Great Ideas and Teamwork Displayed at Inaugural TPL Hackathon

November 28, 2015 | Ab. Velasco

Comments (1)

TPL Hackathon 2015 Group Shot
Some of the 50+ participants, mentors and partners at the library's inaugural hackathon.

The library hosted its first hackathon on November 14 and 15 at Toronto Reference Library in partnership with Open Data Toronto, Open Data Institute of Toronto, and Wellbeing Toronto.

Over two fun and informal days, 50+ participants and mentors worked together to create concepts to improve library service. Participants were asked to align their concepts with the draft priorities of our new strategic plan.

They were asked the following key question:

How can the library make our communities more resilient, more knowledgeable, more connected and more successful?


Hackathon Participants At Work
Hackathon participants hard at work in the Reference Library's Browsery area.

Participants worked with data sets provided by the library and through the City of Toronto Open Data catalogue.

The youngest participant was 12 years old, who registered to get more experience with presenting to an audience. The oldest participant was a 75-year-old retired programmer, who wanted to improve access to library resources.

Teams presented their ideas on Day 2. Library staff, partners and mentors were impressed by the ideas and teamwork demonstrated. You can view videos of the presentations below.

If you're on Twitter, check out @TPL_Bot -- created during the hackathon -- which tweets out real-time searches on the library's website. You can also check out @tpldbot -- also created during the hackthon - which tweets out random items from the library's digital collections. You can read about the creation process for the latter on Alan Harnum's blog.

Big heartfelt thanks from the library to our participants, partners, mentors, our food sponsor Nando’s, and our beverage sponsor Starbucks, for making our first hackathon so much fun. Thanks also to Dundurn Press for donating copies of the All the Libraries colouring book as prizes.

We hope to do another hackathon -- building on feedback and suggestions received from our pilot -- and more open data programs in 2016.

The library is also working to make more of our data available and open. Stay tuned for details!


Best Idea


Sacha Chua won Best Idea for her “Exploring Library Neighbourhoods” concept, which proposed to add a “Visualize” link to search results pages on TPL’s website to map the number of search results by branch. You can read more about her project and process on her blog.


Runner Ups


As regular users of the library’s Digital Innovation Hubs, Tony DeBat and Jennifer Yueh want to see more. They pitched a mobile and travelling version of the Hub that can reach neighbourhoods across the city.


Rob Rohr and his teammates Donna MacLeod, Robert Parke, and Renita Sugida proposed a speech interface to help improve accessibility to the library's catalogue.


Honourable Mentions - The Data Ninjas


Data enthusiasts Pablo Abraham and Bernardo Najilis spent the weekend examining and analyzing the data sets provided by the library. They presented a visualization dashboard of the data and provided feedback on the other types of library data that they would like to see.


Joyce Cheng, Adam Kerr, Michael Lebenbaum, and Tracey Ma spent the weekend learning about the library’s data collection process. They proposed a business intelligence project that would enhance the way the library collects data.


Awesome Team


The library was impressed by the teamwork and organization demonstrated by all our participants. The nine students from Western Technical Commercial High School in Etobicoke stood out for their amazing team work as they developed their Library Hub mobile app concept, which seeks to help promote programs and resources.


Lion Courage Award


12-year-old Alexander Tjioesman signed up for the hackathon with his dad Farius to get more experience with hackathons and with presenting to an audience. He did a great job sharing his project - a 3D modelling app for Android, which you can download and try out. The father and son team has also shared their brainstorming plans for viewing as a pdf.


The Scrubber Award


Web developer and Python programmer Alex Volkov spent his weekend examining and cleaning up a large TPL data set in XML format and converting it into JSON format, which makes it easier to use for programmers. For his goodwill efforts for fellow hackathon participants, Alex was given the Scrubber Award (literally in the form of a dish scrub). 


... And All Our Other Wonderful Teams


Raymond Ang and his teammates proposed a “Human Library” application that would allow library users and the wider community to connect directly with live subject matter experts –- broadening the concept of how information is delivered and shared.


Eleanor Batchelder proposed an interactive query system to improve discover-ability of library resources; a screen that allows users to interact with a computer system that progressively refines the query and presents possible actions.


Selcuk Beydilli, Rayis Imayev, Konstantin Shestopaloff and Kosta Zabashta designed a prototype of a web application that would enhance a library user’s experience with book clubs, including a reporting layer for library staff to help analyze the potential impact of the improved book club experience. Read more about the process on Rayis' blog.


Ian Forrest and Kaitlin Newson proposed integrating the popular GoodReads social platform for book lovers with a library user’s “Your Account” page, in order to improve discoverability of library materials and related programs and events.


Lloyd Gray’s proposed improvements to the library’s website through increased personalization and enhanced search through the use of material and user metadata.


Plato He’s “MyTPL” project proposed to transfer Toronto Public Library -– including its website -- to a reader-involved, interactive, dynamic social learning platform.


TPL Hackathon 2015 Trophies
The Best Idea and Awesome Team trophies were 3D printed at the Digital Innovation Hub at Toronto Reference Library.