Posted by: bluesyemre | January 1, 2021

#TorontoPublicLibrary staff are calling more than 20,000 seniors for a quick check-in chat during the #pandemic

Staff at the Toronto Public Library have set their sights on calling more than 20,000 senior library users as part of a wellness check to see how they’re doing during the pandemic.

Since mid-July, about 20 library staff have called more than 10,000 clients, most of them between the ages of 80 and 100 years old, who may be isolated.

Now staff are starting to make calls to an additional 13,000 library cardholders between 70 and 79 years of age.

Sara Minor said the phone call her mother received from the library this month “boosted her spirits.”

During the pandemic, Minor’s mother had been taking advantage of curbside pickup services. And when the library completely closed, she began reading ebooks on her iPad, Minor said.

“That was really important to her,” Minor said. “The library has been her godsend.”

Eda Conte-Pitcher, manager of the North York library’s delivery service and one of the project’s co-ordinators, said the outreach program was directed at library users who might be isolated and vulnerable.

About 1,000 of the senior library users who first received the 10-minute phone calls are registered for a delivery service for those less mobile due to age, illness or disability, said Conte-Pitcher.

The 10-minute phone calls are also an opportunity for staff to help clients navigate library resources that have moved online due to the pandemic, said Kim Huntley, manager of the North York Central Library.

Huntley and Conte-Pitcher said they were inspired by similar programs in Hamilton, Windsor and Markham.

“People are really surprised when we call them, that it’s not a call that we’re selling anything or asking anything of them,” said Emoke Gall, a librarian at the North York Central Library, who started making calls twice a week this past summer. “We’re literally just checking in to see how they’re doing.”

One client she spoke with said she grew up in Toronto before spending most of their life overseas where just one library was available. When she moved back, she realized that the library system in Toronto was neighbourhood-based and easily accessible, Gall said.

“It was just nice to hear that in their opinion … this is the best library system in the world because there’s so many available options,” added Gall. “It’s been a very feel-good, friendly, nice initiative for us to have at this time.”

Manuela Vega is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Reach her via email:

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