City Librarian's Report for April 2018

April 20, 2018 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the April 2018 Toronto Public Library (TPL) 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

TPL Resources for Youth Highlighted During Youth Week Toronto

Youth Week (May 1-7), a collaboration between City of Toronto divisions and agencies, celebrates youth engagement and showcases the abilities, talents and contributions of youth in the areas of civic engagement, recreation, arts and sports in diverse communities across Toronto. At TPL, Youth Week events include a recognition event to honour our youth volunteers, and a concert at the Albion branch showcasing the talents of young and emerging musicians OBUXUM and Kiyoya Amoah, both on May 5. And this year’s edition of The List, the library’s annual booklist of 100 recommended titles for teens, will launch during Youth Week, with copies distributed at City venues, as well as in all library branches and on the Teens portal of the library website. Youth Week provides an opportunity for the library to showcase the resources we offer year-round to meet the needs of Toronto's youth, including:

  • programs on topics such as STEM, financial literacy, creative expression, and wellness
  • Youth Hubs offering after-school programming
  • youth-friendly spaces at library branches across the city.

MAP Program Offers Free Hot Docs Passes in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas

As part of the Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass Program (MAP), customers in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas of the city will be able to sign out Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival passes at 10 TPL branches on two Saturdays, April 14 and 21. Each pass allows a customer six free tickets to select film screenings (maximum two per screening) at the festival, which runs from April 26-May 6. Passes will be available at Albert Campbell, Black Creek, Cedarbrae, Downsview, Evelyn Gregory, Flemingdon Park, Jane/Dundas, Northern Elms, Parkdale and Parliament Street branches.

Internationally Educated Professionals Learn about Library Resources

Thanks to the collaboration between TPL's Multicultural Services Committee, Small Business Work Group, and Equity Diversity Group for Employees, the library made its first appearance at the Internationally Educated Professionals (IEP) Conference & Hiring Expo in March. Professionals from a variety of fields, including accounting, business analysis, data science, human resources, finance and medicine, were pleased to learn about TPL’s Job & Career Help page, job search programs and Book a Librarian service. Over 150 questions were answered and more than 25 library cards were registered onsite. Popular digital resources included Career Cruising, and Scott’s Directories.

T P L staff at the I E P Conference and Hiring Expo for Internationally Educated Professionals
TPL staff at the IEP Conference and Hiring Expo.

Expanding Access to Technology and Training

Digital Learning Tools Help Job Seekers Develop Tech Skills

TPL's latest digital learning tools, designed to introduce learners to the growing IT sector, offer online courses informed by industry experts. Let's Learn Tech, powered by Cisco Networking Academy, is a series of free, interactive courses: 

  1. Introduction to IoT (Internet of Things) explores how the IoT and the digital transformation of business create new value and opportunities.
  2. Introduction to Cybersecurity teaches learners how to protect themselves online and presents career opportunities in cybersecurity.
  3. Linux Unhatched introduces common features and functionality of Linux, a popular open-sourced operating system that is used by many IT professionals.

Let's Learn Tech online courses are most suitable for learners with basic computing skills. For absolute beginners, our program will also offer Get Connected, an introductory course on computing.

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

Our Fragile Planet Program Series Raises Environmental Awareness

This spring, the Our Fragile Planet program series will bring together authors, scientists, gardening experts and other advocates for the environment to raise awareness about the state of our planet and how we can protect it. With the support of the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Our Fragile Planet offers programs, lectures and hands-on workshops on a wide range of topics for people of all ages, all free of charge. Upcoming programs include Food Sustainability with Author Sonia Faruqi, Lowering the Carbon Footprint of Architecture, a number of Inorganic Markets, Gardening programs and dozens more.

Our fragile planet

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences

Youth Paint Vibrant Mural at York Woods Branch

Youth Employment Services (YES) and TPL recently partnered to create a vibrant mural that now adorns the north wall on the second floor of York Woods branch. The project allowed YES clients the opportunity to gain practical work experience in the arts field by working on a meaningful community project. The youths who worked on the project are 18 to 29 years old and currently seeking work experience as a step toward entering the labour force. In addition to beautifying this high-traffic public area, the mural is representative of the vibrant and energetic Jane-Finch community. Staff and customers alike have raved about the mural, which has attracted non-stop compliments and has helped act as a breath of fresh air in an older building that is set to be renovated later this year.

