Over Spring Break, I had the opportunity to visit a few fun libraries in Canada. The first was the Parliamentary Library in Ottawa. It is a beautiful High Victorian Gothic Revival style, built in 1875. Happily, the librarian’s architect recommended that it be separated from the Parliament building by a corridor with a closing door- because, yep, you guessed it, the Parliament building did actually burn down in 1849 and again in 1916. Happily, the second time, the books were saved. The building went under renovation and conservation 2002-2006.
In Montreal, I stopped by the “BanQ”, the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationale du Quebec, to see the national public library. A huge building, it was bustling with people checking out books, returning them on the automated return system, and using the free computers and wifi.
Nearby, several murals had been painted with some literary themes. Here are some of my favorites (good luck, not only are they a fairly difficult rebus, they are in French):
In Quebec City, I visited the Morrin Centre, originally a jail, then a co-ed college, unusual for its time (1880s). Starting in 1824, the building also housed the Literary and Historical Society of Canada, which gathered historical documents about Canada, republished rare mansuscripts, and published scholarly essays. Now the building also houses Quebec’s English-language cultural center and is a working library. Notable figures such as Charles Dickens have visited and the inside is really a treat for library lovers.