Librarian / Master Storyteller / Author / Member of the Order of Canada, Toronto, ON. Born: Trinidad & Tobago.
Dr. Rita Cox is recognized as a ‘Canadian icon’ who is a librarian by profession, renowned storyteller and admired as a leader in the community. She has been described as “an exceptional individual who, through her love of the spoken and written word, has inspired people of all ages and has opened the literary world to her audiences.”
Dr. Cox joined the Toronto Public Library as a children’s librarian in 1960. In 1972, she became the head of the Parkdale Branch, and launched literacy programs and other initiatives that promoted multiculturalism throughout Toronto. During her tenure, in 1973, Dr. Cox pioneered the library’s Black Heritage and West Indian Resource Collection, which was renamed in 1998 to the Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection. It soon became one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in Canada and today, continues to be a source of pride in the community.
An active member of the Black community, Dr. Cox established “Cumbayah”, a festival of Black heritage and storytelling. A number of her stories have been published, including her own children’s book entitled, How Trouble Made the Monkey Eat Pepper. A renowned storyteller who has entertained audiences worldwide, she has also maintained the Toronto Public Library’s storytelling legacy by training a whole new generation of storytellers, many of whom are current library staff. After her retirement from the Toronto Public Library in 1995, Dr. Cox was appointed a Citizenship Court Judge by the Government of Canada.
Dr. Rita Cox has won numerous awards, including the Canadian Library Association’s Public Service Award and the Black Achievement Award (1986). In 1997, Dr. Cox was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for her outstanding work in storytelling and literacy. Both Wilfrid Laurier University and York University have awarded her honorary doctorates.
Additional honours: In 2008, Dr. Cox’s achievements and continuing contributions to the community were recognized by the naming of a park in her honour; the “Rita Cox Park” is located at 14 Machells Ave, and is one of the City of Toronto’s 1,473 named parks operated by Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation. Appointed to The Ontario Arts Council’s Board of Directors (2004-2010); African Canadian Lifetime Award, Outstanding Contribution to the Community, Pride Magazine (2010); Black Heritage and Caribbean Collection re-named the “Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Collection”, and is expanded and housed in four branches of the Toronto Public Library: Parkdale, Maria Shchuka, York Woods and Malvern.