City Librarian's Report for March 2022

March 21, 2022 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the March 2022 Toronto Public Library (TPL) Board meeting. It summarizes 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.    

Opening up our public space


Look Out for Redesigned TPL Vehicles

new TPL delivery truck
TPL delivery truck with branding applied
TPL Truck
TPL delivery truck with branding applied

Keep your eyes on the road for two refreshed TPL vehicles that are now making their way around the city. One vehicle is a delivery truck transporting library holds and returns between branches in the south Etobicoke area. It features large, bold photos that illustrate life at TPL complemented by our vibrant colour palette. The second vehicle is a utility van used by TPL mechanics who maintain branches in the city’s southeast pocket. It stands out in our iconic TPL blue behind our bright new logo.


Utility van with new branding

This pilot project is the first step in a longer term rollout of the library’s new brand on our fleet vehicles, and is helping to make TPL more visible and accessible in communities.

Vax And Read Campaign across TPL Branches

Vax And Read Campaign at TPL Branch.
Vax And Read Campaign at TPL Branches

On March 2, the City of Toronto launched its Vax And Read campaign, which brought 22 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to 12 Toronto Public Library (TPL) branches across the city. The campaign is part of Team Toronto’s continued equity-focused, hyper-local mobile strategy to make COVID-19 vaccines as accessible and convenient as possible and to bring vaccines to where residents live, work, play, study and read. Toronto Public Health selected library locations that will continue to remove barriers and bring vaccines to residents in areas and settings that have low vaccination coverage and to residents who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

The campaign has been very successful in reaching local residents, and so the City has decided to extend it through to the end of the month, and operate a further 23 clinics at 11 branches, bringing the total to 45 vaccination clinics taking place at TPL branches this month.

Design-a-Bookmark Contest Awards Ceremony

Design-a-Bookmark winners
A selection of the Design-a-Bookmark winners

Design-a-Bookmark is an annual TPL contest that runs in October across all branches. The Design-a-Bookmark Contest provides children and families with a personal connection to their local branches and TPL as a whole. We chose 16 winning designs from 3,600 entries. We selected 12 Grand Award Winners for theme, originality and design. Additionally, four unique designs won the Elizabeth Cleaver Award for outstanding artistic merit.

A virtual awards ceremony took place on February 19 for the contest winners and their friends and families. TPL Board Vice-Chair, Alim Remtulla,  was on hand to congratulate winners on their creative accomplishments. Guest judge and illustrator, Ashley Barron, offered enthusiastic, vivid detail on each bookmark design as she acknowledged the winners for their artwork. The online celebration concluded with Ashley’s fun and engaging workshop creating paper art.

All 16 winning designs are now available for pickup in our branches and can be viewed on the Design-a-Bookmark webpage.

Information session for Regent Park Community

Regent Park Community Design
Proposed location of the new branch along Gerrard Street (click to enlarge picture).

TPL staff, Councillor Wong-Tam and partners Tridel and Toronto Community Housing, delivered a virtual information session to the members of the Regent Park community on March 8. TPL staff shared information about the potential relocation and expansion of the Parliament Street branch, including the benefits of a new facility, and what the new spaces and services could include to further support the economic and social development of the community.

Plans to relocate and expand the Parliament Street branch have been included in recent discussions around the final phase of the Regent Park redevelopment project. This 25-year project will redevelop 69 acres to replace existing rent-geared-to-income (RGI) units, add new affordable rental units and new market condominium units. The result of this project will be a dynamic neighbourhood with vibrant open spaces and an animated public realm.

There was a lot of excitement from the community to hear about the potential spaces and services. A commitment was made to the community for ongoing consultation as the Library project progresses.

Family Day and Black History Month Programs for Families

African Stories by Moonlight
Storyteller Ugonma Ekeanyanwu shared traditional African folklore in celebration of Black History Month on February 23

In February, the Children’s Services Department celebrated Black History Month and Family Day with great online programs. On February 18, Children's services staff delivered an engaging Ready for Reading storytime highlighting stories and songs about families. February 18 was also a PA day, and families tuned in that afternoon to watch Ripley’s Aquarium’s Sharks in the City program, where kids learned about shark care, including what they eat. On February 23, in celebration of Black History Month, broadcaster and storyteller, Ugonma Ekeanyanwu, presented traditional African folklore in her program, African Stories by Moonlight. Ugonma’s interactive storytelling program included an introduction to the instruments used during the presentation, as well as call and response songs. Over 300 families across the GTA have tuned in to view these three programs. Check out our TPL Kids Crowdcast channel for more virtual programs that kids and families can enjoy!

