Thursday, August 29, 2013

Toronto Public Library: Parliament Street Branch

269 Gerrard Street East

This was the first public library branch that I visited in Toronto, and despite going here a couple of times (to use the internet, yes yes, I am boring), I forgot to take a photo of it during the day time. So here's a lovely photo of it at night.

This branch seemed pretty similar to ones that I've seen in Vancouver, though my mom enjoyed a display of children's books about stories from other cultures (specifically, she wanted me to remind her about Tales Told in Tents: Stories from Central Asia).

At any rate this seems like a good time to talk about some general Toronto Public Library stuff. According to Wikipedia the Toronto Public Library is the largest neighbourhood-based (whatever that means) library system in the world. They have 98 different branch libraries! Wow! That would take a really long time to visit all of those.

Though, I suppose that if you included all of the different library systems in the greater Vancouver area (I don't even know what all of them are) you'd have...well, you'd still have a lot less. Toronto's public library system is big!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Toronto Public Library: Runnymede Branch

Runnymede Branch
2178 Bloor Street West

So I went to a lot of public libraries. A lot. I mean, there are 98 different branches, and by some metrics is the largest library system in the world. So of course in most of the libraries all I did was use the internet. Only 30 minutes allowed on a guest pass? Bah!

I liked these carvings outside the library. And then I discovered that the architecture of this building is famous or something. I had no idea there even was a Canadian style of architecture.

Nationally recognized for its distinctively Canadian style Runnymede Branch was designed by John M. Lyle one of this country's most distinguished 20th-century architects. In the 1920s a surging sense of national pride inspired Lyle to create a uniquely Canadian architecture that blended European styles with Canadian themes and ornamentation. Runnymede Branch was his second attempt at such a design. The building is constructed of variegated red and yellow Credit Valley stone and combines Georgian French and early Quebec styles the latter in its steeply pitched hipped roof. Lyle used Canadian aboriginal motifs for much of the decoration including totem poles at the main entrance and arrowheads in the iron railing above. Carvings of native plants and animals also embellish the building. In 1989 the Runnymede Branch was featured on the first in a series of postage stamps celebrating Canadian architecture. The building was most recently restored and enlarged in 2005.

Monday, August 26, 2013

George Mackie Library

Wow so, it turns out doing multiple research projects simultaneously is really time and energy consumptive. That combined with some traveling resulted in my sadly long delay in posting again. But now I have some spare time so ….

The second library I visited on my birthday was actually not a VPL branch. I didn't particularly want to do anything to celebrate my birthday this year but a friend suggested we bus all the way out an hour and a half to Delta just to have donuts at Krispy Kreme. This was such a ridiculous and stupid idea that of course I said yes, on the condition that we visited a local public library. So we snagged a few more friends and trekked out for donuts and a visit to the library.

The George Mackie Library is part of the Fraser Valley Regional Library system which is actually the largest library system in BC with 25 branches (compared to VPL's 22 branches) and nearly 700,000 people in its service area (Vancouver currently has just over 600,000 people). You can tell that the George Mackie Library (8440 112th Street, Delta, BC) has a bit of money behind it cause it was a really nice library. There was a large children area with a huge stuffed moose and some itty bitty cushy chairs that I sat in. A friend snapped a picture of me crunched up into one of these chairs, but you all will not be seeing that picture. Instead, here is a picture of the fireplace and plush chairs in another area.

Everything was clearly laid out and there were lots of signs up, all having the same color scheme and design which made them quite attractive. Several walls had neat topical displays such as “Interesting People” and “Travel the World” all with books well-spaced and faced to clearly display the covers to patrons. The youth books and books-on-cd were intermixed on the shelves, which I really like, especially in smaller collections. They also had a cart by the reference desk that held items recently returned but not yet shelved. What I liked about this was that it wasn’t just a mysterious cart of books left sitting somewhere in the library but instead  was clearly labeled, books were kept neatly on the cart, and patrons could have some fun with seeing what books interested other people and might interest them too. This idea in particular really grabs me for some reason.

