City Librarian's Report for October 2019

October 11, 2019 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the October 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

Two New Youth Hubs Open this Fall


Rob Oliphant Youth Hub Tweet

Located in or near Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and aligned with Toronto’s Poverty Reduction and Youth Equity Strategies, TPL’s Youth Hubs are welcoming drop-in spaces for teens with access to library collections, homework help, activities and workshops, snacks and a broad range of current technology. They are open after school and during the summer months, and are staffed by librarians and other library staff, with support from volunteers and placement students. This fall, Youth Hub service has been introduced at both Parliament Street and Thorncliffe Branches, bringing the total number to 13 Youth Hubs across the city. Youth who attended the launch party of the Thorncliffe Branch hub on September 23 were excited to explore the space and everything the hub has to offer.

Read Indigenous 2019 Now Available in Branches

Read Indigenous books

Read Indigenous is an annual list of must-read titles created​​ by Indigenous authors, writers, illustrators and knowledge keepers for all ages. These titles have been selected in consultation with TPL's Indigenous Advisory Council. 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. In 2017, we established TPL’s Strategies for Indigenous Initiatives as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One of the 42 strategies identified in this document includes the launch of a "Read Indigenous"​ campaign.

Summer Camps with Maximum City

Maximum City Summer Camp Participants
Maximum City Summer Camp participants.

This summer, TPL partnered with Maximum City to bring a new summer camp to our roster of Summer Wonder activities. Two branches hosted week-long camps where children explored a range of hands-on activities revolving around the kid-friendliness of their neighbourhoods. Children learned how to identify the important features of safe, welcoming and sustainable urban spaces. The one-week challenge then asked participants to evaluate their local neighbourhood and come up with design ideas that could make the area more kid-friendly. Participants explored topics such as urban design, the environment, technology, architecture, civic engagement and transit.

Adult Learners’ Conference Focuses on Democracy

On September 20, Toronto Public Library’s Adult Literacy Services (ALS) partnered with Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy to co-sponsor the annual Learners’ Conference. This half day event took place at the North York Central Library where over 85 adult learners and literacy instructors across Toronto attended. The theme this year, Health and Wellness, was chosen by a special adult learners’ advisory committee. The four workshops presented this year included a very popular writing workshop by the Writer’s Collective and an apropos session on democracy, voting and talking about issues that matter. ALS also set up an information booth to promote library programs and services. Approximately 35 people stopped by to ask questions from “How do I get a library card?” to “How can I donate money to the library”. Staff were present, engaged and helped with the direct queries.

Expanding Access to Technology and Training 

Patricia Quintero Begins as our Fall 2019 Entrepreneur in Residence

Patricia Quintero

The fall season is a great time for starting a business. Since 2012, TPL has offered an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program series, hiring experts to work with new and small business owners and entrepreneurs to support them in their business development. This fall, we are excited to welcome Patricia Quintero as our EIR at Toronto Reference Library. Patricia is an entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience working in large and small organizations in Canada, the United States, England and Colombia. She has worked with multiple start-ups in their pre-launch and launch phases. From October 2 to November 28, Patricia will be using her extensive knowledge of strategic business practices to lead workshops and panel discussions. Some of the topics she will cover include: what to consider before starting a new business, enabling growth, establishing a brand, considering your voice and tone for social media, and how to stay relevant and compete in your industry. More details are available on the Entrepreneur in Residence webpage.

Sophi Robertson, Environmentalist in Residence at Richview Branch

Sophi Robertson

Sophi Robertson, our fall Environmentalist in Residence, is at Richview Branch from September 2 to November 9. She is offering a variety of free, engaging programs and hands-on workshops, and community consultations to help people learn about reducing waste or living a zero-waste lifestyle. Through her work as @YourEcoFriend, and in her current role as the Zero Waste Event Coordinator at the Toronto Tool Library, Robertson motivates community members to think and act on areas of reducing waste and sustainability. Through events, outreach and resources, she offers practical and accessible ideas, tips and solutions. In a recent blog post, Sophi wrote about how to go back to school for less. The Environmentalist in Residence is part of the Our Fragile Planet program series and serves as an industry expert in the area of conservation and sustainability.

Our spring Environmentalist in Residence, Broti Kar, engaged with over 400 people during her residency at the S. Walter Stewart Branch from April 22 to June 29, 2019. Read more about her experience and highlights from her events.

Innovator in Residence Seminars, Workshops and Consultations on Augmented Reality

AR Workshop
Participants at an Augmented Reality workshop led by Rui Jie.

TPL’s summer Innovator in Residence for Augmented Reality (AR), Rui Jie Wang, wrapped up her programming at the end of August at North York Central Library's Creation Loft. Over the course of her 10-week residency, Rui Jie conducted workshops, panel discussions, lectures, and one-on-one appointments that attracted a total of 458 learners. Lecture topics varied widely, including how AR can be used in education, business, storytelling, art galleries, and to improve accessibility for individuals with hearing or vision loss. This residency also directly supported Digital Innovation Hub staff development through training and one-on-one appointments. All the workshop materials and presentations have been documented and made available on Rui Jie's website for anyone who is interested in learning more about augmented reality.

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

TPL Co-Hosts Toronto’s First Algorithmic Literacy Stakeholder’s Symposium

On June 24, in collaboration with the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, TPL hosted the first gathering of community stakeholders that work on issues related to artificial intelligence and algorithmic literacy as part of TPL's pilot on public education, discussion and engagement on emerging technologies. Toronto-based groups who work in and around artificial intelligence education, critique and advocacy were invited. Participants included the Vector Institute, Mozilla Foundation, CIFAR, Sidewalk Labs, Tech Reset Canada, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, scholars from University of Toronto, Ryerson University and others. Common themes emerging from this discussion included a strong desire for collaboration and a need for trustworthy, non-partisan educational material on artificial intelligence and algorithmic literacy for a diverse range of learners.

Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences 

Design-A-Bookmark Contest 2020

Alyssa Mah_bookmark
A winning bookmark design from 2019 by Alyssa Mah, age 9.

Our popular annual contest is back. Previously, Design-a-Bookmark has happened at the end of each year. This year, all artists 13 and under are invited to submit a bookmark to TPL’s annual Design-A-Bookmark Contest by October 31. Winners will be chosen at each branch and bookmobile in three age categories: Up to 6 years, 7 to 9 years, and 10 to 13 years. These winners then compete to be TPL’s 12 Grand Award winners and 4 Elizabeth Cleaver Design Awards winners. Entries are judged on theme, originality and design. The Elizabeth Cleaver Design Award also recognizes outstanding artistic merit. Winners will be invited to attend an Evening of Celebration at the Toronto Reference Library on February 19, 2020. Take a look at the previous winners' designs on the Design-a-Bookmark webpage.

You in Action: Civic Engagement Fair for Youth

Lido Pimienta from You in Action Sept 26
Lido Pimienta

On September 26, Toronto Reference Library hosted You in Action: Civic Engagement Fair for Youth to inspire youth participation in civic life. Organized by TPL’s Community Outreach and Engagement and Youth Services teams, the community jam featured panelists and exhibitors from local youth organizations including G(irls)20, Apathy is Boring, Elections Canada, Urban Minds, Digital Justice Lab, Big Brothers Big Sisters and more. Nearly 35 youth explored leadership and volunteer opportunities and heard from inspirational speakers who have made a difference through civic action. They also heard from keynote speaker Lido Pimienta, a Toronto-based, Colombian-born interdisciplinary musician, artist-curator and Polaris Music Prize winner. She explores the politics of gender, race, motherhood, identity and construct of the Canadian landscape in the Latin America diaspora and vernacular through her work.

TPL at The Word on the Street Festival

TPL Word on the Street Patio
Children making paper cup rockets at the TPL Transformation Station.

2019 marks the 30th anniversary of The Word on the Street festival (WOTS), and TPL was proud to have a prominent presence at Harbourfront Centre to spark conversations, celebrate reading and writing, and support the literary community. On Saturday, September 21, the TPL stage hosted three engaging panel discussions about technology’s impact on civil society for WOTS Plus. On Sunday, September 22, TPL activated the Brigantine Patio with a Transformation Station, showcasing a fun and informative range of library services. Hundreds of visitors enjoyed kids’ activities, eLearning and tech demos, card registrations, a TPL Foundation station, librarian reading recommendations and more.

Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration at Toronto Reference Library

Audience at the Mid Autumn Festival
(L to R on stage) Gianna Babando, Manager (Rare Books and Archives) introduces the Mid-Autumn Festival Program speakers: author and journalist Ann Hui and Professor Chef Leo Chan.

To celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, TPL hosted a discussion on September 12 with Ann Hui, The Globe and Mail food reporter and Chop Suey Nation author, and Professor Chef Leo Chan. The two speakers discussed traditional foods and etiquette for this harmonious celebration in front of over 150 participants, who also had the opportunity to enjoy traditional moon cakes and tea. The event was organized in conjunction with the library’s current TD Gallery exhibit, Plum Blossom from the Bitter Cold: Selections from the Chinese Canadian Archive. The event was also covered by OMNI TV.

Join Mural Created by TPL and FCJ Refugee Centre's Youth Network

Youth working on the FCJ garage door mural
Youth working on the mural.

This summer Librarian Margaux Smith, from our Oakwood Village Library and Arts Centre, worked with FCJ Refugee Centre's Youth Network to create a mural for the FCJ's garage door. Margaux led a series of multidisciplinary art workshops for the youth with topics including book binding, collage mosaics, sketching and painting. Throughout the process, participants worked collaboratively to plan and design the final mural, which is a culmination of their work and learning process. Participants were so enthusiastic that over 20 people showed up on the final day of painting. The goal of the project was to engage youth in a collective planning process that they might use in future to transform their environment.

Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

Where We Gather: Public Life in Toronto ‐ Partnership with University of Toronto School of Cities

Tweet from U of T School of Cities

This fall, Toronto Public Library is partnering with the University of Toronto School of Cities to offer a free, four‐part lecture series called Where We Gather, which examines how public spaces shape city life in Toronto. Presented as part of our On Civil Society program series, the goal of Where We Gather is to encourage discussions around the role of public and private spaces. Over 150 people attended the first session at Toronto Reference Library on September 17. Read more about the series and view highlights from the first session.

Announcing the 2019 City Librarian’s Innovation Challenge Winners

As part of the launch of TPL's Innovation Strategy (PDF), the inaugural City Librarian's Innovation Challenge was announced earlier this Spring. Staff at all levels within TPL were encouraged to submit ideas to enhance or to improve our customer experience. Nearly 60 submissions were received from staff across the city, and two projects were selected as the winners. The first project, "Library Social Story," will develop an experiential and educational tool, called a social story, for children with or without disabilities and their caregivers and educators to help them prepare for a visit to the library. The second project, "Youth-Focused Digital Literacy Programming," will help build TPL's capacity to deliver digital literacy programs for youth. Development on these projects will commence this fall and they will be implemented as one-year pilots. In addition to the two winners, an Innovation Story was also announced and it will track the work undertaken by TPL's Collections division in the near future to improve access to TPL's Indigenous collections.