City Librarian's Report for November 2018

November 8, 2018 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the November 2018 Toronto Public Library (TPL) Board meeting, summarizing key activities in support of the priorities outlined in our strategic plan

Advancing Our Digital Platforms

New Website Feature: Search Spotlights

Harry potter search spotlight

To improve the searching experience on the TPL website,  staff have recently begun creating search spotlights — clickable highlights that appear at the top of search result pages to direct to relevant, helpful information. Some examples of these new spotlights include:

  • Forthcoming books not yet in the catalogue
  • Popular book series listed in order with multiple available formats, such as the Harry Potter series
  • Featured collections and important services
  • The latest edition of frequently published books and manuals, such as The Official MTO Driver’s Handbook
  • Top reading recommendations for common searches

 Look for more spotlights to be added in the future.


Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

Extended Open Hours at St. James Town Branch in Support of Those Displaced by Parliament Street High Rise Fire

On August 21, a high-rise fire at 650 Parliament Street resulted in the displacement of over 1500 residents and activation of the City of Toronto’s Emergency Operations Centre. Reception Centres opened at Wellesley and Regent Park Community Centres to offer information, resources and accommodation support for those affected.

Hours of opening at St. James Town branch were quickly expanded, opening on Sundays, Mondays and mornings throughout the week to provide additional support and community space for residents. Branch, district and system staff all contributed to the effort, responding to the need for additional staffing hours on short notice and ensuring the branch’s services and operations were maintained. Staff provided in-house programming for the children affected, and hosted programs from Sick Kids outreach workers. Additional support was provided by TPL staff at the Regent Park Community Centre.


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

Science Literacy Week

Science Literacy Week  is a week-long celebration of science-based activities. Space was the theme of this year’s Science Literacy Week from September 17-23 as Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques will be going up to the International Space Station in December. Over 25 branches held children’s programs ranging from STEM Storytime, to the science behind paper airplanes, exploring the best place to land on the moon and making comets. 

Small Business Month

October is Small Business Month in Canada and TPL celebrated the drive and contributions of entrepreneurs by offering an increase in small business programs and resources. With over 30 programs, highlights included:

  • Orientation sessions for starting or growing a small business with Enterprise Toronto
  • Business Inc., an eight-week program offered in partnership with the City of Toronto and the Toronto Business Development Centre
  • Presentations in partnership with Shopify on product lifecycle
  • Multiple workshops and one-on-one sessions with our Entrepreneurs in Residence

TPL continues to support entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the year. Find out more or subscribe to our Small Business Newsletter to receive updates directly in your inbox. 


Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences 

Read Indigenous

Read Indigenous book display

Read Indigenous is a yearly list of must-read titles written by Indigenous authors, writers, illustrators and knowledge keepers for all ages. These titles have been selected in consultation with TPL's Indigenous Advisory Council. The list has been in branches since October 1 and a new list will be released in October 2019.

As a non-Indigenous institution, TPL has a vital role to play in building awareness around Truth and Reconciliation and related issues that impact Indigenous/settler relations.

Follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #ReadIndigenousTO. For more information, visit our Read Indigenous webpage.

Young Voices Highlights

Group published in YV2018
Young Voices 2018 contributors at the launch on September 26

The launch for Young Voices Magazine 2018 gathered young creators, their friends and families. Young Voices magazine features writing and visual art by Toronto teens, and has been published continuously since 1965. Several writers read their pieces aloud at the launch and shared their passionate ideas about family, love, feminism and gun violence. One young photographer described a snowy walk with her grandmother that resulted in her compelling portrait, “The Time Traveller” on page 69 of the magazine. Copies of the magazine are available in library branches or for download online.

The Young Voices Writing and Art Fest took over North York Central Library for a full day of workshops led by professional writers and artists. Youth met new friends and gained skills in screenwriting, bookbinding, clay sculpture, spoken word and more.

All Young Voices initiatives celebrate youth creative expression and connect young people to artistic and literary peers and adult mentors. 

Youth Hub Participants Attended The Hate U Give Movie Pre-Screening


The publishers of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas graciously provided tickets for youth hub participants to attend a pre-screening of the movie on October 10. Twenty-two youth from across Toronto attended the event with TPL Youth Hub staff. Several media outlets, including CBC and Fox News, were interested in interviewing the youth about the relevance and importance of this film. Watch the video interview with the youth to find out more about this incredible experience.

The Hate U Give is part of The List 2018, Great Reads for Youth selected by TPL's youth literature experts.

Literary Series Croisée des mots Launched at Yorkville Branch

Blaise Ndala
Blaise Ndala

Featuring francophone authors from Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, “Croisée des mots” is a new literary series in with the Association des auteures et auters de l'Ontario français (AAOF). These programs aim to expand service to the French language community in Toronto by providing talks and author visits for rich, culturally diverse literature and increasing the awareness and use of TPL’s French Language collections.

