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Toronto Music Festivals -- What You Missed and Still to Come

July 13, 2016 | Charlene Lee | Comments (1)

With summer well underway, this also means the start of this year's music festival season! With some major festivals already behind us, there is still lots of great music to look forward to in the coming months. Toronto Public Library can be your one stop shop for preparing for the festivals ahead, catching up on those you missed, or reliving and relishing that perfect set. 

Bestival, Toronto - 2015
Photo courtesy of Bestival


With its sophomore appearance in Toronto (originally from England), Bestival did not disappoint. With an eclectic mix of bands and DJs, there was definitely something for everyone. Festival highlights include sets from Tame Impala, Odesza and Jamie xx, who began his set with a more laid back, sombre tone. The mood was gradually lifted with Drake’s “One Dance” as well as a mixture of 90s dance, R&B and samba. Although euphoric track “Gosh” was interrupted by technical difficulties and Jamie xx walking off stage, the issues were quickly amended and he returned to finish his set.


CBC Music Festival

The 3rd annual CBC Music Festival featured a solid lineup of some of Canada’s best and if you’re like me, you sorely regret that you missed it. With a diverse lineup, fans of all genres from pop to rock and indie to hip hop were delighted. There was much buzz around Toronto band Alvvays, who have garnered a strong following with their 2014 self-titled debut album. Other sets that were not to be missed included those from The New Pornographers, Newmarket’s Tokyo Police Club and Hey Rosetta!, whose performances are nothing short of magic. This year they performed “Ahead by a Century” to commend The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie, who was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Next year’s festival surely won’t disappoint!


TIME Festival

TIME is returning to historic Fort York on Saturday, August 6, 2016. Now in its third year, this one-day festival has always featured a lineup a little bit off the beaten track. Headlining this year is NYC-based hip-hop duo Run The Jewels. They’ll be joined by Joey Bada$$, New Zealand’s dreamy-synth pop sibling duo Broods, and Vancouver-based indie electronic duo Bob Moses.

Bob Moses released Days Gone By last September, delivering a blend of deep house and live instrumentation, and it is near perfection. Highlight “Tearing Me Up” is a song about lust and infidelity, with groovy basslines and skittering percussion. With intricate lines evolving on piano and guitar, and delicate percussive elements, this is an album that you can enjoy peripherally or under a microscope. 

Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$  Broods - Blue Neighbourhood  Broods - Evergreen  Bob Moses - Days Gone By

Check out all the ways TPL can meet your listening needs! With a library card you can access our growing CD collection, as well these great online services: 

Eid Mubarak عيد مبارك: Celebrating the End of Ramadan (with cookies)

July 8, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (1)

The end of Ramadan (and fasting) is celebrated by Eid-al-Fitr, a three day festival that began on Wednesday. One of my Muslim colleagues brought in a box of delicious cookies, Egyptian kahk, and we were talking about food and culture and sharing. She said at the end of the Ramadan and fasting the appetite needs to be whetted again and special cookies and sweets are a great way to encourage that. 

Eid ul Fitr

Some common traditional greetings at this time include "Eid Mubarak" (Blessed Eid) or "Eid Saeed" (Happy Eid). There are many variations though, as the Muslim community is spread along many cultures, countries and languages.

I share a workroom with a diverse bunch of staff so we also enjoy Christmas cookies, traditional Pączki (polish donuts) at the beginning of Lent and other secular treats. We eat a lot of food - not to mention chips.


If you or your kids are interested in learning about Ramadan or Eid-al-Fitr, Toronto Public Library has some great picture books including "It's Ramadan, Curious George":

 Rashad's Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr:  For Muslims, Ramadan is a time for fasting, prayer, and thinking of others. Rashad tries to be good all month. When it's time for Eid al-Fitr, he feasts and plays! Find out how people celebrate this special time of year.    Fasting and Dates A Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr Story: A typical Muslim family celebrates the holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.  It is the time of year for parents and older children to fast, give special praise to God, and be charitable to the poor and needy. The festival of Eid-ul-Fitr occurs on the day following the last day of Ramadan. Families welcome this festival with an elaborate meal attended by extended family and friends. Traditional foods are eaten, including dates and pomegranates.

  Ramadan: Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar during which Muslims across the world observe daytime fasting for a whole month. It is believed that it was during this month that the first verses from the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Ramadan ends with Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the most important festivals in the Islamic religion. The practices observed throughout this holy month are detailed in a simple and informative manner.    Ramadan (On my Own Holidays) An introduction to Islamic observances during the month of Ramadan and the subsequent festival of Eid-al-Fitr.    Ramadan and Id al-Fitr: Read about the beginnings of the Ramadan and Id al-Fitr celebrations

As well as food, henna decoration is also very popular:

A helping hand: Nozhat Choudry Rao; second from right; applies henna stain to friends' hands as they get a head start on the three-day Islamic festival of Eid ul-Fitr. Using henna is a traditional ritual; Nozhat says.  Toronto Star Archive photograph

Henna stain to friend's hands is part of the three-day Islamic festival of Eid ul-Fitr. Toronto Star Archives photo 1997


The Library has many books on henna or mehndi which is common during this celebration (and many others too).

