Monthly Archives: January 2023

Lillian H. Smith #100Branches

Lillian H. Smith
Date of visit: 10 January 2023
Arrival Time: 1:32 pm
Checked out: Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

I had to get some books for my course at Knox College from Victoria’s Emmanuel College Library so after climbing the twisty wooden staircase for my books, I spent the morning there catching up with my readings. The shelves were pristine, and the you could hear a pin drop. It’s a bit of a departure from the library where I work, which isn’t a slag, just an observation about funding and class and how it pretty much rules everything and anything.

Afterwards, I wandered down St. George street, bobbing in and out of UofT students lining up for poutine and dumplings. I made my way to College Street and to the Lillian H Smith branch. I stood outside for a minute to admire the eagles flanking the front door and and the bike share racks on the east side of the branch. If I can ever summon my nerve to bike downtown again, this might be a great option for getting around to branches when the weather improves.

The Lillian H. Smith branch is well known for its children’s collection, both circulating and rare. The main floor children’s area is large and brightly lit, if a little dated (perhaps a smidge above “moderately dingy”). There’s a lot of neat art work on the walls and a good size area reserved for families with reading tables that could double as climbers. It was empty, save one very earnest adult who was attempting to read a picture book to a toddler. He in turn was in turn, singularly engrossed in ripping up a large envelope. I nodded silently in sympathy — at that age, my daughter’s favourite part of visiting the library was pressing the water fountain button.  I suspect that may still be true.

I made my way upstairs and after a few laps of the collection, I decided on the best seat, which I determined to be at one of the three large group tables overlooking College St. It was all pretty quiet, except for a man at the next table snoring irregularly, but very loudly. I sat for awhile, making notes and taking in the view, then did another lap around the 2nd floor to check things out. By my count, 5 of the 22 people on the second floor were using a print title, while the rest stared quietly at laptops and phones.  Seems about right these days.

I took the elevator to the 4th floor to check out the Osbourne Collection. I spent a good while wandering through the current exhibit on Fairies, which was great fun. An impressive collection, and a great branch to begin my #100Branches project.


It took two days of fussing and enough cursing to make a truck driver blush, but I’ve managed to get iA Writer to publish automatically to my blog. It should have been very simple, but like most things, it wasn’t for a bunch of silly reasons that were my fault. Still, Huzzah! Here we are.

I purchased iA Writer last year but couldn’t find the time to use it, which ironic as my goal was to limit distractions to find more time to write.  Now that I am less distracted, I am enjoying it a lot!

100 Branches.

On January 1st, 2023, I began a one year sabbatical. It comes at a very good time. I just completed a four and a half year term as the Director of the Content Development & Analysis Department at York University Libraries. It was a rewarding role in many respects, but the combination of a large scale library restructuring in 2018 and a global pandemic made for a more intense management experience than I expected. It left me pretty tired and if I’m honest, a bit unsure of where to go next. I am very grateful for the chance to catch up with research projects that I had to defer or outright abandon during the Director gig, but I’m even more grateful for the time and space to think more deeply about things that interest me. It’s particularly nice to not be checking email all the time.

I have a number of projects and plans for this year, and my hope is to use this neglected space to document my progress on some of them. One fun thing I hope to do this year is to visit all 100 branches of the Toronto Public Library. This idea has been kicking around in my head for years,. and this year feels like a good time to try it.

I’ve set up a few criteria to make things interesting: I must spend at least 30 minutes and check out a single title in each branch and, wherever possible, use public transit to get there. It’s an ambitious goal, but with careful planning, I think it’s doable. It’s a way to add some structure to my weeks and get to know my city again on foot, but I think it will also be great fun. My very first job was as a student page at TPL (the York Woods branch) and given all the good things that came out that, it feels like the right project. A professional pilgrimage of sorts. At the very least, it will be something to write about.