My Library Matters to Me

Congratulations to the winners of the Why My Library Matters to Me contest and thank you to all who participated.

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To view the winning submissions in each category, click on the name of the winner.

  • Martin Aller-Stead

    Martin Aller-Stead

    Why My Library Matters To Me:

    My library is the dinner for the mind; each course having its rules, its dance.

    Antipasto always starts the meal; what's new in the library this week? What's fresh? a little off the beaten track? What have my librarians been up to now? My antipasto racks and trolleys overflow with ingenuity.

    Prima is the good standards, all the background knowledge of an entire Canadian culture, dished up as the wisdom it mostly is; the history, the psychology, the hard sciences, the mathematics, the "How To ...". With a good prima one asserts the values of tradition, of civilization, of US as we grow and change and move and rest, our endings and our beginnings.

    Secondo means the grand flights of imagination, of great conversation, of "What have you read recently?" In book clubs, at bars together, or alone reading on the subway or on a beach or in a favourite library chair, the main courses stimulate and challenge and taunt, and tease and prod and poke. I have to stop at times to let the good writing rise like a grand yeast-dough, then return! Attack! Punch down and try for more ... then rest and think some more. Then proofing. Finally ... endings ... and some books make me laugh, some weep, some shake with indignation and rage.

    My library challenges me with each book ... how shall this be taken in? With whom shall I share it? Will it be a secret vice, a naughty treat? What can I learn between these covers? How will I be changed through this wonderful invention?

    Dolce ... desserts ... every magazine, every DVD and CD I can get my hands on for just a little while of fun ... some to be shared, some to be tut-tutted over.

    My library is not chaste ... there must be no limitations on what is offered ... my library is bold, proud, welcoming equally to everyone and almost always available. And yes, my library stands on a corner, quietly beckoning to all to enter and enjoy.

    My kids go to the library, at home, at school, in the community, to learn, to grow, to participate, to discuss, to ask, to accept, to wonder and to dare.

    When I am very old, I will die. Bury me with my musical instrument and a knife and a book, and my wedding ring. These are symbols of my life that are very dear to me ... musician, chef, teacher and husband.

    My library helps me become more than I otherwise can be.

    Through my library, I know Margaret Atwood.

  • Mark Battenberg

    Mark Battenberg

    Why My Library Matters To Me

    One dreary rainy afternoon

    I braved the winds and leaves of fall

    To cross the magic threshold of

    My library’s most Sacred hall

    I gently closed the oaken door

    That quelled the ceaseless urban rush

    Then entered in this world of lore

    And felt a deep and tranquil hush

    Into this realm I came to find

    Adventure, for I had been told

    That in this chamber’s secret vaults

    Were magic spells and pots of gold

    I sought the wise librarian

    And asked with faith, for she must know

    All tales of fateful mystery

    Contained within each titled row

    O’er horned rimmed specs her gentle eyes

    Rose from her desk and glanced on me

    “The book you seek” she whispered low

    “Is at the end of aisle three”

    I thanked her and began my tour

    And found myself in aisle one

    Containing countless texts about

    The moon, the stars, the Earth and sun

    I ducked as comets seared the sky

    A'kissing Neptunes moons of blue

    With Aries charging Gemini

    I crossed the rug to aisle two

    Alas my startled eyes beheld

    Sir Isaac and his apple tree

    With Churchill, Curie, Proust and Cain

    All shouting their biography

    With raucous din and glorious sound

    Each patron struggled to be heard

    I smiled and tried to not seem rude

    But left this aisle for the third

    On entering into number three

    I felt a sudden anxious chill

    No other people could be seen

    The hall was dark and cool and still

    Upon the shelves just one book lay

    Illumin'd in softest green an gold

    It's ancient leather bindings read

    “The Greatest Story Ever Told”

    I turned the cover to page one

    And froze in unabated fear

    For all the world was endless void

    No light to see nor sound to hear

    Then, from darkness stars shone forth

    And all the sky was filled with light

    While from the cosmo's there was formed

    A sparkling planet blue and bright

    Within its soil great trees were born

    While countless creatures filled the sea

    Then on the ground small beings walked

    Who scribed the Earth's young history

    Of lizards fierce and Mammoths tall

    Blue oceans filled with ships a'sail

    And countless birds and butterflies

    Brave noble Knights in shining mail

    I gazed in awe for on each line

    I seemed to read of something new

    Then seeing my ancient family tree

    I turned the page to number two

    But ere I viewed the secret words

    There was a gentle silver chime

    And then the soft librarian’s voice

    Announced that it was closing time

    I stood in fear in aisle three

    as people passed me to the door

    For in my heart I could not leave

    I had to stay and read some more

    With tears I went before her desk

    To beg and cry and plea

    I offered gold and jewels bright

    Upon my bended knee

    The Librarian simply smiled and said

    Please… take it home for free

  • Glenda Bocknek

    Glenda Bocknek

    Why My Library Matters to Me

    I first encountered a library when I was 3. My mother took me with her frequently, even though we had a long trip by bus. At the library, I was transported to new worlds, worlds that were inhabited by Ping and Angus and Winnie-the-Pooh; and, of course, Alice in her Wonderland. To me, the library was the wonderland.

    When a local branch was finally built closer to my home, I would ride my bicycle to get there. More wonderment. I'd go with my friend, and we would spend hours breathing in the unique library aroma and wandering through the amazing aisles stacked with books. Teenage years always included a trip to the library--that soon became a ritual. From romance to royalty, tales of adventure to true-life, our explorations in the library expanded our horizons in remarkable ways. Alone or with friends, I'd look forward to a visit to my library, where we would do research for an essay, or browse the new selections in comfortable silence--how delicious!

    Later, when I moved to the suburbs as a young mother, the only library available was the bookmobile. There I found Lord of the Flies and other outstanding novels that I had then never heard of. I devoured them all. Small shelves, a confined space--it was very uncomfortable and stuffy, yet I anticipated the weekly visits eagerly. As a stay-at-home mom, these books provided my starved brain with the stimulus of ideas and imagination. Outings with my 2 toddlers became for us an exciting trek to lands of fantasy and fun.

    Many of my recently married friends and neighbours also felt the need for intellectual stimulation. Since we shared a love of reading, we formed a bookclub long before it was fashionable. Our topics are selected from books available at the library. We have always prepared our own papers on books, usually fiction, and have had many lively discussions on death, coming of age, loss and love. After more than 50 years, we are still "in discussion." Our book lists are compiled every July, so that we can reserve our library books beforehand. Summers are spent reading the selections and preparing for the coming year. How we look forward to our monthly meetings. Through books, we have established mutual understanding and self-awareness, a sisterhood of longstanding friendships.

    Now, as a senior citizen, the library is the place I hone my computer skills, find engrossing cd's, research various topics, and reserve bestsellers and award-winning books. My enthusiastic husband joins me on these magical discovery adventures weekly. The library is an everchanging wonderland, and it still enchants us. A life without my library? Unthinkable.

  • Sandra Brunner

    Sandra Brunner

    Recently, as part of the process of determining what would happen to Toronto libraries, Mayor Rob Ford wanted to hear from the citizens of Toronto. I believe libraries are part of what makes this city great and I want to keep it that way, so I wrote to the Mayor.

    Mayor Ford and I went to high school together and my bother played hockey with Doug. Just one of those coincidences of life. I’m not sure if he remembers me or not. We've lost touch and I haven't seen him in a number of years.

    While the Mayor, his brother Councilor Doug Ford and I went to the same school, we definitely grew up on different sides of the tracks as the saying goes.

    I grew up in public housing. Again, just one of those things. It's how life goes. I count my sister, brothers and I amongst the lucky ones. We are all alive. Have great families and friends. We are not in jail. We have broken the cycle of poverty. There are many from the old hood who have not fared nearly as well. I've lost count.

    Public housing was a hard place to grow up. I am not hard. And so it was tough. As a child I dreamt and fantasized about ways of escape. I won't lie; death sometimes seemed preferable to the life I had. Yet I somehow found enough resolve to turn to books and reading instead of drugs, alcohol, crime. There were no libraries within walking distance. But every week the Toronto Public Library bookmobile would show up at the top of the street. It was a highlight of my week. It was, for me, a life saving miracle.

    Books were my way out. I would read anything. The librarians were so lovely. Bringing in books they thought I'd like. Letting me take out as many books as I could carry. I always – always - read them all.

