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A Room of One's Own: The Writers' Room at Toronto Reference Library

May 28, 2015 | Monika | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

What's your vision of the ideal place to do your writing? Historically, writers have created masterpieces under all kinds of unusual circumstances and in a bewildering variety of spaces. I was interested to learn that many writers had a hut or shed where they could retreat and enjoy a quiet, private refuge.

   George Bernard Sha

 Photo: Creative Commons

Here is George Bernard Shaw's revolving hut. He called it the 'London' hut, so that if anyone came calling, and he didn't want to be disturbed, they could be told that he was 'in London', and it would be true. The hut was built on a turntable, so Shaw could push it around and always be in the sunshine.

Dylan thomas shed

Photo: Geoff Charles/National Library of Wales

Dylan Thomas worked in a wooden shed above The Boathouse, a cliffside house in Laugharne, Wales.

  Mark Twain seated writing

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Mark Twain described his writing shed, actually a gazebo, in a letter:

"It is the loveliest study you ever saw...octagonal with a peaked roof, each face filled with a spacious window...perched in complete isolation on the top of an elevation that commands leagues of valley and city and retreating ranges of distant blue hills..."

Virginia Woolf

Photo: Creative Commons

Of course, there is Virginia Woolf's room of her own - a garden hut known as the Lodge Writing Shed in the garden of Monk's House, Sussex.


Contemporary writers have also discovered the joy of working in a quiet shed, hut, or in Neil Gaiman's case, a gazebo. Gaiman writes in Shedworking, a book devoted to, well, shedworking!:

"I had the gazebo built about 15 years ago, and go through phases of using it, and then I'll abandon it for 5 years, then rediscover it with delight. I love walking to the bottom of the garden, and settling down to write."

Michael Pollan A place of my own.

Or, like Michael Pollan, you could get really ambitious and build your own writing shed. Here he describes the moment when he decided that he needed a room of his own.

For writers who may not have a room - or shed - of their own, the Toronto Reference Library's Writers' Room is an easily accessible, quiet, and light-filled space to work.

TRL Writers room

With four workstations, available whenever the library is open, and access to the Toronto Reference Library's extensive collections, this new service is very popular. Writers from across the city have used the room, working on a wide range of projects, including historical fiction, children's books, magazine articles, Canadian artists' biographies and much more.

One of the first writers to use the room describes her experience in this Toronto Star article.

The feedback from our writers has been enthusiastic. Here's what they're saying:

"Quiet time and work space, which is VERY hard to find! Thank you so much!"

"Quiet space for focused research with ongoing access to books held only at TRL."

"Having the space helped me focus."

From one of our most frequent users:

"Easy access to materials without having to pack up my laptop every time I needed to leave my desk; also immediate access to material that if I were working elsewhere, I might be disinclined to make a special trip to the library to consult - this has turned up information that I hadn't been able to find elsewhere."

If you're looking for a 'room of your own' to work on your own masterpiece, with access to invaluable research material, look no further than the Toronto Reference Library. Information and the application form are available online. We'd love to be able to claim that the next Great Canadian Novel was written right here at the library!

Get Ready for Pan Am Soccer with John Doyle May 28th

May 25, 2015 | Richard | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

 One World. One Game.

The World is a Ball: the Joy, Madness, and Meaning of Soccer

The expression "One World. One Game" pretty much sums up soccer's true meaning. As Toronto now prepares for the Pan Am Games, the city is about to become the World in One City.

John Doyle, author of The World is a Ball: the Joy, Madness, and Meaning of Soccer, will examine the context of the Pan Am Games (July 10-26), the influx of athletes from Latin American and the Caribbean countries, and show us how soccer (football, fútbol, futebol) explains and illuminates this great city.

Mr. Doyle is the Globe and Mail's Television Critic. During his tenure, he also wrote extensively about soccer, by covering the World Cup 2002 in Korea/Japan, the Euro 2004 in Portugal, the World Cup 2006 in Germany, and the Euro 2008 in Austria/Switzerland. In addition, his articles on soccer have appeared in the U.K. Guardian and the New York Times.

Come up to the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at the Toronto Reference Library to have a look at our soccer books and magazines. Be it in English, French, Portuguese or Spanish, you can find it at the Toronto Reference Library!