Henna from Head to Toe  Body Decorating Hair Coloring Medicinal Uses: Celebrate the amazing versatility of henna! Body decoration using dyes made from natural henna has never been more popular and this book offers complete instructions, recipes, and designs for henna skin art. Readers will also find recipes


If you are interested in Middle Eastern or Muslim food more generally these titles may whet your appetite:

Sirocco  fabulous flavors from the Middle East  Sweet Middle East  classic recipes, from baklava to fig ice cream  

  Heavenly Bites The Best of Muslim Home Cooking    The New Book of Middle Eastern Food In this updated and greatly enlarged edition of her Book of Middle Eastern Food, Claudia Roden re-creates a classic. The book was originally published here in 1972 and was hailed by James Beard as "a landmark in the field of cookery"; this new version represents the accumulation of the author's thirty years of further extensive travel throughout the ever-changing landscape of the Middle East, gathering recipes and stories.


But the roots of Ramadan are religious and in addition to breaking fast, visiting family, getting new clothes, giving small gifts of money to children, eating sweets and the other things associated with Eid-al-Fitr one goes to mosque and gives Zakat (small alms giving to the poor). You may also enjoy this article from Al Jazeera by Egyptian writer Khaled Diab on Eid al-Fitr: Spiritual oasis or consumer paradise?


Moslems celebrate end of Ramadan Metro's Moslem community Toronto Star Archives photo 1987

"Moslems celebrate end of Ramadan: Metro's Moslem community, which numbers over 100,000, celebrate Eid al-Fitr yesterday marking the end of the month of Ramadan, the holiest of Moslem celebrations. Religious ceremonies were held in several locations across Metro, including the International Centre in Mississauga, above, where thousands of the faithful bowed in prayer as part of the ancient tradition". Toronto Star Archives photo 1987.


Celebrating Pride 2016 with LGBTQ DVDs: Toronto Public Library Supports the Rainbow Couch Potato

June 27, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (18)

You likely know Toronto Public Library has a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Collection at the Yorkville Branch including books, magazines and DVDs. LGBT materials can also be found at all 100 TPL branches or brought to your local branch via our holds system. TPL annually compiles a recommended reading list and offers programs city wide, including a Pride Family StorytimeShe Writes, A Proud Voice Event and youth programs.

Yorkville Branch Wrapped in Rainbow for World Pride 2014

 Yorkville Branch (2014) Toronto Public Library front columns wrapped in rainbows


For many years in the 1990s and early 2000s the Library had a table at Pride where myself and many others gamely, albeit somewhat naively, tried to give out book lists and promote the collection. But, as more than one person said ..."Do you see pockets on this outfit?"

Subsequently, Toronto Public Library, the staff Pride Alliance and our union Local CUPE 4948 started marching together in the parade. This was not just more fun, but our bookmobile and witty pun based signage proved a hit.


Toronto Public Library Pride Alliance at the 2015 Pride MarchToronto Public Library Pride Alliance at the 2015 Pride March


Twoaussiesincanada wordpress 2013 Toronto Public Library march in Pride Parade

Toronto Public Library and CUPE Local 4948 march in Pride Parade 2013. copyright Two Aussies in Canada blog


And, in a mildly nerdish way, we even have a YouTube video from 2013 showing the TPL bookmobile as our "float". We're at minute 1.00 and going forward. We've had 74 views so far, so we're no threat to Madonna (hi Ab).



So, following the parade, the party and the after party etc we would like to suggest you go to your local library branch (there are 100 locations) or bookmobile stop and borrow some of the following DVDs (recommended by various Library staff and in no particular order - yes that is shockingly cavalier and random). Then sit yourself down on your couch, put your feet up for a well deserved rest and some enjoyable viewing.


Brenda recommended Cloudburst with Olympia Dukakis as a sweet, funny and raucous lesbian road trip movie. If you're interested in true life stories of what life used to be like for lesbians in Canada in the 1950s / 60s you may also enjoy Forbidden love the unashamed stories of lesbian lives. I'm also reminded of Ruthie and Connie about two Jewish lesbians who leave their husbands and go on to fight for marriage rights in the New York City.

Cloudburst DVD

Cloudbust: "Stella and Dot have been together for 31 years and have faithfully accompanied one another through life's ups and downs. Now in their seventies, Stella is hard of hearing and Dot is legally blind. Dotty's prudish granddaughter, Molly, decides the best place for Dot is a nursing home that will provide all the necessities. This forces Stella and Dot to make a bold decision: they will leave their hometown in Maine and make their way to Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal."


