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Jacket Required: Design a Cover for Your Book

August 18, 2016 | Winona | Comments (2)

So you've written a book, and it's all ready to publish with Asquith Press, the library's book printing service. But have you thought about the cover? After all, as we all know, a book's cover is its most important part!*

Learn how to make a simple book cover fit for publication with Asquith Press using Photoshop at a free hands-on workshop at Toronto Reference Library on Saturday August 20, 2016, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm. This workshop is free but you must register online.

NOTE: The August 20 workshop is now full. There will be another workshop on Saturday September 24, 2016, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm. Online registration is required. Registration opens on Saturday August 27 at 9:00 am at this link. Space is limited! 

Cover by Peter Mendelsund

*I am kidding, of course; it's what's inside the book that matters most. But many people do judge a book by its cover. Good book jacket design can make a big difference when a reader is perusing a bookshelf or display and trying to decide which book to pick up. 

Fortunately, the library has everything you need to design a beautiful cover for your book and help make it a self-publishing success story. That's right: we've got you covered. (Sorry.) And it's all free with your Toronto Public Library card!

  • We offer free introductory digital design classes and workshops on a regular basis. Check our website for upcoming programs.


The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin Williams

The Non-Designer's Photoshop Book by Robin Williams The Non-Designer's Illustrator Book by Robin Williams The Non-Designer's InDesign Book by Robin Williams
Robin Williams' "non-designer's" design books are popular classics and a good introduction for those new to graphic or print design.

You can also take an online video tutorial on graphic design principles or software from There's even a course called "Designing a Book Cover."

This is a preview; for free access to the complete video tutorial, go to via the library website (, enter your library card number and PIN, then search for "designing a book cover." For quick tips on using download our Lynda com info sheet (PDF).

If you're looking for inspiration, check out these books that feature great book jacket and cover designs -- which I have selected, of course, based (mostly) on their covers.


Penguin 75 edited by Paul Buckley


Penguin by Design by Phil Baines  Classic Penguin Cover to Cover edited by Paul Buckley


The Art of Romance by Prestel


Strange Sisters by Jaye Zimet  Out in Paperback by Ian Young


Puffin by Design by Phil Baines


 Front Cover by Alan Powers  Children's Book Covers by Alan Powers


The Best of Cover Design by Rockport Publishers


Innovator in Residence: Focus on Virtual Reality

August 9, 2016 | Greg Astill | Comments (2)

Starting on September 12 to December 10, the library's new Innovator in Residence Elli Raynai will deliver lectures and teach classes on virtual reality content development. 



Photo courtesy of Elli Raynai


Elli Raynai is a writer, producer, director and Virtual Reality (VR) filmmaker. He formed the production company Cinehackers in early 2015 to focus on making cinematic VR experiences. He has made two feature films and eight short films but his passion for art and technology led him to explore the possibilities of telling stories and creating experiences in virtual reality. His latest experience 'I Am You' was the official selection of the 2016 Kaleidoscope VR World Tour and can now be found on the Gear VR store.  

The Innovator in Residence program offers a fun and hands-on way to learn about the technology offered at the library's Digital Innovation Hubs. Past residencies have included programs on mobile app development3D printing, filmmaking, audio production, Arduino, 3D design and robotics.

We got to know Elli better through our Q&A below: 

1. What made you interested in applying to be our Innovator in Residence?

I was interested in applying for the Innovator in Residence position because I love this idea of sharing knowledge and creative ideas. More specifically, I believe that for virtual reality to succeed as a medium, people need to share what they know because that’s the only way that it can grow. If people are secretive about their methods and techniques, the community can’t learn, support and push each other to make content that is compelling and will in turn make VR successful. In addition, it’s very exciting to perform this role at the Toronto Public Library because of the wide range of people (everyone from kids to seniors) that I will have the opportunity to interact with in order to help shape their thoughts and feelings about this amazing technology.

