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November 2010

Listening to the Weather with Naxos Music Library

November 30, 2010 | Ted | Comments (0)

Nml_logoOutside, it's a cold, damp, and very grey day.  Inside, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 effectively reflects the mood of this oppressive late November weather.  Fortunately, if I've had enough pathos and drama after the devastating 22-minute first movement, I can easily find something less overwrought from the over 48,000 CDs available instantly from the Naxos Music Library.

The Naxos Music Library (NML) is an online music streaming service that Toronto Public Library recently added to its digital collection.  All you need to access this vast catalogue of music is a computer with an Internet connection and a library card.  The collection is primarily Classical music but the genres list also includes: Jazz, World, Rock & Pop, Relaxation, Gospel, Folk, Blues, Nostalgia, Spoken Word, and Chinese Music.

Try it yourself right now (you'll need your library card number to login) or simply search for "naxos" in the library's search box and NML will be the first result.  Once connected to NML search or browse for a work, select the tracks you'd like to hear and then click 'play selections' to launch the music player.  Any modern web browser (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer) and a current version of Adobe Flash is required for Mac & PC.

The NML also allows you to create and save your own playlists so you can curate personal mixes to enjoy and even share with others using the export/import feature.  This is a perfect solution for music teachers who want to create and share a listening list with students.  For detailed help with playlists, view the User Guide.

Another notable feature for music educators and students is the NML "Study Area" with a "music listening curriculum designed to support K-12 music curriculums" and Graded Music Exam Playlists in the Resources section.  You'll also find work analysis, a glossary, pronunciation guide, and more.

A set of headphones or decent pair of speakers is highly recommended, especially if you're using a laptop.  The sound quality is described as "Near-CD" (64kbps for you techies) and really is quite good for casual listening.  Of course, audiophiles can still borrow from TPL's large selection of CDs.

Feel free to drop in and ask about NML at our 2nd floor reference desk for a demonstration or to get help setting up a playlist account (this account also gives you free streaming access using the iPhone/iPod touch app!).

Holiday Shopping Help

November 29, 2010 | Frances | Comments (0)

The holiday season is fast approaching and I haven't done much shopping yet. I plan to check prices and product availability online before I hit the stores. And I may even buy some online. More and more Canadians are doing that to save wear and tear on our nerves and time.

The Toronto Public Library website has some websites to help you with your shopping. Here are a few choice ones.

Canada Post Comparison Shopper

Find the hottest deals and the best places to shop. Includes major retailers: Sears, Canadian Tire, Mountain Equipment Co-op, The Source, etc. Compare American & Canadian prices including import fees.

A shopping website that analyzes bargains to see if they are good prices. Price breakdown compares shipping costs. Comparison of Canadian and American prices. Create price alerts for products.

Guide to discount shopping, outlets and warehouse sales in Ontario. Search by keyword or browse by category.

Canadian Toy Testing Council

This is an old favourite of mine. The non-profit council publishes the Toy Report every year and steers parents and other toy buyers to the best toys and games. It includes a "best books" list too.

Consumer Reports

Check out our previous post about reading this online. Library card is required.

For more websites, see the TPL website - Recommended Websites. You can use the limiters on the left to refine your search.

Happy holidays!


Consumer Reports Magazine

November 24, 2010 | Frances | Comments (0)

Need to replace your computer printer or dishwasher? Buying holiday gifts and want product reviews? Toronto Public Library now subscribes to the Consumer Reports website. Very neat - you can read the current issue or search for reviews and test results from previous issues from your home or branch computer. This website includes Canada Extra (Canadian ratings). Library card required.

Lillian H. Smith branch has decided to keep paper copies of the magazine for most recent 12 months only. These are still shelved beside the Information Desk (2nd floor). If you need help with Consumer Reports Online or any other online resource, ask staff for help. We are ready and waiting to help you!


Reading in the dark

November 16, 2010 | Ted | Comments (2)

Okay, it isn't really that dark but it has been noticeably dimmer in the evening at our library lately, and not just because of the time change.  The large sci-fi themed light fixture that usually hovers over the main foyer of the branch has been earth bound for much of the last few days in order for repairs to be made to the complex electronic modules inside.  We thought we'd take advantage of this opportunity to share a look under the hood of Lillian's own flying saucer.  We hope to see it back overhead by the end of the week, glowing softly to help brighten these dark autumn evenings.

Saucer light

I believe staff have already made just about every light-bulb-changing joke you can imagine but have a go in the comments if you've got a bright idea for a good punchline.

We Went Shopping for Science Fiction and Fantasy

November 16, 2010 | Frances | Comments (0)

We just got about 100 new SF and fantasy novels from a raft of writers - Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Lackey, Pierce, Pratchett, Ringo, Willis and more. Thanks to the staff from the Merril Collection who did our shopping, we plugged gaps in series and replaced classics.

For the next week or so, the new paperbacks are on the display shelves on the 2nd floor beside the east side elevator. Come check them out!

Some of you found our new mysteries and general fiction. The rest are now waiting for you on the display cubes in the ground floor atrium. Still lots of good ones!

For every book a song?

November 15, 2010 | Sarah | Comments (0)

I don't know if I'm just weird, but once in a while I find that there's an eerie connection between what I'm listening to, and what I'm reading. When this happens, It's almost as if a particular song or album fits perfectly as the soundtrack to a book. One example I can think of from years ago is when I was out west, living in Lake Louise, and reading Barbara Gowdy's The White Bone.  White bone

This book is definitely one of my all-time favourites. Barbara Gowdy tells the story of an elephant family from the animals' points of view.  She-Spurns, also know as Mud, has recently been adopted into the She-S group, but has trouble fitting in. When faced with the double threat of a parched land and human poachers, the She-S's must heed Mud's visions, and try to find the "Safe Place," which legend says is marked by the bone of a baby elephant.

