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Let's talk apps!

November 14, 2014 | Diana S. | Comments (0)

AppWordCloudIt may be the mobile information age, but we hope the public will still think of the library as the place to go for their information needs no matter what age they may be. It’s always a good idea to keep up with technological advancements and know what’s new out there. There are a lot of applications on the market for library users and librarians. The number of mobile apps for smartphones, iPads, tablet computers, and other mobile devices are steadily growing – people are using apps every day and all day.   

Flurry Analytics indicate that as of March 2014, users are spending 2 hours and 42 minutes per day on mobile devices. These 'mobile addicts’ launch apps at least 60 times per day. AppsIf the public is spending more time on their apps than ever before, then let’s talk app to them. Our own Toronto Public Library Website has a list of Mobile Apps for Library Services. For a list of recommended mobile apps for librarians, see 50 Great Mobile Apps for Librarians and its presentation. Here are some of the apps I like and found useful: 

Library of Congress – Virtual Tour 
This is a free app that gives a virtual tour of the Library of Congress as if you were there. The virtual tour includes: The Main Reading Room; The Great Hall; Exploring the Early Americas; Creating the United States; The Bible Collection; Thomas Jefferson’s Library; and Minerva.  

IELTS Skills            
This app looks at a range of topics in the areas of reading, listening, speaking and writing that will help develop skills needed to answer IELTS academic questions.  

Canadian Citizenship Test and Canadian Citizenship Test Exam 
Although not a substitute for the book Discover Canada, questions are based on the book and will help in the study and preparation for the Canadian Citizenship Test.  

Canadian Driving Tests 
This app is not free, but the website Driving Tests 101 will give an idea of what the app is like. You will learn the rules, signs, and law of the road.  

Aesop for Children 
This is a free app by the Library of Congress featuring an interactive version of the classic Aesop tales. There are over 140 stories accompanied with animated illustrations.  

RecordBooks Free 
This is one of the great ways to keep track of books without the need for pencil or paper.  

BookBuddy – Book Library Manager 
BookBuddy is a book management application that gives you access to your entire book catalog, anywhere. You can create an organized lis tof all the books in your library, allowing you to quickly and easily find any book. You can then share or loan out your books and keep track of them. You can create and save notes on each book or enter other information you would like. 

Goodreads – Book Recommendations and Reviews for Great Books and eBooks  
This app not only keeps track of what you’ve read, but what you want to read. You can see book reviews, rate books, review books, and recommend books. 

If you want to find out what other apps are out there, try the AppCrawler, an app discovery engine.   You AppCrawlrcan specify a specific device or all devices. The AppCrawler will let you know the hottest or most used app. You can find out what’s the hottest in book readers, rising stars in eBook readers, or hottest in books & reference.

Remember the buzz-worthy and catchy phrase, "There's an app for that," which Apple filed for a trademark? Yes. There is an app for finding apps – see 10 Apps for Finding Apps. Some of the apps include: 



MOOCs for Professional Development

September 15, 2014 | Susan | Comments (1)

Today, I’d like to share something amazing that has the potential to change the course of your career: Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs for short. 

MOOCs are courses, often offered by top universities, that are available online for anyone with Internet access to take free of charge. This means no hefty tuition fees and unlimited access to courses anytime, anywhere. Many MOOCs are very relevant to libraries and TPL, but before I share a few of my favourites, I thought I'd tell you a little bit more about them. 

An unlimited number of participants can register for a MOOC simultaneously and, in fact, very large numbers of people are often enrolled in any given MOOC. Lectures are pre-recorded and videos are made available, along with additional readings, homework, and quizzes. MOOCs even come with their very own virtual classrooms, interactive discussion forums where students, professors and teaching assistants can discuss course content, ask questions, and provide feedback and support. MOOCs have a start date, weekly deadlines, and an end date. Participants who complete all coursework on time and receive a passing grade earn a certificate, signed by the instructorhowever, many MOOCs are also archived so that those who missed a session can go back and learn at their own pace. 

