When is a building more than a building? The answer, of course: When it's a library.

- Christopher Hume, Toronto Star

 

In 2009, Toronto Public Library continued to focus on making our customers feel welcome and comfortable as soon as they step through our doors. Our branches are not just places to house books; we are committed to creating environments and experiences that encourage a love of culture and learning, and of exploration and discovery; spaces that ensure people are as comfortable coming together as they are sitting quietly apart.

Our public spaces make our neighbourhoods thrive. Last year we continued to work hard to transform our branches into accessible, 21st century community hubs. Branches opened for longer hours; books, DVDs and CDs became easier to browse; and new technology was made easier to access and use with more computers in our branches. Free wireless service was introduced in all of our 99 locations.

In 2009, we added more local programming to our branches to create innovative, dynamic and interesting branch experiences. And with each new renovation to our branches, we offer more quiet study and meeting spaces for individuals and groups to come together and collaborate. Three such renovations – Jane/Sheppard, Kennedy/Eglinton and Bloor/Gladstone – were met with much enthusiasm from the communities they serve. The feedback from customers has been overwhelmingly positive and library use is up significantly at each of these branches compared to pre-renovation numbers.

Many customers enjoying their time on the 2nd floor of Bloor/Gladstone Branch - Photo credit: Toronto Public Library Many customers enjoying their time on the 2nd floor
of Bloor/Gladstone Branch. Photo credit: Steven Evans

With services such as free wifi connectivity – expanded to all 99 Toronto Public Library branches in 2009 – the library is creating convenient and comfortable work, study and recreational spaces for our customers. "It may seem like just an elegant turn of phrase to suggest that the public library serves as a community’s well-appointed living room. But this is practical truth," said architecture critic Lisa Rochon in her April 11, 2009 Globe & Mail article 'New library architecture is a clear victory'.

Youth working in the Kennedy-Eglinton ProTech Media Centre - Photo credit: Toronto Public Library Youth working in the Kennedy-Eglinton ProTech Media Centre
Photo credit: Toronto Public Library

When the local youth in the Kennedy/Eglinton community were asked where they wanted a new media centre planned for the area, they enthusiastically suggested their local library branch. So in June 2009, in partnership with Tropicana Community Services, the City of Toronto and Centennial College, the library opened the Kennedy-Eglinton ProTech Media Centre. Located in the renovated and expanded Kennedy/Eglinton Branch, the centre is a dynamic community destination that provides youth with opportunities to develop their skills and interests, advance their education, and explore their creativity.

Newly renovated teen area at Kennedy/Eglinton Branch - Photo credit: Toronto Public Library Newly renovated teen area at Kennedy/Eglinton Branch
Photo credit: Toronto Public Library

For youth, the new Kennedy/Eglinton Branch is an important resource in a neighbourhood lacking in youth-friendly spaces; for children, it features a welcoming area with child-sized computers; for community groups, it is a convenient gathering place for everybody. "We built this new library for the 25,000 people who live in the Kennedy/Eglinton community," said City Librarian Jane Pyper. "Working with our community partners, we've designed a library that responds to the community's needs. This is part of Toronto Public Library's long-term goal of providing beautiful, inviting and functional public space across the city."

Recreational, educational and cultural programming in our library branches helps to animate these important public spaces, and brings people together to share an interest, join in the conversation, or learn something new. Last year, our programs offered something for people of all ages and cultures, from book clubs and discussion groups, to music and storytelling classes to concerts and author readings.

Staff member assisting a teen at Cliffcrest Branch. - Photo credit: Toronto Public Library Staff member assisting a teen at Cliffcrest Branch.
Photo credit: Toronto Public Library

In 2009, Toronto Public Library improved the branch experience for our customers by making our staff more available for individual assistance. Library staff are well-trained professionals able to answer all kinds of questions, from where parents can discover a fun after school program for their children, to how entrepreneurs can find help starting a small business. Through staff-selected book displays and recommendations, training classes, educational programming, and story times with the kids, our expert and welcoming staff helped their customers be successful, stay informed and be inspired by the ideas they find in our library branches across the city.

First floor of the beautifully renovated Bloor/Gladstone Branch - Photo Credit: Stephen Evans First floor of the beautifully renovated Bloor/Gladstone Branch
Photo Credit: Stephen Evans

"My vote for the most glittering public-library reinvention this year? ... [The] renovation of the Bloor/Gladstone library, a work of scrupulous integrity... What was previously an undersized district library is being transformed into a major civic landmark that lifts Bloor Street West." - Architecture critic Lisa Rochon in her April 11, 2009 Globe & Mail article 'New library architecture is a clear victory'.

Reading lounge at Bloor/Gladstone Branch - Photo credit: Toronto Public Library Reading lounge at Bloor/Gladstone Branch
Photo credit: Steven Evans

The Bloor/Gladstone branch features indoor and outdoor reading lounges for adults, children and teens, two restored fireplaces and striking views to the street. These additions help to create a welcoming, home-like atmosphere that inspires the spirit of exploration, the joy of reading and the pursuit of knowledge for people of all ages and backgrounds. Since reopening, circulation is up 97%, visits have increased by 124% and information requests have grown by 104%.

Teens socializing at Jane/Sheppard Branch - Photo credit: Toronto Public Library Teens socializing at Jane/Sheppard Branch
Photo credit: Toronto Public Library

"In small, thrilling ways, the city's public libraries have become impressive agents of change, attuned to the needs of a constantly evolving society. Libraries are designed these days with rooms for teenagers to gather and lounge on funky furniture. There are community halls where newlyweds can hold their wedding reception. At the Jane/Sheppard branch, which 900 people visited last week on its opening day, there are laptops for loan within the library." - Architecture critic Lisa Rochon in her April 11, 2009 Globe & Mail article 'New library architecture is a clear victory'.

Reading lounge at Jane/Sheppard Branch - Photo Credit: Stephen Evans Reading lounge at Jane/Sheppard Branch
Photo Credit: Stephen Evans

"This library resembles a living room more than a public facility...the light-filled interior feels very comfortable, even cosy. There's no hint of institution here; it's a place clearly meant for users to enjoy." - Christopher Hume in his April 13, 2009 Toronto Star article 'New library livens dreary Sheppard stretch.'

Since reopening, Jane/Sheppard has seen a 70% increase in circulation and 117% rise in program attendance. There has been a 124% increase in new registrations and information requests have risen by 315%.