City Librarian's Report for October 2017

October 11, 2017 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the October 23, 2017 Toronto Public Library Board meeting, summarizing key activities in support of the priorities outlined in our strategic plan. This report covers items that are not part of the Board agenda package. 

Expanding Access to Technology and Training

Library Tech Showcased at Word on the Street

TPL had a prominent presence at Word on the Street on September 24. Our booth focused on digital services and collections, including downloadable content, Asquith Press, Digital Innovation Hubs, Pop-Up Learning Labs and enhanced Learning Centres. Virtual Reality (VR) demonstrations were a big draw to passing children and some brave parents who were experiencing the technology for the first time. Adult literacy and children’s services were also on hand, as was the TPL bookmobile.

TPL Staff with Mayor Tory
TPL staff with Mayor Tory at Word on the Street 2017.

Hotspot Loans Extend Access to Digital Resources

TPL’s wifi hotspot lending program is expanding this fall to provide more than 500 devices to library customers who may not have access to the internet or readily available wifi networks. Seven additional branches are joining the pilot, bringing the total to 12. In addition, a small number of units will be available at two Toronto Employment and Social Services locations and at bookmobile stops in City-designated Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. Participants in the program borrow wifi hotspots with unlimited data plans for six months.​The program is made possible by a donation from and Rogers, and Poverty Reduction Strategy funding from the City of Toronto.


TPL was at the  TAVES Consumer Electronics Show from October 13-15 at the Toronto Congress Centre, demonstrating our cutting-edge tech products and raising awareness of TPL tech-related workshops, speaker events and other programs. TAVES is billed as North America's ultimate technology and hi-fi show. 

TPL Partners with Reelworld to Inspire Social Change

TPL partnered with the Reelworld Film Festival (October 1-15)  to deliver an expanded program of events, including a panel of talks from industry professionals and filmmakers, and a Virtual Reality Film Screening and Video Game Pop-Up, both at the Toronto Reference Library. Reelworld curated the featured films and video games and generously provided 600 free tickets to select festival screenings, through the MAP program at Neighbourhood Improvement Area branches. Short films screened at the event included Born Into Exile, Disturbed and The Protectors.

TPL Talks Digital Privacy at Access 2017

The library’s digital privacy project leader, Jonathan Hodge, spoke at the Access 2017 conference in Saskatoon on September 28, highlighting TPL’s work teaching the public and staff about digital privacy and security. Our educational workshops and public events have been well attended and continue to be in demand.

Establishing TPL as Toronto's Centre for Continuous and Self-Directed Learning

Leap Into Literacy Program Wins Innovation Award

At the 2017 Urban Libraries Council (ULC) Annual Forum in October, TPL received an Innovation Award for our new Leap Into Literacy: Navigate the World Confidently program. Developed and implemented in partnership with Community Living Toronto, the program aims to develop the literacy skills of adults with intellectual disabilities, enabling them to navigate their world more independently and confidently. With content that is flexible and modified according to the group’s literacy levels and challenges, the 10-week program offers TPL an opportunity to support this often marginalized population and give them the tools they need to develop literacy skills throughout their lives.

“Make a Will” Programs Offered in Partnership with Ontario Bar Association

November is Make a Will Month and TPL has teamed up with the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) to bring lawyers to approximately 30 library branches across the city to present Make a Will programs. OBA members who have expertise in wills and estate law will speak about the need for a will, potential consequences of not having one and the importance of arranging for powers of attorney. The library is also partnering with CPA Canada to present a series of estate planning programs that will complement the Make a Will programs.

2017 Entrepreneur in Residence

This fall, the library’s 2017 Entrepreneur in Residence, Donovan Dill, will host six entrepreneurial programs at four library branches and meet one-on-one with aspiring and current entrepreneurs. As owner of S.E.E. Promotions, an event marketing company, Dill assists clients in developing and executing business plans. He is a strong supporter of youth entrepreneurship and was Youth Entrepreneurship Manager at Centennial College's Centre of Entrepreneurship from 2014 to 2016.

Donavan Dill
Donovan Dill, Entrepreneur in Residence

Summer Wonder Success 

More than 1,600 children ages 6-12 and their caregivers attended Summer Wonder programs at six library branches this summer, participating in fun learning opportunities that helped combat the “summer slide” children experience when they are not in formal school settings. Many families returned week after week, giving library staff a chance to connect with customers in a way that doesn’t often happen during the school year. 

