City Librarian's Report for June 2018

June 8, 2018 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the June 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

Libraries Come Together to Help Entrepreneurs Launch Businesses

Over the coming years, the number of independent freelancers and small business owners is expected to grow significantly. Barriers to resources and information prevent many individuals, including newcomers, from pursuing or achieving entrepreneurial success. In response to this issue, TPL is joining 12 public library systems from across Canada and the U.S., brought together by the Urban Libraries Council (ULC), to explore ways libraries can reach and engage entrepreneurs in their communities. The ULC Libraries and Entrepreneurship Learning Cohort was launched this spring  in Kansas City at an event where participating libraries shared ideas about the increasingly important role entrepreneurs are playing in growing local economies as technology continues to transform the labour market. The initiative will continue in 2018 through digital platforms, staff training webinars and an in-person conference this fall. To further target its small business resources to newcomers, TPL has established a Small Business Work Group, which is launching a new Newcomer Entrepreneur in Residence program, among other initiatives.  

Urban Libraries Council gathering in Kansas City
TPL staff were among those at the ULC event in Kansas City.

Expanding Access to Technology and Training

TPL Participates in International Human Rights Conference

TPL partnered with AccessNow on the May 15 international human rights conference, RightsCon. International digital security trainers from AccessNow spoke at Lillian H. Smith and Parkdale branches on issues at the intersection of internet surveillance, human rights and technology. Both events drew inquisitive audiences interested in TPL's ongoing work on digital privacy advocacy.

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

Inaugural Environmentalist in Residence to Offer Workshops and Consultations

TPL's first-ever Environmentalist in Residence, Janelle Richards, is leading free, engaging programs and hands-on workshops, and offering community consultations at the Albion and Scarborough Civic Centre branches between June 7 and August 11. Richards is a certified teacher and environmental educator in the non-profit sector and has an educational background in wildlife biology. Her Grow it Yourself workshop at Albion builds on the Live Green Toronto Rethink Food initiative and ties into the importance of food security. Her Wild Toronto Unseen program for the Scarborough Civic Centre branch looks at local wildlife, tying into the branch's proximity to the Rouge Valley. The Environmentalist in Residence supports Our Fragile Planet program series and will serve as an industry expert in the area of conservation and sustainability. Special thanks to the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation for supporting these programs.

Janelle Richards
Environmentalist in Residence Janelle Richards. 

Romance Writer in Residence Program Featured on CBC

TPL is seeking an author of romance fiction for a two-month residency this fall. The author will engage with the public 14 hours a week for activities such as readings, workshops and manuscript evaluations. The posting for this position caught the eye of producers at CBC Radio's national show The Current, who featured a segment on the residency on May 14 as part of a larger piece on the romance genre. Library service manager Denise Drabkin was interviewed for the CBC piece, as well as an earlier Quill & Quire article about the residency.  

Learning Circles Help Learners Complete Online Courses

In March and April, four TPL branches piloted Learning Circle programs with 27 customers across the city. Learning Circles are free study groups for people who want to take online classes together and in person. Courses have been selected to meet the interests of local communities and provide opportunities to learn from universities around the world. Customers learned about mindfulness at Dufferin/St. Clair, forensic facial reconstruction at Fairview, sign language at Northern District, and writing resumes and cover letters at York Woods. Learners said that they were taking the courses for personal, professional and health reasons and that learning at the library helped them to complete courses. We heard that the best thing about the Learning Circles was “meeting people from all walks of life and learning from them.” We will continue to offer Learning Circles throughout the year.

Teen Volunteers Host Vote Pop-Up

Cedarbrae branch hosted a Vote Pop-Up on May 4 to provide teens with an opportunity to learn more about the upcoming provincial election on June 7 and to be more civically engaged. TPL partnered with Ryerson University's Democratic Engagement Exchange to train Cedarbrae's Youth Advisory Group (YAG) members to host and facilitate the Pop-Up. YAG members fielded questions from the public about the elections and encouraged other youth to get excited about voting once they turn 18. Goldhawk Park, Jane/Sheppard, Toronto Reference Library and Thorncliffe Park branches will all be hosting Vote Pop-Ups in the weeks leading up to the provincial election. There are plans to roll out more Pop-Ups ahead of the municipal and federal elections coming in 2018 and 2019.

