Archive for the ‘Toronto’ Category
Lately public libraries have been taking a shit kicking from debt-ravaged politicians. Here in Toronto, our right-wing mayor Rob Ford had to back down from his more extreme proposals because of push back from Margaret Atwood and other well-known local authors and taxpayer petitions.
While I agree with the library fans, I also think that libraries need to do more to rethink their role as information filling stations,book lovers’ social hubs and knowledge curators. For guidance, they should look to the banks, bookstores and museums.
And they should think about how book lovers like me have changed. I haven’t updated my library card in years, partly because I share books I love with friends. I rarely go to bookstores either. For years, I ordered exactly what I wanted online. This year, I started downloading to my e-reader instead.
But I still love the concept of public libraries, as fonts of knowledge shared by all. My favorite is the main reference library, where my daughter goes for sheet music she can’t find on the internet. On my last visit, to hear a speaker rather than conduct research, I was struck by all the computers.
My local branch, which I used to frequent with my kids, is full of computers too, mostly used by students, often playing games. Many are new Canadians who don’t have computers at home, the digitally divided.
I would probably renew my library card if libraries made books as easy to acquire as money from the bank. For a long time, I’ve loved the convenience of 24/7 instant teller machines and, more recently, online banking services. I can pay bills or withdraw money in minutes. But if I order a library book online, it can take days to reach my local branch. I can download it to my Kobo in seconds and I don’t have to worry about late fines.
Libraries could be as easy as banks if they lent e-readers or laptops to the people who can’t afford them. It’s lovely that the library is letting people download digital books, but little help to those who don’t own the hardware. And think of the money the school boards could save if everyone could download their texts.
People who want more than a quick info fill could hang out in the 24/7 book lovers’ social hubs. Like automated banking machines, these would take up a fraction of the branch’s floor space and be monitored by remote cameras or librarian/security guards.
Social clubs for bookworms
Or maybe the baristas would keep an eye on things, and add revenue, if these hubs added Starbucks, like the large bookstores have. I would love to socialize more with people who read the same books as me, so much better than the emails from Amazon about the buying habits of people who have bought the same books.
Of course there will still be a place for hardcover books. But with fewer people borrowing physical books, shorter branch hours or fewer full-service branches won’t be as much of an issue.
Collect and select
In addition to becoming 24/7 information filling stations for families who can’t afford the technology and money-making social hubs for people who love to read, libraries should expand their role as information curators. With coming onslaught of e-books, the reading public will desperately need someone to sort through the new titles and curate those that are worthwhile.
With so much information out there, we already need trained experts to help us prioritize and organize. While searches are extremely helpful, algorithms cannot judge quality and relevance the way smart. objective people can.
I visit my city’s Royal Ontario Museum and Art Gallery of Ontario mostly when there’s a specially curated exhibit. I wouldn’t enjoy the exhibits if knowledgeable people hadn’t picked out the best examples to display. Can you imagine wandering through their storage areas? That’s exactly how I feel on the internet some days.
So please, librarians, become knowledge curators as well as information filling stations and book lovers’ social hubs. We still need you—but in a changing way.
When I took LSD in my teens. I first realized we are all one. In my Facebook update after this Monday’s U2 concert, I wondered when the acid flashback would end.
While hallucinogens may have first opened this spiritual short cut for me, many people have reached the same insight through religion and other spiritual paths. Or from listening to U2.
Through song and sight, Bono built our awareness that we are all one while urging us to give money toward AIDS kids in Africa, sign petitions to release political prisoners and put inspiration into action in other ways.
With the dome open to the sky and the lake breeze, the Rogers Centre was our cathedral. Bono was our preacher, the music our hymns, the dazzling graphics our vision.
When astronaut Mark Kelly spoke to us on the screen from the space shuttle, my eyes misted up. Looking at earth from his perspective, how could I not appreciate that we are all part of something bigger, not just earth but a universe. Like me, the cartoon aliens knew their feet would be killing them from all the dancing.
Not content to unite the universe, Bono told us to look at the stars and think of the people we had lost. I put my arm around Peggy, who I knew was thinking about her brother and father. I thought about Gary.
We are all one. Present. Past. Future.
Two days later, I am thinking about how I am a microcosm of the universe. I can’t stop global warming, poverty and injustice. But I can sort my trash, treat the triplets to ice cream and bug my member of parliament about getting more help for the homeless people languishing at the nearby shelter.
I am also thinking about how I can also help people connect and revel in our one-ness through the written word.
What a gift. Thank you, Bono and the mysterious force that’s powering our space ship.
And thanks for the photo, Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla.
I’m starting to think the green movement is a conspiracy against busy moms like me.
Take my new low-flow toilet. Sure, it’s nice to save water, even though I live near a large lake. But nobody told me I would have to clean it daily. And don’t get me started about the plunging.
It’s not like we have a choice. I hear these toilets, obviously never tested with busy moms, are legally required here in Toronto. Had I known about the extra work, I would have stuck with my aqua bathroom fixtures. No sooner had I replaced them than I read about how hot mid-century décor now is.
