We welcome your stories!
Many of you have taken the time to share with us your own stories of how Toronto's Library has benefitted your life or how important supporting the Library is to you.
We will be sharing and featuring your own stories on a regular basis.
Leading up to the eighth annual Book Lover’s Ball, held on February 7th, 2013 at the Fairmont Royal York, we asked library lovers, like you, to share stories about why Toronto Public Library is awesome.
The stories came flying in, and we loved hearing from you! We received 131 enthusiastic entries revealing how Torontonians felt about Toronto’s Library.
For four weeks leading up to the ball, we selected weekly winners (an impossible task because there were so many incredible stories to choose from), who received signed copies of Neil Pasricha’s The Book of Awesome. Neil Pasricha was our final judge, selecting our grand prize winner. Check out some of the winning entries below:
Grand Prize Winner: Steven Solarz
Steven Solarz was selected by Neil Pasricha as the winner of our “awesome” contest. He won two tickets to the Book Lover’s Ball and one-night accommodation at the Fairmont Royal York.
“My very first wallet held one card, my library card. And while I missed an 'e' in my name as I signed it with crayon, I was able to claim the library as mine. From Clifford to the Hardy Boys, from fashion to the history of JFK, I had access to stories on paper that came alive as I read them. My library fostered my creativity, my understanding of community, and my passion for learning. My Toronto Public Library grew up with me. My life is a story waiting to happen and so too is my Toronto Public Library.”
Once upon a time there was a little girl whose parents were WWII refugees fleeing war-torn Europe and found themselves in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Like many refugees they had little money, but knew that Education was the route to a better life in Canada...and to learn English the only free way was to read. So, each Saturday they took her to the Toronto library, where the world of information and entertainment awaited them; there they learned to read and then speak English and there they met and made many friends with other new Canadians who likewise understood the value of reading. The library was their entry into their new home and country and to a life of opportunity as it freely opened its resources to all the people. The Toronto Public library is AWESOME because it is a haven which has touched Torontonians is this, but one of a myriad of ways. Thank you the people of Toronto for supporting your library; I am that little girl.
The Toronto Public Library (TPL) has been AWESOME since I graced the doors of the Locke Library in 1990. Bookmark contests? Awesome. Summer Reading Challenges? Awesome. Author readings and children's activities? AWESOME! Saturday mornings were luxuriously spent running my finger along the spines of books as I imagined my next great adventure. Paging through dog-eared copies of favourite books, curious who else has shared the lives of the heroes and heroines I considered my friends. As an adult, I know my respect for authors, love of reading and understanding of the importance of literacy all started with the TPL.
I grew up by the Shaw/Davenport branch; long before the hip young parents and coffee shops embraced the northbound wastes of Dupont and above. Amongst old factories and empty spaces, I would wander through the alleyways to find a tiny little library that would feel like a respite from train tracks and growing pains. Awesome in how still I found myself, sheltered in quiet and page upon page. I learned more about myself in a summer week spent buried in print than a decade of watching my concept of home and community splinter and grow.
It's a hot day in Toronto (which happens often) and money is tighter than the bark on a tree (which, unfortunately, also happens often). The kids are uttering their usual lethargic summer mantra: "We're bored." It's the perfect day for a trip to our neighbourhood library! Off we go for a refreshing dip into the pool of worlds that books have to offer. We split up, each of us finding a spot to explore on our own - graphic novels, French poetry, puppies. Time flies and our book bag soon fill with treasures that will keep us dreaming for the weeks. AWESOME!
After being functionally illiterate until Grade 10, I learned to read by studying the song lyrics on records borrowed from the public library. I’d memorize the words on the inserts of the records and sing along to The Police, Bob Marley, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and so on.
At the age of 15, in 1983, I put down my two guns and my gang colours for a guitar. I was able to put my life back on track mainly thanks to a local community public library.
A key and central part of my life story is that just over 25 years ago, a local public library in Burnaby, B.C. helped save my life.