    I still cannot write or talk about the bookmobile without being overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude.

    Without the Toronto Public Library Bookmobile I would not have known what an amazing world there was outside the dire boundaries I lived within.

    I have traveled the world. I've met wonderful people. Worked in incredible jobs. None of which would have been possible without the power and knowledge that books have given me. The library opened my mind and my heart to a world of endless possibilities. The library and books fed my curiosity and gave me hope.

    I still use the library. I am still forever grateful.

    I can truthfully say that the Toronto Public Library and books helped save my life. I don't even want to think about where I would be without them.

    If the Toronto Public Library and books saved me, I'm sure they have and will continue to save others. Knowing that gives me great comfort. Libraries matter.

  • Jelena Ciric

    Jelena Ciric

    Toronto is a city of immigrants, my family among them. My parents, sister, and I moved to Toronto in 1994, when I was four and a half years old. My parents had both graduated from university in Serbia, but the situation was such that jobs were hard to acquire, so they decided to emigrate to a place with better opportunities for them and their children. It was not an easy transition: we were on welfare for two years until my dad was able to find a job. However, it was not an entirely bleak beginning: some of my earliest memories of this wonderful city are of my mother taking me and my sister to the Toronto Public Library to take out books. She would take us to the S. Walter Stewart branch every single week. At the public library, I read everything from Asterix & Obelix comics and Aboriginal legends to ancient Greek history. The library opened my imagination, sparked my love of learning, and allowed my family to settle into our new home. It helped Toronto deliver on its promise of a better life for us.

    Throughout my youth, the library helped me pursue my many passions. When I became interested in music, poetry, and directing theatre, I could always count on our libraries to provide me with everything from hard to find books, to music scores, to photographs of period costumes. As a music student at the University of Toronto, I still use the library’s services regularly. Our reference library provides me with over 30, 000 volumes of music from which to choose my repertoire. Through its resources, I contribute to the cultural life of this city. This past summer, I worked at one of our country’s most historic libraries: the Library of Parliament in Ottawa. I was able to brush up the French skills I needed to work there thanks to the vast resources of the TPL.

    Our incredible public library system is an equalizer, an educator, and an opportunity creator. It allows families like mine with no resources and no connections to find their place in the city. It enriches the education of our children and youth. It allows anyone from anywhere to feel as if they have something to count on when they arrive in Toronto, a place to go for resources to better themselves, and a community through which they are able to find the means to contribute to this mosaic of a city. That is why my library is important to me. I am proud to live in a city with a public library which fosters understanding, acceptance, and equality. All Torontonians are richer for having these services: the new ones, the growing ones, and all who call this city home.

  • Sean Collins

    Sean Collins

    Libraries matter for the same reason that all the truly important things in life matter: the personal and the political. I have just as many personal, sentimental reasons to defend libraries as I do political, ideological ones.

    Personally, as a child growing up in Toronto, my local library inspired me to love reading (I still remember winning the treasure chest filled with candy for being the kid with the most reading points at the end of the summer). As a young man, the music I found in the library shelves led me to the clubs of downtown Toronto and to become a champion of Canadian music. In my career as a high school teacher, the library has given me endless resources to make my classes more engaging and relevant. Now, as a new father, I watch the giddy excitement in my daughters’ faces as they gather around and on top of me on the carpeted steps of the children’s section to read another, then another, then another, then just one more book. In my life, the libraries of Toronto have been eternally welcoming spaces of learning, inspiration, and peace.

    Politically, the wealth of libraries in Toronto are evidence that there is social justice in the world in which I live. “Government” is a contract between the people and those elected to authority; it says we will allow you to have this power so that you can give us the organization and leadership we need to thrive. In order for us to truly thrive, we need every opportunity to think and to learn. Ensuring things like public schools and a vibrant library system are part of the reason that government is given their power in the first place. The moment they start taking these things away, they begin to reflect those governments that would prefer to keep their citizens to be less educated; like the big bad wolf, all the better to eat you with.

    When I go into libraries today, I see community. I see kids huddled around computers checking Facebook, giggling and occasionally being shushed. I see groups of older people gathering in meeting rooms to play bridge or mah-jong in hushed conversation and laughter. I see so many recent immigrants to Toronto, many coming from places that do not so willingly provide easy access to such an uncensored wealth and freedom of knowledge. I don’t believe it is overstating it to say that libraries (the number of them and the certainty that wherever you live in the city, there is an easily accessible, local one for you) stand for what makes our city and our country as hopeful and as fair as it is.

    Libraries matter because communities matter, flourishing imaginations and thought matter; they matter because of the kind of positive hopefulness they inspire everyday like magical treasure chests filled with candy.

    (475 words)

  • Jessica Craig

    Jessica Craig

    My library is a refuge.

    From work, from ‘home’ on a student’s budget.

    From days too cold, or even rarely, too hot.

    It silences the external world

    and leaves me free to indulge in my books.

    ‘My books’

    My library makes me richer than reality would have it.

    I have access to a wealth of resources,

    publications I adore but can’t afford.

    My library is an escape

    from too much talking,

    too much repetitive music in shopping malls,

    too much overbearing advertising.

    My library is my third space.

    It frees me from my obligations, if only just for an hour.

    I am just a reader.

    No distractions.

    My library is a destination, a detour

    between errands, or an idle weekend afternoon;

    no coffee purchase necessary.

    My library is inspiring.

    Growing up, I didn’t have access to a City library.

    When I came to Toronto, the immensity of choice was astounding.

    It was so characteristically ‘North American’,

    such an offering of knowledge, abundance, potential

    row after row.

    My library is comforting.


    No matter how many times

    and where I move in the city

    I can depend on my library to be nearby.

  • Jerry Diakiw

    Jerry Diakiw

    Revisiting a Childhood Library

    I HAD NOT VISITED THE LIBRARY since my boyhood in the 1940s. The feelings were strange and unexpected. I visited the Kew Beach Library to search out a magazine article. I had lived in the Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto in the 'forties and early 'fifties. The library had been an important part of my life. Through my visit I learned just how much it had shaped my world.

    My Ukrainian parents never learned to read or write in English and there were never any books or newspapers in our home. As a young boy I spent hundreds of hours in the children's section of the Kew Beach Library with its beautiful old fireplace. It is a lovely tudor-style building covered in ivy, nestled on the edge of a wooded park of majestic old oaks. I don't recall how I discovered this quiet haven or the treasures that could be found there.

    I remember the pride I felt, like a member of a select club, when the children's librarian made a visit to my class in nearby Williamson Road P.S to promote the use of the library. When she saw me she beamed and exclaimed to the class, resting her hand on my shoulder, "Now here is someone who is always in our library."

    After I found my article I walked down the stairs to the children's library. Before I hit the bottom stair I began to feel a strange, overwhelming sensation. I took one look at this tiny room with its classical, oversized fireplace and broke uncontrollably into tears. I remember it as a cavernous room with rows of bookshelves. It was almost fifty years since my identity had been shaped by the children's books in that room. I was shocked by the emotional power of the experience and the eruption of memories.

    It was only recently that I had become a strong advocate for a children's literature approach to curriculum. I'm sure those memories of the captivating stories I read at the kitchen table after a return in the dark from the library, while my mother prepared dinner listening to Don Messer's Jubilee on CKEY radio, all had something to do with this renewed love of children's books.

    Iit was in that little room that the roots of my literacy were grounded. As the son of immigrant Ukrainian parents, it was there where I learned the power of story and the importance of reading and writing. It was through reading the adventure stories of early life in North America that I first became enthraled with the raw beauty and majesty of this country. Those stories were certainly not accessible to me in the classroom. The curriculum consisted of British culture and literature and memorizing the kings and queens of England was one of my agonizing memories.

    It was in the sanctuary of the Kew Beach Children's Library where I learned a love for literature, and it is where my emerging Canadian identity was crystallized.


  • Margaret Dunsdon

    Margaret Dunsdon

    Why my library matters to me - by Margaret Dunsdon

    My library matters to me first because any time I enter one, I remember the dreamy little girl I was more than 50 years ago (!) Then as now I loved being surrounded by books, and often chose them randomly, by title or by cover. I discovered many good books that way—turns out you sometimes CAN judge a book by its cover!

