toronto library

Here's how Toronto's public libraries plan to eventually reopen

Libraries aren't just places where you can take out free books; they're also community hubs that many rely on for access to information and to the internet, as well as for interaction and learning opportunities through various types of programming.

Libraries and other public centres in Toronto were some of the first things to close due to the pandemic back in March, and now, they've finally released a game plan for opening their doors once again.

The Toronto Public Library's detailed reopening framework is a phased approach that will, like every other establishment that's resuming operations, include protocols to protect the health and safety of staff and patrons.

Wading into an uncertain future, the library will remain flexible and adaptable, monitoring the risk at each specific branch and adjusting accordingly.

"Not all elements of the phased reopening plan will apply to all locations," the TPL notes, adding that "an equity lens will be applied to take into account the distribution of services and neighbourhood needs."

This means that things like computers and washrooms may be available earlier on in the opening process for library branches that serve more vulnerable communities, while they may remain closed for some time in others.

Things will be starting off slow, with Phase 1 entailing only that some staff return to library locations to prepare. 

In Phase 2 — which is due to start at some locations in early June — curbside pickup will be introduced at "most" branches, though none will open their doors to the public just yet.

Phase 3 will mean the reopening of "select" branches (with reduced operating hours), so that members of the community can access information services, study space, computers and washrooms. Event spaces and food and drink areas will remain closed.

The next phase will see most branches across the city resume many of their normal operations, including the above. Bookmobile and Home Library Service will also return.

And finally, the fifth and final phase of the TPL's roadmap is the reinstitution of all pre-COVID-19 services at all branches in the city, though these will look a little different going forward into a "new" normal.

The library will be adopting the same new measures that all businesses open to the public are implementing, like stricter cleaning and sanitization procedures and social distancing protocols, but will also focus on things like offering more programming for career transition and skills upgrading during an economic recession.

It will continue to improve its online offerings, including classes, as it has been throughout the time that branches have been closed.

So far, there are no solid dates for when these phases might start, and as the library mentions, things will be amended based on how the city is faring with the health crisis.

As of May 25, staff have already returned to some branches, with drop boxes open for returns at 17 of them. Additional branches are due to start taking returns on June 1.

Lead photo by

Beach Area Tours

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