Toronto By Library #2: Highland Creek Library

Yesterday Sage and I had planned to go use a Groupon we had for all you can eat Chinese hotpot. Unfortunately, though, that plan fell victim to one of the biggest traps I set for myself.  As often as I find that limited planning means increased unexpected activity, in this case it meant that I didn’t know that the restaurant didn’t open until 2PM. That alone wouldn’t be a problem but it was out in the less transit-friendly suburbs meaning that instead of a 25 minute drive that Google suggested, we would face a 90 minute transit ride each way.  Sage had a commitment in the early evening and so it was clear we needed another plan.

Enter a new tool I expect to use often: the Random Point Generator for Google Maps. Simply put in the address of a centre point, specify a maximum travel radius and then click “Go”.  A random point will be chosen near wherever you ask. So I asked for one within 20 km of home. After a couple of clicks that put me out in the depths of Lake Ontario, I found one an hour’s bus ride from home. I then searched near there for a library and off we went.

Yesterday’s library was the Highland Creek Library. The transit trip took two buses and about an hour to get there.  We ended up going from close to downtown all the way out to almost the eastern edge of the city. The east/west bus route we were on terminated only a few blocks further away and there were even a few more Durham Region buses than Toronto Transit Commission buses to be seen there.

Where our last trip to Scarborough took us to an area that felt like the a crossroads of suburbia, village life, and industrial park, we were now fully in the village. It felt as rural as the small Louisiana village I often find myself working in. That one has really only a couple of major roads, a few strip malls, a school, and a library. But where we were yesterday lacked most of the strip malls. Only a tiny one remained.  It did seem like a very quiet place where someone who likes visiting the city often but doesn’t like actually living in one might choose to live.

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The library itself fit in the neighbourhood perfectly. If this was the small town from the 80’s movie, the library was where the kids would bike to…

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But it had been a long bus ride and we were hungry. Fortunately nearby was a single small restaurant.  If we were in an 80’s movie it would likely have been a small diner or a pizza and sub shop. But this is Toronto and so while those options might be likely sometimes, here was Raani Fast Food.  Entering the restaurant we were greeted by the electronic chirp of the door chime which also had a built in electronic “Welcome!” built in.  A woman came out and took our order.  Needless to say we had a lot of choices.

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We chose a mixture of veggies: channa and long beans (I’ve never had those together – they were amazing), eggplant, greens, dal, potato and cassava all on rice. (Sage had hers with Roti)

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The food was delicious.  As we sat, a kabaddi match played on the television, narrarated in Tamil. I spent a bit of time reading up on the rules last week so it was fun to watch and at least understand a bit of it.

We headed out to the library after that. As I write this, I’m realizing there are several things I look for in one of these trips and I’ll try to capture them below – and take more formal notes in that way in the future:

Neighbourhood: You heard a bit of it above. I definitely enjoyed the visit. The area felt pleasant. There wasn’t a lot of traffic and there were lots of trees and a large park nearby. The effect of this was measurable in one way: it was a bit cooler out there than back home closer to downtown. That said, I coudn’t see myself living there as it seems to lack things like grocery stores in walking distance but as a place to walk around and visit on a beautiful summer day, it was excellent. I’m not sure if I’d have the same impression on a blustery February day, though.

Book Selection: Where the Albion branch had a great collection – the type of selection that makes me say “I will never be able to read all of these in time!” when I get home because I grab so many amazing books, the Highland Creek branch had nothing at all that got my attention. There was also no Hindi collection (I know, a very specific criterion for me alone, probably) but there was a reasonably good Hindi movie selection. That said, they’re so cheap in my local paan shop that I can own them for the price of a day or two of overdue fines.

Atmosphere: Both Sage and I loved this library a lot for this. Toronto has so many libraries with different flavours. The Albion branch was modern and slick with lots of light and cutting edge design with lots of seating and charging plugs everywhere for both AC and USB.  Highland Creek, on the other hand, was a trip to the past. There were a few computers in the corner but mostly it was an old school library – the kind I remember from my childhood.

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There were a couple of nice touches – the first being a lovely skylight above the centre of the room:

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The second being an outdoor space for reading. While it was mostly concrete and not terribly welcoming, it was a cool idea to be able to grab a magazine and head outside and read in the sun.

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The verdict: in the end was that while it was a lovely library quite suited to our “Children of the 80’s” sensibilities, if this were our home library it would be less of a place for browsing (something I adore, Sage not so much), and more of a place to pick up books you’ve placed on hold through the website.  The neighbourhood was nice, as long as you have a car to take you wherever you need to go (and you don’t get one of the houses with a poltergeist inside).

If you’d like to read about more of Toronto’s awesome libraries and the neighbourhoods they’re in, visit the Toronto by Library page.

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