Toronto by Library #7: Swansea Memorial

I’ve started randomizing the visits a bit more to the point where I now have a spreadsheet with all of the branches listed and use a random number generator to give me a number and I’ll plan for that one. This is the first of that approach.

But yesterday morning wasn’t looking good for anything. It was -20°C out with a windchill of -30°C (for Americans that’s -4°F and felt like -22°F). I didn’t even have to look at the temperature to know it was pretty darned cold out, though. Just look at the window! One side can be seen out a little bit, but the other one is completely covered in frost. 20180106_125302.jpg

Don’t worry, though. While it’s terribly cold outside, our heat and insulation are both very good here. It’s toasty warm all the time in here. This doesn’t make it easier to get out the door on a day like today.

But get out I did, and Sage even came with me today. Mercifully transit was very good. We only had to wait 2 minutes before a warm bus pulled up. (Another advantage of transit over driving: There is no waiting for the car to warm up while you scrape the ice and brush off the snow). In less than an hour we found ourselves at the corner of Runnymede and Bloor in what I’d call Toronto’s “midwest”. It’s a little more suburban, less dense than downtown and not far at all from High Park – one of the biggest city parks in North America.

As it was lunch time, Sage and I shivered our way down Bloor street. It even looks cold.

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Fortunately in this case we didn’t have far to go to get to our destination. After about 5 minutes we found ourselves at Queen’s Pasta Cafe which, according to Yelp, has great freshly made pasta. They won our hearts from the moment we got in, though, by seating us at a table far from the door – so no cold breezes – and right next to a radiator that warmed us from under the table. Heaven!

Though dairy and I are not always the best of friends, I couldn’t stop myself from ordering gnocchi in burned butter sauce with chunks of bleu cheese, bacon, and walnuts.

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I do have the headache I was expecting when I ordered it but it was worth it.

Sage got a classic spaghetti and meatballs which was also amazing. The sauce was really good – very balanced flavour. And then she ended with one of my favourite desserts: tiramisu.

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I only had a bite – I’d had enough dairy for a day but it was delicious.

Then it was time to layer up again and head to the library – now about a 5 minute walk away.

Toronto has a history of eating its neighbours, gradually consuming villages, boroughs, and municipalities until it became the megacity it is today. Up until 1967, though, Swansea was its own village and the library is in the former town hall. As I read up on the village, I was surprised to see that Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, lived there from 1935 to 1942. Though it is clearly part of a big city now – after all, we took a subway directly there – it still retains some of its village feel.

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You can just see Bloor Street (the main street in the area) at the end of this street

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Houses in the area are getting larger and larger. But I still prefer the tiny cottage on the right there – and not just because of the wood smoke cozily wafting from the chimney.
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Even the fire station looks like it belongs in a small, charming village.

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The demographic for the neighbourhood around this library is different from many of the others I’ve been to thus far. In this neighbourhood, the largest ethnic minorities are from Eastern Europe with languages like Polish, Ukrainian, Serbian, and Russian being the most common non-English languages in the area.

Eventually we got to the library, in the old town hall.  As you can see, Sage is rather heavily bundled up. Believe it or not, I’m bundled up even more!

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The library is only a small part of what’s in that building. It appears to be mostly a community centre, based on the sounds of happy children playing elsewhere in the building. We made our way inside.

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It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed: The wallpaper, which I originally thought was tacky, actually is based on the neighbourhood. Look on the middle of the right side to see the building we’re in.

As we approached the door, Sage said “I think we might be seeing the smallest Toronto library.” While technically that isn’t true (I’ll tell you when we get to it). boy was it close. I was standing near the door (which is near one corner of the building) when I took this photo.

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In the children’s section – no kids to be seen. But I do like the poster: “Be Curious” – isn’t that what this project is all about?

This is one of the smallest libraries I’ve ever visited. I think the only one I’ve visited that was smaller was in Hancock, Vermont where my grandparents lived.

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Image via Wikimedia Commons

That library is so small that a few days after I visited there, there was a small write-up in the local paper saying I was in town and had come to visit my grandparents. You don’t know slow news days until you visit a tiny Vermont town in the 1980s.

When we were there there were seven people there including two librarians. We were the youngest patrons to be seen there by far. I hate to say it, but the book selection was one of the least appealing to me of any branch I’ve visited. While they had an excellent sampling of Margaret Atwood’s work which I love, it ended there. There was a surfeit of Ken Follett and Danielle Steele and other trashy fiction. But perhaps most surprising was that I’m pretty sure that this branch has the collection with the highest percentage of romance novels of any collection in the city including this gem:

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But I shouldn’t judge. After all, the purpose of a library is to bring people books they want to read, not books people think they should be reading. And who am I to be the arbiter of book taste?

And all in all, as a library branch, this seemed to be very successful. It was the right size – there were enough seats for everyone who was there to be comfortable, and everyone had a book they liked. It was cozy, friendly, and welcoming. And best of all, because it is part of the Toronto Public Library system, it is an extremely simple matter to place a hold on any one of the 10.6 million items in the system. If it’s available in another library it will be brought over in just a couple of days. If it’s checked out, it will be brought over to you as soon as it’s your turn.

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Sometimes you may have to wait a while for a popular book!

So all in all, though I would probably pass over this library in favour of a bigger one for my routine library usage, this is very good at fulfilling its purpose. And the neighbourhood around it was pleasant and interesting.

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.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Toronto by Library #7: Swansea Memorial

    1. Indeed – it really shows how libraries have to adapt to serve their neighbourhoods and patrons. It must be an interesting and important job to be responsible for curating what goes in to one.

      Liked by 1 person

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