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2021 Report to the Community

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Your Community, Your Library

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for libraries has taken on a more profound meaning and OPL has continued to adapt, shift and develop its variety of offerings for the Oakville community, especially for the most vulnerable and isolated. OPL provides access to technology, a connection to essential and support resources, access to information in a variety of formats, and a place to connect with neighbours and fellow community members.
In 2021, OPL developed a new strategic plan. The new Plan will guide how we address the digital divide, remain a reliable source of information, provide educational supports, and offer a place in which to experience culture and recreation. With the library as an important anchor in the community, Oakville residents will experience greater awareness, access, and use of library services in ways that uniquely serve their needs. Read the new Strategic Plan 

Thank You 

Thank you to the OPL Library Board for their guidance and leadership; to our community partners for their collaboration and support; and to our exceptional staff for their tireless contributions and continuing to show up for our community everyday. 


Tara Wong, Chief Executive Officer
Councillor Jeff Knoll, Library Board Chair

OPL Library Board 2021

Councillor Jeff Knoll | Chair Steven Bright, Vice Chair | Andrew Cashman | Susan Fanelli | Councillor Janet Haslett-Theall | Pankaj Sardana | Bill Smith 
Learn more about the Library Board

On our path to Reconciliation

Oakville Public Library is situated on Treaty #14 and Treaty #22 lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat and the Haudenosaunee. Oakville is currently home to many different First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

2021 reintroduced a harsh reality embedded in Canadian history, with the recovery of many Indigenous children whose bodies were buried at residential school sites across Canada.  With the pride and traditions that we celebrate of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, we also have a responsibility to remember that this tragedy is not in isolation; that as part of our commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation we have must acknowledge our history and help in healing generations of trauma inflicted on our Indigenous communities.

OPL works closely with the local First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities about how we altogether can support an inclusive, diverse, and equitable Oakville. That begins with acknowledging the past and the Truth and Reconciliation work that needs to continue, including the calls to action. We must continue to work together to build on what unites us and continue creating a community where everyone feels respected and welcomed.

In 2021, OPL introduced a Territory Acknowledgement Statement to share at board meetings and library program sessions, which reinforced the library’s commitment to providing safe and welcoming spaces for Oakville’sFirst Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, staff, volunteers and customers.

OPL recognizes its roll in outlining a path forward for respecting Indigenous culture and increasing access to traditional Indigenous knowledge. In 2021, OPL staff completed the Four Seasons training from Reconciliation Education in Partnership with First Nations University of Canada. The training offers a means of meeting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Call to Action #92. 

Thank you to the Halton Youth Initiative – Our Kids Network, for calling on OPL to answer the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Call to Action #87. We had the pleasure of interviewing Cody Jamieson, an Indigenous professional lacrosse player of the Halifax Thunderbirds who hails from Six Nations, Ontario. Cody shared his journey and experience as an Indigenous athlete and mentor in his community, in conversation with OPL staff members Tania and Eric.

Rising to the challenge

Launch of the new website

Screenshot of opl new home page

Launched in June 2021, was designed to promote a seamless digital experience with a full website search option for quick navigation and a simple design to easily access online resources for community needs, learning and discovery, and book appointments for contactless services like Library Takeout for your library holds.



New ‘OPL to Go’ Mobile App

3 Mobile screens - 1 with OPL logo - 2 welcome screen - 3 screenshot of app homepage | Text: Newly Designed  Download OPL New App
We couldn’t let the website have all the glory! The OPL mobile app also got a makeover and the app was fully redesigned for easier access to the entire OPL catalogue with new search functionality, clear account management features, push notifications, branch and express services information, and available quick links to popular services.

New Collections and Services

Although our branch doors remained closed for most of 2021, OPL worked tirelessly to overlook physical limitations to offer exceptional customer experience.

  • Launched loanable lifejackets for children. In partnership with the Town of Oakville, OPL offered the ability to borrow for free lifejackets in a variety of sizes for children.

  • Launched the first year with the Ontario Park Permit lending program. Ontario Park Permits were loaned 307 times between March and October of 2021. Additionally, OPL partnered with Conservation Halton to lend passes in 2021, granting 70 families access to Crawford Lake, Mounstberg, Mount Nemo, Rattlesnake, Kelso, Hilton Fall and Robert Edmondson conversation areas.

  • Expanded OPL Express services to St. Luke's Community Centre in north-west Oakville. The new location offers three express options: to pick up your library holds, return materials, and the use of our Browse and Borrow self-serve kiosk where you can check-out books on the go.

