Gladstone library’s Bloor bliss-out

Gladstone Library makes you think you deserve elegant public spaces


If you haven’t yet visited the newly revamped Bloor/Gladstone branch of the Toronto Public Library, don’t bother.[rssbreak]

I’m not saying this because I actually think the place is incredible or anything. It’s not like I’m trying to discourage you from going because I love spending time there and I know that when all of Toronto discovers how phenomenal it is, the library will be far busier.

What kind of selfish person do you think I am?

Why would you want to spend time at the Bloor/Gladstone Library? It has white walls, clean lines, red furniture accents, the latest stuff and special collections. It feels like a Club Monaco in there, and you’re way too hip for that.

Do you really want to hang out in a relaxed, easy environment? That’s lazy. Wouldn’t you rather go to a coffee shop or a tea house where you can buy a scone every hour to justify the WiFi you use all day?

Sure, the Bloor/Gladstone branch is fancy, and it makes you feel good about living in a city that thinks you deserve a well-designed public space, but who wants to read free books while sitting in a beautiful outdoor lounge? Certainly not you.

Why would you want to use a free resource anyway? It makes you look weak to utilize the things your tax dollars pay for.

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Speaking of which, the renovation of the branch cost you, the taxpayer, $9.1 million. That money was wasted on rebuilding a place where all Toronto residents can educate themselves and feel comfortable learning in a safe and welcoming environment. I think you should fight the powers that frivolled away your cash by staying away entirely.

Let me tell you what I do there, so you don’t even have to bother checking it out for yourself. I peruse the DVD and CD collections that think they’re soooooo cool, what with their shelves of new releases and popular music.

I test the security guards by eating various foods right in front of them. They look at me, smile and continue walking. Apparently, the library has changed its rules of conduct from “prohibitive” to “open,” and you’re allowed to eat in there now. What a bunch of pushovers.

Sometimes I take out my laptop and use the library’s free WiFi to do some research or download episodes of 30 Rock. I mean documentaries on Diefenbaker. I mean downloading is wrong – don’t do it. But, really, though, free WiFi? What is this, a commune?

The new building itself is striking if you’re into stupid stuff like inspired architecture. The glass addition is a modern mirror of the existing library, and reflects the TPL’s vision of an open, visible and inviting library system that better serves its public.

That’s right, it’s all part of the TPL’s “strategic plan” to get you in the door, encourage you to stay as long as you like and make sure you enjoy yourself while you’re there. But you’re no cog, and the TPL machine can’t manipulate you.

“I know we got [the new library] right,” says Anne Bailey, the TPL’s di rector of branch libraries. She views the libraries as “important public spaces that belong to everyone,” where all Torontonians should feel “welcome and comfortable.”

I wish she’d keep her voice down.

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According to Bailey, the concept for all new and renovated branches is one of inclusion. There are delineated areas and distinct “nooks and spaces” so everyone has a place where they feel they belong.

Sounds to me like a labyrinth where one could get lost and die.

At the Bloor/Gladstone branch, there are quiet study rooms, a meeting room, group study areas and reading lounges for adults, children and teens. There are two restored fireplaces, a pulsing teen zone with a large flat-screen TV, a new learning centre, CD listening stations, 44 computers for public use and the enclosed outdoor reading garden I mentioned earlier.

Talk about overkill.

It’s precisely this comprehensive thinking that makes the TPL the world’s busiest urban public library system. With a grand opening for the Thorncliffe Branch scheduled for the fall, a $34 million reboot in the works for the Toronto Reference Library and free WiFi being rolled out at all branches this year, it’s only going to get busier.

All of that can only lead to one thing: outright anarchy.

If you want to be responsible for anarchy and the dissolution of our social fabric, then go ahead and check out the new Bloor/Gladstone Library.

If, for some ridiculous reason, you go there, think it’s awesome and feel the need to tell everyone you know, I just ask that you please keep it quiet. This is a library.

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