City Librarian's Report for January 2019

January 10, 2019 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the January 2019 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.

Expanding Access to Technology and Training 

Toronto Region Board of Trade Recommends TPL Manage Civic Data Trust

The Toronto Region Board of Trade released a report (PDF) on January 9 entitled Bibliotech, recommending that policymakers assign oversight and development of public realm data policy to TPL. This is in response to the debate over public realm data management at Waterfront’s Quayside project involving Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs. Media coverage appeared in Global News, the Toronto Star and IT World Canada, as well as some regional newspapers across the country. TPL is pleased to consider the recommendations and discuss potential models that are in keeping with public library values. Public libraries are defenders of digital privacy and have expertise in data policy and information management. We have long played a role in city building and welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can continue to evolve this role in the civic data realm.

Advancing Our Digital Platforms

Union Station Kiosk

When the new Union Station food court opened at the end of November, it marked a significant milestone in the revitalization of Toronto's busiest transit hub. ​As part of the food court, TPL’s new interactive book kiosk was installed. This kiosk gives commuters and the public-at-large instant access to a wide selection of free ebooks and eaudiobooks​ for download. Simply sele​ct the book you want, enter your email or phone number and a download link will be sent to your device. A TPL card and the Overdrive app are required, both of which are free. The response to the kiosk announcement was extremely positive and our promotional video garnered over 18,000 views. In addition to the food court kiosk, a second kiosk will be installed in the upper level GO Transit station in early 2019.​

Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

Toronto Public Library Receives Partnership Appreciation Award

TPL staff accepting the Partnership Appreciation Award
Claudia Montoya (LSP Worker, CultureLink), Elsa Ngan (Senior Services Specialist, Multicultural Services), Ibrahim Absiye (Executive Director, CultureLink), Cynthia Toniolo (Manager, Adult Services & Program Development) at the 30th anniversary celebration. Photo by CultureLink.

On November 22, TPL was presented with the Partnership Appreciation Award by CultureLink Settlement and Community Services at their 30th anniversary celebration event. The award recognizes TPL’s long-standing support and commitment to programs for newcomers. By partnering with CultureLink and six other local settlement agencies, TPL actively contributes to the Library Settlement Partnerships (LSP), which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. LSP is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Young Adult (YA) Author Day held at North York Central Library

High school students at the Young Adult Author Day
Talking about diversity in publishing at the YA Author Day.

On December 12, 200 students from both Toronto school boards came to North York Central for TPL’s first-ever YA Author Day, a full-day festival featuring award-winning authors who write for teens. Many of the attendees were upper-year English or writer’s craft students and came from all over the city, including Etobicoke, York, North York, East York and Scarborough. All of the students attended a morning panel on representation and diversity in publishing, featuring Uzma Jalaluddin and Lisa Charleyboy. The students also attended breakout sessions in the morning and afternoon. These included: a Q&A with Teresa Toten and Danielle Younge-Ullman on writing about mental health; a spoken word workshop with Andrea Thompson; a comics workshop with Jason Loo; a talk and stand-up comedy set about Asperger's Syndrome featuring Michael McCreary; and talks about working as a writer and giving voice to diverse experiences by S.K. Ali, Ryan North and M-E Girard. The sessions were lively and engaging, and students and teachers reported that they had a great time hearing from and interacting with so many inspiring authors.

Taking Charge: Seniors Building Community Symposium

Some of the ideas generated at the Seniors Building Community Symposium
Some of the ideas generated by participants in the Seniors Building Community Symposium. Photo by UHN OpenLab.

TPL was pleased to host and participate in Taking Charge: Seniors Building Community Symposium, which was held in the Toronto Reference Library on December 11. The event was led by University Health Network (UHN) OpenLab, which works with seniors in a variety of ways to design ways to support healthy aging. The participants, who included: residents/tenants, property managers, marginalized community representatives and condo boards; were invited to connect with one another to share ideas, experiences and obstacles in building community among seniors. The symposium offered great insights to guide TPL’s work in support of the Toronto Seniors Strategy 2.0 recommendations and provided an excellent forum for establishing grassroots connections with a variety of seniors in vertical communities.

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

Newcomer Entrepreneur in Residence Program a Success

TPL’s Newcomer Entrepreneur in Residence pilot program was developed and launched in fall 2018 at the Albion and Agincourt branches to respond to and reflect the growing need for and interest in programs to support and encourage newcomers. We are pleased to share our findings that this pilot reached its stated goal: to support diverse communities by providing information, personalized support, and opportunities for skill development to newcomers aspiring to start new businesses.

The pilot included 12 programs at Albion and Agincourt branches during October and November 2018, attracting more than 200 participants. The entrepreneurs also provided individual appointments for personalized feedback on business plans, and participated in a variety of events including the Immigrant Business Expo.