Soccer in Sun and Shadow El futbol a sol y sombra World Class World Soccer Magazine 

Join us for this free event:

One World. One Game.
With John Doyle
Thursday May 28th, 2015
7:00 to 8:00 pm

Beeton Auditorium
789 Yonge Street
Toronto Reference Library



Recent and Upcoming Arthur Conan Doyle Programs

May 22, 2015 | Tatiana | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

"What one man can invent another can discover." - The Adventure of the Dancing Man by Arthur Conan Doyle

Did you know that you can step back in time into 1893 and visit Sherlock Holmes’ study on the 5th floor of Toronto Reference Library? And while there, you might have a chance to learn something new about the iconic character and his creator from the Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection.

Arthur Conan Doyle room

The Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection is a non-profit, independent group that helps the library maintain and enhance the Collection by fundraising and securing donations for special acquisitions. The Friends also carry out and promote programs and activities that raise awareness of the Collection’s existence and its unique contents.

Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection chatting with a library visitor

On Saturday, May 2, members of the Friends group were available in the Victorian-style room to answer questions and chat about any aspect of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life or his works. The free drop-in program attracted both those well-versed in the writings of the prolific author, as well as those wishing to learn more.

Some key items from the collection were showcased and discussed:

A Study in Scarlet; The first appearance of Sherlock Holmes in print and one of the rarest items in the Library’s collection

A Study in Scarlet

Beeton’s Christmas Annual (1887) is one of the rarest magazines in the world. It features A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes’ first appearance in print.





The Hound of the Baskervilles. A welcome reappearance of Sherlock Holmes in print after nearly a decade’s absence


The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)

This novel was set as a prequel to Holmes’ death ten years before. It was much anticipated in its day as it brought back the beloved detective and eventually led to his revival in the series.




Angels of Darkness. A drama in three acts manuscriptAngels of Darkness (ca. 1889-90)

This manuscript play was written around the same time as A Study in Scarlet, and includes many of the same characters, such as Dr. Watson, although Sherlock Holmes is absent. The play was never performed or published until 2001 when Toronto Public Library and The Baker Street Irregulars co-published a facsimile.




If you would like to learn more and have missed out on this program, please check back soon. The library will be offering more sessions in the near future. Call 416-393-7156 for more information.

In the meantime, you’re welcome to attend another free program offered by the Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection. See below for details. The 2015 Cameron Hollyer Memorial Lecture


Doors Open May 23-24, 2015

May 21, 2015 | Cynthia | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Doors Open 2015
In honour of this summer's Toronto 2015 Pan Am / Parapan Am Games, the Doors Open Toronto 2015 theme is Sports, Recreation & Leisure. More than 155 buildings across Toronto open their doors over the May 23-24 weekend. Take a peek inside private and public recreation sites ranging from aquatic centres to athletics stadiums.

Our community buildings, stadiums, pools, arenas, tracks and parks -- all carefully designed and constructed for sports and leisure activities -- are worth a special look this year.

Maple Leaf Gardens Our unique Toronto Collection, second floor, Toronto Reference Library, has books, reports, clippings, newspapers and magazines reflecting the inception, construction, operation, and, in some cases, the closure of major sporting facilities.

We have proposals for stadiums that remain unbuilt, discussions over locations, fights over funding, privatization and naming. 

Like No Other in the World  

Regent Park Aquatics CentreRecreation centres are the heart of many neighbourhoods. Swimming pools, waterparks and splash pads can teach both children and adults more than the crawl. Take a look at the Regent Park Aquatics Centre









And let's not forget our racetracks. Woodbine Racetrack out in Rexdale is a mid-century icon.

  Woodbine Ractrack

Have you ever been to  a skatepark? Fairly new to this city,the CJ Skateboard Park & School is the world's fourth largest not-for-profit skateboard park offering 28,000 sq. ft. of indoor skateboarding space. You will see skateboarding obstacles including bowls, mini ramps, vertical ramps and a street area featuring a replica of an outdoor skate park. It also holds the largest vertical skateboarding ramp in Canada.

  Skate park










Afterburn Performance Fitness 



Experience some fun venues like Afterburn Performance Fitness designed for dragon boat paddling. Or test your skill at Laser Quest Toronto East and The Rock Oasis.

