy of Star Photographer, Tara Walton. I think I am now no longer allowed to wail to my husband, “Nobody reads my blog!”

Update: and here it is – Burning through the branches.

Art-Friendly Mount Dennis Library (Weston Road and Eglinton Avenue West)

A striking mural stopped me in my tracks as I walked through a side passageway to the entrance of Mount Dennis Library. I saw a man and a woman facing each other in the middle of a green field. A community of daffodils gathered in the foreground, and two trees framed the scene, transforming actual pillars into brown trunks. Painted wooden creatures had been riveted to the surface of the mural, creating a bulky applique effect. The riveted animals included a seagull, a cardinal, a raccoon looking at a ladybug, a wolfish dog, a bee hive on a branch, and a chipmunk (also on a branch). Brightly painted bees, ladybugs, and a butterfly added even more character to the picture.

After I passed through one of the entrance doorways, I noticed a curious detail on the vertical jamb between the two doors. Someone had painted a giraffe’s head near the top of the jamb, its ears and horns jutting into the lintel. Yellow and orange dots cascaded down the length of the jamb, suggesting a long neck. I really liked how the artist had seen a giraffe in the shape of an ordinary door jamb because it reminded me to look for whimsy in the day-to-day.

The main floor of Mount Dennis branch was one long rectangle in soft cream, demure yellow, and brown. With wide aisles and plenty of open space, the interior was restful if empty-looking in places. High windows facing Weston Road provided a sunlit view of a wooden trellis that called out for grape vines (and a paint job) on the sidewalk. I also noticed that the interior paint was peeling in a few spots and that water damage had taken out a chunk of the ceiling near the checkout desk. However, the main level was still a pleasant place to study in English, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, or Vietnamese.

The basement level contained the children’s section and a series of giant wooden jigsaw pieces on the east wall. My favourite puzzle piece had a dark red background and was decorated with a diverse circle of children’s faces surrounded by painty handprints in green, purple, black, yellow, and blue. Lining the walls of a narrow corridor outside the children’s room was an art display called the “100 Dreams Project” which perfectly complemented the jigsaw piece. Kindergarten artists such as Adesh, Ashanti, Caleb, Demetri, Issacher, Jenny, Jah-Shy, Lotus, Megan, Marcus, Nawall, Shivani, Stephany, Yasmin, and Zipporah had painted kites, monsters, ice-cream cones, volcanoes, babies, guinea pigs, and a purple ball on small square canvases.

Mount Dennis Library was a congenial host for this exuberant exhibit by students from Dennis Avenue Community School. I hope it inspires all of us patrons to colour our walls with dreams!

Northern District Library (Pre-Renovation)

Earlier in the week I paid a visit to Northern District Library. The vast main floor of this 1975 building reminded me of a university library, and to wander among its extensive shelves took a pleasingly long time. An hour passed before I realized I’d better wrap up my notes and go fetch some salad for dinner.

The grid pattern of the main level’s white ceiling looked like an upside-down waffle. The flat lights were the waffle’s indentations and the beams which framed the light-grids were the raised ridges. As I walked under the pale waffle, I passed big 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 handy places to perch when the call to read struck. I liked the inclusive display of books propped on top of a non-fiction shelf: Goddesses, Heroes and Shamans, Sikhism, and Many Ways: How Families Practice Their Beliefs and Religions.

I was also impressed by a large piece of functional art in the Children’s Area. Titled “Appleapes” and made of wood, it featured a red border that framed an apple tree and five apple-loving apes. The apple tree was on the left side and hosted a woodpecker on its trunk. A big mama ape occupied the majority of the composition, filling the lower middle and right portions. Clutching an apple in the digits of each lower limb, she also had a row of coat pegs and hooks integrated into her body. Above the mama primate were four babies hanging from the red wooden border overhead. They, too, had apples in their clutches.

