Toronto Public Library Homepage

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Some websites unavailability this morning

August 24, 2010 | Alan H. | Comments (10)

We are making some changes to our network this morning as part of the continuing transition to the new website.  You may experience unavailability, slowness or other issues with the old website, the new website, the catalogue or other Toronto Public Library web presence during this time.  We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to have the work finished quickly.

We'll keep this post updated as needed with information.

8:36 AM: Work is still going on.  If you're looking for holds/account information/book search, you can still use the old catalogue at

9:54 AM: Most services are back and functioning on the main website.  The "new" website many of you have been using at the "beta" address is now the main site.  A few outstanding issues are being worked on.  We'll keep you updated, and thanks again for your patience during this transition.

10:38 AM: We're experiencing some issues with our underlying catalogue software.  Book searches will work on the main website, but account-related functions like placing a hold are unavailable (you may receive a message saying your library card and/or PIN number are invalid when attempting to use these functions, even if they are valid).  We are working to resolve this as quickly as possible.

10:52 AM: Catalogue issues described in the previous update now appear to be resolved.  Again, thanks for your patience.

The new beta testing and feedback so far

February 17, 2010 | TPL Staff | Comments (9)

Thanks to everyone who has provided feedback so far on the beta version of the new Toronto Public Library website.

(If you haven’t done so yet, take a look at the beta website now and tell us what you think.)

A few of you have commented that the beta site seems slow. This is a concern for us too, and we have been putting considerable effort into improving performance. We are now caching site components wherever it makes sense, and we have also upgraded our servers. We’ve been doing regular load testing to get a sense of how the site will perform once it’s released to our full user base.

You have also told us that you want to stay logged in longer without having your session automatically time out. Addressing this issue is a challenge for us because it involves the underlying library catalogue system, not just the website itself. We do plan to extend the session duration. In the longer term, our goal is to add a “remember me” function so you can choose to stay logged in on your home computer, but this will probably not be available until sometime after the launch of the new site.

We think we have successfully addressed a number of other issues you identified, including style problems on the account pages and unsatisfactory results from advanced search. We’re especially grateful to those of you who posted screen shots and provided detailed step-by-step explanations of an issue.

Many thanks for all your help so far, and please keep the comments coming!

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!

**Updated** Help us organize library programs in a way that makes sense!

October 23, 2009 | Alan H. | Comments (6)

Hi everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know that we're doing a crowdsourcing exercise to help with refining the search interface and information architecture of the new website's programs section.

*UPDATE* Thanks to everyone who participated in our online card sort. Based on your input, we've winnowed library programs down to a small set of meaningful categories that should be easy to browse. (We started out with about 29 categories, so this will be a big improvement!)

Ask A Librarian Beta Links on the Catalogue

May 5, 2009 | TPL Staff | Comments (11)

Toronto Public Library is always looking for ways to make it easier for you to get the help you need.

Starting May 5th, for two weeks, you will see a new set of links on the catalogue aimed at providing you quick access to help where you need it.

Why don't you see the links every time you visit the catalogue?

To help us make sure we can meet demand we elected to test this with a small set of customers.  As a result you will see the links on some visits to the catalogue and not on others during the two week period. We hope to make the links permanent very soon for all your catalogue visits.

Ask A Librarian Beta Links

Catalogue - your feedback so far

December 18, 2008 | Dara Renton | Comments (34)

We knew that using the web as a feedback mechanism and engaging in online consultation was a pretty good idea but we are really pleased to see how good a job it does at connecting us with our customers and ideas.  Already we've received a great tip that will help our Linux community (thanks Matt!), and have also received some valuable feedback and suggestions about the new catalogue.  

Delivering an improved TPL online experience based on an engaging and honest discussion with our online audience is our goal and I think we’re off to a good start.  We thank you for participating and commenting.

The team and I have been reviewing the feedback received over the past week from comments on this blog, sent to Answerline and gathered during our Beta Test of the catalogue last month. Thank you for taking the time to use the new catalogue and tell us what you think.

Here is a summary of your feedback so far.

Missed Holds – Why are these holds displaying? I picked up all my holds and How can I remove notices I no longer want?

This is a new feature.  It allows you to see your missed holds, all holds not picked up since February 2008 are showing up in your account. We know this may be confusing, especially if you have placed a new hold on the same title. Unfortunately, you cannot remove them yourself, however, they will be cleared automatically on a regular schedule, so this situation is only temporary.

Your Account/Sign In takes you to the search screen instead of the account screen.

This issue is a high priority, and we are close to having a fix.

More personalized features like being able to track a "wish list" and enabling me to see my borrowing history.

These are both definitely on our list of desired features. Using the new "Link to This Page" feature you are now able to bookmark and copy links  of items, as an interim step this may be a useful alternative. And next year we will enable you to share items directly to common social networks such as Facebook, Digg and Delicious.  So, more is coming in this area in the near term and further out we hope to implement a fulsome TPL solution.

The holds list in Your Account no longer includes author, and you can't sort by author name.

You can see the author's name by clicking the link to the item record, but we understand that you also liked seeing this information on the account screen and being able to sort on it. The number of sortable columns presents a design challenge on the holds screen. We will investigate possible design changes that might allow us to add an author column.

Some of you would prefer to see all their account information on a single page instead of in tabs.  Can it be a setting in Your Account?

Based on customer comments, usability testing, and beta testing, we have found that the majority of users prefer the tabbed display.  There are no further levels of personalization possible at this time. We hope customers who prefer the single page layout are able to get used to the new layout and find it intuitive.

The Your Account summary screen listing for the number of holds does not include items that are in transit or on the pickup shelf.

Some of you find this confusing/misleading, especially because in transit and pickup shelf items are included in the maximum number of holds allowed - it looks like you can place more holds, but you can't. We are working to improve the labelling to clarify this.

Screen width

Some of you have report having to scroll horizontally to access the search buttons or other information.   We are working on fixing this.

Why doesn't my name appear when I login anymore?

This feature was implemented to improve the privacy of customers who use the catalogue from public computers (e.g. from our library branches or internet cafés).  In place of your name you can now display a 'ScreenName'  which you can set in your account settings page.  "For more information about this please see this FAQ.

Where are the links to "More by this author"/"More on this topic"?

When you click on "Full Details" to display the complete information for an item, the author and subject headings you see here are links that you can click to find more matching titles. (Note: if the result of clicking one of these links is just the same item record you were already looking at, that means there are no other titles matching the author or subject.)

Library Elf no longer works for my Toronto Public Library account.

We are aware of this problem and are not sure why the recent changes to our catalogue have impacted Library Elf, since we are still using the same technology we have had in place since February 2008. Library Elf is a private company not affiliated or officially supported by TPL.  Email notification for holds and overdue items is available directly from your Toronto Public Library account. Enter your email address under the Account Settings tab to begin receiving email notices.

Known issues (e.g., slowness, date format, not being able to place holds on items you currently have checked out) - why haven't you fixed this stuff too?

We know these problems are significant. We are constantly working to improve our service.   We will continue to keep you posted through this blog about ongoing updates about our efforts to improve the catalogue.

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