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Toronto Public Library storing returned books at 12 trailers off site in wake of cyberattack

The Toronto Public Library says it is storing returned books at 12 trailers off site following an October cyberattack.

The books are being stored securely and have yet to be checked in, the library said in an email on Thursday. 

“These books will remain offsite until we can complete the necessary checks and reintegrate them into circulation,” the library said.

Since the cyberattack that first came its attention on Oct. 28, it said there have been more than half a million physical materials borrowed, more than 11 million digital checkouts in 2023 and close to 10,000 new library card registrations. The library says it is working “tirelessly” to restore services as quickly as possible.

For now, the library said its staff is entering book details and new library card registration into a spreadsheet, which is then uploaded to the library’s software.

“This has been a major undertaking and we recently reached a significant milestone when we successfully cleared the backlog of approximately 845,000 items for new registration and checkout.”

Library can’t say exactly when services will be restored

In the email, the library said it cannot pinpoint exactly when its services will be restored because the nature of the work is “unpredictable.”

In an update on its site on Tuesday, however, the library said: “Efforts to restore our systems as quickly and securely as possible are in full swing,” adding it’s on track to begin reinstating services later this month.

The library said its top priorities include the phased restoration of its website and public computers, catalogue and online borrowing services.

“Services may look a little different when we first bring them back, but we will work to make them as clear and easy to use as possible,” the library said in the update.

The library said it understands users are frustrated but it appreciates their patience and support so far.

A view of Toronto Public Library computers, wrapped in yellow caution tape, at its Eglinton Square branch on Dec. 23.
A view of Toronto Public Library computers, wrapped in yellow caution tape, at the Eglinton Square branch on Dec. 23. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

In a year-end message posted on Dec. 20, city librarian Vickery Bowles said the library remains a crime scene. 

“We know that the personal information of our staff was stolen and we continue to investigate the extent of the data breach with the support of cybersecurity experts,” Bowles said.

Bowles said it has been “heartbreaking” to hear stories from library users about how the lack of services has affected them.

“We know that we are the only access to technology for many of the most vulnerable in Toronto. Their loss of access to meet their daily needs has been especially challenging and concerning,” Bowles said.

“We’ve also heard from students who rely on our computers for school work, from job seekers who rely on us to print their resume, and from people who use library computers to stay connected to family and friends back home. And we’ve heard from families, researchers and others, about how limited access to our physical collection of materials is making life harder and more expensive.”

Material can still be borrowed, returned, renewed

The library continues to tell customers that they can return books to its branches, or if they prefer, they can keep them until the library is ready to check them in.

On its website, the library says library branches are open as scheduled, WiFi is available, materials can be borrowed, returned or renewed and Toronto residents can apply for new library cards with valid identification that includes name and current address. As well, library programs are running in branches.

The library says the following services are not available: and online personal accounts, public computers, printing, tpl:map passes, Ontario Parks passes, some digital collections, placing, suspending and managing holds, renewing library cards, the Digital Archive and Digital Archive Ontario. Library cards, however, will not expire during this time.

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