And speaking of older lesbians the following DVD really takes us back into history with The Oldest Lesbian in the World.

The Oldest Lesbian in the World DVDThe Oldest Lesbian in the World: "Nearing 100 years old, a national treasure, Bobby Staff whimsically exposes a rare and revealing insight into the romantic life of a butch lesbian born in 1913. Accompanied by her long time friend, Sweet Baby J'ai, Bobbie takes us on a trip down a very steamy memory lane, through photographs and vivid memories of many decades living her life as an out lesbian in New York City and Los Angeles."


Something a bit edgier comes from MK who suggested filmmaker Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin. I recall seeing Araki's The Living End in 1992 when it came to the Carelton Cinema in the midst of the AIDS crisis. A sort of gay Thelma & Louise (funny how any road trip movie is now Thelma & Louise like - but this one really is) it also involves a homicide, and two HIV positive gay lovers on the lam. It's a powerful F-you to the world in a wildly funny subversive way.

 Mysterious Skin DVD  The Living End DVD

Sephora suggested the lesbian romance When Night is Falling pointing out the lesbian lovers are not punished at the end for their love. She also liked the light comedy Jeffrey including actor Patrick Stewart from Star Trek. 

When Night is Falling DVD


Ab highly recommends Loose Cannons an Italian, English sub titled comedy that opened the Toronto Lesbian Gay Film Festival in 2011 about two brothers who both come out in a traditional /Italian family.

Loose Cannons DVD



A couple of staff, including Jennifer, recommended Tomboy. While neither gay or lesbian it does speak to the fluidity of gender roles especially among the young and the risks of gender non conformity. The documentary Growing Up Trans looks at the struggles (and joys) of transgender kids and their parents. There are many more DVDs on gender identity that you can also explore at the Library.  For an interesting take on fluid gender you might also enjoy Tilda Swinton in Virginia Woolf's Orlando.

Tomboy DVD

Tomboy: "Laure is 10 years old and a tomboy. On arrival in a new neighbourhood, she lets Lisa and her crowd believe that she is a boy. Summer becomes a big playground and Laure pretends to be Michael, a boy like the others, different enough to get the attention of Lisa, who falls in love with him. Laure takes advantage of her new identity as if the end of the summer would never reveal her unsettling secret."


Transamerica DVD  Patrick 1.5 DVD

Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, portrays a conservative transsexual who unexpectedly finds out she has a teenage son. In Patrik 1.5 a gay couple who think they are adopting a baby find themselves with a sullen, homophobic 15 year old teenage boy.



The "ex gay" movement comedy satire But I'm a Cheerleader also got a nod.

But I'm a Cheerleader DVD


Irene liked Dutch film Antonia's Line won the 1996 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the TIFF People's Choice award. Set in rural Holland post WW2 it portrays rural life with as seen through "pink" coloured glasses.  

Antonia's Line


And Amanda B. spoke highly of film maker Deepa Mehta's Fire, Earth and Water


More and more gay and lesbian films are making into the mainstream. Both cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain (with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) and 1950s New York Carol (with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) are so well known they really need no introduction.

  Brokeback Mountain DVD  Carol


At the cottage last year I watched Last Summer which was an unexpectedly sweet film about two teenagers in love in small town USA. This elegiac movie looks at their relationship not going through the angst of being gay, but rather the angst of one leaving town for university and one staying. The cinematography is especially beautiful.  My husband Richard wanted to recommend Do I Sound Gay, which includes the very funny Margaret Cho.

Last Summer DVD


More gritty and cutting edge, and not just for being filmed on a iPhone 5s smartphone, Tangerine follows transexual Sin-Dee searching for her cheating pimp fiance boyfriend. This is an eye opening film about love, friendship, prostitution, being in the closet, being out of the closet and the colors of Los Angeles. Not for the faint of heart.



If you're looking for a bit of history you might like this documentary and also this feature on Harvey Milk.

  The Times of Harvey Milk DVD documentary  Milk DVD feature film


To know one's history is to know one's roots:

  Before Stonewall The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community DVD   Coming out Under Fire WW2 DVD   Paragraph 175 DVD Historian Klaus Müller interviews survivors of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals because of the German Penal Code of 1871, Paragraph 175.

 We Were Here the AIDS years in San Francisco DVD: David Weissman's We Were Here revisits the San Francisco of the 80s and 90s, using the city's experience with AIDS to open up a conversation about both the history of the epidemic and the lessons to be learned from it. Yet the film reaches far beyond San Francisco and beyond AIDS itself as it illuminates the power of a community that comes together with love, compassion, and determination.   Stonewall Uprising DVD Explores the dramatic event that launched a worldwide rights movement. When police raided a Mafia-run gay bar in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, gay men and women did something they had not done before: they fought back. As the streets of New York erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations, the collective anger announced that the gay rights movement had arrived.