It is true that I still went on to face plights of homelessness and depression that almost destroyed my life over the next 10 years. But once again literacy and education, and a local public library helped re-shape my life. After suffering a near life-ending breakdown between 1993 and 1995, a public library in Malvern in Northeast Scarborough once again, became my lifeline to the world. I was later given the opportunity to work with that same Malvern Public Library and with Library Staff there to help other "at-risk" youth in the Malvern area.
And just over 10 years after suffering that near life-ending breakdown, in 2006, I was identified as one of 3 top Generation Next university professors in the Province of Ontario by OCUFA (the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations).
In March 2006, the same month that I was featured on the front cover of the OCUFA Magazine, I was named Executive Director of one of the largest community-based, social service not-for-profit charitable organizations serving the children, youth and families in Canada in the City of Brampton - Canada's 10th largest city.
What made this especially notable was that in June 2008, I was promoted to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of this same organization making me the only known formerly "at-risk" male of Indo-Afro Caribbean background in Canada to hold a CEO post in the country with an annual operating budget of over $5 million.
In Feb. 2009, the Government of Canada presented me the Federal Citation for Citizenship award for my decade-plus long work with communities, newcomers to Canada and youth and families in need throughout the GTA and across Canada.
In March 2009, the City of Vancouver flew me in to help launch the City's Four Pillars Culture of Prevention strategy in prelude to the 2010 Olympics. This was the same city where I was a gang member, a drug dealer, and a functionally illiterate and troubled youth. My journey from 1995 to 2006 was one of literacy, education and key, strategic and important academic and life mentors along the way - including librarians & library staff!
In October 2009, I was presented with Worldwide Achievement Award in Community Development by Planet Africa, a Division of Silvertrust Communications Inc. for my 15 year career Canada that has also informed work across the United States and throughout the world through projects I have worked on tied to the United Nations.
For me my story is the power of education, literacy and mentors in my life with a little bit of resilience thrown in - but what cannot be missed is the positive impact of the Public Library system in my life.
- Dr. Anthony Hutchinson, CC, GA, BSc, BSW, MSW, PhD
Generous donation aims to help and inspire others
A GENEROUS DONATION to the Toronto Public Library by Dipa and Narendra Shah will help others achieve the success the Shah’s themselves have achieved, a success they attribute in part to the public library.
The Shahs credit libraries and reading with helping them develop invaluable skills such as reasoning, attention to detail, and the ability to analyze and form opinions on various subjects. Because of this, they wanted to give back to the library, specifically to the Fairview Branch, because Mr. Shah used the study facilities there extensively for more than three years to successfully complete his journey towards owning his own mutual fund dealership.
“Mr. Shah once told me that one of his guiding principles is that each person should look at the people around him to find out what difficulties they have and then help them,” says Library Foundation Associate Director, Community and Legacy Giving, Liza Fernandes. “And with this generous gift, that is exactly what the Shahs are doing. The Toronto Public Library, Toronto’s Library, is arguably the most successful community builder in Toronto and is already affecting great social change across our city.”
As an integral part of every community, Toronto Public Library fosters life, learning and culture in Toronto more than any other institution in our city – helping people with difficulties city-wide. Toronto’s library offers resources to every citizen, at every stage of their life; it welcomes newcomers with free resources to help them get settled into a new world and a new life. Gifts like the Shahs’ help to improve and expand collections, enhance programs and services, especially literacy and skill training programs, provide upgraded technology, and revitalize community spaces to respond to the changing needs of the people of Toronto.
If you have a special story to share with us or our website visitors about your experience with the Toronto Public Library , please send to us at:
Toronto Public Library Foundation
789 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario M4W 2G8
Whether introducing books and the joy of reading to children, providing Adult Literacy programs, or inspiring youth to become engaged in its programs, Toronto’s Library opens doors to the knowledge and opportunities that can positively change lives forever.
Here are a few stories from Torontonians whose lives have been enriched by the collections, programs and services at Toronto’s Library. Their stories are featured in the Foundation’s city-wide promotional campaign this fall.
