Thin smiles

I was at a branch reopening. I think it was Gladstone. I look up and I see I’m about to bump into Jane Pyper.

Thin smile. “Hi, Joe,” she says.

I say hi and offer the usual congratulations. You know, I continue, when you hit your 100th branch it’s going to be a really big deal.

It will be? she asks with a stone face. Yeah, I tell her, explaining that 100 is a highly symbolic figure. And you’re gonna need to throw a way bigger party for that one, I tell her. I want you to book Aerosmith.

Thin smile.

Brentwood reopening

Continuing the design language of TPL renovations, the new and improved Brentwood branch – in a high-income section of the Kingsway – includes signature features like superb carpet choices (thanks to Sheila), fireplaces, Corian countertops (a bit blah here), and freestanding seating alongside windows. And RFID coming out the ass and really shitty signage banged out in Arial (or electronically-scrunched Gill Sans with neutral apostrophe).

“Living room” with chairs in a U-shaped formation around a stone fireplace

Of course it’s lovely. Kids had long since located every single chair that spins on its axis and were busy making themselves seasick spinning on said axes. When I visited there at about 7:00 on official opening day, of course TPL managers and the architects had long since buggered off. They have terribly busy lives and could not reasonably have stuck around to meet the little people who streamed in after work. Honestly, why couldn’t library patrons have booked off work to make the official 4:00 start time?

And just for the record, Diamond & Schmitt’s rendering of the finished building is deceptive to the point of dishonesty about its environs – it’s crammed into a tiny dead-end street cheek by jowl with low-end mom-’n’-pop retail.

(Pictures.)

Did Spokesgay write this?

Here, then, are glories to come at the new Brentwood branch.

Directly across from the registration desk is the express self-check-out area, designed for ultimate flexibility and to keep you from having to wait in line for the simple transactions surrounding book check-outs. While located so that staff can help if necessary, it is the ultimate in customer convenience. It is so easy, in fact, that you can teach your children to be independent library users!

Indeed. You can teach them that the public sector in the 21st century is built on child labour. Adults will be there if and only “if necessary.” (Sort of like dads.)

Mind that alarm sounding on the way in, kiddo. Do you need the booster?

Fairview branch reno

The other week I went to the open house for the reno of the Fairview branch, which I discovered is a giant concrete bunker at Don Mills and Sheppard. (For a short time, I was the only human being walking up Sheppard. Though there was that sad preteen waiting for the bus.)

I found the bunker and more or less guessed where the front door was. (This, it turns out, is the problem the reno addresses.) I was just starting to look at the DVDs when some chick next to me, out of nowhere, declared “The selection here sucks.” This begat a giant argument about how:

  • the library shouldn’t be carrying DVDs, because it might put somebody out of business (“Like Blockbuster? All stores closed. Rogers Video? 60 stores closed”)

  • the library isn’t a business but should be run like one

  • film is not educational (she said that and relentlessly defended it)

  • she doesn’t put anything on hold, because, in true right-wing fashion, she feels her exact needs should be filled the instant she chooses to sashay through the door

  • new-release feature films actually are not kept hold-free for six months (a Muslim page backed me up that they are)

  • she isn’t actually a Conservative

I won’t even bother telling you how she responded to my questions about books that aren’t “educational.” I emphasize that she started talking to me.

Now, what is the punchline? All the while she was clutching two library DVDs to her bosom.

But was there an open house going on?

There was. All they’re doing is creating a ground-level entrance and enabling the library to actually address its cross streets for the first time.

The available renderings were as bad as they usually are (especially the typography) and tried to downplay the fact that we are spending $4.1 million to create largely unusable vestibule space. (The library budgetted $11.5 million for five automated sorters at different branches, including Fairview. I think they are a great idea in principle, as human beings have better things to do than sort library books. But the sorters are much too obvious in the Fairview renderings.)

Rendering shows glassed-in two-storey facing on two sides, red column at corner

The library’s Spokesgay was there, of course, suntanning us all in light bounced off his powder-blue seersucker suit. He induced me to say something complimentary about the whole thing. Beaches it ain’t, I told him. Nor is it Gladstone. You aren’t really doing much that warrants enthusiasm, I said. I understand you don’t have that much to work with, I told them, because this place isn’t even an interesting kind of brutalism like Robarts Library.

I predict this renovation will turn out poorly in one respect because it also involves renovating the Fairview Theatre, which I didn’t even know existed. It was painfully obvious that green young architect Tina Ranieri-D’Ovidio and her colleagues at the equally multiculturally named Makrimichalos Cugini Architects had decided they knew all about designing a theatre and just winged it. That’s just my assumption – that they arrogantly assumed they already knew all they needed to know.

But you tell me what other conclusion I should draw when the plans:

  • have nowhere to store the piano

  • do not fix an ongoing ingress/egress problem, whereby when a production is actually onstage somebody has to run out an exit door, circumnavigate half the building, and scoot inside another exit door that had to be propped open in advance

  • have no room for two necessary crewmembers to sit or relax during a performance

  • have office space that fronts, via plate-glass windows, onto a public hallway

  • envision a theatre without a marquee!

I infer that Fairview Theatre plans were developed in complete ignorance, and I mean complete, of the actual needs of the crew, volunteers, and paid clients and users of the theatre. I told several people, including Tina, that they need to seriously consult with the actual users and give them everything they want – even and especially if it necessitates ripping up plans. The path I see the library going down, I told them, is as follows: Fairview Theatre ends up renovated exactly as the plans currently show with no deviation, after which Anne Bailey or somebody responds to complaints with “We consulted you already. We mailed you a PDF last fall.”

Just to be crystal clear on what I am alleging, based on my informed reading of the plans, listening to the actual needs articulated by users, observing the protracted flustered and embarrassed looks on Tina’s face, and listening to her non-answers to my queries, I predict the Fairview Theatre component of the renovation will be a disaster for theatre users because TPL will not have consulted with those users and a boutique architecture firm with a god complex will have acted like it knows best. (Tina could have told me otherwise to my face and didn’t.)

Hey, did you know scaredy-cats came in powder blue?

On the way out, I tried to help a different chick check out her stack of DVDs. Three discs just wouldn’t work. Spokesgay showed up out of nowhere and loudly interrupted with “Are you enjoying our Are Eff Eye Dee self-checkout system?” I rolled my eyes and told him I’d already had a meeting with the manageress and lots of changes needed to be made. “Good! Our customers love it!” Spokesgay enthused. I will not be lied to. “No, they don’t,” I told him.

Ten minutes later, I was talking to one of the Fairview Theatre crew when boom, Spokesgay butts in and tells her he needs her help with something downstairs. He’s back in a flash, though, leading me to believe there never was anything he needed help with – especially not downstairs, the basement level at Fairview, where a publicist from downtown head office has nothing to do. Spokesgay interrupted my private conversation – again – to prevent an employee from talking to me, I conclude. (Spokesgay and Anne Marie Aikins both refused to respond to my questions on this count.)

Further evidence TPL managers are really not my kind of people

Cathy Raine went to the official Riverdale re-opening. I had visited the first day it opened and was not really up to whatever frictions would be involved if I showed up to a branch teeming with managerial staff.

By staying home, I avoided this slap in the face (emphasis added):

I handed a fork to a man who’d missed his chance to grab one and marvelled at the pig’s head resting inside a platter with chunks of pork. A patron standing across from me commented: “That’s a vegetarian’s nightmare!”

It’s actually an outright assault on vegetarians. At least they didn’t install a fucking minaret.