Toronto Public Library prepares for extended hours, more Sunday operations

The Riverdale Branch is one of 8 library locations that will begin opening on Sundays this September. Matthew Bingley/Global News

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) is getting ready to expand its hours of operation at several locations across the city, including more Sunday service at eight additional branches in the coming months, but the expansion requires a lot of work beyond the initial win of scoring the budget to do so.

Eight branches will get more hours from Monday to Saturday starting in July and an additional eight locations will see doors open on Sundays beginning this September. The head of the TPL’s library operations told Global News they’re on track with implementing the plan.

“There’s a lot of work to operationalize that,” said City Librarian Vickery Bowles. Everything from recruiting an additional 60 employees, to their training, orientation and finding a place for them to work needs to be sorted out over the next several weeks.

City Librarian Vickery Bowles said a number of factors including how busy a branch is, to equitable distribution were considered in which branches would see expanded open hours. Matthew Bingley

The expansion of a critical city service that fills gaps in poverty reduction while finding space for seniors, youth, and newcomers is something that excites Bowles. She said her current staff is generally passionate about the public library system, so they’re thrilled to increase accessibility to the institution. Fulfilling a request they hear often from people looking through their stacks, is also a big plus.

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“One of the things people always ask for are more open hours, it’s a consistent request we’ve had over the years,” said Bowles. When Sunday service expands in September, 67 out of 100 TPL locations will be open for the entire week — a feat Bowles said is extraordinary in comparison to other major cities in the world that are reducing hours.

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The Beaches branch on Queen Street East is one of the locations getting Sunday hours and Masheo Modipane, who doesn’t have work spaces at home, is excited to see the expanded open hours on the way. “On Sundays sometimes you just need maybe two or three hours in the day to be available, that would be amazing,” she said.

Other patrons said everything from better access to parking to convenience were things to look forward to. “If you’re working full time, Saturday you’re busy, Sunday’s your time to do something for yourself,” said Cheryl Cox.

The expansion will fulfil an election promise made just over a year ago during the byelection by Mayor Olivia Chow. Standing in the City Hall TPL branch, which will see its open hours expanded twice in the coming months, Chow said the city is starting to offer more city services to people when it’s more convenient to them.

“It means when people are free, they can get to the library and the door’s actually open,” said Chow. The expanded service will mean newcomers have access to Wi-Fi and printers to help with their search for employment and families will be able to spend more Sundays increasing their literacy.

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“If we’re building a city that fosters a sense of belonging, the library is the hub,” she said.

The expansion will come several months removed from a gruelling budget process during the winter, but amid constant financial struggles facing the city. Bowles said she was thrilled with the support from council and staff not just for this year’s support, but a guaranteed funding source for 2025 and 2026 as well.

“We have approval through the budget process to move forward on those changes in hours. That’s unprecedented, really, to get prior approval for increased open hours or any enhanced services,” said Bowles.

The mayor teased ahead to the next chapter of funding over the coming two years which she said will see a doubling of the investment to the TPL budget. “Just the smiles and the anticipation of people I speak to is worth every ounce of effort,” said Chow.

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