City Librarian's Report for February 2019

February 15, 2019 | Vickery Bowles

Comments (0)

Below is my report for the February 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.  

Advancing Our Digital Platforms

Announcing the New TPL Kids Website

TPL Kids

On January 21, 2019, the new TPL Kids website was launched. TPL Kids is designed with accessibility in mind and with kid-friendly navigation. It is aimed at children age 6-12, though there is content for all kids to explore. Some of the features on the new website include:

  • Popular books categories selected and named by kids, for example, "Funny" or “Action and Adventure”.
  • Activities, including contests and jokes.
  • Kid-friendly listings of programs and events.
  • The Wonder Wall, where kids can ask questions they are curious about and receive answers from staff.
  • A Homework Help page with a selection of curated resources.
  • A blog with booklists, activities, and announcements.

TPL Launches New Podcast Series

Shelve Under Podcast logo

TPL staff have introduced a new podcast series this winter. Hosts Christina Wong, Michael Warner, Jason Behzadian and Wendy Banks recently launched Shelve Under: Podcast, with producers Ted Belke and George Panayotou. This podcast features a diverse array of guests, including CBC Metro Morning host Matt Galloway, author Vicki Essex, improv pioneer Cameron Algie, Maker Festival programming director Eric Boyd and a bevy of behind-the-scenes library people. Between now and May, new episodes will come out the second Wednesday of every month. The podcast got its start via the Library's Staff Innovation Program, an incubator program that gives staff resources and support to try new initiatives. So far, feedback has been positive - Twitter user @danispagnuolo tweeted "Loving the Shelve Under podcast from @torontolibrary, particularly this episode with @mattgallowaycbc." To listen, visit the TPL podcasts page, Shelve Under: Podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and other platforms.

Toronto Readers: Most Voracious in the World?

Torontonians borrowed 5.6 million ebooks and eaudiobooks in 2018 – more than library users anywhere else in the world. According to a press release from Rakuten OverDrive, Toronto was one of only two library systems that circulated more than 5 million ebooks last year.

Our last ebook landmark came in August, when Toronto became the first city in the world to have borrowed over 20 million ebooks.

In spite of this, there are certain important titles that aren't available to library users in an ebook format. Canadian public libraries recently ran a national campaign to raise awareness of this issue.

Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

MAP Performing Arts Passes Pilot Returns to 10 Branches

TSO performing at Roy Thomson Hall.
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra performing at Roy Thompson Hall. Photo credit: Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Photo taken by Jag Gundu.

The MAP Performing Arts Passes give library cardholders access to Toronto’s best dance, music, film, theatre and more for free. This pilot returned to 10 branches on February 16, 2019. These branches, located in neighbourhood improvement areas, will each have three passes available the last Saturday of every month on a first-come, first-served basis. More information about the participating branches and seven participating venues, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Royal Conservatory of Music and the TIFF Lightbox and Hot Docs threatres, is available on the MAP Performing Arts Pass webpage. This new pilot will run until the end of June 2019.

Mayor John Tory Holds Press Conference at Malvern Branch

Mayor John Tory and library staff at Malvern branch
Left to Right: Councillor Michael Thompson, Councillor Anthony Perruzza, Mayor John Tory, Librarian Leandro Barak, Councillor Paul Ainslie, City Librarian Vickery Bowles and TPL Board Chair Sue Graham-Nutter.

On Tuesday, January 22, Mayor John Tory held a press conference at Malvern branch announcing that City of Toronto staff are recommending funding for two additional youth hubs at Toronto Public Library as part of the 2019 operating budget, and that he is endorsing this recommendation. As part of our 2019 operating budget request, we have identified two additional youth hub locations, based on community need at Parliament Street and Thorncliffe branches. The City of Toronto’s 2019 budget process launched on January 28 and City Council will review and approve on March 7.

Expanding Access to Technology and Training 

TPL Hosts Mozilla's Glass Room Experience

Through the late fall of 2018, TPL hosted The Glass Room Experience, an interactive art installation that exposes the ways in which our lives are influenced by the data collection and analysis of our "smart" products: our phones, our smart speakers, smartwatches and other technologies. A collaboration between Mozilla (the makers of the Firefox browser, among other efforts) and German digital security trainers Tactical Tech, the Glass Room was a hit at our two host branches, with over 150 Torontonians interacting with it, and taking home Mozilla's Data Detox Kit as a result. A stimulating and thought-provoking exhibit, the Glass Room Experience showed how the library is a place for our communities to find support, guidance and advice for staying safe on the Internet.

Brookfield Institute's Digitally Lit Program Pilot at Centennial Branch

In 2018, TPL hosted the Digitally Lit program at Centennial branch's Youth Hub. This pilot was designed by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to help young people learn to code and improve their digital skills to prepare them for jobs in an increasingly digital economy. The library received funding from Brookfield to host this pilot and was among one of six locations across Ontario that also include YMCA Toronto, Hamilton Boys and Girls Club and London Boys and Girls Club. Nearly 450 youth participated in TPL's four sessions in 2018 and the feedback was positive. "This program helps the young generation to be introduced to the coding world... I feel that this coding program makes our generation feel more comfortable and confident with coding," reported one participant. In 2019, TPL will deliver more Digitally Lit sessions at North York Central Library.

Arduino Kit Lending Pilot a Success


In May 2018, TPL launched an Arduino lending pilot at its then six – now eight – Digital Innovation Hubs across the city. This pilot was the first time the Hubs offered equipment that could be borrowed and taken home. This initiative was proposed and incubated through TPL's Staff Innovation Program by Digital Design Technician James Topping, with support from Ted Belke, Matthew Giancola, Maciek Kaluba, and Maria Samurin. As of the end of December 2018, the kits had been borrowed nearly 350 times. Feedback from this pilot has been positive and it will help pave the way for additional equipment lending from the Digital Innovation Hubs. There are plans for 2019 to expand the lending pilot to include Raspberry Pi and podcasting equipment kits.

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences 

Spring Lineup for the Appel Salon Program Series Announced

Valeria Luiselli
Valeria Luiselli. Photo by Diego Berruecos.

On January 31, 2019 TPL announced the spring lineup for our popular Appel Salon program series. This season features a diverse collection of international and local authors speaking on a range of topics. Some highlights include Aatish Taseer discussing the future of India as a nation, Barry Lopez exploring the state of the environment as he travels the world, Irish sensation Sally Rooney sharing her thoughts on modern love, Valeria Luiselli examining border justice and so much more.

Join us in celebrating the writers who are shaping the literary and cultural landscape with their new books and big ideas. Check out the full schedule for The Appel Salon and The Other Shelf.

Home Made Visible Launch at Toronto Reference Library

Discussion at the Home Made Visible Launch
Home Made Visible screening and discussion with Indigenous and multicultural artists.

On January 7, the Home Made Visible national tour launched at Toronto Reference Library in collaboration with Regent Park Film Festival. The launch included an interactive screening of six short films by Indigenous and multicultural artists, a zine-making workshop, and a mixed media installation. Omni Television was on site to interview organizers and artists. Additional TPL tour stops are Albion, Don Mills, Scarborough Civic Centre and Spadina Road branches. The project aims to highlight Indigenous and multicultural archives through exhibition, screenings and workshops across Canada.