The Full Wiki

Robarts Library: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robarts Library as viewed from its northwestern corner. The connection to the Claude Bissel Building is visible at left.

The John P. Robarts Research Library, commonly referred to as Robarts Library, is the main humanities and social sciences library of the University of Toronto Libraries and the largest individual library in the university. Opened in 1973 and named for John Robarts, the 17th Premier of Ontario, the library contains more than 4.8 million bookform items, 4.1 million microform items and 740,000 other items.

The library building is one of the most significant examples of brutalist architecture in North America. Its towering main structure rests on an equilateral triangular footprint and features extensive use of triangular geometric patterns throughout. It forms the main component of a three-tower complex that also includes the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and the Claude Bissel Building, which houses the Faculty of Information. The library's imposing appearance has earned it the nickname of Fort Book.[1]



Detailed view of the upper-level exterior

The design of the Robarts Library complex was headed by Mathers & Haldenby Architects with consultation from Warner, Burns, Toan & Lunde, the New York architectural firm whose earlier works included the libraries at Cornell and Brown universities and was specialized in precast concrete buildings. Coinciding with the Canadian Centennial celebrations, the initial plan was expanded to add three more storeys to the original design. Construction of the library began in 1968 and completed in 1973, at a cost of over $40 million.

Robarts Library occupies a three-acre site on a field of open space and mature tree cover. The building rests on an equilateral triangle footprint with each side measuring 330 feet (100 m), the same length as a Canadian football field from goal post to goal post.[2] The building is oriented such that one side of the equilateral triangle faces west while the other two sides face northeast and southeast.

A mid-level mezzanine connects the library building with the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

Comprising sixteen storeys, including two underground floors, the structure features raised podia and a suspended fourth floor.[3] A mezzanine level physically connects Robarts Library to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library building at its southeastern side, and to the Claude Bissel Building, housing the Faculty of Information, at its northeastern side. The concrete waffle slab floor plates are adorned with trianglar-patterned tessellation. A hexagonal central circulation atrium is enclosed at the core of the building and through the middle of the mezzanine level.[3] The gross area of the building is over 1,036,000 square feet.[4]

The brutalist and futurist complex is sometimes said to resemble a peacock when viewed from the southeast, together with the Fisher Library building in front: the tower of the smaller Fisher Library forms the neck and beak, while the larger Robarts Library behind it forms an extended tail. It has also been speculated that the unusual shape might be a reference to the dragon slain by Saint George, given the library's location on St. George Street.

In 2008, the university announced that Robarts Library would be receiving a significant upgrade. The plans include 2,752 new study spaces and a new outdoor amphitheatre-like area. Some of the concrete walls will be replaced with glass to allow sunlight into the stacks on the 9th-13th floors.[5][6]

Features and collections

Interior shelving of the library
Escalators of the circulation atrium and the ubiquitous triangular tessellation of the floor plates

The library was initially intended for use by graduate students only, but following an illegal student occupation of the building, undergraduate students were also granted access. The library's initial design was for a mechanical book conveyor belt system to allow for faster collection by library staff, who would then send books downstairs for pickup. After Robarts was opened to all students, the conveyor system was discarded, although the tracks used by the conveyor system are still visible above the shelves.

It is also the home of Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library, which holds a collections of over 380,000 volumes of materials in Chinese, Japanese and Korean, and of the Dictionary of Old English Project.

In addition to a rich collection of texts, the library contains 24-hour quiet reading rooms that are open during the academic year with the exception of weekends. As well, the Information Commons, a large bank of computers connected to the Internet on the first floor, allows all University of Toronto students access to computers, printers, scanners, and audiovisual equipment. Additionally, the university's Accessibility Services and its computer lab site are located in this floor.

A book-scanning centre on the seventh floor is the university's contribution to the Internet Archive's text digitization project.[7]

In popular culture

Robarts Library is thought to be the model for the secret library in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Eco spent much of the time writing the novel at the University of Toronto, and the stairwell of the secret library bears a particularly strong resemblance to that in Robarts Library.[3]

The library was featured in the episode "The One Where Joey Speaks French" of the popular television series Friends. Robarts Library is shown briefly during a scene transition and is implied to be the outdoor view of an unknown New York hospital where actress Jennifer Aniston's character Rachel visits her father, who has just suffered a heart attack.

The library was also shown in an episode of Sliders titled "El Sid". It is shown briefly as a still visual after a commercial break, in an episode where the story takes place in an alternate San Francisco that has become a giant prison. It was also seen during a slide transition during the season finale of The Amazing Race 8: Family Edition. The Bransen Family were running past it after finishing a Detour (a game task) at the nearby Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.


View of the library from ground level
  1. ^ Robarts expansion to create more student spaces U of T news By Maria Saros Leung, posted Tuesday, February 26, 2008
  2. ^ U of T Q&A Quote: Each side of the equilateral triangle is 330 feet (100 m) long - the length of a Canadian football field from goal post to goal post - and it can provide space for 4,000 persons at any one time.
  3. ^ a b c McClelland, Michael; Stewart, Graeme; E.R.A. Architects (2007). Concrete Toronto: A Guidebook to Concrete Architecture from the Fifties to the Seventies. Coach House Books. pp. 34, 164, 173. ISBN 1552451933.  
  4. ^ Leighton, Philip D.; Weber, David C. (2000). Planning Academic and Research Library Buildings. ALA Editions. pp. 20, 138. ISBN 0838907474.  
  5. ^ | Post-secondary | Major upgrade planned for Robarts Library
  6. ^ University of Toronto - News@UofT - Robarts expansion plans receive $15 million boost from province (Feb 28/08)
  7. ^ Calamai, Peter (2007-05-16). "Archivists embrace digital page". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-07-02.  

External links

Coordinates: 43°39′52″N 79°23′58″W / 43.66444°N 79.39944°W / 43.66444; -79.39944



Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address