Thursday, April 20, 2017

CBC News British Columbia:Vancouver's Strathcona neighbourhood finally gets a library

 By Rafferty Baker | Apr 19, 2017


One of Vancouver's oldest inner-city neighbourhoods finally has a library.

"There's going to be a lot of books checked out here," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson at the grand opening on Wednesday.

Robertson noted that the people in this area have waited years for a library. The building also includes a much-need affordable housing complex, the mayor said.

"It's going to be a fantastic library for this community, for Strathcona," Robertson said.

The $28.5 million project on East Hastings Street at Heatley Avenue includes 21 units of affordable housing for single mothers and their children.

"They've waited many decades for their own library, and even more amazing to have housing on top — housing for moms with families who are at risk of homelessness," he said.

The new library features high ceilings, rows of computers, meeting rooms, plenty of books, magazines, DVDs, and an Indigenous name, nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona.

nə́c̓aʔmat means 'we are one' in the Musqueam language.

Anna, who only gave her first name due to a concern for her personal safety, is moving into one of the new apartments with her nine-year-old son later this month.

"Me and my son, we never had [a] beautiful building in our whole life, and it's very meaningful to us, because the transition from shelter to shelter — we've been through so much," said Anna.

The housing facility, called Cause We Care House, is operated by YWCA, and cost $10.2 million, including a $700,000 operating endowment. That capital was raised by YWCA from various donors.

"I don't know, I've never seen any condominiums, but probably it looks similar to condominiums — very, very, great equipment."

"Right now [we're] living at a harm reduction building, because we were victims of domestic violence, and we've been kind of living, like, a tough life," she said, adding that her son had never had a room of his own.

The City of Vancouver put $18.3 million into the 11,000-square-foot library portion of the project, and the mayor withdrew the first two books before the doors were opened to the public.

"I checked out the history of Strathcona and a history book of Canada's Native Peoples," said Robertson, referring to the John Atkin book, Strathcona: Vancouver's First Neighbourhood, and An Illustrated History of Canada's Native People, by Arthur J. Ray.

"In Strathcona here there's been a reading room at the Carnegie Centre, so for decades now, that's been the only library resource for Strathcona and the Downtown Eastside, and obviously the population has been increasing and a desire to have a real library branch has been there," he said.

Sandra Singh, chief librarian at Vancouver Public Library was thrilled to be opening the library.

"This is the oldest neighbourhood in the city, and it was really the only neighbourhood that didn't have a full service library branch," said Singh. "It has been decades of work on behalf of the library."

Singh said libraries in every neighbourhood serve the same function, but there were design considerations for the generally low-income neighbourhood.

"We certainly did put more community meeting rooms in this branch, because this is a very active community with many community groups that support the life of the community," she said.

"We know that there's a lot of people living in very small spaces in this neighbourhood, so we did provide some more smaller breakout rooms and we were really trying to think about the public spaces as well," said Singh.

"People have been waiting for this branch for a very long time."

To read the full article, please visit CBC News British Columbia.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Edmonton Sun: First Elder in Residence appointed to Edmonton Public Library

Claire Theobald | Thursday April 6, 2017


The first elder in residence at the Edmonton Public Library says he has been training to share life stories since he was 14.

That’s when Wilson Bearhead, in the face of racism and abuse, left school and his home on the Paul First Nation to start a new life for himself in the city.

“We came through the horrors of poverty at the beginning of my life, there was never enough,” Bearhead said in an interview with Postmedia on Monday, ahead of his official appointment on Friday.

Bearhead recalls lining up for government rations in the 1960s, and at the time couldn’t understand why his community was so poor. It wasn’t until later in life did he realize their poverty was the product of legislation that barred indigenous people from practicing the traditions that allowed them to live off the land.

Both of Bearhead’s parents were sent to residential schools, and Bearhead said they passed the traumas they suffered on to him.

“Every day seemed like it was getting worse,” said Bearhead.

When he was in school, Bearhead said bullying from his peers over his indigenous heritage would escalate to physical fights and violence in the schoolyard.

“It comes to a point where enough is enough, and you ask yourself, ‘Do I fit in here? Why am I here?’ That’s when I realized I had to leave,” said Bearhead. “It wasn’t safe for me, and it wasn’t going to give me any opportunity, so I left school and I moved forward.”

While the displaced teen didn’t have much to pack on his trip to Edmonton, Bearhead said he carried with him the traditional teachings of his grandmother, calling her his greatest teacher.

