Notes from the Road: University of Toronto

Submitted by Roger Morales, ATLA Member Programs Librarian

While attending the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) Annual Conference in Toronto, Canada, I had the pleasure of visiting various great libraries within the University of Toronto library system. For those who are not familiar with the University of Toronto, the university operates under a similar model to the European organization system where colleges exist under the larger umbrella of The University of Toronto.

I made it just in time for one of the last snowfalls of the season typical of this time of year. Despite some snow and winds, I toured the Gerstein Science and Medicine Library and six libraries at member schools of the Toronto School of Theology (TST) including: Emmanuel College Library, Caven Library at Knox College, Regis College Library, Kelly Library at University of St. Michael’s College, and John W. Graham Library at Trinity and Wycliffe Colleges.

Gerstein Science and Medicine Library

The first tour was of the Gerstein Science and Medicine Library’s South Asian Collection. Why the South Asian collection you might ask? Since being hired at ATLA as the Eastern traditions indexer, I have been participating in one of the committees of AAS called the Committee on South Asian Libraries and Documentation (CONSALD), and so this collection was of particular interest to the group.

Our tour guide was a first-year graduate library student of the University of Toronto’s iSchool, one of about 250 students in her cohort. The Gerstein library offers an impressive reading room with high ceilings and plenty of windows that drench the room with sunlight. Being an older building it has gone through several additions and its fair share of reconstruction, which has given the library many nooks and crannies in which students take advantage of for studying and reading. The Gerstein library also features a maker’s lab which students use for school projects and recreation alike. Some of the 3D creations ranged from animals to human organ models such as a heart, a lung, and even a wrist. The library was spacious and had plenty of group work areas as well that were intentionally designed as the remodeling was done.

Emmanuel College

University of Toronto
Emmanuel College Library’s Reading Room

Next on my Toronto adventure was an afternoon with Karen Wishart, the reference librarian at Emmanuel College, who showed me six libraries at member schools of the Toronto School of Theology (TST) system. Karen’s own library’s collection highlights include hymns, history of United Church of Canada, and pastoral care, among other strengths. One common theme that all six collections share is an emphasis on ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. Karen attributed this to an initiative by Alan Hayes’, Director of the TST, to be more inclusive and better serve diverse students of all backgrounds. For example, during a recent renovation Emmanuel College created a new communal space in the basement for groups of students to use, as well as a prayer room for Muslim students.

Additionally, TST is now offering several new degrees that are attracting students of all faith backgrounds, including Buddhist Studies and Islamic studies. Karen commented that there was a need for local imams to be trained in Canada to better connect with local practitioners within the Canadian context. She added that she is proud that the Koranic training and education of the imams to-be is being conducted by a woman.

The University of Toronto is home to one of the top three largest university library systems in North America. Collectively, the University of Toronto has about upwards of 80,000 of total enrolled students. Each of the TST libraries has unique strengths within their respective faith traditions and cover a wide coverage of subjects that can be found here.

Until the next trip!

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