2. What are you looking most forward to in your residency?

I am really looking forward to the one-on-one sessions because I’m really excited to hear about what sorts of projects people are dreaming up. On the other side, I’m excited to show people virtual reality for the first time as it’s such a thrill to see them teleport to another world. Once they return, we can talk about how they felt as well as talk through some ideas of how they could use the technology for their own projects, be it a game, film or even a education piece.

3. For someone who is completely new to virtual reality, how would you describe it? How do you think it will impact our daily lives?

I would describe virtual reality as a mix between video games and film. It allows the viewer to not just look at world through a screen, but feel like they are actually in the world and have the ability to interact with it. This feeling is often referred to as “presence”, but in order to fully understand this technology it has to be experienced in order to fully grasp the way it makes you feel. I believe that virtual reality has the potential to impact every aspect of our lives; for example with virtual tourism you could go to any place in the world and feel like you are there with the click of a button. Student doctors are also already experimenting with VR to accelerate their training during surgeries, and in theory, it can make education easier in any field. Finally, it can also help people get over psychological traumas such as PTSD and anxiety over a fear of heights by allowing them to relive those experiences in VR and ultimately heal them.

 4. Please tell us about the first virtual reality content that you created. What were the most important things you learned from that process?

The first virtual reality content that I created was a short narrative film called “I Am You”. The film used a mix of computer generated graphics along with stereoscopic live action images. The project was a big challenge as we were trying to tell a narrative story in virtual reality and wanted to ensure the viewer knows when and where to look. I worked very closely with a computer programmer to make the film, as we took a very specific approach that I learned hadn’t been tried before by other VR creators. In this project, we focused on tracking exactly where the cameras were looking while the actor was wearing our camera. This allowed us to force the viewer’s perspective upon playback and get them to look exactly where the action was happening, so they didn’t miss any part of the story. I also learned how acting can feel quite unsubtle in virtual reality, which breaks the immersion, and therefore it was incredibly important to work closely with the actors so that we could create a natural style that puts the viewer at ease. From a technical perspective, we learned how to get the film into unity and out into a Samsung Gear VR, which was incredibly useful as we could not only have a mobile setup to show the film, but we were also able to distribute it on the Gear VR platform. Finally, if it wouldn’t be for this project, I’m not sure if I would have entered the world of making content for VR as working through the process of making it gave me the confidence to make things that have never been done before.

 5. Which virtual reality experience really impressed you?

The latest virtual reality experience that has really impressed me was Destinations for the HTC Vive. Destinations is an experience that uses the process of photogrammetry as well animated computer graphics to create highly resolution spaces that the user can walk around in. The sense of presence that this experience creates is so powerful because you have the ability to walk up to objects in the space and get close to them, exactly like in real life. I’m impressed by Destinations not only because of the technology that they used, but also for the ideas that it can give you to start thinking about your own projects and the different ways that you can take it.

Local Rock Band Shoots Music Video in TRL's Green Screen Room

August 8, 2016 | Greg Astill | Comments (2)

Any time you drop in and take a peek into the Green Screen Room at the Digital Innovation Hubs, you'll see the space is being used for all different reasons.  On one particular Saturday, a local band named The Classy Wrecks came in to shoot a music video for their new single "Too Old To Party" off their latest LP.  

The director of that video is a regular customer at the Toronto Reference Library. We sat down with Sudharsanan Sampath to ask about his experience using the green screen room for this video and how it has helped him with other projects.

How was working in the Green Screen Studio Space?

Working in the green space was really good. The green space at the Reference (library) is pretty spacious and you guys added an extra light recently, which helped a lot with the music video.

Photo courtesy of Northern Diaries

The Mac really helps as we played the already mastered audio and the band were just mouthing the song for the video. So it helped me to sync. Yeah, it is pretty amazing experience.

How did you hear about it?

I am a regular to Toronto Reference. I study in the plant room (the Idea Garden), I hang out with my computer almost every day doing my projects and one day this space appeared suddenly with all the Mac suites, I naturally went in and started inquiring.

