Brighter Days at the Toronto Reference Library
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Brighter Days at the Toronto Reference Library

A new entrance and less construction hoarding signals changes to come.

In some families, it is traditional to open a Christmas present on Christmas Eve. Staff at the Toronto Reference Library must appreciate that practice—they unveiled a gift for their patrons on December 24. Specifically, it was a present for all those who have endured ongoing revitalization work at the Reference Library since 2010: opening the building’s bright new glass cube entrance.

As the library’s blog titled a post on the opening, it was the “Best. Present. Ever.”—especially given the rough year the Toronto Public Library system has endured politically.

Claustrophobes should be pleased that walking through the new front doors of the library no longer feels as dark and cramped as its predecessor. The cube’s second level provides a space for you to ponder the progress of your work inside or observe the procession of pedestrians below. Walking past the second set of doors into the library still feels like passing through a work in progress, with ongoing construction to the left and the almost-ready new gallery space to the right, hinting at further changes to come.

Architect Ajon Moriyama looked back to his father Raymond’s original design for the library in 1973 (recently discussed in the book Unbuilt Toronto 2) when designing the new entrance. Had major objections not been raised by residents and city councillors over the scale of the original plans, the entire building would have been a glass cube instead of the recessed, bricked layers that were built. The new gateway matches the vision for the overall library renovations that Moriyama described to Eye Weekly earlier this year: “We’re going to bring the inside out: the building will be much more transparent, exposing all the internals to the outside—getting back to that original glass cube design.”

Among the efforts to achieve that transparency are the remaining renovations on the ground floor, which are currently scheduled for completion in early 2012. Once the remaining hoarding on Yonge Street is removed, a glass wall running along the street will be revealed. An expanded browsery section will include a new information centre featuring a 12-screen Global Connect wall containing news feeds from around the world. Balzac’s Coffee will also be opening a location in the library, for those needing a java fix during their research break.

Overall construction on the library is scheduled to wrap up in 2013, with a revamp of the upper floors, including translucent study pods for groups of two seeking a quiet place to work and a new two-storey rotunda on the fifth floor housing the Special Collections department that may serve as a present to users seeking the library’s historic treasures.

Images courtesy of the Toronto Public Library.