The work and life of Jane Jacobs (wiki) has become closely associated with Toronto. Though she started out in New York — and wrote about cities in general — her move to Toronto coincided with this city’s modern renaissance and she was deeply involved in its development for the next forty years. Outside of Toronto, Jacobs is often referenced in the context of Toronto and for many people, she is Toronto. It’s time we recognize her life and contribution to her adopted home on a grand scale.
Councillor Adam Vaughan has started a campaign to renamed the Toronto Reference Library the “Jane Jacobs Reference Library.” As Canadians, we are sometimes timid in our bold gestures, but Toronto should honour Jacobs in a big way and I can think of few ideas better than renaming our public central library — one of the best in the world — after this great thinker. We could name just about anything after Jacobs in this town, but the Reference Library is ideal because it’s our secular temple to free thought and deep thinking. The brilliant thing about Jacobs’ ideas is that they encouraged continued thinking, debate and adaptation rather than ideology and stasis, similar to the great civic role the library plays in Toronto. In Eye Weekly a few years ago I wrote about the Reference Library as it is the place where I began (and continue) to understand what this city is all about. I’ve come to think of it as a machine that produces a constant stream of public intellectuals that make this city a better place to be:
If the city had a brain, the Toronto Reference Library is it. It’s big, public and one of the few places where everybody can bump into each other. Men in suits read statistics near the guy who waves his arms and reads to himself aloud, consumed by madness and Heidegger.
Last year we did a [murmur] project at the TRL that further convinced me of the critical role this building plays in Toronto — listen to some of the stories here for yourself. Currently the TRL is undergoing a renovation and expansion and the perfect way to rechristen this wonderful building would be with a most appropriate new name.
If you think this is a good idea please add your necessary voice to the chorus by writing a short letter of support to the Chair of the Toronto Public Library Board by email (chair at torontopubliclibrary dot ca) or via snail mail:
Chair, Toronto Public Library Board
798 Yonge Street