Keeping Track of Legislated Requirements for Public Libraries

Keeping Track of Legislated Requirements for Public Libraries

Employers in Ontario have specific legislated obligations relating to the workplace and its employees. For example, under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers are obligated to “instruct, inform and supervise their workers to protect their health and safety”. But what exactly does that entail? And how can public library CEOs and supervisors keep track of these types of obligations and requirements?

The COVID-19 pandemic also brought about many changes, including new legislation, new workplace requirements, and high rates of staff turnover. Are any of those pandemic-related requirements still in place? Have all new staff members been properly onboarded?

To this end, the Ontario Library Service created a checklist to help libraries keep track of the most common legislated training and documentation requirements within provincial legislation that impact public libraries and public library employees.

The checklist covers 22 unique policy, documentation, or training requirements under eight different pieces of legislation:

  • Employment Standards Act, including the Ontario Working for Workers Act
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Act
  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)
  • Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
  • Municipal Act
  • Municipal Elections Act

Public library CEOs and supervisory staff can use this checklist to ensure that they are indeed meeting the obligations set out by these pieces of provincial legislation, or to identify areas where obligations are not currently being met.

The checklist may also help identify upcoming training obligations. For example, under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), all library employees and volunteers, including board members, have to be trained on accessible customer service. With the library board’s four-year term coming to an end this year, and board appointments on the horizon, CEOs will need to ensure that any new board members appointed to the board are trained on accessible customer service.

The checklist will continue to be updated as new policy, training and documentation requirements are introduced at the provincial level, and it is our hope that public libraries will make use of this tool on an ongoing basis to audit current practices.

Link: Key Workplace Legislation and Training Requirements for Public Libraries – Checklist

Note: The checklist is not intended to be exhaustive, and does not cover requirements set out by the Public Libraries Act, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or the Pay Equity Act, nor does it cover federal legislation such as the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL), the Income Tax Act, the Copyright Act, or the Canadian Not-for-profit Corporations Act.

The Reopening Ontario Act has not been included in the checklist, as all pandemic-related policy, documentation and training requirements, such as the requirement to have a safety plan in place, have been revoked.

For questions or assistance with the legislated requirements covered in the checklist, or for general questions related to library operations and governance, we invite you to get in touch with the Ontario Library Service Consulting team ( We are always here to help!

Enhancing Digital Collections during the Covid-19 Closure Period

André Lépine is a Skills Development Advisor, Cataloguing and Collections at Ontario Library Service–North.

As Ontario’s Declaration of Emergency remains in effect and libraries remain shuttered across the province, libraries are rapidly adapting their services, programs, and collections to the virtual environment in order to continue to meet community needs. Collections in particular are well-suited for the virtual realm, as most libraries began investing in streaming and downloadable content years ago. However, due to the increasing demand, many are now considering how to augment and supplement their digital offerings, as well as ensuring that accessing these services is as seamless as possible. Online library card registration, which allows for quick access to the library’s digital collection, is becoming increasingly common, and libraries’ websites and social media feeds are being updated and redesigned to prominently feature the digital collection. (Additional ideas regarding how to highlight these resources can be found on the Programming, Staffing and Well-being During COVID-19 resources page on LearnHQ.)

The following are services that merit consideration when exploring different products and services to enhance your library’s digital collection:

  • Joining the Overdrive provincial consortium is an easy, cost-effective way to provide digital content to your patrons. For libraries that already provide access to the provincial collection, consider becoming an Advantage member. This provides libraries with the ability to create a custom collection beyond the provincial shared collection, or add more copies of popular titles to reduce wait times. What is more, these features are accessible to patrons using the same download website or app. Libraries should contact Beth Harding ( for more information.
  • For libraries serving communities with a francophone population, Cantook Station (formerly MaBiblioNumérique) is available as a provincial consortium purchase. Libraries should contact Beth Harding ( for more information.
  • Promote Tumblebooks. The entire suite of Tumblebooks products (five separate services) are currently free. Promoting these resources is an excellent way to increase awareness and usage of these digital products.
  • Direct print-disabled patrons to the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) Library. All print-disabled patrons are eligible for CELA services. Patrons receive access by completing the registration form, in which they must self-identify their disability. Library staff can also register patrons on their behalf. The extensive digital library provides access to thousands of audiobooks available for download.
  • Consider providing access to a streaming service like Hoopla. This service provides access to audiobooks, movies, music, eBooks, and TV shows. Member libraries are charged per circulation, and have the ability to limit the types of materials as well as the price point of items available to patrons.

Other options include the following:

eBooks and eAudiobooks     Movies and Music Newspapers and Magazines Online Learning
cloudLibrary Kanopy RBDigital Khan Academy
Naxos Music Library Flipster
IndieFlix Mango Languages

Note that the above list is not exhaustive. Libraries should contact (if in Northern Ontario) or (if in Southern Ontario) to further discuss other possibilities.

As the COVID-19 closure period continues, libraries will benefit from enhancing their digital collection by purchasing new products and/or upgrading their current services, and promoting them appropriately on their websites, social media feeds, through email blasts, and other means.

