City Librarian's Report for June 2022

June 10, 2022 | Vickery Bowles

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Below is my report for the June 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

Fireside Family Chat: Art and Storytelling 

Fireside Family Chat Screen Capture
TPL’s Christine (left) and the AGO’s Savette (right) present Fireside Family Chat: Art and Storytelling on April 9.

TPL is pleased to partner with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) this spring for a series of virtual Fireside Family Chat programs that combine storytelling and art. Taking place on Saturdays at 2 pm on April 9, May 14 and June 11, TPL staff and AGO family facilitators deliver an engaging program of storytelling, exploration, and creativity inspired by artworks from the AGO’s collection. In addition to stories and activities, the program also encourages kids to create their own works of art. Be sure to join us on Crowdcast for the final program in this series on June 11. To date, over 50 families have tuned in live to participate in these programs. Check out our TPL Kids Crowdcast channel for more online offerings that kids and families can enjoy together!

Digital Piano Lab at North York Central Library

Piano practice
Customers can now book a space to practice piano at NYCL

A new Digital Piano Lab is now open at NYCL. In its opening month, nearly 100 customers booked the space to practice their piano playing skills. Located in the Creation Loft on the second floor, the Lab provides users with access to digital pianos and music-related programming, including an upcoming 10-week Innovator in Residence program focused on Music Theory and Technology scheduled to take place in October. The Lab is part of a continuum of services offered in the Creation Loft, which includes the Digital Innovation Hub, Recording Studios, the Fabrication Studio, eLearning Lab and piano practice room, and links nicely to the extensive print and online music collections held at NYCL. This new service supports TPL’s strategic priorities around creating inspiring public spaces that Torontonians can access easily to learn and create music and expanding access to technology and digital literacy. The Digital Piano Lab is generously supported by the Holdbest Foundation.

TPL’s first hybrid Pride Month Celebrations!

Pride Month YO PIllars
Yorkville branch wrapped in Pride colours

This June, TPL hosts its first hybrid Pride Month in celebration of Toronto’s queer communities. With in-person events returning to branches, staff have planned a full month of live and virtual programs around the city for audiences of all ages.

Upcoming events include:

  • Rainbow Storytimes and Drag Queen Storytimes for kids with Gila Munster
  • Virtual author talks with Hudson Lin and Kalynn Bayron
  • Virtual panel on queerness and disability
  • Sci-fi and gender online panel with Alyx Dellamonica, Lee Mandelo, and the Merril Collection
  • 2SLGBTQ+ book clubs for adults and youth
  • Virtual Q&A on transitioning and transgender health with Juno Dawson

A collection of new 2SLGBTQ+ reading lists is also available, along with updated community resources. Don’t forget to check out your local library branch for colourful and creative Pride Month displays. For more information on programs, collections and services, visit

Read Indigenous 2022

On June 1, TPL launched Read Indigenous - a yearly list of must-read titles featuring Indigenous creators. The list was curated with input from the Indigenous Advisory Council and includes materials for all ages. Customers may pick up cards that feature the 2022 list at any TPL branch and view current and past lists on the Read Indigenous website. Read Indigenous is one of TPL’s Strategies for Indigenous Initiatives and part of TPL’s response to the TRC Calls to Action. Read Indigenous helps to raise awareness of Indigenous content in our collections and helps to amplify Indigenous voices. This year’s list is dedicated to Lee Maracle, a revolutionary, award-wining author who passed away in November 2021. Among the first Indigenous authors published, Maracle’s work and mentorship helped forge a path for contemporary Indigenous Literature.

Ontario Parks Pass Program

Bon Echo Look out
Three friends enjoy the view at an Ontario Park

On May 30, Toronto Public Library launched the Ontario Parks Pass program, joining over 200 public library systems in Ontario participating in this program in partnership with Ontario Parks. The borrowable vehicle permit provides day-use access to over 100 provincial parks for all vehicle occupants. The program aims to raise awareness of Ontario Parks, make these spaces more accessible and affordable for all residents, and encourage outdoor activity, recreation and connection to nature. In the first week of launch, the new program received great media mentions across the city in City News, BlogTO and Post City

North York celebrates 100 years

NYCL historical society
Attendees L to R: Councillor James Pasternak, Councillor Shelley Carroll, Marla Weingarten (NYHS), Mayor Tory, Councillor John Filion, Glenn Bonnetta (NYHS)

June 13th marked exactly 100 years since the founding of North York as a township in 1922. In partnership with the North York Historical Society (NYHS), staff from North York Central Library’s Society and Recreation department organized a centennial celebration, held in the mall adjacent to the library.