  • Launched StoryWalks via the Healthy Communities Initiative offered by the Government of Canada and Community Foundations of Canada, led by the Golden Horseshoe Hub and Oakville Community Foundation. OPL received $48,536 in funding to support StoryWalks at outdoor trails and locations across Oakville, providing residents with access to year-round, self-guided walks with selected stories. Locations are Bronte Heritage Waterfront Park, Tannery and Waterworks Parks, and George Savage Park, with plans to expand to more locations across Oakville, in partnership with the Town of Oakville.

  • Launched OPL Picks for You, a personalized book-matching service for customers. Customers complete a short survey of their reading preferences, and OPL staff then expertly choose the best reading materials for you, all packaged in a ready-to-go pickup bag.

  • Introduced online card registration and card renewal for most card types through the

  • The addition of online resource PressReader, provided customers with access to hundreds of international magazines and newspapers from all over the world.

  • Launched printing services to go, providing customers with mobile print options and contactless pickup of documents.​

OPL was a runner-up to the WK Lamb Award for Innovative Services to Seniors

OPL was recognized for our Connection Kits initiative. This program was first started in 2021 with a grant from Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF). The service provides seniors with access to technology and internet access to be able to stay connected with others and borrow alternate formats of reading materials. Kits include tablets preloaded with a selection eBooks as well as Wi-Fi hotspot.

New partnership with the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre (TRAC) and launch of Lacrosse Sports Kits

TRAC Lacrosse Bag
2021 introduced the first partnership between OPL and TRAC, coming together to create community-based programming that builds a sense of belonging, aiming to enhance well-being, expression, physical literacy and engagement for youth and families in Oakville A champion for sport, youth mental health and community engagement, the TRAC equipped the library with loanable lacrosse equipment for OPL’s Sports Kit collection, as well as supporting early childhood reading and family participation in upcoming reading programs and story times. OPL is grateful for the support of the TRAC as we inspired Oakville, and created an inclusive, barrier-free environment for members of the community to access physical and digital resources and services. Read the news release 

Journey to OPL’s First Outdoor Space

Picture of Glen Abbey back area before renovation - 2 drawings of future new Glen Abbey PatioConstruction began on the expansion of Glen Abbey Branch’s outdoor patio ready for summer 2022. The outdoor space is 1,900 sq. ft. The functional space is designed for leisurely activities and structured library programs. See photos of the renovated space (Instagram).

OPL by the numbers, in 2021

83,277 OPL cardholders
8,782 New library cards issued
174,584 Branch visits
1,075 Interlibrary items borrowed
8,838 Public computer sessions
112,817 Wireless device sessions
56 Public computer stations available at branches
2,164,045   Total items circulated
28,712 Average number of physical items circulated in one week
1,009,258 Physical items borrowed - physical circulation passed 1 million in 2021
1,154,787 Digital items borrowed - digital circulation increased 84%
30,909 Music downloads through OPL’s digital music collection
46,675 Video downloads through OPL’s streaming video collection
21,407 Magazine downloads through OPL’s online magazines collection
653,498 website visits
1,025,770   Catalogue searches
7,946 Customer emails answered through AskUs
805 Program sessions delivered
11,653 Total program attendees
548 Virtual program sessions delivered 
144 Staff "Book of the Day" reviews shared on social media 
1,835 Seed Kits distributed 
8,161 OPL cardholders took eLearning courses through OPL's online resources


Enhancing our services and experiences

With pandemic-related health and safety protocols in place, OPL stayed committed to helping people access library programs and services. Our contactless holds pickup service, Library Takeout and Grab and Go bags, continued to be the primary sources of obtaining library materials.  We also launched printing services to-go, providing customers with mobile print options and contactless pickup of documents. Customer email notifications were also upgraded to include more account information and give customers another seamless way to access their library account information through one click.

Ontario Public Library Week

OPLW hero image - graphic of people doing various activities with tagline One Card Endless PossibilitiesEach year, the third week of October is marked as Ontario Public Library Week (OPLW). OPLW is a time dedicated to raise awareness of the valuable role public libraries play in shaping our communities. OPL’s theme for 2021 was “One card, endless possibilities.” A library card can open doors to so much more than books, and who better to show us the endless possibilities than our dedicated OPL staff and community members.

During each day of OPLW on OPL’s social media, an OPL branch was featured along with stories from various OPL community members, staff, customers and partners, and spoke to what made each of their respective branch experiences unique. 

Our seven branches function as one library system, working in unison with each other to serve all of Oakville. Yet as our community grows and evolves, each OPL branch develops intricacies and specialities blooming within each pocket of Oakville.

Accessibility at OPL – Key Actions in 2021

  • Continued to offer Connection Kits. To support older adults in isolation, OPL offered a bundle of tablets and Wi-Fi hotspots that could be borrowed from the library. The Kits provided accessible library resources, communication tools and internet access, and closed a key gap in the continually growing digital divide; especially access to technology for those most in need.

