Sunday, 27 March 2011

Sunday March 27th, 2011 Picture It Kids' Catalogue

Finding exactly what you want in the vast library collection can sometimes overwhelm people. There are several ways to go about it – pick an area and just look until you find what you want, ask library staff for help or try to use the library catalogue to identify the location of an item. All have their advantages – there is no one way that people should follow, but as observers of people using the library it is frustrating to watch when people misread the screen and set off in the wrong direction, or misspell a title or author’s name and announce that “the library doesn’t have any books by Dr. Suess” (No, but we have lots by Dr. Seuss!). The latter is a real problem for children who do not yet have the searching skills or spelling ability of the adult library users but now there is a fabulous new type of catalog to assist them in finding exactly what they want.

It’s called the Picture-It Kids Catalogue. Like any catalogue it is a listing of every item that we have in the children’s collection, but it has one essential difference – it is photo-based. That means that instead of typing in what you think the search term might be, you can choose your topic by looking at photos on the screen and clicking on the image you want.

For instance, until recently the books about pigs were listed under the technically correct subject heading of “swine”. How many of you would think to search for books about pigs using that term? With Picture, even a young child can figure out to click on the picture of the pig. Of course staff are always ready and willing to assist anyone at the library, but it can be extremely satisfying for a child to be able to figure something out on their own.

Children’s staff customized the Picture-It catalogue so that it reflects Thunder Bay and northern Ontario. For instance, we added prime ministers where there were presidents, caribou and loons where there were armadillos and flamingos and mosquitoes where there were only a few ordinary insects.

We also added in First Nation content which was absent – for instance, Aboriginal athlete biographies into the sports section, and Cree /English and Ojibway /English books into the Languages area. Many of the photos had to be redone or created so with my library camera I spent a lot of my free time photographing scenes and people to use for this purpose. Thanks to my ever-patient nieces and nephews, a few neighbours, friends and children who visited the library who were kind enough to pose for me. I was able to populate the catalogue with beautiful photos of children doing the activities depicted in the subjects. So don’t be surprised if you recognize someone in the catalogue!

Needless to say, this took a lot of work but it was also a very challenging, creative and interesting project for a librarian as well. I was able to do the complicated searches that sometimes need to be done to find something precisely and link it to a simple photo which will make that search painless and quick for children to do on their own. And that’s at the heart of what librarians do – we provide access to information and books for recreational reading as well.

Sorry adults, Picture-It only covers the children’s (and some teen) materials. But do try out the Kids Catalogue and introduce your students or children to it. You can access it from your home computer here, or at the library. Feedback from users is appreciated.

Angela Meady, Head of Children’s & Youth Services

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Sunday March 20th, 2011 Gateway to Graphic Novels

To the uninitiated, shelves of graphic novels in the library might look like ‘just a bunch of comics.’ You might think they are only for kids and teens, or that they are all about superheroes and caped crusaders. In today’s Library Detective column, I hope to lure new readers to this truly enjoyable format. I’m a fairly recent convert to the format myself and have found many new authors and stories to love. I was initially skeptical about what was gained by including illustrations with a story – shouldn’t the words alone be enough? Memoirist David Small explains that “images get straight inside us, bypassing all the guard towers,” and this gut response can prompt a deep, visceral connection to the story being told. Illustrations aren’t just for picture books.

Learning that graphic novels are a format rather than a genre can help new readers understand their appeal. Graphic novels can be as different from each other as Austen is from Atwood - simply because they are in the same format does not mean that they are the same kind of reading experience! The most well-known genres are superheroes and manga (Japanese comics), but any genre you can find in ‘regular’ library titles can be found among the graphic novels as well. Also, as with all other formats, some graphic novels are best for kids, some for teens, and others for adults. The titles discussed here are intended for a teen or older audience.

I’d like to suggest some gateway graphic novels for people new to the format. To make the transition to picture and text as easy as possible, I have included some keywords for each title. Try branching out just a little by reading something within your comfort zone that is simply in a new format. You may just find a new favourite author.

