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Stories: How libraries shape and enrich the lives of people at all stages of life

Stories: How libraries shape and enrich the lives of people at all stages of life main image

"Libraries are life."

Annually we celebrate Ontario Public Library Week (OPLW) to raise awareness of the valuable role libraries play in the lives of people in Ontario. We received many touching stories from OPL staff members and community members, of how libraries have shaped and enriched their lives. We share our sincere thanks to everyone who shared their cherished library memories. 

We would love to hear from you!  

Send us your story by email to with the subject line "Library Story.” 


When libraries and the community come together to enrich lives  

OPL is an amazing community partner, and your team is doing incredibly important work in our communities. We absolutely look forward to our continued collaboration. There's lots to do!  
– Our Kids Network  


OPL continues to be Oakville’s ‘North Star’ when it comes to creating spaces for connection, celebrating diversity and increasing access to opportunities for learning and growth. So honoured to work in partnership with you!  
-- Bronte BIA 

Libraries as a destination to learn, create and to be 

OPLW_2023_Week_People_Quotes_2_SchoolAge-02.png"I wanted to share a picture of me, five years old, at a library drop-in program in Brampton. This picture made it into the Brampton Guardian newspaper. My parents fostered a love of reading in me through bedtime stories and many trips to the library. I remember when the new branch opened in Brampton and it was exciting to have a library on two floors! All through my childhood I loved going to the library and feeling the excitement of finding new books and borrowing old favourites. As an adult, I took my own children to several branches [of Oakville Public Library] and I know they have happy memories of story times, train tables, summer reading programs and much more. It is still a source of joy for me to see families with young children discovering the library and all it has to offer. (Oh, and the pants are a giveaway to what decade this picture was taken!)" -- Jennifer, OPL staff member  

OPLW_2023__Baby_Preschool_OPLCustomer_.png"I just want to say how much I love and appreciate Oakville Public Library and all the programs offered. My children attended so many programs from birth through high school. They progressed from Babytime to Family Storytime, then the Summer Reading Challenge every summer, then to 3D printing classes. My children also volunteered as helpers for the Summer Reading Challenge. We are heavy users of OPL’s extensive collection. Thank you, OPL, for providing excellent programming for growing families!" - OPL customer 


I have been coming to [Woodside Branch] regularly for almost two years. While I am studying [Law] my girls can come along to play and read, and from my desk I can keep an eye on them. The library is well-organized. I love sitting next to the big windows. Moreover, while studying I can make photocopies and it is super easy and very affordable! My family and I love being in this library and I thank all the staff for being professional, helpful and joyful with our kids!  - Zeina 


I am six years old and my name is Mason. I love the library because I like reading princess book(s). There are games, books and colouring sheets. There (are) computers at the library too. At the library you can read a lot of books. At the library it is really fun for me. - Mason 


Taking my daughters to the library set example of good readers, fostering the love of reading. The friendly librarians, the fun activities and the huge book selections make it an amazing experience. We cannot live without the library. - Rachel 


In the summer of 2022, I became a single mother. With White Oaks Branch located so close to my new house it was a place to take my daughter that gave us a sense of community. We come to read, partake in storytime, colour, play board games on the infinity tables and we always have to do the super awesome scavenger hunts. My daughter and I love spending time at the library and come as often as possible. It really feels like a second home here and all the lovely people who work here make it that (much) more special for us. - Chelsea 


When I was at home with my new twins, my local public library branch hosted a weekly drop-in program for kids 0-5 in partnership with a local organization. It was so much work getting everyone packed up and out of the house at any time, but that weekly event prompted me to get out and interact with other parents and kids. It seemed so hard at the time, but looking back now, I can see how important that weekly trip was for both me and my kids. It has made our local library a truly welcoming place that we are all happy and excited to visit.  - Julia, OPL staff member 

Libraries creating a sense of belonging  

“I would like thank the Oakville Public Library for their inclusion efforts. Upon a recent visit to Glen Abbey Branch, my 10-year-old, who identifies as non-binary/trans, was so incredibly excited to see the trans flag in the library windows. It put a spring in their step to see themselves represented outside of their own home and to know they are entering a safe space for them to be their authentic self. From their parents, thank you for making them feel valued and welcome!" - OPL customer 