As I meandered through the rest of the library, I marvelled at the size of the foreign language collections: French, Serbian, Chinese, and Estonian. There used to be a Japanese collection as well, but a notice advised that it had been moved to North York Library. ESL and Literacy materials abounded, and a North Toronto Local History Section was available for researchers to dig into.

The Skylight Gallery upstairs consisted of a semi-circular stretch of wall that curved underneath (surprise!) a grand skylight. Nothing was on display when I visited except one piece near the washrooms. I had some difficulty making out the artist’s name painted in the bottom right corner, but it looked like Tom Lane. With a distinctively tactile appeal, the large canvas was covered in tinted tree bark, and its three-dimensionality was enhanced by protruding mushrooms. Refraining from touching the bark, I trotted back down the stairs and emerged into the afternoon busyness of Yonge and Eglinton.

And now for Goldhawk Park, Steeles, and Bridlewood branches

The previous post described the first two libraries out of the five Stewart and I visited a couple of weeks ago, so now I’d like to focus on the remaining three.

Goldhawk Park branch resided in its own square building and seemed less trendy than Woodside Square. However, Goldhawk Park’s location on the edge of a large park gave it a scenic advantage, as Woodside patrons had only a Food Basics parkingscape for inspiration when they looked up from their books. So much reading in my childhood may have made me fanciful, but to me Goldhawk Park looked like a chalet of books in marginally-alpine village on the Markham border. Resting on the rim of a pasture dotted with fir trees, the chalet offered a chair and a newspaper to weary literary pilgrims.

As I made a quick tour of the facility, I accidentally disturbed a seniors’ coffee afternoon in progress. Recovering my cool after a swift exit from the meeting room, I sat down at a table in front of a park-side window. When I had my fill of admiring the vast open field with blowing snow, I walked through the main area, noting the shelves of books in Hindi, Tamil, and Chinese. All in all, I liked the unpretentious and comfortable atmosphere of Goldhawk Park.

Pushing on to Steeles Library, the peaceful natural setting gave way to the insanely busy parking lot of Bamburgh Gardens Shopping Plaza. Stewart dropped me off and heroically went to find a parking space while I investigated the fourth library of the afternoon.

Steeles branch was located on the left side of a concrete walkway leading to the mall. Steeles was very compact, and the homey impression created by its lime green walls was taken up a notch by the presence of several stuffed creatures on top of a high shelf: a gorilla, tweety bird, and Marvin the Martian. Similarly to Woodside Square, Steeles had lots of Chinese New Year decorations and an enthusiastic crowd of library-users, with nearly every chair occupied by a reader. It made me happy to see so many folks consuming words instead of mall-products.

The fifth and final library of the day, Bridlewood, was a tenant of a mall with the same name. This branch was a big white square room around the corner from the bulk food store and Jasmine Chinese Food. In comparison to Malvern and Woodside Square, Bridlewood appeared more downmarket due to its handmade decorations and non-automated check-out desk. In this respect, Bridlewood reminded me of the library in the small town where I grew up, especially when I saw the large paper snowflake cut out by hand and a poster made from black construction paper and photocopies of cartoons.

The most prominently low-budget decoration had to be a rocket that hung from the ceiling near the youth section. A roll of brown construction paper formed the body of the rocket, and more of the same kind of paper had been fashioned into the pointy head of the missile. The initials “TPL” were written on the side beside a blue globe, each letter cut from brown paper with a larger outline of the letters in aluminum foil as background. Yet more aluminum foil flared out in streamers from the hind end of the rocket. Though I believe the time may have come to retire this particular ornament, I do agree that reading can transport you around the world and even into space.

Apart from the rocket, other noteworthy features of Bridlewood branch included a blue toadstool table, books in Chinese and Urdu, and a romance title “Beauty and the Beastly Rancher.” I didn’t check out the romance novel to learn what made the rancher so beastly, but I was very glad of this beautiful Saturday afternoon spent at five great libraries. As the number of Toronto Public Libraries I’ve visited continues to skyrocket (now up to 59!), I grow more and more impressed with the wonderful services they provide to local communities. It makes me proud to carry my blue library card in my wallet! Long may the TPL flourish!

