Congrats to everybody who thought of their library card when reading this title! For the grand annual price of $2 for a membership, it is astounding the range of topics and skills one can learn through the Toronto Public Library (TPL) system.
As a regular commuter between Scarborough, North York and downtown Toronto, I am one of the scores of people who routinely grapple with how best to optimize the mobile learning and productivity potential of the extended time spent traveling through our beloved subway corridors. With so much time already devoted to writing about issues, working up applications and networking from my computer - I tend to prefer using my commute and 'in between' periods for reading physical pages and other tasks that do not involve staring at a digital screen.
Which brings me to TPL. Inspired to renew my previously dormant membership after attending an info session for a business development series later in the year, I stumbled across the magazine racks on my way out and decided to pick up an issue of Popular Science to go. Fast forward to home that evening following the perfect bit sized commuter read and armed with the knowledge that you can return items to any branch - I immediately began thinking about the next day and that my schedule would take me within close proximity to the Agincourt, Don Mills, Wychwood and Pape branches. That day would indeed have me take out a total of three magazines and return four, and in the process facilitate a markedly more enjoyable commute for the most minimal of added efforts. While my rate of new issues read has since plateaued at about 1 every 2-3 days, I am thoroughly enjoying getting caught up on recent trends in data analytics, healthier living and how to mine an asteroid. Ok so not all topics are immediately relevant to the day to day, but my brain is a little more active, my knowledge base is getting a little bit broader, and until we figure out a real way to address congestion and commute times in Toronto - my train reads are immeasurable more enjoyable.
Walk in to any branch at any time of the day and you can see people young and old from all walks of life reading for leisure, doing their homework, participating in community group activities, applying for jobs and learning skills ranging from graphics design to english literacy, financial management and just about any other need where someone has offered their time to teach, facilitate or organize. Far from the traditional perception of being a place to take out books, branches have modernized into full fledged community hubs central to the connectivity, learning and socioeconomic potential of their neighbourhoods. In less than a month of reactivating my membership, the only thing I kick myself for is having taken so long to have recognized the value of this gem of a service right down the street!
So what is your best $2 investment?