City Librarian's Report for February 2018

February 16, 2018 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the February 26, 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.

Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

Dance Competition Unites Youth from Across the City

Youth Hub coordinators from Albion, Centennial, Fairview, Maria A. Shchuka and York Woods​ branches ran a six-week dance program this past fall with help from Bucc N Flvr coaches, culminating in a final dance competition at the end of November. The dance competition brought youth from different areas of the city out to Palmerston Branch theatre and showed them that they have more in common than they think. Youth Hubs, which are strategically located in areas where the city has identified the need, were featured in a recent article in the Toronto Star.  


TPL Indigenous Advisory Council Holds Inaugural Meeting

TPL’s Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC) consists of two community members and representatives from the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment and Training and the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. The IAC had its first meeting in December, and agenda items included a presentation of TPL’s strategies for Indigenous Initiatives [PDF], as well as an in-depth discussion of  land acknowledgement statements at TPL. The IAC will meet four times in 2018, with the next meeting scheduled for February. 

MOMs Support Each Other at Brentwood Branch and Beyond

In response to community need, Brentwood Branch staff have developed a program to support moms in the neighbourhood. The Meeting Other Moms (MOMs) group, which first met in January, brings new mothers and community partners together in an inclusive and supportive environment to discuss issues around being a mother of young children. Participants are able to attend in-person or connect remotely using WebEx, allowing mothers who can't make it out to the branch to participate from home, or anywhere that they have Internet access. MOMs meetings have so far attracted 15 participants, including two moms who joined remotely after learning about the group via Facebook. 

Moms and a couple of their kids meet at Brentwood Branch

Expanding Access to Technology and Training

Rotman Students to Explore Digital Inclusion Strategies for Libraries

At the end of January, thanks to efforts by TPL Innovation Council member Ramtin Attar, the library launched a digital inclusion challenge at Autodesk’s new space in the MaRS Discovery District. Fourteen students from the Rotman School of Management, working in two teams, will explore how libraries might enable a digitally inclusive society by designing services, programs and civic engagement opportunities to bridge the digital divide. The Rotman students will tour library spaces and interview staff and customers at the end of February. Their findings and proposed solutions will be presented during their final class on April 9.

Annual TPL Hackathon Moves to Open Data Day

On Open Data Day (March 3), TPL will host a hackathon at the Toronto Reference Library, in partnership with Code Across Toronto 2018 and Civic Tech Toronto. About 100 computer programmers, creative individuals and other civic-minded community members are expected to come together to collaborate on challenges related to the future of work. TPL hackathons in fall 2015 and 2016 were themed after TPL's Strategic Plan and the City of Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy, respectively. 

TPL Customers Learn How to Protect their Privacy Online

Customers were thrilled to see TPL take a leadership role in showcasing the work of key players in the digital security and privacy sector on Data Privacy Day (January 28), as a full house came to Northern District Branch to hear University of Waterloo computer scientist Sukhbir Singh discuss the anonymity tool Tor Browser and showcase the features it uses to safeguard privacy when browsing.

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

Program Updates

TPL's 2017 Entrepreneur in Residence Donovan Dill drew 250 people out to six programs and met one-on-one with 36 budding entrepreneurs, close to half of whom were starting businesses for the first time in Canada.

The most recent session of the Sunday STEM Mini Makers program, which ran from September 2017 to January 2018, drew 3,500 enthusiastic children ages 4-8, and their caregivers. Based on the success of the inaugural summer series, the program has expanded from 13 to 18 branches. A new session of the program, now underway, will run until June, helping children learn STEM concepts through a variety of fun, hands-on maker activities.

With the help of the TPL Foundation and the Friends of TPL, South Chapter, the library offered more than 60 family-fun events across the city during Family Literacy Month in January. Puppet shows, musical performances, STEM activities and more encouraged kids and their caregivers to make a habit of practicing literacy activities year-round. TPL staff created a Family Literacy 2018 booklist to complement the celebrations.