The shelves were very neat and had a lot of faced items so they looked appealing and uncluttered (this library was anything but cluttered!). Hilariously, I discovered that behind many of the neatly shelved books were white boxes. I’m not sure if the boxes are used as guides to help place items at the right depth on the shelf or what, but I kept randomly finding them behind sections of books.

Metal shelves attached to the ends of the main stacks held more books with their covers displayed for patrons to select. I asked a librarian whether or not the catalogue would tell a patron if a book they search for was on the shelf in its regular spot or on one of these end displays. She told me the catalogue wouldn't say that, which seems unfortunate. I guess if the patron asked for assistance in locating an item that wasn't where it was supposed to be on the shelf, the librarians would likely know where to look. But still, it would be nice if the catalogue was capable of giving the patron that information.

They had “Grab and Go” bags of books, each labeled with a genre or age group, in several areas around the library. The bags were loosely sealed (“no peeking” say the instructions) and inside was 5-6 books in that genre. Each bag had a slip tucked in it with barcodes so the checkout desk could just snag that list and check all the items out to the patron without revealing the mystery goodies inside. It’s a nice take on the date with a mystery book ideal which blends with a kind of reader’s advisory aspect too.

My very favorite part of all might have been the display in the window that peered back into the library work area. A whole bunch of bookmarks or all kinds were hung off strings by clips with a sign that said “Did you lose your book mark?” Sadly someone was working right behind the display so I didn't disrupt them by taking a picture.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ryerson University Library

350 Victoria Street
I visited this library pretty much immediately after the U of T library. It was slightly better!

They also couldn't grant me a guest account (sigh), but there were some computers that I could use without logging on. They only had Internet Explorer (and an old version I think), and they had a terrible resolution, but at least I could use them to check my email.

One of the librarians there said that they thought York University gave out guest accounts, but I'm not sure how accurate that is, or who the guest accounts are given to (just to students from other universities?). I never went to check it out, as York is faaarrr away from where I was staying.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

University of Toronto Robarts Library

130 St. George St.

While I was in Toronto I went to a lot of different libraries, so be prepared for several weeks of pretty similar posts about using the internet. But first! A tale of not using the internet.

At the main U of T library I asked if I could get a guest account to use the computers. I am a graduate student, albeit at another library, but this apparently doesn't matter as I was told "no". But there were some computers open to the public and I could get an account for one of those.

I got an account, trekked upstairs and discovered that of the four computers available for public use, one was broken, and the other three were occupied. There appeared to be no way to sign up for a time slot, no way to know how long someone had been on a computer (or what the time limit was), and at least one other person waiting, so I left. Disappointing. Apparently you can't even get into the stacks without a library card. Lame.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lexington Public Library: Central Branch

140 East Main Street 

The Central Branch of the Lexington Public library has some neat stuff. There's a giant pendulum in the main lobby and an art gallery.

In the actual library finding the stairs to get around was a little frustrating (they're in the back of the children's section, I think they could be better marked).

I also liked that they used this giant globe (you can't see how big it in this picture, but it's huge), as an educational tool because it was outdated. I fear that some places would have just thrown it out just because some country borders have changed. Lame!

The above photo is one (!) of the rooms in the library's book sale room. Holy crap! They had so many books for sale, way more than I'm used to seeing in libraries. I mean, most libraries I go in Vancouver have like a shelf or two, but this one had multiple rooms. It was bigger than bookshops I've been to. I picked up a fantasy novel for a dollar. And while selling books isn't the real purpose of libraries, it was still awesome!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

University of Kentucky: William T. Young Library

University of Kentucky: William T. Young Library

My friend told me I should go and check out this library because the architecture reminded her of a video game. From the outside it doesn't really seem that way, but once you go inside it really does.

