City Librarian's Report for June 2019

June 7, 2019 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the June 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

History Sets Available for Ontario Schools

Screen capture of Primary Source Sets with four icons described as The War of 1812 and Ontario Prohibition and World War One posters and World War Two posters
Our digital collection has nearly 170,000 historical items

TPL's Ontario-facing website, Digital Archive Ontario, now offers educators and students easy-to-access content from our collections, including our Toronto Star Photograph Archive. Digitized by the library, these historical sets of items from the 19th and 20th century allow learners to examine original pieces of history (primary sources) online. Many of the digitized posters and maps are high resolution so that small details and text are visible. Subjects such as "Canadian World War II Posters" were chosen based on consultations with educators. 

Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

Coffee and Conversation Programs

Coffee and Conversations at Sanderson Branch
Coffee and Conversations at Sanderson Branch

TPL is running a monthly Coffee and Conversation program at Sanderson branch and Toronto Reference Library. This new program aims to provide an inclusive environment where participants can learn about programs and services that exist in the branch, as well as social services within the community. Although the program is open to all, it is targeted towards vulnerable populations, including people experiencing homelessness. The goal of the program is to create a welcoming space to help reduce social isolation, provide opportunities for relationship building between staff and participants, and help connect them to community resources. The Coffee and Conversation program was developed and is supported by our social worker, as part of our focus on serving the needs of vulnerable populations through the development of targeted programs, service delivery and partnership development.

Expanding Access to Technology and Training 

Digital Literacy Week 

Digital Literacy Kick Off Event
L to R: Councillor Paul Ainslie, City Librarian Vickery Bowles, Claudette McGowan (BMO), Lori DiMarco (TDCSB) and Peter Singh (TDSB) help kick off Digital Literacy Week at North York Central Library

From May 27 to June 1, TPL joined the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board, the Toronto Catholic District School Board, and partners in the academic arts, corporate and non-profit communities to celebrate Digital Literacy Week by hosting programs that showcase our digital and technology resources and staff expertise. The library hosted over 130 programs at nearly 50 branches on topics that included 3D design and 3D printing, graphic design, robotics, AI and algorithms, digital privacy, virtual reality, coding, and more. The Digital Literacy Week launch event on May 27 was held at North York Central Library and included welcoming remarks from City Librarian Vickery Bowles, TPL Board Member and City Councillor Paul Ainslie, Peter Singh, Executive Officer, Information Technology Services, Information Management, FOI & Privacy Office, TDSB, Lori DiMarco, Superintendent, Curriculum Leadership & Innovation; Academic Information & Communications Technology; TCDSB, and Claudette McGowan, Chief Information Officer, Enterprise Technology Employee Experience, BMO Financial Group. Our special guests included two grade 7 and 8 classes from St. Cyril Catholic School.  The morning's events concluded with technology displays and demos by  library staff and partners. 

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

Youth Week

Poetry Saved Our Lives Final Slam at Yorkville
Poetry Saved Our Lives Final Slam at Yorkville

From May 1-7, TPL participated in the third annual Youth Week Toronto in collaboration with other City divisions. Youth Week is a celebration of youth engagement and showcases the abilities and talents of youth in the areas of civic engagement, recreation, arts and sports in diverse communities across Toronto. Working with the library’s youth volunteers, staff coordinated a variety of youth-focussed activities designed with the interests and needs of their local communities in mind. Youth checked out open houses and joined in some friendly competition during game nights, board game tournaments and even an Amazing Race-style event. In arts programs, youth tried their hand at cartooning, paper marbling, jewelry making and more. At an Arduino hackathon, youth exercised their creativity to complete a variety of tech mini-projects. Youth also showcased their talent at the spoken word slam that closed out the spring season of Poetry Saved Our Lives.  

Children's Services in Partnership with Code Mobile

TPL Children's Services partnered with Code Mobile to offer hands-on, coding workshops for 175+ children from September 2018 to May 2019. Children learned game design using Scratch, developing computational and technical skills in a collaborative and social way. The workshops were prioritized for branches in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and were well received by kids and parents. TPL will work with Code Mobile again to deliver children’s and youth workshops this fall.

Environmentalist in Residence

This spring, S. Walter Stewart branch hosts Broti Kar as Toronto Public Library's Environmentalist in Residence from April 23 to June 30. The residency is made possible by support from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. Two months of programs have been scheduled for adults, teens and children on a range of topics: responsible gardening, Toronto's endangered species, creating zero waste at lunch, confronting climate change, and vital local waterways, as well as an Eco-Olympics after school event. Community consultations and input on green initiatives are another unique service Broti provides to customers, both within and outside the library. She attended the Community Environment Day at Ted Reeves Arena on Saturday May 4, and will also attend S. Walter Stewart's Inorganic Market safe recycling event on May 25 and two local farmers' markets.

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences 

A New Bicycle Station Facility Sparks a Collaboration with Our Special Collections

Rendering of bicycle station, courtesy UOAI architects.
Rendering of bicycle station, courtesy UOAI architects.

The recently opened Bicycle Station Facility under Nathan Phillips Square was a collaborative project between TPL’s Special Collections, Preservation & Digitization and UOAI Architects’ principal architect Vis Sankrithi. Sankrithi integrated archival content from the 1958 new City Hall International Design Competition into the new bike station design. Using digitized images and text provided by the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre (Toronto Reference Library) and the Panda Collection (Canadian Architectural Archives, University of Calgary), the original transcribed lists of names of each of the 513 new City Hall competitors is etched on the central vestibule glass wall.

Rexdale Youth IN FOCUS 

As part of a collaboration with Lakeshore Arts - Rexdale Youth Shazaam! In Focus, Albion branch hosted a successful open mic and exhibit launch on May 11. The Rexdale Youth In Focus program developed the youths’ poetic voice and creative art through photography. Youth in grade 8 composed reflective poetry and metaphorical self-portrait photos that represents them and their poem, and their community of Rexdale. The youth’s art work and poetry are currently exhibited throughout the branch and are part of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival. They are the youngest group of artists exhibiting their work through this festival.

Sun Life Musical Instrument Lending Library 

Musical Instrument Lending Library at Downsview Branch
Njacko Backo helps launch the second Sun Life Musical Instrument Lending Library during a community celebration at Downsview Branch

On Tuesday, May 28, the second Sun Life Musical Instrument Lending Library launched at Downsview branch. City Librarian Vickery Bowles was joined by Sarah Fulford, Chair of the Toronto Public Library Foundation Board of Directors and Paul Joliat, Assistant Vice President of Philanthropy and Sponsorships at Sun Life for the official launch. Customers can now borrow keyboards, ukuleles, violins and more at Downsview branch, free with a library card. The first location opened at Parkdale branch in 2016 and has been very successful, with high usage and positive feedback from customers. To add to our collection of instruments donated by Sun Life, we’ve kicked off an Instrument Donation Drive and are inviting Toronto residents to donate new or gently-used musical instruments by June 22 to help share the joy of music.

Celebrating Pride!

Staff at Pride Parade

TPL celebrates diversity and supports the LGBTTIQQ2SA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirited and Asexual) community this Pride month. Staff will be joining the 39th Annual Pride Parade on Sunday, June 23rd and Yorkville Branch's pillars are wrapped once again in rainbow colours. Check out staff compiled LGBTQ+ reading lists for kids, teens and adults and pride displays in branches. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and the birth of the modern LGBTQ2S+ rights movement, TPL has renamed Yorkville Branch's special collection of materials The Pride Collection. Visit for more new titles and programming information.