Any other projects that you used the Green Screen space for?

Yeah, a lot actually. We do a lot of photo shoots there. Head shots, profile shots etc. I am also a freelance photographer. Recently used the space to take head shots for an actor. My friend is also a photographer and she is also a big fan. We play some relaxation music on the Mac inside the Green Room and get to work.

Photo courtesy of Northern Diaries

What would you like to see added or enhanced in the green screen space?

Everything is awesome but I have one suggestion. Instead of a green built wall, if it has a removable green screen in a stand, it can be used for several other projects. If you don’t want a green screen, if you just want a white wall behind, you can just move the stand away or remove the green fabric and put your own colored background behind. They have this in Fort York branch.

(Note:  The Innovation Hub does have a green screen fabric that he didn't know about.)

How long have you been working in this field?

I have always wanted to make films ever since I watched Life is Beautiful when I was in 12th grade. Then circumstances (being of Indian background) forced me to take up engineering and management. But I drifted into short films and video productions even in my university days. So, I would say eight years. But those (early films) are pretty bad productions with incredibly bad acting. Still fun though.

What's the next project you're working on?

I am making a 35min movie called The Shadow World. I am also starting a video marketing company called Northern Diaries Digital Media which helps tell people and small business’s stories through videos. I am doing both simultaneously. Movie is all shot l, just have post production left. Company is an ongoing project. All thanks to the Digital Innovation Hub. That’s where everything is shaping up.

How are the staff at the Digital Innovation Hub?

The staff are welcoming, understanding and kind. Even if I come early and there is space available, they always try and accommodate the users. They could easily say no. They are always friendly and nice. Most importantly, they are creative themselves and they understand the process involved and appreciate it. That’s a huge motivation.




It's always great to see the space being used; so far we have had aspiring musicians come in to record a demo, filmmakers conducting interviews, an actor compiling demo reel and a customer creating content for podcasts. Whatever you hope to use the space for, we're really hoping this story will encourage more users to come in and check it out. Remember to check out the Intro to Green Screen Room classes if you want to learn more about the space and use of the equipment.  

Have fun!!


5 Reasons We're Excited About Maker Festival 2016

June 30, 2016 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (0)



Drone making, augmented reality, blacksmith demo, and a BB-8 droid are just some of the amazing things you will see at the Maker Festival at Toronto Reference Library on Saturday, July 9 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Sunday, July 10 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

This year's event is expected to welcome over 10,000 visitors who will enjoy a wide array of exhibitors, workshops, talks, installations and other activities that celebrate Toronto’s amazing and diverse community of makers, tinkerers, artists and inventors.

Like last year’s festival, this year’s show will transform the first three floors of the Reference Library and Asquith Avenue outside into spaces that will engage and thrill the imagination of visitors, young and old.

To whet your appetite for this year’s event, I asked the festival team to share a preview of things that they’re looking forward to.


Over 100+ Makers

A BB-8 droid builder is one of many exhibitors at this year's festival (Photo: Guardian)

“Maker Festival is so happy again this year to host a lot of very talented makers and their projects, including a gigantic four-person dinosaur puppet, a huge ornithopter, a world-record breaking enclosed bicycle, and a BB-8 builder with his droids!” says Eric Boyd, Director of Festival Programming. “We'll also have a full complement of workshops including soldering, lock-picking, and laser cutting!”


The Maker Forest

TRL Atrium
The Reference Library atrium (seen above from the 2014 festival) will be transformed into a "Maker Forest."

“As a huge fan of the Reference Library building, I am especially excited that we’re putting some big new installations in the atrium,” says Jen Dodd, Executive Director. “Expect to see something dramatic with thousands of feet of streamers and hanging paper art. Plus you’ll have the chance to contribute to the installation with laser cutting and paper folding stations.”