There are these weird triangular staircases on each side of the building. These really reminded me of a level in a game like Quake (or any first person shooter really). It was actually kind of frustrating having to walk up and down them instead of just jumping.

There's also this weird circular central bit surrounded by a huge space. Clearly this makes it perfect for firing rocket launchers at people on other levels.

Down in the basement I found a display of Soviet propaganda posters. Awesome! They had QR codes that brought you to additional information about the posters. While "cool", it would have been nice if they just posted that on the walls for people that don't have smart phones.

Description:  Image of Geneva Accord broken through by a death’s-head US soldier.
Translated Text:   “The Geneva Accord is the aggressor’s bridle!”

Thursday, August 8, 2013

University of Iowa Library

Part of the Iowa City Zine Librarian (un)Conference happened at this library, and it was neat to get a tour of their special collections. They have a pretty cool collection of collections, including a huge one of various cooking related books (including a section devoted to mystery novels about cooking), a big science fiction fanzine collection, and a bunch of catalogue cards that have been turned into art.

Now while there is lots of cool stuff in those collections, I did have a few issues with it. They seem to treat their collections of fanzines (and comics) as though they were manuscripts. This means that they're organized by collection and box and not really catalogued beyond title of fanzine. Personally I don't really care who the zines belonged to, I'd much rather know who contributed to the zines!

Additionally their storage methods for some of their comics (unbagged, sideways in boxes) are such that I'm positive they're going to end up with rolled spines. Plus none of this stuff is on display! You have to ask to see each box individually.

They also have the zine machine! About which I've already written on another of my blogs.

Plus, unlike certain other universities we'll soon be discussing, they gave me a guest account to use on all their computers, allowing me to log in and use the internet to my heart's content. Great!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Iowa City Public Library

123 South Linn St.

There appears to only be one branch of the Iowa City Public Library, but it's pretty nice, especially so after the ones in Chicago made me sad. It's located downtown, next to some pedestrian shopping streets, a playground, a fountain I always saw kids playing in, and some pianos just sitting out for people to use!

At first I was quite impressed by their graphic novel selection. That photo above (including those shelves way in the back that you can barely see) shows less than half of their collection. Awesome! And while I definitely spent some time here reading comics, I also discovered why it's important to have people that know the subject matter in charge of ordering books.

While I think that Grant Morrison's run on X-Men is something that libraries should consider having available (at least if they want a strong modern superhero collection), do they really need it in three different formats? I think the answer is "no", but the question of why a library might have it in three different formats is because it's available in _a lot_ of different formats. There are like four different formats that I can think of, which collect his run in 1, 3, 7, and 8 volume versions (and several of these come in both hard and softcover versions). If you're not super aware of what's in these it seems like it would be easy enough to order on accidentally. Plus Marvel is infamous for letting books go out of print (and maybe replacing them with a completely different edition). If you need to reorder a volume due to damage or theft, how do you figure out which edition you need? (And this was just one example.)

In non-comic book library info, the Iowa City library also let you borrow art! All of the paintings/photos/posters above could be borrowed for up to eight weeks! The only thing that would make it better is if you could actually look at the images on their catalogue.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

#2 Part Deux: South Hill Branch - I Really Did Go Visit It, Right???

Being a very, very good librarian in training, I spent my birthday this year visiting not one, but two different libraries. The first was the South Hill Branch at Frasier and 45th-ish. This branch has some quite colourful designs painted outside, but trying to grab a snapshot of them from the sidewalk was rather challenging. I simply could not seem to catch a moment when nobody was walking by, and I didn't want to catch someone in the picture without their permission to post it here. Finally a got a shot and only later noticed that the window reflection makes it look like a car advertisement.