Northeast Scarborough Library Fest

Two Saturdays ago, Stewart and I visited five libraries in northeast Scarborough. That’s right! Five! Listed in the order visited, these branches include: Malvern, Woodside Square, Goldhawk Park, Steeles, and Bridlewood.

The south flank of Malvern Library reminded me of a giant silver ice-cube tray turned on its side to drain. The front of the building had a large triangle shape above the entrance. Since the exterior of the building had made such a geometrical impression on me, I wasn’t prepared for the warmth and organic spaciousness of the interior. I felt like I’d just taken off my parka and stepped into an urban ski lodge decorated with generous amounts of wood. To support the extremely high central ceiling, strong planks sprouted from stone pillars, creating a fan-like structure that held up the straight wooden beams above. As I stood and admired the ceiling, possibly creating an obstacle to browsers, I imagined it as the skeleton of an upsidedown ark-in-progress.

Lots of glass both overhead and on the sides of the library meant lots of light to nourish the patrons and tall potted palms alike. (I think the palms were in lively condition because the leaves of one of them tickled the tassel of my stocking cap when I came in). As I wove between the aisles, I noticed shelves of books in Urdu, Tamil, Hindi, Tagalog, Korean, Punjabi, Gujurati, and Chinese. I also came across a three-dimensional castle puzzle (fully completed) on top of a bookshelf in the children’s section. Nearby was a much larger castle — a fort for young readers to defend themselves against potential enemies of the imagination — that had seats in turrets and large fort holes for bookish knights and ladies to crawl through. The final details which gladdened my heart were an extensive set of windowseats and an equally inviting armchair upholstered in black fabric with a cat’s face stitched on it.

Malvern branch impressed me as a wonderful example of public resources well-spent. To me, it felt like a sanctuary from the surrounding bleakness of apartment blocks in an ocean of concrete.

The next stop on the library train was Woodside Square, which was unsurprisingly located inside Woodside Mall. Woodside Library’s sleekness immediately captured my attention as we approached the entrance near the end of a long corridor at the outer reaches of the mall. The exterior wall was covered in silver metal and contained windows looking into this one-room branch.

The library’s silver compactness made it seem like the ultimate hipsters’ submarine. And like a beatnik cafe in San Francisco, this Woodside joint was jumping! The room was packed with parents reading to their children, kids sitting on the floor with their picture books, each computer busy, some elderly men nodding over Chinese newspapers, and teenagers hunkered down over their math textbooks and calculators.

I continued to admire Woodside Square’s special flair. Some of the windows on the east wall had an amber pane on the top third of the glass structure, an artistic affect that was only slightly marred by the view of the Food Basics’ parking lot. I also liked the wooden wrap-around bench that jutted from the east wall, providing continuous seating under another row of windows. And a corner seat tucked between two shelves was another example of the clever usage of a very limited amount of space.

Although Woodside didn’t have as extensive a collection of multilingual books as Malvern, it did boast materials in Chinese, Gujurati, Hindi, French, and Tamil. The romance section seemed disproportionately ample for the size of the branch, but who could complain when you can enjoy “Seduced for the Inheritance” and “Texas-sized Secrets.”

Secrets that massive are bound to shock, but the most surprising find for me was a DVD about the history of the Kansas City Chiefs. Growing up in the Kansas City area, I often heard locals complain about the Chiefs, how they never won and how over-priced the tickets were. And here was a DVD in a branch library in Scarborough, a city not given to caring much about a Midwestern American football team.

Still marvelling over the unexpected Chiefs DVD, I walked over to the automatic check-out machine. A friendly librarian ended up having to help me because my book came with an audiotape. As she processed my selection, I enjoyed looking at the red firecracker decorations that celebrated Chinese New Year. Welcome, ox! Lanterns with red tassels dangled from the ceiling, adding a festive feel to the room.

