City Librarian's Report for March 2020

March 13, 2020 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the March 2020 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

Freedom to Read Week 2020

TPL once again celebrated Freedom to Read Week this year, which ran from February 23-29. This annual event encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom. By providing universal access to knowledge, ideas and opinions, public libraries are a true force for democracy. This is truer than ever in today's information age. Seventy percent of Torontonians use the library regularly, borrowing more than 30 million items every year and attending thousands of programs that give people access to a wide variety of topics, beliefs and opinions. For Freedom to Read Week, we shared some recently challenged titles on social media, held programming on critical thinking in challenging times, and hosted a writing workshop with author Cordelia Strube. Additionally, my article "Public Libraries Rise to Meet 21st-Century Challenges" (PDF) was included in the Freedom to Read 2020 kit. This article was adapted from a speech I gave at Glad Day Bookshop on February 27, 2019.


Visit from Japan’s Fukuoka Prefectural Assembly

Fukuoka Prefectural Assembly Visiting Lillian H Smith Library
Fukuoka Prefectural Assembly and TPL staff members.

On February 15, a delegation of 16 from Japan’s Fukuoka Prefectural Assembly visited Lillian H. Smith Branch. The delegates were impressed with TPL’s multicultural and newcomer services including Library Settlement Partnerships (funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), language support, relevant programs, and TPL’s support for Syrian newcomers and asylum seekers. The Prefectural Assembly aim to be more welcoming to newcomers and view TPL as a leading example in incorporating multiculturalism through aspects of programs and services. During the question period, there was keen interest in learning about the meaning of the Land Acknowledgement statements and TPL’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.


Black History Month 2020

Before the 6ix
Solitair, Jully Black, Kit Cut and Carey Riley participated in our “Before the 6ix: Beats from Toronto's Deep Hip-Hop History” panel discussion on February 19 at Toronto Reference Library, hosted by Del Cowie and DJ Agile.

TPL celebrated Black History Month throughout February at branches across the city with over 60 events including author talks, musical performances, workshops and films for children, teens and adults of all ages. We continue to showcase Black History all year round with reading lists and a collection of programs and special events that honour Black heritage and consider the historical significance and contemporary contributions of Black activists and artists from around the world.


Design-a-Bookmark Contest 2020 Winners

Design-a-Bookmark Contest-Group Photo of Winners
Design-a-Bookmark Contest winners with Kean Soo (back row on the right).

This year we received 5,425 entries to our popular annual contest and transformed 16 original, creative designs into reality. The contest concluded with a celebratory evening at Toronto Reference Library on February 19 for the winners, their families and friends. Twelve Grand Award winners won for theme, originality and design in each of three age groups: up to 6 years, 7 to 9 years and 10 to 13 years. There were also four Elizabeth Cleaver Design Award winners who won for theme, originality and design, plus outstanding artistic merit. Guest author and illustrator Kean Soo participated as a contest judge and as a presenter at the celebration. He brought the evening to an end with a fun and interactive drawing activity. All 16 winning designs will be available for pickup in our branches and can be viewed on the Design-a-Bookmark webpage.


Creating Community Connections through Cultural Experiences 

Art of the Book: New Exhibit at TD Gallery


A new exhibit at the TD Gallery celebrates the beauty and artistry of books from cover to cover. Art of the Book showcases rare, fine press and artist-made books from TPL’s Special Collections. Discover early printed books from the 1400s, richly decorated covers, whimsical miniatures, and contemporary forms that challenge our ideas about what a book can be. The exhibit runs from February 15 to April 26 at Toronto Reference Library with free guided tours on Tuesdays at 2 pm.


Colour Our Special Collections

Colour our collections
Beautiful illustrations of the alphabet just waiting to be coloured in.

This February, TPL participated for the first time in #ColorOurCollections, an online colouring festival organized by libraries, archives and other cultural institutions around the world. The festival ran from February 3 – 7. We shared a free digital colouring book of public domain images found in TPL’s Special Collection material and invited the public to colour them in and get creative.


Transforming for 21st Century Service Excellence

Staff Town Halls Introduce New Strategic Plan

Staff at the Town Hall

On February 20 and March 7, we celebrated the accomplishments of our last strategic plan and introduced our new plan to our staff. Over 390 staff attended the two events to learn about our direction and what we're trying to achieve over the next five years. Staff discussed the priorities, how they build on the momentum from our last plan, and how we each have a role to play. Our goal is to continue to make a difference in the lives of Torontonians and to support our city. This was the first step in a broad internal communications plan aimed at helping staff understand and see themselves in our strategic plan. The public launch of the plan will be in late March.


CN Tower and TPL Partner to Create a Unique Exploration of Toronto’s Changing Landscape

CN tower exhibit

The CN Tower and the library have partnered to present a 360-degree celebration of Toronto’s changing faces and places. The 114 Stories/Storeys exhibit explore the facts – and fiction – behind 10 of our city’s best-known landmarks. The exhibit, a unique collaboration between the CN Tower and Toronto Public Library, showcases our city’s diverse cultures and communities through stories and images of famous Toronto sites, all drawn from the library’s Digital Archive and Literary Map of Toronto​. More details about the exhibit are available in the full news release.