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Account redesign update: let us know what you think of the latest design

May 8, 2014 | TPL Staff | Comments (12)

A whiteboard sketch of a proposed design for the account summaryPost Updated May 9, 2014:

Whoa! you guys have eagle eyes. We've looked at this a lot so your fresh perspective is fantastic. Commenters: you're all quite right, highlighting holds in the navigation was a mistake and I've updated a new version to correct that. The previous summary screen you commented on is right here for your reference.

Back in January, we asked for your input on an early mockup of a new design for the account summary screen. You gave us so much great feedback, we went right back to the drawing board – literally! We did a bunch of whiteboard sketching to help us move towards a revised concept.

The main point we took from your comments was that the summary should focus on its core purpose: letting you see the current state of your checkouts, holds, and charges at a glance.

But there's more! We've been doing a lot of technical work since January. Our primary goals for this project are to make a great experience for customers and also to create a platform that moves the library forward so it can deliver more of what you want, like borrowing history and lists.

A lot of new technical bits under the hood are being put together, and all on top of some newly minted servers. We're building out the new account using Ruby on Rails and are implementing a number of tools to make ongoing development a lot easier and more efficient (MavenJenkins, Capistrano, Git). It's quite a number of platform changes and we're happy to elaborate on this If you want to know more, so use the comments below and let us know.

So without further ado…we invite you to take a look at the newest summary design. Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Library Account Summary Page Design 2014-05

Come preview our mobile account design at Bloor/Gladstone - Friday, Dec. 6

December 5, 2013 | Sandra | Comments (1)


We're continuing our testing of the redesigned account section of the TPL website. We've made some more changes based on feedback from participants in our Website Advisory Group.

We'd like to invite anyone interested in this project to drop by and visit us Friday, December 6, between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Bloor/Gladstone branch, where we'll be available to show you the prototype and get your input.

See you there!

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.

Interested in shaping the future of the TPL website?

September 24, 2013 | TPL Staff | Comments (10)

We have a lot of great things we would like to accomplish on the TPL website over the coming months and we’re looking for people to help. We are creating an advisory group of interested Toronto Public Library members who would like to share their opinions and shape the future of the TPL website. Group members may be invited to participate in occasional surveys, online discussions, usability tests or other consultation to provide feedback on the TPL website.

If this sounds like something you would like to join, please complete this brief survey.

Questions? Find out more about the Website Advisory Group or contact us at

Library wireless users, we need your feedback!

May 1, 2013 | TPL Staff | Comments (6)

Thank you to those who provided feedback. The survey is now closed.

Take the Wireless Survey

Toronto Public Library offers wireless Internet access (Wi-Fi) at all 98 of our branches. To help us better understand use of the service, we want to learn more about:

  • How you use the library wireless service
  • Your use of other Toronto Public Library services
  • Your use of the Internet through your mobile and laptop devices

This survey takes 10 minutes or less to complete. Let us know what you think!

Want to help improve the TPL website?

December 12, 2012 | Sandra | Comments (0)

UPDATE: We've received enough responses and have closed the survey. Thanks to everyone who offered to help!

We are looking for a few people who regularly sign in to the “Your Account” section of our website to give us some feedback. It’s easy and will take about 1 hour.

when: Monday December 17, 2012
where: North York Central Library (branch details)

Interested? Please complete this brief survey to see if you qualify.

Web Team breaks awkward silence, launches website improvements

June 21, 2011 | TPL Staff | Comments (5)

Patient readers, we know we've been out of touch for a long time - pretty much ever since we launched the new website last August. What's been keeping us too busy to blog? For one thing, we've been listening to your feedback about the new site - many thanks to everyone who has posted on this blog or shared your comments through other channels. We've also had our hands full helping some of the many people who have started using the library's eBook services. (Did you get a shiny new eReader/tablet/smartphone over the holidays last year? We can tell.)


If, like Janet Jackson circa 1986, you're asking "What have you done for me lately?", we have some good news. We've been working on a few improvements to the website that are now available.

