Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A letter to the VPL concerning their catalogue

Over the summer your catalogue seems to have developed a fairly serious problem in regards to your collection of graphic novels. At some point it seems that many of them were, for no apparent reason, reclassified from "Comic Book" to "Book".

Let's look at some examples.

1. If I search for Scott Pilgrim I get 23 items. If I limit this to "Comic Book" (under "Book" in the "Format" sidebar), this goes down to three items, one of which is actually a DVD. (If you don't believe me go look at the Full Record description where it's described as "Scott Pilgrim vs. the world [videorecording]".)

If I instead limit it to "Book", I get 15 results, the first seven of which are actually comic books/graphic novels (the rest of which are not actually related to Scott Pilgrim).

2. If I search for X-Men I get 179 results. If I limit this to "Comic Book" I get 13 results, including 2 DVDs, 2 children's books, 1 novel, a "how to draw" book, and a non fiction book. Not very useful.

If I limit this to "Book" I get 150 results, many (most?) of which are actually comic books/graphic novels.

3. If I search for Ghost World I get 318 items. If I limit this to "Comic Book" I get 2 results, one of which is a DVD and one of which is a comic, but not Ghost World by Daniel Clowes.

If I limit to "Book" the top two results are graphic novels, though one of them seems to be unsure of whether it's Ghost World or Maggie the Mechanic.

4. If I search for Naruto I get 129 results. If I limit this to "Comic Book" I get 25 results, and most of them seem to be actually comics! Only one (that I saw) is a DVD.

If I limit to "Book" I get 53 results, dozens of which are comics.

I think this to be a serious problem because people cannot effectively use your catalogue to find graphic novels.

I do not believe that this was a problem earlier this year, and I do not know what has happened, but I hope something is done about it soon.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Toronto Zine Library

292 Brunswick Avenue (second floor of the Tranzac Club)

I went and visited the Toronto Zine Library while I was in Toronto over the summer. It was cool to see another zine library, as I don't think I'd been in one since I left Halifax last year (get it together Vancouver!).

To be honest, it was so long ago I barely remember much of it, though I did get to go to Zine Dream in the Tranzac Club (in the same building). It was a kind of neat event, but it was filled with people selling art prints and expensive art zines and stuff I'm not that into. I'm not opposed to people making that sort of thing, I'm just not that interested in buying/reading them.

I did get to meet the creator of Gender Fuck What, which was neat. I got their new zine though, so look out for a review of that at some point on 365 Zines a Year. I also got some rad zines about zine libraries, and I'll have a list about those on soon(ish).

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Toronto Public Library: Sanderson Branch

327 Bathurst Street

So I went to so many libraries while I was in Toronto that I can't remember where all of them even where (it was like a month ago!). It just took me like ten minutes of clicking around on Google maps ant the Toronto Public Library to even find this one.

Inside they had these cute little window seats. Sure they could be more comfortable (I didn't actually sit in them so I don't know how they felt), but they seem like pretty nice places to read a book.

Friday, September 6, 2013

#3 Part Deux: Mount Pleasant Branch - "Information Books"

I arranged to have yet another adaptation of Jane Eyre sent to the Mount Pleasant Branch at Kingsway and Main as a reason for visiting there one very sunny afternoon. This turned out to be an interesting tactic, as dvds placed on hold are not put out on the hold shelves at Mount Pleasant Branch, but rather are kept behind the circulation desk. It took me an inordinately long time staring at the holds shelf trying to find the item supposedly there for me before I spotted the very clearly placed sign telling me about the dvd holds. The lady at the desk told me that so many dvds were stolen out of cases at that particular branch that they started placing at least the on hold dvds behind the desk so they would be in the case when the patron came to pick up their hold.

Despite what that little story may bring up in your imagination, this is actually a relatively snazzy library branch, though not much to my own taste personally. It is located in a well-appointed community center and is a pretty good size including some well-lit seating by a corner full of windows at the back. A wall literally divides the room down the center with mostly children’s and YA materials on one side and adult and non-fiction stuff on the other side. Amusingly the sign over the non-fiction books on the “adult” side of the library labeled them as “Information Books.” There is also a zine section in this library by the adult graphic novels, which is not something I've spotted anywhere else but at the Central Branch before. Meanwhile, the children’s side also has ESL materials and some tables for working or reading at, which made for an interesting mix of patrons in that area, children, young adults, and several mostly elderly adults.

