“I can’t feel better than in a library. I still remember the feeling when I was a little girl and told my father that I had read a book. For me, it was like having experienced a great escape. »

Cécile Bourdon was 6 years old when she read Jacques and the Beanstalk. Today, she is 87 and we meet her in the magnificent new Maisonneuve library, inaugurated last June after three years of work.

“I have always lived in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. I am part of the heritage. My father was a fire chief here,” she says, pointing through the window to the old post that is now the Maison de la culture Maisonneuve, on which you can see a mural by La Bolduc.

La Bolduc died of cancer in 1941 in the Maisonneuve library building. From 1926 to 1967, the Radium Institute occupied the Beaux-Arts style building designed 30 years earlier by architect Louis-Joseph Cajetan Dufort to house the town hall of the Cité de Maisonneuve.

Since 1981, 4120 Ontario Street East has had its current vocation, says the head of the library section of the borough of Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Marie-Ève ​​Leprohon.

However, the rehabilitation and expansion works have transformed the premises and tripled its surface area. The firm EVOQ Architecture has been able to magnify the architectural heritage of the library while adding two contemporary wings. Result: 230 seats, not to mention multiple rooms and even roof gardens.

“It’s so beautiful, Marie-Eve!” Ms. Bourdon says to the tall library manager, as we walk through one of the new parts that the lady thought was “too modern” before being blown away by the light the glass walls bring.

If the public no longer accesses the interior through the main door of the building, the old entrance is highlighted. On the ground, the original mosaic floor has been restored. We also find the superb staircase, the stained glass windows and even old aldermen’s chairs.

Ms. Bourdon quoted Alphone de Lamartine to describe how she felt so well surrounded by a setting rich in history. “Inanimate objects, do you have a soul that clings to our soul and the strength to love? »

“I am an eternal student,” says Cécile Bourdon, who could not better embody how public libraries have democratized access to reading, knowledge and culture.

“In the summer, I left the Hochelaga convent and went to the library. For me, books were like my friends and I could not get bored […] As a teenager, I found the books that were on the index. »

The writings of Honoré de Balzac and Émile Zola were censored by the Church, recalls the one for whom books are a reassuring presence.

If the architecture of the Maisonneuve library combines heritage and modernity, the same can be said of its multiple and inclusive vocation.

Next to us, in the coffee room, the two children playing the UNO card game demonstrate that this is certainly not just a place of passage, but a beautiful and inviting place where you want to stay. Each room has its purpose and its atmosphere: the silent lounge, the medialab, the video games room or even the corner for children with portholes and colored cushions.

Marie-Ève ​​Leprohon recalls that some people do not have the internet at hand, and that children share a small apartment and a computer with several brothers and sisters.

After the 2,700 people who participated in the open house on June 10, more than 10,000 people visited the Maisonneuve Library in its first week of opening alone. “It was highly anticipated. Here, the library makes a difference in the neighborhood,” says Marie-Ève ​​Leprohon.

The many glazed spaces allow you to see life on the street while the roof allows you to contemplate Mount Royal. They also grow herbs, fruits and vegetables that are donated to Chic Resto Pop (which offers meals at low prices and helps people enter the job market).

“The library is there to support the community and federate initiatives,” assures Marie-Ève ​​Leprohon, citing urban agriculture and digital literacy projects.

“It’s an inclusive place and we want to highlight the community resources of the neighborhood,” she continues. When I arrived in office, I was told how tightly woven it is in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Quite precisely, we want to fit into the social fabric. »

For the official opening of the library, promoter Pat Laprade was commissioned to organize an outdoor wrestling gala. This sport has always been popular in the neighborhood, but it is also a symbol. “It’s the fight for inclusion, education, and everyday causes,” says the author and host whose Maisonneuve Library was the first he visited as a kid.

“It’s the fight to preserve heritage, the pleasure of reading, autonomy and the imagination,” adds Marie-Ève ​​Leprohon.

“The library is for everyone,” she believes.