A blog from the Southern Ontario Library Service

Five Reasons To Organize a TEDx Event at Your Library

Co-Author: Andrea Cecchetto

Images: Adam Tonon

“Why not?” Those are the words that inspired us to apply for a TEDx license.

We were brainstorming a list of learning opportunities with the goal of helping our team develop their digital competencies, and were drawn by the way TEDx speakers always seem to know exactly how to inspire and build excitement for new technology (other ideas that have since helped us advance our goal include a series of lunch-and-learns, our first staff conference, and a digital artist-in-residence program). TEDxMarkhamPublicLibrary was by nature a community event, drawing folks from across the GTA and even a few from below Bloor Street to help make the show a great success.

Every TEDx event has a theme, and ours was “Spark!” A spark starts small, but quickly grows into a powerful and transformative force. Here are a few sparks that we hope will grow into the next TEDx library event in Southern Ontario.


The community came out for TEDxMarkhamPublicLibrary on November 13, 2015, at the Markham Village Library.

TEDx events help reinforce your library’s role as a community hub. We connect people and help them learn from each other’s personal experiences – not just from traditional sources of information. When we began receiving speaker applications, we were in awe of the incredible talent and passion they demonstrated. They all wanted to share their stories, and in doing so, make a stronger and better connected society. A TEDx event is a platform for these ideas, and can only make your community a better place to live.


Our speakers join the TEDx Community. Clockwise from top left: Brian Lau, Trish Lamanna, Dr. Julielynn Wong, Sandy Cardy, Paul Mortfield, Angelique Mendiola, Sarayu Chityala, Dr. Bill Cameron

TEDx events connect issues of global interest and community-level experience. TEDx speakers showcase topics that are not only locally relevant but also speak to how the community experiences wider issues. Our speakers talked about issues in medicine, technology, art, the environment, and morality – issues that affect us on a global scale – in the context of work community members were doing locally in Markham. TEDx also allows community members to contribute to a broader body of human knowledge and creativity. TED is a globally recognized brand that draws speakers together from around the world, and our community members were eager to contribute to this tradition. By hosting a TEDx event we had the opportunity to connect MPL to a broader exchange of ideas through the TED brand.


Two TEDxMarkhamPublicLibrary organizers rejoicing in TEDx glory. From Left: Agnieszka Gorgon and Pam Saliba

A TEDx event is a great opportunity to bring together staff who don’t always work together, and to get them involved in a community event. Our event was staffed by MPL-ers who were able to contribute their talents where we needed them. For example, we recruited from within our regular staff a bartender, photographer, and DJ. We also had staff contribute by managing volunteers, organizing event logistics, and supervising on-site child care. TEDx has immediate brand recognition and staff were eager to be part of this event. In fact, almost 25% of our audience were staff members. Engaging them in such learning experiences is not only important for morale and engagement, but also for creating library advocates. We know word-of-mouth and trusted recommendations from friends and neighbours are among the most effective marketing strategies to raise awareness of the library. By engaging staff with this event, they can become proud champions for the library and build awareness of our mission.


Brazilian samba trio Dance Migration opens the event. Quote from audience member: “Library programs sure have changed!”

The most common sentiment expressed by attendees was surprise at what they found in the library: samba dancers, an astronomer, a pyromancer, two doctors (one an ethicist, the other a 3D-printing space MD), a spoken word artist, djembe drummers, and someone who is trying to speak to plants. With our library’s mandate shifting from content consumption to content creation, we curated speakers who could spark our imaginations and teach us about creative technology. We ensured that our event was accessible to specialists and newbies alike, and in doing so, made some progress in shifting public perception of the library towards something more than a book repository.


TEDxMarkhamPublicLibrary custom Lego Minifigures “surprised and delighted” attendees, and added to the fun.

Finally, TEDx events are FUN! The evening was a celebration of our community’s most inspiring thinkers. Our staff and volunteers took pride in hosting the event, and our attendees enjoyed an exciting evening of social learning. One TEDx license requirement is to “surprise and delight” the audience. We sought creative opportunities to do this by serving awesome food, creating our own custom Lego Minifigures in the loot bags, and surprising guests with moving musical and dance performances. We sought as many opportunities as possible to create a celebratory vibe for this event. Seeing the results of our planning and being able to participate in the excitement of the evening was an incredible time for staff, and will be for your team as well!

Want to hear more about Markham Public Library and our TEDx event? Check us out at OLA Super Conference 2016! Also, TEDxMarkhamPublicLibrary videos will be online soon. Follow us on Twitter (@MarkhamLibrary) and Facebook (/MarkhamLibrary), or visit TEDxMarkhamPublicLibrary.com for details.