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Celebrating 20 Years of CONTACT and The Changing Face of Toronto

May 3, 2016 | Nicole | Comments (0)

May marks the 20th anniversary of Toronto’s Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, the largest festival of its kind in the world. This year the month-long, city-wide festival brings together over 200 exhibitions featuring the work of more than 1,500 artists and photographers.

Photography is a uniquely powerful artistic medium. It can stop time and challenge us to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Photographs often transform the mundane and familiar into something strange, and vice versa. They reflect our world back to us, capturing beautiful, intimate moments and documenting horrific realities that we can never un-see.  

The CONTACT festival is always a great opportunity to discover the work of emerging and established artists who offer fresh insights about the here and now. This year, many of the festival's primary exhibitions also examine images from our past -– retrospectives of pioneering photographers, new works by artists who re-mix found and archival images, and curated displays of vintage press prints.

Our upcoming exhibit The Changing Face of Torontosimilarly, looks back through our archival collections to capture glimpses of life in Toronto as it has changed over the last century. The exhibit will be on display in TD Gallery at the Toronto Reference Library from May 14 to July 23.  


Pauline Mae Clarke (known as “Mrs. X” in the papers) was a contestant in the “Great Stork Derby”. Photographer unknown, ca. August 26, 1936. Toronto Star Photograph Archive, Toronto Public Library

The Changing Face of Toronto invites you to get up close and personal with some of the unique individuals who have lived and worked in Toronto in the 20th century. The exhibit assembles a fascinating selection of portraits of Torontonians from the 1900s to the 1990s, curated from over a million photographs from the Toronto Star Photograph Archive and the Canadian Documentary Art Collection.

CF-333_TS-2-169-CB-060_Button Man

“Button man” Morris Hackman’s Adelaide factory could produce 5,000 buttons an hour. Photo: Boris Spremo/Toronto Star, September 11, 1972. Toronto Star Photograph Archive, Toronto Public Library


The Toronto Star Photograph Archive, donated to the library in 2014, encompasses a century of images published in Canada’s largest daily newspaper. While the collection includes many familiar faces –- public figures, cultural icons and famous athletes -- our new exhibit looks at the faces of less-recognizable but no less-fascinating individuals. 


Ed Clarke ran as the Liberal candidate for Toronto’s St. Andrew—St. Patrick riding in the 1977 provincial election. Photo: Frank Teskey/Toronto Star, April 4, 1970. Toronto Star Photograph Archive, Toronto Public Library

Many of the images on display were selected from the archive’s “Collective Biography” folders. These folders contain the photographs of men and women who may have only appeared once or twice in the Toronto Star, and were not photographed enough to require a dedicated folder in their name. The portraits in the exhibit vary widely in style, expression and subject matter. They also document changes in photography and photojournalism over the 20th century.  

Jemmie Morris, a student of Bruno’s School of Hair Design on Bloor Street West, practices on a mannequin. Photo: Boris Spremo/Toronto Star, November 23, 1990. Toronto Star Photograph Archive, Toronto Public Library

The Changing Face of Toronto invites you to come face-to-face with people who are more or less strangers. Who are they? What was the city they lived in like at the time? Assembled together, these images document both subtle and broad changes to demographics, fashion, technology, work and leisure.

PICTURES-R-4809An unnamed organ grinder on Bay Street is shown in this 1922 photograph by Van & Ryan. Canadian Documentary Art Collection, Toronto Public Library

The exhibit is guest-curated by Carol Elder, former photo archivist at the Toronto Star. 

Can't wait? The show doesn't open until May 14, but in the meantime, you can explore some past virtual exhibits featuring images from the Toronto Star Photograph Archive:

  • Exposed - Explore our 2015 TD Gallery exhibit that featured highlights from the Toronto Star Photograph Archive. Powerful and provocative, these photographs were the lens through which Toronto Star readers witnessed the defining moments of the 20th century.
  • Canada Entertains! - A selection of photos of 20th century Canadian entertainers from the Toronto Star Photograph Archive.
  • Demonstrations - Compelling photos from the Toronto Star Photograph Archive of various demonstrations in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada during the 20th century.
  • Publisher’s Choice - A selection of photographs from the Toronto Star Photograph Archive, donated to the Toronto Public Library in June, 2014.

