Artist hopes his ode to city li­braries will help Toron­to­ni­ans re­lieve their stress,


Artist Daniel Rotsztain, who grew up in Toronto, has fond mem­o­ries of his home li­brary branch, the For­est Hill Li­brary.

The sculp­ture of “sleepy po­lar bears” on the wall sticks in his mem­ory years later.

But Rotsztain, 26, col­lected many more rec­ol­lec­tions and anec­dotes about Toronto’s li­braries — all 100 of them — over a few months in late 2014. He also cre­ated a sketch of each branch.

Those draw­ings, 102 in to­tal in­clud­ing two book­mo­biles, form a new adult colour­ing book set to be re­leased by Toronto’s Dun­durn Press on Oct. 31.

“In this over­sat­u­rated media world, the an­ti­dote is the colour­ing book,” Rotsztain said of the low-stress, low-tech trend.

Rotsztain said he was drawn to li­braries be­cause they’re “such phe­nom­e­nal public spa­ces” that are ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­one. He used the sys­tem’s many branches as a spring­board for ex­plor­ing the nooks and cran­nies of the city, trav­el­ling by foot, bike and public transit through busy streets, ravines and river val­leys.

“(The li­braries) are a re­ally good way of gaug­ing what a neigh­bour­hood is like,” he said. They re­flect the city’s “rich, com­pli­cated history.”

Rotsztain said he of­ten hears about the di­vide be­tween the down­town and the sub­urbs, but he re­al­ized, while ex­plor­ing the city for the pro­ject, that it’s not that sim­ple.

The Al­bion branch in Eto­bi­coke, for ex­am­ple, would qual­ify as a sub­ur­ban li­brary and is in a “car­centric neigh­bour­hood.”

“But ev­ery­one walks to the li­brary,” Rotsztain said. “There’s a dis­con­nect be­tween the land­scape and the way peo­ple are us­ing it, but the li­brary is there to rem­edy that.”

Rotsztain was also sur­prised by the num­ber of li­braries found in malls.

“It just shows how adapt­able the li­brary is as a con­cept,” he said. “It can re­ally just be fit into any archi- tec­tural space, depend­ing on where the peo­ple are.”

Although Rotsztain took on the draw­ings as a per­sonal pro­ject, the li­braries are ex­cited to have him as an am­bas­sador, said Yvonne Hunter, man­ager of cul­tural and spe­cial event pro­gram­ming at Toronto Public Li­brary.

“He has sin­gle-hand­edly cre­ated a lot of love for the li­brary,” Hunter said.

“Adult colour­ing books are cur­rently all the rage,” she added. “It’s great to have this be­cause it re­ally en­gages peo­ple in a fun way.”

Rotsztain said this li­brary was once con­sid­ered “Toronto’s ver­sion of the Ox­ford Cir­cus,” be­cause so many street car lines passed by.

This branch was built be­fore “public li­braries were en­shrined as a mu­nic­i­pal ser­vice,” Rotsztain said. It re­ceived funds from steel mag­nate An­drew Carnegie.

Rotsztain said this branch was built to look like an English store­front, to com­pete with nearby shop­ping.

Rotsztain de­scribes this par­tic­u­lar branch as “a hum­ble beaux-arts branch flanked by two glass edi­tions.”

Rotsztain said Scar­bor­ough’s Malvern is one of his per­sonal favourite li­braries. He de­scribes it as “a Swiss ski lodge.”

The Run­nymede branch, on Bloor St. W., was de­signed by Toronto ar­chi­tect John Lyle. Its unique Cana­dian mo­tifs fea­ture First Na­tions im­agery.

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