City Librarian's Report for November 2019

November 14, 2019 | Vickery Bowles

Comments (0)

Below is my report for the November 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.  

Palmerston Branch Room Rental Update

The room rental event featuring Meghan Murphy at the Palmerston branch on October 29 went ahead, as did the protest in opposition to the event. The event ran from 6:45 to 7:30 pm as planned. Protesters gathered outside of the branch, and police were present in the branch and outside to ensure the safety of all. Ticket holders were able to get into the event which proceeded without incident.

Although the event is over, there is much work ahead. Meetings have begun with staff across the library system and TPL’s employee resource group, the Pride Alliance. The focus of these discussions is on moving forward together with our community partners and with each other.

City Council approved a motion at its October 29/30 meeting for the City Manager to review City and TPL policies regarding third party room rentals. Library staff will be working with City staff in response to this motion and will keep the Library Board informed.

Breaking Down Barriers to Access, Driving Inclusion

Petition Against Ebook Embargoes

Ebooks for all banner

Multinational publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster) have recently made it harder for public libraries to buy ebooks. These publishers require libraries to re-purchase ebooks every two years, and pay four to six times more than the print price. And now, Macmillan has introduced an ebook embargo. As of November 1, public libraries can only buy one copy of any new Macmillan ebook and have to wait eight weeks to buy more. Public library leaders and other key stakeholders are joining together in opposition to this policy. Learn more and sign the petition.

Homeless Connect Fair 2019

TPL Staff at Homeless Connect Fair
TPL staff at the Homeless Connect Fair.

On October 27, TPL staff attended the annual Homeless Connect Fair at Ryerson University's Mattamy Athletic Centre along with many other organizations that offer information and free services to homeless and marginally housed individuals. This year, our onsite services at the fair included card registrations and renewals, general information and resources for affordable housing, and helping attendees connect to further online resources, programs and services. Over 200 fair attendees visited the TPL table and staff registered 70 new customers for library cards and renewed 20 cards for existing customers.

World Homeless Day 2019

Attendees at World Homeless Day
Attendees at World Homeless Day.

On October 10, TPL and the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness marked World Homeless Day by co-hosting a community event at the Toronto Reference Library. The event featured people with lived experience of homelessness passionately sharing their stories, poems, spoken word and speeches. It provided an opportunity to raise awareness about the issues of affordable housing and available services for people experiencing homelessness, and gave people with lived experience an opportunity to speak. World Homeless Day, recognized annually since 2010, raises awareness and attention to the needs of people experiencing homelessness locally and around the world through community events, programs and gatherings.

Expanding Access to Technology and Training 

Improved Access to eLearning Content

Accounting fundamentals search results
Sample search for accounting fundamentals displaying the eLearning course in the search results.

TPL is making it easier to access our most popular online courses. Searches for common topics which have associated eLearning content will now generate direct links to courses from resources such as and Gale Courses, in addition to books and other materials.  This update to our catalogue will enhance the user experience by making a popular course such as Project Management Foundations show up alongside project management books and programs in our search results. Other popular courses available are Python Essential Training and Accounting Fundamentals. TPL plans to create additional catalogue records for courses on topics such as workforce development, entrepreneurship and digital creativity.


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

Stuffy Sleepovers

Stuffed animals reading a book together

Stuffy Sleepovers took place across the city at 38 branches on the evening of Thursday, October 24 to celebrate Ontario Public Library Week (October 20-26, 2019). In support of literacy and lifelong learning, and to provide opportunities for city residents to join together in a shared experience, over 570 children and their caregivers read and enjoyed games and activities before saying goodnight to the stuffies. Find out what the stuffies got up to when the libraries were closed.

Small Business Month 2019

Throughout October, TPL offered an increased number of small business programs on a variety of topics. From how to start a franchise business to how to build a cosplay business, mastering business pitches and presentations for artists and entrepreneurs to aligning product, brand and voice, there were programs for everyone at any stage of the small business journey.

Interlibrary Loan Update

In April 2019, provincial funding cuts were announced to Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) and Ontario Library Service (OLS) North, impacting the interlibrary loan of books between different library systems within the province. SOLS and OLS North are two provincial agencies distinct from TPL, but our interlibrary loan service was affected by these cuts, resulting in longer wait times to fill requests and the elimination of the self-service option. In June 2019, SOLS and OLS North announced the return of the service in a joint statement (PDF). The organizations now provide partial reimbursement to libraries for delivery costs rather than covering the entire cost, resulting in approximately $10,000 of additional operating costs annually for TPL. Normal interlibrary loan service levels have otherwise resumed at TPL.


Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences 

Reelworld Film Festival Industry Panel and VR Installation

Reelworld industry panelists
Panel discussion. Photo Credit: Reelworld Film Festival.

On Friday, October 18, Toronto Reference Library hosted the Reelworld Film Festival's industry panel discussions and VR installation for the third year in a row. Taking place in the Atrium, this year's panels covered mentorship in the film industry, relationship building for writers and agents, kids and family content creation, and adapting to a career in TV. Over 150 people attended the five moderated discussions and took part in lively question-and-answer sessions. The VR Installation showcased three short 360-degree films selected for this year's festival: "Tidal Traces", a dance piece that places the viewer in the centre of the performance; "Dancing Polar Bear", Inuit sculptor and visual artist Darrald Taylor creates a snow sculpture on the frozen Arctic Ocean; and "Fish Eyes", a kaleidoscopic experience influenced by the landscape created by multi-instrumentalist/artist Casey Koyczan. TPL staff and festival volunteers welcomed viewers to screen each film using VR equipment from the Digital Innovation Hubs.

Young Voices Magazine 2019 Launch and Fest

Young Voices Magazine 2019 Front cover

Over 175 teens, friends, family members and teachers came to the Young Voices Magazine Launch on the evening of Thursday, October 17 at North York Central Library (NYCL). Contributors received copies of the magazine, the new Young Voices bookmarks, enjoyed some delicious food and had the chance to read their work on stage. The magazine is available in branches now, as well as on the Young Voices webpage. Art and writing by Toronto teens can be submitted to the magazine year-round. Following the Launch, NYCL hosted the Young Voices Writing and Art Fest on Saturday, October 19. It was a busy afternoon with writing activities led by the Editorial Youth Advisory Group (EYAG), ​​a printmaking workshop, painting projects and spoken word. 60 teens participated in this creative and inspirational event.

Library Settlement Partnership (LSP) Week 2019

Newcomers learning about Indigenous history
Newcomers learning about Indigenous history and culture.

Funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Toronto’s Library Settlement Partnerships (LSP) program partners with seven local settlement agencies, providing year-round information, referrals, and programs for newcomers at 14 library branches across the city. The annual LSP Week celebration takes place every October and this year’s theme was “Thankfulness,” giving us a chance to think about what we are grateful for and how we can give back to our communities. Over 950 participants attended ten engaging events during the celebratory week, including a REEL CANADA film screening, an informative presentation on Indigenous history and culture, and an interactive Indigenous hand drum circle which bridged understanding, serene meditation, and more. In 2018, LSP served over 23,500 newcomers and delivered more than 940 programs.

Moriyama's Continuum Transforms Toronto Reference Library for Nuit Blanche 2019

Moriyama's Continuum at Toronto Reference Library
Dancing figures at Toronto Reference Library.

On Saturday, October 5 from 7 pm until 7 am on Sunday, October 6, the Atrium of Toronto Reference Library was activated with an immersive sound, video and performance installation. Over 2300 visitors came to see this installation. Moriyama's Continuum was an Independent Project for Nuit Blanche 2019, presented by Lo Fi Dance Theory and TPL. This collaborative project brought to life the creative vision of artists Avery Plewes, Wynn Holmes and Marie-Hélène Delorme. Architect Raymond Moriyama conceived of this library as a gathering place for creativity, and the artists developed community-engaged workshops in the months leading up to Nuit Blanche. People from across Toronto participated in choreography and sound design workshops with the artists at TPL branches to create components of the installation. Learn more about Moriyama's Continuum project and artists.

Illustrator in Residence for Fall 2019

Illustration by Yayo
Illustration by Yayo.

IBBY Canada’s Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator In Residence program ran from October 1-31 at NYCL with Diego (Yayo) Herrera, an internationally published illustrator of more than 35 children’s books. The Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence Program is a joint program of IBBY Canada, Toronto Public Library, Edmonton Public Library, the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, and the Young family. Yayo led hands-on workshops and class visits for children as well as presentations and individual portfolio reviews for art students and adults. Interest for the program was high and many sessions filled with budding illustrators. As part of the residency, Yayo’s art was featured during October in the NYCL exhibit space. The Illustrator in Residence program also provides an opportunity to highlight the IBBY Collection for Young People with Disabilities, located at NYCL.

Celebrating Book Clubs

Audience at Celebrating Book Clubs
Celebrating Book Club attendees at Toronto Reference Library.

