Toronto

Toronto Public Library reopening 30 branches closed during Omicron wave

Toronto's library system is reopening 30 of the 44 branches it closed in January due to staff shortages caused by the Omicron wave. 

10 branches reopened Monday, another 20 to reopen Tuesday

Jen Sloane, the library service manager for the Pape-Danforth district, says she's excited to welcome people back after some branches were closed in response to the Omicron wave. (Jessica Ng/CBC)

Toronto's library system is reopening 30 of the 44 branches it closed in January due to staff shortages caused by the Omicron wave. 

Ten branches of the Toronto Public Library (TPL) reopened on Monday, with another 20 set to open their doors Tuesday morning. 

Jen Sloane, the library service manager for the Danforth-Pape district, told CBC News she's excited to welcome back users who haven't been able to visit since Jan. 10. 

"We've seen people every day just wanting the library to be open," Sloane said. "People really miss being in the building."

In all, 82 of TPL's 96 functioning branches will be open. All of them will operate at 50 per cent capacity and will follow strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols as outlined by Toronto Public Health and the province. 

Library users will have to wear masks and physically distance.

The 82 Toronto Public Library branches that will be open will operate at 50 per cent capacity and will follow strict health and safety protocols. (Jessica Ng/CBC)

While TPL has offered some services throughout the pandemic, such as its Bookmobile program and access to its online catalogues, this reopening marks a step toward returning to full in-person services. 

Some branches may be back to pre-pandemic working order as early as the end of March, Sloane said.

But for now, many library members are just excited to be able to visit again.

Debbie Burchell has been going to the Jones Avenue branch in Leslieville for about five years. 

Before the pandemic, the library was a place for Burchell to make friends. She attended a book club and a quilt club there. 

"I can hardly wait until it's totally open," she told CBC News. 

For a full list of reopening branches, visit the Toronto Public Library website. (Jessica Ng/CBC)

Tyler Kinley, who lives and works near the Leslieville branch, says it has more to offer than just a place to borrow books and it's good for the community to have the library physically open to the public again.

"I think community spaces are super important," Kinley said. "Seeing what other programs they might have, workshops, things that engage young families or other people in the area."

An additional 14 branches remain closed due to redistribution of staff to locations that stayed open through January and February. Two other branches are being renovated.

A list of branches that remain closed can be found on the TPL website.

"We're monitoring the situation as we go along," Sloane said.

"We're hoping the rest of the branches will be able to open very soon."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tyler Cheese reports for CBC Toronto. You can contact him at tyler.cheese@cbc.ca or @TylerRCheese on Twitter.

With files from Jessica Ng

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