More Than a Book Club

Riverdale Community Arts and Letters Club

by Christelle Agboka

Riverdale Community Arts and Letters Club, based out of the Riverdale branch of the Toronto Public Library (TPL), started in September 2011 but can already boast 20 to 35 attendees per event. Its founder, Susan Pilon, admits to a “selfish motivation on [her] part,” as she wanted to have different programs devoted to the arts at her favourite TPL branch.

Pilon also wanted to encourage the library in the face of cutbacks. “It’s good to have a library . . . when so many things are being cut back,” she says. Starting the club was her way of giving back to a TPL branch she finds to have an especially warm and welcoming environment. “We have a good library system in Toronto but this one is quite unique.” She smiles as she recalls that although she is notoriously bad at remembering names, she knew people’s names at the Riverdale branch within five minutes.

Situated at the juncture of culturally and economically-diverse areas, the Riverdale branch fills an essential role as a hub of community activity. Riverdale Community Arts and Letters Club is just one of several free groups sponsored by the library. This club, like the others, is open to the community. Thus when Pilon approached the head librarian and staff about starting this club, she had their full support.

Describing the Arts and Letters Club, Pilon says, “It’s not just a book club. We try to have a variety of programs.” In the immediate future they will continue to have events related to reading and writing, which have so far been well-received. One of their prior events within this category, “Crafting a Personal Memoir” workshop facilitated by Sharon Crawford, editor and writer-in-residence at the Canadian Authors Association drew a crowd of 35, despite torrential storms! The club also hopes to hold a few art shows in the spring, with full programming resuming in the fall.

When asked why people should come out to these events, Pilon is confident. “It’s interesting; it’s free; it’s a chance to meet others in the community and [feel] a part of your community. There’s exposure to different arts and different letters.” In other words, why not come? Can we add a sentence along the lines of “If you are a member of or have attended one of these meetings, share your experience with us in the comments section!”

Upcoming Events for 2012, Riverdale Community Arts and Letters Club

  • January 18: BYOB – Bring your own book, or recommend books to discuss
  • February 15: “The Art of Volunteering” with Kadija Barry, Host Volunteer Cordinator, WoodGreen Community Services
  • March 21: Ken Greenberg, city planner and author of Walking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City Builder, discussion and book signing
  • April 18: Book discussion evening
  • May 16: Howard Shrier, Mystery novelist, discussion and book signing of his new Riverdale sleuth book, Boston Cream

All meetings at the Riverdale Branch of the Toronto Public Library, Wednesdays, 6pm

370 Broadview Ave.; 416-393-7720;


For more info, contact Susan Pilon:

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