Give today so that we can help Toronto’s Library write even more success stories.
In Jamaica, I had family responsibilities and I only got to grade three in school. As time went by, I taught myself to read a bit, but not enough to do the things that I wanted to do. My husband and children always helped me out. I felt sad and ashamed because I was the mother, so I should be helping my children with their reading and writing homework – not the other way around!
One day, in 2002, I was out with my daughter in the Downsview library branch and she noticed a program flyer. It was for an Adult Literacy program sponsored by the Toronto Public Library. We both went downstairs and met Tina, the program co-ordinator. I told her that, even though I was 60 years old, I wanted to read books and to fill out my own forms and to write my own messages… I really wanted to be independent.
For the past few years, I’ve been working with a tutor named Lil. She has helped me become a much better reader and writer. I am lucky because my family has really supported me, as Lil and Tina have done. I feel really good that I can read a menu now and that I can choose my own food. I can write greetings in birthday cards, instead of just signing my name. I can take buses and subways almost anywhere in the city now because I can read signs and directions. Learning to read and write made me feel strong enough to get my Canadian citizenship.
My children did very well in school. They tell me that I am a role model for them because I never give up. They see what learning has done for me. My youngest daughter is training for her degree as a registered nurse and my youngest son is in fashion school. My granddaughters are in university and in college.
I never would have thought that I could be where I am today. Thank God that I came to the literacy program and that I had the courage to change my life. Everything is so much easier now because I can read and write!
I grew up in a rougher part of Toronto. When teens around me joined gangs, I found a safe space at the Library. My friends and I joined the Youth Advisory Group and a Librarian gave me advice about how to live a better life.
In India, I worked as a teacher for 10 years. When I came to Canada, finding work in my field was not easy. The Library’s settlement services program connected me with volunteer experience and courses that helped me get re-accredited. It changed my life.
In my seventies, I learned how to use the computer and Internet for free at the Library. Using my new skills, I wrote a memoir of my life in China using Library computers. I am proud to be able to share my family history.
As a child, I struggled with reading and writing. My mother enrolled me in the Leading to Reading program and it changed my life. In high school, I volunteered as a program tutor and gained valuable experience that helped me get accepted into teacher’s college.
We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. We came to Canada when I was a young girl, over 80 years ago and I have been a Library patron ever since. My mom was a single parent, working hard to support us in a new country, with little time left to spend with me and even less money to spend on books.
As a newcomer to Canada, I felt alone and isolated – and then I discovered the public library! It opened up worlds to me and provided my own private oasis in a new and unfamiliar home. I was fortunate to have met a wonderful librarian who took me under her wing and introduced me to the myriad of worlds that books could offer.
I’ll never forget how vital the Library was to me when I was young and alone in a new city. It saved my life. I continue to be amazed by the power of books to transform lives. My library experience led me to become a writer, a mother who has imparted a love of libraries to her children, and a lifelong library supporter.
The Library is an astonishing resource. When we started Opera Atelier 20 years ago, we didn't have the finances to conduct research internationally as often as we wished. It was a surprise to discover that an enormous amount of the study we wished to conduct in Europe, could effectively be undertaken here in Toronto. At the Reference Library, we researched repertoire and developed business plans. I love the Library and its work to support businesses and the arts in the city.
As an artist, the Library’s Picture Collection at the Toronto Reference Library has always been a source of inspiration. I’ve created pieces for Maclean’s, New Yorker, Time, and Rolling Stone – and many of my best ideas were sparked at the Library.
Connecting young people with great books, film, music and one another is such rewarding work. Every day I see the impact of our programs on youth whether they're inspired to write poetry, organize concerts or volunteer for our Youth Advisory Groups. Through this work, the Library is helping to build a better future for Toronto.
Through partnerships, the Library fosters strong communities. Working with the Library and U of T's Centre for Community Partnerships, Frontier College is supporting the academic learning needs of children and youth in Toronto’s 13 priority neighbourhoods.