Creative Digital and Virtual Programming from Ontario Public Libraries

Ontario public libraries have been dabbling with virtual programming for several years, balancing in-person and online offerings.  With physical library spaces closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, library staff are showing their flexibility and adjusting to the new reality with some very creative digital programming – both passive and active!  As you read through these ideas, remember that every library has to bring critical thinking to the task of ensuring that these online initiatives are in keeping with current staff capacity.

Option #1 – Enhancing Digital Resources

Some libraries have chosen to enhance their digital resources, so patrons have access to more at-home programming.  Examples include purchasing extra titles for their OverDrive collection; allowing patrons to stream more movies through HOOPLA or Kanopy; and adding new subscriptions to e-resources such as PressReader.  To raise awareness, some have altered the first page of the library’s website to remind patrons of these resources.  One great example is the County of Prince Edward Library (also added an ‘events calendar’ for their online programming events).


Option #2 – Compiling Lists of Resources

Some libraries have chosen to compile webpages linking to wonderful resources currently available to the public during the pandemic (this option used in addition to their own original content creations).


Option #3 – Original Programming

And then there are the libraries who have decided to create original content for their digital programming.  What we have found is an interesting array of offerings – from storytimes and crafts to tech-help instructional videos, online readings and live music.  While the lines between these formats are not always clear, here are a just few very creative ideas to check out!

Facebook Live is a popular option for original digital programs.

  • In addition to regular storytimes, the County of Prince Edward Library runs a “free FUNctional Fitness” classes twice a week. Staff are about to launch is an “Historic Houses” tour via Facebook Live, with a staff person working on pictures and text, using materials from their own local Archival Collection.
  • The Virtual Branch of the Blue Mountains Public Library includes programming via Facebook. As an example, the library is offering webinars under the “Artists Profiles Series”, this week with illustrator Jeff Wilson, and a series called Museum Mondays to highlight parts of the local collection (this week, Trilobite Fossils).
  • Carleton Place Public Library is offering various online storytimes through their Facebook page, and one brave staff member has a program called “Baking with Caroline & her Mom” – and it really is with her Mom!
  • Hats off to Alicia from Bibliothèque Champlain Library who is currently on Chapter 40 of the book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein, reading a few chapters every day on Facebook Live.

YouTube is the format of choice for some libraries, as it is available free of charge.

  • The Essa Public Library has created more than 40 in-house videos on their YouTube channel, with original content for storytime (English and French), original flannel board stories, fingerplays, drawing challenges but also for ‘Ask the Librarian’ information (e.g. should I return my books?) and e-resources tutorials (e.g. how to use Libby App, how to use Flipster).
  • Haldimand County Public Library has original story times and craft videos on their YouTube channel as well as two videos from staff at the local museum talking about historic families in the Haldimand County area.

Instagram (IGTV)

  • Within the webpage called “VPL at Home: A collection of resources during your stay at home”, the Vaughan Public Library has created a wide range of original content using IGTV – from instructional videos for the Cricut machine to daily storytimes with favourite library staff and craft instruction ideas.
  • The Renfrew Public Library has used their subscription to Kanopy; a staff member’s science background and ongoing patron requests for conversations to launch their Kanopy Video Club. Participants watch Kanopy’s Great Course called ‘The Science of Gardening’ and then set aside an evening to discuss the episode. Information is posted on the library’s Instagram account.


  • Asphodel-Norwood Public Library staff are continuing their weekly Facebook Live series called “Confessions of a Mom-brarian” but now with guest presenters covering topics such as tips for home-schooling and using Zoom for better interaction among participants. Zoom is also used for their virtual online book club!

Website enhancement

  • The Springwater Public Library has added a Virtual Programming page with posted storytime and craft videos. Of great intrigue is a non-competitive Virtual Science Fair.  Participants film their project (something of interest to them), post it on a private YouTube and then request to join the Springwater PL Homeschool Events Facebook page for the display of projects.
  • The SDG Library has a “Library At Home Daily Challenge” (e.g. read a book to your pet, learn how to make an origami crane) that is posted on website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They recently added another online activity called Maker Minute. Every Friday at 3pm, a new Maker Minute is shared on social media with a link directing the person to that week’s activity. Results are then shared via social media.

There are truly so many creative ideas for digital programming, and we want to continue sharing of ideas. In the Professional Resources on the SOLS website, you will find a new guide, titled “Programming, Staffing and Well-being during the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which was created to collect ideas and information on topics such as copyright and permissions for online readings.  We welcome your submissions to add to that document, so that we can all stay connected.

Making the Most of Time On Our Hands

These days are, indeed strange and unnerving, as we figure out how to navigate all of the ramifications of COVID-19. The opening words of A Tale of Two Cities come to mind … “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times…” You only have to spend a few minutes on social media these days to see superlative examples of both.