I found signs listing a Teen Manga and a DIY Button Making event for teens which sounded neat. But further observation made me realize these were not events local to that library, but rather events occurring generally across the library system or at the Central Branch downtown. I wonder how many events actually occur within the small branch libraries embedded within local communities of VPL versus at the large central branch downtown which has the space and resources for events. It seems like a kind of unfortunate tension between where the people are and where the resources and space are.

The version of Jane Eyre I snagged this time was the 1996 2-hour movie with Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. For those who might be interested, a young Anna Paquin plays the childhood Jane Eyre in the early scenes, which sadly I did not really like. I found those scenes lacked subtlety and in that way assumed the audience wasn't intelligent enough to pick up on the themes and emotional motifs on their own without having them bashed into their faces in the most literal of ways. This tendency crops up again periodically throughout the movie.

 I cannot help but find Gainsbourg an appealing Jane Eyre even though she definitely plays up the isolated, quiet queerness of the character. Little Adele is actually fairly appealing in this version which most certainly is not always the case. But the major problem is William Hurt as Mr. Rochester who brings little or no drama to what is supposed to be an intense role (and really the story makes no sense if there is no great tension in his character). Although, unlike some of the earlier versions of Jane Eyre, there is a musical score, I find it is rather ridiculous at times. The music when Rochester first appears is utterly inappropriate to the moment, though really that whole scene is played with the most amount of practicality and least actual character and drive or any of the Jane Eyre adaptations I have ever seen. At least Jane's sketches are actually fairly nice, because often they are really just terrible and over dramatic and silly.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Toronto Public Library: Riverdale Branch

370 Broadview Ave.

I think this building looks much more library-like than the last one. Which I guess raises the question "what should a library look like?".

I've been reading some articles about the new, fancy, incredibly expensive (188 million pounds) library which just opened in Birmingham in England. Of course while I'm sure this library is cool, it's also being opened at a time when the hours and staff at other libraries in Birmingham are being cut back and I wonder if it's the best way to use that money.

Then there are the issues surrounding library design. How do you design a building to last when you have no idea what libraries will even be used for in a decade? (Okay, they'll still probably be used for borrowing books.) 

In regards to design the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library recently got rid of their reference desks and replaced them with roving reference librarians who will come find you if you phone or tweet at them. How modern! I'm curious to see how it'll be received. Personally I totally hate it. When I was in the library recently I discovered that the zine section had been moved. I asked at the downstairs information desk (which is still there!) and was told it was on the third floor. After wandering around on the third floor I couldn't find it, and I also couldn't find any librarians. So I left. I don't particularly want to phone somebody and wait for them to show up when all I want is for them to point me in the right direction.

Of course, I pretty much only ask for help when I can't find something (which most of the time is because it's been stolen), and by asking for help to find it I'm indirectly letting the library know it's been stolen.

And hey, speaking of missing books, remember when I complained about all the X-Men comics being stolen from the library? At the time there were 145 results for X-Men when you limited the search to comic books. Now there are only 19 (five of which _still_ aren't actually comics, and may not even be about the X-Men)! What happened? Did they actually delete all those books that were missing? No, it seems they've just moved them over to the "books" section. I do not understand why they have done this.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Toronto Public Library: St. James Town

St. James Town Branch
495 Sherbourne Street

This was actually the closest branch to where I was staying in Toronto, but I walked passed it multiple times before I even realized it was a library. No doubt at least in part because the entrance way was away from the road I walked on, and inside past people playing table tennis. Though, while you can't really see it in this photo, it does say "library" in a large font behind those windows, so maybe I'm just dumb.

When I realized it was a library I heard a bunch of kids up high somewhere, and I had high hopes that I'd be able to get up onto the roof easily. Alas, it turned out to just be a daycare that had roof access.

So in my last post I said that Toronto had 98 branches (!!!), this is because in 1998 Toronto amalgamated with a bunch of other cities. This meant that the library systems were also combined, and seven different systems (Etobicoke, North York, York, East York, Scarborough, Metro Toronto, and Toronto) became one. These systems had between one and thirty three branches and I can't imagine the nightmare that must have resulted in trying to combine all of their systems.

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!