Booklover’s Ball builds buzz for busiest library system

For first-time volunteer Rita Irwin, Toronto’s annual Booklover’s Ball offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

“I was hoping to meet Margaret Atwood and I did, and she signed my book!” Irwin said.

On Feb. 9, the Toronto Public Library hosted its seventh annual Booklover’s Ball, a black-tie affair at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel that offers guests the opportunity to meet and dine with some of Canada’s noted authors.

But for volunteers, the Ball offered something extra. Irwin met Atwood while volunteering at the event’s auctioning table.

Irwin is on the board of trustees for the Uxbridge Public library, and has been inspired by Toronto’s Booklover’s Ball to launch a similar event April 14 in Uxbridge to celebrate that library’s 125th birthday.

With 93 branches and almost 19 million visitors, Toronto’s Public Library system is the busiest urban system in the world, and, according to Heather Rumball, president of the TPL Foundation, is in need of constant support.

“The library has incredible resources for all of us to enhance our skills whether it be purely for pleasure or recreational purposes or for the informational purposes for job advancement or retraining,” Rumball said.

The Toronto Public Library foundation uses funding to support libraries in the additions to its collections, development and programs to promote literacy, language and culture. One new program at the library teaches financial literacy, helping patrons budget appropriately.

“We’ve seen the results of the economic downturn and people not having the financial literacy to succeed, and to weather downturns like that,” Rumball explained.

Guests of the ball had an opportunity to Adopt-A-Branch of their choice from Toronto’s libraries for $500. Twenty-seven branches were adopted in total this year. Money was also raised through a silent auction at the event.

Rumball said the Booklover’s Ball is important because it supports Toronto’s libraries and highlights their importance.

“It’s a fun way of telling a very compelling story,” she said.

The event raised $19 550, which will be doubled by TD Bank.