  • Launched Delivery by Mail, for customers to receive library materials mailed to their homes when they’re unable to come into the library in person.

  • Specialized reading aids are available at select branches, including a SmartView magnifier, Zoom Text, and Kurzweil Reading Machines large font keyboards and widescreen monitors are available for computer use at select branches.

  • Access to over 800,000 titles in a variety of formats. In partnership with the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA), OPL provides eBraille, Braille, audio materials, and other alternative formats to individuals with print disabilities.

Inspiring literacy, curiousity and creativity

Oriental Girl playing with bubbles in a parkIn 2021, OPL was able to resume in-person programs. OPL continued to reimagine learning opportunities for the community, and programming was designed to encourage fun and discovery, safely and comfortably.

  • Launched outdoor programs in the spring, introducing Morning Movers for preschoolers, and our ever-popular Family Storytimes and Babytime programs.

  • Digital Paint Night held its first in-person session for teens and adults in fall 2021.

  • Creation Zone appointments resumed

  • at Glen Abbey Branch. Customers were able to make appointments for individual use or with the guidance of Creation Zone Specialists for free access to technologies varying from 3D printers, to sewing machines, to photo printers and scanners. 3D printers also were installed at all 7 branches for customer use. In fact, OPL was featured in a Global News feature about 3D printing, featuring OPL CEO, Tara Wong, and Creation Zone Specialist, Derek.
  • We continued to build community connections and learning opportunities through partnered programs, like the outdoor Tree Walk in partnership with OakvilleGreen, Fire Safety Fun Storytime with Oakville Fire Department.


By the Numbers

  • 805 Program sessions delivered

  • 11,653 Program attendees

  • 548 Virtual program sessions delivered

  • 327 Early literacy program sessions delivered

  • 41 Book Club sessions held

Summer Reading Challenge

Summer Reading Challenge hero visual - A man and a woman holding a giant library card. Girl carrying books. Girl reading a book to a toddler. Senior man play with young child.

The 2021 Summer Reading Challenge (SRC) marked the second year that OPL facilitated our seasonal reading program using the online Beanstack tracking platform. The theme for the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge was Celebrate Your Community. OPL partnered with local organizations to create programs that highlighted the wonderful opportunities available in Oakville. OPL highlighted local authors through book lists and prizes secured from local businesses.
Celebrate Your Community was about encouraging people to patronize their local establishments, organizations, and showing support for local authors and artists, after an exceptionally isolating year. Compared to 2020, 2021’s SRC was highly successful, engaging over 2000 children, teens, and adults across Oakville. Registration increased across all age groups with a 121% increase in overall registration, with 2,190 total registrants in 2021. 40 SRC-themed program sessions were delivered in July and August, welcoming 1,258 attendees.

Building community connections

Through Information Oakville, the library provides information on a range of government and community resources and services available to Oakville residents. Information Oakville is the lead agency of the Halton Information Providers (HIP), who are responsible for maintaining the Halton Community Services Directory (HCSD).

OPL x The Lighthouse for Grieving Children for Children's Grief Awareness Month in November

In November, OPL partnered with The Lighthouse for Grieving Children to feature a special edition of our StoryWalks, featuring the book, “He’ll Always be my Dad” by Chrissy Lilly. The book shares the story of two children who lost their father. November is recognized as Children's Grief Awareness Month and the Tannery Park spire was lit up all month to raise awareness.

OPL’s Food Shelves adds pet food options

food pantry - showing shelves with food goods and a fridge with refrigerated goodsIn partnership with the Oakville Milton Humane Society (OMHS), OPL’s Community Food Shelves expanded its offerings with free pet food. Due to the many challenges being faced during the pandemic, and the overwhelming responsibilities of taking care of pets, providing the community with access to pet food was in support of trying to keep pets and families together wherever possible. OPL continues to offer dog and cat food, as well as cat litter, through the Food Shelves.

OPL’s Community Food Shelves is a partnership with Food for Life Canada, and are available at three OPL branches, on a take-what-you-need basis. Selection and quantity of items available varies, based on donations received from the public and weekly Food for Life deliveries. When items are available, shelves are stocked daily with items such as fruits, vegetables, breads, baked goods, non-perishable food, pet food and occasional hygiene items. In 2021, through Food for Life deliveries alone, OPL’s Food Shelves provided over 30,000 lbs of food to our community’s most vulnerable residents.



Thank you to our Donors!

