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Renew your checkouts - even if they have holds - as long as another copy is available

May 20, 2014 | TPL Staff | Comments (10)

Have you ever seen this message when you tried to renew one of your checked-out items?

Item failed to be renewed - item has holds

Preventing a renewal makes sense if other library users are waiting to borrow the title and all the copies are checked out. But, as many regular users noticed, there was a flaw in our system's logic: renewals were being blocked for items with holds on them even if other copies of the title were available to borrow. The only way to renew an item with a hold on it was to contact library staff, who would manually check whether or not other copies were available and override the system setting to allow the renewal.

This approach to managing renewals was inconvenient for users and an inefficient use of staff resources. So we're delighted to announce that, following an upgrade this past weekend, the library's account system now has logic that checks for available copies and allows renewals to proceed as long as there is a copy on the shelf that can fill an outstanding hold.

There are still situations where you won't be able to renew a checked-out item:

  • It's a popular item with a waiting list and no available copies
  • It's a popular item with a waiting list and the "available" copies are not copies that can fill holds (e.g. they are reference-only or Best Bets copies)
  • The item is a new feature DVD or part of a Book Club Set
  • You have already renewed the item the maximum number of times

Our goal is to make borrowing and renewing more convenient, while still ensuring equitable access to library materials. Thanks to everyone who has sent in feedback to help us improve the self-service renewal option!

Account Usability Testing Round 1

November 12, 2013 | TPL Staff | Comments (5)

Assuming other news may have distracted you from reading our most recent blog post, here's a brief update on what we're doing. The Account Redesign Project team is hard at work developing a new mobile friendly account experience and on November 4th we put our prototype in front of several library users. This was the first of many planned user testing sessions. We observed users in action performing tasks like renewing books, cancelling holds, and changing pickup locations. 

A library user testing the prototype on a phone

As we have been working ‘mobile first’ i.e. starting with design for the smallest screen – the first round of testing focused on mobile devices. Members of the Website Advisory Group were invited to participate in this day of testing.

Testing was conducted on an interactive prototype of the design, a sort of live sketch of the new account. This allowed us to ask people to interact with the prototype and complete typical library account management tasks. By doing task based testing, for example asking someone how they would renew their books, we get invaluable feedback on how easy tasks are to complete and whether users can see the information they need.

Outstanding holds screen grab
Account prototype as of November 12th.

We met some great people and got an excellent sense of what in the design is working and where improvements are needed. Overall, the task completion rate was high, meaning we are on the right track, but there were a few stumbling blocks in the design, like the ability to access branch open hours information easily. 

User testing findings

  • you want to easily be able to see time-sensitive information,
  • you want clear and consistent date formats,
  • you don’t consider outstanding hold expiry dates very important,
  • you want easier access to branch open hours information.

This week we've been reviewing and analyzing your feedback and our testing observations and are fast at work making revisions in preparation for our next round of testing. 

A big, big thank you to all those who came out and participated. Please keep checking back here for regular updates on our progress and to let us know how we're doing. If you would like to join the Website Advisory Group and have a chance to see the new Account first hand, please let us know.

Accessing TPL eBooks and Audiobooks on your Blackberry Playbook

February 24, 2012 | Niall | Comments (11)

Update (August 21, 2014): OverDrive is no longer supporting their app for the Blackberry Playbook.

The recently released BlackBerry OverDrive Mobile App and new OS (2.0) for Blackberry Playbook allows users to access ebooks and audiobooks through their device.   Some have experienced difficulties getting this app to work properly so we’ve compiled some instructions to help users. Try following these steps to get ebooks working on your BlackBerry Playbook.

OverDrive Mobile App for BlackBerry Playbook

Download OS 2

  • Tap "Settings" on your Playbook (upper right hand corner)
  • Select "Software Updates"
  • Tap "Check for Updates"  and download the new operating system

Get the OverDrive App

  • Tap on the "App World" icon on the Playbook
  • Enter “Overdrive Media Console” in the search box
  • On the results page, select OverDrive’s mobile app
  • Tap “Download” to install the app
  • When the download completes, open it and select “Yes” to grant trusted application status

Authorize Your Device.

  • Open the OverDrive mobile app already installed on your Blackberry Playbook
  • Swipe down from the top of the screen to see the options menu for the app
  • Select "App Settings"
  • Scroll down the App Settings screen until you see where to enter your Adobe ID and password and tap “Authorize”
  • If you do not have an Adobe ID, tap the button to obtain a free ID and fill out the form on the Adobe website

Add TPL to your Library List

  • Open OverDrive’s mobile app on your BlackBerry Playbook
  • Swipe down from the top of the screen to see the options menu for the app
  • Select "Get Books"
  • Tap "Add a Library" and enter “Toronto Public Library” in the search box and tap “Search” 
  • Select any TPL branch displayed in the results
  • Tap the star next to the library name to add it to your library list
  • Tap the library name to visit TPL’s mobile OverDrive site

Download Ebooks

  • From the TPL mobile OverDrive site, use the buttons at the top of the screen to Browse or Search for Adobe EPUB ebooks or MP3 audiobooks
  • Check the box to show only available titles
  • Once you’ve found a title, tap “Add to Cart”
  • When you’re ready to checkout, tap “Proceed to Checkout” from within your cart
  • Log in with your library card number and PIN when prompted
  • Tap “Confirm Checkout”
  • Tap “Download” beneath the title in your OverDrive bookshelf
  • The title will download to your Playbook and open, ready for you to enjoy!


Returning eBooks and eAudiobooks

October 19, 2011 | Niall | Comments (7)

Book return

You’ve finally finished reading your latest eBook from TPL and want to make it available for other library users.  Or, you’ve reached your checkout limit and want to free up space for additional checkouts.

