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Pickle Me This

July 8, 2012

Wild Libraries I Have Known: Wychwood (TPL Branch)

Last week, Harriet was enrolled in day camp in the mornings, which gave me some time to get a lot of work done and the opportunity to fall in love with a new wild library. Wychwood Library has a fascinating history, with origins as part of a tanning factory the late 19th century. In 1904, most of the library’s volumes were destroyed by fire, except for those loaned out to patrons (and thank heaven for the overdue ones). In the years following, the library was housed in the local fire hall, and at Wychwood/Hillcrest School. When Wychwood District was annexed to the City of Toronto in 1909, the library joined the Toronto Public Library system. In 1915, the Carnegie Corporation granted $50,000 to the TPL to build 3 identical libraries, of which Wychwood would be one along with Beaches and High Park.

The library’s design is stunning and smart. The first floor children’s area is spacious, bright, full of things to look at, and so many books. The second floor is a site of scholastic reverence, a grand hall with a timber roof that is 29 metres at its highest point. Sun pours in through the windows, the library is buzzing with patrons of all sorts, pages flipped and keyboards clacking. Community notices are posted all over the place. The grand fireplace lends a touch of warmth and home.

I spent the week working up in the rafters, taking in the atmosphere and studying the spider-webs (which were beautiful). I claimed a carrel on the small balcony at the west end of the building, and whenever I looked up from my work I was granted a view of the most stunning vista. It was a tremendously productive week, partly because 3 years of motherhood have shown me that not a second of 10 hours of time to work should over be put to waste, but also because my surroundings spurred me on. Wychwood seemed a proper place in which to think, to work, to get things done.

And it’s a wonderful thing about libraries, isn’t it, the way they can offer themselves to us for a little while. Their doors open to strangers, people just passing through, how the words I wrote last week will forever be set there.

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