If you’ve ever wandered down College Street on foot, on the streetcar, or on your bike, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed one particular building on the city block. It’s large, pale yellow in colour, and — the most defining feature of them all — it has a long, arched entrance-way guarded by two stone griffins.
The Lillian H. Smith Public Library is a true Toronto landmark. Dignitaries visit it on tours, authors give lectures and signings within its halls, and dozens of workers help to keep it running; but the people who enjoy this monument the most are the everyday readers who get their books, CDs, and DVDs from the library. The Lillian H. Smith branch is more than just an ordinary library, however: it is also home to two of Toronto’s finest literary collections.
Lillian H Smith Library by Hobvias Sudoneighm
The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy and the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books are both excellent. Although very different in content, the two share the fact that they’re both well-maintained, intriguing, informative, and a pleasure to see. They’re also both located at the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library, with the Merril Collection on the third floor with a futuristic chrome-accented interior, and the Osborne Collection on the fourth floor in a standard library room with a few special features like bright red shelving.
The Merril Collection features over 68,000 items in the realm of sci/fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction, including some fringe topics like UFOs, parapsychology, Atlantis legends, and more. Novels, short stories, art books, comics, and even role-playing games: the collection really has it all. It also features some very exciting items, including signed editions by top-notch authors like Neil Gaiman and even an original manuscript of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”
The Collection also runs events that celebrate the genre, bringing in writers like Neil Gaiman, Madeleine Ashby, and Joe Hill to lecture on their books and sign copies. If you like science fiction, you simply have to visit this obscure gem. If you’re interested, you’ll be glad to know that the membership process is very simple: you walk through the futuristic-looking door and head to the main desk, where a helpful librarian will sign you up so that you can come into the collection and enjoy the materials whenever you have some time on your hands.
The Osborne Collection keeps materials from the fourteenth century dating up to 1910 from the realm of English Children’s Literature. It includes categories like traditional tales, school texts, courtesy books, Puritan works, moral tales, and fantasy adventures. Victorian classics, Edwardian tales, medieval manuscripts: it’s all here. Highlights of the collection include a fourteenth century copy of Aesop’s Fables, Queen Mary’s and Florence Nightingale’s children’s books, and many re-tellings of classic fairy tales. There’s a permanent exhibit in the collection of materials too fragile and valuable to be handled, but still very enjoyable to see, even though they are kept under glass. If you enjoy post-1910 children’s fiction, a section of the Osborne Collection (the Lillian H. Smith Collection) features several works in that vein.
If you’re interested in literature, be it science fiction or children’s, Lillian H. Smith has materials for you. The staff are helpful, the building is beautiful, and the atmosphere is calming. Make sure to head over and enjoy!
Location: 239 College Street. The nearest intersection is Spadina and College. The Carlton (506) or Spadina (510) streetcar will get you there very easily.
Hours: Both the Merril and the Osborne Collections are open 10 A.M.- 6 P.M. every day, except Saturday, when they are open 9 A.M. – 5 P.M., and Sunday, when they are closed.