By Pamela Collins

We are all feeling COVIDY (new word for COVID fatigue) these days.

We miss our friends and families, our fitness classes and retail therapy. Most of all we book lovers miss perusing the aisles of our libraries looking for a particular book or genre of books or just hoping that something jumps out to perk our interest.

Our talented librarians would strategically place selected volumes on top of the shelves to pique our interest or maybe just for those of us too lazy to scan the shelves. We could just grab and go. Those were the good ol’ days!

Now we must peruse the “online shelves” of TPL (Toronto Public Library), choose our book, place it on hold and wait for a notification that the item is ready for pick up.

In the Centennial area, our beloved Port Union Library remains closed so pick up will be at the Morningside branch or Highland Creek.

The pick up involves entering the first door to the library, fully masked, and meeting with a masked security guard who will call the masked librarian out to you for your items. For those of you who have experienced this, it all feels so furtive and almost rather sneaky, doesn’t it?

One feels it should be the dark of night when we move in to receive our bagged, clandestine or illicit items, slinking quietly along the wall to avoid detection in a glaring light.

That is what happens when you read books. Reading books opens doors to worlds and adventures our COVIDY imaginations are craving, adults and children alike.

 I recall as a child that certain purchases at pharmacies or magazine shops were all placed in paper bags to hide the personal or shameful contents from prying eyes. Now we know that our library would not house these items, except for a few tomes of erotica perhaps but our overactive imaginations take over.

Our TPL at Morningside branch has a few interesting projects on the go at the moment and one of those includes a grab bag concept. Just walk through the doors with library card in hand, fully masked, and you will find paper shopping bags on a trolley, with several books inside chosen by the library staff. The topics range from fiction, French, adventure and Pride for adults and kids alike. One never knows what is inside so it is always a surprise. This is a fun way to branch out and read something different!

The staff also want parents and kids in the area to learn about the summer “Reading Challenge”: read 12 books in 12 different categories online, audio or print and report the results.

I spoke to Karim at the Morningside branch and he tells me, “This encourages kids to read books they normally would not be drawn to in their normal browsing experience; for instance, someone else’s favourite book or author, books that provide comfort or hope, books about music or indigenous peoples.”

There are rewards (i.e. stickers) and the challenge builds collectively over the summer to encourage the kids to continue reading, with a grand raffle prize at the end of the summer.

So just sneak on over and grab a bag and experience the surprise of what could be inside. Take part in that furtive brown bag experience! No one will recognize you in that mask!