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November 2012


November 30, 2012 | Brenda | Comments (1)

If recent questions at the reference desk are any indication, it would seem that IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is becoming more popular than the American TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).  Both are used by employers and universities around the world to assess English language fluency, however it seems that the British IELTS is gaining ground in Canada.

Luckily Toronto Public Library provides access to two excellent online products that help library customers study for either test.


The Road to IELTS is an interactive program that covers 4 areas: reading, listening, speaking and writing.  It allows users create a profile and to track their progress.




For library customers studying for TOEFL, an excellent resource is the Learning Express Library.

Learning epress



 This resource includes study material for many skills and careers. 

To access the TOEFL guides and practice tests click on English Language Proficiency.

Users will find extensive study materials for all the TOEFL areas as well as practice tests. Once you sign up for a free account you can track your progress.

To find the Road to IELTS and the Learning Express Library - the fastest method is to type the name of the resource in the search box located on the TPL home page, then click on the 'Access Online' button.

L express













16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence: Information and Resources

November 25, 2012 | Susan | Comments (0)

Today (November 25th) is the first day in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign.


16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence is a global campaign that runs annually from November 25th to December 10th. It was launched in 1991 by the Center for Women's Global Leadership and now counts over 2,000 organizations from over 154 countries among its participants.

The 16 Days campaign calls for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence worldwide and highlights several significant dates, including:

To mark the start of the 16 Days campaign, here are sixteen reference resources on the subject of gender and violence that are available in print or online through the Toronto Public Library:


Selected books:

Gender Violence by Merry        Women Gender and Human Rights by Marjorie Agosin    

Women's Human Rights by Niamh Reilly         Violence Against Women in Canada by Johnson        Violence Against Women by DeKeseredy


Selected encyclopedias:

Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History          Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women          Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender edited by Malti-Douglas


Selected article databases:

WHRR logo


Selected websites:

  • WomenWatch: This is the central gateway for online information and resources related to the promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment in the United Nations.
  • Status of Women Canada: This federal government organization works to advance equality for women in Canada with particular emphasis placed on women's economic security and the elimination of violence against women.
  • Ontario Women's Justice Network: Here you will find general legal information and resources on issues related to violence against women. A project of the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC).
  • Springtide Resources: This Toronto-based registered charity develops and delivers programs and resources to decrease the incidence of violence against women and the effect that abuse has on children.
  • 16 Days campaign Resources: This section of the 16 Days campaign website includes suggested books, articles, reports, and websites on gender and violence as well as campaigning.






Alexander Graham Bell, teacher of the deaf and letter writer

November 12, 2012 | Ranald | Comments (0)

Bell, the inventor, or one of the inventors, of the telephone, also taught the deaf. It was thought that they could be taught to talk and so kept from having to use sign language. Some thought they could be taught to talk only if kept from using it and "in several schools children were mistreated, for example by having their hands tied behind their backs so they could not communicate by signing" (Wikipedia).

One of his students was Helen Keller. Keller couldn't see. So probably Bell didn't tie her hands behind her back.

Or otherwise mistreat her, for his letters to her tend to begin "My dear little Helen" (1888) and, when she stopped being little, "My dear Helen" (1917) and tend to end "Your loving friend" (1905).

More importantly (since a facility with endearments isn't incompatible with a readiness to tie people's hands behind their backs), her letters to him tend to end "Lovingly your friend" (1896) and, a little more coolly, "Affectionately your friend" (1905), and then warmly again, "Your loving friend" (1907).

A finger may be put on the wrists of both correspondents, to measure the strength of their pulses, in the digital collection of Bell papers at the Library of Congress. On the Bell papers home page, click on Series, then on General Correspondence. The Bell/Keller letters are only one series of a number of series.

Measure may also be taken of the great man. In the letter below, for example, he is conspiratorial and, one might say, is not only imagining the giggles of his correspondent but also giggly himself. In 1905 Bell was 58 and Keller was 25. Men and women aren't as giggly at these ages as when school children and the letter has a disingenuous sound to it.

"I wonder," Bell begins the letter, "whether you could keep a secret from teacher [Miss Sullivan], and from Mr. Macey [sic]?"

Bell to Keller, 1905

One wonders who besides Miss Sullivan, the person from whom the secret must be kept, would have "read" the letter to Keller. Miss Sullivan is indeed more or less directly addressed in it: "I hope sincerely that teacher and Mr. Macey [sic] may have a happy future together."

One wonders about the use of the word "sincerely": an unncessary emphasis, surely, unless Bell felt that his hope for Mr. Macy's happiness wasn't quite as sincere as it might have been.

Then wonders about his misspelling of Mr. Macy's name. Then about the generosity of his gift to Miss Sullivan: $194 in 1905 was equivalent, in 2011, to about $5000.

One wonders, in the end, if Bell, ending the letter "Your loving friend," was addressing his "dear Helen" at all. Or wasn't, disingenuously, addressing dear Miss Sullivan.

Britannica Still Rules, Despite Wikipedia

November 7, 2012 | Mary-Beth | Comments (0)


The Encyclopaedia Britannica stopped publishing its print version in March of 2012.  Although Wikipedia has become a popular place to look for information, according to the Wall Street Journal more than 500,000 people are still willing to pay to use the online version of Britannica.  The oldest English-language encyclopaedia still being produced, it enjoys a reputation for general excellence and authoritative references and illustrations for people, places, institutions and concepts. 


The Toronto Public Library subscribes to the online version and it includes the content of the print version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. There is a prominent link to Britannica Online for Kids from the home page and the guided tour is an great place to learning about this database.

Some interesting features include the biography of the day, this day in history, the Britannica blog and top news stories from the New York Times web version and BBC News. 

The Research Tools section includes primary sources, e-books, a video collection, media collection, a world atlas, notable quotations and a Spanish English dictionary.  Explore the history of topics from art to technology from thousands of years ago to the present day in the Timelines section.  World Data Analyst offers up-to-date statistical information for countries, and graphs and charts can be created with this tool.  Canada in Focus presents a wide-ranging collection of articles covering the most significant people, places, and history of Canada.

Once inside an article, Britannica provides links to expand you research to other journal articles, websites and additional readings.  Vocabulary help is provided when you double-click on a word for definitions and pronunciation.  Students will also like the citation feature at the bottom of articles which allow you to choose from four styles to cite the source in a bibliography.

Access the Encyclopedia Britannica from the A-Z List of All Databases on the Toronto Public Library's website.  Sign in using your library card and PIN number.

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