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Browsing the city stacks for inspiration

November 7, 2013 | Shawn Micallef | Comments (1)

Photo 4 copy

Walking the city, exploring, is one way to understand this city we live in, but we can do the same in the library. The miles of aisles at the Toronto Reference Library reveal a lot about this place. The second floor, with the urban affairs collection (which was once at Metro Hall) is great for this. Without fail, randomly browsing either generates new ideas or produces some interesting old gems, like this one above.

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You might think this is a contemporary book, but look at the city hall featured. People have been hating on Toronto since at least 1956, when this one was published. We ought not to care by now.

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Etobicoke's more genteel history too. The collection at TRL gets quite specific to pre-amalgamation cities and even neighbourhood and street level.

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Apart from the creative and historical books, there are shelves full of City of Toronto studies and plans. Everything you wanted to know about how the city came to be, what makes it run, and what could have been. That last part can be a bit depressing.

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Talking about transit in Scarborough and on Eglinton is not a new phenomena in Toronto. These studies are a few decades old.

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O'Keefe-now-Sony was just renovated, years after this first study proposed it. Did you know Earl Bales Park in North York has an outdoor theatre? One of the neatest places in Toronto, right by the ski hill.

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For a moment I thought this said "Cool buildings in downtown Toronto". That would be a good book.

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Before there was the West Don Lands developement happening now, there was Ataratiri. Millions were spent on this mixed-use housing plan that was ultimately cancelled in the 1990s.

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Toronto never sounded so adventurous.

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More stories.

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Diving into any of this will at the very least help you procrastinate on something else, entertain, but possible get you thinking about what you might like to write about Toronto or go out and see for yourself.


There are a 1000 stories in the naked city, as the saying goes, and you should be writing some of them. Writer in Residence Shawn Micallef will be encouraging people to write about their city. Follow along here on city explorations and journeys into the library stacks. Shawn will also be posting some of the city-writing that he receives from people like you.

Your comments, posts, messages and creative content are welcome, provided they encourage a respectful dialogue and comply with the Library's mission, values and policies.
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