Eglinton Square Branch reopens today, June 23, 2017

June 23, 2017 | Barbara Myrvold

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After being closed for a year, Toronto Public Library’s renovated and expanded Eglinton Square Branch reopened today, Friday, June 23 at 10 a.m. The branch has more than doubled in size from 4,700 to 10,000 square feet, and the community can look forward to a larger, more vibrant, bright, open and airy space.
  new eglinton square branch

There is 50 percent more seating with comfy chairs in the adult reading lounge, seats with small tables for plugging in throughout and booth seating in the teen area. In the children’s area, there are cuddle couches, kid friendly furniture and an interactive wall.

mother and son in the new eglinton square branchThe new community meeting room also is much bigger, so that, according to branch head Cathy Pyper, “the possibilities for programming are now endless and we are no longer restricted by space. I also like that we now have two quiet study rooms and one large collaborative room.”

Of course, the branch continues to offer books, audiobooks, magazines and DVDs, including library materials in Chinese, French, Tagalog and a Hindi DVD collection, as well as public computers and free wifi.

The reopened branch is the latest chapter in the 62-year history of library service in the Clairlea-Golden Mile neighbourhood. Service began in January 1956 when Angus Mowat, the provincial director of library services, formally opened Scarborough Public Library’s Golden Mile Branch at 29 Civic Road. The branch was in a small room (14 by 22 feet with a sagging floor) in a rented building that also housed the library’s reserve, overdue and bookmobile departments.

Golden Mile library branch in about 1956Golden Mile Branch and library departments, 29 Civic Road, 1956? Scarborough Archives.

The frame building was located in a former fuse-filling munitions factory known as GECO (General Engineering Company), which had occupied a vast tract on the south side of Eglinton Avenue between Warden Avenue and Birchmount Road. By the end of the Second World War, the GECO complex included 172 structures connected by almost 5.5 miles of tunnels and its 6,000 workers, mostly all women, had assembled and filled more a quarter billion units of ammunition.

women working in GECO munitions plant, 1944Lesson in fuse filling at GECO plant, 1944

After the war, Scarborough Township purchased the GECO plant and additional surrounding land for proposed development. In addition to the library, some of the old munitions plant buildings were used for municipal offices, the Council Chamber and a police station, while others were leased or sold for temporary housing, small businesses and large manufacturers.

Golden Mile was the first new branch that the Scarborough Public Library Board opened after it was established by Township of Scarborough Bylaw 6509 passed on August 18, 1955, which united the former independent library associations of Agincourt, Highland Creek and Scarboro (Bendale) into a single public library system. By the end of 1956, Golden Mile Branch was second only to the bookmobile in membership (1,811), book stock (5,715) and circulation (42,864).

customer talking to Golden Mile branch library staff in about 1956Golden Mile Branch, 29 Civic Road, 1956?

The new branch was named for its location along the stretch of Eglinton Avenue between Victoria Park Avenue and Birchmount Road that became famous in the 1950s as Scarborough's "Golden Mile” – a hub of manufacturing and shopping centres that surrounded new residential subdivisions created on former farmland.

At the end of March 1965, Golden Mile Branch left the “dilapidated GECO building” and moved to a “new, modern, more easily accessible location” in Eglinton Square shopping centre. The plaza had opened at the southeast corner of Eglinton Avenue East and Victoria Park Avenue in 1953 and was enlarged ten years later, notably with the addition of a two-storey Morgan’s department store.

Golden Mile was Scarborough Public Library’s first branch in a shopping plaza, testing a theory that malls were the most ideal place for a public library. “We are going to the people – not asking them to come to us,” said Chief Librarian A. W. Bowron at the time. “We are selling education and ideas alongside merchandise.”

Golden Mile Branch in Eglinton Square Mall around 1965Golden Mile Branch, Eglinton Square Mall, 1965?

The relocated branch, officially reopened by Scarborough Reeve Albert Campbell on April 13, 1965, saw a sharp increase in circulation, but library officials reported that year, “It is imperative the Golden Mile collection be rebuilt to suit the needs of the new type of clientele using the branch now.”

In February 1971 Scarborough Public Library announced “a change of name, but not of location. The Golden Mile Branch will now be known as the Eglinton Square Branch in keeping with its location at 50 Eglinton Square.” (Golden Mile Plaza had opened at the northeast corner of Victoria Park and Eglinton in 1954.)

customers talking to staff in Eglinton Square branch around 1971Eglinton Square Branch, 1971?

Eglinton Square Branch underwent two relocations in 1983 before it finally settled in its current location in a new wing of the mall. It officially opened on April 18, and joined in the mall re-opening celebrations in early May.

With municipal amalgamation in 1998, Eglinton Square became one of 98 branches of the new Toronto Public Library. Hours were increased in 2007 and 2015. In the latter year, it ranked 9th of 81 neighbourhoods branches in terms of in-branch visits.

eglinton square branch in 2014Eglinton Square Branch, 2014

On June 25, 2016, Eglinton Square closed for a renovation and expansion project, designed by Ken Fukushima, Architects, reopening a year later.