In the wake of the closing of public libraries, I thought I’d take this opportunity to offer a few suggestions on how staff might spend their time. It’s a given that some staff time will be required to ensure that the library’s virtual services are available and functioning properly. As well, a continued presence on social media is a good practice for libraries and a way of offering suggestions to community members, especially families, on things they might do to keep busy at home during this extraordinary time.

Some libraries are offering unique programming virtually, including live streaming story time, and converting adult programs like a scheduled travelogue to a webinar. These creative measures demonstrate the library as agile and responsive to community disruption. If your library is doing something innovative in response to the library’s unexpected closure, let us know in the comments below. We hope to follow up with a blog post featuring some examples.

Some staff have no experience working when the library is closed, and have never had responsibilities other than direct public service. It is these employees who need guidance in using the time productively, whether working at the library or at home. Managers might be able to assign work that needs to be done to support services, or tasks that have been on the back burner for months. But it’s also an excellent time to encourage staff – at every level of the organization – to invest some distraction-free, quality time in their own learning and development. In fact, why not make it a new performance expectation that, come April, when the library re-opens, every employee is to report to their colleagues on what they learned during this time and how it applies to their job or expands their understanding of library operations.

Resources on LearnHQTo support staff learning during this time, SOLS is offering FREE access to all recorded webinars in LearnHQ until April 5th. You can search LearnHQ by topic, but you can also find a list of all recordings available on this page. Typically 60-75 minutes long, webinars can provide useful content to individual staff, but they can also be relevant to entire teams. Three Trends in Collection Management, for example, might be a catalyst for a timely conversation between all staff who contribute to the ongoing work of developing and managing collections. Similarly, several staff might be drawn to the topic of how to Incubate Creativity at Your Library; or feel in need of some expert advice to be found in Managing Overwhelm in Times of ‘Crazy Busy’. When multiple staff view and listen to the same recording, it allows for learning together, which can be a richer experience than individual learning. In addition to engaging in meaningful, relevant conversation, group learning can also be a way of holding each other accountable and supporting each other in making changes and improvements based on what they have learned.

In addition to recorded webinars, SOLS is launching a short online module on What It Means To Be An Active Learner. It will also be free between now and April 5th. Intended to help staff understand themselves as learners and take responsibility for their own growth, the module can be a great way to cultivate a learning environment. Here’s a handout from the module, featuring the 10 Habits of the Active Learner. Now – when the library is closed and staff unexpectedly has time on their hands – is a great time to circulate these habits and initiate conversations about how to put them into practice.

Also in LearnHQ, and also free, you will find professional resources on an array of topics. Part of active learning is deciding for yourself that you need to understand more about some aspect of library operations. These resources can be a great starting place. They not only provide a good overview of the topic in question, but they liberally offer links to other resources for further exploration.

It bears saying, that in addition to the free offerings outlined above, there are a number of self-directed online courses available, covering a range of topics. While not free, they’re relatively affordable. Here are a few examples:

As we all struggle to be productive (and safe), while practicing social distancing, let’s choose to raise the bar in our expectation that all staff identify themselves as active learners who regularly embark upon independent, self-directed learning.

Let’s Get Serious About Learning!

We in the public library sector have, for some time now, been talking about the importance of continuous learning to doing what we do and doing it well. In order to be responsive and innovative in our services, we rely on staff being comfortable with uncertainty, willing to take calculated risks, and ready to learn on the spot as they figure out new technologies and collaborate with customers and each other. It’s almost become a mantra: public libraries need employees who are good at learning! We need employees at every level of our organizations who see themselves as continuous learners and are willing to take responsibility for their own learning and growth. That, we keep telling ourselves, is what we need to survive and thrive in the 21st century!

And while we are in agreement about what we need, I hear much less discussion, let alone agreement, about how to make it happen. How do public library leaders ensure staff identifies as self-directed learners, capable of seeking out and taking advantage of a wide variety of learning opportunities, be they formal or informal, face-to-face or online, solitary or in a group? In essence, how do public library leaders create and sustain a culture of learning where staff is encouraged to identify learning priorities, and develop plans to meet their own needs, in consultation with his or her supervisor? A culture where learning is recognized and embraced as part of doing business, simple as that.

We do know that a culture of learning does not happen by itself! It is the work of leadership to create the organizational culture that will help the library achieve its strategic directions and be the kind of library that engages the community in matters of learning, literacy, and creativity. We in southern Ontario are fortunate to have Crystal Schimpf, an experienced library trainer, well known in the U.S., coming to Brampton this fall to offer a workshop on how to create a learning culture in our libraries.

We need a good showing at this workshop! Not just because we’re bringing Crystal from the States for this unique opportunity, but even more importantly, we need a good showing because our libraries depend upon it.  Making the most of staff development, planning for it strategically, and with sustainability in mind, is crucial work for today’s CEOs and managers. I know we’re all too busy to take a day away from the office. But I also know we can’t afford not to take a day away to engage in serious thinking and learning about a deeper, more systematic approach to strategic and sustainable staff development.

I look forward to learning with you on October 2nd in Brampton!