City Librarian's Report for December 2017

December 5, 2017 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the December 11, 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. 

Advancing Our Digital Platforms

New Online Account Fully Operational

Within a few months of launching an optional new version of the "Your Account" feature on the Toronto Public Library (TPL) website in March, more than half of our customers opted in, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Based on customer suggestions, a number of bugs have been fixed and increased functionality has been implemented. While the new version is now the default, the old version is still available via a link at the top of the new "Your Account" summary page.

Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

New Short Film Celebrates TPL Youth Services

A new short film highlighting the impact of TPL's youth services and celebrating the work of TPL staff is now available online. The video features youth services librarians, Youth Advisory Group volunteers and young people involved in various library programs, including Youth Hubs, Poetry Saved Our Lives and Young Voices. Created by James Malekzadeh, a young filmmaker and recent graduate of the Ryerson University Film Studies program, the video was made possible through a partnership with the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy, the Neighbourhood Arts Network and City of Toronto divisions. 

New Partnership to Create Dementia-Friendly Communities

A partnership between TPL and the Alzheimer Society Toronto (AST) will see AST offering Dementia-Friendly Communities training to all TPL public service staff over the next three years. AST will also deliver a minimum of 35 public education programs annually at TPL branches around the city. More than 46,000 people with dementia live in Toronto, and this number will increase as the population ages. 

TPL at Homeless Connect Fair

TPL was at the annual Homeless Connect Fair at Ryerson University's Mattamy Athletic Centre on October 29, alongside many organizations that offer information and free services to homeless and marginally housed individuals. It was the busiest year yet for the fair, which started in Toronto in 2014. Staff shared information about TPL programs and services and registered or renewed cards for nearly 60 people.

CBC Documentary Features Community Librarian Program at Work

A poignant CBC short documentary, Secret Path: Freedom to Speak, features the work of TPL librarian Marie Belanger and an organization called Literal Change, a Canadian not-for-profit that provides literacy education to Ontario's incarcerated population. A group of inmates at Toronto South Detention Centre are studying Secret Path, Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel about Chanie Wenjack, a young Anishinaabe boy who died while running away from a residential school in 1966. Many themes in Chanie’s story resonate with the inmates: isolation, identity, fear, anger and the desire for freedom. The documentary captures a discussion within the walls of the jail and reveals how Chanie's story has had a profound impact on each of these incarcerated individuals.

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

Cutting Edge Health Demo at the Library, Via Telepresence

In November, library customers at Cedarbrae and S. Walter Stewart branches connected with the medical team at St. Michael's Hospital to learn how the airline industry has inspired hospital researchers to develop improved patient safety and outcomes. Using Cisco's telepresence technology, library customers were able to ask questions and interact remotely with the St. Michael's team, who were stationed at the hospital. The presentation looked at new innovations in health care, including surgical black boxes that operate like black boxes on airplanes (see video below), allowing surgeons to identify and prevent errors. The free program was presented as part of The Cutting Edge series, supported by the Krembil Foundation.

Toronto Newcomers Career and Settlement Fair

The Newcomers Canada Toronto Career and Settlement Fair, held October 21 at the Metro Convention Centre, brought together 41 exhibitors, including TPL. The busy semi-annual event is set up to help newcomers find work, learn more about the supplemental education they may need to join the Canadian workforce, and get settled in their new country. Representatives from TPL's multicultural services committee, along with members of the library's Equity Diversity Group for Employees, connected with more than 230 newcomers and registered more than 60 new customers for library cards.

Library Services Showcased at City of Toronto Career Day

The Toronto Reference Library hosted the sixth annual City of Toronto Career Information Event on October 26 in the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon. Nearly 1,600 people attended and spoke with staff from over 40 City departments, agencies and commissions. Business, Science & Technology staff highlighted library resources for job seekers and aspiring entrepreneurs, and  staff from Human Resources and Volunteer Services spoke to people about jobs and volunteer opportunities at the library.

TPL at City of Toronto Career Information Event
TPL at City of Toronto Career Information Event

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences

Teen Girls' Book Club Meets the Mayor

When Toronto mayor John Tory had to cancel his visit to the Lillian H. Smith Branch, where he was planning to sit in on a session of the A Room of Your Own teen girls' book club, he invited the entire club to come and visit him at City Hall. The girls told the mayor a bit about the book they were reading, True Born by L.E. Sterling, gave him a copy, and had a conversation about books and what it is like to be Mayor. A Room of Your Own, formed by club facilitator Tanya Marie Lee, gives teen girls ages 13-18 the opportunity to share their curiosity, ambitions, hopes and frustrations with their peers. The club, which meets monthly at Lillian H. Smith Branch, recently also came to the attention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife, Sophie Grégoire, who sent them an inspiring video message about strength, beauty and perseverance.

A Room of Your Own book club members with Mayor John Tory
A Room of Your Own book club members with Mayor John Tory in his office at City Hall.


I Am Canada: Celebrating Canadian Picture Book Art

A new exhibit opened in November in the TD Gallery at Toronto Reference Library. On until January 21, I Am Canada: Celebrating Canadian Picture Book Art, celebrates the work of best-loved Canadian illustrators who bring children's picture books to life. Featuring original picture book art from TPL's Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books and the private collection of Scholastic Canada, the exhibit will be complemented by a number of programs, including drop-in guided tours Tuesdays at 2 pm, a series of I Am Canada Storytimes and Celebrate 60 Years of Scholastic Canada.

Image from Caribou Song  by Brian Deines
Picture book art from Caribou Song, © 2001 Brian Deines

Toronto Reference Library Turns 40

In November, Toronto Reference Library celebrated its 40th anniversary with a series of programs and blog posts featuring collections and highlighting the history and architecture of the building. The activities and accompanying social media generated lively discussions about what TRL has meant to some of our customers.

Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

Partnership to Help Torontonians Upgrade Job Skills

TPL is in the early stages of an exciting partnership that will offer high quality digital literacy and information technology training to Torontonians. Working with Cisco Canada’s non-profit Networking Academy and the City of Toronto’s Employment and Social Services, the library will provide online and in-person IT and business courses to help those aiming to upgrade their job skills, as well as those working to attain professional certification.

Volunteer Toronto Youth Expo

On October 15, TPL staff were on hand at the annual Volunteer Toronto Youth Expo at Ryerson University's Mattamy Athletic Centre. This annual event offers high school students the chance to explore more than 80 non-profit organizations that recruit youth volunteers. We connected with more than 500 youth interested in learning more about TPL’s volunteer opportunities, including Leading to Reading and Youth Advisory Groups.