You can also explore our Digital Archive, which features thousands of digitized photographs from our Special Collections, including images from the Toronto Star Photograph Archive, as well as more esoteric finds like spirit photographs belonging to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

What are your must-see picks for this year's CONTACT Festival? Let us know in the comments. 


TRL Program Calendar May 2016

April 30, 2016 | Katherine | Comments (0)

Be amused by political satire at Cartoonists and the Art of the Skewer. Join Poet in Residence Brian Brett and friends, and meet authors Guy Gavriel Kay, Curtis Sittenfeld, Craig Davidson and Julian Barnes. Plus, Digital DNA, Raspberry Pi and Interactive Graphics for Android.

Click on each image to enlarge or Download The May 2016 @ TRL as a pdf file.

For a full list of programs to browse or search, visit our Programs, Classes and Exhibits page.

May 1 May 2 May 3 May 4 May 5 May 6

Book -- and Bookstore -- Lovers Unite! Saturday is Authors for Indies Day

April 29, 2016 | Winona | Comments (0)

AFI logo

On Saturday April 30, 2016, more than 800 Canadian authors will show their love for independent bookstores by volunteering as guest booksellers for the day.

Visit an indie bookstore on Authors for Indies Day and you'll have the chance to meet and chat with local authors, find out what they're reading and recommending, and maybe even buy a book -- or two (or, if you're anything like me, many more than you can possibly afford) -- in support of your city's great independent bookstores.

Indie Bookstore Map 2016 by Tania HowellsTo help you make the most of #AFI2016, check out this map of Toronto's indie bookstores by illustrator Tania Howells, commissioned by Coach House Books. Click the image to enlarge. Click on over to the Coach House website for a larger PDF version you can download and print. The map will be available for sale at several indie bookstores too!

Like libraries, independent bookstores are important places in our communities, vital to the cultural well-being of our city and, for many of us, our everyday lives. They support local writers and small presses, ardently promote books and reading, and can guide readers to wonderfully surprising discoveries. They are cool neighbourhood spots that offer a welcome alternative to the ice cold corporate conformity of conspicuous big box consumption. And, also like libraries, indie bookstores work very hard, and sometimes struggle, to survive and thrive. But they can and they do -- with a little help from their book-loving friends.

So if you're a book lover, why not swing by an indie bookstore on Saturday? Show a little love for your local indie, be a part of this celebration of books, bookstores, writers and readers, and, you never know, you may just bump into your favourite author working behind the cash register!

Many participating authors have links with Toronto Public Library, having made appearances in library programs such as our eh List Series

I asked three local authors who are taking part in Authors for Indies Day why they love independent bookstores:

Farzana Doctor, author of the novels Stealing Nasreen, Six Metres of Pavement, and All Inclusive:

Farzana Doctor photo by Vivek Shraya All Inclusive by Farzana Doctor

"Independent bookstores champion authors, especially those who might not get shelf or stage space at the larger big box stores. When I was an unknown writer promoting my first novel, a number of indies responded to my cold calls and e-mails, and agreed to host my readings and launches."

You can check out some of Farzana's past recommended reads here. To find out what books she's recommending now, meet her at Type Books (883 Queen Street West), 11am-noon, and Another Story Bookshop (315 Roncesvalles Avenue) 1-2pm.