    At university “my library” was either the small one at my college, or the main U. of T.

    library. Both had their virtues, but I loved roaming the stacks of the big one, (and could sometimes even find the book I wanted). The sense of a huge number of students searching, perusing and note-taking, years and decades before me and right along with me, was always quite moving.

    At another point my library was really my daughter’s—loved taking her, both to find books and for the many children’s activities available. Even a very small library offers so much to help a child along the road of a lifetime of loving books.

    Now that I’m semi-retired, I’m like many; I finally have time, but not so much book-buying money. So the library is wonderful that way. But, as in the days when my daughter was a little girl, I’m also back there for some of the wide range of events available. I’ve gotten to hear several highly regarded authors in a pleasant intimate setting, and was delighted by the actor who had committed most of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to memory. At the library closest to me, there are weekly movies, Shakespeare readings,--a real feast of cultural events, free and accessible to all.

    I still do some freelance work. Most recently I did some research and writing on topics miles out of my usual fields. This time, off to the Reference Library. Along with having access to needed material, I loved once again the sense of communal study—all ages, many topics, but all seeking, reading and learning.

    “My library” has been many buildings in several towns over quite a number of years, but writing this piece has made me think harder about how much they have been connected to and enriched the various stages of my life.

    No wonder my library matters to me.

  • Sue Edworthy

    Sue Edworthy

    Once Upon a Time…

    Whenever I take a book out of the library it’s usually something I had on hold. I live in Parkdale, and that is my branch.

    This book came from Don Mills, which might as well be Ireland, because I’ve never been there either. I was the one hundred and thirty seventh person to want to read it.

    When I open a library book it is like a small glimpse into the lives of those who have read it before me.

    This book has dog-ears: I do that too, I confess. It means someone else does that.

    This book has a cracked spine: Either someone else leaves them open facedown, or they were sitting somewhere wanting to read with one hand. I read with one hand all the time.

    This bookpage is marked with an Eglinton Subway transfer: someone else reads on the subway.

    This book has a quote from Cicero underlined: someone has used this book for research.

    This book has a love quote from the hero underlined: Someone has definitely used this book for research.

    I don’t mind dog ears and underlines. It tells me where someone before me had to stop, what they thought was important (and sometimes why. Although I don’t know what a response of “NO!” to a quote from Cicero means.)

    I got a copy of The Thornbirds out a few weeks ago. Summer reading, right? Easy peasy. And as I read it something struck me. There were a lot of underlines (No, not just the dirty parts, get your mind out of the gutter). Words like “thresher” and “voile” and “enraptured”. And the definitions were written very lightly, in small letters, in pencil in the margins.

    I’m pretty sure someone had used my “easy summer read” to learn English.

    It’s not just the book that expands your mind, your sense of self, your sense of adventure. The book is just a symbol of it. It’s a symbol of who you were then (Little House series) who you are right now (Bossypants), and who you might become (30 Days to fluent Italian!) A book holds the world.

    Final story. Library a while back. Little girl in front of me getting out a dozen books. I had to smile because I get that. Off she went with her bag of books. And then there was a little boy at the desk. He’d lost his Dad in the stacks. And the librarian asked very gently, “Are you lost?” And the little chest heaved and the giant tears spilled over and we all instinctively moved closer to comfort him. And the security guard went to look for his Dad and little lost boy stayed with us, eyes full and big as saucers and Dad was found and all was well again. But that ten minutes – that ten minutes of community – we didn’t know each other. But we all had a library card.

    How do you privatize that kind of community?

  • Ralph Garber

    Ralph Garber

    As an eight year old the only library available was at the YMCA in Lachine where I discovered my love of reading; and libraries everywhere i lived became my second home .Universities had great collections but it was in the local branch that I was most welcomed.

    Searching fro a title and getting the most help by the librarian accompanying me to the shelves made mr feel quite grown up. I have never lost the need to ask for that help even at the age of 86. The new search engines are useful but can't replace the excitement of self discovery. Walking with my head bent sideways to read the titles on the shelves usually left me with a pain in the neck but so many successes in finding books that may have been tangentially relevant but Oh so enriching.

    The introduction to these riches as a young parent bringing our children to their first story hour and then getting their library card was repeated many years later when my grandchildren were similarly exposed and took to the Branch as I had some eighty years earlier.It didn't seem to matter if the Branch was tiny or grand ;in Canada or the US, the outcomes were alike.

    There are a limited number of life experiences that are as rewarding even if the book is not to be found. The magic of inter branch or inter library loan expanded my literary universe just as the other universe is also constantly expanding. I was asked to evaluate library holdings in South and East Asia and remember overcoming my shocc at chained doors to prevent access. Books were too valuable to risk their being taken! Or when I found that the catalogue for the several thousand books listed were entered by including the last name of the author as if it were the first . My wife helped the students get the order straightened out and they spent forty eight hours recataloguing the whole English language section.

    They too shared my own love of books and libraries regardless of the country or culture

  • Angela Gu

    Angela Gu

    Why My Library Matters To Me

    Ever since I came to Canada 10 years ago, the Toronto Public Library has played an important role in my life. Participating in the Leading to Reading program has greatly improved my reading and comprehension skills. This year, I hope to start volunteering at the library, and improve the lives of other children.

    The sheer number of libraries in Toronto is one of the best parts. It’s so amazingly convenient, with so many just on top of subway stations, and across the road from bus stops. If branches close, then what will the people in those communities do? They’ll have to go out of their way to the next closest branch! I can return books on my way to school, or after piano lessons. Libraries are an essential part in everybody’s life, especially in mine (in my opinion).

    Even though I’m only 13, the library gave me the knowledge of centuries. I can read works from thousands of years ago. I can uncover not yet seen (for me) artifacts that originated halfway across the globe. I go to books for advice, and also for guidance. If the library didn’t exist, it would be near impossible for me to finish the many school projects I’ve been given! It serves as a meeting spot, place to work on group projects, and a place to go to if I want some me-time.

    The library has always been an eye-opener. It took me around the world in only 8 days; it also transported me through the ages and back. The library let me look into other people’s lives! I ventured into 100 Acre Woods, and met Winnie the Pooh I ran around in the snow with Stella and her little brother, in Stella, Queen of the Snow. I grew up with Winnie Perry (through the ages Eleven to Thirteen by Lauren Myracle), I feel the adrenaline rush when I read Agatha Christie, feeling as if I’m Poirot’s assistant, and I solved the mystery! It makes me feel invincible, as if I can do anything!

    I dream to be able to one day publish a book, and have my own work circulate in the library! Dreams are dreams, but with the library, I can keep on dreaming of newer people, places and things! I have my own super-tiny library at home, but the Toronto Public Library has been like a second home to me. Every branch is unique in its own way, however big or small. I love the Toronto Public Library!

  • Yi Tian Guo

    Yi Tian Guo

    Library is the most magical place on the surface of the Earth. To me, library is air and water. It’s a lifestyle. A fact that is told from my own life experiences is, a person does not have the reading ability and basic knowledge of an avenge human being if there is no library around that person.

    I came to Canada three years ago as an immigrate. Before that, I was an ignorant 15-year-old student in China. To be honest, I had never read a fiction, nonfiction or other literary works that is longer than 20 pages before I came to Canada. I soaked myself in a huge amount of Math problems everyday. At that time, I had no idea how empty I was. I knew that there is a place called “library” and I saw a picture of it, but I doubt the existence of “library” because I have never been to there. Many people told me that a library could be found in a university, not in public. I imagined that a library as a bookstore and I treated books like other useless products, which you buy in order to kill time. What are books? What is the purpose of reading? I had absolutely no idea back then.

    After I came to Canada, I found that I was an abnormal child. I noticed that my classmates could read a material at least twice faster than me and they could actually comprehend something from it, but I just couldn’t understand the meanings behind the words. I told my friend that I decided to change. “You should read more, why don’t you go the library?” she replied.

    So I was there, in the library. At first, I picked some storybooks with pictures from the children section because that’s what my reading level was. After I read them, I said to myself: “oh, books can be interesting!” Then I borrowed some horror fictions to keep myself away from the “boring attitude”. One year passed, I began to read classic novels like William Golding’s The Lord of The Flies, George Orwell Ninety Eighty-four and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. I knew that those are the books that I am going read in Grade 10 and 11’s English class, so I wanted to read them ahead of time. I cried for the endings and I dreamed about the stories, which is another feelings that I had not experimented before. Three years passed, I can proudly tell the world that, I am now having the ability to read like a normal person, and library opened my eyes.