The series launched on October 18 with a talk from Blaise Ndala. The next event with Didier Leclair will be on November 15. Croisée des mots will run until May 2019. More information about this series can be found in L’Express and Le Metropolitain, two local French language newspapers.

Book Bash: Canadian Children's Literature Festival

Family at Book Bash

TPL partnered with the Toronto International Festival of Authors for the second year to present Book Bash: Canadian Children’s Literature Festival on Saturday, October 20 at Harbourfront Centre. This free, fun-filled afternoon featured presentations, hands-on workshops and performances with Canada’s most renowned children’s authors, illustrators and entertainers.

Library staff delivered enthusiastic storytelling performances, drop-in ukulele lessons, and robotics and VR demonstrations throughout the day. Overall, close to 400 kids and families attended Book Bash this year. Funding for the festival was made possible by the Muller Scholastic Endowment Fund for Canadian Children’s Literature at the Toronto Public Library Foundation.

Chris Hadfield Announces the Canadian Space Agency’s Writing Challenge

Chris Hadfield
Chris Hadfield

TPL partnered with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to announce the CSA’s writing challenge, Wanted: Creative Writers, on Friday, October 26 at Toronto Reference Library. Former astronaut Chris Hadfield attended as a special guest to help launch the challenge. Close to 200 people, including students from local elementary schools, attended the launch to hear Chris talk about space, science and the creative writing contest. Chris read from his children’s book, The Darkest Dark and took questions from the students. His support and recognition of the value of libraries was evident throughout his talk. To expand access to the event, the CSA broadcast the event live on its YouTube channel. The contest closes on December 31, 2018.

Celebrating 200 years of Frankenstein

Reading Frankenstein event
Author Kenneth Oppel reading from Frankenstein at the Toronto Reference Library

On Halloween, the Toronto Reference Library hosted a four-hour reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Part of the international #Frankenreads initiative and done in collaboration with the University of Toronto. TPL’s marathon reading of the book featured 20 writers and authors including Antanas Sileika, Oliver Senior, Kenneth Oppel and Tamara Faith Berger, to name but a few. Musical interludes by two ensembles added to the atmosphere. A steady audience took part all evening, with 100 listeners at its peak, and a number of people stayed through the entire four hours of performances.

New TD Gallery Exhibit, Alice Opens the Door

Alice in Wonderland board game from 1923
Alice in Wonderland Game. New York: Noble & Noble, 1923

Visit the TD Gallery in Toronto Reference Library to discover – or rediscover – the enduring literary classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the book that opened the door to reading for generations of children. Learn about the “real” Alice and her role in bringing this story to the world. This joyful exhibition featuring highlights from the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books invites visitors “down the rabbit hole” to unforgettable and beloved scenes and characters in books, costume designs, art, games and ephemera.

Alice Opens the Door runs from November 17 to January 27. Special events for the exhibit include guided tours, storytimes, a film series, and a Mad Hatter Tea Party for children and their families.


Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

TPL Receives Award for Chinese Canadian Archive

Chinese Canadian Archive
The Chinese Canadian Archive

The winners of the 2018 Heritage Toronto Awards were announced on October 29 during a ceremony hosted by nationally-recognized journalist Michael Serapio. In its 44th year, the Heritage Toronto Awards recognize extraordinary contributions to the conservation and celebration of Toronto's heritage. TPL was awarded The Public History Award for The Chinese-Canadian Archive, which documents Chinese Canadian history in the GTA from 1878 to the present. Currently housed at the Toronto Reference Library and home to 120 linear feet of archival records with 102 digitized items, the archive begins a valuable conversation and covers an under-researched gap in Canadian history.

This is in addition to the 2018 Special Achievement Award announced last month (PDF).

Youth Services Strategy

Youth Services Strategy

TPL is excited to introduce its first evidence-based strategy guiding services for youth ages 13-24. Based on extensive research and consultation with youth, staff and community partners, the strategy reaffirms TPL’s commitment to contribute to positive outcomes for youth. It provides a framework for enhanced and purposeful service that supports personal development, equitable access and learning, and it positions the library as both a space where youth are welcome and supported, and as a partner helping youth build positive futures for themselves and their communities. The Youth Services Strategy is available on the TPL website for download (PDF).

Steeles Branch Welcomes Customers to Newly Renovated Library

Steeles branch staff

After a renovation to expand and modernize the library, Steeles branch held a Customer Appreciation Day on October 23 with an opening ceremony to welcome customers back to the branch. 100 customers attended several morning activities, enjoyed refreshments and toured the new space.