Building pathways for workforce development


New Career Coaches in Residence Session

Career Coaches
Career Coaches L to R: Ken Lee, Kadine Cooper, Catherine Crawford

The new session of our Career Coaches in Residence began March 7 and runs until July 30. This opportunity offers younger adults (ages 18-29) career and job search help through one-on-one consultation, programs, and other resources.​​

In our last session which ran from September 2021-February 2022, we offered 200 consultation sessions and 17 programs to 302 attendees with two coaches. With the addition of a third coach, we are excited to help even more Torontonians in their career and job search journey.

Coaches help with general career advice, resume and cover letters, job search, interview preparation and personal marketing material for LinkedIn profiles, portfolios or websites. Coaches also offer various programs, workshops and discussion panels throughout the session. 

The coaches also write monthly blog posts on the Career an​d Job Search Help blog. This is another great resource filled with various career advice from our past and present coaches.

Providing the vital ingredients for a democratic society


Resources on the Background of Russia and Ukraine

Ukraine and Russia reading lists
Books and resources to help understand the history of the region and context for the current crisis

One of the most important roles public libraries play is providing access to information that helps us understand and make sense of our world. TPL has compiled a list of resources to help Torontonians learn more about the history of Russia and Ukraine and provide context for the current crisis. The list consists of more than 20 titles in our collection and refers to other reliable e-resources, and was shared across our channels.

Black History Wikipedia Edit-a-thon Hosted by TPL and University Libraries

Black History Wikipedia Edit-a-thon
The Black History Wikipedia Edit-athon aimed to improve coverage of Black histories in Canada on the world's most popular encyclopedia.

In February, TPL partnered with University of Toronto Libraries, York University Libraries and Ryerson University Library for a month-long "Wikipedia Edit-a-thon". The goal was to improve coverage of Black histories in Canada on the world's most popular encyclopedia. Torontonians were invited to learn how to edit and create Wikipedia and Wikidata articles. Librarians and other facilitators led classes and one-on-one sessions for beginners. In addition to four group editing sessions, there was a panel discussion on "Black archives and a praxis of care" featuring Dr. Cheryl Thompson, Collette "Coco" Murray and Dr. Mark Campbell.  Some highlights of the project’s achievements include:

  • 117 articles created
  • 292 articles edited
  • 2,500 edits
  • 267,000 words added
  • 1,300 references added 

Other ways TPL celebrated Black History Month 

Black History Month
Guests that appeared in our 2022 Black History online TPL Culture programs included L to R: Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr, Daniel Pauly, Habiba Cooper Diallo, K-Cutt, Marlon James, Dan Charnas, Zoé SOUNDmind and Rich Kidd.

TPL celebrated Black History Month throughout February with a series of virtual events and new reading lists for all ages that honour Black voices, heritage and culture.

Featured Black History events presented on the TPL Culture channel include Before the 6ix: Behind the Beat, a panel discussion and DJ performance about the evolution of Toronto hip-hop music. Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr discussed her innovative and intimate memoir, I Am Because We Are. And Habiba Cooper Diallo talked about her new book, #BlackInSchool, an eye-opening account of structural anti-Black racism in our public education system.

Along with creating beautiful branch displays and participating in staff development opportunities, TPL staff wrote several informative and inspiring blog posts, including Uncovering Joy through the Eyes of Black Canadians, Great Books on Black History in Toronto and Ontario and Black d/Deaf and Disability Excellence.

We continue to showcase Black History all year round with programs, reading lists, blog posts, podcast episodes and videos that celebrate and honour the historical significance and contemporary contributions of Black activists and artists from around the world. Visit our Black History page to explore the series.

Celebrating Freedom to Read 

Freedom to Read Week 2022
Some titles that have been challenged through the years at TPL

TPL recognized Freedom to Read Week (February 20 to 26), an annual celebration that encourages Canadians to think about and value their right to read, write, and publish freely. For us at TPL, it’s an important opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to intellectual freedom and to reflect on the essential role public libraries play in supporting democracy and informed minds.  Our Freedom to Read Week showcases some materials from TPL’s collection that have been challenged over the years.