City Librarian's Report for December 2018

November 29, 2018 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the December 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

#TOpicks: Library Staff Share Their Interests and Recommendations on Twitter

  TOpicks avatars

TOpicks is a new pilot project in collaboration with TPL’s Readers’ Services Committee and Innovation Incubator. This project seeks to connect staff with users who share similar interests on Twitter and other online communities. Four staff members are taking part: @TPLBRNDN, @TPLChristie, @TPLMaggie and @TPLWendy. Everyone is invited to join the conversation on books, movies, magazines and other forms of media using the hashtag #TOpicks.


Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

Marvellous Grounds Book Launch

Marvellous grounds

On October 23, Toronto Reference Library hosted a launch event for Marvellous Grounds: Queer of Colour Histories of Toronto, which looks at the experiences of the QTBIPOC (queer and trans people who are Black, Indigenous, or of colour) community and their history of community organization and activism. The event drew an intergenerational audience of 128 people, including many younger adults. This event is an example of the expanded programming offered for the younger adult demographic. Other events included career exploration talks, practical life skills workshops and classes on crafts and hobbies. While targeted to younger adult interests and needs, these programs bring different ages together in a harmonious way, showing the important connections between younger adult and adult services.

TPL at Homeless Connect Fair

Staff at Homless Connect Fair
TPL staff at the Homeless Connect Fair with Councillor Krystin Wong-Tam

TPL was at the annual Homeless Connect Fair at Ryerson University's Mattamy Athletic Centre on October 28, alongside many organizations that offer information and free services to homeless and marginally housed individuals. This year, staff increased the onsite services offered at the event. These services included card registrations and renewals, general information and resources for access to community supports, and helping attendees connect to further online resources, programs and services. Building on last year’s success, TPL staff engaged with over 200 attendees and registered more than 60 new library cards.

Library Round Table: Serving Vulnerable Populations

On November 13, TPL hosted a round table event with 14 other Greater Toronto Area public library systems with a focus on serving vulnerable populations, including the role of social workers in the library. Participants in this full-day event discussed innovative programs and services, best practices and staff development opportunities. The event was an excellent opportunity for networking and information sharing across library systems to better support and provide services for vulnerable populations. The response from all participants was overwhelmingly positive, and reinforces TPL's commitment to breaking down barriers and increasing inclusive services for these groups.

2018-2019 Grade 4 Outreach Campaign 

Perdita and a Grade 4 Student
Perdita Felicien encouraging a grade 4 student to “dream big”!

Each school year, library staff conduct hundreds of visits to grade 4 and 4-split classes and meet with thousands of students as part of TPL’s ongoing effort to support children in their educational achievements and to strengthen our partnerships with the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board. These classes are invited to participate in exclusive challenges for prizes. The theme this year is "Operation Fact Finder!" which encourages children to discover interesting facts about the world around them.

We're excited to announce that two-time Olympian and world champion hurdler Perdita Felicien wrote the introduction for Operation Fact Finder! this year. To launch the challenge, Perdita made special visits to Cedarbrae and Flemingdon Park branches, and met with nearly 200 grade 4 and 5 students. The students had a chance to see an Olympic medal up close and received autographed photos for their classrooms.

Students who complete all three missions in Operation Fact Finder! receive prizes. One of the prizes is a vibrant and beautifully-designed Toronto poster by local artist Farida Zaman. 

Grade 4 Outreach Prize Map
The Grade 4 Outreach Prize Map by Farida Zaman.


Expanding Access to Technology and Training 

Let's Learn Tech Online

With the launch of Let’s Learn Tech Online, TPL earned the distinction of being the first public library to become a Cisco Networking Academy. The online platform offers free, interactive, self-paced courses that introduce Torontonians to important technology concepts and help develop skills for career advancement. Current course offerings include: Introduction to IoT (Internet of Things); Introduction to Cybersecurity; and Linux Unhatched. This project is currently in its fifth session since it launched earlier this year, and the first year impact is exciting! Over the five sessions there has been a total of 853 enrolments, with an average of 55 people per course, per session.

Expansion of the Community Librarian Project

With a generous donation from Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA), the Community Librarian Project has expanded. The community librarian will be working with the Rexdale community and focusing on digital literacy and emerging technologies, including those offered through the library's PopUp Learning Lab service. Splitting time with the Rexdale Community Health Centre and neighbourhood library branches in the community – Northern Elms, Humber Summit and Rexdale – the librarian is supporting residents by delivering programs and demos of the latest technologies. This one-year Community Librarian (Digital Literacy) pilot runs until August 2019.


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

Your Health Matters: Partnership with Toronto Public Health

TPL has partnered with Toronto Public Health (TPH) to bring together a new series, Your Health Matters. This series is a collection of programs, services and reading recommendations to help Torontonians of all ages stay informed about about physical and mental health. Our reading lists have been selected by TPH's nurses and dietitians to inspire everyone to stay healthy this winter.

