Library Wonks

I ran this by Linda Hazzan, who thought I must be joking, but I’m not: TPL needs a Library Wonks blog where MLSs and the like can discuss the inner workings of the system. It’s not as though there isn’t an audience for topics of that sort. (My original question concerned how TPL decides which branches get which items. It’s apparently done by humans and produces self-fulfilling prophecies and stereotypes for smaller branches. Let’s explore that in detail!)

Then, inevitably, the library would need an associated Twit: @TPLLibraryWonks.

Tell me this isn’t a good idea.



Here is the oversized-holds cart at Yorkville – necessary because the wall shelves are too short, but having the side effect of exposing interesting books to whomever passes by. I always take a look.

Cart with a couple of items on it and taped-on Oversized Holds sign

One day I saw a children’s book and could not quite understand the cover. I looked at the barcode: J UKR. A Ukrainian children’s book. (Cyrillic cursive is pretty hard to read even for someone like me who can painstakingly sound out roman type. It’s a piece of cake for native readers, obviously.)

Anyway. First of all, I didn’t know the library had Ukrainian children’s books. (French, Chinese, Italian, Portuguese – sure.) So they exist. But not at Yorkville. Somebody put a hold on it. And that somebody is going to be a very interesting patron.

Who is she? What’s her background? Against all odds, is she teaching her kids Ukrainian? (The ancestral language must be preserved at any cost!) Isn’t she interesting, I repeat?

But because of RFID self-checkout, Yorkville staff will never meet her, never get to know her, have no inkling of what could be a new set of customers with unique needs.

This Ukrainian-speaking mom – I am aware of the assumptions I’m using here, thanks – becomes a cog in a machine: Search for book via computer, place hold via computer, enter branch and bypass every human being to check out book by computer.

This Ukrainian-speaking child is not a computer, nor is the mother. Because of a decision to turn every item in the Toronto Public Library into a miniature radio transmitter (even Ukrainian children’s books) and download labour to library users, staff will never get to know either of them.

TPL vice-chair (and – though no longer on the official registry – registered lobbyist) Mike Foderick: “The Toronto Public Library is in the stone age, in my opinion, when it comes to RFID.

Jones 50 (III): Poster from 1987


Jones Library

Jones Library, built in 1962 at the corner of Jones Ave. and Dundas St. East, was the first branch of the Toronto Public Library to be built especially for children.

The original building was designed by the architects of Pentland and Baker and constructed by D.G. Hahn at a cost of $199,000. The exterior walls were of fieldstone, with windows spanning the north side of the building. The architects included several features to make the building attractive to children. Inside the new storyroom, a polished copper Swedish-style fireplace cast a welcoming glow. On another wall, a dazzling, textural mural created by Toronto artist Tom Hodgson invited close-range exploration. The honeycomb ceiling with recessed lights provided shadowless light for reading in the main section of the building.

The opening ceremony of the Jones Avenue Boys’ and Girls’ Branch Library was presided over by Nathan Phillips, then mayor, on November 19, 1962. The library opened for public use on the following day at 2:00 p.m. with Miss Ruth Osler as the first branch head.

The Jones Library was open each week for a total of 24 hours. A staff of three provided readers’ advisory, reference, and special programs for the over 3,000 children who lived in the vicinity. At that time, there were few school libraries in the area and Jones was a much-needed resource centre. Miss Osler quickly discovered that hordes of local children loved to come and listen to stories in the new programs room with its wonderful mural. Some special programs in those early years included a Folk Festival for all ages in 1965, a Canadian Festival in 1966, [and] an astronomy program by the Dunlop Observatory in 1968. Jones’ tenth-anniversary celebrations included Greek dancing.

By 1976, local residents began pressing for a library that not only served children but also provided materials for adults, seniors, teenagers, and those who spoke languages other than English. The purchase of adult books and books in the Chinese, Hindi, Urdu, Greek, Punjabi, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian languages doubled the size of the collection in four years.

In 1976–77, Jones Library was renovated by the architectural firm of Barton Myers. The basic structure of the branch changed little, but the staff work area was opened up to be more visible to the public. New shelves with attached lighting were placed in the central room to hold the additional books. An aluminum-and-glass skylight was installed, which provided natural light even in the winter months. The new reading area was furnished with a large, comfortable couch and chairs. Outside, a fibreglass-and-steel canopy was erected over the doorway to clearly highlight the main entrance of the branch.

The number of staffmembers increased to two full-time and two part-time as Jones Library was now open to the public for 40½ hours per week. Circulation of library materials rose 37.2% from 1976 to 1977, and programs for adults and teenagers were introduced. As the neighbourhood’s Chinese population grew, so did the branch’s Chinese collection, which was well used by the new immigrants to the area. During recent years, with the aid of two Chinese-speaking staffmembers, Jones Library has hosted English as as Second Language classes and Canadian-citizenship programs to reflect the diversity of its neighbourhood.

In 1983, the first of several summer students was hired to research the history of the Jones area. The branch now has a substantial Local History collection that documents the growth of the area from its beginnings as Leslieville up to the present day.

The South Riverdale Community Health Centre donated Lead Pollution and Occupational Hazards files to the Jones Library in 1985. These special files are unique to Jones and serve as an important source of information for concerned citizens and environmental researchers.

Jones Library’s services were automated in March 1986. As the second of the Toronto branches to become computerized, the five full-time and one part-time staffmembers found the transition challenging and are now proud to be pioneers.

Over the years, Jones Library has changed little externally. New visitors are very pleasantly surprised when they enter the building to find a light, airy interior with comfortable armchairs and plenty of reading areas.

In 1987, as Jones celebrates its 25th anniversary, the staff look forward to the challenges presented by an ever-changing community.

Jones 50: Missing the party

The one Saturday, the one Saturday this year I had to be two places at once was the Saturday of the Jones branch 50th anniversary.

I did manage to swing by, but long after dignitaries, former branch heads, a former branch head’s dad, and of course TPL managers had all arrived to celebrate and gladhand. I further missed the presentation of the plaque, co-signed by the mayor, that reads, presumably without irony, “Libraries are wonderful institutions that reinforce the educational mission of our schools and communities.” (Something else deemed “wonderful” was “[t]his milestone anniversary’s… opportunity to reflect on the many achievements [continues for some time].”)

Anyway. I’m part of one-fifth of Jones’s history and I got in before everybody ate all the cake.

Tiny piece of cake left over on party tray

They were happy to see me. I can always rely on that.

I’ll keep posting pictures for a while.

Jones 50 (II): Barton Myers

Rendering showing a simple table and low-slung bookshelves in front of two facing pairs of armchairs

An architect’s drawing of the renovated interior of the Jones Library. Scheduled for completion in mid-January [of an unstated year], this $90,000 project involves raising the ceiling, adding a skylight[,] and improving lighting. The interior reorganization of the branch is expected to double its capacity. Architects are Barton Myers Associates.