Illustrator in Residence Shares Expertise/Experience

Illustrator in Residence Ashley Barron
presents workshops, art activities and portfolio reviews for adults, teens and children throughout October. Barron, who is based at Northern District Branch for the residency, is a multimedia artist whose delightful paper collage work is featured in Kyle Goes Alone, Up and other children’s books. The annual Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence Program, presented in partnership with IBBY Canada, the Canadian Urban Libraries Council and the Young family, offers a published children’s book illustrator a month-long residency in a Canadian public library.

Ashley Barron
Ashley Barron, Illustrator in Residence

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences

Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara Live at Bloor/Gladstone

Jeremy Gara (Arcade Fire) brings his ambient electronic solo music to the Bloor/Gladstone Branch on November 2, with support from rapper Emay. Best known as drummer and multi-instrumentalist for Arcade Fire, Gara released his solo album Limn in 2016. On the bill with Gara is Emay, a Hamilton-based rapper who creates thought-provoking hip hop that focuses on politics, philosophy and religion. Presented with Wavelength Music.

Nuit Blanche Returns to Toronto Reference Library

After a brief hiatus, Nuit Blanche returned to Toronto Reference Library with a short film, presented by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, on the counter-protests in Toronto against anti-Muslim voices. Anti-Muslim Protest Goes Bust played on a continuous loop from 6 p.m. on September 30 until 7 a.m. on October 1. The filmmakers were on hand to talk about their experience making the film.

Young Voices Fall Initiatives

Fall is a busy time for young creators at the library. The annual Young Voices Writers Conference gives Toronto teens an opportunity to get motivated at a full day of workshops led by professionals, learning new skills, participating in an open mic and getting published in an Instant Anthology. The Conference comes on the heels of the October 12 launch of the 2017 issue of Young Voices magazine [PDF], which arrives in TPL branches at the end of October. The magazine gives Toronto teens ages 12-19 the opportunity to have their creative writing and visual art showcased in a professional-quality literary magazine. And throughout October and November, the Young Voices Comic Artist in Residence, comic maker Tory Woollcott, meets with young Toronto creators to share her expertise about making and publishing comics. The library’s suite of Young Voices initiatives offers year-round opportunities for teens to improve skills, meet mentors and learn more about creative expression.

Young voices 2017 cover art
Young Voices 2017 Cover Art

Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

Krembil Donation Supports Consumer Health Awareness

Through a generous donation of $225,000 and a three-year commitment from Krembil Foundation, TPL has developed a multi-pronged approach to increasing access and awareness of consumer health through cutting edge programming. Launched in 2015, The Cutting Edge is a combination of curated and enhanced health collections; an annual lecture series with the latest thinking from global leaders on key health and technology issues; and innovative staff training around health literacy and related resources to better respond to the needs of library users. Thanks to Krembil Foundation’s outstanding support, Torontonians have free, public access to the best and most up-to-date sources of health and technology-related information at TPL.

Libraries for Peace

TPL staff who attended a training session, Libraries for Peace: Inclusive Services, Transforming Communities, in September were given a range of strategies and tools to promote libraries and library staff as peace builders; providers of information to refugees and asylum seekers as they resettle and integrate; community anchors; and catalysts for social transformation. Dr. Clara Chu, Director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs, led the session, providing highlights of several projects that strengthen international ties among libraries and librarians worldwide for the promotion of international education, understanding and peace.

Library Live-Streams Discussions about Racism and Discrimination

On September 26 and 27, TPL participated via live-stream in discussions at the Art Gallery of Ontario about  issues surrounding racism and discrimination. Brought together by an Institute for Canadian Citizenship initiative called 6 Degrees, engaged authors, activists, artists and academics discussed the issues using three key themes as jumping-off points: walls, bridges and homes. Customers at Albion, Cedarbrae and York Woods library branches and Toronto Reference Library were able to participate in discussions featuring novelist Margaret Atwood; former Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard; Indigenous commentator Niigan Sinclair; Syrian refugee Ahmad Danny Ramadan; and Cree artist Kent Monkman.

Treasures Book Sale Hits Record High Sales

The Friends of TPL, South Chapter hit a record high in sales at the biannual three-day Treasures Sale in September. In spite of lower attendance than in previous years, the sale raised $19,500, up about $1,000 from the 2015 sale. The sale happens every other year at the Toronto Reference Library and features first editions, author-signed books, unusual book sets, antique books and rare or out-of-print books.

Treasure book sale items
A few items sold at the Treasures Book Sale