This was a surprisingly busy branch in the middle of the day on Wednesday but seating was rather scarce. Every public computer was full and at least three inquiries about getting on computers were made while I was within earshot of the reference desk librarian. When I wandered over to the Young Adult section I disturbed three patrons seated on the floor sorting through several piles of books. There was a neon green bean bag chair in the corner there, but as it was occupied, no picture was taken. I finally managed to snag a wooden chair up against the front window for a bit, which gave me the chance to sort through my haul, since, as usual, I left with far more than I had intended to get. One item, Gil Jordan, Private Detective: Murder by High Tide, I got simply because of the design inside the cover – or more particularly because of the detail in the lower right corner of the inner cover.

Actually to be honest, I also chose it because I realized it was Franco-Belgian comic in, as I was to later learn, the ligne claire style. If you do not know what that means, think The Adventures of Tintin comics. I vaguely remembered a friend telling me once about a comic’s publisher that periodically reprints, in nice quality editions, translations of European comics otherwise impossible to find in English. I’m not certain if this is what my friend was talking about, but it certainly was a beautifully executed book - excepting that they "Americanized" the name from Gil Jourdan to Gil Jordan. Other than that, my only beef with the book was that it got caught in my book bag when trying to pull it out later and my yanking on it resulted in it flying upward and bashing me in the eyebrow.

The selection at South Hill Branch was not large. I noticed that, compared to Collingwood, it had a much smaller and less colourful children’s area though still quite a selection of children’s materials. What it had instead was a notable Tagalog collection. As it happened, I accidentally sent another hold to this branch a few days later and had to return to pick it up. It wasn't until then that I realized their holds area was smaller than at most any other branch I've visited, though the little corner was crammed full of items. Overall, though, I found this branch oddly unmemorable. It took me forever to write this post, because I simply had hardly any thought or memory of being at this branch compared to all the other ones that I have visited now.

I had made certain ahead of time that this branch had another adaptation of Jane Eyre on the shelves as a reason to visit it initially. It was the 1973 mini-series with Sorcha Cusack as Jane Eyre and Michael Jayston as Mr. Rochester. Sadly I personally found Cusack to be blank and boring as Jane Eyre and the mini-series adds an unfortunate voice over that often tells you quite exactly what is already occurring on screen or adds some odd comment on the moment that you really, really wish they would have endeavored to SHOW you (this being a visual medium and all) rather than pedantically telling you. The viewing experience for this mini-series was quite painful and to be honest, largely punctuated by me reading homework or wandering off to the kitchen mid “dramatic” scene to go find something to nibble on. Unless you are like me and have set yourself some inexplicable goal to watch every adaptation of Jane Eyre available via your local library system, I do not recommend wasting valuable life on this version.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chicago Innovation Lab

I forgot to take a photo of the entrance of the Chicago Public Library's new maker lab, so you'll just have to do with the 3d printed octopus.

"Maker labs", or whatever you want to call them, are super hot in the library world right now. Everyone wants them and, perhaps more crucially, it's possible to get grant money for them. Thus the underfunded Chicago library system has just opened a new space filled with various 3d printers, laser cutters, and other cool things.

I'll ignore the fact that it seems weird to me to be funding this when so many of the CPL's other services seem to be lacking. But it's not like they could have used this money to hire more shelvers. However, the funding only lasts until December (I think), and we'll see if this place will exist after that.

At any rate I think 3d printers are pretty cool. I'd love to play around with them at some point myself. I didn't have enough time to really use this one as it was closing for the day pretty soon after I got there.

However, one problem I had with this place was that the people working there didn't seem to have been adequately trained in the use of the equipment. This isn't to say that they had no idea what they were doing, just that they could definitely have been using the stuff more effectively. They admitted to me that they were still being trained on how to use everything. I think there was even one piece of equipment they hadn't used at all when I came by (though admittedly they'd only been open about a week). This kind of baffles me, why put people in charge of expensive equipment when they can't use it that well?

I wish that I'd have gotten more opportunity to experience the lab (and actually print something!), or even see it again in a few months when the kinks have been worked out, but it was neat seeing the 3d printers in action anyway.