Many people are wondering, is it possible to return eBooks early? The answer is, absolutely!

If you are using Adobe Digital Editions on a Windows or Mac-based desktop computer, the icon for a title in your bookshelf view will have a small triangle (Item Options) at the top left of it, which when clicked will show a pull-down menu, including "Return Borrowed Item". Select this to return the item and have it removed from your bookshelf.

Click here for more detailed instruction on returning EPUB eBooks.  

Click here for more detailed instruction on returning PDF eBooks.

If you are using Sony Reader Library on a desktop computer, you can right-click the icon for the title and you will see the same "Return borrowed item" option in the menu.

If you are using the OverDrive Media Console app for iOS/Android/Windows Mobile/Blackberry, when you go to delete a title from your bookshelf, a menu will pop up that includes the option "Return & Delete" allowing you to return items early.  Click here for further instruction. 

Returning eAudiobooks

Due to publisher licensing agreements OverDrive eAudiobooks such as WMA or MP3 files cannot be returned early. They will be automatically returned to the library at the end of the lending period.

A note on lending periods

The lending period for eBooks is usually 21 days, but you can adjust this to 7 or 14 day periods when checking out materials in Overdrive.  Additionally, you can set personalized default lending period(s) on a format-by-format basis at the 'Lending Periods' page in your Overdrive Account. The mobile version of this site uses the default lending period you specify at the 'Lending Periods' page.


**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!)

Catalogue Usability

December 10, 2008 | TPL Staff | Comments (7)

As you may have read in this post, an improved version of the catalogue is going live tomorrow. We have received several comments around usability issues and wanted to specifically address the issue of usability and our catalogue.

Unusable Watering Can

What you will see in this version of the catalogue

Your account sign-in – This action now goes to Your Account.

Page titles and permanent links – With this function we ensure that each item in the catalogue has a permanent link that you can use to share or bookmark in your browser.  Along with this we ensured that the bookmark would be titled appropriately.

Warnings when you are about to affect all items (e.g. item renewal and cancelling holds) – This was implemented to stop you from unexpectedly affecting all your holds with a single click.

Screen refresh – When you renew items or cancel holds, the screen now refreshes after you take your action.  This ensures you see the results of your action and don't take the same action again.

Hold suspension process simplified – To help make this process easier for everyone, we've introduced a way to activate or suspend holds without specifying a date range.  You may also continue to indicate a date range should you wish to do so.

Headings, labels and error messages – Previously ambiguous, misleading and/or repetitive.  We've made numerous improvements to this area.  We have also used better text size for headings to improve scanning of pages and have removed headings that repeat where necessary.

Links that look and behave like links – As much as possible, we've make all the links look and behave like links – (e.g. underlined, mouse pointer changes to the 'hand' icon).

Formatting and page width –The catalogue content is better formatted so you can find what you are looking for more easily.   For example, the New Titles lists are now broken up into sections with headings as opposed to a list with a system order.  We also fixed the width of the catalogue so the viewing experience on monitors of all sizes is the same.

Spacing – To improve your ability to scan through content on pages, much more space and 'breathing room' has been added.

What you won't see

The catalogue is a proprietary software and in some instances we are unable to control its functionality.  As a result, some things we really wanted to do for our customers were simply not possible and are still under investigation and consideration. These include:

Sign-in from anywhere in the system – Allowing a customer to login and return to the site where they left off (e.g. mid searching or hold process).

Using the browser back button – The catalogue does not give the expected result from using the 'back button' on your web browser.  This means you must use the in–page back option (now better positioned). TIP: If you find yourself caught out (I know I regularly do!) having used the browser back button, hit the browser refresh button and the page you are looking for should display.

Human readable URLs you can copy and paste from the address bar – the catalogue adds special codes into the URLs to indicate that you, a specific website user, from a specific computer have requested information so that the information can be sent back to your computer browser.  This instance of one person using the catalogue is called a 'session' and it is the session codes that appear in the URLs.  Some pages work without the session codes, and on these pages we have provided a Link To This Page feature.   The other challenge with the links to catalogue pages and items is that the links are codified and reference things like 'uhtbin' and 'cgisirsi' when what you really need to see are author names, titles, search terms in clear readable language.>

Search assistance – such as spell check or “did you mean” – the catalogue does not have this functionality, and we are not able to add it to this product.

Sort and limit options for all types of search results – Ideally, you would be able to sort any set of search results into the order that works best for you (e.g., alphabetically by author) or narrow the results to include only what you’re looking for (e.g., only DVDs at Downsview branch). Unfortunately, the catalogue allows sorting and limiting only for keyword search results. The results of a browse search (exact title, author, or subject) and the lists of Our Newest Titles, Award Winners, and Best Sellers cannot be sorted or limited.

An easy way to tell which items you can place holds on – “Place Hold” buttons still show up for many items that you are not able to put holds on. We have not been able to find a way to consistently suppress them for materials that are not holdable. This is something we’re still working on.

Standard accessibility features, such as the capability to resize text using the controls in your web browser – Accessibility is very important to the library and will be a major focus of our website redesign project.

Perfection – Things that seem simple to achieve may, within the constraints of this technology, be unattainable.  We've endeavoured to affect every issue we possibly can and continue to work closely with our supplier to improve things even more.  We know there are more things we can do and we have a long list of outstanding issues we are continuing to work through.  We also know how important this system is to your library experience and are committed to ongoing  and regular improvements.   Thanks for everyone's patience, and keep the comments coming – we love your engagement and feedback.

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.

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