    Four years ago, when my English teacher talked about western music, the whole class (including 42 students) doesn’t know who “The Beatles” are. But now, I am able to sit inside a subway train and read The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, which I just borrowed from the library.

    If only there was a library!

  • Margaret Hageman

    Margaret Hageman

    This is a reflective response, a love-letter of sorts, to the quasi-question, why my library matters to me. I suspect I’m not the only person who will express myself in this way; such is the influence of the Toronto Public Library (TPL).

    I am not from Toronto, not even close. Culturally speaking that is. Grey-Bruce isn't really geographically far; it's a lovely part of Ontario, cattle and corn country. Uniform in many ways (think Alice Munro's classic descriptions of south-western Ontario) there wasn't a lot of tolerance for being different growing up there as I did in the 60's and '70's.

    The public library, small as it was, was a respite for me. I read many books, some over and over again, stepping stones to a wider world. I grew to love the word, public. I felt welcome there, I belonged there in a way I did not in other common spaces - school or church for instance.

    When I finally entered that wider world, it was 1985 and available rental housing in Toronto was under 1%. I found a grad student to live with who needed to share the rent on a small apartment downtown. There, and in every place I have lived since in Toronto, west end, east end, downtown, midtown, I found my local hangouts. That would include a grocer with the best veggies, the friendliest pub, and the library where I would go and pick up my monthly read.

    For more than 20 years, my book group has met monthly to discuss a selection. Our first book was Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The first couple of years we read only women writers, then we read classics and GG-listed and award winners, Pulitzer and Orange prize-listed books, then books we heard good things about and now we she-wolves have developed an elaborate and democratic process by which to decide on our next book. Suffice to say for the purpose of this essay, the major criteria is that it is readily available in our beloved TPL.

    The reading of books is a launching pad for our group to talk about important themes in life. In my mind, books act as a prism to be inspired and maybe even expand and shine in other parts of our lives.

    Imagine me - an ordinary middle-aged woman who reads and works and lives in Toronto like so many other deeply ordinary people of middling income and a rich inner life.

    Do not misunderstand - books are not my life; they enrich my life.

    And the Toronto Public Library is unfailingly welcoming, a hub of civility and reflection of every Toronto neighborhood, a place where the dignity of public ownership is evident in the accessibility of its architecture, in seamless service, and in deep and wide selections of books and more.

    As a result, my Toronto Public Library means the world to me.

  • Milica Hovanec

    Milica Hovanec

    It is not just “my library” that matters to me, but all 101 libraries belonging to the citizens of Toronto. I have always been proud of my library system. Books are not cheap, but thanks to Toronto Public Libraries (TPL) knowledge is free.

    In these hard economic times, TPL welcome those who cannot afford costly tuition fees, computers, i-Pads, and e-readers, providing them with convenient means and opportunities to better themselves and become productive, educated members of our society. As history has shown time and again, we need to continually learn; otherwise, our society would crumble and another Dark Age would follow.

    Truthfully, there is no such thing as “my library” that exists in this great system. Anyone who has ever used a Toronto Public Library knows that the moment we place a “hold”, we do not use only the library closest to our home, but all the libraries scattered throughout the city.

    Imagine the horror of some libraries disappearing…

    The wait time for a needed resource would increase dramatically, forcing those who cannot afford to spend money to purchase the said resource and make cuts elsewhere–food, for instance.

    TPL are not just buildings filled with books, movies and other resources; they provide classes that teach useful skills, host various clubs and organizations, and organize events that bring communities closer together.

    As a child, TPL provided me with picture books that were not available under the sanctions of my old war-torn country. Traumatized by immigration, separated from my family and friends, welcomed by children who ridiculed me because I was different; books provided a source of familiarity and solace that kept me sane during those painful first years. In a way, it was the TPL and its books that raised me and instilled in me the values that my overworked parents could not.

    In school, TPL provided trustworthy resources at times when Internet information was not as reliable.

    When I realized that teachers are not “all-knowing”, TPL provided me with opportunities to further expand my knowledge.

    As I attempt to master French, TPL are there to guide and entertain me in the language.

    TPL continue to be invaluable as I struggle to pay my OSAP debt and create a career as an artist and a writer. It was in a library that I was first introduced to CANSCAIP and CCBC, two organizations that provide me with considerable knowledge and inspiration.

    With my health deteriorating, and my doctors suggesting I try YOGA and TAI CHI, TPL provided me with free instructional resources to practice these disciplines.

    Toronto Public Libraries matter! The proposal to cut from this system, instead of improving it, fills me with dread, and I have tried everything in my power to invalidate this proposal. Yes, there is a recession, but shutting down libraries will devastate this city. Such action will spread Ignorance, and I fear Ignorance more than I feared war, racism, recession and death; because Ignorance smiles, grinning, at the root of them all.

  • Birthe Jorgensen

    Birthe Jorgensen

    I still remember the smell of the Richmond Hill public library in 1955. To my bravely immigrating parents, and me it smelled of home. The comic books of the North American frontier my parents read in the 20s, 30s, and 40s did not mention libraries. We had pictured the wilds of a new country, far from urban civilization, in the Canadian north.

    In the then northerly village-world where we had landed, there seemed to be little culture; the sidewalks were rolled up daily after five in the afternoon – and not unrolled at all on Sundays. It was our English-ancestored Canadian neighbours who first sent a shy and confused family to the public library. Our mutual love of the library and learning served as a touchstone to grow understanding and respect between “us” and “them”. It meant Canadians, like us, valued education, lifelong learning, sharing and social interaction. Library books became our lifeblood.

    Every move that our family took together during the next 15 years of our new life, involved enrollment in a new library and the luxury of reading. At one point, at Bathurst and Lawrence in Toronto, the coming of the bookmobile – its collection seemingly infinite to a 7 year-old – was the cherished highlight of the week. The library, where one was trusted to borrow books, read and share and then return them was a most important civic adventure for me. That it could be repeated every Saturday was sublime.

    The rite of passage of receiving most solemnly granted permission by the North York librarian to leave the children’s section and enter the adults only section when I was 14 generated a pride in my heart akin to that of an Australian successfully returning from a walkabout.

    My library matters deeply to me and I would challenge anyone to name another public institution that is so non-discriminatory and all-inclusive. A Toronto Public library card is blind to age, ethnicity, sex, gender, skin colour, sexual orientation, education, employment status, religious or political affiliation, and socio-economic status. It is generous and trusting. It is reliable. It brings endless possibilities. Maintaining public libraries as publicly funded resources with their ongoing accessibility to all is fundamental to the best visions we share for the future of our city.

    Thank you Toronto Public Library Workers Union. Thank you for this contest and thanks for keeping up the fight.

  • Nicole Journal

    Nicole Journal

    Save the Libraries. Save the city.

    After staying up half the night not finishing a Cyberpunk essay the Java Joint seemed loud and depressingly carefree, so I downed my latte and headed to the only place with enough positive sci-fi vibes to get it done: The Merril Collection.

    A half-hour later, subordinate clauses flying like July 1st fireworks, I thought I might just finish on time when the lights flickered and a groan shook the building. I expected mass panic but was suddenly, terrifyingly alone. Freaked, I ran out into the street.

    College was deserted. The surrounding building looked like empty husks. The distant Toronto skyline grinned like a gap-toothed child. The library was a burnt-out shell, the charred roof like a cookie missing a bite. Had I been inside that?

    A shape scuttled from behind a crumbling column in the once grand façade and dragged me into the rubble. “What the hell!” I snapped, pulling away. From this vantage I could see a miraculously intact bike ring like a loan tombstone. The woman cocked her head and studied me while I catalogued the devastation. “What happened here?” The question she’d been waiting for.

    She looked fragile in her oversized jacket but sounded like lecturer; “After the libraries closed spontaneous networks began to spring up, 'freeshare' sites, coffee shop lenders, for awhile it seemed like community, like trust, was stronger.” Her air of thin detachment grew molasses thick like this naive hope was an insult that still stung. “Then the corporate lobbies started. Called it stealing, like illegal downloading. Some of us agreed. People abused the system, kept things.” She looked momentarily nervous, like I might attack this vague complicity. “Others protested, there was property damage, boycotts, arrests. Some cops got attacked. That’s when the raids started.” Even with her haunted face silhouetted against the ruin of downtown my mind refused to digest it. How had peace, order and good government turned to violence, chaos and fear?

