I rediscovered the library when I had babies and toddlers. It was another place to go on a cold, winter morning. There was storytime with the librarian and often other drop-in programming. It was a safe, bright space with little tables and chairs, toys, and, of course, books.
We tend to fall out of step with the public library after childhood. We use library resources at universities and colleges instead, we buy our own books and magazines, and now we even have the internet in the palm of our hands. Often, we find ourselves in libraries again when we have young children only to drift away once more when our kids are in school.
But that’s all about to change. Libraries have been evolving into community spaces that support learning in general and are especially focused on making science and technology more accessible to the general public. The Toronto Public Library has been rolling out all kinds of engaging new programs, services, and initiatives that will blow your mind. The TPL has an emphasis on science and technology programming that includes mobile pop-up labs, digital hubs, and more that will keep your family coming back all the way through high school and beyond.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Storytimes
Prompted by research that suggested a need for kids to be introduced to STEM-related ideas at an earlier age, the TPL introduced a special STEM Storytime for preschool-aged kids at select branches. The storytimes include a book that explores those math-and-science themes as well as hands-on learning activities that support them.
Pop-up Learning Labs
New and emerging technology that will become the engines of our future are prohibitively expensive and inaccessible right now. So the TPL has pooled its resources and created travelling labs to bring this breakthrough technology to communities across the city. Each mobile learning kit includes a 3-D printer, MacBook Pros, Arduino microcontroller-based kits for building digital devices, Lego Mindstorms kits to create programmable robots, Snap Circuits, and MaKey MaKey which is a circuit board that uses everyday objects.
Digital Innovation Hubs
The TPL also has three permanent workspaces that provide free training and access to technology. They are at the Toronto Reference Library, Fort York, and Scarborough Civic Centre branches. You can register for free programs and classes for adults, children, or teens or just pop in to use technology. Imagine what you could do with a workstations equipped with software for audio/video editing, document/photo and 3D scanning, analog video conversion, web/graphic/3D design, or coding/programming. There are also high-end laptops, tablets, digital cameras, audio/video production equipment and microcontrollers available. And the best part? Each hub has a recording studio with cameras, green screen, studio mics, and other a/v gear.
Downloads and Streaming Content
Just because much of what we read is no longer printed on actual paper doesn’t mean we can’t use the library to borrow books anymore. In fact, the TPL has partnered with several digital content providers to offer ebooks, emagazines, video and audio streaming. All you need is your library card, the right apps, and an internet connection. This includes two ebook services just for kids, so they can check books out all on their own: OverDrive for Kids and Tumblebook.