City Librarian's Report for October 2018

October 17, 2018 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the October 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

Borrowing History Now Available 

Borrowing History Image

TPL customers now have the option to keep a record of what they have borrowed from the library. Customers who choose to opt in to borrowing history will be able to view a list of the physical books, audiobooks, DVDs and CDs they have borrowed, using their online account. Besides being a handy list, borrowing history allows customers to view detailed information about items, place holds and add titles to their saved lists. This feature has been one of TPL's most commonly requested account enhancements, and had a successful launch with more than 21,000 customers opting in to date. 

Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

TPL Develops Voter Awareness Tool 

TPL developed Know Your Vote T.O.  to help prepare the public for voting in the October 22 municipal election in two ways: an interactive website and a series of events in library branches across Toronto. The website allowed voters to learn about City Council candidates, find out their positions on big issues facing their neighbourhoods and the city, and learn more about how decisions are made in Toronto. The events gave residents the opportunity to meet the City Council candidates and learn more about issues to consider when casting their ballots. Know Your Vote T.O. is one of the ways that TPL is expanding the ways we support engaged citizenship in our city. This project is funded by the Toronto Public Library Foundation.

Expanding Access to Technology and Training 

TPL's First Digital Privacy Expo a Success

TPL hosted its first Digital Privacy Expo on September 22 at North York Central Library. It was a day with industry experts, academic researchers and digital activists engaging customers with thought-provoking discussions on privacy technology, privacy law, malware, and the various options people have for operating safely online. Over 150 attendees heard from the Digital Justice Lab, Tor Project, Copperhead Security, and the University of Toronto's CitizenLab. Participants also enjoyed hands-on demonstrations of privacy technology courtesy of our staff. Response from staff, speakers and library users was overwhelmingly positive, and reinforces TPL's commitment to help the diverse Toronto community in navigating digital spaces effectively, as well as meeting their informational needs in a rapidly-evolving digital landscape.

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

2018 Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence

Nahid Kazemi
Nahid Kazemi

Nahid Kazemi will be the Illustrator in Residence at Northern District branch this fall. Nahid Kazemi has a BA and MA in Visual Arts from the Art University of Tehran, and has taught drawing, illustration and graphic design at the University of Sooreh in Iran. She has illustrated 60 books for children and adults, and has been published around the world. During her residency, Nahid will present art activities for school children at the library, lead evening workshops for adults and teens, make presentations to art students in high schools and colleges, and offer portfolio reviews. All of the Illustrator in Residence programs are free.

TPL's Innovator in Residence Program Back for Fall 2018

Amanda Michael and Tess
Amanda Cupido, Michael Chambers and Tess Jewell

Three Digital Innovation Hubs will offer Innovator in Residence programs from October 1 to December 9, bringing in professionals to deliver free classes, workshops and one-on-one appointments in their areas of expertise, using equipment available in the hubs.

At Toronto Reference Library Amanda Cupido will be the Innovator for podcasting. Amanda is an award-winning podcast producer and the author of Let's Talk Podcasting: The Essential Guide to Doing it Right. She teaches audio storytelling at Seneca College's School of Media and developing course curriculum on journalistic podcasting.

Richview branch will host multi-instrumentalist, music producer, and audio engineer Michael Chambers. He is also a composer and recording artist, renowned for creating bold and innovative post-rock inspired electronic music under the monikers moon:and:6 and SØLYS.

Taking advantage of TPL's first Fabrication Studio, North York Central Library's Innovator will be Tess Jewell, a long-time craftsperson and performer who has been making costumes for cosplay and belly dance since 2011. She will be focusing on textiles and costume creation.

All of the classes are free and require registration. 

New Elders in Residence Program Starts This Fall

TPL is hosting its first Elders in Residence this fall. The program runs from September 24 to December 6, 2018 at North York Central Library, Parliament Street branch, Mount Dennis branch, Dawes Road branch and Toronto Reference Library. Elders Frances Whiskeychan and Patrick Etherington will be delivering a variety of programs, meeting with the public one-on-one to provide culturally informed support and guidance and creating space for Indigenous literacies within the library. They’ll be meeting with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of the community and leading talks and workshops.