    Her words blurred together like the slapping of footsteps on concrete “…riots, retaliations, bombers, police state…after they bombed the core everyone was forced to register.” As I took her proffered arm, registered the grotesque blue light of a tracking device, I realized the noise wasn’t my imagination, someone was coming. She grasped my shoulders and looked fiercely into my eyes. “Libraries are more than books. They are responsibility. Community. Trust. They are where you learn that when someone gives you something precious you take care of it. Cherish it. Return it. They teach us how to share this world. Nobody new how much until it was too late. Now go!” She pushed me just as she was swallowed by black bodies…

    “Miss? Miss?” The librarian looked concerned. “Are you all right?” She held something out to me. Willis - Doomsday Book. My paper. “Thanks” I mumbled. “Must have drifted off.” But the truth was I’d woken up: Libraries teach us responsibility, community, trust.

    I knew what I had to do.

  • Jennifer Lau

    Jennifer Lau

    My mom always told me that I was a Steeles baby since I was the size of a durian, I swear.

    "You were born the same year the Steeles library was built. I had you in my stomach when it opened," she chanted everytime we passed by the small library in between McDonalds and the Chinese supermarket.


    The Steeles branch, being the one closest public libraries to my home, is and has always been a sandalwood furnished treasure box of adventure. I still smile whenever I pass by my old neighbourhood. Although the signs hanging outside the Chinese supermarket and the bright-red-and-yellow decor inside the McDonalds chain have changed more times than I can count, the signage for the Steeles branch has remained relatively the same; always visible from Bamburgh Circle.

    "When I was your age, Josephine, I loved the library. That's how I learned English -- through reading! Grandma was too poor to buy me books and back then in Hong Kong, school fees were expensive. So I would borrow a few books at a time and take them in one by one, savouring them. The hardest part was choosing only a few books! Josephine, do you know why we should only choose a few at a time?"

    I quickly scrambled through the spaces in my mind and hoping to throw as many attempts at her question as possible, replied: "Because it was too heavy to carry home? Because your bag was too small to carry more? Because... if you lose them, you'll be in less trouble if you have less books?"

    Mom rolled her eyes and whispered, "No, but good try! It's because we have to share the library with other boys and girls! If you took all the books home, how can other kids get a chance to learn?"

    I thought to myself, Really? That's the answer?

    Soon after and every summer after that, I was signed up for the TD summer reading club. The kids there all smelled because we were obviously too excited for the sun and desired more than being confined indoors, knowing Mr. Golden Sun was shining just for us! As the distinctive scent of mud and grass slowly faded, I slowly fell in love with my library. The first summer I was a detective, the next I was a super-hero.


    When university came, I sat in my first crowded English lecture. A pretty Asian girl turned to me and said, "Hey! I think I sat next to you like ten years ago at a summer reading club!"

    Truth be told, I didn't really recognize her because she never spoke much. But her features began to look familiar as she told me a familiar story.

    "My mom told me that even though we were poor I could still take the opportunity to learn: 'naeyaogaywudok, yinggoidokshula.' And here I am! I'm the first one in my extended family to attend university abroad. I'm the only one that speaks English!"

  • Fan Li

    Fan Li

    When I visited my grandparents in China last spring, my grandfather stood atop a chair and handed me my dad's collection of books from a cupboard. They were wrapped in plastic bags, each with a mothball. Bugs too can be voracious readers.

    Among the collection was a slim volume that was stitch bound and well worn. It was a pocketbook in which someone had hand copied an entire book of poetry from the Tang dynasty. It lay right next to the hardcover copy of the same volume. A gift, my grandfather explained.

    During the Cultural Revolution, the government banned books and the mob burned them. High school students were sent to rural labour camps. The "revolutionaries," who locked down universities, took pride in not knowing literature and so persecuted those who did. In one of the camps, where my father and his classmates worked twelve-hour days, someone had smuggled in a poetry anthology. Nobody spoke of it, but at night, in the privacy of their beds, these eighteen-year-old kids lit candles to copy this book. Not all of them loved poetry, but they all poured over it and took their turns. From one pair of hands to the next, the book circulated through the camp and onto the next one. Where it passed, manuscripts were left behind, and those were in turn copied then passed on. The copy in my hand was my father's. Some pages were smudged; some words crossed out and rewritten. It was a copy of a copy of a copy and so perhaps held many errors, but he kept it even after he bought the hardcover volume years after the Revolution.

    I thought about that while I tried to decipher some of the poems in it. I thought about how it would be to copy an entire book by candlelight while I rode the bus to the Shaanxi Provincial Public Library. It had opened in 2001, years after I had left the country. Yet going in for the first time reminded me of my first public library in Canada. It was the Kingsgate Mall branch on East Broadway in Vancouver.

    When my father left for New York, that was where I could email him because we didn't have a computer at home. When my mother went to work at the textile factory, that was where I whiled away the idle summers. I made friends there, learned English there, found my favourite authors there and applied for my first job from there. It offered more than just books. It offered a refuge amidst life's urgencies where thoughts can breathe. It offered a community that was united by an unspoken passion. It offered a chance to explore the world despite age, time or material means. And it offered a freedom which I did not realize I took for granted then.

    Once a long time ago, libraries were filled with hand copied books.

  • Shu Liang

    Shu Liang

    Here is a thing about growing up as an only child in a middle-class family in China back in the 1980s - I had all the books I wanted and I didn't have to share it with anyone, ha! When other kids came over to my house and drooled over my shelves of comics and storybooks, I felt so privileged - this was MY library.

    However when my family immigrated to Toronto in late '90s, my world was turned upside down: we lived in a small basement unit, my parents struggled to put food on the table, and the worst of it all, I didn't bring any books with me except for one Jane Eyre. I was lost without my books. The mental starvation continued until my first visit to the North York Central Library. It brought the biggest smile to my face to see floors and stacks of books waving to me. Hours after hours, days after days, I splashed in the ocean of books and videos - I thought I was in heaven. Not to mention setting up my first email address and applying for my first job using one of the computers in the library. Ahh, such precious yet encouraging baby steps i took with my library.

    A decade later I moved to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates as a young professional. Call me naive, I was shocked that there was all but one small library in the whole capital city, and I couldn't even get a library card without submitting extensive paperwork and paying a hefty fee! That set me back to my private collection again, which I could no longer call a library since I knew then a library had to be free and public like the ones in Toronto!

    Last year my husband and I took an extended motorcycle journey through South America. And once again I was sad and disappointed to see the lack of public book culture and the effect it has on the general population. I only breathed a little easier when I finally stepped into a Toronto public library again: the smell of knowledge freedom was so exhilarating!

    Books, sharing and communities. To me, these are the essence of a great library and city, and I am so proud to have it here in Toronto. I only hope that one day I can help build a library in a less developed country and share the joy and happiness with others. Can you imagine how fantastic to see others to have libraries that they can call their own?!

  • Yu Fei Ma

    Yu Fei Ma

    When I first set foot in Canada, some seven years ago, one of the first places I visited was the library. The plain little library card seemed like magic then to my eight-year-old self; it was free, and it was the key to vast treasuries of books and resources all over the city. Books written in Chinese, my native language, were a comfort zone in an intimidating foreign country. Books at all levels were easily accessible when I was ready to make the transition from Chinese to English. Books in French to practice my third language, nonfiction books relevant to my studies, novels to pass the time: all these books I devoured happily.

    Resources such as the internet were ready at my fingertips. More than that, the library was a haven where I can relax and quietly spend my time studying or reading after a trying day at school. It was heated during winter, cool in summer, convenient, and above all, free.

    Books are no longer an expensive luxury that I could not afford, like in China. I do not have to sit for hours in a bookstore, under the disapproving glare of the workers, to read books I could not buy. Even in China I had been an avid reader, but the resources available to me were limited. Libraries were non-existent in China; I had to make do with what I had and reread each of my books over and over. Perhaps this is why I am so much more aware of the wondrous opportunities the library provides, instead of simply taking it for granted like so many others.