And for some more specific lesbian herstory:

Forbidden Love the Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives DVD: Interviews with 10 women who paint a portrait of lesbian sexuality and survival in Canada during the 1950s and 1960s against a backdrop of tabloid headlines, book covers and dramatizations from lesbian pulp novels.

  Lesbiana a Parallel Revolution DVD   "A parallel revolution was born out of the feminist movement of the 1970's, coming to an end around 1995. Filmmaker Myriam Fougère takes us on a journey to meet the lesbian writers, philosophers and activists who were key players in creating a revolutionary sisterhood. From Montréal to Texas, by way of New York, Myriam encounters lesbians who chose to live only among women. This marginal yet international movement is brought to life through archival footage and photographs, and evocative interviews with these courageous women, many of whom are now in their seventies and eighties.   Paris was a Woman DVD Through a combination of still photos, archival film footage, and interview commentary, documents the creative community of French, English and American women, many of whom were lesbians, who gravitated to the Left Bank in Paris during the early part of the 20th century.


And though invisibility, oppression, bias and even hate are often the foundation of our history and to varying degrees our present, some communities face additional challenges based on race or religion:


Tongues United DVD In an experimental amalgam of rap music, street poetry, documentary film, and dance, a gay African-American man expresses what it is like to be gay and black in the United States.    Brother Outsider the life of Bayard Rustin DVD A documentary examining the life of Bayard Rustin, one of the first "freedom riders," an adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and A. Philip Randolph, and an organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. However, Rustin was forced to play a background role in landmark civil rights events because he was homosexual. This feature-length portrait unfolds both chronologically and thematically, using interviews with others, and Rustin's own voice, taken from his writings, papers, correspondence, and recorded interviews.



Audre Lorde The Berlin Years DVD : Audre Lorde's incisive, often-angry, but always brilliant writings and speeches defined and inspired the US-American feminist, lesbian, African-American, and Women-of-Color movements of the 1970s and 1980s. Audre Lorde, the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992, documents an untold chapter of Lorde's life: her influence on the German political and cultural scene during a decade of profound social change. The film explores the importance of Lorde's legacy, as she encouraged Afro-Germans -- who, at that time, had no name or space for themselves -- to make themselves visible within a culture that until then had kept them isolated and silent. It chronicles Lorde's empowerment of Afro-German women to write and to publish, as she challenged white women to acknowledge the significance of their white privilege and to deal with difference in constructive ways. Previously unreleased archive material as well as present-day interviews explore the lasting influence of Lorde's ideas on Germany and the impact of her work and personality. For the first time, Dagmar Schultz's personal archival video- and audio-recordings reveal a significant part of the private Audre Lorde as well as her agenda -- to rouse Afro-Germans to recognize each other. 2012 marks the 20-year anniversary of Audre Lorde's passing.

  The Same Difference DVD Nneka Onuorah, Black Lesbian film maker, shines a light on the all-too-often ignored problem of homophobia and gender discrimination within the black lesbian community. Onuorah's fascinating and original documentary examines what happens when lesbians discriminate against each other over violations of the strict code that separates butches from femmes. The film examines how these behaviors reproduce the homophobic oppression and masculine privilege of the straight world, while looking for solutions in compelling discussions with community members. Self-identified studs - and the women who love them - discuss hypocrisy in terms of gender roles, performative expectations, and the silent disciplining that occurs within the community. [...] The Same Difference highlights relationships and experiences within the queer female community, intersecting race, gender and sexuality"
The Same Difference DVD by director Nneka Onuorah



Trembling Before G-d



A Jihad for Love DVD: Fourteen centuries after the revelation of the holy Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad, Islam today is the world's second largest and fastest growing religion. Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma travels the many worlds of this dynamic faith, discovering the stories of its most unlikely storytellers: lesbian and gay Muslims. Produced by Sandi DuBowski (Trembling Before G-d) and Sharma, A Jihad for Love was filmed in 12 countries and 9 languages and comes from the heart of Islam. Looking beyond a hostile and war-torn present, it reclaims the Islamic concept of a greater Jihad, whose true meaning is akin to 'an inner struggle' or 'to strive in the path of God' - allowing its remarkable subjects to move beyond the narrow concept of Jihad as holy war.


