June 2022

Hello,

I wanted to share a few life updates.

After almost 5 years, I have decided to step down from the title of President at Canada Comics Open Library. I will still be helping out behind the scenes with running the website, Canadian Cartoonists Database, and other library projects, admin tasks, as well as remain on the board of directors to stay involved. I will be staying in my role until we have found someone to take over as President.

As no surprise to anyone who knows me, I never wanted to have the title of President and run let alone be a public face of an organization. I am most comfortable hiding at home and communicating through writing and art or one on one and in small groups. I really wanted this library project to exist, so I took on this role and dove into the bureaucratic and psychological nightmare that is starting a non-profit arts organization and library from the beginning in a city like Toronto, especially as an often feminine presenting person. Despite the odds, and with the help of board members, friends, and inspiring and kind people in the comics community and Toronto, we built a really unique comics library. You can read more about the goals of the project over here, view our catalogue over here, and browse our website resources over here.

This was a terrifying 5 years with many heartbreaks and infuriating experiences that hurt, but it also helped me learn so much and ultimately gain insight into challenges within the comics industry and its peripheries for cartoonists and small arts organizations. I was able to meet and work with really great people, and I was lucky to witness beautiful events and projects coming together.

I am thankful now that I was so naive when I started CCOL, or I would have never taken this on. That the comics library exists now and that we have been able to run comics workshops, projects, panels, and share really wonderful work by many talented creators for several years, feels like a dream to me. I know how beautiful this project can become. I want to continue to see it grow for a long time, and I am sure that the comics library will be able to exist on its own without me leading it in the future.

Jordan Reg. Aelick, who has been a board member, artist in residence, and enthusiastic supporter of the comics library right from the beginning, and I’m lucky to call a friend, has been helping out as the Comics Library Manager for the past year and has honestly helped me through this year in general. I have met few people as passionate about comics and community as Jordan is, not to mention as kind.  I feel so lucky to have met him at the Toronto Zine Library many moons ago when we were both volunteers there and I had just started making zines again. 

This decision has been a long time in my mind and heart, as I moved across the country with my partner Brandon, as the pandemic continues, and as burnout took over much of my life for a long time as well as coping with illness. 

In January, I started a full-time position as a law librarian at a non-profit in BC, which has also factored into this decision and pushed me to accept that I can no longer take this CCOL role long-term without continuing to compromise my health and what CCOL needs to grow.

I want to thank you for your continued support, no matter how you were able to show support, and also encourage you to continue showing support to the comics library if you believe in this project. Sharing our resources, telling friends about the project, attending events, and all the words of encouragement – it means so much to me. 

Our biggest barrier right now is that without the continued means to pay rent in the future, insurance, and to eventually (hopefully soon) pay a staff member, there is only so much we can do to help the project grow. We have been very privileged to receive many project grants to work with creators. But operating grants are a constant uphill struggle for small arts organizations and non-profits; for example, organizations are expected to have at least $75,000 in revenues for the last completed year and in projected revenues for the future- just in order to qualify for most operating grants. And yet, we need to operate to receive project grants and exist as a community space. 

If you are looking for a way to support the comics library now, we have quietly opened an online store and will be slowly adding more designs and products, which would be a great way to support us and get a nice token of thanks in return 🙂 We also have a Patreon and accept regular Paypal donations on our website. Once we are able to reopen to the public, we will start to take cash donations again at the library.

Growing up without money and living paycheque to paycheque throughout my entire post-secondary education (and now), I think has hindered my ability to ask people for money and ask for help. I know many artists and community members who support and have (or could) benefit from the comics library aren’t able to financially support the project even though they want to. I am not a business person, and I have done my best, but we do need help with fundraising and continued support. We are getting closer and closer to being able to lend out the collection and reopen (currently adding barcodes and call numbers for circulation). I see so much potential in what the comics library can grow to become, if money weren’t such a barrier, that it hurts.

If you know anyone who is great at fundraising and has experience working in the comics community or arts non-profits, and has views and experiences that align with our library goals, please do let me know! ( rotemd@canadacomicsol.org ) We currently have a board position open for Grants and Fundraising Officer and President, and are hoping for a few more board members to join us. We’ll be sharing more info about the President role soon. These past few years have been really challenging on a personal level for many of CCOL’s board members, and it has been tough having to close down during the pandemic. We need more help, energy, and additional perspectives. These are all volunteer positions for now, including the President role, and will be tailored to what people have the capacity to contribute given these difficult limitations and difficult times we’re living in. I’ll be posting something on CCOL’s social media and blog about this in the near future.

Other life updates: I still stay up too late drawing comics for my brain and heart. Still turning to comics to help me get through these days. Trying not to use Instagram as often. Working on an ongoing comics project I’m very excited about but will be incredibly difficult, that I wish I had more time for. Still thankful for pen pals, and hopelessly late at responding to snail mail, though your letters sit beside me at my drawing table as talismans that give me hope and encourage me to keep going.

Wishing you well during this terrifying year.

Ro

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