There are many websites that provide access to MOOCs. A few good ones are: Coursera, EdX, and Stanford Online.

MOOC Word Cloud

If you took a look at the links above, you might have noticed that there are thousands of different courses being offered by hundreds of universities and professionals, in dozens of fields. Added up, that's a lot to choose from! If you're as excited about MOOCs as I am, or would just like to give one a try, remember to pay attention to the following factors before you get started:

  • course description
  • credentials of the instructor
  • affiliated institution,
  • prerequisite knowledge required to enroll
  • course syllabus
  • course duration
  • require workload (often listedas hours of work / week)

To get you started, I've selected a few MOOCs that I thought you might find interesting and subdivided them into four categories: Librarianship, Cataloguing, Management and Makerspaces. 


  • Changing the Global Course of Learning Open Knowledge, Stanford University. Topics covered include open source, open science, open data, open access, open education, and open learning. They are discussed from various perspectives, including librarianship, publishing, education, economics, politics and more. September 02, 2014 - December 12, 2014
  • Library Advocacy Unshushed Wendy Newman, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. Learn how to advocate for libraries so that they continue to thrive for generations to come. Archived.
  • New Librarianship Master Class R. David Lankes, Jill Hurst-Wahl, Megan Oakleaf and Jian Qin, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University. Wondering what the future holds for libraries? R. David Lankes thinks libraries should move away from books, catalogues and buildings and instead adopt the mission statement: “to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities". Archived.


  • Metadata: Organizing and Discovering Information Jeffrey Pomerantz, School of Information and Library Science, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Take an in-depth look at how information is organized for retrieval in libraries, databases and on the Web. July 14, 2014 – September 10, 2014. Archived.


  • An Introduction to Operations Management Christian Terwiesch, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The management skills that you need to run any operation, whether a restaurant, hospital, or library, are essentially the same. After this course, you'll look at the workplace with different eyes, detecting bottlenecks, identifying productivity wastes, and coming up with ideas to improve various processes. September 29, 2014 – November 24, 2014 


  • Introduction to Computational Arts Margaret Anne Schedel, Faculty of Music, State University of New York. Are you excited about the maker programs at TPL? Why not join the fun and learn some basic image and audio editing, including how to use Processing, Photoshop or Gimp, and Logic or Soundation. August 25, 2014 – December 19, 2014.
  • An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python Joe Warren, Scott Rixner, John Greiner, & Stephen Wong, Rice University. Learning to program in Python can be fun and easy with this group of hilarious and talented professors who know just how to make you fall in love with coding. September 15, 2014 to November 16, 2014.

So What Happened at the Information Services Team June Event?

July 10, 2014 | Mary-Beth | Comments (0)


P6260034Staff gathered at the June 26th IST event to hear what TPL’s Alan Harnum had to say about “Computational Thinking” -- how we effectively use computers and other technology to assist us in our work.  While we may sometimes feel the ability to use technology is most critical, Alan reminded us that it’s just as important to be able to think critically about the powers and limits of the technologies we use, and to conceive our goals in ways that computers can assist us in solving them.  Alan discussed the four stages of computational thinking: decomposition, pattern recognition, pattern generalization and algorithms design, and drew analogies to functions in the library, one of which was the reference interview.  To view his slides check

We also heard from Jennifer Peters, Teaching and Learning Technologies Librarian, & Ewan Gibson, New Media Services Technician, both from Seneca College Libraries.  They spoke about “Supporting Digital Literacies in the Library” and provided an overview of Seneca’s “Sandbox”.  The Sandbox offers instructional programs and physical spaces to support digital skill development.  It is a place where one can create things like animated and live action videos, digital stories, infographics, websites and podcasts.  Maker tools like Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, and MakeyMakey kits are also available. Librarians have worked with faculty and students to create an online learning environment.  Go to and explore the resources from their workshops and access video instructions, infographics and more.

For more by Jennifer see Check out her projects, videos, publications and more!

Pictured above: Jennifer Peters & Ewan Gibson

HootSuite! A Timesaver of a Website for Social Networkers.

