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March 25, 2013 | Ranald | Comments (0)


FBI Records: the Vault is one of the free reference websites on the 2012 list "Best free reference websites" compiled by a RUSA committee and published in the fall 2012 issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly .

The site serves, according to the notes on its entry in the list, "as an online 'vault' to thousands of declassified FBI documents and spans many decades. Visitors can search or browse the collection to find digital copies of scanned FBI files including memos, reports and other materials."

There are categories for browsing, e.g. "gangster era," "unexplained phenomenon [sic]," "violent crime"; and, for browsers with quieter tastes, "administrative policy procedures" and "bureau personnel."

Focused researchers can use the site search window and unearth not only reports on e.g. Brecht ("the author of an 'educational play'", a lengthy summary of which follows, interesting to those bored with the apolitical summaries offered by the Coles Notes of the academic world) but also reports on others in which his name figures (Joseph Losey was "anxious" to direct a play by Brecht).

But no matter how serious a visitor one is it is impossible to steer completely clear of "titillating tidbits" such as the Washington Post had been saying, an FBI report drily states, were contained in the files on Rock Hudson's divorced wife's whereabouts.

"Mr. Hudson made a telephone call in the presence of the SAs [?], FBI, and confirmed that his divorced wife is reported to be in Europe".

Having steered into the middle of such tidbits, one can find oneself unwilling to steer clear of them too quickly.

The FBI became briefly involved when the law firm representing Robin Gibb's wife in a divorce received the alarming telegram below. But the "investigation did not go beyond the initial stages as the law firm did not wish to pursue the matter." (FBI Records) The titillation is brief and, one's willpower not too enervated by it, one is able to return to soberer research.



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.






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!

Some of the Best Free Web Sites

November 21, 2011 | Susan | Comments (1) is a comprehensive directory of hundreds of thousands of acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms. Browse by category (e.g., Medical) and refine by sub-category (e.g., Hospitals), or search using one of three options (look for the drop-down arrow in the search box): word to abbreviation, abbreviation to word, or word in definition. The “International” category is multilingual, and includes entries in French, Hebrew, Spanish, and other languages. This is a handy ready reference resource for a wide range of users and subject areas.


Wordnik: All the Words

Wordnik is like the digital love-child of the English dictionary and the social network. It’s a little like social networking for words, and it’s definitely catnip for logophiles. Look up a word in Wordnik to find its definition from traditional sources, like the American Heritage Dictionary, and non-traditional ones, like Princeton’s lexical database WordNet. On the same results page, Wordnik displays a veritable smorgasbord of linguistic curiosities and delights, such as: an example sentence, synonyms, antonyms, contextually-related words, etymology, statistics about frequency and patterns of use, an audio pronunciation, a translator, images from Flickr, real-time mentions on Twitter, user-generated comments, tags, and all manner of liking and linking options. This is a free resource, but registration is required for users who want to contribute information, such as their own recorded pronunciations, or generate their own lists, such as Scrabble Word of the Day.

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