City Librarian's Report for January 2018

January 19, 2018 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the January 29, 2018 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

Library Now Offers More Indie Films, Docs and Classics through Kanopy

Toronto Public Library (TPL) has added Kanopy to its suite of film streaming services, providing access to over 30,000 movies, documentaries and training videos aimed at adult viewers from producers such as PBS, The Great Courses, Media Education Foundation, Cohen Films and more. Kanopy films range from documentaries, indie and foreign films, to must-see classics and blockbusters. Other services available at the library for streaming movies include Hoopla, the Criterion Collection and Overdrive.

Kanopy: Thoughtful Entertainment

Virtual Reference Library Awarded $1.45 Million for Upgrades

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport has awarded TPL $1.45 million for the continued development of the Virtual Reference Library/Bibliotheque de reference virtuelle (VRL/BRV). The VRL/BRV allows users to explore Ontario – present, past and future – through historic photographs, maps, digitized books, videos and blog posts. For 2018, upgrade plans include aligning the VRL/BRV with our special collections digital platform, adding new collaborative user opportunities, increasing French content, delivering community evaluative and user-experience tools, and refreshing our branding.

Increased Access to Might's Directory Online

In 2017, TPL Special Collections and Preservation & Digitization partnered with the Internet Archive to digitize and make available an extensive run of Might’s Greater Toronto City Directory. Now available online are 49 volumes dating from 1910 to 1967. Prior to this, only 19th century and some early 20th century Might’s Directories were available to the public online. The new content fills in many gaps for researchers of local history and genealogists, as most of the directories include an alphabetical index of names and a street section that lists streets alphabetically and shows the resident or business at each address.

Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

Expo Helps Immigrants Grow Their Businesses

At the second annual Immigrant Business Expo at Metro Hall in November, TPL staff registered attendees for library cards and provided information on relevant library business resources. The goal of the Expo is to familiarize new immigrants with the requirements of operating small businesses in Canada and to connect them with government-funded organizations and community services that can help them start and grow their businesses. Mayor John Tory was at the Expo to talk about the positive economic impact of small businesses started by immigrants, as well as their contribution to the social fabric of the city. New Canadians TV interviewed Library Senior Services Specialist Brendon Foster-Algoo about the library’s  role in assisting newcomer business owners through its programs, resources and expert staff assistance.

TPL staff at immigrant business expo
TPL staff met with Immigrant Business Expo attendees

Expanding Access to Technology and Training

Library Partners with City on Smart Cities Challenge

TPL has partnered with the City of Toronto in the federal Smart Cities Challenge. We’re inviting the public to think big and share their smart city ideas for how data and technology can make a meaningful impact on life in Toronto. Through the Smart Cities Challenge, administered by Infrastructure Canada, the City is eligible to compete for $50 million to implement a smart city initiative to help improve the lives of those who live, work and play in the city. Ideas can be submitted through a short survey that is available at all TPL branches, or online. TPL also hosted a Smart Cities Challenge panel discussion at the Toronto Reference Library on January 17.

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

OCAD Students to Attend Library’s On Civil Society Series as Part of Art and Social Justice Program

As part of an agreement between OCAD University and TPL, students who are part of the OCAD non-credit Certificate in Art and Social Justice are being given a unique opportunity to attend TPL programs in our upcoming On Civil Society series, and to have their attendance at and engagement in these programs considered toward one of the five courses in the certificate. Starting in March and running for 18 months, the On Civil Society series will feature events and digital content with writers, thinkers, personalities and politicians. The series will look squarely at some of the biggest and most challenging issues of our time: democracy, the media, urbanism, security, equality, wellness and other issues that are changing in Canada today – and shaping our future.

Survey Confirms Summer Wonder Success

Surveys collected from the 1,600 children and caregivers who participated in Summer Wonder activities throughout July and August 2017 confirm the program's success in activating interest-directed learning. Nearly all the parents reported that they play a crucial role in their children’s learning during the summer, with more than 94 percent indicating that they would explore learning activities with their children outside the library. Nearly 90 percent of children said that they discovered something new, and 96 percent indicated that they wanted to discover more about what they learned. The results of the survey will be used to inform the implementation and expansion of the program for summer 2018.

Summer wonder robot and idea wall

First and Best 2017

TPL unveiled its annual First and Best List, featuring our top picks of the best Canadian children's books for building reading readiness in kids under five. The list, which has been published annually since 2007, is part of the library's Ready for Reading initiative, providing easy, everyday, early literacy support for families with young children.

First and Best books I am Canada and Picture the sky

Our Fragile Planet Programs Explore a Range of Environmental Topics

During the fall season of Our Fragile Planet, close to 1,000 library customers engaged in environmental programs across the city, learning about food sustainability, pipeline politics and de-extinction. Hands-on learning sessions taught attendees how to attract monarch butterflies by growing milkweed, and all Torontonians were invited to bring in their electronic waste for safe disposal through inorganic market events, where nearly 15,000 pounds of electronic materials were collected for safe recycling at branches across the city. Our Fragile Planet is supported by the TD Friends of the Environment and the fall session was Bullfrog Powered with 100 percent green electricity.

Jones Branch customers learn to grow milkweed
Jones Branch customers of all ages learn how to grow milkweed to attract monarch butterflies.

Writer in Residence to Meet with Aspiring Writers

TPL's winter/spring 2018 writer in residence, Ayelet Tsabari, is reviewing manuscripts by aspiring writers and presenting workshops at Toronto Reference Library in February, March and April. Tsabari's prize-winning debut story collection, The Best Place on Earth, has been published internationally to great acclaim and excerpts from her forthcoming memoir in essays have already won a number of magazine awards. She teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies.

