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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Cherish Our Libraries

I recently came upon a couple of interesting facts about Toronto, the city I was born in and raised near. It has an outstanding library system. In fact, it is one of the most used library systems in the World. About to open it's 100th branch library it is very extensive and available in every neighbourhood in the city. It is also well used not only by established English speaking Torontonians but also well used by recent immigrants. It is a keystone social institution in the city.

Toronto is a very literate city. At a time when many cities are having a reduction of the number of daily newspapers due to competition from new forms of media through the Internet, Toronto continues to have four major English language daily newspapers, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The National Post and The Sun and one Chinese daily newspaper. Besides this there are countless weekly ethnic newspapers service non English speaking communities. Newspaper circulation in Canada is second only to Belgium.

These two interesting facts about Toronto is even more interesting when we find out that Canada is the greatest user of the Internet. This appears to be in addition to the continued devotion to the printed word in books or newspapers. It seems the Toronto Public Library system has continued to change and adapt to the needs of the broad spectrum of citizens using all the resources of technology as well as references to printed material.Toronto is indeed a very literate and intellectually curious city.

As a child, I remember my mother's great use of the library. When we moved to Port Credit when it was a small community outside of Toronto, she regularly used its very small library. She would walk us , often the three of us, the mile of so to the library, (we had no car). She would bring home six or seven large books, which she would read within a couple of weeks (neglecting housework). When it was time to get more books she would quickly get caught up with her housework and then off again to the library. It was not long before she out grew the small local library. From then on she caught the bus and then street car to take us to the library in New Toronto (a neighbourhood of Toronto). I remember it. It was old and quite large. The first library card I ever had was from this library. I think I remember having stories read to me by the librarian while my mother search out her choice of books. I assume libraries still have childrens' story hours. I always admired my father's secretary who for many years always volunteered to read the childrens' story hour at the central library in Mississauga every Saturday morning.

The library I am most impressed with, in spite of the fact that I have only had a couple of chances to visit it over the years, is the new Toronto Reference Library. It is a fabulous library in central mid-town Toronto. It is five stories and very modern in all ways.

View of the Reference Library atrium from the second floor

Another view of the Reference Library where we can see the study desks, computers and the stacks on a floor above.

Toronto build its library system with the help of Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish/American Industrialist whose legacy in a large part is his funding of libraries and other educational institutions. Ten Carnegie libraries were built in Toronto in the early part of the 20th century.

Carnegie helped fund 125 libraries all across Canada in many small towns as well as cities. There is even one in Dawson in the Yukon.

This is the historic Carnagie Library in the Toronto neighbourhood of Yorkville.

On one of my frequent searches on the Internet ( I was looking for the poorest places to live in the United States) I discovered the the first Carnegie library is in Braddock, PA. This was the location of Carnegie's steel mill. Sadly, Braddock today is a desperately poor community although only 8 miles from Pittsburg. It is a mystery to me how such a community could languish only a few miles from a major city. There is no city in Canada where a town so close would not be a prosperous bedroom community with housing costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. In Braddock you can still get a home for under $75,000. , and even much lower than that. It is a challenging community with a most unusual mayor. I encourage you to read about Braddock. It is the symbol of the demise of the heavy industry in the "Rust Belt" of America. It deserves better, if for no other reason than it is home to the first Carnegie Library, which was, at one time, in danger of being torn down.

The Braddock Free Public Carnegie Library

I could go on and on about Carnegie, Braddock and the role of free public libraries but I have written enough. Think about them.

I think one of the things Toronto has reason to be proud of is its community based free public library system. The people of Toronto appreciate it and use it extensively. May it always be so.


At 11:30 p.m., Blogger KGMom said...

You know you are talking about one of my favorite subjects. Libraries-love them.
I love the smell of books--not sure what a modern library smells like...not enough books. Maybe it smells like computer connections.

Anyway--wow, Toronto--four daily newspapers. Well-read citizens.

At 11:30 p.m., Blogger KGMom said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7:49 a.m., Blogger Owen Gray said...

I remember the first time I walked into the Toronto Reference Library. It took my breath away. It still does.

At 3:47 p.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I think the TRL must be where my friend and I went to research Tomas Hardy for a grade 13 essay. It didn't look then like it does not, however.

At 6:58 a.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

Thanks for your praiseful post, Philip. I hate that so many libraries are fading out and it was with a sigh of relief to read your words and I pray that my children's children won't miss out on the joys of a library like I knew. It was one of the great joys of my life.


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