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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 all Mac stations (coming soon for PC users).

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



Coming Soon: LulzBot TAZ 5 3D Printer

March 17, 2016 | Greg Astill | Comments (0)

The Digital Innovation Hubs at Fort York Branch and Toronto Reference Library are each getting a new LulzBot TAZ 3D printer, adding to the MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printers that we have at our branches.

The LulzBot TAZ 5 has received positive reviews, including being named the “Best Overall 3D Printer" by Make magazine and the title of “Best 3D Printer Under $3,000” by 3D Forged. 

Lulzbot Taz 5
LulzBot TAZ 5

The main difference between this and the MakerBot Replicator 2 is the larger bed size. This allows for larger prints to happen. The second biggest difference customers will notice is the heated bed. The heated bed will give the prints a much smoother surface, prevent warping, and most importantly, get better adhesion so adding a raft to your design will become less of an issue.

Lulzbot Taz 5
LulzBot TAZ 5

Customers who are interested in using this new printer will have to use Cura LulzBot Edition to slice and prepare their files, instead of using the MakerBot software. The program is free and will convert your models into a GCode file. You can also expect some changes to the terminology, but overall, the software programs have a lot in common.

Cura LulzBot Edition
Cura LulzBot Edition Software for Slicing and Prep

We will announce when the new printers are available on this blog, so be sure to check back for the date and latest news.

Here’s a quick video of the 3D printer getting setup and in action. 


And lastly, here’s a 3D print we made inspired by St. Patrick’s Day.

3D Printed Shamrock
3D Printed Shamrock


Youth Hub Visitors Get Introduction to Virtual Reality

March 16, 2016 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (0)

Virtual Reality Demo
Teens at Sanderson Branch's After School Youth Hub tried out virtual reality apps.

During the March Break, participants at the Youth Hub at Sanderson Branch visited London, England, survived a haunted house, journeyed through the deserts of Jakku in Star Wars, and attended a Paul McCartney concert - "Who's Paul McCartney?" asked one teen - thanks to virtual reality.

Staff from the library's Digital Innovation Team piloted an Introduction to Virtual Reality program that combined a talk about VR with hands-on demos of a variety of apps using the Google-certified Knox V2 cardboard viewer.

Virtual reality (VR) allows people, using equipment like a viewer/headset, to experience fully immersive virtual environments. Advocates predict that the technology will revolutionize our world - much like computers and the Internet in the 20th century.


Cardboard VR Viewer
Cardboard VR viewers such as Google's provides an affordable way to experience VR. A smartphone is required to download and view apps.


At the Youth Hub program, library staff and youth discussed the variety of ways that VR could change our world:

  • Education – VR can make learning more immersive. For example, history students can learn about the past by experiencing simulations; science students can tour planets using an app like Titans of Space.
  • Research – The research field is benefitting from VR. The health care industry is using VR for training and therapy (e.g. Samsung's #BeFearless simulation seeks to combat fear of heights - see video below). Similarly, the military is using VR to train soldiers for deployment overseas.
  • Communication – Just as e-mail, instant messaging, texting, and video chats changed how we communicate, VR is expected to transform communication further. Imagine getting a 360° view of a friend in his living room in Australia, or a colleague in her office in Brazil.
  • Storytelling – If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the possibilities with a 360° VR, it is expected to change the way stories are told and experienced – from a passive to an interactive experience. The VR medium can also enhance viewer empathy. For example, UNICEF 360° transports viewers into the daily struggles facing the world’s most vulnerable children, and provides a first-hand testimonial to support UNICEF.
  • Gaming and Entertainment – Imagine being in Resident Evil, or Dawn of the Dead – hearing Zombies shambling behind you, their ragged breath wheezing through torn-out windpipes and sputtering blood. You look down to see a shotgun in your hands. What do you do? This is the possible future of gaming and entertainment with VR!




The Google Cardboard is one of many ways to view VR content - and at $35, cardboard viewers like Google's provides an affordable way to experience VR. You will need a smartphone and to download VR apps to your phone.

Many free apps are available for iOS and Android – as well as apps you have to pay for. Tuck your phone into the Cardboard, plug in the earphones, and enjoy!

The Knox V2 cardboard is available to borrow and use at the Digital Innovation Hub at Toronto Reference Library; you will need to provide your own smartphone. 

Later this year, the library plans to purchase other VR equipment - such as the Occulus Rift - for use at our Innovation Hubs. Other major companies such as Samsung, Sony, and Apple are also invested in/getting into VR - so it's shaping up to be a big and exciting year for VR.


VR Demo
The Star Wars app was a hit with the teens.

Staff who presented at the Youth Hub are by no means VR experts - far from it! - but it's been wonderful for us to learn about this new technology and seeing firsthand from users the potential of this technology to educate, entertain, and enlighten.

Feedback from the dozen teens, university students, and one mom in attendance was positive. They were excited about seeing the technology applied in gaming and entertainment, as well as for educational purposes.