This is just a sample of what we have in Toronto Public Library. Not all feature films come with subject headings so it's difficult to pull a complete list together. But if you're interested in further material, you could try these two searches:

Warming Up For The TD Toronto Jazz Festival: Jazz At Massey Hall

June 20, 2016 | Beau | Comments (0)

This year's TD Toronto Jazz Festival kicks off this Friday, June 24th and runs until July 3rd, which makes this a good time to learn more about the history of jazz in Toronto. Hogtown might not be the first city you think of when you think of jazz, but it's not without its own rich traditions and legacy in that musical department.

For starters, did you know that what some people call "the greatest jazz concert ever" took place right here in Toronto? On May 15th, 1953, an unrivaled lineup of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach (known thereafter as simply "The Quintet") played at Massey Hall. The audience was surprisingly sparse because there was a heavyweight prize fight that night between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott, and legend has it Parker had to be dragged out of a bar across the street after the intermission, where he was sitting and drinking triple scotches.

Fortunately, the concert was recorded for future audiences to study and enjoy (even if Parker was billed as "Charlie Chan" because he was under contract with a different record company). The CD, entitled The Quintet: Jazz At Massey Hall, is available to be signed out at TPL:


If you'd like to do more than just listen to the concert, jazz historian Mark Miller has written a book, Cool Blues: Charlie Parker In Canada 1953, about Parker's visit, which included three weeks at a jazz workshop in Montreal before the Massey Hall concert. It includes previously unpublished photos of the members of The Quintet, as well as histories of the jazz communities in both cities.



If you're interested in reading about Massey Hall enjoy these blog posts:

You Say Gryphon, I Say Griffin! The Bronze Sculptures of Lillian H. Smith Branch

June 17, 2016 | Sarah | Comments (8)

  Lillian H. Smith library griffinsLillian H. Smith Branch griffins. Photographer: Ludzer Vandermolen

Toronto Public Library has two magical bronze griffin lion sculptures guarding the front doors of the Lillian H. Smith branch. New York Public Library has its lions, but we like ours better! The two creatures gracing the arched brick entrance at Lillian H. Smith branch were designed and constructed by architect Philip H. Carter and sculptor Ludzer Vandermolen. 

The lion is Edgar, after the benefactor of the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, and the eagle is Judith, named for the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy.

I spoke with Ludzer about building these sculptures, a process he says went by "swimmingly."

According to Vandermolen, each griffin weighs 3 tonnes or 3000 kilograms (that's the size of a small elephant!) and they took about 1.5 years to make. Small clay models were approved by the Library Board, then enlarged and cast in fibreglass and wax before being sent to the foundry. Since they are so big, they were cast in different sections - about 12 parts for each statue. The bronze finisher was Vince Graham. The team of sculptors included Ludzer, Kirk Sutherfield, Joanne Sherman, Rebecca Vandermolen, Jim Brewster, Michael Bodor, and others. Ludzer reminded me that Philip Carter was also instrumental in their design and creation.

Last year, which marked the 20th anniversary of the library opening, Ludzer kindly donated copies of his photographs documenting the construction of the statues. Here are a few glimpses into the genesis of these one-of-a-kind sculptures:Griffins with their miniaturesPhotographer: Ludzer Vandermolen

Here is Edgar the lion in clay:Edward the lion head in clayPhotographer: Ludzer Vandermolen

Ludzer working on Judith:

Ludzer working on JudithPhotographer: Ludzer Vandermolen

And a rare photo of Judith and Edgar, standing side by side:

Judith and Edward are side by sidePhotographer: Ludzer Vandermolen

Here, the griffins are being moved into place. I can only imagine how hard it was to move these enormous beasts!

Griffins being moved into placePhotographer: Ludzer Vandermolen

If you look very carefully, you can see that the library is not the only thing the griffins are protecting. Look up close to see a frog:

Frog closeup black and whitePhotographer: Ludzer Vandermolen

 A lizard:

Lizard closeup black and whitePhotographer: Ludzer Vandermolen

A turtle:

Turtle closeup black and white

 Photographer: Ludzer Vandermolen

 A whale, a ram, a bear and more:

Whale closeup black and white
 Photographer: Ludzer Vandermolen

Edward and badger
 Photographer: Ludzer Vandermolen

There are other animal relief sculptures on the outside wall at Lillian H. Smith, including this owl, that came from the old Boys and Girls House library:

Owl relief from Pinterest

Here is where it was originally situated, at the entrance off St. George Street:

Entrance to 1964 Boys and Girls House showing owl scuplture

Other Toronto Public Library branches with feathered and furry guardians include Beaches branch, with Wordsworth the owl, also made by Mr. Vandermolen; and North York Central Library, where the lion from the Golden Lion Hotel is displayed in a glass case on the top floor.