The last feature of Woodside Square I admired was a sturdy returns slot that was set deep into the wall. I wished I had a thick book to return so I could hear it make a satisfying thunk in its receptacle in the staff’s office.

What about the other three libraries? To be continued in the next post . . . . .

Fifty two Toronto libraries visited! Books all OVER the city!

Downsview branch was my 50th library, a large and self-contained building with an enormous main floor and smaller basement level, similar in set up to Don Mills Library. As I entered Downsview 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.”

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.

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!

With the countdown to closing time getting closer and closer, it was fortunate that the next library I visited was a small one. Consisting of one square room in a community centre near Avenue and Wilson, Armour Heights branch had a very sheltering feel to it, especially with its substantial brick fireplace on the east wall. A long low eave spanning the length of the fireplace had been been converted into a reading bench. The bench was covered with inviting cushions, teddy bears, a tiger, zebra, and other assorted animals. A wooden chest with a Peter Rabbit decoration completed the cozy scene.

With only ten minutes left before closing, only two other library patrons besides myself remained. One beleaguered staff member was trying to deal with a querulous gentleman who seemed to feel the Toronto Public Library was persecuting him. He complained of being fined for books he had actually returned, and he condemned young librarians at another branch for not “giving a damn” and even laughing at him. I didn’t care for his loud, bullying tone, as he informed the woman at the Armour Height’s checkout desk that he’d even gotten people fired who didn’t respect him. She did her best to calm him down by being sympathetic, saying that the library system wasn’t perfect and she’d had similar problems. It was a relief for all of us when he finally left (not without asking the librarian’s name). I exited just after him and wasn’t overly surprised when he didn’t hold the door for me.

Later in the week, I visited library number fifty-two, Saint Lawrence branch. Located on Front Street near Sherbourne, Saint Lawrence’s entrance was through a public courtyard. Five gray pillars resting on beige marble bases held up the ceiling of the one long room. Four of the pillars were bare, but the one near the checkout desk was partly covered with flip-chart paper on which someone had drawn Egyptian hieroglyphics. I saw owls, snakes, herons, eyes, some Cleopatras, and ankh symbols on the paper.

The usual library sections were represented, along with one on local history. A framed 1867 map of Toronto showed the importance of the local neighborhood to the founding of our city. Another special feature of Saint Lawrence branch was a puppet theatre set into the wall. Paper vines, flowers, and clouds decorated the space around the square opening, along with a smiling sun and a castle (both in felt). A felt vine dangled in the air of the performance space, reminding me of “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Opposite the puppet theatre was a large cardboard castle-structure that had three arches and was plastered with notices about summer reading.

A Walking Tour of Urban Affairs, Sanderson, and College/Shaw Branches

A few days after the Mount Pleasant Library visit, I walked from the Eaton Centre to Ossington and Bloor, taking in three libraries along the way.

The first library I visited that day was Urban Affairs inside Metro City Hall. A blue and green banner alerted me to its presence, and I walked up a short flight of stairs into the quiet.

Judging from its silence and spaciousness, this branch was clearly more of a research than a community library (although there were lots of helpful leaflets about community events strewn about the tops of cabinets). With Urban Affair’s special Toronto Collection, microfilm machines, law and legislation section, and stacks of urban-themed magazines and journals, it reminded me of a time in my life when I was consumed with postgraduate research. (I used to spend hours in the University of Glasgow Library and other research libraries in Edinburgh, Leeds, and Cambidge when I was writing a Ph.D. thesis about Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son).

I admired Urban Affairs’ extra-wide tables, four appealing study rooms, meeting room, and the view of the busy intersection of John and Wellington. A few sleepers could be discovered face down in their papers, their breathing only mildly affecting the hush that was sometimes broken by the rustle of turning pages and the tapping of keyboards.

