Literacy, education and my local library helped me re-shape my life.

After being functionally illiterate until Grade 10, I learned to read by studying the song lyrics on records borrowed from the public library. I’d memorize the words on the inserts of the records and sing along to The Police, Bob Marley, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and so on.

At the age of 15, in 1983, I put down my two guns and my gang colours for a guitar. I was able to put my life back on track mainly thanks to a local community public library.

A key and central part of my life story is that just over 25 years ago, a local public library in Burnaby, B.C. helped save my life.

It is true that I still went on to face plights of homelessness and depression that almost destroyed my life over the next 10 years. But once again literacy and education, and a local public library helped re-shape my life. After suffering a near life-ending breakdown between 1993 and 1995, a public library in Malvern in Northeast Scarborough once again, became my lifeline to the world. I was later given the opportunity to work with that same Malvern Public Library and with Library Staff there to help other “at-risk” youth in the Malvern area.

And just over 10 years after suffering that near life-ending breakdown, in 2006, I was identified as one of 3 top Generation Next university professors in the Province of Ontario by OCUFA (the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations).

In March 2006, the same month that I was featured on the front cover of the OCUFA Magazine, I was named Executive Director of one of the largest community-based, social service not-for-profit charitable organizations serving the children, youth and families in Canada in the City of Brampton – Canada’s 10th largest city.

What made this especially notable was that in June 2008, I was promoted to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of this same organization making me the only known formerly “at-risk” male of Indo-Afro Caribbean background in Canada to hold a CEO post in the country with an annual operating budget of over $5 million.

In Feb. 2009, the Government of Canada presented me the Federal Citation for Citizenship award for my decade-plus long work with communities, newcomers to Canada and youth and families in need throughout the GTA and across Canada.

In March 2009, the City of Vancouver flew me in to help launch the City’s Four Pillars Culture of Prevention strategy in prelude to the 2010 Olympics. This was the same city where I was a gang member, a drug dealer, and a functionally illiterate and troubled youth. My journey from 1995 to 2006 was one of literacy, education and key, strategic and important academic and life mentors along the way – including librarians & library staff!

In October 2009, I was presented with Worldwide Achievement Award in Community Development by Planet Africa, a Division of Silvertrust Communications Inc. for my 15 year career Canada that has also informed work across the United States and throughout the world through projects I have worked on tied to the United Nations.

For me my story is the power of education, literacy and mentors in my life with a little bit of resilience thrown in – but what cannot be missed is the positive impact of the Public Library system in my life.

– Dr. Anthony Hutchinson, CC, GA, BSc, BSW, MSW, PhD