"A few years ago, OPL helped me to support my dad when he could no longer walk and was unable to travel – something that he had loved doing. Whenever I visited him, I brought him a stack of DVDs on travel – documentaries and travelogues -- so that he could experience the next best thing – armchair travel. My dad was very appreciative, and to this day, I have lovely memories of the smile on his face when he received new videos and was able to continue “traveling”, despite his physical limitations.” - Andra S, OPL staff member 


My first library visit in Canada changed my life. When I first came to Canada, I was 10 years old. I couldn’t read or speak English. My brother took me to a library in Duncan, an old Victorian building. He [showed] me the children’s area and selected a Dr. Seuss book, The Cat in the Hat. In Hong Kong where I was born, we have only a small room behind the school stage where they keep all the library books in a cabinet. I couldn’t believe that all these books at the Duncan Public Library were free to borrow! I was so happy even though I couldn’t read [yet]. I promised myself one day I will learn and read every single book in the library. Who would have thought that many years later I would be the one sitting behind the desk and helping new immigrants to find interesting books to read! - Debbie, OPL staff member 


OPLW_2023_Week_People_Quotes_2_ADULT_QUOTE_1-copy.png"I immigrated here from Holland in 1956. My parents did not wait too long before they us to a small public library in King City. I remember the first book I read at storytime was 100 Cats by Wanda Gag. We took our children as infants, and now our grandchildren. Libraries have evolved from being comfortable reading environments for anyone from the community, to [also] providing access to new technologies, offering courses and welcoming people from all cultures. Who would’ve thought that you could borrow sports equipment or toys from a library? The advent of [new technology] forced libraries to look at their mission with a new eye. They rose to the challenge and have expanded our horizons. But they still fulfil their original purpose of welcoming and educating all of our society." - Ann F.


Libraries as transformative spaces that enrich lives and support communities  

OPLW_2023__ADULT_Ruth.png"I got my first Oakville Public library card in 1989. I was six years old, and even in those early years the library always felt like home. I knew all the staff and delighted in following the student Pages around as they shelved my favourite books and stories. I loved attending library programs, so much that I would often offer to help clean up afterwards! Who would’ve known that 9 years later I would apply for my first job there (and never leave)? 

Me, that’s who. Because growing up whenever someone asked where I wanted to work, I’d say the library. I wanted to work somewhere that I’d always been comfortable in, and I wanted other people to be comfortable here too. Then, after a while, I moved around to different branches to different jobs before I settled in my current roles at OPL as a Customer Service Technician and Programmer. And whether it’s helping customers at the service desk, or being silly at storytime, I do my best to make sure everyone knows they are welcome in the space. Libraries are an essential place in our community because libraries are for everyone! " - Ruth, OPL staff member 


OPLW_2023_ADULT_Patrick.png"I like to go to the library because I like the book sale, it gives me so much opportunity to shop for rare books. For example, I bought a rare book named “The Story of the Dominion” printed in 1901 and “Scott’s Memoir” printed in 1921. I also liked the quiet room because it is quiet and me and my father do my homework there. I also liked the Oakville collection room [at Central Branch] because it is cozy. Also, I liked the ghost stories in the children’s room. " - Patrick 


OPLW_2023_Week_People_Quotes_2_Baby-Preschool.png"I have spent my entire life in libraries. As a child, my mother would take my sister and me to programs at Oakville Public Library. I remember doing arts and crafts at White Oaks Branch, and patiently waiting for the librarian's stamp on my hand. In high school, I voraciously read through the summers, visiting Iroquois Ridge Branch, regularly for my next book. In university, as a commuter, I lived in the library between classes, and it was a visit from a liaison librarian one day during a lecture that I realized that’s what I wanted to do for a career – become a librarian. Now I work in the same system I grew up in and have facilitated programs in the same rooms I visited as a child. The library has been an important part of every stage of my life, and I love what libraries stand for and offer all people." - Ashley, OPL staff 


OPLW_2023_ADULT_Heather.png“One of my favourite places to spend time as an elementary student was the school library. As an avid reader, I was always looking for new books to borrow. I can still picture where my favorites were shelved: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, biographies about Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan, and the Trixie Belden series. When I was in grade 5, I was asked if I wanted to be a “library helper” during recess - a position I very proudly accepted. Each day I would join a couple of other students to shelve books and check items in – using paper due date slips, of course! The teacher librarian also introduced us to cutting-edge technology, such as the PET Computer and the Commodore 64 on which we learned how to play Lemonade Stand draw images using a mouse. The bright and welcoming library truly was a window to the world through its books and computers. These early experiences of exploration through books, ideas, and technology had a huge impact on me and undoubtedly led to a career in libraries. The popular titles, formats and devices may have changed, but we still strive for the same environment of discovery and connection.” - Heather, OPL staff member 

Library love... in more ways than one! 

