City Librarian's Report for September 2018

September 14, 2018 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the September 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. 


Advancing Our Digital Platforms

Two New Innovation Spaces Now Open


North York Central Library Fabrication Studio
Fabrication Studio at North York Central Library

In July, two new Digital Innovation Hubs opened at North York Central Library and Richview branch. Digital Innovation Hubs are dedicated spaces with specialized hardware and software such as iMacs with Adobe Creative Suite, as well as a range of digital equipment and spaces, including recording studios.  TPL’s first Fabrication Studio also opened its doors at North York Central Library with sewing, serger and embroidery machines. Free programs and classes are available at all Digital Innovation Hubs and the Fabrication Studio for everyone to learn how to use the extensive range of software and equipment.

Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

TPL Introduces Land Acknowledgement Statements


Indigenous Advisory Council
TPL's Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC)

On June 20 2018, TPL's Land Acknowledgement statements were officially rolled out across the library system. The purpose of the statements is to acknowledge the host Indigenous nation(s) on whose territory people are gathering as a sign of respect, gratitude and affirmation. It is also a first step in the journey towards reconciliation. This initiative represents one of 42 strategies laid out in TPL's Strategies for Indigenous Initiatives (PDF), our formal response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action (PDF). Making land acknowledgement statements also helps ensure safe and welcoming spaces for Toronto’s Indigenous communities and serves as an awareness building piece for  staff and members of the public.

Land acknowledgement statements are to be made at the start of TPL programs, formal meetings, or events, and include three separate statements depending on the physical location of the branch or TPL building, reflecting the ways in which Indigenous communities are in relationship with the land on which Toronto sits. Information on these land acknowledgement statements is available on the TPL website.

The statements will be a regular feature in TPL's Hours & Locations maps, and will be posted in branches under each branch's open hours signage. Future plans include audio clips for Indigenous words which will be embedded in the statements, as well as video clips of members from TPL's Indigenous Advisory Council speaking about the significance of land acknowledgements, and why it is important to make them.  

Youth Hubs Now Open at Downsview and Flemingdon Park Branches

Two new Youth Hubs opened on September 4 at Flemingdon Park and Downsview branches. Youth Hubs are open year-round, and create a safe space for youth to hang out, play board or video games, participate in programs and get homework help from tutors after school.  The Malvern Youth Hub opened in February 2018 for a total of 11 youth hubs in Toronto Public Library branches.


Our Stories, Our Voices: A Collection of Writing by Adult Literacy Learners

September 8 was International Literacy Day 2018. To commemorate this important day, Adult Literacy Services put together a collection of stories written by learners in the adult literacy program. More than 60 learners submitted their work, reflecting their individual achievements. The booklet is filled with stories of resiliency and renewal. Copies of Our Stories, Our Voices: A Collection of Writing by Adult Literacy Learners are available for circulation and for download (PDF).

Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass Program Extends Into Community

The Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass Program launched a new community outreach extension in July focused on making Toronto’s cultural venues accessible to the City’s most vulnerable individuals and families. With help from the community librarian team, passes are being distributed to clients of such agencies and organizations as Toronto Employment and Social Services, Toronto shelters, Support and Housing Administration and The Spot. Some grateful participants in this expanded initiative have said that it was their first time visiting these venues since being in Canada because the admission fees were out of reach.

Expanding Access to Technology and Training 

Your Library Card Now Gives You Free Access to the New York Times Online

In July, library customers gained access to the New York Times online for free with their library cards. This includes all articles, the Book Review, the Cooking app (for iOS only) and the Magazine although, sadly, not their famous crossword. Customers must sign up for a free account through the TPL website, and library staff have provided instructions on how to access this fantastic resource.

Hip Hop Architecture Camp


Hip Hop Architecture Camp July 20
Participants in the Hip Hop Architecture Camp hanging out on the new staircase at North York Central Library

North York Central Library hosted the Hip Hop Architecture Camp organization from July 16–20. Hip Hop Architecture designed this camp to introduce under-represented youth to architecture, urban planning, social issues and economical development through the lens of hip hop culture. The one-week intensive program focused on creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking and brought in guest speakers to share their unique visions for their communities. Youth were given the opportunity to create physical and digital models as well as write, record and create a music video.


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

Innovation, Technology and Economic Opportunity Forums with the City of Toronto

In July, the City of Toronto convened a group of experts to discuss how technology can be leveraged to advance our economy. Three separate forums were held at TPL branches for business owners to learn about the innovations, technologies and resources available for organizations. Talks focused on what Digital Main Street is, what "going digital" means and quick tips for businesses. Speakers from the City of Toronto Economic Development Committee, MaRS, IBM Canada, Sidewalk Labs Toronto and TPL participated in these well-attended events. The sessions at Scarborough Civic Centre and Richview branches were particularly appreciated, as entrepreneurs cited a need for information, resources and support outside of the city's core.

