The Toronto Public Library is preparing to test a yearlong staff-less pilot system at two of its branches.
Scheduled to launch in the fall, the project will extend the operational hours of the Swansea and Todmorden Room locations, both of which are located within community centres, and have the lowest number of open hours in the TPL’s 100-branch system.
According to the TPL, the pilot project will not impact its current staff levels or hours or programming, but will give card holders expanded access to self-service options such as holds, lending, returns, and computer access. The libraries will only be open during community centre hours, with video surveillance and remote staff support to ensure safety of patrons. Age of access has not been determined, but a TPL spokesperson says the service will most likely only be available to adults and children accompanied by adults.
In an interview with CityNews, Maureen O’Reilly, president of the Toronto Public Libraries Union, says she is not in favour of the project, and believes safety is a major concern. “Technology can’t replace staff on the ground with their eyes and ears,” she says. “Having security cameras is not going to be acceptable.”
A similar project in Ireland that launched in 2014 with three pilot branches expanded to 23 more branches this January, despite the objections of many librarians, and news that 111 people had their cards revoked for inappropriate behaviour.