On September 26, book club members and staff from across the city gathered for a celebration of book clubs at TPL. Toronto Reference Library’s Atrium was taken over by a crowd of over 250 enthusiastic, cheering book lovers, and Richview’s auditorium was humming with more than 50 excited bibliophiles. The two locations connected using telepresence technology to enjoy four author readings and three publishers’ representatives shared their top picks for the Fall season. In 2018, there were 1,271 book club meetings and discussions across TPL branches with a total of 12,171 attendees. Currently, over 80 branches have at least one book club and some of these groups, including those at Port Union and Downsview Branches, have been meeting for over 30 years.

Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

MPP Visits During Ontario Public Library Week

As part of Ontario Public Library Week (October 20-26, 2019), TPL invited Toronto members of provincial parliament (MPPs) to meet with us at their local library branch to see first-hand how public libraries are transforming. As part of our invitation, we highlighted the growing trend to e-government and delivering services online in light of the digital divide, and TPL’s role in offering access to the technology people need to participate in the digital civic realm. Nine MPPs accepted our invitation and visited their local branches (Don Mills, Fort York, Jane/Sheppard, Maria A. Shchuka, Mount Dennis, North York Central Library, Parkdale, Richview and Toronto Reference Library). Staff gave guided tours and MPPs were impressed with the breadth and depth of our services and the value we bring to the community.

St. Clair/Silverthorn Branch Reopens


Alim Remtulla
Board member Alim Remtulla speaking at the St. Clair/Silverthorn Branch grand re-opening.

After a 2-year closure for extensive renovations, the St. Clair/Silverthorn Branch reopened on Tuesday, October 15. The rebuilt branch offers a beautiful street presence on St. Clair Ave. West, a grand staircase with integrated seating that faces the street, an additional 850 square feet of space, an elevator and barrier-free access to the second floor. A new community room has been added, and the collection has been improved with new materials. The branch hosted a grand re-opening on Saturday, November 2. G. Board member Alim Remtulla attended the event and made welcoming remarks on behalf of the Board. Bruce Stratton were the architects for this project.

Tree Removal Ceremony at Albert Campbell Branch

Participants at the Tree Ceremony at Albert Campbell Branch
From Left to right: Charlotte Cossette (LGA Architectural Partners), Lara Mrosovsky (Miinikaan Innovation & Design), Trina’s daughter, Brock James (LGA Architectural Partners), Johl Whiteduck Ringuette (Miinikaan Innovation & Design), Trina Moyan (Indigenous Consultant, BBL), Trina’s son, Carolyn King (Moccasin Identifier Project), Darlene Flemming, Elder Wabagoon, Elder Wabagoon’s husband Karl Shay, and Susan Martin. Back row from right to left: Kevin Pinancie (drummer), his wife and son.

Albert Campbell Branch closed its doors at 5 pm on Saturday, September 28 for a major, 2-year renovation. One of the new features will be a smudging friendly room and a medicine garden to create opportunities for teaching and sharing Indigenous culture. In order to create the garden and change the entrance way to allow better accessibility, the four mature trees growing in front of the library will be removed, but parts of the trees will be saved to create tables or chairs for the branch. To honour these trees, a tree removal ceremony was conducted by Elder Wabagoon along with Trina Moyen, the Indigenous consultant. Carolyn King, founder of the Moccasin Identifier Project, also did a talk and demonstration of her project. Kevin Pinacie, drummer, and his accompanists sang two songs during the ceremony, one of which he wrote for the trees.

Other attendees at the event included TPL staff, the LGA Architectural Partners, Miinikaan Innovation & Design and Aboud (Landscape). After the ceremony, many in attendance commented on how powerful and touching an experience it was.

5th Annual Book Share and Inorganic Market at Don Mills Branch

Inorganic Market at Don Mills Branch
The Book Share and Inorganic Market outside Don Mills Branch.

On September 21, Don Mills Branch held their annual Book Share on the library lawns. Community members were invited to bring their gently used books, CDs and DVDs and exchange them with other residents. 170 participants enjoyed browsing and exchanging materials. This year's, ADL Process Electronics Recycling held their Inorganic Market at the event as well, allowing participants to drop off their unwanted electronics to be responsibly recycled. ADL is a Toronto based, Ontario Electronic Stewardship processor.  Approximately 120 people visited the market and 2899 lbs. of electronic waste were collected and saved from landfills. A great time was had by all, and attendees enthusiastically requested more events like this one.