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.


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).


  • 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 “Bloor-Gladstone cross-bred with 21st-century cube”