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Happy 20th Birthday, Lillian H. Smith Branch!

October 24, 2015 | Sarah | Comments (0)

Actually, the real Lillian H. Smith (1887-1983) would be turning 128 this year, but we celebrated two decades of Lillian H. Smith branch at 239 College Street on Saturday, October 17.

It was a fun and festive day, with good vibes travelling over all five floors of the library. Many people came for the Book Sale.


And stayed to marvel at the 3D printer demonstration (can you spot the Deathly Hallows badges in the background?).

3D printed bunnies

Alice in Wonderland was on hand.

Alice and flamingo

And children and families enjoyed watching the puppet show Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock.

Puppet Show

Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock

Christina Wong launched her Story Project, and of course there was cake!

The Cake!

We also welcomed special guests Peter Sutherland and Paul Oberst from the office of Phillip H. Carter, architect, and Ludzer Vandermolen, sculptor.

Sculptor and Judith
Ludzer and Paul with griffin Judith

Ludzer brought us some fascinating photographs from his private collection, taken during the design and construction of the griffin sculptures. I promise to add them to a blog post in the near future. Thanks for celebrating with us!


Q&A with Lillian H. Smith's Digital Storyteller Christina Wong

October 16, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (6)

Boys and Girls House
Photo Credit: Toronto Public Library Digital Archive; Boys and Girls House (1922-1963), St. George St., w. side, between College & Russell Sts.

Christina Wong, Toronto Public Library staff, is passionate about collecting stories. City landmarks may change over time, but the spirit of a place is made boundless by its memories. To honour the 20th anniversary of Lillian H. Smith Branch, Wong has launched the Story Project: tales that commemorate the Boys and Girls House, the people who loved it, the physical library collection, and how it all fits together in the Kensington Chinatown community. See the Story Project link here.   

Christina Wong in front of Lillian H. Smith Branch
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Beddall/Metro News

What sparked the story project?

I've always been interested in people's stories -  both my MA and PhD involved a lot of oral interviews. And a lot of my research involves story collecting (and mapping). In London (UK), I worked on three oral history projects that looked at the British Chinese culture; the residents of Cazenove Road; and more recently, the changes of the South Bank. When the call went out asking for staff proposals, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to take what I learned from my own research and my past projects and apply it to a more local context.

Have you discovered anything surprising about Lillian H. Smith Branch or its surrounding community?

Although I was told this during a Jane's Walk (led by Daniel Rotsztain and Barbara Myrvold) earlier this year, it has to be finding out that there are someone's ashes in the foundation of the building! 

Why is it important to preserve the memories of a place?

The city is changing so quickly that sometimes we forget what used to be in its place. Documenting these changes is a way of making sure we don't forget.

Everybody has a story to tell.  What other platforms can Torontonians use to share theirs?

I became very excited when I found out that the city was finally getting its own museum: Myseum of Toronto. Although it's not an actual brick and mortar kind of place, Myseum is a site where Torontonians can contribute their stories, memories, artifacts. I believe they also have pop-up events happening throughout the city, so people can contribute that way as well. 

Not Toronto-specific, but another pretty cool project is Tale of a Town run by the folks of Fixt Point Theatre. They have a storymobile that is travelling across the country recording stories on the main street of various cities.

What message would you have for Lillian H. Smith today?

Thank you.  Xiè xie.  Dòjeh.  Cảm ơn.  Merci.  Gracias.  Obrigado.  Gomawo.  

Responsible Consumerism Starts Young

September 26, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (2)

headless mannequins
Photo Credit: Zohar Manor-Abel on a CC License

There is a cost associated with everything, from our fashion sense to our appetite.

The Globe and Mail's Nathalie Atkinson wrote about a worthwhile subject in kids’ books: responsible consumerismShe speaks mainly about the fashion business, but extends the idea of socially conscious kids’ books to food production as well. 

These larger discussions about where food is coming from or how our clothing is actually being made all begin with a basic understanding of industry. 

Atkinson says:

“[…] To understand what it means when scientific research tells us that microfibres are accumulating on shorelines, or that hormone-disrupting chemicals in imported clothes need to be banned, there first needs to be a basic understanding of how textile manufacturing works, of the supply-chain narrative. That goes for adults just as much as the under-10 set.”

She’s absolutely right.

super market sign
Photo Credit: Stathis Stavrianos on a CC License

I once became completely absorbed in a short documentary on “how potato chips are made.”  Something about the familiar subject matter was oddly relaxing and engaging at the same time.  It was a reminder of the curiosity I held as a kid, wondering about where things came from, versus merely accepting my surroundings.  A good equivalent might be the Food Network show Food Factory, which is a behind-the-scenes of modern food production.

