In 2003, OWN received a legacy from a member of the OWN Friendship Link, Alfreda Mordas, “to establish a Reading Room” for older women. Two members formed a committee to look for space and set up the facility. After looking at various spaces in the area, Council finally decided that the best way to fulfill the conditions of Alfreda Mordas’ will would be to utilize vacant but cluttered space in the OWN office. A larger committee worked for months clearing and organizing, then a Reading Room Working Group was formed to shepherd the re-design of the space.
During most of 2005 this group met regularly to order furniture, including bookshelves and comfortable reading chairs. The parameters of the collection were established at that time as well. It was to be a feminist collection with an emphasis on Canadian material. Most of the books were ordered, and continue to be ordered today, from the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, which gives us a discount. An opening Gala on October 25, 2005 honoured fourteen OWN members who were published authors.
Once opened, a Reading Room Operational Committee was formed to decide on policy, staffing, and future programs. A collection policy was developed for purchasing future books and magazines.
In addition to building a collection of Canadian feminist material of interest to OWN members, the committee sponsors events related to books and films. A new initiative is a film series for mid-life and older women in conjunction with the Toronto Public Library.
Just as Alfreda Mordas envisioned, her Reading Room has become a cozy and popular space, perfect for small meetings, press interviews, and just relaxing with a feminist magazine or book.
Excerpted from “The Alfreda Mordas Reading Room – How it Grew” by Margaret Hawthorn, (OWN) Contact, Summer 2008