Look at the contemporary Branksome Hall Athletics and Wellness Centre or take a heritage walking tour of the University of Toronto facilities

UofT Rugby












How about a trip to Downsview Park? See how de Havilland Airport has been re-purposed. Try out the Downsview Park Sports Centre - Grand Prix Kartways and while you are there you visit The Hangar, the National Squash Academy and True North Climbing.

Downsview Grand Prix

Whether you take a walking tour, drive out to a special event or wander around the city, map in hand, get out and take advantage of Toronto's wonderful Doors Open weekend.

And then stop by the Toronto Reference Library to learn more.

You can also check out Leo's post for additional resources.

Hosting a Mad Men Goodbye Party?

May 15, 2015 | Pam | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

In downtown Toronto, a popular bar called Clinton's hosts Sunday night viewing parties for Mad Men, which is in its final season and ends on May 17th.

Cocktails on special for Mad Men might include the Brandy Alexander or the Old Fashioned.

  Old fashioned cocktail               Brandy alexander  

Wikimedia commons Jason Lam and Edcross 

Lime CordialA recent article in the National Post suggests that Betty Draper favours gin gimlets, made with Lime Cordial, and gin (or sometimes vodka).

Given the popularity of the show, the Mad Men website features a complete Mad Men party planner, with ideas for 1960's cocktails and recipes included: hors d'oeuvres, (deviled eggs, clam dip), dinner (Chicken a la King, Tuna Tettrazini) and dessert (Jello, Baked Alaska, and Ambrosia). You can also get a sample playlist, ideas on what to wear, invitation templates, and decorating tips that are from the time period.

In the Business, Science, and Technology Department, on the 3rd floor of the Toronto Reference Library, there is a large collection of cookbooks which span historical time periods, and includes many different cuisines. The collection also has a good selection of cocktail and other beverage recipe books. You may find something just right for your Mad Men party. Here are just a few examples of what we have:

A Century of Dining In Style Seven Spoons













A Century of Dining in Style

Seven Spoons : my favorite recipes for any and every day

Better Homes and Gardensnewcookbook Liquid Intelligence















Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook: Gifts from the Kitchen

Liquid Intelligence : the art and science of the perfect cocktail


The-unofficial-mad-men-cookbook                        World's Best Cocktails

The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook : inside the kitchen, bars and restaurants of Mad Men

World's Best Cocktails : 500 signature drinks from the world's best bars and bartenders

There is also a diverse collection of food and drink magazines, such as:

Bakers Journal BST Magazines


Taunton's Fine Cooking

Food and Wine                


Vegetarian Times

Wine Maker


Lusitania is Lost: 7 May 1915

May 7, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

In a year that marks the hundredth anniversary of the first use of poison gas in warfare, the battle for Gallipoli and the first air attack on Britain, there are many bloody centennials of World War I to observe in 2015. But there’s something particularly chilling about a shipwreck.

Sinking of the Lusitania London Illus News

London Illustrated News, Sinking of the Lusitania, Wikicommons

The Lusitania was not the only ship, not even the only passenger ship, destroyed in war that year. Yet its name probably stands after Titanic as a legendary marine loss. Maybe it was the presence of neutral American citizens on this British ship which left New York bound for Liverpool. Maybe it was the death of so many so quickly—a single torpedo shot, and the ship sank within 18 minutes, taking 1,191 lives.  Maybe it was the presence of so many children, most of whom died. Maybe it is the endless conspiracy theories that have played out since that day, as the Allies and the Axis powers both sought to justify their actions, and historians continue the debate.

Atlantic Liner LusitaniaOne of the marvels of the Toronto Reference Library are the books and other materials that have been here since history was a current event.  Not just copies of the Globe and Mail from May 8, 1915 with the headline: Lusitania is Lost: Many Drown Torpedoed without Warning.  You’ll also find the large format book produced by the Messrs. John Brown and Co. Ltd., Sheffield and Clydebank, Constructors and Engineers. Published in 1907, a few months after the launch of the great ship, it reproduces engineering drawings and dozens of photographs showing the creation of this luxurious and ultra-modern ship.  They bragged it could achieve “an average speed of 24 ½ knots” between Liverpool and New York.  You can hold that book in your hands any time you visit us on the second floor.

