Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sunday September 25th, 2011 Databases for Young Researchers

Crisp sunny Fall mornings are upon us, school has started and children everywhere are settling into new grades at school, renewing last year’s friendships and making new ones. Projects and missions of discovery on engaging and intriguing subjects are a big part of the new school year. Why not take a trip to the library and sign your children up for library cards, assuming they don’t already have them. Then with card in hand, in a matter of minutes you can sit down at the computer together and discover the wonderful world of Kids’ databases available through the Thunder Bay Public Library. Complementing the technology are knowledgeable library staff always willing to offer guidance with any questions you may have.

To access the databases described below, visit our Web site, click on "Research" and log in to My Giant Search. You will need your Library Card number and PIN.

Kids InfoBits is a multi-source database designed for elementary school students. It provides research support for students in Kindergarten through Grade 5. Jam-packed with eye popping graphs, charts, maps and more than 3,000 searchable images, InfoBits features a visual graphic interface, a subject-based topic tree search and full-text, age-appropriate, magazine and reference content.

But don’t stop there. TBPL has many other kid-friendly databases worth exploring. Do you have a favourite song you like to sing with your children but some of the words escape you? The Children’s Song Index lists sources for recordings of children’s songs from the TBPL music collection. Searching is made easy by entering album, artist, track title or genre.

Discovering Collection provides homework help for core school curriculum areas of literature, history, science and social studies. This is geared primarily towards Intermediate students.

NoveList K-8 appeals to all levels of readers but is designed especially for elementary school students. You can look up your favourite title, author or subject, and find a list of books you’ll like. It also includes useful resources for both parents and teachers such as reading lists, tips for reading with children and discussion guides.

Grzimek’s Animal Life is an image-rich, dynamic online resource that creates a true educational experience with detailed information on over 4,000 species, including some wonderful pictures.

Perfect for French Immersion students and parents, Powerspeak Languages lets you learn French online and for free. You can also tackle Spanish, German, Mandarin, or ESL (for Spanish speakers). Powerspeak uses a variety of interactive activities which make it fun to learn a new language. You can even log in to a personal account and track your progress.

PebbleGo is an animal database designed specifically for children from Kindergarten through to Grade 3. It features more than 200 animal articles correlated to life science standards, animal audio and video, educational games, and innovative read-aloud capabilities. It features easy-to-use searching tools, and introduces early learners to database and research.

TumbleBooks contains animated talking picture books that teach kids the joy of reading in a format they love. TumbleBooks are created by taking well loved picture books and adding animation, sound, music and narration. They are also available in French and Spanish, and there are choices to make between story books, read alongs, tumble tv, puzzles, games, language learning and non-fiction books.

World Book provides a bright and colourful interface and features a constantly changing video and colourful pictures and buttons. Rather than lifting a heavy volume off the shelf you can simply click on any category you wish – animals, pictures, maps, dictionaries and famous people to name a few. As Francis Yeats-Brown journalist and author of the best-selling book Bengal Lancer once said, “To me the charm of an encyclopedia is that it knows—and I needn't.” So pull up a chair and create some excitement with home assignments this fall.

Caron E. Naysmith

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sunday September 18th, 2011 Sharing the Library

This fall, the Thunder Bay Public Library wants you to share the Library with your friends and family. Every time you bring someone in to apply for a library card or renew their expired card, you will each receive a ballot to win a new Kobo Touch ebook reader (draw to be held Dec. 16). Not only is this a great way to spread the word about our Library, it’s also a great way to get talking about books, what you’re reading, what your friends are reading, and trying something new.

If you’ve never chatted with staff at our circulation desks or your friends/family about what to read next, you really should try it. Who better to make prime suggestions than the people who know our books or the people who know you? One of the greatest perks of working at TBPL is never being stuck for a good book to read or craving something different. Over the last few years my colleagues have helped guide me to exciting new authors (new to me at least) and several fantastic series.

My favourites have included the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde and the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. Though I haven’t made it all the way through either series, they are so compelling and entertaining that I can’t help but flip flop between them in order to read it all at once. Fforde’s first title in the series, THE EYRE AFFAIR (2001), begins the saga of lead character, Thursday Next, as she traverses a different “1985, somewhere in the could-have-been, where the Crimean war still rages, dodos are regenerated in home-cloning kits and everyone is deeply disappointed by the ending of 'Jane Eyre'.” At first I wondered if the storyline would be too farfetched and sci-fi for my taste, but it is so well written that before I knew it I was feeling empathy for the plight of the dodo. Books that are on my to-read list, and recommended by friends, include THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Erik Larson and STILL LIFE by Louise Penny.

If I were asked what I would recommend, without knowing anything about the reader’s interests, here are three of my standbys: SHELF MONKEY by Corey Redekop, the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris and BLINDNESS by Jose Saramago. SHELF MONKEY features a small group of employees at a large chain bookstore who are bent on the destruction of the most popular talk show host led book club. Riddled with dry wit and a shocking outcome, Redekop’s book gives volume to that little voice inside every book lover’s head that demands we make our own decisions about what makes a good book. A good friend got me hooked on the Sookie Stackhouse series and I’ve been recommending it ever since. With nine books in the series so far, Sookie Stackhouse goes from being an everyday waitress (who just happens to be able to read people’s innermost thoughts) to being entangled in a world of vampires, shape shifters, werewolves, and extremely complex love triangles. For a higher level of intellectual intrigue I suggest BLINDNESS. J. W. Eagan once said to “never judge a book by its movie”; an idea in which I firmly believe, especially when it comes to this book. A small piece of advice if you’ve never read any of Saramago’s work before is be prepared for a lack of punctuation and paragraph separation. His style takes some getting used to but it’s completely worth it.