“She taught me the language, she taught me the creation stories, taught me where the medicines are,” said Bearhead. She instilled in him a strong sense of identity that he credits with giving him the resilience to overcome the many barriers in his way.

Now, 44 years later, Bearhead — a respected community elder, educator and member of the Wabamun Lake Indian Band who has served as grand chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations and the Alberta regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations — will help others find answers and reconnect with aboriginal culture as the first elder in residence at the Edmonton Public Library.

“We see this as being a valuable service that we can do to collaborate more with indigenous communities, to offer something in our space where indigenous and non-indigenous people can work towards reconciliation,” said Linda Garvin, executive director of customer experience at the Edmonton Public Library.

Education was one of the calls to action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Although the report did not include a call for action from libraries specifically, Garvin hopes the elder in residence program will serve as an important resource for information from an aboriginal perspective that will help advance those goals.

“There is so much Wilson can offer in terms of cultural teachings and knowledge about indigenous cultures and a knowledge of reconciliation that I think it presents a tremendous opportunity for people to engage in that discussion,” Garvin said.

Bearhead sees asking questions and facilitating discussions as key to challenging and breaking down barriers between aboriginal and non-indigenous people.

“As you start to open those doors a little bit at a time, it gives you understanding,” Bearhead said.

He hopes his presence as an elder in residence will encourage those with tough questions to find good answers, even if asking those questions is uncomfortable.

“It’s safe. We can respond to those questions, we can have a discussion around those questions,” said Bearhead.

Bearhead will be available at the Edmonton Public Library twice a week, one day at the Abbottsfield branch at 3410 118 Ave. and the other at the Stanley A. Milner Library’s temporary location at 10212 Jasper Ave.

As an elder in residence, Bearhead will be expected to host programs, lead smudgings and prayers at events, support staff and meet with library patrons. His role to be defined more clearly by the needs of the community and feedback over the one-year pilot of the elder in residence program.

Bearhead will assume the position after a special ceremony at the Stanley A. Milner Library’s temporary location on Friday at 10 a.m.

To view the original article, please visit the Edmonton Sun.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Canadian Architect - Web Exlusive: Meadowvale Community Centre and Library

Just outside Toronto, the new Meadowvale Community Centre and Library by Perkins+Will rethinks what true accessibility means in 2017.

By Canadian Architect
April 6, 2017


Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

Overlooking Lake Aquitaine, the new Meadowvale Community Centre and Library by Perkins+Will was built to replace an existing centre that could no longer meet the needs of the surrounding community.

The former 1970s centre was roughly half the size of this new one, which combines the previously offsite library with a more flexible and forward-thinking amenity mix that includes gender neutral change-rooms, therapy and leisure pools, a 3-D printer, kitchen, large programming spaces, fireplaces, a green roof, and outdoor patio spaces overlooking Lake Aquitaine.

Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

For design team Perkins+Will, accessibility was threaded into the architectural vision from the offset, resulting in a barrier-free design that promotes inclusivity for a diverse mix of groups well into the future. Elevating the relationship between accessibility and design, Meadowvale offers not only physical, but also economic and physiological access. Contrast between white walls and dark floors provides assistance for those with visual impairments, while also being aesthetically striking. Perkins+Will also recognized that designing to promote inclusivity helps to alleviate growing isolation felt by the community’s older adult population.

Flexibility also played a role in the architectural vision. Perkins+Will created versatility though swing spaces, while an easy-to-navigate layout of amenities eliminates the need for signage.

 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

Green features also played a key role in the design mandate. The green roof addition contains an integrated irrigation system, allowing storm water to be collected and used for toilets and plants. Excess water is filtered through permeable areas of the parking lot into a rock garden on the perimeter. Meanwhile, the large coloured fins on the outside of building areas reduce solar gain without inhibiting light.

These sustainable innovations helped the centre achieve a LEED silver certification and assist with promoting sustainable practices to those who live in the community.

