City Librarian's Report for March 2019

March 19, 2019 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the March 25, 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. 

Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

White Cane Week “Experience Expo”

Staff at White Cane Week
Lindsay Tyler, (Senior Manager, CELA) and Bryce MacNaughton, (Adult Services Specialist – Outreach, TPL) at the White Cane "Experience Expo".

TPL was pleased to participate at the White Cane Week “Experience Expo” on February 2, 2019 at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. White Cane Week is an annual national public awareness campaign organized by the Canadian Council of the Blind to raise awareness about issues concerning people who experience vision loss. The “Experience Expo” is produced by the Toronto Visionaries Chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind. The goal is to break the isolation that so often accompanies vision loss, foster connection and community, and encourage visitors to engage directly with the services, tools, and technologies that provide creative, adaptive solutions to overcoming barriers in all aspects of daily life. The TPL booth was buzzing all day long as staff shared information about accessibility services, including accessible collections such as alternative format reading materials from the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA).

Presto Information Sessions Held at 21 Branches

To address the concerns that many individuals, especially seniors, have about the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) transition to Presto, information sessions with Metrolinx have been held at 21 branches since the fall of 2018. These sessions have shared details on the logistics of getting a Presto card, registering for the seniors’ discount, transfers and how to use a Presto machine. The sessions have been well-attended and appreciated.

Personalized Music for People Living with Dementia

AST Volunteer at Don Mills branch
Shannon Todd, an Alzheimer Society of Toronto volunteer, at Don Mills Branch.

TPL is working with the Alzheimer Society of Toronto (AST) to expand access to their Music Project program. This project provides free MP3 players loaded with personalized music to people living with dementia. Studies have shown that music has the potential to reignite older memories and improve mood and quality of life. The Music Project was previously only accessible to caregivers at three AST offices, where parking costs and open hours limited accessibility. Caregivers are now able to meet with AST volunteers at library branches to pick up the Music Project packages and receive instruction. Working with AST is one example of TPL's dedication to supporting dementia-friendly communities.

Faith and Welcoming Communities Forum

A group of panelists at the Faith and Welcoming Communities Forum
A group of panelists at the Faith and Welcoming Communities Forum

On Tuesday March 5, TPL's Diversity and Inclusive Services Committee participated in the Faith and Welcoming Communities Forum, organized by Toronto North Local Immigration Partnership and held at The Korean Cultural Centre for Education. As part of the planning team for this event, TPL also attended to gather information and participate in resource-sharing with services that support newcomers. A mix of speakers and table discussions provided participants from a range of faith organizations the opportunity to share lived experiences and to foster collaborative strategies for outreach and engagement with newcomers. Over 100 participants attended the event. Researchers and community agencies from the Settlement sector were also present and contributed their expertise and experiences in serving the needs of newcomers, refugees and asylum seekers. The event was an excellent opportunity to tackle the issues and barriers facing diverse communities. It is just one example of how collaborative approaches can make an impact in serving the needs of the diverse population of Toronto.

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences 

ENAGB: Indigenous Language Program for Families with Young Children

From January to December 2019, TPL is hosting ENAGB Indigenous language classes at four of our branches (Danforth/Coxwell, Gerrard/Ashdale, Malvern and  Mount Dennis). These classes, specifically structured to provide support to all families who are expecting or have children under six years of age, have been designed and are being delivered by the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. The purpose of the program is to support language preservation and revitalization, and to provide a safe learning environment for Indigenous families and a learning opportunity for non-Indigenous families. It is funded through a federal grant and is part of a national strategy to preserve Indigenous languages. The Library's role is to provide a safe and welcoming space for communities to learn. Four Indigenous languages (Inuktitut, Cree, Ojibway and Mohawk) are taught in weekly, 30-minute sessions. Pronounced "Enag-Bee", ENAGB is an acronym based on Eshkiniigjik Naandwechigegamig, which means “a place for healing our youth”; and Aabiish Gaa Binjibaaying, which means, “where did we come from?” 

New TD Gallery Exhibit, For the Record: An Idea of the North

For the Record exhibit

Our newest TD Gallery Exhibit, For the Record: An Idea of the North launched on February 16 in the TD Gallery on the main floor of the Toronto Reference Library. This interactive mixed media exhibit focuses on the role that Soundsystems and DJs have played in hip hop culture and in the emergence of Toronto's globally successful popular music scene. The show, produced in partnership with Northside Hip Hop Archive (NSHHA), features material from the Library's collections, the NSHHA, and also loaned items from the local music community. The exhibit runs until April 28, and there are free guided tours with Special Collections staff on Tuesdays at 2pm.

March Break 2019

Each year, March Break attracts over 22,000 customers to our branches. This year, staff organized over 400 programs for children and teens. The Children's Services Department worked with branches to ensure that each location had a special guest performance in addition to the already incredible array of programs for children and families that each branch organizes. Children across the city were able to enjoy performances in Magic, STEM, Puppet Shows, Theatre and a wide variety of programs offered in French. Throughout March Break, dozens of programs were offered across the city exclusively for teens, including our popular sushi-making class, dance classes, visual art and writing workshops, photography and even sleight-of-hand magic classes.

Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

Kicking Off TPL’s Strategic Plan 2020-2024 Planning Process

Staff at the Strategic Plan Town Hall

In February and March, TPL hosted three Strategic Plan staff town halls at the Toronto Reference Library. These sessions were an important opportunity for our staff to share their ideas and input on TPL’s direction and priorities to help inform the development of our upcoming Strategic Plan (2020-2024), which will guide the library in the coming years. Staff also have the opportunity to participate, discuss and provide feedback via internal online discussion boards. More than 380 staff joined the town halls, which were the first of several stakeholder engagement opportunities we have planned in the coming months.