Try browsing the Best of the Backlist Blog, or better yet try browsing the shelves in your favorite subject area (fiction or non-fiction). We also have two online databases, called NoveList and What Do I Read Next?, that can help make the search more fruitful. Log in to "My Giant Search" and find these databases in the List of Resources.

Jesse Roberts

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sunday September 11th, 2011 Honouring September 11th

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the first terrorist attack targeting the United States. While we all remember where we were during that historic day, only a few experienced it firsthand. The rest of us watched from a distance, keeping vigil by our televisions; we empathized with the families and the victims, but it is difficult for us to really imagine what it was like for those directly affected. But over the last ten years some fantastic authors have given the rest of the world a glimpse into the disaster’s wake.

Don DeLillo's Falling Man is the story of Keith, a man who walked out of the towers. Escaping just before they collapsed, he decided to head home to his estranged wife. Falling Man is about Keith’s family coming back together and then slowly drifting apart again as time moved on after the event. Falling Man makes you feel as though you are in the collapsing towers along with Keith, which makes this a valuable book for empathizing with those who survived.

A Widow's Walk is Marian Fontana's memoir of her life in the year after 9/11. Her husband Dave was a firefighter who died trying to rescue people from the Towers. September 11 was Marian and Dave’s 8th wedding anniversary. But before they could meet as planned at a coffee shop, Dave was called to the Towers. Dave died a hero trying to save others from the collapsing Towers. Marian documents everything during that first year without Dave: from the terrible grief, endless funerals and the newfound struggle of single parenthood, to the kindness of strangers and her desire to help the remaining firefighters of her husband’s squad. A Widow’s Walk is a beautiful book that offers a glimpse into both the despair and the hope that was the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the story of Oskar Schell, whose father was killed in the Twin Towers. While snooping in his dad's room afterwards, Oskar discovers a strange key hidden in a vase. He decides he will find what the key opens, even if he has to try every lock in New York City! Interspersed throughout Oskar's story are chapters written from both of his grandparents' perspectives. These narratives are just as interesting as the main story; they serve to parallel the Dresden bombings with the terrorist attack on September 11. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. So if you enjoyed that book, definitely consider giving Foer’s book a try!

Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a story within a story. The main character, Changez, narrates the entire book. He tells an American visitor to Pakistan his prior history as a student in America, about his love for a woman named Erica, and the circumstances that brought him back to Pakistan. The narration is rather unusual, as the American never directly speaks; in his narration, Changez simply replies to what the man says. This alone makes for a really interesting read. Changez himself is an intriguing fellow: sophisticated in speech, but never snobbish. And while his is an uncommon narrative in North America, tending to be a bit anti-American near the end, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an important read because it gives this alternative viewpoint. The September 11 events had implications for the entire world, not just for America; it is important that we do not forget this.

So in honour of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, why not read one of the many stories available at your Public Library?

Shauna Kosoris

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sunday, September 4th TBPL has an App for That!

“There’s an app for that” has become a catch phrase. There are Apps to help you do just about anything, from playing games to remembering the milk. Apps are programs that work with smart phones (cell phones with internet access) and other portable devices like iPods and iPads. Your Library has a few Apps which can help you connect with some of our online resources.

Imagine you’re tinkering with your 1975 Mustang on a sunny afternoon, and discover you need to remove the steering wheel. You pull out your iPod and with a few clicks bring up the information you need to keep working. You can do this now with AccessMyLibrary.

AccessMyLibrary is a fantastic app that automatically connects you with online resources from Gale, from any public library within a 10-mile radius. Gale is a company that develops databases which help you find reliable information from trusted sources. AccessMyLibrary may be found in the App Store on any iPod, iPad, iPhone and in the Android Market. It’s free and it’s amazing! AccessMyLibrary covers a huge range of topics, including health care, environment, biographies, career choices, car repair, literature, sciences and much much more. Information comes directly to your phone from current magazines, journals, encyclopaedias, how-to-guides and more.

It’s Thursday afternoon and you’re looking forward to the evening’s Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra concert. They’re playing a piece you’re not familiar with. You take out your smart phone, and using NAXOS Music Library’s app, listen to the piece. Your experience at the concert that evening is enriched due to the familiarity you have with the music.

NAXOS Music Library’s app is available in the Android Market, and the iPod/iPhone/iPad App Store. You can log in with TBPLMM as both your username and password, and listen to streaming classical, jazz and world music.

You’re waiting to see your doctor and wishing you had a book to read. You pull out your smart phone, browse the Library’s collection, download an eBook and start reading. You can enjoy this convenience now with the Overdrive Media Console app on your iPhone, iPod, iPad, Android, BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device. You’ll need to log in with your Library Card number and PIN.

You can also access Overdrive’s eBooks from a computer, by going to the Library’s Web site ( and clicking on “Overdrive” under “Quick Links”. There are tips on this Web page for people using the Overdrive App.

For more information on our Apps please visit our Web site and click on Research, then “Apps and Mobility”.

If you would like to learn more about your smart phone or iPad we have some books you might find useful. “iPad made simple” by Martin Trautschold and Gary Mazo takes you through all the amazing things you can do with this device. It includes a section devoted to iTunes, as well as a quick start guide. With lots of screen shots, this is a very user-friendly book.

iPad 2 Quicksteps” by Joli Ballew is packed with colour photos and screenshots and truly is a visual guide. It is currently on order in our online catalogue, where you can place a hold on it.

iPod and iTunes for Dummies” by Tony Bove covers the basics, as well as advanced techniques for experienced users. Also in the popular, easy to follow “Dummies” series we have “Blackberry for Dummies,” “Blackberry Curve for Dummies,” and “iPad All-in-one for Dummies”.

Joanna Aegard