Bianca Lakoseljac, author of the book of poetry Memoirs of a Praying Mantis, the short story collection Bridge in the Rain, and the novel Summer of the Dancing Bear:

Bianca Lakoseljac Summer of the Dancing Bear by Bianca Lakoseljac


"I think of independent bookstores as anchors of our communities. They are gathering places in the neighbourhoods where books are launched, stories are read and patrons are welcomed by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff. I will be helping out at my two neighbourhood bookstores which have supplied me and my children with many inspirational reads over the years.

My reading tastes are eclectic and I will be promoting three fiction and two non-fiction books by wonderful Toronto authors -- a collection of short stories, two novels, a window into Canadian history, and a perspective on the feminist movement in Canada -- in hopes of helping book lovers discover exciting new reads. As authors, we write for our readers. Is there anything more magical than walking into a neighbourhood bookstore lined with shelves of hand-picked titles, populated with readers passionate about books, and authors keen to discover readers' interests?"

Curious to know what Bianca's eclectic selections are? Meet her at Another Story Bookshop (315 Roncesvalles Avenue) noon-2pm, and Book City in the Bloor West Village (2354 Bloor Street West), 3-4pm, to find out.

Nathan Whitlock, author of the novels A Week of This: A Novel in Seven Days and, just published this month, Congratulations on Everything:

Nathan WhitlockCongratulations on Everything by Nathan Whitlock













"Literature is a human-sized activity -- anything book-related starts to feel a little alien when it gets super-sized. Indie bookstores are human-sized, you can still see the connections between readers and books. The staff picks are the best example: instead of paid-for marketing placements, you get odd and unexpected endorsements from people actually working in the store.

Lately I've been reading a lot of very funny female writers, writers who cut right to the bone, so I'm going to be recommending books like Jenny Offill's Dept. of Speculation and Rachel Cusk's Outline."

To congratulate Nathan on his new book, and everything, and find out what else tickles/cuts his funny bone, meet him at Book City in the Beach (1950 Queen Street East), 10:30-11:30am, and Book City on the Danforth (348 Danforth Avenue), 12:30-1:30pm.


For a complete list of participating bookstores and authors, and for author appearance times, visit and select Find a Store.

Making a Nation Count — the Census of Canada

April 28, 2016 | Katherine | Comments (0)

Census 2016 logo

The next Canadian census will take place in May of 2016, with census letters and packages going out to all Canadian households starting on May 2.

A census, the detailed counting of the people of a region, state or nation, is one of the marvelous accomplishments of humankind — or at least of "governmentkind". It gives a detailed picture of the state of a nation, but once it becomes history, it offers insight into the past, and comprises a record of the individual names, birthdates and birthplaces of your ancestors. In Canada, each census is used to shape government, business and social policy, and to determine the parliamentary representation for each province.

Aggregate and Nominal Censuses

The aggregate census is the summary count of people, their households and other various characteristics, including language, employment, housing, ethnicity and religion. The nominal census is the original listing of each individual citizen’s name, along with age, sex, birthdate, birthplace and other personal data. Under Canadian law, this personal information is not publicly available until 92 years after the data is collected. This means the latest nominal census available is for 1921.

For an overview of nominal Canadian censuses up to 1921, see the Toronto Public Library post Guide to Census Records. The nominal censuses are of special interest to genealogists and local historians.

History of the Census in Canada

The first census in what is now Canada took place in 1665-66 in New France. Others were taken in various parts of the country, throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. For a full list of censuses before Confederation, see the archived Statistics Canada site. Under the terms of the British North America Act of 1867, a census was required to be taken in 1871 and every ten years thereafter. The new country comprised the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and as additional provinces joined, they too were included in the national census.

Alberta and Saskatchewan joined the country in 1905, and in 1906 a census of the Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) was taken, and this special census was repeated every ten years until 1946.

1951 marked the first Canadian census to include all ten provinces and two territories. A second mini-census, for population and agriculture for the entire country, was held mid-decade in 1956, 1966 and 1976. By 1986 this mid-decade census became a full census. Presently, there is a national census every five years.