The little potato chip flick sparked my memory of the 1982 movie Koyaanisqatsi.  High speed shots of machines, the production of denim for example, were juxtaposed with natural scenes.  This movie wanted to show how out of balance with nature people have become.  This may be true, but technology and modernity are also our world.  Kids can’t avoid the narrative of production, even in all of its complexity.

See below to find related books for young people.

The question of clothing:

Mr. Frank by Irene Luxbacher Where Did My Clothes Come From?  by Christine Butterworth Fixing Fashion by Michael Lavergne

The Lowdown on Denim by Tanya Lloyd Kyi The Biography of Wool by Carrie Gleason Consumer_thetruecostoffashion 

1.  Mr. Frank by Irene Luxbacher / 2.  Where Did My Clothes Come From? by Christine Butterworth 3. Fixing Fashion:  Rethinking the Way We Make, Market and Buy Our Clothes by Michael Lavergne / 4.  The Lowdown on Denim by Tanya Lloyd Kyi / 5.  The Biography of Wool by Carrie Gleason / 6.  The True Cost of Fashion:  How to Shop to Change the World by Louise Spilsbury

Food production around the globe:

How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?  by Christine Butterworth To Market, To Market by Nikki McClure Who Wants Pizza? by Jan Thornhill 

Consumer_reducingyourfootprint Consumer_what'sforlunch Consumer_chewonthis

1.  How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? by Christine Butterworth / 2.  To Market, To Market by Nikki McClure / 3.  Who Wants Pizza?  The Kids' Guide to the History, Science & Culture of FOOD by Jan Thornhill / 4.  Reducing Your Footprint:  Farming, Cooking, and Eating for a Healthy Planet by Ellen Rodger / 5.  What's For Lunch?  How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World by Andrea Curtis / 6.  Chew on This:  Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food by Eric Schlosser 

Battle of the Branches - Pokémon Edition

August 28, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (0)

Pokemon Logo

If you went to school in the 90’s, you would remember that almost every child went through a Pokémon, Tamagotchi or Pogs craze. Even though some of these fads have faded, Pikachu remains a common household word. Pokémon continues to capture the attention of many kids and adults today. 

Some of our readers might remember that Pokémon was recently in the news. Indeed, the Pokémon World Championships 2015 and the Pokémon Trading Card Game World Championships were just held this past weekend in Boston, Massachusetts.

Pokémon Ranger Guardian Signs
A Pokémon Game for Nintendo DS

In honour of the world championships and the many Pokémon cards collected by children across Toronto, Deer Park and Northern District branches will host a Pokémon tournament for avid fans. The top three winners of Northern District Branch's in-house tournament will face the top three of Deer Park Branch's.

The tournament will be aimed at kids and teens aged 6-14 years of age. All participants must bring their own Pokémon decks.

Northern District Branch's in-house tournament will be held on Wednesday September 2nd from 2-3 pm. This tournament will be mediated by Mind Games Café.

Deer Park Branch's in-house tournament will be held on Wednesday September 2nd from 3:30-5 pm. This tournament will be mediated by 401 Games.

The final showdown will be held on Wednesday September 9th from 5-6 pm at Northern District Branch. Anyone is welcome to come out and watch the epicness unfold! Who shall be crowned Pokémaster of all?!

Pokémon party and kids playing
Pokémon fans at a TD Summer Reading Club Program, Northern District Branch

Remember that Toronto Public Library has many graphic books, comics, and manga. From Pokémon to Yu Gi Oh to Cardcaptor Sakura, you can revisit your childhood or discover a whole new world at your local branch!

Blog post provided by Northern District Branch

Junior Orchardviewers Talent Show at Northern District Branch

July 29, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (0)

Want to show off your child’s secret talent?  Why not register for the Junior Orchardviewers Talent Show at Northern District Branch this summer?

Whether your child is an amazing singer or can juggle exceptionally well, consider asking him/her to perform at the library.  Come show off their talent in music, singing, dancing, aerobics, or anything they like! 

And of course, if they would rather not perform in front of others, come out and watch your fantastic fellow Torontonians perform.

Monday August 17, 2015 


Ages 6-12

Rm. 200


Registration is required.  Please call Northern District Branch at 416-393-7610 by August 12 to register.

