Bloor-Gladstone cross-bred with 21st-century cube

Today was the reopening of the Bloor-Gladstone library. (Pictures.)

Clamouring for entry

I stood in the rain with a cast of dozens – why must reopenings always happen during monsoons? – for the one and only entrance door to be flung open.

People, many carrying umbrellas, wait outside a brick building with an old sign reading TORONTO PUBLIC LIBRARY BLOOR GLADSTONE BRANCH

Instead, they let exactly one guy in, which caused audible grumbling. But he had been first in line, hadn’t he? Through the glass door, I saw him standing for photos. Later I tracked him down. Andrew Parker, 29, didn’t get so much as a canvas bag as a door prize, but did get to meet Adam Giambrone. (And vice-versa.) The reason I came here, he told me, is because it’s brand new and you can’t put a hold on anything here. So the selection would be good, he thought, holding a pile of DVDs perfectly befitting the hipster clientele (Eastern Promises, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist). “Next week I’m having heart surgery,” he said, so it was now or never to stock up on movies.

Palatial

This place is a palace. (See below.) Any midsized city anywhere in the Western world would be happy with this building as its central library. But it is only one of 99 branches here (admittedly a district branch).

Details

  • Most armchairs are by Knoll, including the kooky ones with built-in flip-up deskette.

    Black chair alongside round table

    (That isn’t one of them. And it takes two hands and a lot of dexterity to flip up the little table.)

  • Some exterior stone is still stained.

  • The entrance is just too narrow. Two people can barely pass each other, let alone one person versus a person with stroller or versus a person in wheelchair. It’s a serious bottleneck. (This grand “entry sequence” was meant as “a really simple barrier-free path,” which it is. It’s also a choke point.)

    The entrance is now below grade. They’ve learned the lesson of Beaches, which used to flood if you so much as spilled your Starbucks by the front door: Drain grilles stretch nearly the full width of the entrance. Plus there’s a giant tank that can hold the rainwater from “a 200-year storm.”

  • The second floor has a giant flatscreen TV with no sound and no captions, rather missing the point.

  • Both fireplaces have original hearths and new limestone slabs. They will be converted into functioning gas-fired places, with glass screens, later this year.

  • Everything that looks real is real. Counters are made of Corian (or facsimile). At the second-floor-landing reference desk there’s a bizarre Corian prism with a groove at the front whose purpose the librarian did not know. Continue reading

Hipsters get their library back

(NOW WITH PICTURES)    I know we’re not supposed to use the word “hipster” anymore. It’s sort of offensive, like “coloured.” Except “hipster” still actually means something. A lot of hipsters live in the west end, to which they have a near-religious devotion, and now they’re getting their library back.

Yes, Bloor-Gladstone (BL) finally reopens next Thursday the 23rd at noon. It’s exactly what hipsters want: An old Toronto building with a space-age addition. (Because the official narrative of born-again Toronto-boosters is that Toronto does these old/new conjunctions really well.)

True to form, the only way TPL can figure out how to publicize the event is a PDF. Get these people off Windows and off the Web, I sometimes think. Anyway, it’s also “on the Facebook.”

Old, symmetrical one-storey building alongside clear glass prism

This historic gem is now bigger and modernized:

  • A completely renovated historic facility with a modern addition
  • A 9,000-square-foot addition providing a striking street presence
  • Longer hours: Now opening at 9 a.m. Monday to Friday
  • Complete barrier-free accessibility, express check-in and check-out
  • A new Le@rning Centre, 44 computers throughout the branch, wifi
  • Almost 70,000 new books, CDs, magazines and DVDs
  • Reading lounges for adults and children and a vibrant teen zone
  • Bookable meeting room and four group study rooms
  • A new environmentally-friendly, partial green roof, expanded outdoor landscaping, an outdoor reading garden, 19 new trees

I added listings at Upcoming and LibraryThing.


Updates

Teaser

What intrigue does this sinister fortress hold?

Barn-like end of building is clad in red brick with a white border and central porthole window. Alongside, a one-story beige addition. In the distance, a condo tower

And I don’t mean the see-through condo tower.

Answer

It’s the distribution centre for new materials, and I took a tour.

Why isn’t TPL on MySpace?

It’s not enough for a library system to have its own Web site anymore. You also have to show you’re totally with the program by getting on the various social-networking sites.

As far as that goes, TPL is really just “on the Facebook.” The Web team has its own blog, and there’s a Twitter feed for those of you keen on the fastest and most convenient medium of cyberbullying known to humankind. (The account name, @torontolibrary, shows second-mover disadvantage – @TPL was already taken.) But that’s kind of it.

Keeping up with the Joneses can become a war of attrition. Maybe you remember Friendster and Orkut, the latter of which is still big with the Brazilians. Maybe you’d have to hire your own personal social coördinator to keep adding and updating profiles and re-refriending all your refriended friends.

Too much trouble if you’re just a person sitting at a computer? Of course. But is it too much trouble for an organization? A publicly-funded organization? A public library? What happens if you don’t go to that trouble?

What happens is an unintended class division, according to researcher Danah Boyd. (It’s pronounced “Dayna” Boyd. It’s Dana with an h.) Continue reading