The Friends of the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, established in 1966, is generally believed the oldest Library Friends Group in North America. Its current membership at 500+, spans the globe and includes a British Chapter, the Children’s Books History Society. The Friends of the Osborne Collection is granted the patronage of her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra, cousin of Elizabeth II. The Princess visited Osborne during her two official visits to Canada.
The Friends have raised money for acquisitions, cataloguing support, and for special conservation needs, as well as for special lectures and exhibits to promote the Osborne Collection. Bequests and memorial gifts from Friends of the Osborne Collection to the Toronto Public Library have funded such programmes as the Helen E. Stubbs Memorial Lecture, given annually by persons of “outstanding ability and originality” in the field of children’s literature. Lecturers have included Kevin Crossley-Holland, Susan Cooper, Christopher Paul Curtis, James Houston and Jane Yolen, and this lecture has become one of the highlights of the year in the Canadian children’s book world. The 2010 lecture was given by renowned English poet and storyteller Michael Rosen. Audio of the complete lecture is available on YouTube through the efforts of the Toronto Public Library. This year’s lecture, by Art Slade on the subject of e-books and self-publishing, will be given on Thursday, October 20, 2011 at the Lillian H. Smith Library.
In 2006, an endowment was established for an additional annual lecture series through a gift by Jane Dobell in memory of her cousin, Sybille Pantazzi, former librarian of the Art Gallery of Ontario and avid booklover. The inaugural Sybille Pantazzi Memorial Lecture was in September, 2007 with a lecture by Dr. Peter Davidson on the works of Edward Gorey. This year’s lecture, by Michael Farr on the subject of Tintin and his creator Hergé, will be given on Thursday, November 3 at the Lillian H. Smith library.
Visitors of every age and interest find materials to amuse, instruct and enchant them at Osborne. It is little wonder that a field of such universal interest and appeal should arouse both attention and support and should be considered as much a cultural tourism gem of Toronto as it is a highlight of Toronto Public Library’s research collections.