Can’t make it to this talent show?  Immerse your kids in a few books about tough competitions: 

The Berenstain Bears and the Talent Show The Talent Show The Talent Show   Tous Les Oeufs Dans Le Meme Panier Franco et Santo a Pepino

1.  The Berenstain Bears and the Talent Show by Stan Berenstain

2.  The Talent Show by Dan Gutman

3.  The Talent Show by Jo Hodgkinson

4.  Tous Les Oeufs Dans le Même Panier par Mireille Messier

5.  Franco et Santo à Pépino par Sylvia De Angelis

Blog post provided by Northern District Branch

Lillian H. Smith library 20th Anniversary Story Project

July 24, 2015 | Sarah | Comments (1)

Lillian H. Smith branch
photo: Christina Wong

 Do you remember going to the Boys and Girls House, either before 1964 or after? Or the gas station and car park - the site that the Lillian H. Smith branch is built on? Were you at the opening of the library? Have you lived in the Kensington-China Town neighbourhood for a long time and witnessed the changes? Whether you're a long-time resident, or not, we want to hear from you.

To coincide with library's 20th anniversary in October 2015, the Lillian H. Smith Story Project is inviting the public to share their memories and photos of the library and neighbourhood. These memories will be put up on a dedicated website that will be launched in October.

This project encourages residents to become local historians and contribute to an ongoing scheme to record and preserve the evolving stories of both the Lillian H. Smith branch and the community it serves.

At the moment there are three ways to contribute to the project:

1. Interview
Book a time and chat with us in person at 239 College Street:
Wednesdays July 29, August 5, 12, 6-8pm
Saturday August 8, 12-2pm
Please call 416-393-7746 to book an appointment.

2. Analog
Submit your memories as text or images to the dedicated box on the main floor of the library.

3. Electronic
E-mail your memories to

We look forward to hearing from you!

For more information, please contact Christina at

All We Are Saying is Give Clowns a Chance

July 15, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (0)

Allan Turner headshot
Photo Credit: Allan Turner

Clowns don't need make-up to make you smile (but sometimes a little bit doesn't hurt.) Clowning stems from within and anyone can learn.

Get in touch with your inner performer at Lillian H. Smith Branch. We invite kids ages 8-12 to participate in clowning games, drama exercises, silliness and improv. Let Professional Clown Allan Turner lead the way. See details here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

2pm - 3:30pm

Allan Turner writes, directs, teaches, acts, improvises and is just a generally funny guy, with credentials (translation: professional funny man.) His clown alias is Mullet, the zombie clown. Your child's introduction to clowning is safe in his hands, which won't be holding cotton candy or a water gun.

A lot of kids find clowns scary. Maybe it's one bad experience, like a clown who wanted to eat a child's popcorn at the Exhibition.  "Back off, clown!  I am not giving any popcorn to you." Maybe you just don't feel like laughing. However, clowning is a dramatic art form. Kids can learn a lot from it - training a growing brain to react to situations with wit and humour is a wonderful thing.  

The clown that made you cry at a birthday party may not be the same clown that can make you think or laugh. Some argue that laughter is the best medicine. Therapeutic clowns can barely be mentioned without a Patch Adams reference. Clowns Without Borders travels to conflict zones and refugee camps with the aim of providing psychological relief to sufferers, especially children. Isn't that an amazing mission?

Photo Credit: Derek Key on a CC License

Oh and by the way, Cirque du Soleil is hiring! We can't promise that anyone would pass this clown audition after completing our workshop, but Cirque qualifications include: "charisma and excellent stage presence," "emotional projection" and "a very original character." That's a tall order and a testament to the clowning profession.    

If you and the kids are looking for something different to try this summer, why not give clowning a go? Don a red nose and PLAY!  You've got nothing to lose and a new character to gain.

Friluftsliv! Celebrate Summer with the "Open Air Life"

June 26, 2015 | Sarah | Comments (0)

Did you ever discover the perfect word for something you didn't know you needed to describe? Well, I found one today while combing through the shelves at Lillian H. Smith Branch: Friluftsliv is a Norwegian word that roughly translates as "open air life." In practical terms, it means "get outside and enjoy nature!" which is a perfect command now that summer is officially here.

The term was originally coined by playwright Henrik Ibsen in 1859, and its use was strengthened by philosopher Arne Naess, credited with founding the deep ecology movement of the late 20th century.

Norwegians exercise their friluftsliv beliefs by going on hikes, fishing, canoeing, camping (and in winter, cross-country skiing), with family and friends. Sound familiar? In Canada, we have the same traditions, and a multitude of parks, but we don't have quite as free access to nature. Norway's law of allemannsrett protects peoples' rights to enter and pass through all wilderness, no matter who owns the land.

The one book in our library that specifically talks about this philosophy is Nature First: Outdoor Life the Friluftsliv Way, edited by McMaster professor Bob Henderson and Norwegian professor and outdoor educator Nils Vikander.