The census to date has always been published in print, but changing technology over the years means that there are now multiple places to access the information. The Toronto Public Library catalogue and website are difficult to use for locating census records. The most complete holdings are at Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street, and are available through the Humanities & Social Sciences Department on the 2nd floor, and the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the 5th floor.

Tabulating the census 1971Completing the head count...students working at of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics,1971. Frank Lennon, Toronto Star Licence

Accessing the Census

Print copies

Ask in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre, 5th floor, Toronto Reference Library:

Call number 317.1 C118—

1850-51, 1860-61—Census of the Canadas. This included Canada East (Quebec), Canada West (Ontario), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
1870-71—First census after Confederation. Comprises the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
1880-81—Second census after Confederation.
1890-91—Third census after Confederation.


Ask at the 2nd floor Information Desk, Humanities & Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library. Copies are in Stacks (storage). Retrieval time 15-30 minutes:

Call number 317.1 C118—
1901 and every decade to 1951, plus the special 1916 Census of Manufacturers.
1956 and every five years to 2011.
Call number 317.12 C12.2—
Census of the Prairie Provinces (also known as the Census of the Northwest Provinces) from 1916 to 1946.
Call number 317.126 C12—
Census of Manitoba 1885-86.


Copies of the 1850-51 to 1890-91 aggregate census are available through Early Canadiana Online:

2 Volume set

2 Volume set

5 Volume set

4 Volume set

4 Volume set

NB: None of the aggregate censuses from 1901 to 1991 are available online.

In 1996 and 2001, the main part of the census was published in print, and supplementary material was published only on CD ROM. Part of the print edition is also online through the Statistics Canada website. The print and CD ROM material is available in the 2nd floor Humanities & Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library.

1996 CD ROM supplement-in library only

2001 CD ROM supplement-in library only

Census programs summary

1996 census

2001 census

2006 census

2011 census



While microfiche is not the easiest medium to work with, it does allow you to save a digital copy to a USB stick. This is useful for those censuses from 1901 to 1991 which are not online. The fiche readers also allow you to print copies.

Ask at the 2nd floor Information Desk, Humanities & Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library:

Call number Film F C21115 (Fire Insurance Fiche & Census cabinet)

1851 and every decade to 1991.
1956 and every five years to 1996.
Census of the Prairie Provinces from 1906 to 1946.


Toronto Census data

The 1951 census was the first to break cities, including Toronto, down into smaller units called census tracts. Census tracts provide detailed data for smaller geographic areas within cities. Each tract has a population of between 2,500 and 8,000 people.

Print copies of the portion of the national census devoted to Toronto from 1951 to the present are in the Law Section, 2nd floor, Humanities & Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library.

The City of Toronto has analyzed the census tracts for Toronto to produce detailed breakdowns of the main characteristics for each ward and neighbourhood in Toronto. Print copies based on the 1991 and 2001 census are available in the Toronto Collection, 2nd floor, Humanities and Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library. Census years 2001, 2006 and 2011 are available online:

Toronto Wards

Toronto Neighbourhoods


Recent Census news

The census may seem dry and statistical, but it is not without controversy. Most recently in Canada, the detailed census sampling, known as the long-form census was replaced by the voluntary National Household Survey in 2011. The Conservative government, with minimal consultation, claimed that some Canadians found the form a violation of privacy, and the penalties coercive. Munir Sheikh, Canada’s chief statistician, resigned a few weeks later, saying the voluntary survey could not possibly meet the standards of previous mandatory data. The new government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced that the long-form census will be reinstated for 2016.

The Politics of Population Dominion Bureau of Statistics-a History














The politics of population: state formation,statistics and the census of Canada, 1840-1875 by Bruce Curtis

The Dominion Bureau of Statistics: a history of Canada's central statistical office and its antecedents, 1841-1972 by David A. Worton


Ontario's Biggest Climate Change Challenges: The Role of the Environment Commission

April 25, 2016 | Pam | Comments (0)

 April is Earth Month and Toronto Public Library has environmental displays, collections and programs located in many branches throughout the city, including the Toronto Reference Library. There are many opportunities to learn about the environmental issues that impact our city, our province and the planet.