Another Successful Tutor Conference

Speaker Audrey Gardner at the Tutor Conference
Speaker Audrey Gardner at the Tutor Conference

On November 17, library volunteers from Adult Literacy, Leading to Reading and Youth Hubs gathered at North York Central Library for the ninth annual Tutor Conference. This was a great opportunity for the volunteers to meet up, attend workshops and network. The day began with a welcome from Cynthia Toniolo, Manager of Adult Services and Program Development. Afterwards, participants attended a variety of workshops including sessions on building relationships between tutors and learners, mindfulness, and engaging discouraged readers. The Tutor Conference is part of the ongoing development and training that TPL provides for volunteers. Through focused core skills training, one-on-one support and capacity building, the volunteers learn how to cope with the various challenges that they experience as tutors in our large and diverse city.

Make a Will Month Recap

The Ontario Bar Association (OBA) presented 47 Make a Will Month sessions in library branches across the city during November, drawing over 1,300 participants. These programs were run by 31 OBA members including lawyers, specialists in trusts and specialists in estates law. Participants and hosting branches indicated that they were pleased with the topics and the clear delivery of the information. The Make a Will series addresses the need for relevant information on this topic in all of Toronto’s neighborhoods. Based on their work in Toronto, the OBA has since expanded Make a Will Month sessions across the province.

What Toronto Read in 2018

What Toronto Read in 2018 graph

As in previous years, once again the Ontario Ministry of Transport's Driver's Handbook is the most-borrowed book of 2018. This demonstrates the role of the Library for those aiming to develop their life skills and engage in self-directed learning. Also on the top 10 most borrowed list are thrillers, local Giller Prize winners, and books on major world events. Torontonians read it all. Take a look at the complete list of 2018's most borrowed items.

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences 

Make Some Noise

Vallens performing at Bloor Gladstone branch
Vallens performing at Bloor/Gladstone branch.

This fall, young music fans across the city checked out “in the stacks” concerts in three library branches, carrying on the library’s 10-plus year tradition of its award-winning Make Some Noise music series. On November 10, emcee Theology 3 and R&B singer TOI performed to a delighted audience at the Agincourt branch, following a beatboxing workshop led by UNITY Charity. On November 17, soul singer Mighloe opened for electro dub hop artist Witch Prophet at the Yorkville branch. Both gave electrifying performances to an enthusiastic crowd. Rounding out the season, shoe-gaze band Vallens brought their dramatic tunes to the Bloor/Gladstone branch on December 1. The Make Some Noise series continues to support the vibrant local music community and young music fans in Toronto.

Closing Ceremony Held to Honour Elders in Residence

Elders Frances Whiskeychan and Patrick Etherington
Elders Frances Whiskeychan and Patrick Etherington.

A closing ceremony was held on November 28, 2018, to honour Frances Whiskeychan and Patrick Etherington, the first ever Elders in Residence at the Library. Beginning in September, they delivered programs, had one-on-one meetings, conducted training sessions and shared traditional teachings. Along the way they made many connections with library customers and staff. The closing ceremony was led by Fred Martin, Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC) member, and featured cultural elements such as smudging, drum singing and traditional teachings. Thirty-seven people in total attended including Jessica Tabak and Alison Norman, also from the IAC.

The Elders in Residence Program is part of TPL’s Strategies for Indigenous Initiatives (PDF), which is TPL’s official response to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. The primary role of the Elders was to work with Indigenous community members accessing TPL services and spaces by providing culturally-informed support and guidance and creating space for Indigenous literacies within TPL.

Holiday Book Sale Raises Over $18,000

Book sale at Toronto Reference Library

At the end of November, the Friends of the Toronto Public Library, South Chapter, and BOOKEnds held their semi-annual book sale at the Toronto Reference Library. This sale took place over several days and was one of the most successful sales ever, raising $18,446 for the Toronto Public Library Foundation.

26th Salon du Livre Held at the Toronto Reference Library

TPL staff member working with elementary school students at the Salon du livre 2018
A TPL staff member folds French "cootie catchers" with some excited elementary school students.

An important annual event for the Francophone cultural scene, Salon du livre de Toronto continues to be a special occasion for the Francophones and Francophiles of our city and beyond. From November 28 to December 1, roughly 1,800 participants came by the booths to celebrate the French language and share their passion for books and literature. Many publishers and authors held events and workshops in the Toronto Reference Library's Appel Salon to greet enthusiastic crowds. TPL staff promoted French library materials and services. Hundreds of excited children and teens from both Francophone and French immersion schools attended the event.

2019 Reading Challenge

Library Reading Challenge banner

On January 3, TPL launched its first official Reading Challenge, urging participants to read widely and try new subjects and genres. To complete the challenge, participants need to read a book to satisfy each of the 14 challenge categories. There is also an advanced challenge that introduces an additional 11 categories (one of which requires two books) for a total of 26 books. Every month, staff members who have committed to complete the challenge will be doing check-ins on their progress and sharing their reading recommendations.

Find out more about the 2019 Reading Challenge.