10,000+ DVDs to Borrow (free!) at the Toronto Reference Library

October 14, 2016 | Bill V.

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Did you know there are 10000+ DVDs (that's over 180 shelves!) you can borrow from the Toronto Reference Library's Arts Department on the 5th floor? The collection is focused on documentaries, how to, practical and performance (including many PBS).

As of October 2016 there are about 13000 DVDs in total at the Toronto Reference Library (divided between the HUGE documentary and TV show collection upstairs on the 5th floor and the main floor Browsery movies/feature collection behind the TVs)

Movies (2,342)
TV Shows (632)
Other DVDs (10,085)

And what do 10000+ DVDs and 1100 VHS look like?

Well, we have moving compact shelving, opening up vast riches in a dramatic, yet safe way.

DVD compact shelving of 3 bays seen closed on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library

DVD compact shelving partially opened as seen on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library

DVD compact shelving shown fully open as seen on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library


Faced with this much choice I asked staff to recommend some of their favorites:

20 Feet from Stardom DVD

20 Feet from Stardom was last year's Academy Award winner for best feature documentary. It's an inspiring and uplifting look at the unsung (no pun intended) heroes of pop music: the nameless back-up singers behind all the great popular music artists. They're mostly women, and women of colour, who grew up singing harmony in gospel choirs and it's great to see them finally get their due. Watch for the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and a wonderful rendition of Samuel Barber's "Sure on that Shining Night".


To Be Takei DVD

To Be Takei: The actor most famous as Mr Sulu in Star Trek developed an unexpected new career as a gay rights advocate and a Facebook phenomenon.The movie follows his story from boyhood in an Asian internment camps in Arkansas  during World War II to his current life with his husband Brad (they wed in 2008). An inspiring story which somehow makes room for lots of bad puns. The film presents unprecedented access to the daily life of 77-year-old George Takei. And speaking of puns you may also want to take a whiff of his cologne offering "Eau My".


The Queen of Versailles DVD

The Queen of Versailles is a character-driven documentary about a billionaire family and their financial challenges in the wake of the economic crisis. The film follows two unique characters, whose rags-to-riches-to-rags success stories reveal the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream.  Deeply moving and a tiny bit bizarre.


Men at Lunch DVD

Men at Lunch: In New York City, 1932, a photograph, "Lunch Atop a Skyscraper," is taken during the construction of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. In it, 11 construction workers are taking their lunch break while casually perched along a steel girder. For 80 years, the identity of the 11 construction workers and the photographer that immortalized them remained a mystery: their stories, lost in time, subsumed by the fame of the image itself. Then, at the start of the 21st century, the photograph finally began to give up some of its secrets.


The Invisible Frame and Cycling the Frame DVD

Cycling the frame (60 min.): In 1988, director Cynthia Beatt and the young Tilda Swinton embarked on a journey along the Berlin Wall into little-known territory. Over 20years later, Beatt and Swinton reteamed to retrace the entire 160 km line of the Wall that once isolated Berlin. The Invisible frame (28 min.) depicts a poetic passage through varied landscapes, this time on both sides of the former Wall.

The Buddha The Story of Siddhartha DVD

The Buddha the story of Siddhartha (PBS) recounts the life of the Buddha and presents the tenets of Buddhism. Produced in conjunction with the exhibition, Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art, organized by Asia Society Museum, New York. 

Not for Ourselves Alone The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony  DVD

Not for ourselves alone the story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony: The staff who recommended this DVD said "I cried the first time I watched it". Presents the history of women's suffrage in the United States through the dramatic, often turbulent friendship of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan Anthony. Part 1 covers the years from their youth up to the establishment of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1868. Part 2 spans the period from 1868 to the passage in 1919 of the 19th amendment to the Constitution which gave women the vote.

Bruce Weber, the film collection DVD

Bruce Weber, the film collection: includes four films by Weber -- Broken Noses (1987), Let's Get Lost (1988), Chop Suey (2000) and A Letter to True 2003. I saw the Chet Baker film Let's Get Lost at the old Carleton Cinema on College Street and was struck by the black & white filming, the cigarette smoke, the sound and the beauty of the characters.  I recently discovered this compilation of his films and was moved by the music and life of cabaret singer Frances Faye as seen in Chop Suey.

China heavyweight Qian chui bai lian DVD

China heavyweight Qian chui bai lian: profiles the ever-changing Chinese economic landscape through the view of the sport of boxing. Filmmaker Yung Chang follows boxing coach Qi Moxiang as he travels across China's Sichuan province recruiting young fighting talent from impoverished farms and villages. Selected boys and girls are taken to national training centres in hopes of becoming Olympic heroes, but can they leave their families behind to become boxing's finest?

  Herb and Dorothy
Herb & Dorothy: tells the story of a postal clerk and a librarian who managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history with very modest means.

Pima DVD

Pina: Director Wim Wenders takes viewers on a sensual, visually stunning journey of discovery into a new dimension: straight onto the stage with the legendary Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch ensemble. He follows the dancers out of the theatre and into the city and the surrounding areas of Wuppertal, the place which for 35 years was the home and center of Pina Bausch's creativity.