A spirit of caring and sharing and open dialogue with critics

I wrote to the Toronto Public Library board of directors calling for a moratorium on the gutting and defacement of old branches to install godforsaken RFID self-checkout systems, which do not actually work.

In a display of TPL technical acumen I have come to expect, Director of Branch Libraries Anne Bailey sent along a response – in the form of a scanned-image PDF. I assume this was a deliberate choice given that I am a journalist and an accessibility expert (in fact, I know a great deal about accessible PDF). I assume it was meant to frustrate reading of, quotation from, and distribution of their actual response. Let’s set that aside for a moment.

Bailey trots out various statistics that show most people use self-checkout (they have no choice) and most people like it. The latter says nothing about the endemic failures of the system, nor anything about staff who sit behind a desk and ignore you, or get angry at you when you bring a book near the antenna, or who initially tell you to go use that terminal over there instead of listening to your question, or yell at you from behind the desk when a book you’re carrying sets off their alarm, or chase you up the stairs when that latter thing happens.

Bailey is one of two people this week to insist the old Yorkville desk was not marble. Pictures or it didn’t happen, as the kids say. Neither of these people made a case as to why its replacement had to be MDF and so badly designed that staff can’t actually sit behind it or store a returned book there. Other than that, she pretty much ignores my objections and attested experience. She says nothing about gutting historic library branches, for example, just to convert its entire collection into miniature radio transmitters.

Bailey also promises that improvements to the user interface are coming. Someone else told me that to my face recently, in an actually helpful and informative way. Agincourt branch is the testbed, I was told, a fact TPL has been at pains not to publicize. Language choice on the system is better, there are fewer steps to take, and the crucial deactivation of security bit happens earlier in the process.

I am willing to accept these reports are accurate. But let’s refresh our memories here. Continue reading


What’s the best part of the gentle refresh of Riverdale branch? Take a wild guess what it isn’t: RFID.

Here’s what it is.

Dyson Airblade in slate-grey washroom

Dyson Airblade hand dryers, the only ones that work, in the washrooms.


Exclusive! RFID-system menus!

  • Staff Modes: Staff Circulation App F2, Write Tags F9, Read Tags F5, Activate Anti-Theft bit F3, Deactivate Anti-Theft bit F4, Process Offline Checkouts, Exit

    So! When the alarm blares even though you checked your book out at another branch, it’s because somebody at that branch failed to press a single key, F4. Such laziness or carelessness is quite common, as we know.

  • Patron Modes: Auto-Check-In Mode F6, Auto-Check-Out Mode F7

    Yes, you can theoretically check your own books in. Let’s not give them any ideas.

  • Setup: Staff Settings, Administrative Settings, Log Viewer, View Statistics ▶, Skin Designer, View Device Info

Dodging bullets at Shchuka

Ashlee Campbell:

A librarian at the Maria A. Schuka branch on Eglinton Ave. West said that the library’s evening programs are a failure because people are afraid to walk to the library at night. This area of Toronto, although not the most dangerous, has known gun violence in recent years.