The library's Small Business Initiatives support and enrich potential entrepreneurs and diverse communities to learn about the Canadian economic and labour market, as well as successful business practices, in a welcoming environment.

DemocracyKit Workshops

Over the summer, DemocracyKit workshops taught participants the workings of political election campaigns and how to drive political change in their communities. These sessions took place at four branches across the city: Barbara Frum, Lillian H. Smith, Richview and S. Walter Stewart and were attended by over 200 participants, though over 27,800 people saw the Facebook events! Community partner DemocracyKit worked with TPL to bring in 14 campaign experts to deliver practical lessons and tools to get started on a campaign team. 

TPL’s First Environmentalist in Residence Program a Success


Janelle Richards
Janelle Richards

TPL’s first Environmentalist in Residence, Janelle Richards, wrapped up her 10-week residency on August 11. During her residency, she worked at two library branches, delivered 20 workshops and events, and conducted consultations. From learning about honey bees to the importance of water, almost 600 people from across the GTA participated in this program and learned more about nature and the environment. Janelle was excellent at sharing what participants could do on a practical level to protect our planet. She has provided a wonderful summary of her experience in her final blog post, Not-So-Final Goodbyes from the EnvIR but More to Come from Our Fragile Planet! and reminded everyone to stay curious, ask questions and to get outside.

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences 

Peace by Chocolate Founder Tareq Hadhad Visits Toronto Reference Library


Tareq Hadhad
Tareq Hadhad

On July 26, Tareq Hadhad, successful newcomer entrepreneur and founder of Peace by Chocolate, made a special appearance at Toronto Reference Library. Through a candid live interview, Tareq described his journey from Syria to Canada and his family business to over 210 attendees. Some came from out of town and many were inspired by Tareq’s positivity and his message of hope. Shortly after his arrival to Canada, Tareq visited his local public library almost daily to improve his language skills and to acquire business knowledge.  He feels the public library is a community place where newcomers can get vital information and support as they settle in their new home.

The event was organized by TPL and the Immigrant Business Café (a meet-up for newcomer entrepreneurs) and it will be aired in a New Canadians TV episode in the fall. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Albion for Youth Town Hall


Justin Trudeau at Albion branch
Justin Trudeau at Albion Branch

On Wednesday June 27, Opportunity for All Youth held a job fair at Albion branch. Five hundred youth ages 16–29 attended and were treated to a special twist – at 2:30pm, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led a town hall meeting to discuss employment issues for youth who were not employed, in education or training. The youth were engaged, asking questions on a variety of topics including how hard it is for young Canadians who are finished school and not employed to find permanent work, and also about the challenges young entrepreneurs face.

Best of all, 200 of the youth in attendance received job offers the following day.

New TD Gallery Exhibit, Pathways: Following the Traces of Indigenous Routes Across Ontario

Pathways exhibit
Pathways exhibit in the TD Gallery

This new exhibit opened on August 18 in the TD Gallery at the Toronto Reference Library. Pathways: Following the Traces of Indigenous Routes Across Ontario represents a collaboration between Library and Archives Canada and TPL, and features historical works from the two collections as well as contemporary art by local Indigenous artists. Pathways focuses on the traditional land and water routes of Ontario, and uses the concept of pathways to trace the history of Indigenous peoples on these lands from pre-contact to the present day.

We recognize that the historical documents on display were created by European settlers, and are representative of the voices and stories that have been privileged in our archival collections. They are displayed with works by contemporary Indigenous artists to offer new ways to look back at our shared past and our new pathways forward.

The creation of Pathways involved extensive consultation with the Indigenous community including Michael D. White, Bear Clan, registered with M’Chigeeng First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, Metis Nation of Ontario, Oasis Skateboard Academy, and includes works by Indigenous artists Chief Lady Bird and Aura, Vanessa Dionne Fletcher and Natasha Naveau. Pathways runs until October 28 with free tours of the exhibit on Tuesdays and Saturdays.


Toronto writes a book

This summer, we invited Toronto to write a story set in the city, one tweet at a time. Every day Torontonians tweeted their lines with #TorontoWritesABook. The social media campaign was well-received and generated extensive media coverage in Toronto, across the country and as far as Paris. Breakfast Television host Winston Sih revealed the final story.

Local authors, personalities and organizations also contributed to the story, including authors Catherine Hernandez, David Bezmozgis and Teresa Toten, The Social's Jess Allen, Global News radio host Matt Gurney and Toronto Star Books Editor Deborah Dundas, Ontario Science Centre, Gardiner Museum and Aga Khan Museum, and the TTC's Brad Ross. 

Read the full story.

Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

North York Central Library Partial Re-Opening

We welcomed back customers to the first three floors of North York Central Library at the July 5 re-opening . This included the Circulation/Browsery department, the Children's Area and Teen Zone on the first floor, the Creation Loft on the second floor and the Language, Literature and Fine Arts department on the third floor. The branch has been busy since the re-opening. Opening dates for the remaining floors will be announced once confirmed.