  • Dates when new DVDs will be available for placing holds: You asked for it, and here it is: new feature DVDs become holdable six months after the library acquires them, and now the record for each DVD includes the date when it will be available for holds.

No hold dvd date

  • Mega-menus for faster, easier navigation: We've introduced mega-menus to help you go directly to the section of the site you want. The menus include links to many of the most popular pages on the site.



  • Share an item by email: Found something great on the library website? Email it to a friend (or to yourself). The email will contain all the relevant details about the item. Books, movies, music, library branches, library programs/events - all can be shared quickly and easily via email.



Other things we've been working on include a project to integrate digitized books and images from the library's Special Collections into the website and a major application server migration.

And we haven't forgotten about some of the other things you've been asking for:

  • A “wish list” feature
  • Enhancements to search, including type-ahead
  • A mobile version of the site
  • An online purchase request form
  • Online fine payment

A project to improve Your Account features and accessibility is just getting underway.

Please keep your feedback coming - input from you helps us prioritize upcoming improvements.

New Items on New Site (a preview)

October 9, 2009 | Alan H. | Comments (6)

You may have been been asking yourselves "Why hasn't Alan H. posted lately?" (or perhaps you haven't, but let me preserve some of my ego). The summer & September have been a very busy time for me, and a big part of my work has been building parts of the new website that take advantage of our Endeca search technology. 

This post previews some of the work we're doing to improve access to newly-added library collection items (one of the biggest feature requests of the existing website).  Some of this is a bit technical, but I've tried to emphasize the practical results here.

More information on our new faceted search technology is in the posts here and here, but the short version is that our new site will have a much more robust search for nearly everything the library does--not just collections like books and DVDs, but also our programs, locations, blog content, etc.

The search is also capable of some sophisticated filtering by many different possible fields. One of the fields now available is the date an item was added to our collection, which is the most important building block of our redesigned newest titles section.

Currently, the Our Newest Titles list is generated on the 15th of each month for some popular categories of items.  It's a frequently used section of the site and we get a lot of feedback about it from you. We commonly hear that:

  • The period covered by these lists is unclear
  • The lists are often very long and not sortable, so browsing them is difficult
  • It's not possible to see lists of new items for previous months

We agree with all of this, so I'm glad to say that our new design can address all these points.  Here's a few screenshots (these are, obviously, not final designs):

Period of Time Covered

Period of time covered is (hopefully) clear. The list also generated at the time the page is requested, rather than as part of a monthly report--so they can change from day to day as new items are added.


Sortable Lists

Currently sortable (ascending or descending) by title and author.  It's possible for us to add other sorts as well if they seem useful, as the new site's framework is very modular.


Back In Time

Go back a month:


Or a year (past a certain point, these probably stop being "new items", but hey, why not?):


More Screens

Here's some (large) screenshots showing more of the new items display in action, click to view in full size:


New-items-ss-3 New-items-ss-1


The Bigger Picture

Many of our choices about underlying technology and design for the new website have been influenced by the thoughts of people like Daniel Burka, designer of Digg, Firefox and many other great web based technology, (the link goes to a long presentation he gave last year at the Future of Web Design conference).  After site launch we want to continue to improve the site in regular ways based on user feedback. So our data, our faceted search engine and our site technologies are all quite flexible.

Most of my work has taken place on the "top" layer of the site building pages like the New Items display pages that provide various views of our data.  This has been done mostly through component reuse--for example, the Sort feature on the page is a reusable chunk of code that can be placed anywhere on the site and customized, but largely figures out how it should be behaving based on the page context it's appearing in.

What this means in a practical sense (what most of you probably care about) is that our turnaround time on new features and site improvements should be quicker after our new site launch.  Eventually we envision things like user-customizable New Items page (keep personalized track of genres, authors, subjects etc that interest you) or other remixings.

There will probably be some changes to the revised New Items pages before (and after) our launch, based on testing and user feedback.  Some of our design choices are influenced by what we know about how you use the current Our Newest Titles page and how you've told us you'd like it to be better.  But we're aware usage may change on the new site because the new search has many more features than our current one.  So we'll be listening closely during our upcoming public beta and afterwards, and refining the site in the years to come.

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