Teens Painting a wall at York Woods Branch

Comic Creators to Meet their Fans at Toronto Reference Library

TPL's annual partnership with the Toronto comic arts community is set to go for the weekend of May 12 and 13. Every year for the past decade, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) has brought about 20,000 comic and graphic novel fans to the Toronto Reference Library (TRL) to meet one of the greatest annual assemblies of comics authors from around the globe, to attend workshops and to mingle with their comic book compatriots. At the TPL table, staff will be showing off the library's ever-burgeoning collection of digital comics and graphic books. Complementing this year's festival, an exhibit created by Library and Archives Canada and presented by TPL in the TD Gallery, Alter Ego (May 12-July 29), will offer a look at some of Canada's best-known comics, including Scott Pilgrim and Captain Canuck, as well as comics created by Nelvana and by pioneering Canadian Superman artist Joe Shuster. A Canadian Superheroes film series will offer a number of screenings in the Hinton Learning Theatre at TRL throughout the exhibit.

Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2016
Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2016 at the Toronto Reference Library

Parkinson's Awareness Advocate to Deliver Annual June Callwood Lecture

The 12th annual June Callwood Lecture on May 7 in the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, will this year feature inaugural Amazing Race Canada winner Tim Hague Sr., who will share the story of how he went from being diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's to becoming one of the foremost international advocates for Parkinson's awareness. Hague will speak about his journey, and his new book, Perseverance.

Tim hague sr Perseverence by tim hague sr

Lecture Series Explores How Canadian Books Have Changed Our Views

Influential, challenging and provocative, this spring's Great Books Lecture Series explores dystopian societies through the lens of some of Canada's most interesting literary creations. Upcoming programs include a look at The Handmaid's Tale as Feminist Dystopia, the evolution of dystopian literature from authoritarian to anarchic and an exploration of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy. The series is made possible through a gift from the Ann Thoburn Fund through the TPL Foundation.

Design a Bookmark Contest Celebrates Art and Kids

The winners of TPL’s popular annual Design a Bookmark contest were announced at an awards ceremony at S. Walter Stewart Branch on the evening of April 11. The contest, which celebrates art and kids, saw about 7,000 entries this year by budding young artists age 13 and younger. A jury consisting of four TPL staff members, joined this year by guest juror children's author/illustrator Ruth Ohi, selected sixteen winners in various age categories. The bookmarks will be printed and distributed at all 100 TPL branches. They will also be made available at select bookstores around the city, including Mabel’s Fables and TYPE Books. Ohi and library board member City Councillor Mary Fragedakis were special guests at the awards ceremony.


Women's Voices Featured through Program and Exhibit

Local art collective Soní&Barnett, funded through the Toronto and Ontario arts councils, worked with nine women from different communities to create narrative accordion books in a weekly program that ran through January and February at Parliament Street branch. Making Voice: Women's Creative Narratives allowed participants to articulate their experiences within the larger global and social context, discovering common ground and fostering mutual respect. Their final pieces and captivating stories, on display at Toronto Reference Library from March 5 to April 5, stand as examples of a new circle of friends built on empathy, courage and resilience. An evening of celebration with the artists and contributors took place on March 27.

Making Voice Meet the Contributors Event at Toronto Reference Library
Making Voice meet the contributors event at Toronto Reference Library on March 27.

TPL Celebrates Asian Heritage Month in May

Asian Heritage Month at TPL will feature more than 60 free events, from tabla performances to film screenings to henna art, at library branches all over the city. Sponsored by TD through the TPL Foundation, the festivities celebrate Asia in all its beauty and diversity.

April Fools Prank Gets Lots of Love

TPL’s social media team shared a fun video on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to mark April Fool's Day. This year's library-related April Fool's prank – the introduction of TPEllen, TPL's new virtual assistant – was met with enthusiasm and laughter from our customers and staff alike. The video received close to 15,000 views, 210 retweets/shares, 600 likes and 60 comments! One of our favourite comments, from Lisa, read: “Had me for the first few seconds. LOVE YOU TPL librarians. Nothing could replace you!”