May 10, 2014 | Bhowatson | Comments (0)

HootSuHootsuiteite is a great networking tool since it enables the amalgamation of various social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, MySpace, Foursquare, WordPress, Mixi and TrendSpottr.

 HootSuite's creator and CEO, Ryan Holmes used crowdsourcing to choose the new name of his company in 2009.  In 2012, OMERS recognized this Vancouver company's value and invested $20 million into this dashboard-based media management system.

The Obama Administration, Facebook and Virgin Group are a few of the organizations and companies that use HootSuite.   gives you an idea of how HootSuite can be used.


Have You Visited the Pew Research Center Lately?

April 26, 2014 | Richard | Comments (0)


The Pew Research Internet Project includes the kind of information that we like to cite in library reports and documents, notwithstanding its focus on the United States.

According to the website, "The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project aims to be an authoritative source on the evolution of the internet through surveys that examine how Americans use the internet and how their activities affect their lives."

Much of this information is applicable across the boarder here in Canada.

The website was listed as an Outstanding Choice Title in 2006.

While there have been some formatting changes in recent times, it is worth quoting the review in full:

"Outstanding Title! 44-0384 Internet Resource

Pew/Internet: Pew Internet & American Life Project.

[Visited Jun'06] Anyone searching for information on the digital divide, generational differences in Internet use, or how people use the Internet in everyday life will find this site essential. One of six projects from the nonpartisan think tank Pew Research Center, Pew/Internet hosts reports and data that "explore the impact of the Internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life." Content dates from 2000 to the present with frequent updates. Searching for reports is easy and may be accomplished through a pull-down menu listing broad categories (e.g. demographics, health, education, online activities and pursuits, and family, friends, and community) or a search box. The site is organized into seven sections that include Reports, Presentations, Data, Press, and Latest Trends. Each section offers summaries and access to full-text documents. The Reports section summarizes recent reports, e.g., "Finding Answers Online in Sickness and in Health" and "Internet's Growing Role in Life's Major Moments," and provides links to the full text in PDF file format. The Data section provides links to the survey datasets for the reports; Latest Trends provides links to charts and Excel files for "Who's Online" and "Internet Activities." The site offers a wealth of Internet usage information and analysis that differs from the plethora of marketing research sites online, and it provides vital data not covered by other entities such as the General Social Survey or the various public opinion polling agencies. Visitors may use the RSS feed or sign up for a newsletter. Content is also searchable through the main Pew Research Center site Summing Up: Highly recommended. All collections.

--S. Clerc, Southern Connecticut State University - Copyright 2006 American Library Association"
Looking at the website in 2014, we see a continuation of the same preoccupations, as many new and interesting reports, presentations, and data sets address issues pertinant to Pew's mission:

Summing Up: I would recommend bookmarking The Pew Research Internet Project website, and check it from time to time for developments important to our work.

Happy Birthday WWW

March 12, 2014 | julia | Comments (0)

                  ImagesIt is the year 1989. Bart Simpson made his television debut, Danielle Radcliffe was born and Sir Tim Berners-Lee proposed an "Information management" system that would allow people to access pages hosted on computers accross the globe.

On March 12, 2014 World Wide Web turns 25 years old. Amazing...

25 web superstars

25 years of Internet

Our uncommon shared future

December 19, 2013 | Richard | Comments (0)


And what's brought down . . . deposited books caught by a passing maelstrom

IMG_0413The move to the electronic forms of publication, and sometimes to the exclusion of print versions, is something many of us have understood to be coming. In May of 2012, I reported in Government Publication to go paperless by 2014, that the Canadian Government will stop producing print publications.

How will this new environment change the way we conduct research? Naturally we will be more dependent on computers, but we will also be more reliant on the institutions, public and private, that preserve and make accessible e-content, content that was once only available in print.

The preservation and access to electronic publications sounds straightforward, but it is not. Required are stable links to authoritative information available on various devices through a variety of platforms and applications using agreed upon standards over the varying life spans of various documents or publications.

