April 15 marked a special night for the Malvern branch of the Toronto Public Library. It celebrated the relocation of the Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection from the Cedarbrae branch to its new home at the Malvern branch.
Guests were welcomed by steel pan drummer Taurean Clarke as they entered the library’s community room, decorated with colourful Caribana memorabilia. The music, decorations and intimate space gave the night a Caribbean flair.
About 60 people were in attendance, including councillors Paul Ainslie and Chin Lee. Dwayne Morgan, an author whose works are part of the collection, also performed some of his poetry for the occasion.
Dr. Rita Cox herself was the guest of honour and received a standing ovation when she rose to give her speech.
“I’m a librarian,” said Cox. “I worked in a community and as a librarian one of the things you do is you serve the needs of your community. The makeup of the community led me to start the collection.”
Cox joined the Toronto Public Library as a librarian at the Parkdale branch in 1960. She looked at the demographics of the area and decided that putting together a Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection would serve a need that was not being met.
Cox started the project in the 1970s and it was a labour of love, focused on Black and Caribbean historical and cultural experiences she spent a lifetime building.
The collection contains materials for people of all ages, including books, periodical subscriptions and audiovisual resources. It is recognized as one of the most comprehensive Black and Caribbean heritage collections in Canada and focuses specifically on Canadian content.
You can view the rest of the collection at the Maria A. Shchuka, Parkdale and York Woods branches. It is housed in more than one branch because there are over 16,000 items in the collection. You can support the collection by donating to the Rita Cox Endowment Fund.
Margaret Mikulinski, library service manager for the Malvern district, simply couldn’t wait to get her hands on it.
“The collection is a lovely statement of our commitment to our community and we want to make sure that the people in Malvern can enjoy the collections that speak to them,” said Mikulinski. “It’s perfect for Malvern.”