By Kathy Rowe

On December 31, Patricia Anaka retired from her longtime job as librarian at the Port Union branch. She will be missed very much by her library community and co-workers.

Patricia began her career as a librarian in 1975 and worked at a few libraries in Scarborough until 1990 when she was hired as assistant branch manager at Port Union. She took on the position as head librarian in 2010 and, as they say, “the rest is history.”

As you can imagine, Patricia has seen many changes in the Toronto Public Library system since she started. “One of my jobs at Albert Campbell Library in 1975 was filing catalogue cards. This library had a huge card catalogue system spanning about 50 feet long! It was challenging,” she said.

Communicating with other branches in the 1970s was quite  different from today. “We had two teletype machines at Albert Campbell that would print out several feet of paper listing all the book requests of the day.” Patricia explained that back then there was much more need for reference material than there is today.

Google didn’t exist and therefore there were frequent requests for schematics for automobiles and repair manuals. Research material came in different forms back then such as: vinyl records, cassette tapes material and films. “We used to loan out 16 mm films and projectors, too.  So you can see how much things have changed over time.”

When asked about the benefits that libraries provide to the public,  Patricia had a lot to say. “Libraries give choices to people. The choice of what to read, the choice of information they want to access and how to access that information.”

“Libraries offer a sense of community, too,” she added. “At Port Union for instance, we have had intergenerational groups such as book clubs, summer reading clubs, knitting clubs and movie nights.”  

Patricia went on to list the variety of children’s programs, preschool programs and March Break events that allow children and caregivers to interact. She spoke of talks by notable authors she has organized over the years, including Joseph Boyden, Ken Setterington and Rosemary Aubert.

Free WIFI is also a big draw for the library. People can come in and use the internet as well as the printers. This is a real bonus for those who don’t have access to the internet at home.

One of Patricia’s fondest memories was a March Break event when the Djembe drumming group Hoza came to perform an interactive workshop at Port Union. “The performer had brought over 20 Djembe drums and everyone who wanted to play the drums could join in,” she recalled. “It was incredible; the power of the drum sounds and working together as a group!”

Patricia stressed that all the programs and events at the library are free to the community. “Our tax dollars pay for all of these benefits. It’s there for us, we should use it.”

Her favorite part of her job was reader’s advisory. “I love to talk to the customers, find out what their reading tastes are and recommend books for them. It’s wonderful when they come back and rave about the book I had recommended.”

When asked what she will miss most, Patricia said without hesitation, “It’s the people and the stories that they share. Making the time to listen to them and feel a connection.”

“I will miss the staff. I have been so fortunate at Port Union to have such supportive and dedicated staff. We all share the common goal,  which is to make Port Union the best branch in the Toronto Public Library system. It has been a privilege.”

When life returns to normal (post-COVID), Patricia plans to volunteer at a local women’s shelter. “I am also going to be joining the Port Union Seniors,” she said happily.

COVID-19 prevented a proper retirement party for her, but this article was a way for Patricia to say goodbye to the Port Union library community.

We want to thank her for her many years of service to the community. We wish Patricia all the best in her retirement and we look forward to seeing her frequent the community centre as a volunteer in the future.