Then there’s all the garbage sorting, especially in this city where we have to pay extra for more than about one plastic grocery bag full a week. By the way, we also pay the grocery stores an extra five cents for each plastic bag if we forget our gluten-free, not-tested-on-animals ones at home or in the car, as us busy moms often do.
So instead of reusing the plastic grocery store bags for garbage, we buy new ones. You heard me right.
Now that my kids are teens they at least remember to put most of their trash in the garbage, unlike the days when trails of food wrappers and broken toys from McDonald’s decorated our floors. The trouble is they haven’t figured out how to sort recycle from organic from plain old garbage.
In my daughter’s bathroom, right beside the toilet, sit two garbage containers, one for toilet paper rolls and such, the other for trash. Yet, this 17-year-old honor student can’t figure it out. One more unwelcome task for this busy mom. Let’s just hope I don’t have to replace her toilet.
Don’t get me wrong. I like being green. I believe that every person should do their part.
I tear old towels into cleaning rags instead of wasting paper towels. I scoop my dog’s poop into a biodegradable bag. I have insulated my house and my electrical sockets, replaced my light bulbs and my boiler and so much more.
In fact, one of the reasons I am such a busy mom is the need to pay for all the renovations and purchases demanded by the energy conservationists, mostly undomesticated men and child-free women I suspect.
Let’s tell them that if they want us to do more, they have to come up ways that don’t make us even busier moms. Mind you, I’m looking forward to spending Earth Hour in a candle-lit restaurant where those toilet-plunging, garbage-sorting stress lines will be less visible.
While U.S. Thanksgiving may be the kick-off to the Christmas shopping frenzy, I think it should also launch the snail mail holiday card season.
Because of email and social media, you’re likely receiving fewer paper cards, so you appreciate what you receive all the more. Like me, you probably display them as part of your holiday décor. When you look at a particular card, you think about the person who took the time to send it to you.
I don’t pay as much attention to the people who email me a Christmas card, even less if it’s a Merry Christmas update on Facebook or Twitter. The less effort people expend on holiday cheer to me personally, the less time I spend thinking of them.
I’m no Scrooge. That’s just human nature, which you need to consider before you decide how to send your holiday greetings.
Make it personal
A few years ago, motivational speaker Dave Howlett prompted me to go back to mailing cards. He insisted that everyone should send thank you cards every week. Inspired, I bought cards and sent them out for a while.
Life got busy and my enthusiasm flagged. Now I’m down to sending Christmas cards to the folks I should have been thanking throughout the year.
Even better is a card with a personal note, thanking individuals for something they did for you during the year. The note has to be individual, such as thanks for cheering me up when my father got sick or taking the time to help with research for an article.
Your thank you list
At a time of the year devoted to being grateful, you should have an easy time coming up with a list of the people you want to thank. Here in Canada, where Thanksgiving is but a burpy memory, I’m planning to buy mine today, before the best ones are sold out.
Of course the cards must be printed on recycled stock. It’s even better if the proceeds go to help a charity you like. And don’t forget the secular cards for people who won’t appreciate anything about Christmas.
Like me, many of you will be using the holiday season as an excuse to stay in touch with many people you can’t think of a special reason to thank. You’re just glad you met them. That’s where email cards and other mass communication come in handy.
I’m an expert at these. Over the years, I have written many Christmas messages from executives to their employees, customers and other important people. So let me share what I’ve learned.
As with individual cards, these messages have to be personal. Because you can’t talk about other individuals, you have to write about your own experiences and emotions, especially those that you expect the people on your list will relate to.
For example, your dog’s fascination with the first flakes of snow, tracking down that sold-out toy your daughter is expecting from Santa or sinking your teeth into that luscious shortbread.
My point is: be grateful, personal, emotional, visual, sensual and authentic. People will not feel any closer if they think your assistant simply merged a mailing list and mass holiday greetings template.
I sent an earlier draft of this post as a guest submission to Copyblogger. Sonia Simone declined, explaining that most of their readers don’t have snail mail contact lists. What a shame. While new media gives us more choices, it should not displace the old, especially in cases when it works better. Don’t forget that most of us still listen to radio. Besides, it’s so easy to find snail mail addresses online.
Many of you are probably why I’m writing about Christmas cards when it’s still more than a month away. It’s because every year I wish I had started my cards earlier. After all, people are more likely to notice the cards that arrive before the Christmas rush. And I’ll be pleased to have more time in December for all the shopping, decorating, partying and visiting that make the holiday season so special.
It’s too early to know what I’ll write on my blog. I know it will be more personal than my usual advice about writing and communication and my efforts to hype my ebook Write like you talk—only better.
When my kids were young, there was no end to the heart-warming and humorous tales. As teenagers, they’re embarrased if I write much about them, amazing though they are.
My aging parents are more likely to stir the gooey emotions that bubble at Christmas. For 10 years, I’ve tried to make the holiday special, knowing it could be my mother’s last one.
At our Thanksgiving dinner, for the first time, she was unable to lift the wine glass to her mouth. I did it for her–many times. On the front porch after dinner, as she struggled to hold onto her cigarette, I teased her about being tipsy. She laughed.
She doesn’t laugh much any more, so those moments are precious. Almost like those increasingly rare Christmas cards. They will be treasured.