Downsview Neighbourhood: Black Creek Library

Tuesday afternoon my phone gave me a notification: “Library visit at 6PM”.

“ACK!” I thought, my poor time management has caught up with me. I’d forgotten it was even coming up. But wanting to be sure to stay on top of things, I packed my bag and headed out. Sage was free and happy to join me and so off we went.

Black Creek Library is a bit of a ride from where we are. It was about an hour and a half from home. A good thing to remember for the future: Perhaps I can make the long trips happen on the weekend rather than being completely random about this.

The ride took us to Jane street, near the western edge of the city. When we got to the subway station. As we waited for our bus, Sage spotted this:


Yes, a life sized sculpture of an elephant in the back yard of a restaurant. A bit of research tells me it is owned by the folks who own the restaurant and was purchased for a festival but no further word on what the festival was or what it’s doing there.

The bus ride was long and dropped us at the end of a busy intersection. Sage and I remarked to each other as we stood there how there seemed to be fewer than normal streetlights. On a wet night – one of those nights that seem to absorb light, it seemed especially gloomy.


Though I didn’t know it until just before we left, I had unintentionally chosen another of Toronto’s “Mall Libraries” – this one in the Sheridan Mall. I’ve been to a few throughout the city. They tend not to be in high end malls (You won’t see a mall in Eaton Centre or Yorkdale Mall) but in little neighbourhood malls.


This one was very typical but seemed a bit less down on its luck than the Agincourt mall I went to last weekend with few vacant stores in the space and lots of activity. Though there were anchor stores (groceries and Wal Mart), like most of these smaller malls, there were also a good number of cell phone shops, discount clothing stores, nail shops, and jewelery shops.


The other thing that many of these small malls have going for them are interesting food choices. In our local mall, for example, we have an Indian restaurant that makes some of the best restaurant chole I’ve had along with freshly made roti. They further warm my heart by complimenting my Urdu and asking “Aapka beta kaisa hai?” – “How is your son?” and complimenting my Urdu skills when I answer even with a simple “Vo achchha hai.” He is well.  This one had a couple of interesting options. The first was a Japanese place.


And the second place, where we ended up was a restaurant serving Salvadoran food. The menu was amazing. They had me at ‘pupusa’.


Sage ordered a burrito and I chose two pupusas. For those not familiar, from the outside, a pupusa looks and even smells like a normal corn tortilla. But when you open it you realize you have something a bit different. Inside is a filling – chicken, cheese, pork, or some combination).  As we waited, we watched the comings and goings of the mall. Some folks ordering from the restaurants (there were a couple of others around the other side including some Chinese food and a Caribbean place), a few people came by with scratch-off tickets and did those while they drank a coffee.

Finally our food arrived. It was delicious!

Mine came with a bit of fermented cabbage – like a homemade sauerkraut. Very fresh and crunchy. The green hot sauce was good but I needed much more. But all told it was well worth it.

As we sat there, we talked about the mall and how in some ways these independent malls feel unsuccessful. But this one was bustling. The stores had people in them, all of the stores were open. Why did we feel that it wasn’t doing well? Then Sage suggested a great exercise. She suggested I look in a random direction and focus on what was there. “Now,” she said, “Imagine it is 1986. Is this place successful?” My answer was “Absolutely – it’s doing really well!” So I guess that it was clear that what we were thinking of as “Success” was actually “Trendiness.” Interesting point.

Then it was off to the library:


It wasn’t terribly large, but as you can sort of see through the window in the photo above, it was filled with people. People were browsing for books, others were lounging in chairs reading, still others were using computers. We have 100 libraries in this city and so far, every one is well loved and well used.

The book selection was pretty decent. I did my first walk-through and browse. Oddly enough, this one also had a large romance section – though the titles were a little tamer than that last one. There was also a great collection of 300’s, as I’m starting to think of them – books in the low 300’s of the Dewey Decimal catalog – some of my favourite topics including:

  • 300 Social sciences
  • 301 Sociology & anthropology
  • 302 Social interaction
  • 303 Social processes
  • 304 Factors affecting social behavior
  • 305 Groups of people
  • 306 Culture & institutions
  • 307 Communities

I tend to enjoy books in this range a great deal. They’re fascinating.  I also picked up “All Our Wrong Todays which looks interesting. It’s described as:

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn’t necessary.
Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

Cool, huh? Now I just need to make time to read more so I can read all of these great books I find.

The international language section was pretty small but there were a lot of DVDs in many languages:


After that we headed out, to head across town where we ended up stopping at Ikea and getting tied up there for over an hour before just giving up and leaving – and then taking forever to find the way out.

Today when I went to write this up, I did my usual search for information about the neighbourhood – history, notable facts, and the like. I was surprised to find out that the city considers that area the least livable in the city. According to a Toronto Star article:

Black Creek is considered the least livable of Toronto’s 140 neighbourhoods, based on 15 criteria like employment, high school graduation rates, mortality, green space, walkability and the prevalence of diabetes.

A low score out of 100 means a high level of inequity, according to a staff report released Monday. The benchmark score was set at 42.89 and those falling below are now considered a “Neighbourhood Improvement Area.”

Black Creek falls the farthest with a score of 21.38. [Todd’s note: Compare that to the rating for the area around Swansea Memorial Library from a couple of entries ago: 85.85 – my own neighbourhood is in the low 30’s and is also a Neighbourhood Improvement Area]  Nearly a quarter of its residents are on social assistance, a third are considered low income — nearly three times the city’s average — and high school graduation rates are low.

Another article talked of two people shot (at two different times) outside the mall we had just been in. It didn’t seem like particularly well off but I had no idea that it was having so much trouble. It makes it clear that not only are things not necessarily what they seem in a passing glance – in a 1 hour snapshot on one night in one season. Also, if it is anything like our neighbourhood, it isn’t as simple as “this is a bad neighbourhood.” In our “Neighbourhood Improvement Area” there are some amazing people and really cool community development projects happening. After living throughout the city for 14 years, we’ve moved back here.

Here’s hoping that some of the investment suggested as a part of being identified as a Neighbourhood Improvement Area has materialized and has been helpful. I’m also glad that there’s a library there so easily accessible. While it isn’t a panacea by any means, libraries have the potential to offer so much – from educational programs, to connecting people with resources and knowledge they need in the community.

Tomorrow I’m off to another library. I had originally planned for it to be nearby but based on my realization at the beginning of the entry I may swap it for something a bit further afield and save that one for a weeknight visit.

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.

4 thoughts on “Downsview Neighbourhood: Black Creek Library

  1. I wonder if having the library in a mall gets more people to visit the library. I had never heard of a library in a mall before.

    1. We have several here – some in strip malls, others in actual indoor malls. I bet they do encourage visiting. You can get a few tasks done at once – or be heading for Walmart and think “Oh wait, I can grab a book while I’m here.”

      I’m thinking it’s interesting now that while brick and mortar bookstores are failing, we’ve still got malls with places to get books. And they’re free!

      1. That would be super convenient to be able to grab a book while doing other errands!
        I love the idea that libraries are still going strong!

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