Sunday, 29 January 2017

Sunday January 29th, 2017 Wold War One

The strain on Thunder Bay, Ontario and Canada began to show as the Great War entered its fourth year in 1917. National Service Week began on New Year’s Day. Each male between the ages of 16 and 65 was asked, as his patriotic duty, to complete a questionnaire indicating whether he would be willing to change his present work for other necessary work at the same pay during the war. The survey made no reference to military service but Canadians were suspicious and National Service Week was a failure. Meanwhile the cries for some form of compulsory service became more numerous and vociferous.

Prime Minister Borden attended sessions of the Imperial War Cabinet in London in the spring of 1917 and it was here that he learned how critical the manpower shortage in the Canadian Expeditionary Force was. He had no alternative. On 18 May, shortly after his return from London, he announced that conscription was now necessary. His announcement was greeted favourably by the many Ontarians who attended specially organised meetings and rallies. But hundreds of men and women gathered in the Toronto Labour Temple on 29 May to protest: ‘believing as we do that militarism is absolutely opposed to any form of democratic government’.

Protest meetings organised by socialists in the larger Ontario municipalities usually ended in confusion and disorder after soldiers and veterans in the audience heckled the platform speakers. Parliament passed the Military Service Act on 24 July and it came into force on 29 August. Local tribunals were appointed to hear claims for exemption which were based on grounds specified in the Act. Groups automatically exempted from conscription included returned men, Doukhobors, those Mennonites whose ancestors had immigrated to the west in 1873, and clergy of recognised religious denominations. Many appeals came from farmers who were furious that their sons and farm labourers could be conscripted at a time when, they were told, it was crucial that food production in Canada be increased.

Thousands of veterans had returned to Canada by the beginning of 1917. They had a strong desire to band together for companionship and to lobby for rehabilitation and jobs. Many felt alienated from the rest of society. There were several veterans’ clubs in existence by January 1917 but they soon realised that they could exert little pressure as autonomous local clubs scattered across the country. They must unite. Representatives of several clubs met in Toronto in March 1917 to make plans for a nationwide association, which came into being at a convention in Winnipeg in April. By the end of 1917 the Great War Veterans Association of Canada had 80 branches and 30,000 members.

The Ontario government announced in January 1917 that a soldier settlement would be established in Northern Ontario, near the Kapuskasing River. Only a small proportion of the veterans were interested in this project, as they wanted job opportunities in their home towns. Trouble erupted in April when groups of returned men demonstrated at Toronto munitions factories against the employment of aliens, whom they wished replaced by British subjects. Although veterans with no particular trade were in difficulty, there was no shortage of high paying jobs for machinists, toolmakers and other skilled workers in Ontario. The economy was booming as plants across the province were deluged with orders from the Imperial Munitions Board.

Munitions work was dangerous, and the pay was good, but in 1917 money was no guarantee of comfort. The effects of the long and costly war were reflected in commodity shortages as well as in an ever-increasing cost of living. There was a severe coal shortage in February and a severe hydro shortage in October. But the great fear at the beginning of 1917 was that Ontario could not produce enough food to satisfy the needs of the province, let alone contribute to the feeding of the rest of Canada and the world.  

Explore the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project here.

John Pateman

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sunday January 22nd, 2017 Bookstore magic

A literary adventure story complete with secret societies, global conspiracy, and the secret to eternal life can be found in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. In San Francisco, a young man arrives at an old, mysterious bookstore searching for work.  Recently laid off from his job as a web-designer, Clay Jannon, a young man who rarely touched paper, becomes the night clerk at Ajax Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore. Clay is told to catalogue each transaction along with the customer’s appearance, attitude and aura into the customer journal.  In addition to all this, customers do not pay for their books, but rather borrow them.

As the mystery of his job envelops him (is the bookstore a front for criminal activity? where does the money for his salary come from?), he decides to break the rules and, enlisting the help of friends, conducts his own covert operation.  Together the team of friends travels to New York City where they discover a secret literary group, the Unbroken Spine, which seeks to decode the Codex Vitae developed by a 16th century printer and founder of the society.  The friends uncover the great mystery behind the Waybacklist, a set of encrypted books on the bookstore’s shelves, and with the aid of technology, ultimately solve the secret of the Codex Vitae.

Through the medium of a suspense-filled adventure tale, the story’s underlying theme pits Old Knowledge (books) against Internet Knowledge in a battle to solve an ancient puzzle. In fairly recent times we have witnessed a revolution in how information is obtained and disseminated.  Because of the internet, the world of books, publishing and reading has changed – there are ebooks, ereaders and tablets added to the mix. Instead of traditional written letters we often use on-line social media for communication; school children manage assignments utilizing Google Drive and obtain information via a wide variety of print and digital resources. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore incorporates all of this.  It combines the worlds of print and stories (fonts, hidden messages), manual craftsmanship (movie prop making), and technology (data visualization, Google, computer language).