Library Love - graphic of people with talking bubbles
We are grateful for the empathy, compassion and generosity of our donors who showed OPL their library love. Every gift to OPL makes an immediate and meaningful difference in people’s lives, ensuring that those in the community are able to stay connected and engaged. Donations give OPL the ability to be innovative and adapt our services to accommodate our growing and evolving Oakville community. This year we expanded our contactless services so the community could safely access OPL public spaces and enjoy books, movies, music and all the things they love about OPL. Our donors are a big part of the progress we’re making as we welcomed the community back to our branches. Together, with the help of our generous donors, we enriched, improved and strengthened our community as we helped them to discover, learn and connect.   

Donor Impact

  • Grab and Go – OPL launched and continues to sustain this new service offering: loanable mystery book and DVD bags with over 15 categories curated by library staff. Launched in October 2020, demand for this service increased by 29% in 2021, and donations helped give us the ability to continue to offer this service and address demand.

  • Library Takeout – A contactless hold pickup service for library materials, developed in May 2020 in response to pandemic restrictions. This service continues to be available because of donor generosity.

  • Early Literacy Programs – Because of the commitments of our donors, we continued to increase early literacy by pivoting many of our popular Babytime and Family Storytime, virtually. In spring-summer 2021, we offered a new outdoor version of a special story/activity time called Morning Movers, aimed to provide caregivers and young children a welcoming and familiar experience in the safest way possible.

  • Digital Materials – Donor gifts allowed us to expand our digital offerings, giving all members of our community, in particular, isolated seniors, the ability to remain connected by accessing a wide variety of virtual eBooks and eAudiobooks.

  • OPL Connection Kits – To support older adults in isolation, OPL offered a bundle of tablets and Wi-Fi hotspots that could be borrowed from the library. The Kits provided accessible library resources, communication tools and internet access, and closed a key gap in the continually growing digital divide; especially access to technology for those most in need. Donor support made an immediate and meaningful difference in people’s lives, ensuring that those in the community were able to stay connected and engaged.

Friends of the Oakville Public Library – Reimagined in 2021    
Friends of Oakville Public Library Logo with a picture of shelving unit with books and Friendly Finds Poster plus Tap to Give poster     

In late 2021, the Friends of the Oakville Public Library (FOL) reimagined their committee and restarted their Friendly Finds program, a popular way to purchase gently loved books at designated Friendly Finds sections located at our branches and select community centres. Gently-used books and audio-visual materials for folks of all ages are available to purchase and enjoy by making a donation on the spot using cash or tiptap. All donations go towards supporting library programs and services.

The new committee also started planning to relaunch book sales where thousands of donated titles spanning all genres are offered for purchase. These sales, run entirely by volunteers, have generated thousands of dollars that have supported numerous library programs and services. It’s very gratifying to see their hard work come together, for the community come back out and support OPL and to be able to welcome volunteers back in person again.

Diversity in our community: Spark Circle Art Sale

two asian women looking at books in the libraryThanks to our Spark Circle friends who adapted to the pandemic in 2020 and shifted their Annual Spark Circle Art Sale to a virtual format and raised funds to expand the Chinese language collection. In 2021, they once again held a successful virtual sale which made it possible for the library to expand our Chinese language collection and for children, teens and adults to enjoy our multi-lingual collections. Since 2018, the annual art sale, which features artwork from local youth, the group has raised over $10,000 and added 500 new Chinese language children’s books to the library.


Community Sustainability 

OPL Seed Library

The OPL Seed Library was established in 2017 and continues to operate because of generous donations made by avid Oakville Public Library supporters, Richard and Barbara Birkett. We are grateful for their commitment to building and strengthening a culture of sharing and sustainability within the Oakville community
Thanks to the Birkett Family, our OPL seed library keeps on growing! Since the program start in 2017, we’re distributed thousands of seed packets to the Oakville community.
We are also grateful to partners from OakPark Neighbourhood Centre, Cinemas, Oakville Green, and Ball Seed Co. and local community growers who provided seeds and distribution points.
In March 2021, the program expanded to include early grab and go seed kits, which provided a selection of seeds, peat pots, soil and advice on growing early-start seeds. Thanks to our partners Miinikaan Innovation and Design, we delivered live virtual gardening programs to the community.
Gardeners of all ages “borrowed” over 1,835 seed packages from the library in 2021 for their spring plantings. The pickup program was so popular that locations had to be replenished many times! At the end of the growing season, they will share their harvested seeds by returning a portion back to the seed library.
Feedback from the virtual sessions:

  • I loved the presenter’s personalities, they were very knowledgeable and easy to understand. Great and very useful information presented.

  • That how in indigenous culture plants are respected, which is similar to my culture back home. 

The OPL Seed Library continues to run on support with donated seeds from Ball Seed, a Chicago-based company, and the Ontario Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society.