I happened to be listening to Beck's album Mutations a lot. Something about Mud's lonely and, at times, frightening journey to find the mythic Safe Place seemed to mesh with Beck's lyrics. Especially the song We Live Again: "These withered hands have dug for a dream, sifted through sand and leftover nightmares." The gentle sway of the music, lullaby-like, was evocative of a line of elephants walking through the drought-stricken landscape of the story.

Book Review: Mountain Girl River Girl by Ting-Xing Ye

November 13, 2010 | Pat | Comments (1)



    Mountain Girl River Girl concerns the lives of two girls with very different backgrounds who nevertheless have a few things in common.  They have both grown up in the country, both come from poor families, and both are determined to seek a better life by leaving for the city and the prospect of a city job and a better life. 

  Shui-Lian, a coolie's daughter has grown up on her familys' boat on a tributary of the mighty Yangtze.  With their father dead the family struggles to make a living, but when her mother and older brother arrange a marriage to a man 15 years her senior Shui-Lian sneaks off and heads east.

    Pan-Pan leaves her family with their blessings, and a small sum of painstakingly saved cash to begin her new life.  However despite her caution she soon loses everything to a fast moving thief and finds herself relying on complete strangers for even the most basic necessities.

    For the first part of this novel, it's easy to imagine the story is set 100 years ago as the lives of many people out in the country have not changed much, and life is still very hard.  However in the course of their journey in search of a better life, they soon learn that modernity doesn't necessarily mean a significantly better station in life.  The two of them face horrific working conditions, sexual exploitation, and long dangerous hours working for meagre wages.   

   Ting-xing Ye has painted an unflinching picture of the price many ordinary Chinese pay for all the wealth power and influence modern China wields in the world. 

We Went Shopping for Paperbacks!

November 10, 2010 | Frances | Comments (1)

We got a new batch of paperbacks, fresh from the bookstore. Bestsellers, award-winners, mysteries, and more. Check out our selection on the second floor display shelves besisde the east elevator.

It is always great to open a fresh unread book. Be the first to take them home!

Shape Up At This Neighbourhood Parkette!

November 8, 2010 | Ted | Comments (1)

Photo If you've walked down Cecil Street sometime over the last couple months you probably noticed something a little out of the ordinary.  The playground on the corner of Cecil & Huron has recently undergone a makeover; colourful new fitness equipment now line the street in front of the large non-descript brick building that tastefully disguises a Hydro One transformer station.

The Cecil Street Parkette was renamed  in honour of Julius Deutsch, the local labour movement and social justice activist who passed away last February after a battle with cancer.  A ceremony was held on September 2nd when the sign bearing the park's new name was unveiled.  Funding for the fitness equipment was provided by all three levels of government as a part of 'Canada's Economic Action Plan' to build and renew community recreation facilities.

The outdoor equipment includes a play area for children,  rowing machine, butterfly weight machine, eliptical trainer, and a set of Tai Chi spinners.  At first glance I had no idea what that last one was but thankfully, each piece of equipment is fitted with a small informational plaque.  It's not exactly a replacement for a gym membership but the updated park is a novel idea that grabs your attention; I've noticed many other passers by, usually looking a little bemused, hop on a machine for a few quick reps before carrying on their way.

The next time you visit the library, consider a short stroll down  to Huron & Cecil for a little  outtdoor workout before the snow starts to fall.

Book Review: The Uninvited by Tim Wynne Jones

November 4, 2010 | Pat | Comments (6)


    Mimi has come to Canada to get away from a creepy professor who has abused her trust.  Her father owns a cottage over a snye (a narrow channel) which he hasn't visited in years. He tells her she can have all to herself for as long as she needs.  However, no sooner does she arrive, than more creepiness ensues.  For starters, there is a guy living in the cottage already who seems to feel he has every right to be there.  His name is Jay and he is an aspiring musician.

    Jay believes Mimi is the one who has been breaking into the cottage and leaving animal corpses on the table to frighten him. Someone has also been fooling around with his recordings leaving strange sounds on the unused tracks of his most recent recordings.  The only problem is that Mimi was still in New York City when  this started.  Jay doesn't believe her, but the day they met was her first day in Canada, let alone at the cottage.  Eventually Mimi finds out a little more than she was prepared to about Jay, but accepts that he too has a legitimate connection to the place.

    Mimi soon has her own encounters with the mysterious intruder.  Having left a car door unlocked, she returns to find someone has rifled through her belongings and stolen from her.  Later, she finds her computer has stopped working.  Taking it in for repairs, she meets a good looking guy her age named Cramer who has some interesting theories about her computer problems. Mimi find him alluring but hasn't had much luck with prospective men.  One has turned out to be a stalker, another already has a girlfriend and is decidedly off limits.  Besides, for every guy who attracts her there's at least two others who repel her, like the latest one, an old lecher named Stooley who seems to have taken an unhealthy interest in her.

    Cramer has his own problems with Stooley too, but then Cramer has a lot of problems that he'd rather not tell Mimi about.  His mother's boyfriend Waylin is an abusive dolt, and come to think of it, his mother is also a piece of work.  It would be nice to talk to someone, and it's also proving hard to get Mimi out of his mind.  But before he ever gets the chance to do either, events soon take their own violent course.         

   The Uninvited is a suspenseful thriller with strong, empathic yet troubled characters.

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.