From January to March, TPL's personal finance campaign offers over 80 free programs throughout the city on topics ranging from budgeting, to financial and legal planning, to filing a tax return. And with support from VISA, Torontonians can access even more financial expertise at the library all year long.

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences

New TPL Series to Explore Civil Society

On Civil Society is an idea-based program series that aims to explore Canadian civil society through a variety of lenses, including democracy, media, wellness, urbanism, equality, security and more, in order to further discussion about where we are and where are we headed as a society. The series launches on March 13 at Toronto Reference Library with the "Toronto Star" Washington bureau chief Daniel Dale in conversation with Michael Adams, author of Could it Happen Here: Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit. Other programs in the series, just to name a few, will feature Harvard lecturer Yascha Mounk, author of The Age of Responsibility; Harvard Extension School professor and five-time undefeated "Jeopardy" champion Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise; and former Greek minister of finance Yannis Varfoufakis.

Daniel Dale and Michael Adams
Daniel Dale and Michael Adams kick off On Civil Society on March 13

Freedom to Read Week 

Freedom to Read Week  (February 25 to March 3) is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom. To mark the week, TPL is encouraging customers to check out challenged books in our collections and attend programs:

  • award-winning author and playwright Cordelia Strube on the dangers of censorship in the age of fake news
  • YA author Jillian Tamaki on insights she gained after the 2016 graphic novel she created with her sister Mariko, This One Summer, was challenged in the US

Black History Month

Generously supported by TD, this year's Black History Month celebrations included fun and thought-provoking events all around the city, featuring former Canadian poet laureate George Elliott Clarke, author Robyn Maynard and Bob Marley's granddaughter Donisha Prendergast.

Donisha Prendergast
Donisha Prendergast reflected on the impact of her grandfather, the late Bob Marley, during Black History Month in February.

Winter Olympic Reading

In celebration of the 2018 Winter Olympics, TPL staff have paired books and movies with some of the most popular winter sports. To enhance Toronto's reading and movie-watching experiences during the Olympics, the pairings have been shared in a blog post and are being promoted on social media throughout February. Check it out using the hashtag #TPLLoves.

New TD Gallery Exhibit Illuminates Our City Streets

Toronto Revealed, on until April 22 in the TD Gallery at Toronto Reference Library, provides illuminating views of our city streets, showcasing paintings, drawings and prints of post-war Toronto from TPL's Canadian Documentary Art Collection, including works by Aba Bayefsky, Albert Franck, Brian Harvey, Rebecca Ott and more.

Painting of Honest Eds by Brent Arlitt
Brent Arlitt's work is part of the Toronto Revealed exhibit on until April 22 at the TD Gallery

Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

TPL at the Annual OLA Super Conference

As in previous years, TPL’s contribution to the Ontario Library Association (OLA) Super Conference (January 31 to February 3) was robust, with more than 280 staff attending Canada’s largest library conference. TPL speakers presented at the conference on a wide range of topics, including the open data movement, social media engagement, readers’ advisory and children’s summer services, to name a few. As City Librarian, I am honoured to be the recipient of the OLA's  2018 Les Fowlie Intellectual Freedom Award and would like the thank all TPL staff for making this honour possible through their ongoing dedication to keeping intellectual freedom a reality in this city.

TPL Hosts Gathering of Library Leaders

TPL hosted the final gathering of the current session of the Public Library Leaders (PLL) program, which is a Canadian Urban Libraries Council professional development opportunity. The goal of the program is to contribute to the vitality and success of public libraries and the diverse communities they serve by positioning public library professionals to be proactive, effective voices in the global information environment. Program participants met at the end of January at Toronto Reference Library and Northern District Branch to share information with other library leaders from across the country.

Volunteers Raise $1 Million to Support TPL Literacy Initiatives

The Friends of Toronto Public Library, South Chapter, recently surpassed the $1 million mark in their fundraising efforts in support of TPL literacy-based initiatives such as Kindergarten and Grade 4 Outreach, Young Voices magazine, Middle Years programming and Family Literacy Month. The group raises thousands of dollars annually through the sale of used materials at Book Ends bookstore and special sales events at Toronto Reference Library.