Looking for some fun books on griffins and their relatives? Here are a few for children:

If I had a gryphon book cover

If I had a gryphon, by Vikki Van Sickle

The Griffin and the Dinosaur: How Adrienne Mayor discovered a fascinating link between myth and science, by Marc Aronson

A field guide to griffins, unicorns and other mythical beasts, by Aaron Sautter

The Gargoyle on the Roof, by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Peter Sis

However you spell it, our beautiful, fierce griffins will continue to provide a little oasis of whimsy in the city's downtown, inspiring photographs like this one:

 Griffin photo by Brent Cehan from Flickr

Photographer: Brent Cehan

Send us a photo of your favourite library animal!


Celebrating Massey Hall and Toronto Music: June 14: Snapshots in History

June 14, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, at Massey Hall, Shuter St., s.w. corner Victoria St., Toronto
1911 - Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, at Massey Hall, Shuter St., s.w. corner Victoria St., Toronto


A Toronto musical landmark named Massey Hall celebrated an anniversary today given its debut concert and opening to the public on June 14, 1894. Over the years, many musical performances and concerts have taken place in this popular venue. Some of those performances are reflected in Toronto Public Library’s music collection in Compact Disc (CD) format. Below are some examples for one to consider and celebrate Massey Hall and those who performed there:


Massey Hall Burton Cummings   Live at Massey Hall 1971 Neil Young  


The road to Massey Hall Whitehorse   Stop Us If Youve Heard This One Before Barenaked Ladies  

Live at Massey Hall Pavlo

For additional information about Massey Hall, please visit Remembering Massey Hall: June 14: Snapshots in History on the Local History & Genealogy Blog.


Capybaras Seen at Fort York Branch Using Free 3D Printer, Green Screen and Scanners?

May 27, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (5)

There's been an unverified report that the two missing capybaras have been seen at the Fork York Branch in the Digital Innovation Hub using the 3D printers to make masks (possibly to throw off search parties). 

TPL had earlier offered the capybaras sanctuary at the High Park Branch Library.


Image of 3D printer

3D Design & Printing

Learn how to design and print a 3D object starting from an existing design, or create your own.




They may also have used the Recording Studio for the video filming and green screen technology to create and upload a YouTube video (maybe a cover Drake's Hotline Bling).

Recording Studio

Use our cameras, green screen, studio mics, and other audio, video, and photography equipment and software.


The capybaras asked about The Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass (MAP) as they wanted to visit long lost relatives at the ROM. Staff explained all branches have passes for certain cultural institutions like Colborne Lodge in High Park but only 50 selected branches had ROM tickets and they were given a referral to Parkdale Branch. 


Ye Olde Howard's Homestead at High Park, Toronto.

Ye Olde Howard's Homestead at High Park, Toronto, by F.W. Jopling


At Parkdale Branch the capybaras showed a lot of interest in borrowing a musical instrument from the Sun Life Financial Musical Instrument Lending Library. They promised if they came across a gently used instrument in their travels they would consider donating it to the program

Instrument types

Classical and Acoustic Guitars

  • Left and right-handed ½, ¾, and full-size guitars
  • Soprano ukuleles
  • Acoustic bass guitars
  • Banjo
  • Mandolin


  • Xylophone
  • Cajon Box drum
  • Doumbek
  • Djembe African drum
  • Bongo drum
  • Dholak (South Asian hand drum)
  • Tabla (Indian drum)


¼, ½, ¾, and full-size violins


  • 61-note keyboard
  • 88-note keyboard


The capybaras were last seen walking down Queen Street West back towards Grenadier Pond in High Park. Staff at Parkdale did warn them that the pond froze over in the winter but the capybaras seemed dubious and unwilling to give credence to the vintage photos they were shown from the TPL Digital Archive.

High Park, Grenadier Pond.

High Park, Grenadier Pond circa 1908

High Park, Grenadier Pond, with John Ellis' house


Meanwhile back at High Park Zoo the single male capybara is patiently waiting for the next act in this drama to unfold.  As you can see from the photo on John Tory's twitter account - "this is one lonely capybara"

Photo from John Tory's twitter account showing him and Councillor Sarah Doucette and a worker at High Park Zoo



High Park Branch Offers Sanctuary to Capybaras

May 26, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (6)

Who among us hasn't wanted to flee from a blind date gone bad?

Toronto Public Library wants to offer the two capybaras High Park branch as a refuge from their trials, in a spirit of fellowship and creating a warm welcoming environment. 

While my grandmother spoke highly of her own arranged marriage, I'm not sure how she would have felt about the slightly sordid affair at High Park Zoo when a single male capybara was brought to meet (read mate!) two female capybaras. Faced with this situation, what choice did they have but to leave with their dignity intact a la Thelma and Louise (and who really can blame them)? The Zoo is trying to recapture them as of now. 

My friend Mabel has also just informed me that in fact the escaped pair is a male and female pair so their burst for freedom is more Bonnie and Clyde and my puffery prose above is a bit misleading.