Photo: Lisa Logan Photography


 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

  
Photo: Lisa Logan Photography



Photo: Lisa Logan Photography 

 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography
 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

 Photo: Lisa Logan Photography

 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

LibraryJournal.com: Ransomware Hackers Target Government Offices, Libraries

Ransomware Hackers Target Government Offices, Libraries

Ransomware attacks on government offices, civic agencies, and schools are on the rise, and include a January 19 attack on the St. Louis Public Library (SLPL). Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts files on a computer or network. The individual or organization responsible for the attack then demands a ransom, generally paid to an anonymous Bitcoin account, to provide a key necessary to decrypt the files.
An average of more than 4,000 attacks per day occurred in 2016, representing a 300 percent increase compared to 2015, according to estimates in “How to Protect Your Networks from Ransomware,” an interagency technical guidance document issued by the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. security agencies. In September 2016, security ratings provider BitSight released a report from an analysis of nearly 20,000 companies and institutions, noting that the rate of ransomware attacks increased significantly for every industry examined during the 12 months prior, with the education sector facing the highest rate of attacks, and government organizations facing the second-highest.
In addition to SLPL, other attacks so far in 2017 include Licking County, OH; the library server system for Hardin County Schools, TN; Bingham County, ID; and the network of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus.
SLPL’s attack came to a relatively positive conclusion. The library had backups for the files that were encrypted and refused to pay the ransom, according to an open letter to the community by SLPL executive director Waller McGuire. SLPL’s website, catalog, and downloadable materials were unaffected. After regaining control of the affected portions of the network, SLPL prioritized patron services. The library’s IT staff had the checkout system operational by January 20, the day after the attack, and had restored hundreds of public computers by January 21.
In the January 30 open letter to patrons, McGuire noted that “all St. Louis Public Library technology used by patrons has been restored to service…. Free printing for patrons was one of the last public services to be restored last week.”
For most patrons, the library seemed back to normal within a day or two of the attack, McGuire said, even as work continued behind the scenes to complete the restoration of the network.
“There were many 48-hour days and much exemplary work trying to quickly give the library back to our patrons,” McGuire wrote. “Staff here believe deeply in the mission of the library and I’m proud of them. Many of you have expressed concern and support, and we thank you for it.”
WHAT TO DO
As the SLPL’s case illustrates, regularly scheduled backups are the best insurance against ransomware attacks. Individual users should regularly back up important files to a portable hard drive or flash drive that is not regularly connected to their system and/or a secure cloud-based backup system (not Dropbox).
Restoring those backups and recovering from an attack will cost an organization time and money, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other security agencies note that there is no guarantee that an attacker will provide the decryption key to unlock an encrypted system if a ransom is paid. Some attackers, once paid, immediately request additional money. Others provide the key, but then target the organization again. Others simply disappear without providing the key.
And, “paying a ransom emboldens the adversary to target other victims for profit, and could provide incentive for other criminals to engage in similar illicit activities for financial gain,” according to the FBI’s September 2016 public service announcement regarding ransomware.
However, the agency does add that “it recognizes executives, when faced with inoperability issues, will evaluate all options to protect their shareholders, employees, and customers.” In a fall 2016 attack on the government offices of Madison County, IN, affecting 600 workstations and 75 servers, the county’s cyber-insurance provider Travelers resolved the attack by paying the ransom, minus a deductible paid by the county, according the Herald-Bulletin. The amount was not disclosed, but the county is reported to have spent nearly $200,000 since the attack for off-site data storage, improved firewall protection, and a backup system for its courts.
The FBI is urging victims of ransomware attacks to report these crimes—regardless of the outcome—to a local FBI office and the Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov to help the agency understand the threat, monitor the spread of ransomware variants, justify the dedication of department resources to this issue, and ultimately combat the individuals and organizations responsible for creating the malware and launching attacks. Requested information includes: the date of infection, the ransomware variant, the victim or company information (industry type, business size, etc.), how the infection occurred, the requested ransom amount, the attacker’s bitcoin wallet address, the ransom amount paid (if any), overall losses caused by the attack including any ransom amount paid, and a victim impact statement.
Separately, the MalwareHunterTeam, a group of security experts led by ransomware researcher Michael Gillespie, hosts id-ransomware, a site that enables victims to upload a ransom note or an encrypted file to identify which Ransomware variant—from a group of almost 350 known types—is affecting their computer or network, and in some cases, whether a  decryption key may have been published for that variant. With this method, the team also regularly discovers new variants and reports them via outlets such as the technical support and news site bleepingcomputer.com, which hosts FAQs, articles, and help guides on ransomware and other malware.
NoMoreRansom.org, an initiative of The European Cybercrime Centre (Europol EC3), the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Netherlands’ police, Intel Security, and Kaspersky Lab, also hosts more than three dozen decryption tools for common ransomware variants that have been cracked by security experts.
An affected library may also want to follow the lead of SLPL, and issue a statement to the local media and to patrons, reassuring the public that their data has not been compromised. Unlike many other forms of hacking directed at organizations, ransomware attacks to this point generally have not involved the theft of data or personal information—only encryption and, with several variants, the threat of indiscriminate file destruction if a ransom is not paid within a specific timeframe. In SLPL’s case, patron information was stored elsewhere and was completely unaffected by the attack, McGuire explained in the library’s statement.
“I want to repeat two assurances to the community,” McGuire wrote. “First, our main concern was investigating whether any personal information had been exposed by this attack. Because of the way our system is designed, patron information, such as addresses and phone numbers, is held in a remote location and kept secure. It was not accessed. If you have used a credit card at the library, that information has been recorded only on secure, encrypted lines by banks. It was not accessed.”
He continued: “Second, the St. Louis Public Library never paid any ransom. Staff brought the demand to me within moments of discovering it, and we were on the phone with the FBI moments later. Although I understand that the decision to pay can be complex for many institutions and companies, SLPL never considered it.”
OUNCE OF PREVENTION
McGuire notes that SLPL’s IT staff is well aware that its network is constantly probed for vulnerabilities. In this case the point of entry was found to be a four-year old voicemail server with an unpatched security vulnerability. Even the most vigilant staff won’t be able to fix problems that vendors don’t know about, haven’t warned their customers about, or simply haven’t fixed. Similarly, an article published last week by Government Technology describes a recent ransomware attack on the government of Livingston County, MI, that was triggered by malvertising on a trusted local news website.
But much of the usual advice about avoiding viruses and malware applies here as well. In “How to Protect Your Networks from Ransomware,” government agencies are advised to create and implement a training program to make employees and individuals more aware of these threats and how to prevent them.
As the FBI and nomoreransom.org advise, keep all software up to date and apply patches when available. Don’t open unsolicited email attachments from unfamiliar people or companies. More broadly, recognize that even the accounts of friends and associates may be compromised, and never open any attachments that seem suspicious, even if the source is usually trusted. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, has published a guide to “Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks” with more granular suggestions. And, in a May, 2016 WIRED article “4 Ways to Protect Against the Very Real Threat of Ransomware,” Stu Sjouwerman, the CEO of computer security training company KnowBe4, suggests gamifying awareness training by sending employees simulated phishing attacks to help them understand what these threats look like.
Windows users should consider disabling the “hide extensions for known file types” option in Windows settings to make it easier to spot suspicious, executable files that have been disguised as something else, with names like filename.doc.exe or filename.pdf.vbs. “How to Protect Your Networks from Ransomware” also suggests that IT departments set their systems to filter out executable files from incoming and outgoing emails, to disable macro scripts from any office files transmitted via email, and to assign administrator privileges to individual employees only when absolutely needed.
Individual users could consider disabling remote desktop connection and remote assistance features as well, although this won’t be practical in many workplace environments in which IT departments use these features to help staff and troubleshoot workstations.
NoMoreRansom.org encourages individuals to use antivirus software with heuristic scanning/analysis features and be sure to leave those features activated, enabling the software to detect newer, undiscovered malware variants based on suspicious behavior by a program.
And employees should know to immediately power off a network-connected workstation or device if they believe it has been infected with ransomware, and then notify IT.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