Many of us are familiar with the experience of locating information on the internet in an idiosyncractic way. Google can be great, and so can much more specialized search engines like "MADGIC ", or even "Government of Canada Publications Search", but why can it still be difficult to find what you expect to be obvious? Such difficulties are larger than issues related to simple indexing. It could be that aggregation will eclipse indexing as the single largest challenge facing our new information ecology. In fact, it may be time to begin re-defining the very term publication.


For an expert summary and detailed discussion of the evolving digital landscape, I can highly recommend, Facing Change: A Perspective on Government Publications Services in Canadian Academic Libraries in the Internet Age, prepared by Sherry Smugler for the American Library Association. Ms Smugler began her career at the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library and subsequently became a Government Publications and Reference Librarian at the University of Toronto's Robart's Library. Facing Change should be of interest to anyone who deals with the production, use, and administration of government information, not just to those in academe.

The report emphasises the need for co-ordinated approaches to addressing the complex issues surrounding the provision of government documents online in an era of diminishing resources. The following example illustrates 'why'.  Library and Archives Canada (LAC), charged with preserving our history and making it available, announced last year the elimination of 210 positions, including government documents specialists, and cuts to digitization staff by 50%.

The future looks daunting. Currently, less than 1% of LAC holding's appear to be digitized. By one account, provided by the Canadian Associaton of University Teachers (CAUT) "it will take LAC 300-700 years to digitize its pre-2004 holdings". Computers will advance, but most of the material still appears on pages of printed type. Here we are only talking about the historical record. Not mentioned are subsequent post-2004 holdings.


One Facing Change conclusion: the "best way forward may include a range of governmental and non-governmental organizations and insitutions with a stake in the creation, preservation, organization and dissemination of government information". Some of the many current stakeholders in this collective effort are listed in Smugler's report:

CIC-Google Government Documents Project
Depository Services Program (Canada)
Digital National Security Archive (ProQuest)
Digitization Projects Registry (US)
Early Canadiana Online
Government of Canada Web Archive
HathiTrust Digital Library
Internet Archive
Library and Archives Canada
Library of Congress Web Archiving
National Security Archive
Parliament of Canada
Save Library and Archives Canada (CAUT)
Statistics Canada
University of Toronto Academic Librarians

To this list, we may also want to include, the TPL Digital Archive and Our Digital World.

And what of future stakeholders? Who will they be? And how will they organize? Challenges of changing enivironments make collaboration difficult but even more essential. As Smugler writes, a "healthy democracy thrives on open, free, easy access to information produced by its government". 




Here is an historical question for decade's end: will 2014, the year that Canadian publications transitioned from paper to bytes, and stopped producing hard copy in print, be viewed as a 'signpost' of progress in our democracy?

Given print's illustrious 500+ year history, who would have predicted, even a decade ago, the swift fulfillment of the antitypes?

Let's hope we can navigate in this new environment, and move more confidently toward the common goal of preserving and providing access to shared government publications, in whatever form they take, for the generations of current and future researchers.

Below is a picture of the Toronto Reference Library's extensive collection of The Canada Year Book, a work that has been published for over 140 years, and considered by many as the government's flagship publication (2). It contains statistical information that documents the economic, demographic, and social life of Canada. According to an announcement posted in the Daily, Statistics Canada "will continue through other means to keep Canadians informed about their social and economic life". The 2012 issue is the first item on the far right pictured below, and the last to be published for the foreseeable future.



(1)  Discussions about types and Set4antitypes are normally part of biblical exegesis, but For Frye, the field of typology* can also have more secular applications. Typology leads to a theory of historical process, he says, pointing to "future events that are often thought of as transcending time, so that they contain a vertical lift as well as a horizontal move forward', much like waking up from certain types of dreams, "when we wake up from sleep, one world is simply abolished and replaced by another".  This sounds familiar enough.

*Typology should not be confused with typography, the art of letterpress printing, Wink.

 (2) For electronic versions of past issues of The Canada Year Book, click here.