There was also an unconfirmed report that the capybaras had been seen at using the Digital Innovation Hub at Fort York Library.

Capybara swimming by Charlesjsharp - own work from Sharp Photography sharpphotography via wiki creative commons

By Charlesjsharp - Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography, CC BY-SA 4.0,

High Park is a lovely branch celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016. In addition to an English language collection, it offers a small adult and children's collection in French and a large collection of items in Polish. There is free wifi, Internet workstations (like all branches) and they also loan out pedometers. 

High Park branch is a Carnegie-funded library building and one of three iconic and identical branches spearheaded by Chief Librarian George H. Locke that are celebrating a major milestone this year -- Beaches and Wychwood are the other two branches. They were built in a pastiche of English medieval Tudor school style (big central hall open space) with wood beams/trusses and lots of white plaster.

If you're on Pinterest, you can view the many historical photos we have posted on a Carnegie Library board. Below are a few High Park branch photos, circa 1920s-40s.


Toronto High Park Library Branch circa 1921-1922 by Muriel Page (later Ffoulkes) was a children's librarian at High Park Branch, Toronto Public Library from 1917 to 1922

High Park branch circa 1921-1922 by Muriel Page (later Ffoulkes) who was a children's librarian at High Park, Toronto Public Library from 1917 to 1922.


High Park Library Christmas 1940. Marjorie Bullard

 Toronto Public Library staff member Marjorie Bullard reads in the adult section, ensconced in the inglenook of the High Park branch's fireplace. This photograph was taken by her brother, Maurice, at Christmas-time in 1940. Marjorie worked in several branches in her 45 years of service, and retired from the Locke branch in 1973.


 Wychwood Branch main floor adult area circa 1916

Wychwood Branch opened on April 15, 1916. It was the first of, and model for, of three identical libraries (High Park & Beaches were the others) that TPL built with a $50,000 grant from Carnegie. Eden Smith's design, an adaptation of Tudor Gothic style, was "an almost entire departure from the traditional library building…the Reading room & Library, 70 ft long by 30 ft wide…is really a large hall with an open timbered roof, the walls above 19 ft high to the springing of the roof..the ceiling 29 ft at its apex." 


 If you're interested in capybaras, you might like these two children's books:

  Children's book Capybaras by Megan Borgert-Spaniol   Capyboppy by Bill Peet - The author describes the spring and summer his family adopts a large South American rodent for a pet.

The Picture Collection at the Arts Department of the Toronto Reference Library even has a file on capybaras - one of 32,000 files with a million images (and you can borrow from the Picture Collection). 


Of course, we hope the two cabybaras are found safe but in the meantime, we also hope they're having a good time now with their freedom.



Queen Victoria Day May 24: Toronto in vintage pictures

May 20, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (2)

We celebrate Victoria Day on May 24 to honour the birth of Queen Victoria in 1819. She reigned for much of the 19th century over Great Britain and the British Empire, including Canada. Her long reign and the strong connection to the monarchy ensured Victoria Day was a major event in Toronto as can be seen by the vintage photographs and items below (all from the Library's Digital Archive). 


1859 Queen's Birthday paper ticket for one free loaf of bread Toronto Ontario

Queen's Birthday 1859 paper ticket "Good For One Loaf" Toronto. This small 4.7 cm x 5.8 cm rare paper ephemera (raffle ticket size) will be on display Thursday the 26th of May from 3-3:30 PM in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Centre (5th floor, Toronto Reference Library), part of a free talk "Toronto Celebrates Victoria Day" offered by the Special Collections Department. 


Queen Victoria bisque bust on display Toronto Reference Library Arts Department 5th floor.


Government House & grounds Toronto CW on the Queen's Birthday 1854

1854 lithograph of Government House & Grounds Toronto C.W. (Canada West) on the Queen's Birthday.


Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901. Her 50th anniversary in 1887 and her 60th anniversary in 1897 were major events across Canada and the British Empire.

Jubilee Service 1887 Metropolitan Methodist (United) Church Queen Street EastJubilee Service 1887 Metropolitan Methodist (United) Church Queen Street East


Decorations For Diamond Jubilee Queen Victoria, 1897, Toronto, King St. West looking east from west of Jordan St.

Decorations For Diamond Jubilee Queen Victoria, 1897, Toronto, King St. West looking east from west of Jordan St.


Toronto 1897 Queen Victoria  Decorations For Diamond Jubilee, King St. East  looking east from Yonge St.

Toronto 1897 Queen Victoria  Decorations For Diamond Jubilee, King St. East looking east from Yonge Street.


Statue of Queen Victoria in Queen's Park Toronto, 1913, decorated on Empire Day

Queen Victoria statue, east of entrance to Parliament Buildings, Queen's Park Toronto, decorated in 1913 for Empire Day.