Storytelling Events at TPL

There have been many interesting storytelling events at TPL recently, summarized here:

With funding from the Multicultural Community Capacity Grant Program and a partnership between TPL, CultureLink, Passages Canada and the Reading Line, a two-day family storytelling festival at Lillian H. Smith branch in mid-February featured stories from cultures and countries from around the world. About 160 attendees gained insights into diverse traditions and values, participated in interactive library storytime sessions and took informative library tours. Telepresence equipment allowed customers at Malvern branch to participate in the festival, which aimed to connect newcomers and the broader community to other cultures in a welcoming environment.

TPL's participation in the 39th annual Toronto Storytelling Festival in March saw the addition of a new initiative, Story Jam, a full day of storytelling events at Toronto Reference Library featuring storytellers from Canada, Holland, South Africa and Turkey, Indigenous creation tales, and storytelling-related activities and vendors. To expand access to Story Jam, a number of the performances, including folktales from around the world and contributions by Indigenous storytellers Ron Evans and Esther Oche, were broadcast live via telepresence to S. Walter Stewart Branch. Other TPL events for the Toronto Storytelling Festival included Storyfire, featuring TPL staff telling their favourite stories at Barbara Frum and High Park branches, and Stories Without Borders, a series of programs at six library branches around the city.

Story Jam at Toronto Reference library photo by Joe Tamko
Storytelling fans thronged the atrium at Toronto Reference Library for Story Jam.

How can storytellers ensure that their audiences are represented accurately and fairly, even when they might not be part of the community they are representing? What forms should stories take? And on what platforms should they be delivered? On March 23, TPL partnered with Ryerson’s Transmedia Zone to present a Storytelling Design Challenge, where over 40 participants hacked, transformed and retold the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, The Ugly Duckling. Participants were given a crash course in Design Thinking and then each randomly assigned a community to keep in mind while they worked in teams led by artists who specialize in storytelling for particular communities, including LGBTQ, the elderly, Indigenous peoples, second-generation Canadians, people with disabilities, people with rare diseases, refugees and newcomers, women, and Maritimers. The day kicked off with librarian Michal Calder reading from Theo van Hoytema's edition of The Ugly Duckling, which is included in the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books. This was followed by a keynote address from Brown Girl Begins director Sharon Lewis. The teams re-imagined the tale as everything from short films, to board and video games, to a puzzle, to a musical. A panel of judges, including TPL director Pam Ryan, awarded prizes for the top three retold stories after a Dragon’s Den-style pitch by each team.

Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Staff Featured in Community Photos

​​Last fall, when Scarborough Centre City Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker sent a photographer around to Scarborough Civic Centre Branch to capture the "vibrant local community," staff didn't quite realize what they were in for. Recently, the (very large!) photos turned up on hoarding around a new parkette that's being developed near the Scarborough Civic Centre.

Scarborough Civic Centre Library Branch staff
TPL staff (l-r) Prashanna Kopalakrishnan, Farzana Islam, Ben Tang and Noor Al-Baiti

Friends of TPL Raise More than $14,000 in Three Days

At their three-day Clearance Sale in March, the Friends of TPL South Chapter had to stop people from joining the line before the sale ended for the day as selection dwindled on March 15 and 16. They also had a sell-out on March 17, but stayed open until 4 p.m. selling posters and the last few remaining books on the tables.​​ In total, they sold more than 35,000 items over three days. At the same time, volunteers in Book Ends at TRL were kept busy, selling about 5,000 items, for a combined total of 40,000 items in three days, bringing in more than $14,000 that will go toward supporting library programs and services. This sets a new record ... during the last Clearance Sale in August of 2017, the Friends sold about 30,000 items, raising $10,000. 

New TPL Print/Copy/Scan System to Provide Easier Access

A pilot program that has been making printing, copying and scanning more accessible for customers at six TPL branches since this past summer is now being rolled out to all 100 TPL branches. The new system allows customers to print from mobile devices when they are in library branches, or remotely from any location with Internet access. In addition to the new enhanced printing processes, all branches will soon offer multifunctional devices (MFDs) equipped to photocopy, print and scan documents. Customers will also be able to add value to online accounts using their library card numbers and credit cards.