CBC.ca: Rewriting their narratives: local libraries are becoming hubs of technology

Library programming expands to include more digital options to stay relevant, the service says



Ontario Library Assoc. panel: (left) Rod Charles, Linda Hazzan, Daphne Wood and Nini Krishnappa (Stephanie Matteis)
By Stephanie Matteis
February 8, 2017

Record a podcast. Borrow musical instruments. Heck, even learn to weave.

Those aren't activities people typically think of doing at a public library, but they're all possible at many Toronto branches.

The offerings are just part of the library's shift to stay relevant in the digital age, Linda Hazzan, a spokeswoman for Toronto Public Library said.

The library saw more than 8,000 people use the "digital innovation hubs" found at three branches, which include everything from 3D printing, to recording studios and coding programs.

"Today it might be a story time and tomorrow might be a maker program," Hazzan said. The so-called maker programs teach kids and adults new skills: think crafting, web design and video production.

Daphne Wood, Pres. B.C. Library Assoc. (Susie Jones)
Hazzan and other scholars are trying to figure out how to draw those people back to the library who associate it more with books than they do with all the other technology available there.

She, travel journalist Rod Charles and public relations consultant Nini Krishnappa tackled the issue recently at the Ontario Library Association's conference.

Charles said the library needs to emphasize all its online offerings: he turned to its tutorials recently when he decided he wanted to learn a new language.

"You can learn for free," he said. "They have French, they have Farsi, they have German, they even have pirate."

