The Toronto Public Library (TPL) system is one of the busiest in the world.
According to TPL statistics, over 73 per cent of Torontonians used the system in 2012. In the same year library staff responded to over seven million information requests.
Last Sunday, the Toronto Public Library Workers Union (TPLWU Local 4948) hosted the city’s first ever Library Forum (not coincidentally the day before the start of this year’s City Hall budget meetings).
The forum, held in city hall’s council chamber, attracted over 400 attendees. There were so many people, in fact, that event organizers had to ask city staff to provide additional seating in the ground floor and to setup a video feed from council chamber.
“It’s pretty humbling that that many people came and gave up their Sunday afternoon,” says Maureen O’Reilly, president of the TPLWU. “But we do know that Torontonians love their library.”
The main feature of Sunday’s two-hour forum was the first public showing of a specially-commissioned animated short video on the past, present and potential future of the TPL. The film, the work of acclaimed filmmakers James Braithwaite and Josh Rogan, was first posted online on Nov. 20 and has already accumulated more than 10,000 views.
“The video itself was what the event was built around,” says O’Reilly. “It’s a very unique video — it’s humourous and it’s good at capturing not just the events from the Ford administration, but also the long-term importance of the library and the message that re-investment is crucial.”
“It was amazing to be able to share that with the people of Toronto who obviously think this is important. There was total silence in the auditorium during the screening as people were taking it all in.”
In addition to the screening, Sunday’s forum also included talks about the TPL’s future and purpose from O’Reilly as well as from Trish Hennessy, the Ontario Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (an organization that recently completed a historical policy analysis of Toronto’s library system), and CityNews political analyst Alejandra Bravo.
The event also featured opportunities for public dialogue, free book draws, and a screening of a selection of 90-second videos of famous Toronto authors talking about the importance of a free public library.
“We also tried to inject a town-fair atmosphere into the event,” says O’Reilly. “We had a band playing. One of the library workers was doing programs for children in the public gallery and we had a photo booth where people could take their pictures with librarian glasses on.”
This article first appeared on Yonge Street.