Entrepreneur in Residence Program Expands to Three Locations this Fall

Entrepreneurs in Residence
Victoria Alleyne, Iqbal Khan and Nesh Pillay

This fall, the Entrepreneur in Residence program has been expanded to three locations. Successful at Toronto Reference Library since its inception in 2013, this year two Newcomer Entrepreneur in Residence programs will be run at the Agincourt and Albion branches in Scarborough and Etobicoke respectively. The Newcomer Entrepreneur in Residence program has been developed to support diverse communities by providing information, personalized support, and opportunities for skill development to newcomers aspiring to start new businesses. All three Entrepreneurs will be running workshops, hosting discussions and providing one-on-one appointments. Find out more about our Entrepreneurs Victoria Alleyne, Iqbal Khan and Nesh Pillay.

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences 

TPL Hosts Booth at Fan Expo Canada

TPL Staff at FanExpo
Staff dressed up as characters from Westworld to talk about the library with attendees.

TPL attended Fan Expo Canada on four jam-packed days during the Labour Day weekend. Fan Expo is the largest comics, sci-fi, horror, anime and gaming event in Canada and the third largest pop culture event in North America. TPL staff, dressed in cosplay, promoted library services, programs and collections to convention-goers, demonstrated the 3D printer and shared information about the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy and the TD Gallery. In total, they spoke to over 3,000 people from across Toronto! 

TPL at The Word on the Street Festival


On Saturday, September 22, TPL hosted three discussions On Civil Society at The Word On The Street Festival. Over 200 people attended, asking great questions and engaging in thoughtful conversations. After the talks, there was a lively reception for attendees and panelists.

On Sunday September 23, staff at the main booth answered questions about library programs and services and registered more than 200 new library customers. TPL's new bookmobile was also on hand at the Festival, opening its doors to the public for the first time.

Culture Days at the Library

This year, over 35 branches participated in Culture Days, a nation-wide weekend event in September celebrating arts and culture. In partnership with Ontario Culture Days and the Neighbourhood Arts Network, artists and art groups of different artistic disciplines and cultural traditions take their practice out of their private studios into the accessible spaces of library branches so that the public can discover and engage with their work.

With 40 free programs across the city, Torontonians of all ages had a variety of activities to choose from such as Bolly-Hop dance lessons, Newcomer story collecting (yes, collecting), mask making and more. Since 2011, more than 10,000 people have attended a Culture Days program at TPL.

Toronto Book Awards


The City of Toronto and TPL have partnered to pick the winner of the Toronto Book Awards, which was established to "honour books of literary merit that are evocative of Toronto." The winner, Brother by David Chariandy was announced on October 10th at the Toronto Reference Library. The winner of the award receives $10,000 and each shortlisted finalist will receive $1,000. The list of all shortlisted and longlisted titles for 2018 is available on the Toronto Book Awards website. The awards are in their 44th year.

Reelworld Film Festival Virtual Reality Pop-Up

For the second year in a row, TPL partnered with the Reelworld Film Festival to present a virtual reality (VR) pop-up screening of 360-degree films at the Toronto Reference Library. The VR films were a featured part of the Festival and will took place on Friday, October 12th as an extension of the Festival's Industry Panel discussions held in the Atrium. The Festival curated the VR films and experience to spark conversation and inspire social change. Reelworld also provided full Festival passes for distribution through the Sun Life Financial Museum and Arts Pass program.

Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

TPL Receives Special Achievement Award from Heritage Toronto

TPL is  honoured to receive the 2018 Special Achievement Award presented by Heritage Toronto. In a press release (PDF), Heritage Toronto said “Presented by the Heritage Toronto Board of Directors, the Special Achievement Award celebrates exceptional contributions by individuals or organizations to the preservation and education of Toronto’s heritage. Toronto Public Library's continuing investment in its landmark architecture and new facilities has transformed Toronto's built fabric and enriched community life.” Among the branches noted for their architecture and heritage conservation are Bloor/Gladstone, Fort York and Scarborough Civic Centre. Heritage Toronto will present the award at an event on October 29, 2018.