The Glowatorium

The Glowatorium returns with a project with the ROM. (Photo: University of Toronto)

“We're bringing back our low-light room again this year: the Glowatorium!” says Ceda Verbakel, Creative Director. “This time, we’re collaborating with the Royal Ontario Museum to do a collaborative installation inspired by the art of glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. Look for a magical glowy cave and come make your own contribution to the experience.”


Outdoor Make It Market

Outdoor Make It Market
Former TPL Innovator in Residence Derek Quenneville hosts a 3D printing outdoor booth in 2015. He's back this year with a 3D printing fossil activity.

“Nothing says summer like an outdoor festival and market! Now what if we add some DIY technology and crafting into that mix?” says Vicki Long, Outdoor Co-ordinator. “The Maker Festival Outdoor Market is a place where people can get a hands-on and behind-the-scenes look at how tech and handcrafted products are made. Dig up some 3D printed fossils, check out a blacksmith’s forge, get an expert to help repair your bike, find out how to light up an LED light, or get behind the wheel of a solar panel race car. All this and more at the Make It Market!”


Nurturing Young Makers

Water Fountain
Mayor John Tory observes STEAMLabs' popular boat-racing competition at the library fountain in Maker Festival 2015.

Turning to the library perspective, one of my favourite things about Maker Festival is there is a wonderful effort to nurture a spirit of creativity and collaboration amongst the young. For kids and parents, I'm excited that STEAMLabs is back to host their popular boat-making workshop and boat-racing competition in the entrance-way fountain. It’s a great way to welcome visitors to the Reference Library and a wonderful segueway into a weekend of fun, discovery, and making!

 We hope to see you at the Maker Festival!

Self-Publishing Success Stories

June 24, 2016 | Winona | Comments (6)

Have you ever thought about writing and publishing a book? Did you know you can self-publish your book at the library?

AQToronto Public Library's Asquith Press is a book printing service you can use to print high quality paperback books at a low price. Asquith Press is located in the Digital Innovation Hub at the Toronto Reference Library. Check the library website for upcoming information sessions or contact us at 416-393-7007 or

Novels, cookbooks, self-help books - these are just some of the different types of books that can be printed at the library. For inspiration, here are a few success stories that started out as self-published books.


Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Christopher Paolini's epic fantasy novel Eragon was self-published in 2001 when the author was just 18 years old. The book tells the story of 15-year-old Eragon and his dragon companion who together set out to avenge the murder of Ergaon's uncle. Carl Hiassen's stepson picked up a copy and loved it, prompting Hiassen to show it to his own publisher Alfred A. Knopf, who bought and re-published the book in 2003. Eragon was followed by smash hit sequels Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance, and a film adaptation was released in 2006.

print book | audiobook | eaudiobook | ebook


The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian is a debut science fiction novel written by Andy Weir and self-published in 2011. The story follow an astronaut with limited supplies who must figure out a way to survive and communicate with Earth after he is stranded on Mars. The book was bought by Crown Publishing in 2013 for a six-figure sum and, that same week, film rights were sold to Twentieth Century Fox. The film adaptation was released in October 2015 and went on to win dozens of awards.

print book | audiobook | ebook | large print | talking book (restricted to print disabled patrons)



The third novel on this list is another self-published debut that also made it big in Hollywood. Still Alice tells the story of a linguistics professor who begins losing her words, thoughts, and memories, and is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Lisa Genova self-published the book in 2007, Simon & Schuster acquired and re-published it in 2009, and in 2014 it was adapted into a critically-acclaimed independent film.

print book | audiobook | eaudiobook | ebook | large print | talking book (restricted to print disabled patrons)


Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Bombauer

Joy of Cooking (2006 edition) | Joy of Cooking (1997 edition)

"A St. Louis widow named Irma Rombauer took her life savings and self-published a book called the Joy of Cooking in 1931. Her daughter Marion tested recipes and made the illustrations, and they sold their mother-daughter project from Irma's apartment. Today, nine revisions later, the Joy of Cooking -- selected by The New York Public Library as one of the 150 most important and influential books of the twentieth century -- has taught tens of millions of people to cook, helped feed and delight millions beyond that, answered countless kitchen and food questions, and averted many a cooking crisis." (Publisher's description.)


