(37) The Library

 

A fine September morning. On Dufferin and Alma Street, from the bus stop opposite a massive construction site, Mrs. Bento and Chai took the number 29A northbound bus to Bloor Street West, where they would get off and walk down south along Gladstone Avenue. Just a small block east of Dufferin Street stood the Bloor/Gladstone Library. Chai saw a Heritage Toronto plaque in front of the building and started reading it. The library was inaugurated in 1913, more than a hundred years old. The building design is a Beaux Arts adaptation of the Italian Renaissance style, with an addition of a contemporary glass pavilion on its western side in 2009, the renovation has doubled the space of the library.

The pulled open the heavy aluminium glass door and entered into the high, light-filled central hall. On the left was a long green circulation counter, and on the right was the Learning Centre, a transparent room full of computers. Chai looked around, she saw three levels of the library lay open in front of her. The site lines were clear throughout. The architects had done a good job in redesigning the interior. Attention was paid to create many functioning atrium space, new partition walls were incorporated into the fabric of the existing masonry building, creating a public space all the more open and welcoming. The Lower level was filled with books for children, plus a number of multi-purpose rooms. Following the stairs to the upper level, the whole area was divided into sections servicing adults and teens. The left wing was for music CDs, DVDs and audio books. There were individual studying stations and two long communal tables for working and studying. The huge arched windows let in abundant daylight making the space bright and cheerful. In the centre were the magazine section and books of specific themes, of cooking, traveling, language and biographies. Continued to the right wing they walked through a bridge to the glass pavilion. It was totally refreshing, plenty of natural light coming through the tall glass structure. Still quite early in the morning there were some comfortable seats available. Chai noticed some people reading, some people focusing their attention on their smart phones, and there was one sipping Tim Hortons at the table. "Even food and drink allowed?" thought Chai to herself. There, another one taking a nap in the slipper chair, using his knapsack as pillow. After their ten minutes tour of the library they proceeded to leave.

“I wish we have a library like that in Hong Kong!” Chai said, as they walked out of the library. “Have you noticed aunty, there are two small pebble gardens on both sides of the connecting bridge where we walked across. It adds a bit of zen to the library.”

“Yes the library is a gem and I know we’re very lucky. Here, I don’t use our health care system very much, but both Mr. Bento and I agree that we have one of the best library systems in the world. We don’t go there to meditate, but to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, the peculiar aroma of books and the boundless knowledge contained within them.”

Walking down south on Gladstone Avenue, according to Chai’s google map on her phone, there should be a church on the right. Instead they saw a detached house and a wide gated driveway. They peeped inside, it was a large enclosure with ample angle parking spots for multiple vehicles on one side, barred with a wire fence. No car was there at this point and it looked empty. Opposite the parking strip stood a rectangular concrete building. That didn’t look like a church! Then they caught sight of a sign post indicating St. Wenceslaus RC Church. Was the church really inside? Just as they wondered whether they should trespass and walk inside to find out, a car pulled in at the curb. An old woman came out from the car. Mrs. Bento gave her a polite smile and asked about the church. Was it this house or was the church inside the court yard? What started as a simple yes or no turned into a slightly longer conversation. The church was the building inside, boxed in behind the Gladstone Library and the house on the street. But from Dufferin Street, which is parallel to Gladstone, the church could be clearly seen. Before this location, the church was situated on Bloor Street West, right opposite the Library, at the location where Tim Hortons presently stands. Though the church was closed now the woman encouraged them to walk inside the court to have a look.

So they did. The feeling of sudden quietness and lushness hit them as they walked between the fence and the concrete building. Streaks of light fell through holes from the long wire fence, which was planted with trees and luxuriantly grown climbing vines. There was not a soul to be seen, and they were left on their own to experience a brief moment of serenity.