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Toronto Library Foundation gets $1.5-million gift from private donors

Marilyn and Charles Baillie have contributed $1.5-million to the Toronto Public Library Foundation's fundraising campaign, putting it over its $10-million goal.

The campaign, dubbed re:vitalize, was launched in May of 2009 in support of a $34-million renovation to the Toronto Reference Library. Part of the renovations will include a Special Collections Centre, which was supported by the gift. In recognition, the centre will bear their names.

"They not only see the significance of the library system as a whole in contributing to Toronto, but also the uniqueness of the library's special collections," Heather Rumball, president of the foundation, said.

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The gift and the fundraising campaign were to support the renovation project specifically, Ms. Rumball explained, and do not affect the library's operating costs, which are facing a cut, as trims to the city budget are debated.

Mr. Baillie said he thinks it's important for the private sector to help support the library, but is concerned about cuts to public funding.

"What I wouldn't want to see is the government decide that they can slack off on funding the libraries and replace it by the private sector," he said.

"I think the private sector does it to make what is already a good system better and if the government were to reduce the funding, they might be discouraging the private sector from supporting the libraries."

Mr. Baillie, the former Chairman and CEO of TD Bank Group and current president of Authors at Harbourfront, has long held an interest in historical collections. He collects Canadian history and travel books from 1850 and earlier.

Mr. Baillie said he thinks the library holds a unique and important role in the city.

"Libraries are a place where the intellectual side of the community can get together," he said. "A sports arena would be for the sports side and this is for the intellectual side."

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The newly named Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre is currently under construction, located on the fifth floor of the reference library on Yonge St. It will include a two-storey rotunda and reading room that will house a 1.9 million-item collection in Canadiana, including historical maps and photos, original manuscripts, first editions, and ephemera.

"They currently are housed in three different areas in the reference library," Ms. Rumball said. "This will bring them all together."

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