But present day always becomes history, and so you’ll also find the many works, from contemporary accounts to those produced for this centenary year, that chronicle the Lusitania and the fallout from her destruction.


Dead Wake: the last crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larsen. Also in eBook, Audiobook, eAudiobook, Large Print

Exploring the Lusitania: probing the mysteries of the sinking that changed history by Robert D. Ballard

A Higher Form of Killing: six weeks in spring 1915 that changed the nature of warfare forever by Diana Preston

Lusitania: an epic tragedy by Diana Preston

Dead Wake-the last crossing of the Lusitania Exploring the Lusitania Higher Form of Killing Lusitania-an epic tragedy








Jane's Walk - May 1-3, 2015

May 2, 2015 | Cynthia | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Jane's Walk

Jane’s Walks will be held on May 1-3, 2015 in most Toronto neighbourhoods, as well as in many other Canadian centres and countries around the world. Named to honour writer and civic activist Jane Jacobs, several Toronto walks feature Toronto Public Library branches.

Many of us treasure our memories of walking to the local library with friends and family. Remember the first time you were allowed to walk to the library with your friends -- no parents allowed?

All the libraries TorontoDaniel Rotsztain walked the walk; he visited and drew every branch of the Toronto Public Library in 2014. This weekend he will lead 2 walks to explore some of those branches. Starting at the beloved Lillian H. Smith, on to the original Reference Library and walking north to the city's oldest and biggest branches, he will also stop at some of U of T's libraries along the way. He hopes to evoke memories of walkers' favourite branches, wherever they may be. And appreciate how lucky we are to have such a wonderful, free public library system. 

The Toronto Public Library have programs planned around Jane's Walks. Here are a few highlights: 



As a lead-up to the Jane's Walk weekend, the High Park branch hosted The Shadow Side of Sunnyside : the history of Sunnyside, from the heydey of The Palais Royale, the Amusement Park, etc., to the uncertain aftermath of the Gardiner Expressway.


Jane's Walk: Downsview - the Top of the Town kicks off the weekend. On Friday, May 01 at 1:00pm, gather at the Downsview Branch for a 90-minute fun, fact-filled stroll through the neighbourhood around the Downsview Branch. Discover who named the area; the history of the Downsview United Church; why the MOTH Gardens Parkette was patterned on Italian Renaissance garden designs and where the current cultural hub is.MothGardens1

And if you've never been to the Maria A. Shchuka Meeting Room, why not stop in on Saturday, May 2 at 2:00 to join Farms to Record Studios: Explore Eglinton West by Foot, a walking tour of the International Market on Eglinton Avenue West, covering the past, present and future of the neighbourhood. Learn about the history of the belt line and development of the neighbourhood from farm land.  And more recently, check out the musical history of the area by visiting landmark storefronts and the proposed Reggae Lane project.

Eglinton International Market

If you can't make it to a walk over the weekend, get over to the Palmerston Branch for The Nordheimer Ravine: A Virtual "Jane's Walk" Presentation on Thursday, May 07, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. Susan Aaron, a natural environment volunteer steward, will present an audio-visual virtual Jane's Walk of the Nordheimer Ravine and Cedarvale Ravine.

Nordheimer Ravine

Stay in your own neighbourhood or explore somewhere new across town; either way, you are bound to learn a lot. And, as a bonus, enjoy what promises to be wonderful weather with a group of kindred spirits.

Interested in exploring Toronto's neighbourhoods further? 

Come visit the Humanities and Social Sciences Department's

Toronto Collection at the Toronto Reference Library.

TRL Program Calendar May 2015

April 30, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Here's your chance to visit the new Marilyn and Charles Baillie Centre and find out all about Sherlock Holmes.  Don't miss TCAF--the Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2015, plus David Suzuki giving the annual June Callwood lecture.  And lots of job-hunting and computer training as usual.

Click on each image to enlarge or download Download The May 2015 @ 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

The World in Cabinets: Maps in the Humanities & Social Sciences Department

April 28, 2015 | Katherine | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Map of Canada 2014

Last week the Government of Canada issued a new map of Canada, the latest in the Atlas of Canada Reference Map Series, and an update of the 2006 version. It’s available as both digital download and paper. While more and more maps are available online, and the mash-ups created from them become increasingly complex and innovative, there are still thousands of maps available only in print.

