A pilot project at the Toronto Public Library, set to begin this fall, means more hours for patrons – without additional staff.
The one-year-long project has been billed as the staff-less library.
Two locations, Swansea Memorial Public Library in Bloor West Village and Todmorden Public Library on Pape Avenue in the east end, would see their hours extended. The two locations have the lowest number of opening hours of any of the 100 libraries in Toronto. However, for those additional hours, the city would not hire more staff. That means no security, and no librarians.
The lack of staff is problematic to Maureen O’Reilly, president of the Toronto Public Library Worker.
“We firmly believe that a library service is more than a building,” O’Reilly told CityNews on Monday.
Both of those library locations are inside community centres. During the extended hours, library users would be able to sign out books and return them, pick up books that are on hold, and access computers, Wi-Fi, and work stations.
“Any kind of information services would not be delivered, programming would not be available at all,” O’Reilly said.
At some staff-less libraries, such as those in the UK and Denmark, library patrons use a library card to swipe into the building.
The City of Toronto has issued a request for proposals (RFP) about the staff-less library. According to the guidelines, the system must be “fully automated,” and there would need to be a plan for security.
The extended hours mean people could access them, which has drawn the praise of some Swansea residents. But Coun. Mary Fragedakis, who sits on the library board, says security remains her biggest concern.
“I appreciate that the library is interested in making the library more accessible, we need to make sure that it’s safe,” Fragedakis told CityNews.
Another concern for Fragedakis is the location of the libraries. The libraries lease the space from Parks and Recreation, and that department has not been consulted, she said.