    The sharing of books is a marvellous experience. Sometimes, I would look at a book worn by many readings and wonder who the previous reader had been, and if he or she had enjoyed it as much as I did. True, the books have to be returned after one has finished reading; they cannot be kept to adorn one’s bookshelf. But there is a certain satisfaction in that too: books are meant to be read, not to gather dust while sitting forgotten on someone’s private bookshelf.

    The library is a fast and efficient system. A few clicks on the library’s website and a few days later, the books ordered are ready for pickup in one’s local library. In this way, even the families that could not normally afford to buy many books from bookstores can easily access the resources a library provides. The old adage goes: we never know what we had until it is gone. Let us not make this mistake and instead realize the value of libraries before they are eliminated.

    Seven years ago, I visited my first library. Now, seven years later, libraries are still one of the most important places to me, whether to use for research, to serve as a quiet haven, or to explore for good novels. Libraries share the joy of the written word with everyone, and that’s why they matter to me.

  • David Mills

    David Mills

    Why My Library Matters To Me

    (With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

    How do I love thee, Guildwood Library? Let me count the ways.

    I love that although you’re a small branch, you contain a veritable universe within your four walls.

    I love that you’re just a short stroll away from my home, and an inviting destination that always encourages me to get out, stretch my legs, and feel the sun on my face.

    I love that virtually any book that I read a good (or bad) review of can be put “on hold” and delivered to me in very short order.

    I love that you’re a cool refuge on a hot day, and a cozy retreat on a cold day.

    I love that you offer WiFi access when my own home computer/internet is down.

    I love that I can relax and read all four of Toronto’s daily newspapers in one sitting, and come to a greater understanding of this sometimes bewildering world we live in.

    I love that I can borrow CDs and DVDs, and expose myself to a steady stream of new talent, including many Canadian authors, musicians and filmmakers.

    I love that you’ve got info on all Toronto’s attractions and events, along with the continuing education courses offered in the city.

    I love that you provided the perfect place where I could pass on my love of reading to my daughter and son, and where I look forward to doing the same with my future grandchildren.

    I love that I can sit on the floor with my 2-year-old great-nephew and peruse the picture books, remembering my own joy in discovering books at that same tender age.

    I love that your staff of librarians are so unfailingly helpful and cheerful.

    I love the bargains that can be had when you sell your old books to make way for the new.

    I love that you now let me load up my new Kobo with e-books before I head off on vacation.

    I love when I can bring home a book that I know will surprise and delight my wife.

    I love when I am the first to read a virgin copy of the latest from Margaret Atwood or Linwood Barclay.

    I love that you’ve always been there for us since we moved to Guildwood 30 years ago, and that you’ll continue to serve our community in the decades to come.

  • Frances Money

    Frances Money

    My library supplies me with wonder, delight and information. I’m a non-driving senior and it is important for me that I can walk to my local library branch and find the books that I have reserved waiting for me. The Toronto Public Library system also enriches my life with talks and readings by authors. These are truly special events.

    It also matters greatly to me that reading opportunities are available for children. Our young citizens, many of them from families unable to buy books or to provide access to the internet need to have the easily available resources of a local public library. These young people will be our teachers, police, nurses, doctors, and yes, our politicians and librarians of the future too. For Toronto’s and Canada’s growth and stability we need an informed, caring and literate citizenry. We also need to remember those who worked to protect the Canada we currently enjoy – these include the veterans who rely on the library services currently provided at the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre. Toronto has long had a library system which has been a source of pride – it matters to me that it continues to be strong for all of us.

    [198 words]

  • Charlotte Morgan

    Charlotte Morgan

    The library's like a good old friend

    with lots and lots of stuff to lend.

    There are books, of course, and movies too,

    and computers with internet ready for you.

    Or choose to sit in a cosy chair

    reading the latest newspapers there.

    Sometimes I borrow an audio book

    and listen at home enthralled while I cook.

    So yes it's a place that gives food for the brain

    yet it's also a place to get in from the rain.

    It's cool inside on these really hot days

    and I go in to escape from the rays.

    And in winter when ice lies sleek on the ground

    I still go in and wonder around.

    It's a wonderful fact of life, you see,

    that the climate's just right in the library.

    Another fine thing is that it's not far

    and you can go in whoever you are.

    The library's right in your neighbourhood

    and that is really, really good.

    Yet you can visit from further away

    using internet; you don't have to pay.

    The library will send your selection

    to wherever you've ticked as your pick-up connection.

    I could go on for a very long time

    enjoying composing this library rhyme.

    But I'm deep in the midst of a very good tale

    of the ancient past and a daring female.

    So I'm leaving now with my last hurray!


  • Randolph Ouimet

    Randolph Ouimet

    Why My Library Matters to Me

    As I stood up to receive my Diploma, I noticed a familiar face looking up at me. The person sitting next to me was the librarian who worked at the Albion Library 25 years ago. After all these years, she recognized me and asked me if I still visited the public library. I informed her that I did and would purposely return books late so I could pay the overdue fines. This was my way of supporting the library especially when there were government cutbacks to services. The librarian smiled and thanked me for my support.

    I told her that I was proud to do whatever I could and that the library literally saved my life that I had a safe place to escape to from the violence at home, that I acquired a good education by reading books by Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Farley Mowat.

    My Library matters to me because I was taught what it means to have freedom to read, to be informed and to acquire knowledge. In the library, I found a place to write, think, question, believe and wonder.

    The filmmaker Michael Moore once stated that he too was proud to do what he could to support libraries and their librarians, without them and without this basic right to read a book, any book regardless of ones socio-economic status we will surely be less free as a people. Freedom is only preserved when its citizens have total access to all information and the free flow of ideas.

    My Library matters to me because information is power and when that power is accessed, we have a sense of freedom, a freedom to think, to believe, to form an opinion and that is one of the most powerful rights any citizen can possess. The library is a sacred space where a child or an adult can have their imagination nurtured and their creativity inspired. Libraries give us a sense of purpose and hope.

    My Library matters to me because our survival in life is dependent on the written word. If we lose our libraries, we lose our books, our words and language, if we lose our language we lose our meaning, if we lose our meaning, we lose our history and our history is who we are.

    My Library matters to me because I was inspired to form a writers group at the Bloor/ Gladstone library where members came together to write poetry and stories, to learn from one another and develop a writers community.

    My Library matters to me because it is not only a sanctuary but also enriches our communities. Yet, more than enrichment, it is a place that can awaken the mind, the heart and human spirit. For this reason alone, libraries should never be closed but forever be enjoyed by the public in search of not only a good book to read but also of a place to call home.

  • Daniel Proulx

    Daniel Proulx

    Why My Library Matters To Me

    In the sunshine memories of the year 1979, I was an eleven year-old child crippled with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The pain was terrible, unforgiving, all-consuming; at times I could not even walk due to the agony radiating from my lower limbs. At Vincent Massey public school in Ottawa I would watch my friends running, playing in the recess yard, and I would feel alone and miserable by the classroom window.

    But early on in my bout with the disease, the teachers decided to send me to the school library during recess hours. I spent a great deal of time in that wonderful library, reading books and living through their incredible, heart-pounding adventures. And, better yet: I would often get so enraptured by a book that the biting pain in my legs would fade into the background, the story alive in the forefront of my mind, now the pain forgotten, now I could walk, better yet, I could fly.

    "Lizard Music" by Daniel Pinkwater. The entire "Danny Dunn" series by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams. "Henry Huggins" by Beverly Cleary. Then, I moved onto "Never Cry Wolf" by Farley Mowat, travelling the Arctic Circle in my mind. Feeling no threat to my growing adolescent manly changes, I read "Anne of Green Gables" and enjoyed it thoroughly.

    Growing up into my early teenage years, fortunately and with great relief , the juvenile arthritis faded from my legs. But I was spellbound by books, by stories, and the best place in my heart was the library, be it a small children's room or the multilayered and wondrously huge Ottawa Main Public Library I was exploring during my many, many visits.

    While I had a love for all types of books, fiction and non-fiction, I developed a particular love for Canadian fantasy & science fiction: "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood was one of the first books I read in this genre. Charles D. Lint and his tales of ancient powers mixing with modern day society, set in my city of Ottawa, captured my imagination. "Neuromancer" by William Gibson stunned me with its ground-breaking, grim vision of the darker paths we as a species may very well take in the near future. All of these authors, and so many more, have inspired me to write, to strive to be a writer, to hopefully publish my own stories some day.