The Toronto Reference Library holds over 75,000 maps and plans--the largest map collection in a public library in Canada. Most are located in the Humanities & Social Sciences Department (HSS) on the second floor. Here’s quick tour of the wealth of material available.


(Click to enlarge images or find more info)

HSS Map Collection 2nd Floor TRL

Maps from all over the world are included, but there's a special emphasis on maps for Toronto and Canada. Fire Insurance Plans for Toronto, showing building locations and street configurations over many years, are some of the most heavily used maps in the department. While many pre-1920s versions have been digitized by the library, copyright restrictions mean that most are available only in paper or on microfiche. You'll find facsimile maps in HSS from 1858 to 1955. Originals, other communities’ maps and insurance plans published after 1955 can be viewed in the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the 5th floor.

Fire Insurance Plans Fire Insurance Plan Toronto 1892










There are also hundreds of other maps for the City of Toronto: historical facsimiles from the 1780s to the 1940s; and original maps from 1950 to the present of previous townships and cities that make up today's Toronto, including Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York. There are planning, promotional, land use, electoral, transportation and aerial photo maps.

Map of the Township of Scarboro

Rosedale developers maps

Toronto Land Use maps

Ontario County Historical Atlases


Historical atlases of Ontario counties show farm lots, names of landowners and drawings from the nineteenth century.






Topographic maps of Canada:

Canadian Topographic Index Key Ludgate Lake NB Topo map








HSS Map Colour Codes


Our collection includes maps from every part of the world, including ordnance, political boundaries, road and street maps.





The maps are not limited to land, or even the earth--find nautical charts, ocean maps, extraterrestrial maps.

Great Lakes Nautical Charts

Mars map


Map Card CatalogueThe majority of individual maps cannot be searched through the library website, although images of some older maps are available through TPL’s Digital Archive. Instead, this is one area where the old fashioned card catalogue is still in use. If you’re looking for a particular map, or series of maps, please contact us in the Humanities & Social Sciences Department, in person, by phone or through our email service.

Maps and map-making have a long and fascinating history. On the second floor you’ll also find books exploring the many ways human beings have captured their world in maps.

Map Art Lab The Map Book Maps-finding our place in the world On the Map







For further assistance contact:

Humanities & Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library
trlhss @

Discover Special Collections

April 24, 2015 | Tatiana | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Have you visited the revitalized and recently opened Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the 5th floor of Toronto Reference Library? Well, here is your chance!

Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre
Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre

We invite you to join us for free weekly presentations showcasing rare and historical materials dating as far back as 1469 and up to the present day. Some of the treasures you can expect to find include rare maps, illuminated manuscripts, diaries and letters from World War I, award-winning theatre costume designs, artists' books and first editions of Sherlock Holmes.

Russell's Trade Card from 1890
Russell's Trade Card from 1890

Learn the stories behind these unique items and explore the many collections that make up Special Collections:

Each weekly 30-minute presentation will be given by knowledgeable staff who will be happy to answer all of your questions.

Haag's Candies Trade Card from early 1900s
Haag's Candies Trade Card from early 1900s

Don't miss your chance to get up close and personal with historical artifacts and rare books.

All presentations begin at 2 pm. See the schedule below for dates and topics. All are welcome and no registration is necessary. For more information call 416-393-7156.

(Please note that no food or drinks are allowed in the Special Collections Centre.)

Wednesday, April 29 -- Maps

Wednesday, May 6 -- Illuminated manuscripts
Thursday, May 14 -- WW1 posters and other ephemera (part 1)
Wednesday, May 20 -- WW1 posters and other ephemera (part 2)
Wednesday, May 27 -- Engravings and prints from the Performing Arts Collection

Wednesday, June 3 -- Fore-edge painting
Thursday, June 11 -- Early botanical illustration in Canada
Wednesday, June 17 -- Architectural plans (including Archindont)
Wednesday, June 24 -- Canadian postcards

Welcome! Discover the rich and diverse world of the Toronto Reference Library through the eyes of its expert staff. Join us to see the many ways we are connecting with the city - through special events and exhibits, new books, digital information and innovative library services.

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