1910 postcard Queen Victoria Monument, Queen's Park, Toronto.

1910 postcard of Queen Victoria Monument, Queen's Park, Toronto. According to the Yale Center for British Art this statue by Mario Raggi was installed September 1902 and unveiled May 27, 1903.  It was commissioned in 1870, paid for and installed after the queen’s death.


Toronto, Queen Victoria Day parade, 1923, looking east across University Ave from north of Elm Street (beside McCaul School).

Toronto, Queen Victoria Day parade, 1923, looking east across University Ave from north of Elm Street (beside McCaul School).


The original military and imperialist colonial aspect of Victoria's reign was still an element even after her death in 1901.


Toronto Quen Victoria  Birthday Parade  1923, military parade, looking north on University Ave. from Queen St. West

Soldiers of Toronto Regiments Marching Down University Avenue, 1923 to celebrate Queen Victoria Day

Queen Victoria statue, east of entrance to Parliament Buildings (1893), Queen's Park, Toronto hand coloured photograph.

Queen Victoria statue, east of entrance to Parliament Buildings Queen's Park, Toronto, looking east. Photograph circa 1910 hand coloured.


So we still celebrate Victoria Day - although the royal roots  are getting lost in time as we get further away from the Victorian era. And our connection to her weakens as our country and population shifts away from its British roots. Our biggest current memory is now most likely fireworks on a large scale.


1987  Fireworks light up the sky above Ontario Place, Toronto,  last night in one of several spectacular Victoria Day shows in and around Metro

 Fireworks light up the sky above Ontario Place, Toronto, 1987 in one of several spectacular Victoria Day shows in and around Metro. Toronto Star Archives.


And fireworks on a local more intimate scale.

1972 Holiday fireworks. The traditional Victoria day fireworks drew an estimated 6;000 persons to Alloa Public School in Bramalea last night where the show was staged by the Chinguacousy volunteer firemen.

1972 Holiday fireworks. The traditional Victoria day fireworks drew an estimated 6;000 persons to Alloa Public School in Bramalea last night where the show was staged by the Chinguacousy volunteer firemen. Money was raised by a door-to-door collection. Toronto Star Archives.


Making Space for Your Creativity

May 18, 2016 | Muriel | Comments (4)

"In creating, the only hard thing's to begin..."

                                                    - James Russell Lowell

Creativity Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention         Wired to Create         Let the Elephants Run

The Creative Fight    The Creativity Challenge    Big Magic

I enjoy making things, and I have always been interested in the
creative process. I find it fascinating how people nurture and make space for creativity in their lives: philosophically; time-wise; and by finding a location where they can create.

Toronto Public Library provides creative space for you with their Digital Innovation Hubs, which are workspaces with free access to technology and training, 3D design and printing, classes and more. At the Toronto Reference Library, the Asquith Press is a book printing service that lets you design and print perfect bound bookstore quality paperback books at a low price. There are also Pop-Up Learning Labs, which travel to different branches to bring new and emerging technology to your community through staff-led programs and classes.

More creative space is provided at many library branches for hobbies, crafts and games programs. If you like to create independently, all you need is your Toronto Public Library card to access for video tutorial courses on computer skills, graphic design, multimedia, photography and more.


It is very motivating for me to look at outstanding examples of art and craft. With the Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass, you and your family can explore, for free, the best of Toronto's arts and cultural treasures, including the Royal Ontario Museum.  On June 25, 2016, a special exhibition will be opening at the museum by one of the world's foremost glass artists, Dale Chihuly.

Workshops You Can Build    My Cool Shed    A Woman's Shed    

Maker Spaces        Inside the Artist's Studio        Open Studios With Lotta Jansdotter   

A Beautiful Mess       Creative Children's Spaces       Fine Woodworking Best Workshops

A dedicated space for your creative pursuits is ideal. This space might be a separate building, a studio or a corner of a room. I think it is energizing just to imagine all of the creative people working in these beautiful spaces!

David Bowie is the Subject  Zaha Hadid  David Hockney  Design is One

I am always interested in learning about creative people. While each one differs in their creative process, the unifying thread between them is their curiosity, a driving force for creativity.
3D Technology in Fine Art and Craft    The Artist in the Office    Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
The Artist's Way    Crafting Calm    The Artful Parent  

These inspiring and instructive titles encourage your creativity,
and show you ways to express it: on your own; at work; or with your family.

Craft a Creative Business     Starting Your Career as an Artist     I Just Like to Make Things

Beginning is indeed hard, but it is essential to creativity, and it may even take you on the way to presenting your creations to the outside world! There are even spaces to meet and work at your local library branch, to start or grow your small business.


The library's blog devoted to the discovery of diverse artistic, music and cultural works in the library and Toronto.