One of the ways the province of Ontario has committed to making positive change on environmental issues is through the creation of an Environmental Bill of Rights. This legislation, which came into force in 1994, gives citizens a voice in government's environmental decision-making. Any resident of Ontario can participate under the Environmental Bill of Rights, and it lays out the process that residents, government ministries and the Environment Commission must follow.     

Environmental bill of rights


Here are some examples of situations where people might want to comment or have input on policies or proposals:

  • An employee working in a sewage treatment plant and worried about spills
  • A community group concerned about emissions from an industrial facility
  • A naturalist who wishes to comment on a new policy which impacts wildlife
  • A cottager concerned about a new marina harming a local wetland

Join Kyra Bell-Pasht and Glenn Munroe, policy analysts from Ontario's Environment Commission, for a program on how citizens can influence environmental decision-making.

Adapting to Ontario's Biggest Climate Change Challenges

Thursday, May 5, 2016 6:30-8:00 pm

 Toronto Reference Library, Hinton Learning Theatre, 3rd floor

This program is free. All are welcome. Questions? Call Answerline at 416-393-7131.


TD logo






Curator's Choice: Gulliver's Travels

April 21, 2016 | Nicole | Comments (0)

When is a children’s book not a children’s book?

When it was written for adults, but “adopted” over time as a children’s classic.

One famous example of an adult work “adopted” by children is Gulliver’s Travels, the subject of a recent Curator’s Choice program at the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books.

Gulliver’s Travels was first published in 1726 as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. By Lemuel Gulliver, first a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships. It was an adult satire targeting English society and politics.

The author, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), had it published anonymously for fear of persecution. The book was an immediate bestseller — the first printing sold out within a week.

Gullivers Travels Third Edition 1726

Title page and frontispiece to volume I of Osborne’s copy of the third edition of 1726, with an imaginary portrait of Lemuel Gulliver. 

Although filled with contemporary allusions and biting satire, the book appealed to children from its very beginnings for its depth of imagination, absurd humour and fantastic occurrences.

Francis Newbery, nephew of celebrated 18th-century publisher John Newbery printed this children’s abridgement in 1776. This is a later edition (ca. 1785) published by Francis’s widow Elizabeth. It contains the first two of Gulliver’s voyages.

Francis Newbery Gulliver

Francis Newbery Gulliver Lilliput

Gulliver washes up on Lilliput and awakens to find himself tied to the ground by a swarm of tiny humans.

Francis Newbery Gulliver Brobdingnag

Gulliver visits Brobdingnag, land of giants.

In Swift’s original, Gulliver undertakes four voyages. During each voyage he meets with calamity — shipwreck, storms, pirates, mutiny — then arrives at an unknown land peopled by strange inhabitants.

This 1805 edition for children was published by Benjamin Tabart in four volumes. It contains all four voyages in abridged form.

Benjamin Tabart Gullivers Travels 1805

Benjamin Tabart Gullivers Travels Lilliput

Gulliver’s first voyage takes him to Lilliput. Here he is seen conversing with a Lilliputian nobleman.

Benjamin Tabart Gullivers Travels Brobdingnag

During Gulliver’s second voyage he is blown off course to Brobdingnag, land of giants. He is discovered in a barley field by a farmworker.

Benjamin Tabart Gullivers Travels Flying Island

Setting out on a third voyage, Gulliver is attacked by pirates and set adrift. He is rescued by the flying island of Laputa, home to absurd mathematicians and scientists.

Benjamin Tabart Gullivers Travels Houyhnhnms

On his fourth voyage Gulliver visits the Houyhnhnms, a race of intelligent, talking horses.

Osborne holds many children’s abridgements and retellings spanning the 18th to the 21st centuries. Many of these contain Gulliver’s first, or first and second voyages only.