The perfect setting for this tale of books and technology, cryptography and conspiracy, friendship and love is a used bookstore. Wherever you may travel, you are guaranteed to find something that piques your curiosity in a used bookstore.  In addition to the books and the authors, you often make the acquaintance of other readers.  They write their names inside a book, carefully or scribbled, scratch notes in the margins, and highlight favourite passages.  There is much delight to be had in browsing through the stacks of a library or used bookstore, letting your eyes rest on the titles of books which are waiting to be discovered and enrich your life.

Currently, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is available in print, audio book, and ebook formats at your Thunder Bay Public Library. And if you are lucky, one day you may come across a copy as you browse the shelves at the Friends of the Public Library used bookstore in Victoriaville where you will find good quality books for children and adults all generously donated by the public or the library.

The Friends’ latest adventure is the launch of the Dream Travel Raffle with prizes that include a travel voucher for two anywhere WestJet flies, a luggage set from Canadian Tire (Fort William Road), and a spa package for two (Terra Nova).   Tickets are available at the Friends used bookstore and at all Public Library locations, with the draw to be held on February 15th at 11 am at Waverley Library. New Friends’ members are always welcome, and membership forms can be found at any branch of the Thunder Bay Public Library.
Fran Duke

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Sunday January 15th, 2017 Biographies

Every year at the library, we purchase a fair number of biographies, many detailing the exploits of the rich and famous, with members of the performing arts, sports and politics heavily favoured.  Some of the other biographies or autobiographies we buy follow the stories of those whose lives we’d never wish to share. Those are the lives that are touched by tragedy but whose strength and courage have taken them beyond the darkness toward a brighter path. 

In 2006, with the death of his father, Gulwali was forced to escape Afghanistan and travel through eight countries to reach safety in Britain. Over the twelve month journey, Gulwali who as only 12 at the time, faced imprisonment, hunger, and violence as well as nearly drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. In his new life, he learned English and was sent to a top university. He was even given the honour of carrying the Olympic torch for the 2012 games. Guwali has become an ardent advocate of democracy and speaks throughout the world for the cause of refugees. 

This is a gripping memoir about a young boy forced to live on the streets, stealing and fighting to survive and the story of a nation controlled by a totalitarian regime where deprivation has become the norm. Sungju began his life as the pampered son of the elite but his parent"s political fall forced the family into destitution and put Sungju on the streets where he formed a new family, his gang brothers. The boys did what they needed to survive while facing arrest, imprisonment and execution. 

Moore had traveled to Thailand to begin a new life leaving England and hopefully his drug problems behind. In Thailand he became a professional Muay Thai boxer and even fell in love, all was great until he relapsed and was caught and sent to the inhumane Klong Prem prison. Here all life is worth nothing with dead bodies left to rot among the prisoners, who are left with little food and no sanitation. Gangs run rampant and guards are corrupt, and Moore as a foreigner was treated worse than most. It was his own grim determination and skill as a Muay Thai boxer that saved his life and won his freedom. 

Even when you have everything on the surface, your personal life can be chaos. Vargas began suffering from anxiety as a young child while her father served in the military and as she grew so did her sense of anxiousness and the need to use alcohol for relief. She found herself living in denial until in a moment of crisis she made a very public confession that put her career as a reporter for ABC and her private life at risk, but may have saved her life. 

The phone call in September of 2010 from her son, Mat saying “I just shot Dad”, both put an end to years of abuse of both Holly and her children by her husband and began a nightmare as the legal system saw Mat as the aggressor and her husband as a victim.  That years of violence ended in a tragic death was not a surprise but the determination of Holly, a paraplegic and an abuse victim to support her son and the backing of her friends and neighbours to help the both of them results in a deeply emotional read.

Lori Kauzlarick

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Sunday January 8th, 2017 Easing Into 2017

As 2016 came to an end, the general theme that jumped out seemed to be how ready many people were to say farewell to it. That being said, I sincerely hope that last year was in some part joyous for everyone reading this article. Looking to the coming months, I can’t help but feel a certain amount of trepidation over what 2017 might bring; fingers will be crossed and an optimistic mindset is in place to take it all on though! As always, the Thunder Bay Public Library will be supplying the community with ample opportunities to read, participate, and learn new things this year. The January – April newsletter has been distributed across the city and can also be found online via the Library’s website. In it you will find a wide variety of programs, events, and activities for all ages and interest levels.

Building a reading list for the year, or at least the beginnings of a list, can definitely help to get things going. New books are added to our collection each month and you can know about what those lists include by sending a quick email to Include your email address in the body of the email and then every month you will get an update email telling you about the great new titles available at TBPL.

