Let’s start off this blog close to home – my home, anyway – with a pæan to one of the smaller of the TPL’s 99 branches, Jones.
Located in the heart of the action at Jones and Dundas, it is one of five libraries serving Riverdale, South Riverdale (if you want to use that real-estate term), Leslieville, and Riverside. (The others are Pape, Riverdale, Gerrard–Ashdale, and Queen–Saulter. Maybe also Danforth–Coxwell.) I’m not sure many people are aware it exists, or how close it is to the two main drags, Queen and Gerrard. You can walk there from either street (it’s visible from Queen and Jones), you can take the slow 83 Jones bus if you really must, and there’s actually parking for two cars if you want to drive.
The library opened in 1962 and has been renovated a couple of times. Here’s how it looked circa 1983:
I like the architecture of the little building, though perhaps the pagoda is a bit much. Elsewhere, I wrote:
The Jones Library is a tidy, self-contained slab, complete with stone walls, that is situated approximately in the middle of nowhere. As such, it is one of Toronto’s many hidden Modernist treasures…. Four years ago the library got a new floor (dark hardwood or a very convincing facsimile) and new shelves. There’s a skylight that is admittedly too bright in the summer. It would be a prototypical neighbourhood branch if it weren’t such a nice piece of architecture. And because it’s named after the street, it too has a weirdly baldfaced and barren name, the kind of thing that puts you off from dropping by to visit. What a surprise once you see the place.
Leslieville is a mixed-income, mixed-use neighbourhood, and the Jones branch collection does a good job of serving many competing interests. There are always old Chinese guys sitting around reading the newspapers (at the special Chinese table, carefully segregated from the English papers and table). Easily a third of the floor space is the children’s area. But it’s the periodicals that show the true mix of the neighbourhood. Surely this is the only branch that subscribed to Muslim Girl and to the Advocate, an American gay magazine. They’ve got wrestling magazines and the New Yorker, plus a lot of magazines that appeal to upper-middle-class women who do yoga and like pretty things that smell nice.
The really interesting fact is that everyone at Jones, save for the young pages, knows exactly who I am. They notice when I’m mentioned in the paper, they know off the top of their heads how many holds I’ve received, and they gamely handle relatively complex interlibrary-loan requests, though not without a few hiccups. At least one librarian keeps mental track of the sort of books I check out, which might seem Orwellian were it not for the fact that it’s a waste of time – I publish the full list of all the books I read.
Jones is a branch that lives in the reality of its neighbourhood. It handles me, it handles old Chinese guys, it handles Muslim girls, it handles everybody.
Now, what’s your branch like?