A Message from Toronto's City Librarian - May 2020

Vickery Bowles

To our valued customers,

As you know, we closed our branches on March 13, as provincially mandated for non-essential services, to support efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. While our physical spaces are closed, we are still here for you, with a vast collection of digital resources and services you can access online 24 hours a day – from ebooks, eaudiobooks, movies and music, to online programs and learning tools. And it’s wonderful to see how much you value these services; we’ve seen a 46% increase in use of our online digital content since our temporary closure.

Over these past few weeks, we have been hard at work finding new and better ways to bring you more of the programs and services you want and need – and highlighting some of our most helpful and relevant resources to keep you and your families informed, engaged and entertained, as we all continue to navigate this difficult and uncertain time.

Throughout this time, we are continuing to build on our commitment – as outlined in TPL’s vision statement – to inform and inspire our city and its communities, making us all more resilient, more knowledgeable, more connected and more successful. This mission has never been more vital than it is today.

I am proud of the creative and collaborative ways our staff have stepped up to meet this challenge. Whether it’s developing new online initiatives, building new partnerships, or volunteering their time to provide for our most vulnerable residents, they are finding new and innovative ways to serve you and support our communities.

Here are some of the ways we’re working together to help you make it through this unprecedented time:

  • Expanding our online resources and programming to help you stay informed, engaged and entertained: We are continuing to build our extensive collection of ebooks, eaudiobooks, comics and videos for the whole family, and online resources that support everyone’s interests, learning and development.

  • Introducing a new series of live and online programs for audiences of all ages: Starting next week we’re introducing a broad range of new live and pre-recorded online programs and events to suit everyone’s interests, from storytimes and book clubs, to digital innovation and personal finance. This daily content will build on the great online programs we already offer as we continue to post engaging conversations from our Appel Salon on our YouTube channel, connect with you through our online reading challenge, and help you stock up on things to read, watch, listen to, learn and do during this time.
    TPL reading challenge 2020

  • Broadening access to our resources so that more Torontonians can benefit from them: We’ve introduced an Instant Digital Card that enables Torontonians who don't have a library card to access OverDrive, our largest collection of ebooks and audiobooks.

  • Updating our homepage and newsletter to better serve you: As you may have noticed, we’ve updated our homepage on tpl.ca to make it easier for you to find and discover what you want and need during this time. The homepage will be updated regularly with engaging activities, reading recommendations by library staff, online program information and much more. We’ve also updated our newsletter, which we’ve renamed What’s On: Home Edition, to keep you up to date on the latest TPL has to offer virtually. If you haven’t yet registered, you can sign up on our website.

And here are some of the ways we’re helping to make a difference in our communities:

  • Repurposing our closed library buildings as alternate service locations for city food banks to support some of our most vulnerable communities: We’ve partnered with the North York Harvest Food Bank, Daily Bread Food Bank and Second Harvest to set up food bank distribution from TPL branches across the city. Library staff also supervise and work on the front lines of these temporary food banks, and TPL is providing brand new books for children as part of the food hamper distribution.

  • Loaning our tools and equipment to support COVID-19 medical efforts: We have loaned 10 Ultimaker 2+ 3D printers to a team at Toronto General Hospital to support their efforts to produce personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers fighting COVID-19. We also provided our supply of nitrile gloves and N95 masks, which are used in our conservation lab for handling rare collections, to the City of Toronto.
    3D printers

These are only some of the many initiatives we’ve been working on, and there is a lot more to come. We will continue to build on this work to support you, our city and each other through the tough days ahead as we continue to respond to  ̶  and begin to recover from  ̶  this crisis. I encourage you to stay up to date with our efforts at tpl.ca and on our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.

I know I speak on behalf of all TPL staff when I say we miss seeing you, and look forward to welcoming you back into our spaces as soon as possible.

All the best,

Vickery Bowles
City Librarian