OPLW_2023_Week_People_Quotes_2_ADULT_QUOTE_1-05.png"[My family and I] came to Canada when I was seven years old. I am the second of seven children. We did not own any books. I LOVED the library and went there every day right after school. I read every book there was for my age. [Later in life] I got a summer job as a library technician at the Metropolitan Toronto [Reference] Library as I was going to Ryerson Polytechnical Institute* to study social work. There, I met my husband Ted, who worked as a librarian. We have been married for 42 years! We both love books and still read fervently. We have good memories of libraries!” - Antonia H. 
*Now known as Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University)

Libraries are essential  

I want to express my appreciation for your services (all of the many).  I was especially thankful for the wonderful help [at Glen Abbey Branch] I received trying to maneuver the government website to obtain my vaccine passport [during the pandemic]. The young lady who helped me was so kind and helpful and much appreciated, your library is one of the true treasures of Oakville and as a patron of many years please accept my thanks and appreciation. - Joan W 


During COVID, there was much debate over “essential services” and who fell under that label. I remember while working at Glen Abbey a regular customer was expressing how grateful they were to be able to venture inside and browse the library again and then declared, you are my essential service. It was so touching to hear and I’ve never forgotten it. - Audrey, OPL staff member 


Books became an escape for me almost as soon as I learned how to read. Library time was always my favourite time in school, but the library itself didn’t really become a refuge and safe space for me until I was about 10 or 11. The school librarian, Mrs. Flaherty, got to know me very well. One day I came in to browse for a new book to read when the librarian saw me and her eyes lit up. ‘You, come here, I have something for you!’ She hurried over to me all excited, grabbed me by the hand and took me to the circulation desk where she pulled up a brand new, just catalogued copy of The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman. She had just put it into circulation (it wasn’t even on the shelf yet.) It made me feel so special to have a book picked out just for me!  

The care and attention she gave to me has always been a warm memory for me and really started my love of libraries and my desire to be a librarian. I can now say I’m working my dream job at OPL thanks to the spark planted by the kindness and attention of one elementary school librarian. - Angela, OPL staff member 


“Libraries have definitely had a big impact throughout my life. Being almost 70 years of age that is a very long time! In eastern Ontario, the [day] that my mom took me into town to purchase my very first library card is a day imprinted on my mind. I will never forget the friendly librarian who took me on a tour of the children’s section of this tiny two room library. She suggested I start with The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I fell in love with this classic and have a cherished copy till this day. It has a special place in my heart being the very first book that I borrowed from a library.  

That was the beginning of my love affair with the library. I discovered numerous children’s authors and titles, Anne of Green Gables, the Little House on the Prairie books, the Happy Hollisters, the Thornton W. Burgess series, Green Forest Stories and of course my love of all books with my favourite heroine, Nancy Drew! I attended a country school [and the] friendly librarian opened up a world of reading pleasure for this young country girl in elementary school. Every time I walk into a library [now] I have that same feeling of pleasure and excitement.  

While raising my family during the 1980s and working as a nurse I didn’t have the time to read as much as I would have liked but I always had a library book in progress. I did take my children to the wonderful programs that were offered [like] story time and kiddie crafts programs. I regularly took my children to the library to choose books [as] I really hoped to foster in them a love of reading as my mother had fostered in me.  

I have been an Oakville resident for over 31 years and during that time I have always used the library. It has played a big part in my life but [especially] during the pandemic. I so appreciative of having access to our library system and continued to have access to any book that I wanted to read. I was able to participate in many online book clubs, author talks and reading challenges. The library helped me to meet my goal of reading 100 books during 2021.  

I hope I have explained how the library has played a big part in my life and has enriched my life in a positive way. What a fantastic community resource we have available to us. I love the library and try to promote it to others. That friendly librarian who helped me when my mother purchased for me my very first library card is such a great memory for me. I thank her and all the wonderful staff at all libraries and especially our Oakville Public Library. You are so appreciated and respected. - Karen B.  

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