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When I lived in Toulouse, I’d bike by the library every day on my ride along the Canal du Midi to French class at the Alliance Française. From my grade-school French classes, I’d learned that the word for “library” in French was bibliothèque (librarie means “bookstore”); however, in Toulouse I learned that bibliothèque in general referred to the university libraries, which Toulouse has plenty of, since it’s a university town (that’s one of the reasons why I quickly fell in love with Toulouse – it reminded me of my hometown hood, the Annex). The three-storey city library – I should call it the grand library – in Toulouse is known as the médiathèque, and a multimedia mecca it is.

Toulouse’s Médiathèque de José Cabanis dazzled me with such novelties as private viewing stations and music centres (where you could actually play the library’s own instruments!). I borrowed my friend’s library card and would go to the Médiathèque after school with some classmates. We’d check out a DVD, pile into our cosy club chairs, put on the provided headphones and watch a flick in French with French subtitles. It was scads of fun, and I was wholly impressed a public library was equipped with such entertainment. Toulouse even had a separate petit médiathèque devoted to CDs!

So when I returned to Toronto, I was excited to discover we had our own médiathèque, the NFB Mediatheque, in the heart of the Entertainment District. Opened in 2002, the NFB Mediatheque is run by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). As the country’s public film producer and distributor, NFB produces docs as well as animated and dramatic films and shorts – all from a Canadian perspective. And sure, you can watch hundreds of NFB films for free online and in the comfort of your own home, but if you’ve access to the Toronto Mediatheque (or the Montreal CineRobotheque) and its digital viewing stations, I say pay a visit and watch some of the 6,000-plus films on-site.

The Mediatheque even presents free screenings, and the cost for special events is minimal at only $5. I’m heading to one tonight, Waking the Green Tiger. Winner of the 2011 Best Canadian Feature Film Award at Toronto’s Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival, Waking the Green Tiger is a documentary about a campaign to stop a huge dam in southwestern China. After the screening, there’s a Q&A with director Gary Marcuse (via Skype) and WWF Canada communications specialist Weiwei Su. The discussion (or will that be socializing?) will then move north one building, to the Friar & Firkin
(160 John St.). C’mon, you know you want to join in on the discussion!

The Upper Yangtze River in southwestern China, from the documentary Waking the Green Tiger.

What: NFB Mediatheque
Where: 150 John St., Toronto, Ont.; 416-973-3012
When: Tuesday to Sunday
Cost: Digital viewing stations and some screenings, free; workshops and some screenings, $5


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