Nature First Outdoor Life the Friluftsliv Way
 A few more books that I think embody the spirit of friluftsliv are:

The Perfection of the Morning: An Apprenticeship in Nature
The Perfection of the Morning: An Apprenticeship in Nature, by Sharon Butala

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard


Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life

Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life, by Patrice Vecchione, available as an ebook

For more recommendations about getting outside this summer, check out these amazing blog posts about hiking in and around Toronto, and the benefits of outdoor play for children

Summer Awakens the Wandering Traveller

See you at the Playground

Friluftsliv forever! 

Are You a Re-Reader?

June 19, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (10)

Dog and girl reading in bed
Photo Credit: Jamelah E. on a CC License

Some books demand a rereading. What books have you met that you need to see again? What book is so dear to you that it would never wind up at your garage sale?  

Author and columnist Stephen Marche hits the nail on the head when he says that "You can be acquaintances with many books, and friends with a few, but family with only one or two." He coined the clever term centireading: reading a book ONE HUNDRED times!  Marche literally read William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" 100 times for his dissertation at the University of Toronto and P.G. Wodehouse's "The Inimitable Jeeves" 100 times, purely for comfort. A special thing happens when you come to know a book so intimately that the clichés sound natural.

Folded page of a book
Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski on a CC License

There are passages that will always resonate with you, which might explain why re-readers tend to keep books near, like good friends. Perhaps they even dog-ear their treasures as a sign of love and to keep words readily available, rather than an act of book abuse.  

I have met many patrons who returned to the library after a long hiatus, simply to find a book they remember fondly from the past.

Maybe the act of rereading germinates in youth. It's not uncommon for little ones to request the same bedtime story over and over and over again. Why do we stop? Join the ranks of adults who share the wonderful lessons they learn from rereading books from childhood. Just as many quality re-readables are from high school.

I'm not going to provide a quiz on how you rate as a re-reader, but if this topic interests you, take a look at:

The Reading Promise:  My father and the Books We Shared Practical Classics:  50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven't Touched Since High School The Child That Books Built:  A Life in Reading Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book On Rereading

1. The Reading Promise:  My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma / 2. Practical Classics:  50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven't Touched Since High School by Kevin Smokler / 3. The Child That Books Built by Francis Spufford / 4. Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow / 5. On Rereading by Patricia Ann Meyer Spacks

A teeny tiny snapshot of commonly reread books, which is very tricky to narrow down:

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee 

1984 by George Orwell

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

The Little Prince by Antoine de-Saint Exupéry

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

What books would you add to the list above? I knew that I could only scratch the surface.

Stack of books
Photo Credit: Porsche Brosseau on a CC License

Literary Speed Dating has Arrived at Your Local Library!

May 28, 2015 | Nancy-Anne | Comments (4)

heart hands
Photo courtesy of Stokpic on a CC License.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept our love lives won’t be like the romances in the fictional stories we’ve read.

Not everyone has a childhood friend or a high school sweetheart who conveniently becomes “the one.” Not everyone knows a firefighter who is single and looking. Not everyone meets a mysterious writer who moves to the city.

In reality, meeting people can be daunting, and finding love can be difficult.

Now imagine being in a room. This room is filled with book lovers. Everyone is talking about books they’ve read, books they’re reading, and books they’d like to read. Every person in this room is also (conveniently) single and looking. But who is organizing this event? Your local library, that's who.

On Friday, June 12, 2015, the Lillian H. Smith branch (located on College St., one block east of Spadina Ave.) will be hosting its first literary speed dating event. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and will run for two hours. Participants will be divided into two groups: people who are 20 to 34 and people who are 35 and up. All you have to do is call 416-393-7746 or drop by the branch to register, and then bring your favourite book to the event to discuss with your potential dates. No questionnaire, no profile, and no photo(shop) required.

When you arrive at the event, you’ll receive a temporary email address and a literary alias for the evening (it's up to you whether you'd like to give your real name to anyone during the event). Throughout the evening you’ll have a chance to nibble on some light refreshments, and when the event starts, you’ll have five minutes to chat with each person in the room before partnering with someone new. At the end of the night, you can exchange your email with potential dates.

What are you waiting for?

Take a chance. Make the call. See where this love story may lead you.

Man and woman kissing on beach
Photo courtesy of Eleazar on a CC License.

Text by Frances Gao

Lillian H. Smith library, in the heart of the Discovery District, Chinatown and Kensington Market, is a district branch of Toronto Public Library. Learn more about your local library & community, and while you're at it, drop us a comment. If you are visiting us in person, look for the bronze gryphons guarding our door.