City Librarian's Report for April 2022

April 13, 2022 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the April 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

TPL Ends Late Fines for All

CH_Mayor Tory-No more late fees_Mar. 31_2022_37
Mayor John Tory announcing the news at a media conference at City Hall Branch

On March 31, TPL Board Chair Sue Graham-Nutter, Councillor Gary Crawford, and Councillor Anthony Perruzza, joined Mayor John Tory, to announce our fine-free news. The announcement was widely covered by the media, including articles in CBC, Global News, and CP24. As a result of this announcement, TPL joins hundreds of library systems across North America in eliminating overdue fines. This is an important and exciting milestone in our road towards removing barriers and making TPL more accessible for all Torontonians. The Toronto Public Library Foundation raised $300,000 from generous donors to help eliminate fines.

Black Mental Health Week

Dr. Akwatu Khenti & Dr. Justine Joseph
Dr. Akwatu Khenti & Dr. Justine Joseph

As part of Black Mental Health week (March 7-11), TPL hosted Understanding Black Mental Health on our Crowdcast channel. The panel included Dr. Akwatu Khenti, Special Advisor to the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 equity initiative and Chair of the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity and Dr. Justine Joseph, a registered clinical psychologist. They discussed how systemic racism have affected Black mental health. The program included a presentation and lively Q&A session. Seventy-six people attended live & online and 38 people watched the recording afterwards. We had attendees from Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver, India and France.

As further support, TPL staff also wrote an informative blog post, which includes links to Anti-Black Racism & Mental Health Resources and a Black Mental Health reading list.

March Break Virtual Programs and Online Activities

Comic Workshop with CTON
Kids created their own comics during artist’s Clayton Hanmer’s virtual Comic workshop on Monday, March 14

TPL supported children and families through virtual programs and new online activities during the week of March Break (March 14-18). Over 1,425 participants attended five virtual March Break programs delivered on TPL Kid’s Crowdcast channel: Create Your Own Comics with Clayton Hanmer, the WonderPhil Magic Show, Up, Up and Away with Mad Science, and two French language programs- Voyage Africain with Njacko Backo and Tour de France avec Touralingo.

Fun online experiences including a special virtual escape room and digital puzzles, featuring some of this year's Design-a-Bookmark Contest winners, launched on These online activities helped to support literacy and learning skills and promoted the use of library services. Kids and families were definitely interested--overall traffic (25,097 visits) on TPL Kids was up 66.74% from last year’s spring break!

Conducting Research at the Library

The Toronto Public Library Board recently approved a Research Participation Policy that outlines how we prioritize and accept or decline unsolicited research requests. This new policy ensures that the approval process is consistent, transparent, accountable and efficient. Along with the policy, we have developed a new Conducting Research at the Library website, a new Research Request Form to streamline requests and an informative FAQ for Researchers to help staff and customers.


The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books hosts Albert and Clara Lahmer Memorial Lecture

The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books hosted the 18th Annual Albert and Clara Lahmer Memorial Lecture on March 24. Children’s book columnist Jeffrey Canton (Globe & Mail) delivered a lecture titled “Early Voices, Own Voices, Changing Voices: Canadian Children’s Books 1967-1990”. In his talk, Canton discussed shifts in Canadian children’s book publishing during the late 60’s to the early 90’s, themes of diversity and social justice, developments in publishing, and speculations about the future.

The lecture was delivered using the Crowdcast platform. There were 194 individuals registered, with 102 attending live. The lecture will be available for future viewing, and Canton has indicated that although this talk focused on a specific time period, he intends to continue his explorations on the topic. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Friends of the Osborne Collection.


Building pathways for workforce development

Su-Ying Lee is our Spring 2022 Arts Mentor in Residence

Su-Ying Lee, 2022 Spring Arts Mentor in Residence
Su-Ying Lee, 2022 Spring Arts Mentor in Residence

Barbara Frum Branch hosts the Arts Mentor in Residence for 8 weeks from March 21-May 13 with Su-Ying Lee (she/her), a highly successful independent curator. She will offer expertise about developing arts-based careers with a focus on engaging with and serving the needs of equity-seeking groups and vulnerable populations. With the support of Barbara Frum staff, Su-Ying, hosted the first of eight online programs with Canadian artist Rajni Perena on March 21. Rajni’s lived experience and Su-Ying’s professionalism provided an informative and inspiring dialogue for the 41 attendees. As part of the residency, Su-Ying also offers library customers free, virtual, one-on-one consultations and her timeslots are filling up quickly.

Providing the vital ingredients for a democratic society

TPL supports Resettling Families through Inter-Agency Task Force

Books provided for resettling families
Books provided for resettling families

TPL participates in the City of Toronto’s Inter-Agency Task Force to help coordinate a timely response to resettling families. TPL supports include donating new children’s and teens books, delivering virtual family storytime sessions, and translating relevant library information for new arrivals. At the March 21st Inter-Agency Task Force meeting, in addition to Mayor Tory’s remarks and recognition of the task force’s dedicated work, COSTI Immigrant Services expressed their appreciation for TPL staff.


Investing in staff and an innovative service culture

Cornerstone Content Anytime

As part of our ongoing efforts to foster a staff learning culture at TPL, we’ve added two Cornerstone Content Anytime (CCA) subscriptions to learn:tpl, TPL’s learning management system: Professional Skills and Leadership & Management. These subscriptions contain curated content from a variety of third party vendors, on a wide array of subjects, and the on-demand availability will be invaluable to those who are looking for supplemental learning opportunities.

Since acquiring this content in January of 2022, 203 staff have viewed 682 different courses, for a total of 1393 completions. With continued promotion and engagement, we expect these figures will increase dramatically in the coming months as our staff become more acquainted with the content.

Introducing TPL’s Social Story

My Visit to Toronto Public Library
My Visit to Toronto Public Library Social Story is now live

The library launched My Visit to Toronto Public Library: A Social Story f​or Everyone in March. Social stories are simple picture books about an activity, designed to help children with disabilities or children who are Deaf prepare for a new experience or situation. TPL’s social story is about a visit to the library and takes readers through everyday things a child might do during a visit. The story, available in multiple accessible formats, including eBraille, and video with American Sign Language (ASL) translation, can help children become more familiar with the library ahead of their visit.​ The idea for the social story came from our 2019 City Librarian Innovation Challenge on behalf of the Accessibility Services for Children Work Group.