I went to do some work at the Toronto Reference Library a few days ago, and was struck by some of the material apologizing for the ongoing renovations. The billboard on the construction fencing talked about the new glass atrium, gallery space, study pods, etc. Now, I have nothing against new study space: the building’s design makes the TRL one of the nicer places in Toronto do research, and more soundproofed spaces would probably be good for everyone’s concentration. But it struck me that if there’s one thing that should be splashed across everything the TRL puts up about itself, it’s the books.
Whether you are trying to start a business, finish a degree, learn about local government, or plan a trip, the TRL has the books, papers, or microfilm that you need – most of it unavailable to anyone without an academic library card or some very expensive database access. Most of what people at the TRL look up isn’t glitzy, or fancy, but it’s available to anyone in the city.
As an kid, my parents took me to the TRL to listen to music we just couldn’t find anywhere (you used to get a carrel with a record player and several sets of headsets). As an undergraduate, if there wasn’t a copy available at UfT and I had to read it, I could often find it there. When I was working on YA books, I went to TRL to find pictures of historical clothing and buildings.
The TRL has an amazing collection of books. It’s nice that it’s getting a face-lift, but lets not forget what makes that building so important.