Announcing the 2018 First and Best List

First and best logo

On December 1, TPL announced our top picks from 2018 of the best Canadian children’s books for building reading readiness in kids under the age of five. First and Best is fun and supportive, and celebrates Canada’s talented children’s authors and illustrators. The books on this list are chosen to provide parents and caregivers with their next reading suggestion at the library.

Summer Wonder 2018 Expanded Across All Branches

Summer Wonder wall at Thorncliffe branch
The Summer Wonder wall at Thorncliffe branch covered with questions from children and answers from staff!

Summer Wonder programs, activities and services ran across 98 branches to provide fun, engaging learning activities for children throughout July and August 2018. The focus of Summer Wonder is on interest-driven learning and discovery with a goal to improve academic and personal development. This summer there were 4,000 programs for children and their parents/caregivers with nearly 120,000 attendees. Over 250 of these programs were specially designed to prevent summer learning loss. As a follow-up to our evaluation survey in summer 2017, TPL collected over 1,000 survey responses this year. Overall, feedback was extremely positive, once again confirming the program's success in activating self-directed learning and informing parents/caregivers of the important role they play in their child’s learning.

Programs included author visits, STEM, MAP family events, robotics, summer camps, a design-thinking challenge workshop and also programs in French. This year, branches offered more summer camps in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas with a focus on digital literacy, writing, coding, contemporary art, game development, robotics and magic. Participation in the French program increased as well with 33 programs and more than 650 book reporting slips filled out by dedicated French readers. Additionally, library staff energized their children’s spaces by creating Wonder Walls and holding creativity challenges all summer long, a great opportunity for families looking for flexible ways to get involved.

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences 

10th Anniversary of Library Settlement Partnerships

LSP worker and Judge Dhaliwal
LSP worker and Judge Dhaliwal at Flemingdon Park branch

Funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Toronto’s Library Settlement Partnerships (LSP) program partners with seven local settlement agencies, providing year-round information, referrals and programs for newcomers at 14 library branches across the city. The annual LSP Week celebration takes place in October and this year’s theme was “LSP: 10th Anniversary”, highlighting this long and successful partnership. Twelve engaging events with 1,098 participants took place, including a REEL CANADA film screening and WWF-Canada presentation, a heartwarming citizenship ceremony, an informative TPL local history presentation, a Parks Canada presentation and hike, Citizenship Judge visits, and more.

In 2017, LSP served over 23,300 newcomers and delivered over 950 programs.

Kwame Alexander Talks with Teens at York Woods Branch

 Kwame Alexander

In addition to the many creative writing and arts workshops, robotic labs and hands-on classes in hobbies and crafts, this fall saw several author programs for teens. Notably, an event on October 24 featuring Newbery Award-winner Kwame Alexander took place at the York Woods branch. Kwame (along with his guitarist Randy) wowed, entertained and engaged 250 students from local schools with his new book, Swing. First Book Canada generously donated 75 copies of the book for this event.

Inform, Engage, Collaborate: City of Toronto Community Development Unit at Toronto Reference Library

Discussion groups at Toronto Reference Library

On October 25, library staff and City of Toronto division staff joined in a morning of open conversation about supporting local community collaboration, as part of community engagement training planned in partnership with City of Toronto, Community Development Unit (SDFA). This workshop brought together community residents, city division reps and library staff to share their community engagement challenges and to celebrate their successes. Resident Advisory Committee members, Local Champions and Community Animators guided the discussions on local collaboration and offered key insights.

Staff Recognition Event

Staff recognition 2018
Staff celebrating 30 years with TPL.

On Thursday November 15, TPL celebrated the achievements of our long-serving staff. We recognized 109 staff from across our 100 branches and many departments who hit a milestone year of 25, 30, 35, 40 or even an astounding 45 years of service.  Sue Graham-Nutter, Toronto Public Library Board Chair attended the event and brought greetings on behalf of the Board.

Design a Bookmark 2019 Contest Launched

Zeren's bookmark
Zeren's (age 8) winning bookmark from 2018

Our annual Design a Bookmark Contest is a design and drawing contest for children from birth to age 13. Every year, the library prints bookmarks featuring original artwork by kids. These bookmarks are distributed to all 100 TPL branches across the city. The children are encouraged to submit their design for a bookmark and can even choose to submit art created digitally. The contest is open from Saturday, December 8, 2018, to Saturday, January 19, 2019. Sixteen winners will be announced on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

Check out last year's winning designs.


Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

Presenting the Jack Rabinovitch Reading Room at the Toronto Reference Library

To be located on the 4th floor of the Toronto Reference Library, the Jack Rabinovitch Reading Room will be a beautiful and inspiring space where everyone is welcome and can be exposed to Canadian literature. This brand new, vibrant room will also be a spot where aspiring writers will work, collaborate and create as well as host events and workshops.​ Read the full news release on the new Jack Rabinovitch Reading Room to open in Toronto Reference Library in fall 2019.​