Looneyspoons by Janet and Greta Podleski

Sisters Janet and Greta Podleski self-published their low-fat cookbook Looneyspoons in 1996, with a little help in the form of a $2000 cheque from self-publishing legend David Chilton (see below). The cookbook was a huge hit, spending 85 consecutive weeks on the Globe and Mail bestseller list, selling 850,000 copies, and launching the Podleski sisters into the U.S. market and onto television, where they currently host a show on Food Network named after their most recent cookbook, Eat, Shrink, and Be Merry.

Looneyspoons | The Loonyspoons Collection


The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton
David Chilton is not just a cookbook champion (see above); he is a veritable self-publishing legend whose 1989 financial planning book The Wealthy Barber has sold two million copies and made him very wealthy indeed. The book is structured around the story of three fictional people, in three different financial circumstances, who receive advice about their personal finances from their barber. It is considered a classic in its field, and the author has recently published a sequel, The Wealthy Barber Returns.

The Wealthy Barber (3rd edition) | previous editions


What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles

What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles was born in 1970 as a self-published manual, 115 pages long, on how to find a job when the usual methods -- job agencies and ads -- don't work. It was acquired by Ten Speed Press in 1972 and is still going strong, with updated editions published every year, and several related books now published too.

What Color is Your Parachute? (2016 edition) | What Color is Your Parachute? For Teens | What Color is Your Parachute? For Retirement


Related blog post:


3D Print TCAF Souvenir Inspired by Cartoonist Seth

May 12, 2016 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (0)

Alex Dimitrov
Digital Innovation Hub staff member Alex Dimitrov with his 3D print out that he designed based on Seth's poster for the inaugural TCAF in 2003.

The 2016 Toronto Comic Arts Festival takes place this weekend - May 14 and 15 - at Toronto Reference Library.

For the third consecutive year, Digital Innovation Hub staff member Alex Dimitrov has created a fun 3D object inspired by TCAF. This time, Alex went back in time to the very first TCAF poster, from 2003, illustrated by celebrated Canadian cartoonist, Seth.

Alex took the dog from the poster - if you know the dog's name, please leave it in the comments! - and used ZBrush, a professional-level 3D design software and a Wacom Intous Touch graphic table to create his design. See the photos below for a walkthrough of Alex's process!

You can download the instructions for the 3D object from the Hub's Thingiverse page and print these files using the Hub's 3D printer. ZBrush and the graphic tablet Alex used are available to use at the Reference Library Hub. Here's more info or please speak to staff for details.

Want more? Check out Alex's 3D design project from TCAF 2014 and TCAF 2015.


Here's Seth's TCAF poster that inspired Alex's model:



Here's the start of Alex's 3D model using ZBrush:


Here's a 3D print out of all his parts for his 3D model:


And here's a side-by-side comparison of his 3D model and the finished 3D printed product!


Download the file and 3D print it at the Digital Innovation Hub!

Innovator in Residence to Teach App Development

April 27, 2016 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (4)

Frank Tsonis

New Innovator in Residence Frank Tsonis -- pictured here at InterAccess Media Centre -- will deliver classes and lectures about mobile app development (Photo: Rob Cruickshank, Flickr).


This spring, from May 9 to July 31, the library's new Innovator in Residence Frank Tsonis will give lectures and teach classes about mobile app development at Toronto Reference Library.

His exciting lineup of free classes and lectures include: "Introduction to Computer Programming," "Creating Interactive Graphics for Android," "Introduction to iOS Development," and "User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) Design."

Frank Tsonis is an interactive media app developer and educator based in Toronto. He develops mobile apps, interactive art installations, data visualizations and web-based software. He currently teaches at York and OCAD universities and has previously taught at InterAccess Media Art Centre.