The Digital Innovation Team hopes to do more of these informational/demo programs in other library branches in the coming year. As newer equipment becomes available and with feedback from our guests, our program will also evolve.


Try Out Some Free Virtual Reality


Sisters VR App
Sisters: A Mobile VR Ghost Story (Photo: Google Play)


Downloading a VR app to view on a cardboard viewer like Google's is an easy way to experience VR. Most apps are free and can be downloaded from Google Play and iTunes. To get you started, here are a few suggested free apps below - some of which were sampled at our Youth Hub program.

YouTube’s 360° Video channel also provides great virtual reality content for viewing.

  • London VR – VR can take you to far off places without leaving your home. Numerous travel apps have popped up with more expected in the future – like this award-winning app that lets you immerse in the sights of London. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
  • NYT VR – Just as TV and the Internet changed the news is told, VR promises to transform journalism once again. With NYT VR, the New York Times promises to put readers “at the center of the stories… stories reported by (staff) all told through an immersive video experience.” New VR stories are posted every month. Available on iTunes and Google Play.

  • Paul McCartney – VR will bring immersive entertainment experiences to viewers, such as concerts. Sample the potential by trying out this app. See music legend Sir Paul McCartney performing "Live and Let Die” in 360° via this Jaunt VR app. Available on Google Play.
  • Roller Coaster VR – Ride a deserted roller-coaster on a tropical island. This app will show you the fun and fabulous potential of the virtual world. Available on Google Play.
  • Sisters – Love a good scare? VR is expected to take movies - such as horror films - and games to a whole new level. Try out the creepy Sisters app to get a taste. Turn the lights off, put on your earphones, and have fun! Available on iTunes and Google Play.
  • Star Wars VR – Awaken your force! In this Cardboard experience, you are placed into the role of a Resistance secret agent on Jakku, the desert world of the (new) Star Wars universe. Available for iPhone and Android devices. Available on Google Play.


New York Times VR
This New York Times VR video shows the refugee crisis through the eyes of children (Photo:

Asquith Press Author Appears on the Marilyn Denis Show

February 21, 2016 | Dawn | Comments (1)

When Crystal Adair-Benning needed 80 copies of her forthcoming book Wedding Planner Problems for her appearance on the Marilyn Denis show she turned to Asquith Press, Toronto Public Library’s book printing service, to get the copies printed quickly.

Wedding Planner Problems copies for the studio audience

We asked Crystal about her experience as a first-time author.

How did you come to write your book about life as a wedding planner?

I believe that all true writers have a book (or 12) inside of them just itching to come out. The timing just has to be right. It's like having a child, getting married or any other big life event. You can't force it. Magic happens when you just let it come, naturally. This book had been in my heart for as long as I can remember. My publisher and friend, Marnie, in one simple conversation, revealed that it was "time".

Was it a long process? Did you learn a lot?

The whole process from start to finish for me was under six months. When I finally made the decision in my head to write, it actually just happened. Organically. Naturally. Without force. It was cathartic and like spilling my soul onto the page for the world to see. Writing was easy; editing was hard. Throughout the journey, I learned, that writing, for me, isn't the hard part -- the process where I hand it over and let others feed input, assist with changes, help align the project -- that was hard. It was like revealing all my cards at poker.

Wedding Planner Problems

How did you design the look of the book?

The front cover was part whim and whimsy mixed with my incredible sarcasm and dark wit. I knew from the moment I started writing that I had to be on the front cover. It is MY story after all. But, I don't DO serious. Sorry. Just not my thing. So instead I came up with the crazy idea of a wedding gone wild with me in the middle. Calm. Poised. But somewhat cheekily "getting on with it". Collaborating with my team -- Gina Humilde from Distinct Occasions, Storey Wilkins Photography, Nicole Richards Makeup, Sweet Celebrations Cakes, Valencienne Bridal, Stemz Florals... it all just sorta "happened". I think I'm still in awe of their magic. The actual design and layout of the book was all Marnie and Meraki. Whirlwind genius -- I stepped back after writing and let them handle the inner layout of my wild heart story.

What was your experience on the Marilyn Denis show like?

Pretty funny actually! I was lucky enough to be on for fashion Friday and get a makeover to celebrate my book launch. There was pre-show back stories to shoot, a shopping day and then of course, the show. I was blessed that Marilyn Denis had actually read my book and could relate. Isn't that what all writers truly want? To connect.

Wedding Planner Problems printed at the library

Congratulations on your first book. Will you be writing another?

I've already started... a sequel to Wedding Planner Problems and something inspired by my adventures in solo female travel I think... who knows where my next writing adventure will lead? Digital Nomads forever.

Crystal sees her book for the first time in print


Asquith_609x609Asquith Press is a book printing service that lets you design and print bookstore quality paperback books at a low price.

Finished 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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