Saturday, March 28, 2009


A friend and I were chatting about an interesting observation. 
Why is it that people who generally behave badly are accepted as such and people who are generally respectful and empathetic toward others are judged if they have a so-called 'emotional' moment of weakness and react out of character? 

It seems quite unfair and hypocritical and yet a fairly common thing. It's no reason to become a narcissist, but sometimes it seems that life would be easier as one.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Inspiring medical care

Toronto is fortunate to count Dr. Mark Nowashinsky among its dedicated citizens. See this CBC piece on his efforts to care for senior patients in the city with house calls, as well as his advocacy for improved home-based health care services. Compelling, inspiring and another wake up to the need for more realistic and effective health care reform in Ontario and Canada. Especially as the ranks of older adults will continue to swell in the coming decades. 

This doctor with a camera is a true visionary. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Celebrating reading

The Toronto Public Library's annual Keep Toronto Reading kicks off April 1. There's been much behind-the-scenes work to organize this month-long literary celebration. This year it connects with Lit City - part of Toronto's 175th Anniversary, and highlights a number of notable authors, speakers and partners. 

Events feature Cynthia Dale, Shyam Selvadari, Katherine Govier, Anthony De Sa, Nino Ricci, Bonnie Stern, Kenneth Whyte, Joy Fielding, David Chariandy, Dan Hill, David Gilmour, Glen Downie and many more. Also included are well-known TPL'ers Ken Setterington and Tina Srebotnjak. It's definitely worth checking out if you're in the neighbourhood. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy International Women's Day

Thanks to Sandra for sharing - have always loved this tribute to women by Peter Gabriel and Youssou N'Dour.

Literacy, learning and the love of reading

Working at a library continues to provide many new insights for me. A major one is the role of literacy in all of our lives.

Admittedly, I have taken my own literacy for granted. Having been raised in a family and society that nurtured learning, I was lucky to have all the opportunities required to build a life based on choice. 

My affinity for books and reading has been a lifelong affair - one that I continue to encourage in my nieces and nephews on every occasion with books as gifts. I've always had a somewhat romantic dream of owning a book store and spending my days learning and sharing the inspiration that comes along with reading. 

Since beginning work at TPL, I've begun to see first hand just what a role we play in the lives of thousands of people. Our services beyond simply lending books are tremendous, ranging from early learning resources to adult literacy to ESL to computer training to youth volunteering groups to literary programs and beyond. From providing access to the basics to instilling the love of reading, libraries everywhere provide such an amazing foundation for society.

What has especially struck me are two things: 
  1. There are so many stats regarding how critical literacy is to pre-school age children as it will impact their success throughout school and into their adult lives
  2. There are so many inspirational stories of how literacy programs have changed peoples' lives - whether as children, adults and even as seniors
We recently featured several of these 'success' stories in a Foundation campaign including that of a woman who at age 60 went through our literacy program after putting her four children through university. Originally from Jamaica, she was then able to complete her Canadian citizenship exam and now feels liberated by her new found abilities and sense of pride.

Another young woman was part of our leading to reading program when in grade 2 and went on to volunteer at the library in high school before becoming a high school teacher herself.

Lawrence Hill, award-winning author of The Book of Negroes, was interviewed on CBC today and he mentioned that one of the reasons for the salvation of his main character was the early literacy instilled by her father. Stolen from her African village she endures slavery in the American south, amid other challenges, and is sustained by her sense of hope and her desire to read and understand and eventually return home. This struck me as he felt it important to convey this early-learned knowledge stayed with her and contributed to her resilience throughout her life. 

Librarians, staff and volunteers working with individuals every day are nurturing the need for knowledge and personal growth. The spirit of public service that exists throughout our system of 99 branches is quite stunning. While I've worked in other public organizations, I'm still learning about just how deep that passion runs here. As well as the level of the public's trust in this role we play providing free, democratic access to a wealth of information within safe and welcoming public spaces.

And then there's simply the joy of reading that is encouraged through book clubs, author readings and a host of programs that connect readers to books, writers and each other. Pretty inspiring stuff.

Photo: Daily Mail, UK