Now that I’m all caught up on blogging run recaps from my 100 Branches Challenge (woohoo!), I wanted to take a moment to explain why I decided to fundraise for the Toronto Public Library Foundation as part of running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
The simple answer is that I’ve always loved libraries.
There’s a party game that comes up from time to time where people share their first email address. It’s a personality test and can reveal former obsessions with 90s celebrities or boy bands. My first email address was email@example.com.
My mom regularly took us to the library, and summers were spent adding stickers to summer reading club displays. I grew up with the Boxcar Children, the Baby-Sitters Club, and Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield at Sweet Valley High. When a new library was built close enough to my house that I could ride my bicycle to it, I felt like heaven was a place on earth.
I worked at the university library during my undergraduate years, worked in a public library for a year after undergrad, then worked in the library during graduate school. Library of Congress or Dewey Decimal – I’m good to go.
When I moved to Toronto, getting a public library card was one of the first things I did to engage with the city. Over the years, I’ve been so amazed by all of the services offered by the Toronto Public Library. I still mostly read physical books, so I use the hold system regularly. My library account gives me access to Zinio (electronic versions of current magazines) and Lynda (online courses for business and tech). There’s the Museum + Arts Pass, where library card holders can access free tickets for local museums and historic sites. The Appel Salon brings world-class public figures to Toronto for talks. Recently, I’ve learned how to use a 3D printer, which I can access at one of the Digital Innovation Hubs.
These are awesome perks for me, but the Toronto Public Library system also offers essential services in branches and through outreach programs. 70% of Torontonians use the TPL! People can get help with literacy and computer skills, prepare for the Canadian citizenship test, and access Wi-Fi. Many libraries have special language collections – from Afrikaans and Albanian to Welsh and Yiddish.
At the beginning of the year, I started volunteering with the TPL’s Leading to Reading program. Teachers recommend students in grades 1 – 6 to take part in the program, where the student works with a volunteer one-on-one for an hour a week to get a little extra practice and encouragement for reading. Working with my student has been a hugely rewarding experience. I love getting to know her and sharing our experiences related to the books we read, or just talking about what’s happening in our lives. When I compliment her on how well she’s reading, or how great it was that she was able to figure out the meaning of a tough new word, I see her light up. I love that I can help build that confidence and make reading a fun, positive experience.
A big misconception is that public libraries are fully supported by municipal taxes. The TPL depends on donors to help provide services, collections, and programs like Leading to Reading.
I have benefited from TPL services and have seen the impact of programs. When I saw the Toronto Public Library Foundation on the list for the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, I knew right away that I wanted to raise awareness and funds for this vital community organization.
I hope you’ll support me in my fundraising efforts! You can make a donation here: https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=3495477&langPref=en-CA
I’d also appreciate any help spreading the word!