The Innovator in Residence program offers a fun and hands-on way to learn about the technology offered at the library's Digital Innovation Hubs. Past residencies have included programs on 3D printing, filmmaking, audio production, Arduino, 3D design and robotics.

We chatted with Frank to find out what he's looking forward to during his residency, his advice for aspiring app developers and what apps he can't live without.


Welcome Frank, our newest Innovator! What made you interested in applying to be our Innovator in Residence?

I have been teaching Digital Media courses for several years, and when I discovered the Innovator in Residence program at the Toronto Public Library, it seemed like a perfect fit to my teaching philosophy and long term goals. Digital technologies are changing all aspects of our lives and I strongly believe that digital literacy, in particular having knowledge of computer programming, is essential.

The digital media programs that the Toronto Public Library is offering are fantastic and having access to these resources are essential for both youth and adults alike. I wanted to contribute to the goals of the Digital Innovation Hub by sharing my experiences and designing workshops that are both fun and informative.

What are you looking most forward to in your residency?

I am looking forward to interacting with the participants and sharing my knowledge and experience. I am excited to see the diverse set of mobile apps that will come out of the workshops I am offering. People have great ideas and showing them how to realize their ideas in the form of a mobile app is extremely rewarding.

For a novice who is interested in pursuing education or a career in mobile app development, what is your advice to them?

Determine which approach best suits you for learning new skills, be it through courses, books, instructional videos, lectures or blogs. Spend an hour a day learning skills and writing code. Explore online resources like GitHub to learn from other developers' code.

This has helped me the most in the past and I still look at open source code for programming techniques and ideas.

Also, read up on what's happening in the field of mobile app development, be it through news articles or technology blogs. Search the Android App Store and the Apple App store and see what people and organizations are developing. Download a couple a week and test them out and examine the interface and the features in the apps. Try to think about why certain mobile apps work better than others.

Also, try to attend tech community events to interact with app developers in your city or community. Meeting like-minded people will help you expand your ideas and you will also get support from the people you meet. You can have them test out your apps and give you feedback. Expose yourself to as much information as you can to get a sense of what specific areas interest you in the field of mobile app development.




Please tell us about the first mobile app that you created. What were the most important things you learned about app development from that process?

The first formal app I created was a contract for OCAD University. I had created several interactive mobile apps as media art projects beforehand, and what I learned the most was that user interaction and experience are key. It’s not just about what information a user is coming to your app for, it's extremely important to give them an exciting experience while they are using your app. Figure out who will be using your app and keep your users engaged. I always apply my knowledge from creating interactive art experiences into building apps. I strongly believe that creating a sense of play is everything. People are curious and the sense of play feeds this curiosity.


What are the must-have apps that you can't do without in your life and why?

I prefer simple apps that have minimal notifications and can be used as tools rather than personal assistants.

My must-have apps right now are Pocket, which is extremely useful for storing and sharing news articles I am reading. It also exposes me to news articles that I would never really find on my own. And Google Keep. Any type of notes or reminders are great for keeping me on task. It has a function for using a photo as a note/reminder, which has proven to be more useful that I thought it would.

I am also drawn to experimental apps that allow for playful experiences. Right now I am playing around with both Grove and Tunnel Vision and thinking about how to create mobile apps that create virtual worlds based on sensing the outside world.


Sarah Goodman Video Editing 101 workshop
Previous residency topics included 3D printing, robotics and filmmaking. Pictured above is filmmaker and former Innovator in Residence Sarah Goodman at the Reference Library.

Toronto Reference Library Hosts Open Data Book Club

April 11, 2016 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (0)

Open Data Book Club Discussion
The Open Data Book Club was previously hosted at Studio Y at MaRS Discovery District.

Starting on April 21, Toronto Reference Library and its Digital Innovation Hub will host the monthly Open Data Book Club.

These monthly meetings invite data miners, analysts and engaged citizens to get a better understanding of their government. At each event, members and other participants review, analyze and find trends using government open data sets alongside the staff members who are responsible for them.

