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Toronto could extend library access to First Nations reserves across the province

It's part of the library's truth and reconciliation recommendations.

The Toronto Public Library could extend digital access to more indigenous communities in Ontario.

TORSTAR FILE PHOTO/Andrew Francis Wallace

The Toronto Public Library could extend digital access to more indigenous communities in Ontario.

As part of its commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Toronto Public Library Board has voted to expand access to its collection to people living on First Nations reserves.

“It’s brilliant,” said councillor and library board member Sarah Doucette. “We have over the years built this great resource, and it doesn’t cost us anything to share it.”

Library services are sparse on Ontario reserves. Of the province’s 207 reserves, only 46 have a library. The average annual budget for each is only $15,000.

Doucette explains that libraries are all about sharing, and this is an easy way for Toronto to do its part. “I think whenever possible we should step up to the plate,” she said.

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) is the only Ontario public library system that also has a provincial mandate. According to TPL librarian Pam Ryan, that’s just another reason to share.

But the details still need to be worked out. It could mean sharing TPL’s extensive digital collection and offering library cards, but Ryan doesn’t want to limit what’s possible. She said the next step is to reach out to Indigenous communities to hear what they want and to do it on a timeline that works for them.

Expanding library membership is one of many TPL initiatives regarding Truth and Reconciliation. At its April meeting, the board reviewed 42 suggested strategies, including incorporating more Indigenous content into its programming.

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