It was slightly disorienting to be in a Toronto library with no movie section, no ESL shelves, no storytelling schedules or librarians trying to herd patrons into a single line. The no-nonsense atmosphere didn’t encourage me to linger, but I was very sad when Urban Affairs closed in 2011. I would have liked to have had the chance to take some photographs of this serene branch.

The next two libraries I saw on my 2008 walking tour, Sanderson and College/Shaw, had very different vibes from Urban Affairs. Please click on the name-links in the previous sentence to see updated posts of these two branches!

Three More Libraries on My TPL Pilgrimage!

Let me tell you about them.

Don Mills Library–lobby featured a pillow embroidery display and a potted pine, main level was a massive room with orange walls, and the basement level offered substantial reference and career section.

Flemingdon Park Library–a small room housed within a larger community centre, very warm atmosphere with distinct but not unpleasant smell of chlorine from the pool next door, every computer unit hosted an absorbed library patron, separate glassed-in room for the ESL and Literacy collection.

Burrows Hall Library–like Flemingdon Park and Saint James Town, this library is part of a community centre. The centre includes a Chinese theatre, outside of which sit two large stone lions. Near the entrance to the library was a Christmas tree and two reindeer, one big room constituted the library, a Chinese dragon tapestry decorated the south wall, high ceilings, impressive multi-lingual section. I bought three discarded books from a collection of about thirty. This library seemed new and spacious, and it was uncrowded on a Saturday afternoon.

A big warm thank you to Stewart who has been the driver and fellow library pilgrim for most of the sites described so far!

Libraries, the Sequel

In an earlier post I described the Toronto Public Libraries east of the Don Valley Parkway that I’ve visited. Now, after a pause that heightened suspense to unbearable levels, I give you, ladies and gentlemen, the Libraries West of the Don Valley that Catherine Has Visited!
Parliament–a spacious building on two floors, very helpful staff who once gave a large group of ESL students from my center an orientation (the nerd in me thrilled when so many students got their first shiny blue library cards), large ESL section, nice high windows.

Saint James Town–this is a fairly new library which is housed in one long room, lots of computers, feels very urban, part of a community centre complex that includes a busy basketball court.

City Hall–tucked away in a small room just to the right of the main entrance to City Hall, cozy yet important, pleasantly crowded.

Lillian H. Smith— what I remember most about this library is its circular staircase leading to an upper gallery.

High Park–a beautiful building with two floors, an ideal place to daydream because of its high ceilings, huge windows, and lots of wooden tables.

Palmerston–a low-key neighborhood venue in one room, not fancy but obviously well-used and in demand.

Spadina Road–roughly the same size and shape as Palmerston, its specialty an Aboriginal Studies section with lots of books and films, every table hosted studious patrons and newspaper browsers.

Yorkville–another busy downtown library, brisk pace, features stone lions at the entrance (if I remember rightly) and an upmarket book deposit box.

Toronto Reference Library–the first library in Toronto I ever visited (as a tourist in 2001), love the fountains and design, a fun experience is to ride the glass elevator to the fifth floor facing outwards so you can see the inner canyon expand as you rise and take in the opera-stage of silent readers. Have taken numerous class trips to the fifth floor to check out the large ESL section and the amazing collection of resources in a variety of languages, one summer helped a friend edit his English translation of Persian proverbs here.

Deer Park–when we immigrated to Canada in 2002, this was the library where I received my first card just a few days after arrival (Deer Park is across the street from the building where you line up for a SIN card, also we were staying in the Annex), a spacious library on one level with high ceilings, one time I saw a tired homeless man asleep in the reclining chair that rests on the floor by a low wall separating the children’s section from the main entryway.

Leaside–an active residential branch located on the edge of a large park, one long room, family-oriented, welcoming.

Northern District–just north of Eglinton and Yonge, this large district branch library is on two levels, has large periodicals and ESL section, top floor with lots of wall space for art exhibitions, sunny from generous number of windows.

Locke–elegant stone building, graceful interior with high ceilings and lots of sunlight, visited this branch after a trip to a nearby guitar store on Yonge Street.