    I cherish all libraries; these days I can be found among the books at the Toronto Main Library searching for new stories with the joy only we book lovers can understand. But I'll never forget that small school library at Vincent Massey public school; countless times as a hurting, confused child it saved me from suffering immeasurable pain and allowed me to run and explore new worlds within my mind. And so, my little story presented to you here is why my library, in fact all libraries, will always be a great joy within my heart.

  • Sherel Purcell

    Sherel Purcell

    “Why my library matters to me” is really a question about why my library matters to me and my community at large.

    As for myself, I could go on about the thousands of new books, movies, television series' music discs, maps, travel guides and magazines I've enjoyed over the past 30 years of living in Toronto.

    Of equal or even greater importance is the helpful and professional advice I've received from library staff on all sorts of queries and the informative, library-sponsored seminars I've attended. Today, the library has become even more valuable to myself and the community with the addition of wireless internet access - an absolute necessity in 2011.

    But I'm one of the lucky ones. If forced to, I could afford to buy books, magazines and music and rent or go to movies and access the internet. But many cannot, including seniors, single parents, the unemployed and the working poor. These are the people in my community I am happy to support through my tax dollars via our public library system.

    Having worked in high school libraries, I know these fall short when it comes to meeting students' needs so I am constantly sending young people to their local branches. Here, I know they will receive professional assistance and will find a comfortable spot to do homework, research and take part in quality programs with other teens – a better alternative to watching television, hanging out in shopping malls or roaming the streets.

    For the unemployed, library resources are an absolute necessity for getting back into the work force, as I recall from my own experiences of many years ago. Quality children’s programming and materials found in my library are crucial for developing minds and staving off problems associated with illiteracy. Thousands of newcomers to Toronto would be at a loss were it not for the top notch English as a Second Language materials, classes and other resources available at my library, that are so important to starting life anew in Canada.

    My library matters to me because it matters so much to my community. I am proud to live in a city where the public library plays such a vital role in the cradle to grave, day-to-day lives of her citizens. A sophisticated public library system where all are welcome sends a strong message to other municipalities that we have our priorities in order and we are a society that cares about the advancement and well being of all our inhabitants. Our libraries are a true treasure and the envy of cities everywhere.

  • Stacy-Ann Samuels

    Stacy-Ann Samuels

    Why My Library Matters To Me.

    By: Stacy-Ann Samuels

    Growing up my grandmother always said to me that “the mind is a terrible thing to waste”, and because of the fact that she could not read or write her words stuck with me even to this day. As such, I have developed a passion for knowledge that have often gotten me branded as a ‘nerd’, a term which I have looked at as a compliment- to the annoyance of my teasers- because of the accomplishments that I have made and my because of my grandmother.

    The first time that I entered a library, I was thirteen years old and in my first year of high school in Jamaica. The school library was my haven, especially at lunch time, as I had no lunch or any money to purchase lunch at the cafeteria. I would go into the library to hide away so that my new friends would not see that I had nothing. It was there that I opened my very first book and I will never forget it; it was a “Nancy Drew Mystery: The secret of the old clock” by Carolyn Keene. The first time I read that book; I fell in love and have read all the books in the series. Afterwards, my lunch times were still spent in the library of my school, but this time for different reasons; it was because I wanted to be where I had access to the materials that allowed for me to let my imagination free while educating myself.

    Moving to Canada did not in anyway dim my passion for reading at all. In my community I have become very familiar with my library because I have spent so much time there. I have noticed that the library have recently become a social hub for our youths. It is there that they meet friends, to study and to take about boys. With the advent of technology the library is THE place to go on a Saturday. It is where I take my nephews to get books to read and to enjoy the children areas in the library.

    My library is important to me because I am well aware that not everyone has easy access to books and computers; and having a place to go and find what one needs is important to a person that has little. I was once and is still that person who make plans to go to the library, whether along or with others, because I feel happy when I enter the quiet environs and see elderly men and women reading newspapers, college students studying or high school kids trying to be quiet while sharing the latest gossips.

    My library matter to me because it epitomizes what community life is like and offers a place for everyone to be one equal footing when it comes to acquiring knowledge. I cannot imagine my community without a library that everyone can go to and feel happy.

  • Jane Scott Barsanti

    Jane Scott Barsanti

    No matter how you say it – Rendezvous (French), Bawating (Ojibwa) or Katimavik (Inuktitut) – you are referring to a “Meeting Place”. The Library is just such a place to me…

    A “Meeting Place” for new authors, new books, new information, new ideas and new friends. While enriching my life, the library has been all of these things for me.

    In 2008, we relocated from the wilds of Northern Ontario (Sault Ste. Marie) to be closer to our sons and grandchildren. We left behind a lifetime of friends, family and community involvement and were essentially like immigrants in a new foreign country (Toronto), with steep learning curves and no friends to talk to.

    Actually, at first, I rather enjoyed the serenity. I was exhausted from the move. However, I soon recognized that I was becoming what we Northerners call “bush-wacky”. As much as I loved them - I craved the companionship of those I was Not related to.

    Since I had been in a book club in the Soo, and was still an avid reader, I then decided to join the book club at my library (Richview).

    It was the best decision I could have made!

    I was instantly in touch with fellow book lovers on a monthly basis and gradually began to connect and make friends.

    When my artwork was featured in Arabella magazine (and I had no one to share with) I took copies to the next meeting and my new associates were as excited as I was. When I had surgery on my shoulder, they commiserated with me. When I fell from the top row at my grandson’s arena and broke my other shoulder and wrist, they were there for me – to shake their heads in disbelief – but to also offer to drive me to meetings.

    It was during this time of recuperation that I discovered the large cache of talking books at our libraries. I could no longer hold books in my hands, but was now able acquire an amazing selection of CDs and then listen to the fabulous narrators.

    Last September, my new friend Bev invited me to a new book club at the “notorious” Northern Elms. At the beginning, there were only 4 of us (including the librarian and his wife), but we have now expanded and have participants from 2 months to 90 years. We sit in the children’s section on chairs of assorted sizes, at a wee flower table, and discuss the latest books, politics and life. It is marvelous!

    Between these 2 book clubs I recently realized that I have read most of the best sellers. And, at a rate of about 2 books a week, this pensioner actually saves thousands of dollars each year by borrowing books that I could not afford to buy.

    You ask “Why My Library is Important to Me?” I can honestly say that it saved my sanity, my life, and my pocketbook.

    It just doesn’t get any better than that!

  • David Sharma

    David Sharma

    I was born in an Indian Village of the province of Bihar. Bihar had two Great libraries of the then civilized world located at Nalanda and Takshshila. These libraries were second only to the one located at Alexandria in Egypt.

    All these libraries were destroyed and burnt by the foreign barbarian invaders.

    When I was of age 14 in 1954 , I read a book that the biography of Madam Marie Currie. It was written in my mother longue - Hindi.

    The information of that book sheared my tender , immatue heart . That book had the effect of the lightning strike to my brain. It burnt down the cover of darkness of my mind and filled it with brilliant light illuminating my thinking nook and corner.

    I told myself that I must get out of India to get most up to date education.

    My six years of continuous effort brought me to the shores of the British soil .

    I received my B.Sc. in Mining Engineering from the University of Wales in Cardiff, U.K.

    Our departmental University Library was open till midnight when the university was in session.

    I did all my study at the library.

    Without the library I would still be the darkness.

    Now I am being pushed in darkness by my own elected councillors and the mayor. Thousands like me are screeming to have the access to library..

  • Helen (Gui Hua) Shi

    Helen (Gui Hua) Shi

    My Library Matters to me

    Different people use the Toronto Public Libraries in different ways. One person might regularly borrow books, movies, videotapes and other materials from libraries. A second person might attend programs held in libraries, such as book and writers’ clubs, to enlighten or improve themselves. A third person might use computers in libraries to surf the internet, to do research or to finish homework. For me, my library matters since it provides a place where I can be motivated and inspired by other library users, I can find stress relief, and most importantly, I can explore a treasure of knowledge.

    My library is a place of inspiration. Whenever I enter the Toronto Reference Library, I am inspired by the people studying there and I want to become one of them. I see them reading books or working on their computers. They work for hours, even whole days, sometimes during weekends. They are focused on their reading and get their work done. I really admire them for their hard work and determination.

