PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE WITH A MULTI-YEAR REFIT OF THE ROBARTS COMMONS IN TORONTO

The Robarts Commons are named after John Robarts, the 17th Premier of Ontario from 1961. He served there until 1971. The libraries contain more than 4.5 million book items, 4.1 million microform items, 740,000 other ones which kept on growing. He was an advocate of freedoms, and promoted rights of the provinces against initiatives of the federal government. Mr. Robarts is remembered for improving education, being Chancellor of York University, the Ontario Science Centre and Ontario Place – plus the GO Transit railway system, and he introducing nuclear power to Ontario’s electricity grid. Unfortunately his son, Timothy, died of suicide in 1977. John also died of suicide on October 18, 1982. He is buried in Toronto’s St. James Cemetery. Universities and research centres carrying Mr. Robart’s name are impressive. York University, was founded in 1963. Mr. Robarts was Chancellor from 1977-1982. The Robarts Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario opened  in 1986 in London.  There are also Robarts School for the Deaf and the John P. Robarts Research Library at the University of Toronto.
Now we come to the magnificent John P. Robarts Research Library, commonly referred to as ‘Fort Book’ at 130 St. George Street, a branch of the University of Toronto Libraries. The new Robarts Commons, a five storey glassed-in addition to the U.of T’s Robarts Library isn’t completely finished, but with the pandemic restrictions it will soon happen. The project is part of a multi year refit to prepare for the future as most libraries are progressing technologically. The University of Toronto’s collections are spread over 42 heavily-used libraries, popular with students. About 20,000 people pass through on a busy day, and some students work at their desks late into the night. The original plans for the Robarts Library, drawn up in the 1960s, called for a pavilion on the west side. Now, almost 50 years since the library was built, the western pavilion is finally being realized. Gary McCluskie of Architects’ Diamond Schmitt says on their website: “When the new Robarts Common opens in the 2021-2022 academic year, the library’s 18,000 daily users will quickly see and feel that the million square feet of the entire library complex are more social, collaborative and human,”

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