It’s mid February! Impossible yet true. Six weeks into sabbatical and I can confirm that shoulders feel much better in their rightful place below the neck, as opposed to hunched up to the ears.
My fears about feeling restless and disoriented by the radical change in schedule have not come to pass. It’s taken some time to get sorted, but I feel good about how this year is shaping up. Perhaps it is a function of better planning, a wider (and hopefully more generous) perspective on things and more realistic goals. My part-time studies at the Toronto School of Theology have helped too, and I’ve found deep learning and joy in my courses and in the communities that I have found here. One of the best parts about seminary is that there are a lot of second career students. Many in my cohort have had already had long and well-established careers, and a good number have given up quite a bit to take this strange path. I think this makes a big difference to the learning environment, and there’s a generosity and openness among students that I find quite moving. Although there is still some jockeying and competition among the MDiv cohort, especially with those who are hoping to be considered for postulancy, the vibe has been a nice change from the culture of competition and scarcity that characterizes much of academia. I encounter less of this in my role as a librarian, but it’s still in the water.
January went by very quickly, but I did manage to do some good thinking about the research design for my major project, and am currently putting together my ethics review application. I also caught up with a number of friends over lunches and teas, and have been stretching my edges leading new things in my church community. I also made good progress on my #100Branches project! Here’s a round up of my January visits.
[George Locke] (https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/locke/)
Date: 14 January 2023 (Saturday)
Arrival Time: 12:27 pm
Checked out: Paul: a biography by N.T. Wright
Recently re-opened from a renovation, this one floor branch reading room is spacious and bright, and even on a Saturday, it was very quiet. The adult fiction and non-fiction shelves were immaculate, and every shelf has a single face out display title at the end of each row, which is a nice touch. The children’s area was spacious and bright but completely empty, which I chalk up to it being very close to nap time.
I snagged one of the best seats alone at the round table next to a large semi-circular window overlooking Yonge street. The view was spectacular. It helped that it was a near perfect winter day, just a few degrees below zero with the bright sun high in the sky and the morning snow still crisp and fresh. I sat there undisturbed for about an hour, people watching and flipping through cookbooks. (I have been storing herbs incorrectly all my life, it seems).
On the way out, I noticed a lovely metal sculpture hung high on the west wall, right above the fiction section. It’s dedicated to Louise Birch, first head of the Locke branch. I don’t know anything about Louise but it made me happy to see it, and to think that maybe her family or friends come in once awhile to take a look at it and remember her.
Date: 18 January 2023
Arrival Time: 4:45 pm
Checked out: Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain
I walked over from the Crow’s Theatre after seeing a wonderful production of André Alexis’ Fifteen Dogs with my sister. Approaching on foot from the east, Riverdale has an imposing entrance. I walked around to get my bearings, then settled in one of the bright orange arm chairs facing east on Broadview. The branch was moderately crowded but quiet, save the gentle buzz of headphones from the man sitting next to me. The building is showing its age but has some nice features: a good sized children and teens area, and a large programming room. It also has comfortable looking study rooms, all of which were empty. The English fiction collection is small but well curated, but the Chinese and Vietnamese collections are the real stars of the show at this branch. I also noticed a small reference collection that was almost entirely comprised of Grade 11 and 12 math textbooks.
Date: 18 January 2023
Arrival Time: 6:20 pm
Checked out: Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott
I hadn’t planned on this visit, but stumbled on this branch on my walk back to Yonge Street from Riverdale. It’s a large, bright bustling branch and with at least 35 people on the main floor, it was the most crowded one I had visited to date. All the public computers were in use, and it was tricky to find a spot at one of the large study tables. The bookshelves in the main reading area are half-sized (3 shelves high), which makes for nice sight lines. The branch has a very impressive collection of Indigenous-authored titles along with fairly large Chinese and Adult Literacy collections. It was surprisingly quiet given the number of people on site. I checked out some of the displays on the way out, which were nicely curated. I decided to pass on checking out the Youth Hub on the 3rd floor, figuring I wasn’t quite the target demographic.
Date: 30 January 2023
Arrival Time: 4:05 pm
Checked out: Canadian Whisky, 2nd Edition. The New Portable Expert by Davin de Kergommeaux.
Northern District is my home branch, and I’m very fond of it. It has been a more or less a bi-weekly destination for my whole family for over fifteen years, and it’s been neat to see my kids starting to head there occasionally after school to hang out friends and pretend to do homework. I was having one of those low energy Mondays where nothing was coming together, so late in the afternoon I hauled out my thermal layers and ventured out the cold, damp wind to walk over.
After discretely checking for any sign of the aforementioned kids, I settled into a table at the front near the Best Bets display. I watched what I assume was a mom introduce a shy teenager to a new tutor, and then pretended not eavesdrop as the tutor grilled him on his study habits and interests. After a while, I wandered over to the teen section, which was completely full and shockingly loud. Miraculously, there appeared to be homework being done at least a few tables. In the programming room, a handful of parents and preschoolers were assembled to learn about (and likely destroy) Snap Circuit sets , and I felt a small pang of nostalgia for those bittersweet days. I quickly snapped out of it, and spent the rest of the visit reading about Canadian whisky from a book that was oddly included in a “Make a New Year’s Start” display.