Mayor John Tory joined North York councillors Shelley Carroll, John Filion, and James Pasternak and over 100 guests to celebrate this milestone. NYHS leader’s provided interesting stories on the history of the area. Mayor Tory agreed, saying, “When the cities amalgamated years ago, it’s easy to forget that the city evolved through many different phases, and I think it’s important that we understand this history, as it shapes who we are, and the way the city is today.”

NYCL staff curated an arresting display of “North York Then and Now” photos showing the changes North York has gone through from its rural roots to today’s vital part of urban Toronto. A new North York History Room will open later in 2022 on NYCL’s 5th floor to showcase this rich heritage.

Building pathways for workforce development

TPL participates in the eighth annual Toronto Newcomer Day

Newcomers registering for new library membership at information fair
Toronto Newcomer Day visitors lining up to register for library membership at TPL’s booth.

On May 25th, the eighth annual Toronto Newcomer Day celebration took place in-person at Nathan Phillips Square, welcoming newcomers to Toronto. The celebration also connects newcomers to a wide range of services and recognizes their many contributions to the city. Newcomers, including those who arrived earlier in the week, learned about relevant and useful TPL programs and services at the information fair. Library staff distributed 50 Presto cards in addition to registering over 110 new library memberships. Over 70 attendees took an interactive and historical look at Toronto’s Chinatowns, a special TPL program with presenter Harvey Low at City Hall branch.

Community Librarian working with Toronto Community Housing (TCH)

Community Librarian Rosa with a customer
Community Librarian Rosa with a customer who received a library and Presto card

Just after Victoria Day, TPL’s Community Librarian assigned to providing service at two Toronto Community Housing buildings on the west-end of the City, was finally able to do what she does best – make connections. Rosa had already attended several open houses and residents’ meetings, but now she was in the building, bringing library service into the homes of TPL customers. In addition to the basic services of making library cards, program registration, and helping navigate TPL’s digital resources, our community librarian tailored her services to the community itself.

As a Toronto Community Housing community librarian, Rosa is working to address the immediate needs of vulnerable families and identify pathways to success for recovering after the pandemic. She ensures that tenants' long-term goals around physical and mental health, employment, housing, and overall well-being are supported through skills training, digital literacy, increased access and availability of library resources. She is helping to improve digital literacy and access for residents by meeting them at their Toronto Community Housing residence and providing remote Book a Librarian service to those communities. Rosa has made 133 library cards, reactivated 15 accounts, spoken with 223 people, participated in one virtual and nine in-person outreach events.

Through these deep outreach opportunities into communities, TPL’s Community Librarians provide vital connections and support the Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy (PDF). The Toronto Community Housing Community Librarian is generously supported by an Anonymous Donor.


Providing the vital ingredients for a democratic society

Toronto Visionaries Experience Expo

On May 28, TPL was thrilled to return to the Toronto Visionaries Experience Expo, along with our friends from the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA). The Experience Expo is an annual community event with dozens of exhibitors sharing information about products, services, supports, and recreational and social opportunities by and for people living with vision loss. TPL shared information about accessibility at the library, including how people with print disabilities can sign up for CELA with their TPL card. CELA is a public library service that provides reading materials for all ages in print alternate formats, including audio, e-text, and braille. In the words of one visitor to our booth, “Having access to books and information that you can read at any stage of life, no matter what your disability, is so important.” We couldn’t agree more!

TPL's Multi-Year Accessibility Plan outlines how TPL is working to remove barriers and advance accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. 

Investing in staff and an innovative service culture

Creating Accessible Digital Documents Training Program

As one of the many accessibility initiatives underway at TPL, we recently launched the ‘Creating Accessible Digital Documents’ training program, a collaborative project between HR, SDI and ITS. Through this learning opportunity, staff gain a better understanding of how accessible digital documents can remove barriers for staff and customers with disabilities. The program is offered in two parts: an interactive module, which outlines best practices for creating accessible MS Office and PDF documents, followed by a virtual live session that provides an opportunity to apply these learnings to a document. Facilitated by Kate Brown and Jessica Blackwood from McMaster University, three sessions have been held for Directors and Managers, totaling approximately 60 participants. Five additional sessions, throughout the remainder of 2022, are available to all staff.