The program was previously hosted at Studio Y in the MaRS Discovery District. The library is the club's home for the remainder of 2016 -- and possibly beyond -- and ties in nicely with the library's recently-launched Open Data Policy and open data sets as well as our recent Open Data Hackathon in November 2015.

We chatted with program organizer Richard Pietro to find out what happens at a book club meeting, why he thinks it's important for public institutions to make their data open, and where he sees Toronto's open data movement headed.


What happens at an Open Data Book Club meeting?

Members experience a free-flowing discussion with the stewards of government open data sets. For example, at one of our meetings we had a representative from the Ontario Ministry of Energy and together we reviewed and offered feedback on the greenhouse gas open data set.

At a different meeting, members of the Open Data Book Club prepared online tools for the Toronto Wellbeing Map. These tools were so good that the steward in attendance chose to publish them on the Toronto Wellbeing Map and sent them out to his stakeholders in the city.

I like to say that what happens at an Open Data Book Club event is true and impactful collaboration between the public and government.


Why did you choose to partner with the library on this program?

The Open Data Book Club couldn't possibly find a better home than Toronto Public Library. In addition to the fact that TPL is actively growing its digital and new media programs, the Reference Library is centrally located, well recognized, has the facilities needed for our events, and a team that wants to help grow Open Data literacy in the City of Toronto.

Besides, partnering with a library for something called the Open Data Book Club seemed to make quite a bit of sense. *smiles*


For someone who does not know a lot about open data, what's the best way to get a primer and to engage with the community?

Open Data is machine-readable data that can be re-purposed freely by the public, organizations and not-for-profits. Some of the most high profile open data sets are Weather and GPS data. However, in the last few years we've seen many other types of Open Data that have greatly influenced our daily lives. For example, all those wonderful TTC Transit apps are powered by Open Data.

If you’d like more details, don’t hesitate to watch this quick “once-over” video below created by the Open Data Institute.




The City has an Open Data Catalogue and the library recently launched an open data policy. Why is it important for public institution to make their data open?

Open Data (and by association, Open Government) are the tools that have been created to make our government more transparent, accountable and collaborative. They usher in a massive cultural shift in how things are done and are drastically changing just about every corner of the bureaucracy and legislative assemblies.

What Open Data and Open Government are doing is taking our “vending machine government” and transforming it into a platform. Here’s what I mean: Apple and Android are not in the business of creating Apps. They are in the business of creating an environment where people can create Apps.

In other words, government is a “doer” when it should be an “enabler.” Perhaps more accurately, government has become a "one-size-fits-all" machine in a world that expects customization and agility. Open Data and Open Government are the mechanisms we’ve developed to make this transition.

As a sidenote, I also like to say that Open Government & Open Data are the mechanism that will restore trust between people and government.


Where do you see Toronto's open data movement going in the near future?

You have to think of Open Data and Open Government like Social Media back in 2004. It is new. It is a weird concept to understand. And for the most part, most people have never heard the terms, and if they have, it is a catchphrase or headline that bears very little context or meaning. And much like Social Media in 2004, no one truly understands the potential impact that Open Data and Open Government will have in the future.

For example, no one could’ve predicted that NFL would be streaming games on Twitter or that it would influence journalism as much as it did. So, I don't know exactly where the open data movement is going, but I do know that Toronto has a rich community of engaged citizens who want to make Open Data & Open Government a reality.

Here’s something else I know: being part of these movements allows you to help mould the direction Open Data and Open Government will take.


Open Data Book Club Discussion
The Open Data Book Club was previously hosted at Studio Y at MaRS Discovery District.

New Software at the Digital Innovation Hub, Toronto Reference Library

March 30, 2016 | Dawn | Comments (0)

We have added all sorts of great new software at Toronto Reference Library's Digital Innovation Hub. We hope some of these will work for your next digital project!

To use these, and other tools and tech in the Digital Innovation Hub, all you need is a valid Toronto Public Library card in good standing. You can reserve a workstation for up to two hours per day and you can book up to three days in advance by calling us at 416-393-7007. You can even specify which workstation you need.