Chapbook version of Gullivers Travels

Chapbook version of Gulliver’s Travels published between 1854 and 1873. The emperor of Lilliput orders his army to march under Gulliver’s legs “twenty-four abreast, and the horse by sixteen, with drums beating, colours flying, and pikes advanced.”

Gullivers Travels FMB Blaikie 1906

Another illustration of the same scene, from the Told-to-the-Children series. This volume was written by John Lang and illustrated by F.M.B. Blaikie, 1906.

Don’t forget spin-offs and adaptations. Two examples of “Big Little-type” books from the 1930s offer “twisted” versions of Swift’s classic:

BettyBoop in Miss Gullivers Travels

Betty Boop in “Miss Gulliver’s Travels,” assisted by Bimbo and Ko-ko. Story by Wallace West. Number 1158 in the Big Little Book series, published in 1935. Jazz-age cartoon character Betty Boop features as the great-great-granddaughter of Captain Lemuel Gulliver who sets out to rediscover Lilliput.

Gulliver’s Travels Jumbo Book 1939

Gulliver’s Travels. Story by Charles C. Taylor. Number 1172 in the Jumbo Book series, published in 1939. Based on the animated film Gulliver’s Travels released by Paramount Pictures in 1939, in which Gulliver is shipwrecked on the island of Lilliput, a kingdom of tiny people at war with its neighbour Blefuscu over the choice of wedding song for a royal marriage.

Should you be interested in following Gulliver’s extraordinary adventures more closely, copies are available to borrow through the Toronto Public Library.

The Annotated Gulliver’s Travels

Check out Isaac Asimov’s The Annotated Gulliver’s Travels for in-depth analysis and historical context.

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver, retold by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Chris Riddell, is an accessible version for children that preserves the tone and humour of Swift’s original.

And for fascinating evidence of Gulliver’s far-reaching influence, view this short clip from the award-winning 1935 stop-motion animated film The New Gulliver, a communist retelling directed by Aleksandr Ptushko, in which Gulliver leads a Marxist revolution among the Lilliputians, filmed with a cast of puppets!


Precarious Work: Why It Is Bad For Our Health

April 19, 2016 | Cynthia | Comments (0)

Defining Precarious Work and The Precariat

I began to see and hear the words "precarious work" and "the precariat" in the media, in our journals, and then in our book collection. Unsure of the meanings of these words, I did what every good librarian might do -- (no, not Wikipedia!) --  I went to the dictionary. Imagine my surprise when I found this in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

precarious adjective pre·car·i·ous \pri-ˈker-ē-əs\

Simple definition of precarious: not safe, strong, or steady.

precariat: The word you've entered was not found. Please try your search again.

Working Without CommitmentsToronto Reference Library is hosting a Thought Exchange program on this very topic: Precarious Work: Why It's Bad for Our Health, part of a series on poverty and health issues. As I am involved with the program, I needed to know what these words mean. So I tried again.

This time I used the Oxford English Dictionary. Success! Precarious employment: 1) dependent on chance or circumstance; uncertain, liable to fail; exposed to risk, hazardous; insecure, unstable and 2) subject to or fraught with physical danger or insecurity; at risk of falling, collapse, or similar accident; unsound, unsafe, rickety.

Yes, I was getting the picture. Not a pretty one but a picture, nevertheless. So I tried "precariat". This is what came up:

"No dictionary entries found for 'precariat'. Did you mean precarial, precardiac, precarium? Check your search and try again." Clearly the word precariat is so current, it hasn't yet been accepted by the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) people.

The Macmillan Dictionary Buzzword displayed this:  "the precariat, noun (singular) informal -- "A social group consisting of people whose lives are difficult because they have little or no job security and few employment rights".