    My library is a clean, quiet and comfortable place. When I enter my library, I become part of it, my stress falls away, and I become calm, relaxed and focused. If I am stressed, I visit a local library, pick up one of my favourite books and read. Reading connects me to a bigger world, outside myself, and provides me not only enjoyment but also viewpoints that can provide a different perspective for a difficult situation in my life. After a library visit, my spirits are improved.

    My library matters to me also because it is full of “treasure”. Libraries are like an ocean of knowledge, waiting for me to explore. I move through the categories, from fiction, non-fiction, biography, reference, history, travel, and others, as books, and audio and video materials. Libraries capture literature, experience and civilization for us all.

    In summary, libraries mean many things to me, but above all they are places that inspire me to want to learn more and improve myself. In difficult times, libraries offer tranquility and peace. But beyond all that, my library offers me a world to explore. My library matters to me a lot. It is one of the best places I can be and where I can be myself.

  • Dane Shumak

    Dane Shumak

    Why My Library Matters to Me

    My library matters to me.

    A book is capable of changing a life. Words are capable of shifting the path of a society. The collective knowledge of published literature is mountain-shifting.

    We live in a society that is driven by social media, materialism and advertising. We live in a society where a politician’s signature on a bill determines whether or not thousands are employed the next day, where the decisions of men in white collars can destroy the lives of men whose are blue. We live in a time of democratic crisis around the world, of a shifting economy and of a changing climate.

    We are sitting on a precipice.

    I’ve always viewed books as a personal escape. A means of sitting in silence, no matter how loud the sounds of the world or your life are, and breathing somebody else’s breaths, crying somebody else’s tears and laughing along with prose on a page. Books are portals into another dimension while all at the same time being magnifying glasses with which to see our own.

    It’s astonishing for somebody like me, born and raised Canadian in a middle class home with working parents, to think that there are people who live down the street from me, people who go to my school, my friends, who can’t afford the joy of literature. And it is incredibly arrogant and pompous to think that by gutting a service that Torontonians use and are proud of, that it won’t be ripping the right to read out of the hands of thousands.

    I challenge Mr. Ford to think of the student whose family can’t afford home internet the weekend before the deadline of his project. I challenge him to imagine the single mother of three trying to plan a day full of wonder in a fantasy land. I challenge him to imagine the joy of touching a book that has been open a hundred times, whose pages are dog-eared carefully at suspenseful moments. And then I challenge him to rip that from the hands of his citizens.

    When last I checked, a democracy was not controlled by those who ran in an election and won. A democracy, in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. Torontonians overwhelmingly have spoken out against library cuts. Allow my voice to be added to the chorus.

    For all the people who can read, but aren’t able to. For all the people whose wallets shouldn’t get in the way of their imaginations. For all the people who have forgone cynicism and still hold the joy of learning in their hearts, I posit that we are sitting on a precipice. Politicians are historically about to put a value on literature, on knowledge and on learning.

    I refuse to accept that's the best they have to offer, and I refuse to accept that’s the best we can do.

    Because my library matters to me.

  • Kathryn Worzel

    Kathryn Worzel

    My Library is important to me because it's been there for me all my life. As soon as I learned to read, it was there for me. It was a place for me to escape to, explore, and learn. It was my refuge.

    My library is important to me because it allows me to be a glutton. I can safely indulge in the consumerist instincts the modern age has taught me, without having to pull out my credit card. A sackfull of library books costs me nothing, whereas I cannot reasonably go home with a sackfull of clothing or videos. Which also leads me to point out that my library is important to me because it provides me with entertainment. Not only does it provide me with books, but graphic novels, audiobooks, and movies. All of which cost me a pretty penny outside the libraries walls.

    My library is important to me because it is a place of shelter. It has air conditioning in the summer, and heat in the winter. It has water fountains and bathrooms, and hand sanitizers. My library looks out for the well-being of other people.

    My library provides poetry nights and movie nights. It provides news. It hosts Nuit Blanche every year, and is a wealth of information. My library provides internet access, newspapers, and magazines. My library helps people reach out to and understand the world around them.

    In closing, I would like to say this:

    I have one library that is close to my house, my home library.

    But I consider all the librarys mine.

    The Beaches library, one of the oldest in the city, with wide windows and comfortable chairs. The Gerrard/Ashdale library, within walking distance of a local school, and has so much room for the young children in the area.

    The Mount Pleasant library, convenient for the elderly locals, accessible in a way that the Northern District library, although bigger, cannot be.

    The Northern District library, that not only caters to so many, with the variety and breadth of its collection, but also houses a art gallery, and was I believe, one of the first library to have common use computers.

    And many more. The Toronto Public Library is a wonderful place, one of the best library systems in the world, and one of the reasons that Toronto is such a great city.

    If you diminish them, you diminish us all.

  • Melissa Cederqvist

  • Jovana Randjelovic

  • Sukhpreet Sangha

  • Ajay Singh

  • Christina Vasilevski

  • Salwa Abdalla

    Salwa Abdalla

    Why? Why do I care about the library? Why is it so important to me? Well,the real question is to read or not to read. Reading makes everyone happy, to the smallest baby [which their parents read to them]to the oldest elder. Books let you experience different feelings and thoughts. It teaches you how to do anything you want. Just imagine the world without books,Non-fiction or fiction. Imagine no Adventures or stories. Imagine no place to put your idea . Teachers,Parents and friends say we should keep on reading and we wouldn't be able to without our library. Imagine the most populated place like my community without libraries this will leave us with drugs and violence.The library is important to me because it is a place I can relax and let my inner self out. It is a place I can dream and imagine. It is a home for my mind.

  • Rosy Hanna

    Rosy Hanna

    I think that my library is one of the nicest places.

    First, my library helps me have some of the best adventures. I’ve watched Harry Potter fight Voldemort , Percy Jackson at Camp Halfblood and the Mole sisters swinging on a vine.

    Second I want to be an author - reading books will help me to achieve that. I get lots of ideas and I make mental notes about writing techniques that I can use in my own writing.

    Third I read books fast and often more than 1 at a time. It would be too much money to buy a book every time I needed a new one.

    Fourth, reading will make me smarter and educated and I will be a better voter and maybe even a good mayor.

    Last, I dream of a community where everyone is equal. People who don’t have money should still be able to read. People who don’t speak English can get materials in their own language or to help learn English. My library has free computers to use so people can do homework to get good grades or look for jobs.

    They say knowledge is power (I just read the Amulet of Samarkand where the humans had to fight for the magicians’ knowledge so they could defeat them in magic and stop being slaves). If we want people to be equal, we have to give them knowledge. Every one needs a library. Every one has the right to learn.

  • Shafiq Jr. Qaadri

    Shafiq Jr. Qaadri

    “I think you’ll find something in the health section,” the librarian said. I had asked her about this big medical problem that my cousin had.

    My cousin was only three months old and had a heart problem called a “VSD.” My aunt and uncle were incredibly worried. My cousin would need surgery. I was scared, we all cried, and I didn’t know about such things. Then I visited my library. The book that the librarian gave me said that a “VSD” was “a hole in the heart.” I told my aunt and uncle all about it. They even started calling me “doctor.”

    It was cool to learn such things from books. I’ve loved books ever since.

    My library is a great place to do homework. I have done my schoolwork there ever since I started school. My library is my place to learn on my own, without somebody telling me to. It was the place that I went on a computer for the first time. I never get bored in my library.

    One of my friends at school recommended a book, and I tried to look for it in my library but I couldn’t find it. But then the librarian seemed to know that I couldn’t find a book and helped me out. We’ve been friends ever since.

    I love books about the human body; it amazes me how so many things can be done at the same time. I think I really will become a doctor.

  • Surya Krishnan

    My name is Surya Krishnan. I am ten years old. I am a grade five student in the Gifted program in North Kipling JMS. My hobbies are writing stories, drawing comics, and playing on Nintendo Wii. I love reading fiction novels by Eric Walters, Gordon Korman to name a few.

  • Melissa McNeil


    My name is Melissa and I'm 9 years old. I'll go to Jack Miner P.S. this year, in Grade 4. I'm excited to start a new school because I was accepted into the Gifted program.

    My favourite sport is swimming and my best friend's name is Caira.


  • Ella Merrett

    Hi my name is Ella.I am 8 years old and my three favourite things are:dogs,acting and reading.I loved books since I was 5 months old. My favourite series is Rainbow Magic.