Ayelet tsabari

Youth Learn Financial Literacy at the Library

TPL's nine youth hubs each hosted two programs in the fall around financial literacy, generously funded by VISA. Workshops, hosted by Money School Canada, Dinarii and other partners, included budgeting and saving, entrepreneurship, OSAP and more. Feedback indicates that youth found the workshops to be entertaining and engaging and appreciated learning the importance of budgeting and saving money for the future.

Moneyist workshop at York Woods Branch
York Woods hosted the Moneyi$t workshop with Tricia Barry.

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences

Program Series Examines Toronto's Sonic Identity

A trio of programs on the sonic identity and musical history of Toronto kicked off at the end of November with the Toronto Reference Library Arts Department, in partnership with Myseum of Toronto, David Sax and DJ Agile, presenting a lively music program called Sounds of Toronto: The Great Debate. Music industry veteran Eric Alper moderated a debate between two teams of diverse musicians arguing for the definitive Toronto record, and Planet of Sound provided listening stations that allowed patrons to listen to a selection of local vinyl from the library's collection. The second program in the series, When Yonge and Yorkville Were Cool, saw Stuart Henderson, author of Making the Scene, spinning records and talking about Toronto's music scene in the 1960s. And the final program in the series, The Island Connection, brought DJ Agile to the Reference Library to spin some local Caribbean albums and talk to a panel of experts about the rise in Toronto of local Caribbean music, including reggae, dancehall, soca, salsa, calypso, chutney and others.

audience at the Sounds of toronto program
The Sounds of Toronto: The Great Debate at Toronto Reference Library

Canada 150 Programming Draws Thousands

Canada 150 programming at TPL throughout 2017 saw more than 13,000 people attend close to 330 programs. The programs ranged from a high profile speaker series and gallery exhibitions to workshops and storytimes. Some particularly successful examples include:

  • The sesquicentennial-themed TD Summer Reading Club (TDSRC) welcomed almost 38,000 registrants. 
  • Destination Canada, an exhibit in the TD Gallery at Toronto Reference Library presented in partnership with Passages Canada and the Toronto Ward Museum, welcomed more than 3,200 visitors who came to explore our diverse experiences of migration, arrival and finding a place of belonging in Canada from early settlement to present day.
  • Learn to Camp programs, presented by Parks Canada, were offered in 42 branches, with more than 860 people of all ages attending, providing many attendees with their first opportunity to learn about Canada’s green spaces.

In addition to offering our regular Canada 150 programming, we also offered a stream of programming for Resist 150, to respect and support the decision of Indigenous groups who have chosen not to participate in Canada 150 events as an expression of resistance against colonialism.

Families learn to pitch a tent at Albion library
Families learn to pitch a tent at Albion Branch

Authors Share Tricks of the Trade with Youth

Danielle Younge-Ullman, Kean Soo, Vicki Grant and Megan Kearney were among the YA authors who visited the library this past fall to speak with youth about what it takes to be a successful author. Highlights of the series included a visit by Tory Woollcott, who held a cartooning workshop and talked about working as a cartoonist; and Sarah Henstra, who did a reading and talked about the writing and publishing process.

Lit Superstars Coming to the Appel Salon

High profile artists, thinkers and experts are coming to the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon during the first half of 2018, including international superstars like Peter Wholleben, Amy Chua, Rachel Kushner, Marlon James and Teju Cole. Canadian favourites coming this season include award-winning journalist Rachel Giese with her debut book Boy, Kim Thuy discussing her latest novel Vi, and this year's featured guest for the June Callwood Lecture, Parkinson's advocate and winner of the first season of the Amazing Race Canada Tim Hague Sr.

Amy Chua photo by Fadil Berisha
Amy Chua; photo by Fadil Berisha

Neighbourhood Map Illustrates Toronto's Faves for 2017

How would Toronto look decked out in all its favourite reads? We calculated the most-borrowed book for each of nearly two dozen loosely defined neighbourhoods across the city and came up with the map below. We also created top ten lists of the books, ebooks, music and movies that practically everyone seemed to want to borrow from the library this year! Check out our blog post, What Toronto Read, Watched and Listened To in 2017, for all the details. So far, the post has received 5,400 page views. When we polled our social media audience, asking them to guess what some of the popular items were, more than 1,600 of our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram followers responded. The blog post has also received media attention, most notably from the Toronto Star, Quill & Quire and CBC's Here and Now.

Literary map of Toronto

Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

TPL French Language Specialist Awarded Palme Académiques by the République Française

TPL French language senior services specialist Celine Marcoux-Hamade is the recipient of the Palmes Académiques, awarded by the République Française Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale, de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche. The award recognizes Marcoux-Hamade's “remarkable contributions” within the French community and her work in the area of French language services at TPL. She has been named Chevalier of l’Ordre des Palmes académiques for services delivered in the area of French culture. The Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms) is an Order of Chivalry of France for academics and cultural and educational figures. The Emperor Napoléon founded it as as a reward for devotion and accomplishment in the realm of teaching, scholarship and research. It was later extended to include non-French citizens to acknowledge their promotion of French language or a significant achievement in the field of education.

Renovated Humber Summit Branch Reopens

A six-month renovation at Humber Summit is complete and the branch reopened on January 16. Library customers are enjoying increased access, improved service and redesigned and revitalized spaces, including zoned areas for adults, teens and children.

Revitalized St. Clair/Silverthorn Coming in 2020

St. Clair/Silverthorn Branch is currently closed for reconstruction and expansion that will see the space completely redesigned, revitalized and reimagined to improve access and customer service. The branch is expected to reopen in 2020. During the renovation, St. Clair/Silverthorn staff will continue to provide programming at alternate locations in the community. TPL is working with G. Bruce Stratton Architects on the project.

St claire silverthorn rendering
St. Clair/Silverthorn rendering; image courtesy of G. Bruce Stratton Architects