How to Expand Your Library in Tight-Fisted Toronto
Toronto Public Library’s Perth/Dupont branch. Photo by Harry Choi/Torontoist.
Talk of austerity and cutbacks in Toronto has been constant lately, but residents of the area in and around the Junction Triangle are trying something different. Tuesday night, they met to discuss the possibility of expanding their local library.
The Junction Triangle’s local branch is Perth/Dupont, one of TPL’s littlest libraries, in terms of both square footage and usage. It’s about the size of a small apartment, except rather than furniture and loneliness, it contains books and people. Maybe too many people.
“Anybody who goes into the Perth/Dupont library knows it’s overcrowded,” local councillor Ana Bailão (Ward 18, Davenport) told a few dozen attendees, who had gathered in a banquet hall on the ground floor of the nearby Sporting Clube Portugês de Toronto. An attempt earlier in the evening to hold the event in the meeting room on the second floor of the Perth/Dupont library had been thwarted when turnout exceeded the maximum occupancy allowable under the fire code, which is 33.
Bailão has a plan to make the library bigger without incurring the cold wrath of City Hall’s new-found tight-fistedness. A developer is seeking City approval for two new condo towers at 830 Lansdowne Avenue, and will likely be paying the City what’s known as Section 37 money. (Basically, a fee the City takes in exchange for granting a developer extra height or density on a building.)
Section 37 funds usually get spent on whatever neighbourhood improvements the local councillor wants them to be spent on—a community centre, for instance, or a public art installation—though city council has to give final approval. Bailão doesn’t yet know the amount of money that will be generated by this particular deal, but seems convinced that it will be a lot. “I can guarantee that there’s a substantial amount of money that’s going to be coming to Perth/Dupont,” she told the room.
TPL has financed other projects using money from development charges, one recent example being the forthcoming new branch at Fort York Boulevard, downtown.
Kevin Putnam, a seven-year Junction Triangle resident who is leading the effort to galvanize the community around the expansion plan, took the floor to explain that in his preliminary discussions with library staff, he’d been informed that building a new, bigger library on Perth/Dupont’s existing plot of land would cost $3 million, and that this could be accomplished in four or five years. Rather than rely on Section 37 funds entirely, Putnam suggested that the neighbourhood explore the possibility of raising money from private donors—a way of financing new construction that even TPL’s professional fundraisers have had difficulty with in the past.
One woman spoke up to say that her daughter had raised “hundreds of dollars” selling lollipops for another charitable cause. The amounts required in this case could be more on the order of hundreds of thousands, or millions.
“That’s a lot of lollipops,” said Putnam.
Other members of the crowd were worried that the whole meeting was a blind for a secret plot. “I believe that there is a hidden agenda, and the hidden agenda is that Perth/Dupont has been selected to be closed,” said one older man, who’d taken a seat near the front of the room.
The next step in the process of bringing the idea to fruition will be for the community to organize itself and produce a report outlining what it would want out of a renovated branch, so that if and when the money comes, they’ll be ready to use it.