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September 2012


September 24, 2012 | Diana | Comments (0)

Pinterest is a relatively new social networking platform that is based on collecting images from the web and sharing them with others.  Pinterest defines itself as a virtual pinboard that lets you “organize and share all the beautiful things on the web.”

 Images are posted on pinboards, include a short description and can be commented on by viewers.  Pinboard categories include Art, Film, Music and Books, DIY and Crafts, Food and Drink, Sports, Technology and more.

 The sharing idea is expanded further as the images are linked to their original web source, they can be re-pinned, and those who post them can link them to their blogs as well.

 Pinterest is handy for storing images, planning projects, creating a wish list, supporting hobbies and the possibilities go on.  It can help you plan your wedding, create a gluten free diet, or recommend your favorite book or movie.  The site is popular because it is attractive, easy to look at, simple to use- quite addictive.

 Ben Silbermann a former Google staffer, had the idea for Pinterest and it was launched in 2010. Pinterest has really taken off- Time magazine included it in its list of “50 best Websites of 2011”.  Media reports rate Pinterest as the fastest growing website ever, with its number of visits increasing by 27% between February and March 2012.

 Libraries and educators are catching on to Pinterest.  Public library systems, New York Public Library among them, have used it to promote collections, programmes and services, post great photos featuring their ‘places and spaces’ and generally increase their profile.  Librarians can make use of pinboards to find information for schools assignments, like those questions on fashions by the decade or community helpers. Teachers use pinboards to share visual aids, lesson plans, and research tools. 

 There is a lot of potential here and libraries and library users will be following Pinterest avidly, so visit and see what it’s all about.



The Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online . . .

September 4, 2012 | Richard | Comments (0)


Have a look . . . 

Cartier; Champlain; Franklin; Sir MacDonald; Secord; Shadd; and Trudeau.

There are a further 8,431 portraits in the Online edition of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, or DCB as it is commonly known: concise and well written, these pieces are exceptionally well researched, and exactly cited - making them a perfect start for serious research on almost any topic in Canadian history, especially those involving people.

The Online version of the DCB reproduces and extends the print version, including its essential chronological arrangement. The DCB in print organizes entries by the year the subject died. The first volume covers a 700 year period from 1000 to 1700, and subsequent volumes cover a range of periods from 9 to 39 years.

The online Advanced Search page includes volume searching under the "Date Range of Death" category. (note: coverage for any date past 1930 includes only a small selection of biographies that will appear in forthcoming print editions.)

The centre and right hand columns of the page includes a "Full-Text Search" option to look for common and distictive words in biographical entries: "astrolabe" (3 matching entries); "HBC" (513); "Jamaica" (138); "Napoleonic wars" (139); "Pemmican" (25); and "shipbuilding" (233).

Options are present for browsing in different ways, most obviously "by the first letter of the last name".  And "Browse by Identification" allows searchers to select from catagories like "Aboriginal people" (254 matching entries); "Blacks" (39); "Business" (2,146); "Fur Trade" (323); Inventors (39); Mariners (132); and Politicians (1593).

The "Browse by Geographical Location" option can search for entries by the capital cities, as well as by the provinces. A quick review shows that the majority of the entries emanate from eastern Canada (eg. Halifax has 922 entries, whereas Victoria has 315).

A "Gender" search allows for the selection of entries by "Female" (504 entries) or "Male" (7,934). 

All of the searches listed above can be "modified". For example, if we choose "Browse by Identification" and select "Philanthrophists and Social Reformers", there will be 263 results. From the results page that appears we can select "Modify Search". We can then select Gender "Female":


For this search, there are 103 entries listed once the "Submit" button is pressed.

The University of Toronto Press notes that the DCB is "Canada's oldest and largest research and publishing project in the humanities." Begun in 1959, the project is witness to the changing social roles of an earlier time, as when we discover, for example, that there are only a total of 4 female politicians in the database compared with a total 1590 male politicians!

Still, what Robert Fulford wrote almost 20 years ago is just as true now: "today it would be hard to imagine anyone writing a serious book about pre-1900 Canada without using it." . . . and let's hope that the same will be said of the DCB by future researchers of 20th century Canadian history.


Got Film Fest Fever? Get Film Indexes Online!

September 2, 2012 | Susan | Comments (0)

The 37th Toronto International Film Festival is coming up soon, from September 6th to 16th, 2012. If you are suffering from a serious case of film fest fever, find relief through the library and get Film Indexes Online!


 Image of Fumeo film projector by Mattia Luigi Nappi via Wikimedia Commons. Used under Creative Commons license.

Previously accessible from Research and Reference branches only, Film Indexes Online is now available from any Toronto Public Library branch or from home using your library barcode and PIN, which is great news for serious researchers, students, and film buffs alike.

Film Indexes Online is a portal to three top-notch film resources:

1.American Film International Catalog (AFI)

AFI documents over 48,000 American feature films produced between 1893 and 1973. Most records include substantial plot summaries and comprehensive filmographic information, plus citations for reviews and articles. Includes the popular "AFI 100 Years..." series of cinematic milestones, such as AFI's Top 100 Movies, Top 25 Musicals, and Top 50 Stars. Compiled by the American Film Institute (AFI) and updated twice annually.

Filmindexesonline2. FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals Plus (FIAF Plus)

FIAF Plus provides abstracts and full-text articles from some 340 academic and popular film periodicals from 1972 to the prsent. Produced in collaboration with the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) and updated monthly.

3. Film Index International (FII)

FII features cross-referenced records for 120,000 films and 750,000 film personalities from over 180 countries. Coverage is from 1900 to the present and includes all genres of film, from the first silent movies to the most recent blockbusters. Also includes international film awards, searchable plot summaries, and annotated citations. Based on the Summary of Information on Film and Televison (SIFT) database from the British Film Institute (BFI) and updated twice annually.

Film Indexes Online can be used to search all three databases at the same time or each separately. With the all-in-one search you can search or browse by keyword, film title, date, or person. The search interface supports Boolean, exact, truncation, and proximity searching. For more advanced searches, you can search each database separately to take advantage of unique functionality (e.g., hierarchical subject thesauri).

For a video demonstration of how to use Film Indexes Online click here.

Wondering how the Film Indexes Online database compares to the freely available website resource Internet Movie Database (IMDB)? To find out, I searched for one of my all-time favourite films, Rear Window, in both resources.

Here is some of what I found:

Source material: 

The AFI record in Film Indexes Online notes that the film is based on the short story "It Had To Be Murder" by Cornell Woolrich, published in Dime Detective in February 1942, and includes a brief publication history of the story. The IMDB record, by comparison, simply lists Cornell Woolrich under "Writing credits".

Subject indexing:

The AFI record includes two genre headings (Mystery, Suspense), plus dozens of primary and secondary cross-referenced subject headings (e.g., Apartment buildings, Voyeurism, Traveling salesmen). IMDB, on the other hand, includes three genre headings (Mystery, Romance, Thriller) but lacks controlled subject headings.


The combined records in Film Indexes Online include approximately 200 citations to reviews and articles, including approximately three dozen that were published at the time of the film's original release. The IMDB record does not include any citations to published reviews or articles, but does include hundreds of user reviews and an active message board.

In sum, while IMDB is a useful and popular ready reference tool, Film Indexes Online in the resource to use for more complex reference questions and scholarly research.

Happy film fest everyone!

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