If you have read to this point, you may also be interested in this earlier post.

Maker Faire

September 24, 2013 | Niki | Comments (1)


“I smell something burning.”

“Don’t worry it’s just my hair” I say as I reach for the wrong end of the soldering iron...



Well, that was awesome was the title of Maker Faire post on Monday and it really was!  Over 4000 people packed Wychwood Barns Sept 21 & 22 for Toronto Mini Maker Faire 2013.  The Faire is “where people show what they are making, share what they are learning, and come play with robots, 3D printing, laser cutting and more,” reads the Toronto event’s website

Icecream1It was great fun just to wander around. I learned how to solder a circuit and made my official soldering badge despite a minor mishap with the iron.  In order to soothe my pain (and pride) I dashed to the Ice Volcano ice cream makers and bought a delicious, cold, steamy cup of coffee ice cream  to wrap my hand around.   Wandering through the 3D printers I pondered the plethora of Yoda busts that were on display.  Are all 3D printer owners required to make Yoda in lime green? 


Angellamackey_SS12_swift_lights_grande-200x300One of my favorite stops was the Vega X Bike Lights.   Social Body Lab has come up with  chic, wearable bicycle lights for the fashionista in us.  The Social Body Lab is an OCAD research group that incorporates technology into clothing on a meaningful level and are at the centre of the wearables movement in Toronto.


Fashion at the low-tech end was evident in the number of T-shirts available.  I particularly adored the Kitchen Library T-shirt.   The Tool Library crowd-sourced funding for a second spot aNew_logond makerspace on the Danforth combined with a new Kitchen Library.  The Tool Library loans tools for your personal use like a book library. They do Holds but they charge $5.00 if the tools  are not picked up! Both are projects of the Institute for a Resource Based-Economy IFRE that promotes the  Sharing Economy, also known as Collaborative Consumption.  They aim to reduce consumption by sharing resources (examples include sharing cars (Zipcar / Car2Go), holiday accommodation (Air BnB / Couchsurfing) and office spaces such as the Centre for Social Innovation.) 


Many big and small projects were on display:  the Twitter Typewriter, MakerKids toy hacking booth, lock-picking methods, etc.  Ray Feraday, a teacher of autistic children, wanted to give functionally non-verbal children a voice.  He was inspired by a Makey Makey video of a man playing music on his dogs to develop a programmable taking board.




_Finally the talks.   Making and 3D  printing is often  called the New Industrial RevolutionHod Lipson,  the Director of Cornell's Creative Machines Lab, talked convincingly on the new directions 3D printing will take us.  Hod has worked  on self-aware and self-replicating robots, food printing, and bio-printing.  His new book  Fabricated : the new world of 3D printing is available at the library. 


For a slightly more techy view of the Maker Faire check out Greg Astill's blog at the Digital Design Studio.


And my soldering badge:

I want you to be honest.  Isn't mine (left side) better than Greg's (right side)? 










When Everything is Online, Why Come to the Library At All?

August 22, 2013 | Susan | Comments (0)

I recently came across a short TEDx Talk by Chrystie Hill, Community Services Director for OCLC's WebJunction, and author of Inside, Outside, and Online: Building Your Library Community. In it, she asks the audience to think about that all-too familiar question, "When everything is online, why come to the library at all?"

Her talk is just under 13 minutes long, but touches on a wide range of libraries and their services all over the world, including:

  • YOUmedia Lab in Chicago, a learning space that helps teens build their skills and create digital projects, froms songs to videos to photography to podcasts
  • Veracruz, Mexico, where buses deliver technology and education to remote rural communities 
  • Aarhus, Denmark, in which the practice of participatory democracy (aka community input) generates a new model for a public "mediascape" library that focuses on networked, open spaces, and collaboration. 

Ultimately, she says, the library of the future is not about storing books. What is it, then? Well, she says, "we get to decide, we get to do what we want, and everything is allowed."

Although her talk is over a year old now, it was new to me, and I found it informative and inspiring. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out below:


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