There's also Lynda, the library's online tutorial, which has more than 3,500 video tutorial courses led by experts on technology topics.

Childhood memories

Krishnappa's relationship with the library dates back to his childhood. His mother was a librarian for 30 years and at one time he held a part-time job at an Ottawa library himself.

Yet Krishnappa said he hasn't been to a library since he began buying books and accessing information on computers and now his phone.

​'Modern day libraries are an untold story.'​
- Nini Krishnappa, PR consultant
Krishnappa who now works in public relations said the libraries may be evolving but the challenge is getting that story out.

"Libraries have kept up and anticipated needs. It's just that people are not aware of the plethora of new offerings and services they provide," he said. "M​odern day libraries are an untold story."

e-connections

When Hazzan first started at the reference library a decade ago she said e-book borrowing was at two per cent and it's now at 15 per cent.

Daphne Wood, president of the B.C. library association said that evolution means "you never have to step foot inside a library, because they're everywhere."


Wood said that libraries consider computers, wifi and internet access just the basics — and it's becoming common for branches across the country to provide other technology like green screens to make videos.

The Toronto Public Library at a glance:

  • 18 million visits each year
  • 32 millions items circulated annually
  • 37,000 programs held each year
  • Almost a million people attended programs in 2016
Source: CBC.ca

Friday, March 24, 2017

Inside Toronto: Two Toronto libraries casting light on depression

Pilot program at two library branches casts light on depression

By Justin Greaves
February 14, 2017


Ensar Sehic uses a light therapy lamp at the Toronto Public Library Malvern branch on Monday, Feb. 13. Toronto Public Library is conducting a pilot project to allow library users to use two light therapy lamps on a first-come, first-served basis at its Malvern branch in Scarborough, and at its Brentwood branch in Etobicoke. The lamps are used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Canadian Mental Health Association research indicates two to three per cent of Ontarians have SAD, while another 15 per cent have a less severe experience.

Gabi Kresic eagerly basks in the bright lamp’s light at her neighbourhood Brentwood library branch.

Toronto Public Library (TPL) is shining its own light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by introducing light therapy lamps at Brentwood branch in Etobicoke and Malvern branch in Scarborough, as part of a pilot project launched last week.

The lamps mimic natural sunlight to treat SAD, a type of depression related to lack of sunlight, particularly in winter.

“It has been an impossible winter,” Kresic said, of Toronto’s dark and dreary days throughout January and into February. “I think everyone suffers from SAD. Some of us, it affects us more.”

In Canada, millions of people suffer from a degree of SAD due to lack of sunlight. Between two and three per cent of the population has full-blown SAD, with symptoms that include fatigue, decreased energy, sleep disorders, weight gain, irritability, and feelings of anxiety and despair. Another 15 per cent have a less severe experience, the Canadian Mental Health Association reported.

Daily, Kresic sits beneath the bright lamp for half an hour, ever since reading a newspaper article about it last Friday. Normally, she visits the library monthly.

“For me, it’s not about the winter; it’s not about the length of the days. It’s the sunlight and the blue sky,” Kresic explained of her need for sunlight. “You may not have sun on 40 C days in summer. For me, sunlight is essential.”

Kresic is such a fan — she once had a light therapy lamp at home — she has offered to purchase and donate a third lamp to Brentwood branch.

Each library branch has two lamps. After a three-month pilot and feedback from users, the lamps could be expanded to other branches, TPL officials said.

Kresic suggested library staff start a sign-up sheet, and consider hosting public lectures given by experts “not just about light therapy, but also other things you can do (to combat depression)”.

Lillian Galati is also a fan of the lamps, and urges TPL to expand the program.

Since Friday, Galati has trekked twice to the Brentwood branch to read beneath the lamps, despite the fact her neighbourhood library is Richview branch. She plans to make use of the lamps twice a week.

“It’s nice to get the heat and the light on you, especially when there is none (outside),” Galati said, while reading The Nest, a novel by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

Dr. Robert Levitan, a professor of psychiatry and physiology at the University of Toronto, who is the depression chair at U of T and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, welcomes the idea.

Last year, TPL reached out to Levitan to inform him of the proposed service. Levitan told TPL officials no such service existed in Toronto, and that he supported the idea, said Alex Carruthers, manager of learning and community engagement for TPL.
TPL paid $240 for each therapy lamp, giving people who might not otherwise afford one to try it out.