Barbara Frum–a few summers ago I taught at a centre near Bathurst and Lawrence and visited this library before class one time, pleasing design in butterfly shape, you go in and find two round wings to the left and right and a center staircase leading up to the second floor. Enjoyed being there on that Friday afternoon as many families were gathering up books and hustling to get ready for the Sabbath–this branch had a warm community feel to it.

North York Central–I associate this branch with another class I taught, this one near Yonge and Finch, we had a fun class trip there one afternoon. The building is very large as befits a research and reference branch and is connected to a big shopping center, has impressive collection of ESL and foreign languages materials.

Bayview–another mall branch, its modest interior a contrast to the opulence of Bayview Mall, its design was interesting though. While the branch is contained in one room, there’s a deepening of the space as you walk through it, carpeted steps bring you lower, as if the place where you first walk in the door is the tile around a large pool and the steps take you into the actual pool. Lots of carpet, an 1980’s atmosphere similar to the Maryvale and Cliffcrest branches.

Fairview–near Fairview Mall, this library had the worn-down look of district branch under pressure from so many enthusiastic library patrons. It seemed about the same age as Albert Campbell Library and shared a similar designer, this was one of the busiest libraries I’ve visited, with every chair taken, every table space utilized, its two levels humming with life — study groups, individuals in private study rooms, newspaper and magazine readers, family groups– this truly is a vibrant library. To visit it is to be inspired by all those patrons following their dreams.

high school reunion

A few weeks ago I attended my twentieth high school reunion at The Elm’s hotel in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Out of a class of almost 350, only about 50 of us turned up. Our small numbers gave the atmosphere something of a Survivor flavor, as if we were all looking around to see who else had made it through their thirties.
Blue and white balloons (Liberty Blue Jays’ colors) decorated the dining room, and two tables held a small collection of photographs, yearbooks, and newspaper articles from 1987. The table with the yearbooks had a nifty inflatable number 20 in blue and silver, but one of these balloons seemed to be enough. I don’t think we were searching for lots of reminders of just how long it’s been since we were 18. I suppose that’s why the event had a slightly sombre edge to it, as if we were mourning our youth and anxiously checking each other out for signs of aging.

I don’t want to imply that the reunion was all about sadness or that it was a mistake to go. I actually had a wonderful time because the music and dancing were so much fun. My friend Michelle and I were the first ones out on the dance floor, jumping around, acting silly. Dancing to “What I Like About You”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, and “Let’s Go Crazy” with my oldest friends was a joyful act of self-integration, connecting the 15-year-old me who found the confidence to dance in public for the first time (a radical shedding of shyness) to my 38-year-old self who dances on the streets of Toronto with the “I Want Rhythm” group. I believe our dancing at The Elms showed us that it’s too soon to bury our youth; it will always be with us.

The reunion was a true homecoming for me. It was a blessing to feel at home with myself, at home with a community of friends, geographically home, and at home in the moment.

library quest

For the past year or so, I have been on a delightfully nerdy quest to visit all 99 public libraries in Toronto. As of yesterday, I’ve visited 41 of them. Woo hoo!

Here’s some notes on what I remember about the libraries. I won’t be at all offended if you skim!

Agincourt — branch library, massive ESL and second language collection, super busy

Brookbanks — a quiet branch near a karate school in North York
Maryvale — inside a 1980’s mall, also in North York

Highland Creek — big windows and lots of natural light, east Scarborough

Port Union — library which is the furthest east in TPL jurisdiction

Morningside — a long, low one room library, very new, awesome window seats

Cedarbrae — near Markham and Lawrence, a huge branch library with two floors, Scarborough historical collection, massive ESL selection, also where I volunteered as a conversation circle leader for awhile and took students to get new library cards when teaching LINC in the area

Guildwood — a small, cozy branch in a strip mall, found a book on Canadian history