Vote Pop-Up post-it boards
Contributions at a recent Vote Pop-up.

Resilience Experts Discuss Toronto's Future

On May 16th, the Canadian Urban Institute and the City of Toronto's ResilientTO hosted a group of urbanism and placemaking experts in the Atrium of the Toronto Reference Library to discuss what inclusive, climate resilient growth looks like for Toronto. This event was created in partnership with TPL as part of the On Civil Society series. Panelists were Jay Pitter (author, placemaker, city-builder), Graeme Stewart (Principal, ERA Architects/ Founding Director, Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal), Karen Restoule (Co-Founder, Bold Realities), and James Dann (Waterfront Parks Manager, City of Toronto) and the moderator was CBC's Mary Wiens. They discussed the challenges that Toronto will have to face in the near future due to climate change, and how the city can prepare by designing adaptation strategies that include and protect the most vulnerable citizens. To make the conversation inclusive and interactive, audience members were invited to take a seat on stage and present their thoughts on how to build a resilient city.

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences

TPL Customers to Interact with Makers at Annual Festival

This year's Maker Festival, July 7 and 8 at Toronto Reference Library, will include over 100 makers, craftspeople, technologists and hobbyists, providing visitors of all ages the opportunity to engage with local makers and spark their imaginations at the many interactive exhibits and workshops. TPL has partnered with Maker Festival since 2014 to host their marquee event and will also participate as an exhibitor this year with an encore of last year's popular Mixed Reality experience. Admission to the Festival is free. Over 14,000 people attended the Maker Festival at Toronto Reference Library in 2017.

Maker festival
Maker Festival in full swing.

Parkdale Program Includes Augmented Reality Jane's Walk

On May 5, (dis)Placed in Parkdale - Gentrification and Parkdale was presented as part of TPL’s On Civil Society program series. Parkdale branch partnered with the Canadian Film Centre Media Lab and Parkdale Economic Community Development to create the first-ever augmented reality Jane’s Walk experience. One hundred walkers used iPads to see images of how developers and community organizations are re-imagining this neighbourhood and how each vision affects the community at large. Following the walk, 40 people attended a lively panel discussion about gentrification and Parkdale.

Displaced in parkdale panel
The (dis)Placed in Parkdale panel discussed gentrification in the neighbourhood.

Library Celebrates Volunteer Contributions

The library celebrated National Volunteer Week (April 15-21) with a youth volunteer event on May 5 at Toronto Reference Library. More than 60 library volunteers aged 24 or younger came together for an afternoon of fun and food that included a visit by Toronto Argonaut defensive back Matt Black. In 2017, approximately 2,600 volunteers contributed over 73,000 hours to TPL programs. Of those volunteers, more than 70 percent were youth.

Argonaut defensive back Matt Black with youth volunteers
Toronto Argonauts defensive back Matt Black speaks with youth volunteers.

Celebrate Pride

In celebration of Pride Month, we have wrapped the four pillars at Yorkville Branch – home to the library’s LGBT Collection –in rainbow colours. Throughout the month of June, TPL is presenting a festival of Pride programming with events at library branches across the city, including author talks and lectures, book club discussions, film screenings and drag queen storytimes for all ages. We have also compiled a LGBTQ reading list that has been shared widely on social media. The TPL Pride Alliance will once again march in the Pride Parade on Sunday, June 24. Board members are welcome to join!

Staff posing with Pride pillars at Yorkville Branch
TPL staff and supporters pose with the pillars at Yorkville Branch.

Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

Biblio Bash Raises Over $700,000 for the Library

On April 26, the Toronto Reference Library was transformed for the second annual Biblio Bash gala. The TPL Foundation’s annual fundraiser, presented by TD Bank Group, was the most successful event in the Foundation’s history. Money raised through sponsorship, ticket sales, silent auction and onsite donations will help support library programs and services that empower youth in vulnerable neighbourhoods across the city.​​ The sold-out black-tie soirée showcased the 21st-century library and brought together more than 470 philanthropists, city builders, entrepreneurs, arts and culture supporters, donors, business executives, top Canadian authors and fans of TPL.

Toronto Reference Library atrium transformed for Biblio Bash
Toronto Reference Library transformed for Biblio Bash.