Macmillan followed the definition with a lengthy backgrounder which I will excerpt:

... "The term precariat dates back to the 1980s, when French sociologists used it to define unprotected, temporary workers as a new social class. It also exists as a term in French (precariat), Italian (precariato) and German (Prekariat), with shifts in meaning determined by the time, place and social context in which it is used.

PrecariatIn Britain, the term was brought into the public eye by Guy Standing, an economics professor, who uses it in the title of his book: Precariat: The New Dangerous Class." 

But most importantly, Macmillan provided me with this definition:

"Precariat is a blend of adjective precarious and noun proletariat, a word used to describe working-class people as a social group. Proletariat has its origins in Latin proletarius, which denoted a person who had no wealth in property and whose only way of serving the state was by producing offspring."... and "Precarity" is most commonly associated with workers who leave their home country to compete for low-paid retail and service jobs. (Kerry Maxwell, Brave New Words).


Books on Precarious Work and The Precariat

Let's take a look at a sampling of what's in the Humanities and Social Sciences collection:


Nice Work If You Can Get IT mobilizing against inequality
















degraded work Precarious Employment Canada
















Precarious Work: Why It Is Bad for Our Health

with Dr. Andrew Pinto, MD,  St. Michael's Hospital

Wednesday April 20, 2016

6:30 pm-8:30 pm

Toronto Reference Library Atrium


Last Chance to See Special Collections: A to Z

April 15, 2016 | Nicole | Comments (0)

You have just one week left to visit our free exhibit Special Collections: A to Z on display in the TD Gallery at the Toronto Reference Library.

TD_Gallery Special collections A to Z_TRL2016__TPL_1534

If you've ever been interested in learning more about the fascinating (and sometimes weird) items that Toronto Public Library has amassed since 1884, this show is a great introduction. From an illustrated map of the North Pole from 1680, to beautiful ivory hornbooks, to a 15th century Latin encyclopedia, to a rare first-edition copy of The Hobbit -- there really is something for everyone! 

The alphabet of items on display is representative of the range and variety of materials found in each of our specialized collections: Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, Baldwin Collection of Canadiana, Special Collections in the Arts, Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy and the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books.

TD_Gallery Special collections A to Z_TRL2016__TPL_1551


Take a peak at this itty-bitty library of miniature books containing the full text of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes, created by noted miniaturist Barbara Raheb in 1979. It is hard to get a sense of scale here, but each book is about the size of a small matchbox! 

 TD_Gallery Special collections A to Z_TRL2016__TPL_1543

You can get a taste of what's on display by visiting our Virtual Exhibit here. A previous blog post described a few of the more obscure topics in the show. 


Don't miss it! Special Collections: A to Z closes April 24. There is one last guided tour of the exhibit on Tuesday, April 19 at 2 pm. 

For even more eclectic and delightful collection finds, be sure to join us on Wednesday for a Discover Special Collections talk titled, "Q is for Quirky Items." The talk begins at 3 pm in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre (5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library). You can drop in, no registration is required. It is the perfect pairing to a visit to the gallery. 

Curator's Choice: GO, DOG, GO!

April 11, 2016 | Nicole | Comments (0)

Welcome to Curator’s Choice!  This Toronto Public Library initiative gives Special Collections and the people who love them a chance to shine every Saturday morning. This week Elizabeth Derbecker was the curator, the location was the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, located at the Lillian H. Smith branch, and the subject of choice was books about dogs.

Illustrator Pauline Baynes is best known for her beautifully detailed pen-and-ink illustrations for the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, but for this book, How Dog Began (1985), she has employed a much simpler style reminiscent of petroglyphs or cave paintings.

How Dog Began

The heart-wrenching tale of Beautiful Joe, a real dog who was rescued from a cruel and abusive situation, is told in Margaret Marshall Saunders’ book of the same name, first published in Toronto in 1894. A monument to Beautiful Joe can be found in Meaford, Ontario and the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society has been established in his name “to celebrate the animal-human bond”.


