Recognized as a Canadian icon, community activist and admired leader in the Black and Caribbean community, Dr. Rita Cox joined Toronto Public Library as a children’s librarian in 1960. In 1974, she became the head of Parkdale Branch, where she remained until her retirement in 1995.
During her tenure, Dr. Cox launched literacy programs and other initiatives that promoted multiculturalism and literacy throughout Toronto. Her work touched the lives of the entire community, particularly children and newcomers.
In 1973, Dr. Cox pioneered the Black Heritage and West Indian Resource Collection, which was renamed the Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection in 1998. It soon became one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in Canada. Today, it continues to be a source of pride in the community.
Dr. Cox is a renowned storyteller who has enchanted and entertained audiences across North America, in Europe, Brazil and the Caribbean. She has also maintained the Library’s storytelling legacy by training a whole new generation of storytellers, many of whom are current library staff.
She has won numerous awards, including the 1996 Canadian Library Association Public Service Award and the Black Achievement Award. In 1997, Dr. Cox was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for her outstanding work in storytelling and literacy. She is also the recipient of honourary degrees from York and Wilfrid Laurier universities.