Cliffcrest — also a one-room branch in a southeast Scarborough strip mall

Bendale — this library sits by itself on a little grassy rise, appears as if on stilts (which I liked), arrived just a few minutes before closing

McGregor Park — a newish library, very spacious, Lawrence and Birchmount

Victoria Village — a neighbourhood branch, very busy, seemed to be at centre of lots of community activity

Kennedy and Eglinton — another crowded but cozy branch, seems constantly in use, situated between a bar that was shut down and a pharmacy

Eglinton Square — a one-room library in the mall just off the food court, lots of broad tables with folks reading the newspaper

Albert Cambell — a time capsule of 1970’s architecture and interior design, two levels, with quiet rooms for study, near Saint Clair and Birchmount

Dawes Road — situated in residential area, found a good grammar book there, one big square room with lots of shelves, near Saint Clair and Victoria Park

Taylor Memorial — near the lake, features a fireplace with armchairs, very peaceful

Main Street — a compact, attractive building, full of patrons reading and browsing

Beaches — gorgeous library with window seats and views of Kew Gardens, two levels, very uplifting space

Danforth/Coxwell — a narrow building with two levels, this was one of the first libraries I visited as a newcomer when I went to a conversation circle

Gerrard/Ashdale — this branch is on a lively street full of shops selling South Asian clothing, curry, and roasted corn, has two levels, top floor with beautiful wooden beams and a fireplace

Jones — very small, surrounded by a homey neighbourhood with large trees and houses with porches, lots of patrons there on a Saturday, appealing wooden floors

Pape/Danforth — handsome, historic building, two long narrow floors, extremely busy

Riverdale — arrived there by Broadview streetcar, nice brick building in circular shape, crowded with readers, next to Don Valley jail building

And that’s all I’ve visited east of the Don Valley Parkway. Stay riveted or at least mildly awake for a review of libraries west of the DVP.

Sicko review

Sicko was a hard movie to watch in many places, but I found it thought-provoking. The suffering which so many Americans have endured at the hands of HMO’s is outrageous. I believe health care is a human right, not a business in which the most vulnerable are refused the care they need in order to save money. Moore captured the utter heartlessness of the American system when he showed patients in hospital gowns being dumped on the street near a shelter because they couldn’t afford to pay their hospital bills.

dusk dances

Attending Dusk Dances with friends a few nights ago was magical — with a man impersonating a fish, a grass dance, dancers leaping from a picnic bench and sashaying around trees. The cool weather with just the right amount of wind in the trees completed the experience. Of the five dances, I think my favorite was “Tenterhooks.” There were three dancers who made hilarious use of a tent, a canoe paddle, a sun shower, a fishing pole, flippers, and plastic spiders.

Downtown rhythm

Yesterday a friend and I joined Nicole Stoffman’s “I Want Rhythm” project, which features dancing on the street to storefront music. We met at Wellesley and Yonge and walked south to Dundas Square, stopping when we heard music that called to us. We did the twist in front of a Quiznos, were Scottish country backup dancers next to an accepting bagpipe player, and tried some salsa next to a T-shirt shop opposite the Eaton Centre. We received some quizzical looks, smiles, a few comments, but alas nobody spontaneously joined us this time. Thank you Nicole for putting this street theatre idea into action!

Soweto Gospel Choir high

I smiled throughout the whole concert several nights ago. The power and reach of the choir’s voices, as well as the sheer joyous energy pouring forth into the audience really floored me. We heard songs in Zulu, Sotho, and English, and I felt a connection with my Baptist Vacation Bible School days when they sang “Amazing Grace” and “Khumbaya.” The dancing was also glorious.

multi-purpose escalator

As I was riding up the escalator at York Mills Station last night, I noticed some unusual foot movements on the part of the passenger five steps above me. First he stood on the right and held the side of his shoe against the broom-like bristles that line the steps. Then he did the same on the left side with his left shoe. It took me a few moments to realize that he was cleaning and polishing his shoes.