March 15, 1827, King's College - the precursor to the University of
Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. Throughout
2002, U of T celebrated 175 years of Great Minds. As part of the
celebration, the U of T website featured excerpts from The
University of Toronto: A History, written by Martin Friedland, University
Professor and Professor Emeritus of Law at U of T.
Conservative premier John Robarts toyed with the idea of a provincial
library as a centennial project, but then, fortunately for Toronto,
chose the Ontario Science Centre instead. The government, however,
was interested in having the Toronto library also serve provincial needs.
Claude Bissell was quite happy to oblige, and three more floors were
added to the plans. It would now be a sixteen-storey building, including
two underground floors. When Robert Blackburn asked the New York architect
Dan Toan how the extra floors would affect his design, he replied that
it would "improve the hell out of it."
No official ceremony
was held so that further controversy would be avoided.
of the building began in 1968. As with the building of University College
in the nineteenth century, no o fficial ceremony was held so that further
controversy would be avoided. There had been and continued to be vocal
opposition from local residents and citizens' groups opposed to what
often came to be called "Fort Book." Moreover, undergraduate
students successfully protested against being denied access to the library
stacks. The library was officially opened in 1973 at a cost of over
Robarts Libary, nearing completion in 1972
writing in 1989, said it was "still the largest academic library
building in the world." Each side of the equilateral triangle is
330 feet 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. At the time of its opening in 1971, the School of Library Science
- to be constituted a faculty the following year - was one of the two
or three largest in North America. That year, a PhD Program was added
to its two-year master of library science program.
the main library was named after the recently resigned Premier Robarts.
It probably should have been named the Bissell library, but the board
was in no mood to name it after the person who was primarily responsible
for getting rid of the board of governors. Still, it was the province
that put up the money, and the library is designed to serve provincial
graciously says in his memoirs that the project "went ahead with
[Robarts'] support and could not have been built without it." The
library school building is named after Bissell. By the end of the century,
the Toronto library system contained over 8 million volumes.