What's new:

Sibelius Logo
is the world’s best-selling music notation software. We offer the full bundle which includes Sibelius plus PhotoScore (powerful software you can use to scan in, play back, transpose and print scores, and even save audio files) and AudioScore, the full-featured audio transcription software. With it, you can turn recorded audio or a MIDI or live mic performance into transcribed music notation. Check out these tutorials to learn more. On Mac workstation #4.


ABBYY logo
ABBYY FineReader
is an optical character recognition (OCR) software that provides unmatched text recognition accuracy and conversion capabilities, virtually eliminating retyping and reformatting of documents. Up to 190 languages are supported for text recognition. Learn more about OCR technology and ABBYY FineReader. Available for PC users on workstation #6 and for Mac users on workstation #3.


Scrivener Logo
is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft. Learn how to use Scrivener. Currently available on Mac stations #1, 2, 3, and 4.

Zbrush logo
ZBrush is a digital sculpting and painting program that has revolutionized the 3D industry with its powerful features and intuitive workflows. With the ability to sculpt up to a billion polygons, ZBrush allows you to create limited only by your imagination. Check out the ZClassroom to start learning today. Now available on all four Mac stations.

Linda.comLearn More - If you are not sure how to use these software programs, try out the tutorial links above or check out, now available for free through the library website when you use your library card and PIN to login: includes more than 3,500 video tutorial courses led by experts on web design, software development, photography, business skills, home and small office, project management, 3D + Animation, graphic design audio, music, video editing and more. All free with your Toronto Public Library card!



Choosing Your Book Size for Asquith Press

March 22, 2016 | Dawn | Comments (0)

Asquith Press is a book printing service that lets you design and print quality perfect bound paperback books at a low price.

Asquith Press

This is the first in a series of tip sheets to help you format your book for a professional look.

Because you are your own publisher, you can design your book to look the way you want. One way you can customize the look of your book is by choosing the size of your book -- this is also known as trim size.

Trim Size

The trim size is described as width by height in inches. For your book to print properly, you will want to make sure that your page size matches your desired trim size.

Most paperback books range in size from 5” x 8” to 6” x 9”. However, you are not limited to pre-set trim sizes. You may choose any combination of width and height as long as it falls with the minimum (4.5” x 5.0”) and maximum (8.25” x 10.5”) limits used by Asquith Press.

The trim size of a book also depends on the number of pages and spine width. If you’re considering a long, larger format book, check our maximum trim size guidelines below to make sure that your intended book size can be printed on our book machine.

trim size

So how do you set up your page size? 

You can use any one of a variety of software packages to create your book (for example: MS Word, Pages, WordPerfect, Open Office, InDesign, etc.).

In this example, we are using Microsoft Word 2013 (available on all Toronto Public Library PCs). For other versions of Word, use the Microsoft Office Support site. For MS Word 2011 for Mac, instructions are here.

Customizing Your Page Size in MS Word 2013 (for PC)

Note: this example assumes a trim size of 6” x 9”.

1. Click on the ‘Page Layout’ tab.
2. Click on ‘Size.’
3. If the required size is not listed in the list of pre-set options, select ‘More Paper Sizes.’

Customizing Your Page Size

4. The ‘Page Setup’ menu will open.
5. Change the settings as required.
6. Check to ensure that changes apply to ‘whole document.’
7. Click on ‘okay.’

Customizing Your Page Size


It is that simple!

Remember -- you can design the book you want. It can be square or portrait- or landscape-orientation as long as it falls with the minimum (4.5” x 5.0”) and maximum (8.25” x 10.5”) limits used by the Asquith Press book machine.

Asquith Press Books have high-resolution colour covers and black and white interior pages that are great for illustrations and photos. You can print as few or as many books as you like.

We are located in the Digital Innovation Hub at the Toronto Reference Library. Contact us at 416-393-7007 or



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