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Help us beta test the new

December 11, 2009 | TPL Staff | Comments (89)

We have been working on a complete redesign of our website. Today we’re happy to announce that the new site is available for beta testing, and we’d like to invite you, our blog readers, to be the first to try it out and give us your feedback.


About the beta site

The old website and catalogue are still available, but while you’re testing the beta, you should know that all the data in it is live – the status of items (checked in, checked out) is in real time and anything you do (placing holds, changes in your account) is real. You are also seeing live program listings and blog posts.

This is very much a beta. The website is still in development, so some aspects are incomplete (e.g. no content on some pages or sections, links that don’t work yet, some visual design and labels that need to be finalized).

So please go to our existing website if you’re looking for current library information such as policies, catalogue help and library board and service information. 

Known issues with the beta site

Why are you changing the site again?

The new website is the latest development in a multi-year plan to improve the library’s online services and lay the groundwork for future growth. Last year, we replaced the computer system that manages our inventory and customer accounts. This was a big change that had to be made to support the library’s operations, but it did not directly address many aspects of how our customers interact with the library online. The focus of the current redesign has been on making the website easier and more enjoyable to use.

So...what's new?

  • Improved search is the major change we’re introducing with this redesign. Basically, we wanted to make searching for library materials as easy and intuitive as searching the internet or on an online shopping site. If you’re interested in the details, check out our previous posts (part 1 and part 2) about how the new search engine works.
  • One site and search for everything: our existing search tool (the catalogue) only searches for library materials. The new website brings together materials (books, movies, eBooks, etc.) with information about library programs, branches, and services. All the library has to offer is housed under one site and one search.
  • Up-to-date web features: the new website has been built to current web standards. This makes the site more accessible for people with special needs, and also means we can offer the kinds of functions (RSS feeds, sharing tools) that are found on most major websites.
  • Fixes for issues on the existing site: in building the new website, we’ve been able to address some of the things we know you don’t like about the current site. For instance, we’ve done a better job of ensuring that “Place Hold” links only show up for items that are actually holdable. And now entering your library card number to place a hold signs you in, so you won’t be asked to enter it again when you try to place a hold on a second item.
  • An extensible platform for future development: the new website is built on a foundation that will enable the library to react quickly to new needs and resolve issues. This includes enabling open data, multi-language, mobile hand-held device experiences and future features and growth.

But some things haven't changed. Why not?

The focus of this phase of the website redesign was on implementing a new search engine and web platform. We’ve been paying attention to your comments about other improvements you’d like to see, and we’re planning to address them in the near future. Some things you won’t see yet in the new site, but that we hope to develop soon:

  • Ability to delete the history of missed holds on your account summary screen
  • List-making functions, including the option to keep a history of items you’ve borrowed from the library in the past
  • Self-service features like online payment for overdue fines and online library card registration

We rely on your input to help us prioritize improvements and new features, so please share your thoughts on this blog.

Here you go!


Staff from the Toronto Public Library's eServices team talk about recent changes, future plans and ideas and issues you raise about the library's online and mobile services.

What the Web Team is reading on the web