Last year brought an incredible number of losses from the influential world of celebrity culture. This may inspire an interest in reading up on those whom you knew from film, music, or other areas. Close to any library’s heart would be the loss of Harper Lee, an author who has guided many readers since publishing To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960.  This book has maintained a position of being one of the most influential and controversial of the 20th Century. Lee’s second book, Go Set a Watchman, wasn’t published until 2015. To read more about Harper Lee, check out the 2009 biography of her called Harper Lee: A Twentieth Century Life by Kerry Madden.

Muhammad Ali: The Tribute came out in 2016 as the definitive tribute that celebrates the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali, an American original. From his unlikely transformation from Louisville Golden Gloves winner to Olympic gold medalist to three-time heavyweight champion, civil rights hero and at one point, the most famous person on earth, Muhammad Ali and his journey were always chronicled and celebrated by Sports Illustrated's writers and photographers. Now, all of those moments and memories are collected in Muhammad Ali: The Tribute, a deluxe fully-illustrated gift book that celebrates the life and legacy of this iconic athlete and champion.

The list of musicians that passed away in 2016 is slightly staggering so I will only touch on a couple here. The Age of Bowie: How David Bowie Made a World of Difference by Paul Morley explores how David Bowie worked, played, aged, structured his ideas, influenced others, invented the future, and entered history as someone who could and would never be forgotten. 

Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah: A New Biography by Tim Footman chronicles the highs and lows that have punctuated the life of a musical genius; this in-depth biography reveals new insight into the legendary songs of Leonard Cohen. Covering each stage in his prolific career and cited as one of the most dramatic periods in the life of this iconic Canadian singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, and painter.

The latest biographical work on Carrie Fisher (The Princess Diarist) provides a unique perspective on her life and work. Fisher writes using excerpts from the journals she kept during the 1976 Star Wars filming. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, is the subject of Unsinkable: A Memoir (2013). The film legend and Hollywood icon shares the highs and lows of her life as an actress during Hollywood's Golden Age, stories from her lifelong friendship with Elizabeth Taylor, and intimate details of her marriages and family life.

Jesse Roberts

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Sunday January 1st, 2017 Library Lists


The dawning of a new year is a popular time to reflect and to make lists.  In today’s column I’m going to do both, and share with you the top three titles borrowed from our adult fiction, non-fiction, DVD and CD collections, as well as the top three e-magazines borrowed from Zinio and the top three languages studied using Transparent Languages.

Three well-known authors top the fiction list, which includes Rogue lawyer by John Grisham, The last mile by David Baldacci and 15th affair by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro.  Interestingly all three of these books are mysteries.

The three most-checked out non-fiction books in 2016 were Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain, Mindfull: Over 100 delicious recipes for better brain health by Carol Greenwood, PhD, Daphna Rabinovitch, Joanna Gryfe and Dark money: the hidden  history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right by Jane Mayer. 

In spite of the popularity of streaming media services like NetFlix, DVDs continue to be very popular at your library.  The top three DVDs in 2016 were American heist with Hayden Christensen, Adrien Brody, Baytown outlaws starring Billy Bob Thronton and Eva Longoria, and Good kill:  Drones starring Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Jake Abe.

Similarly, CDs continue to be well-used.  The three most popular in 2016 were 25 by Adele, Coldplay’s A head full of dreams, and Delerium by Ellie Gouldry.

Zinio is our online magazine collection, which we launched a year ago.  You can find out all about it by going to on our website.  There’s a Zinio app for reading on the go.  The three most-borrowed magazines in 2016 were Canadian Living, O, the Oprah Magazine, and Martha Stewart Living.

Transparent Language gives you access to online learning for over 95 different languages.  You can make an account, track your progress, and fit in learning when your schedule allows.  The three most popular languages in 2016 were Spanish, French and Japanese, with Danish being a very close fourth.  If you made a new year’s resolution to learn a new language, go to to get started.

Your Library is active on social media.  This past year we reached the milestone of 3,000 Facebook likes, 2,500 Twitter followers and over 1,000 Pinterest followers.  If you’re curious about these and our other social media accounts visits  Like us, follow us and read our blogs -- we love your comments and posts, so don’t be shy to engage with us virtually.

The winter edition of Connect, your Library newsletter, will be delivered to your door in the next few weeks. It will also be available on our website at and at all LIbrary locations. The newsletter is packed with information about Library programs, services and events.

You can save a great deal of money by using your library instead of buying books, movies and music, subscribing to magazines and paying for activities.  Use the Library Use Calculator on our website at to find out just how much, and resolve to use the Library regularly in 2017!

Joanna Aegard