Information is available at each library branch outlining the therapy lamp's use, who should avoid it and how to use it. It is recommended users sit or read in front of the lamp between 20 and 30 minutes. Users should sit two feet away and not stare directly into the light.

People with retinal disease, macular degeneration or diabetes, and those taking melatonin, thioridazine or lithium, should consult a doctor before using light therapy lamps, TPL advised.

Although the program is only in its second week, Tiziano Vanola, who heads the Brentwood branch, said users’ feedback has been positive. Some people have asked if the program will be expanded and even if they can donate a lamp to the branch.

“Some people actually said they experience the ‘winter blues,’ and they plan on using the lamps on a regular basis,” Vanola said.

It is the first time the light therapy lamps are being used in libraries in Ontario.

TPL considered the program after learning of the lamps’ use in libraries first in Edmonton, then in Winnipeg.

In 2014, Robin Mazumder, an occupational therapist and MacEwan University instructor, donated three light therapy lamps to the Stanley A. Milner Library in downtown Edmonton.

The Awesome Edmonton Foundation had awarded Mazumder a $1,000 prize for his bright idea to bring light therapy to public spaces. Mazumder found a willing partner in Edmonton Public Library.

TPL selected the Brentwood and Malvern branches because both are busy locations, Vanola said.

The pilot program runs until the end of April. Library staff encourage users to provide feedback by filling out a form at each branch or online https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/lighttherapylamp.

“At the end of the pilot project, we’ll collect all the data, see what feedback users gave us, and evaluate if we continue the project, expand it to other branches, and if we do expand, to which branches,” Vanola said.

Source: Inside Toronto

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Toronto Star: Toronto libraries extend hours — but not staffing — for pilot project

Swansea and the Todmorden Room branches, which have the lowest number of open hours in the city, will extend hours, but will use video technology to connect customers to staff.

As part of a pilot project Swansea and Todmorden Room branches, which have the lowest number of open hours in the city, will be staff-free during the extended hours, but will still have staff during their regular hours.  
By Azzura Lalani
March 20, 2017

Two Toronto libraries will be the subject of a pilot project that will leave them staff-less part of the time in a bid to increase community access.

Swansea and the Todmorden Room branches, which have the lowest number of open hours in the city, will be staff-free during the extended hours, but will still have staff during their regular hours.

“These are two very small branches and they’re only open 28 hours a week, so this is really to extend service to the community beyond what they’re already open,” said Moe Hosseini-Ara the branch operations and customer experience director for Toronto Public Library.

Both locations are in community centres and will only be open during their hours, said Ana-Maria Critchley, the stakeholder relations manager for Toronto Public Library. They could be open for a maximum of 65.5 hours per week under the pilot program, which will begin in Fall 2017 and will run for a year.

The program will work by having libraries monitored in real-time with video surveillance to connect customers to staff when needed. Staff levels will not be impacted.

Customers will be able to pick up holds and books and use the Wi-Fi, but it is not meant for research, said Hosseini-Ara.

It’s a move that’s divided librarians.

“We believe that if library hours are to be extended, it should be the comprehensive library service and money should be found to support that,” Toronto Public Library Union president Maureen O’Reilly said. “We don’t believe that it (provides) a true library service.”

Increased library hours have been demanded by Torontonians for years, said O’Reilly, and modest gains have been made by using technology and stretching staff.

“This model just entirely eliminates the staff as a cost saving measure and we believe the library staff is an integral part of the library service and library service is more than just a building,” she said.

Hosseini-Ara agreed library staff are one of the “key resources,” but said, “This is really an opportunity for us, without expending additional dollars, to try to provide those other services.”

“I think that we’re very lucky here in Ontario that we have a library culture that is willing to try new things . . . and I would say that sometimes what drives that is budget cuts,” said Shelagh Paterson, the executive director of the Ontario Library Association.

But, she added, innovation can only go so far in the face of budget cuts.

“I think you may not actually see the librarian in your visit to the library, but there is a librarian behind the scenes putting it all together and delivering a really excellent service.”

And beyond providing essential services in the library, library staff are also there in case anything unexpected happens.

A recent spate of violent incidents — there was a stabbing and two assaults last month — in Toronto libraries and any possible medical emergencies are also a concern for O’Reilly.

“If something like that happens in one of these buildings that is open, you’re depending on somebody viewing it on a camera and depending on a response time,” she said.

Hosseini-Ara said due to the layout of the libraries — both are small rooms within community centres — this is less of a concern, but that the model may not work for all libraries.

If the pilot project is successful, Hosseini-Ara said it will continue.

Source: Toronto Star