It is hard to find a U of T student who cannot identify or has not been to the infamous Robarts Library or Gerstein Science Information Centre.
After the recent addition of the Robarts Commons, the turkey-shaped building is a feat of both brutalist and modern-style architecture. Despite being visited by up to 18,000 students a day, Robarts is generally regarded as a dismal library. Second-year student Jessie Schwalb goes as far to say, “I can hear the cries of students’ past reverberating through the halls [of the second floor].”
Why do Robarts and Gerstein receive so much attention, when there are 42 other libraries across the University of Toronto’s three campuses? Below are some libraries that often go underappreciated.
University College Library
The historic University College (UC) library balances its Romanesque Revival style architecture — complete with vaulted ceilings, stained glass, and gargoyles — with a contrasting contemporary style that is bold and clean cut.
Third-year student Neal Bhullar comments, “The old architecture of the building itself is pretty nice.” For students like Bhullar, who is from the Scarborough campus, it is the architecture found across campus that makes them “want to romanticize studying at U of T.”
John W. Graham Library
Affiliated with Trinity College, the John W. Graham Library is a warm and inviting place to study. Well known for its wood panelling, the library also has many study nooks and windows looking over the courtyard. Found right beside Trinity College, this library reminds third-year student Evan Shao of the Harry Potter movies.
“It’s very nice to have your own little cubicle and still have windows right by you,” second-year student Cici Xie said. “You know that there are other people sharing the space and studying at the same time, but it’s also very private and the bookshelves divide the study spaces.”
Hart House Library
Look carefully! Hidden within Hart House is a quaint library with great detail. The curved ceiling with its tessellation design, the carved stone fireplace, and the sculpted wood crown moulding are all details that make Hart House a special place to study.
Within the compact space there are many different seating and desk options, which may suit everyone’s needs. “I like the open-window concept in Hart House,” claims Kaitlin Wilson. “On a good sunny day, it’s nice to sit by the window.”
E.J. Pratt Library
Named after the poet, Victoria College’s E.J. Pratt Library features a simplistic and monochromatic exterior. The library’s interior is strikingly different, with its splash of colours and a circle motif repeated throughout its three floors.
Some students are drawn to an open sightline, and enjoy the library’s glass windows and glass doors. Other students, like second-year student Keivan Javdani, enjoy the space because it is “compact” and “very cozy.”
Emmanuel College Library
Fans of the eighties pop rock band Tears for Fear may recognize the interior of this hidden gem as the setting for the popular 1985 music video “Head over Heels.” This quaint library is found on the third floor of Emmanuel College.
Between the old wood shells, the fireplace, and the iron chandeliers, this library is a quiet study space. “You feel like you’re almost encased within the books in the library,” remarks Kaitlin Wilson. “It’s a beautiful place to study.”
Instead of sticking to the same mundane study routine this semester, try out some of the beautiful and unique libraries the University of Toronto has to offer.
Disclaimer: Jessie Schwalb is The Varsity’s 2022–2023 Assistant News Editor.