Beautiful Joe

How to own a dog and like it! (1940), written by veterinarian A.C. Merrick, was designed to explain the basics of dog care, from “Training Your Dog” to “How To Keep Your Dog In Top Condition” to “Doctor Come Quickly!”

How to own a dog and like it

The Dog’s Dinner Party, a lavishly illustrated “toy book” from the 1870s, depicts a Victorian dinner party in extraordinary detail, correct on all points of dress and etiquette except for the fact that the dinner guests are dogs (and the servants are cats!)

The Dog’s Dinner Party

And Stanley’s Party (2003), written by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Bill Slavin, shows that not much has changed over the years – dogs still just want to have fun.

Stanleys Party

Other links of interest:

Our next Curator's Choice

Be sure to visit the Osborne Collection on Saturday, April 16 at 11 a.m. for our next Curator's Choice talk! This week's Curator's Choice will feature Trains in Children's Books. This is a casual drop-in programme for everyone to enjoy - please join us! Admission is free.

Planning Postwar Toronto

April 11, 2016 | Cynthia | Comments (0)

What is Planning?

In our February blog post on planning magazines, we introduced our readers to the complex, multi-disciplinary subject area of “planning”. To build on this, we will review what planning is and look specifically at “planning postwar Toronto”.


'Urban planning' replaced the term 'city planning' as the discipline grew. Broadly speaking, planning is concerned with all aspects of land use, the environment, design of urban space, public works and infrastructure.

How did contemporary urban planning evolve?
Planning Cities of Tomorrow
The disciplines of science, architecture and civil engineering preceded urban studies as we now know it. Modern urban planning emerged as a profession in the early 20th century, largely as a response to the appalling sanitary, social and economic conditions of rapidly-growing industrial cities. Along with public health specialists, economists, sociologists, lawyers and geographers, contemporary urban and regional planning techniques and policies emerged.

What does planning cover?

Planning Encyclopedia of the CityPlanning covers municipal governance, finance, transit and transportation, housing and social welfare. Public works includes civil engineering water supply, water treatment and sewage, garbage and recycling, and more. Architecture and urban design, urban renewal and community development are components of the urban planning field as well.

Today, early 21st century planning can be described as a technical and political process concerned with the welfare of people, control of the use of land, design of the urban environment including transportation and communication networks, and protection and enhancement of the natural environment.

What we have

Planning in the contemporary sense is well-documented at the Toronto Reference Library. Our Toronto Collection tracks the changes in Toronto through hundreds of planning and policy documents, official plans, social policy reports, transportation and transit developments, legislation and more. We also have access to newspaper articles, historical and current maps, photos and clipping files.

Planning Toronto Transformations in a City

We have Toronto architecture books and books on Toronto architects; books on Toronto’s early history and coverage of certain decades; local histories of many communities and neighbourhoods. We have books on the ethnic groups that contributed to Toronto’s growth at the turn of the 20th century as well as the 21st.


Planning Toronto Since 1918

And we don't just cover Toronto. Our urban planning collection spans decades of urban growth and development worldwide. We have books on individual cities, areas and regions of the world. Spin a globe and pick a place and it is quite probable that you will find something on that place, whether it be a book or an article, a map or a picture.

Planning America's Urban Future

What was missing

What we lacked in our Toronto Collection was a look at this city's development over a continuous period of time. When asked for a nice “overview” of Toronto’s planning history, we had to pull out bits and pieces, pieces and bits –- until Richard White produced Planning Toronto: The Planners, The Plans, Their Legacies, 1940-80.

Planning Planning Toronto Richard White

Richard White will be at the Toronto Reference Library to fill us in on The Planners, The Plans, Their Legacies, 1940-80. Learn what plans were proposed, their impact and the contributions to making Toronto what it is. The question is not whether the plans were good or bad, but whether they made a difference.


Planning Postwar Toronto

Hinton Learning Theatre, 3rd floor

Toronto Reference Library

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Books will be available for sale.




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