Thursday, November 03, 2005

Toronto Public Library, Unite!

When moving to a new city, my first real concern is: where is the library? Is it lame?

Of course, the answer to these questions vary by location. For example, the downtown location in Ottawa on Metcalfe is awesome. The Gloucester version sucks: they had no Nabokov. None whatsoever. What kind of library is that?

The Cornwall library is actually pretty good for Cornwall (of course, it's consolidated, so there's only one branch). Still, they had all of 1 work of Stephen Leacock's. You know, Stephen Leacock, Canadian comedic genius and author extraordinaire? How can any Canadian city library have only one volume of his work for all of its 50 000 residents to share? This my friends, is a tragedy of libraric proportions.

Now, at the time of my move I was in the middle of reading The Brothers Karamazov, which was as good as I had anticipated, having very much enjoyed The Idiot, even though I still believe that all the great authors of yesteryear, Dostoevsky included, would have greatly benefited from an editor. But I didn't quite finish it, and I had to send it down the chute before I left town.

For the past month, I have relied on the stockpile of store-bought books I gathered up before the move. However, the pile was running low. Finally, during the last half of A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, I began to sweat (and not just because I hate the Joyce). The last time I didn't have a book on the go was May 2001, and it didn't go well. Those 3 days were the worst days of my life; days I cared not to repeat.

But when I went through the awful process of sifting through Toronto's 99 branches to find the one closest to me, I made a disheartening discovery: my "local" branch not only keeps inconvenient hours and operates only 5 days a week, is actually closed for carpet cleaning for the next 3 weeks. Not good.

So we decided to try the Markham Public Library instead, so off we went to the closest branch, following signs marked 'library', into a building named 'library' and through a door labeled 'library', where we found...well, NOT a library. Just a room full of people, and not one book in sight. How did that happen?

Well, obviously we must have walked into a bus driver's symposium because the people were as friendly and helpful as all get-out (please note: extreme sarcasm was used during the making of the preceding sentence. I have found the bus drivers in this city to be extremely rude. In fact, rude does not quite cover the feelings I have toward them.)

Anyway, we finally tracked down a library that really was a library. And I finally got a copy of the Dostoevsky. And I finally remembered where I was at in the story when I left off (book 9, chapter 6). So all is well, except for one small thing: how will I ever remember where to return it?

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