How The Toronto Public Library Created Alice Quinn

This is a letter about how I came to be who I am today. Obviously there are many factors, but I feel the defining aspect has been how much the Toronto Public Library is part of my life.

When I was little, every Saturday my mother would drive my brother and me* to the library. Along with picking out a nice stack of children’s books to take home, we made use of the library facilities. We listened to story time, we would sign up for computer time so we could play Freddi Fish, and we would browse through the CDs picking up the silliest ones and laughing at the cover only to be shushed by a librarian.
*At the time it was only the two of us with more kids on the way.

When I was eleven, my family decided to cancel cable TV. Mostly because us kids spent too much time inside, but partly because we could use that money elsewhere (all four of us went to private school). So we continued going to the library, but this time we would pick up stacks of VHS tapes to occupy the dark winter evenings we have in Toronto. At times we had to pay HUGE library fines because we couldn’t stop consuming all the content the library had loaned out, but that mattered little to us. We got so much out of the TPL it seemed only fair.

The North York Central Library, Alice's favourite branch

Flash forward a bit: I am an awkward tween with a tendency to overthink things, and understanding other kids eludes me, but the library was always safe. Other than using the library for research projects, I would just walk around picking up books randomly curious as to what was waiting for me behind the next bookshelf. One day I was wandering and something caught my eye. In a bookshelf full of books with different shapes, sizes and colour I was drawn to one spine in particular: Lost At Sea. I was a big Radiohead fan so I just had to read it. This gem by Bryan Lee O’Malley is one of my favourite books to this day. Better than that, I realized the bookshelf was full of comics, and that the library had a whole other medium of books I could dive into.

Since then I have been an avid reader of comics, graphic novels and manga. I’m fascinated by the art of using words and pictures to put together a story. My love of comics was nurtured by the library and I took all of that and created TdotComics–something to combine my love for this city and comics. I look back & I’ve accomplished so much with TdotComics: I have 25+ video interviews, dozens of reviews, I’ve been invited to cover conventions & events as press, I’ve even put together a couple events–Star Wars Day TO included. I started this by myself two years ago; when I would talk about “we” at TdotComics I really just meant me. Now I have a team of contributors and a group of avid readers. I am very proud of my accomplishments, but I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the Toronto Public Library.

The library has been there for me through thick and thin. It has been my teacher, my friend, and my refuge from the outside world. Not only have I gained so much from the library, but there is no other way I could have gained it otherwise. Had I bought all the books I’ve read then I would be tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and there would be no room to move around in my apartment. The library hasn’t just nurtured my intellect and been my escape from the often bitter real world; most of all it has been my inspiration. The Toronto Public Library shaped who I am more than any other public service, more than any other external force, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Alice Quinn

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  • Lady_loves_music

    Remembers my childhood at the Deer Park Library and asking if they had comics… and getting a very firm no… and me who doesn’t accept no asking why not if they encourage someone to read… it’s nice to know that many years later they have them !

  • LezleyDavidson

    Duuuude, I LOVE the TPL. I was a regular before I moved away and my card expired. I even PAID for 3 months to use it. 

    I’m trying to love the Oshawa Library as much. It’s a stretch.