If you like coming of age stories, Canadian literature, slice of small-town life tales, or short stories: Try The Complete Essex County, by Jeff Lemire. I am not the only one promoting this as a good read! Essex County is a Canada Reads 2011 title and is composed of three intertwined short stories about living in a rural Southwestern Ontario community.

If you like stories that mix darkness and light, romance and humour, and are driven by powerful and flawed female characters: Try Strangers in Paradise, by Terry Moore. Katchoo is a talented artist secretly in love with her best friend Kristine. In this multi-volume narrative, their friendship is repeatedly tested by romantic trials and the influence of Katchoo’s secret Mafia past.

If you like introspective family memoirs that leave you grateful for your own comparatively normal and happy upbringing: Try Stitches by David Small, a respected children’s illustrator and author. His story of a stifling childhood in a relentlessly uncommunicative family is sometimes painful to read, but the narrative of ultimately understanding and moving beyond family influence is both powerful and compelling.

Or try Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. This darkly funny memoir about growing up gay with a closeted father is a very literary graphic novel that references myths and canonical classics. Irony, self-deprecating humour, and gothic touches are scattered throughout this exploration of childhood and identity.

Remember, Alice in Wonderland asked, “what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?” Give these books with pictures a chance and let them open a new world of storytelling for you to enjoy. If these titles don’t pique your interest or you want more recommendations, I can be reached at for suggestions.

Laura Prinselaar, Children & Youth Services Librarian

Monday, 14 March 2011

Sunday March 13th, 2011 Your Business is Our Business

I had no idea the library had that available! This remark is one I hear on a regular basis when chatting with people about the Thunder Bay Public Library and all the awesome books, databases, spaces, and services we have to offer. Some of the most inspiring moments like this I have experienced happen while working with local businesses and entrepreneurs. TBPL is fortunate in being able to partner with and/or provide support to the many organizations (such as the CEDC, PARO, Thunder Bay Ventures, Chamber of Commerce, JumpStart, LES, Confederation College, Lakehead University, local high schools, and others) that strive to enhance the economic development within Thunder Bay. We are also always eager to build new partnerships with businesses and organizations or simply have a quick chat or answer some questions for a budding entrepreneur.

Lately we have added some great new items to the list of what’s available to the local business community (and anyone else who’s interested in them of course!). There is a new database available for in-house usage at the Brodie Resource Library. It’s called PCensus and allows you to analyze customer markets based on Census data, current consumer spending estimates and market potential based on current business operations throughout Canada. This database allows you to create customized profile reports based on a specified geographic study area (ex. Thunder Bay) as well as profiles and maps based on target demographics, etc. For a look into the database there is a step-by-step tutorial available online at; but feel free to come by the reference department at the Brodie Resource Library to take a closer look as well. No need for a library card to use this database, if the workstation is available it’s all yours. For one-on-one training please contact Jesse Roberts ( or Lindsey Long (

For those interested in learning more about Facebook we have a Facebook Coach Program. Anyone can book an hour long appointment with one of our “coaches” to discuss questions about Facebook, set up an account, or learn more about how this type of social media works and how it can be utilized for business purposes (as well as why your business should be on Facebook). A variety of dates and times are available each month and we can easily work with you to coordinate a convenient appointment time. Call 684-6819 for more information or to book an appointment.

In addition to the new, there is still the tried and true. The Library continues to bring in the latest books on business (planning, marketing, strategy, social media and networking, accounting, management, etc), as well as business and industry related magazines and journals (ex. Northern Ontario Business Magazine). If there’s something you’re looking for and are not finding it, just let us know. We can look into purchasing the item or ordering it through Inter Library Loan. Then there are the online databases, which provide access to scads of articles, media and news items, and informative entries on business related topics. The databases are available 24/7 for anyone with an internet connection, library card and PIN so you can happily browse for information at home in your pajamas. If you find home too distracting or just want to get out there are many spots around TBPL that are perfect for getting some work done (study rooms, carrels, etc). Bring your laptop and access the free wireless internet available at all four branches of the Thunder Bay Public Library.

Jesse Roberts, Head of Reference Services