Didn’t you learn not to mix Word on the Street booths with oversized novelty eyewear last year?


38 new Browseries

Best Bets used to be single-week-loan no-holds books at certain branches. The policy was changed – I could link you to the PDF, but why bother – and now they are simply no-holds books with three-week renewable loan periods.

Best Bets just got better: Three-week loan, renwable

Essentially, then, every Best Bets collection – I count 38 open today – is now a mini-Browsery, as the treatment of such materials is indistinguishable from those in the two extant Browseries. And as such they render those two Browseries’ books obsolete, though this news has not quite reached TRL.


Update (the next day): Without even having to ask the question, somebody at the desk at TRL told me the loan period of its Best Bets autoflipped to three weeks on July 1. So it’s just a question of ugly homegrown signage and covering up stickers with other stickers.

DVDs with audio description at Toronto Public Library

If you’re blind or visually impaired, or if you’re just keen or these sorts of things, you can watch DVDs with audio description – additional narration that talks you through the movie, telling you whatever’s happening that you can’t figure out from the the main soundtrack.

I could go on a big diversion here about what a total nightmare it has been over the last decade just to make sure the description track from the first-run theatrical release actually makes it to home video. I could also describe how I actually maintained the master list of DVDs with audio description for years until I realized that threatened to become a lifelong unpaid (and unappreciated) task.

Anyway. TPL has a couple of hundred DVDs with audio description. The problem is they are really hard to look up in the catalogue. You have to use exactly this subject heading:

Video recordings for people with visual disabilities

You must also know to search by subject. A seemingly simple step like that is actually way beyond the capacity of most users, nor should it be their problem, nor does the new catalogue make subject searches easy.

Yes, there’s a link to that search on an accessibility page. But had you ever heard of that page? Did you know TPL had DVDs with description? Did you know how to find them?

That’s a lot of problems. But one of them has been solved.

Easy ways to tell people how to find described DVDs

At my suggestion, the crack TPL Web team (that is not an ironic statement) added a bunch of shortcuts. They’ve been set up so you can tell people how to search for DVDs when you’re just talking to them, or are running a radio show, or are using something other than an online medium where somebody can click a link.

It’s real simple. Just tell your friends to go to any of these:

  • TPL.ca/describeddvds

  • TPL.ca/audiodescription

  • TPL.ca/descriptivevideo

  • TPL.ca/moviesfortheblind

Nice easy-to-remember phrases. Tell all your friends.

(If you want to write out TorontoPublicLibrary.CA instead, you can.)

A week later, TPL says the same thing

…on the little-known TPL accessibility blog.


Here is the oversized-holds cart at Yorkville – necessary because the wall shelves are too short, but having the side effect of exposing interesting books to whomever passes by. I always take a look.

Cart with a couple of items on it and taped-on Oversized Holds sign

One day I saw a children’s book and could not quite understand the cover. I looked at the barcode: J UKR. A Ukrainian children’s book. (Cyrillic cursive is pretty hard to read even for someone like me who can painstakingly sound out roman type. It’s a piece of cake for native readers, obviously.)

Anyway. First of all, I didn’t know the library had Ukrainian children’s books. (French, Chinese, Italian, Portuguese – sure.) So they exist. But not at Yorkville. Somebody put a hold on it. And that somebody is going to be a very interesting patron.

Who is she? What’s her background? Against all odds, is she teaching her kids Ukrainian? (The ancestral language must be preserved at any cost!) Isn’t she interesting, I repeat?

But because of RFID self-checkout, Yorkville staff will never meet her, never get to know her, have no inkling of what could be a new set of customers with unique needs.

This Ukrainian-speaking mom – I am aware of the assumptions I’m using here, thanks – becomes a cog in a machine: Search for book via computer, place hold via computer, enter branch and bypass every human being to check out book by computer.

This Ukrainian-speaking child is not a computer, nor is the mother. Because of a decision to turn every item in the Toronto Public Library into a miniature radio transmitter (even Ukrainian children’s books) and download labour to library users, staff will never get to know either of them.

TPL vice-chair (and – though no longer on the official registry – registered lobbyist) Mike Foderick: “The Toronto Public Library is in the stone age, in my opinion, when it comes to RFID.

Shitshow handling of fire at TRL

(UPDATED) I was at Reference this morning for the whole shitshow that was TRL security’s handling of a fire. The fire was caused by careless workmen. I smelled smoke, but thought it was due to welding. Nope.

The only Caucasian security guard there dicked around telling these high-school dropouts unequipped with fire extinguishers to “put it out!” Then, flip phone pressed to ear, I saw him wander around and fiddle with control panels.

I called the goddamned fire department. To my surprise, they claimed that apparatus was already on the way. Then, minutes later and amid extensive smoke, somebody figured out that the building had to be evacuated.

Firetruck outside Reference Library

Badly handled all around. This time, not fatally.

And? I saw Spokesgay Ed Karek wandering by outside not seeming visibly concerned or engaged.

Of course I’m kicking myself for not walking right over, pulling back the (much-mentioned) “tarp,” and asking these Einsteins if they had a fire on their hands and calling 911 right then and there. I’m also tired of TPL’s, and really Toronto’s, endemic mediocrity and unwillingness to actually do something right, like call the fire department right away and get everyone the fuck away from the giant clouds of billowing smoke that I saw engulfing the entire west side of the ground floor.

So: Think my standards are too high? Of course you do. But you weren’t fucking there.


While making a cup of tea yesterday afternoon I realized I am so upset about this incident because this is the third fire I have lived through and they always happen the same way: Being aware of smoke in the air but not quite aware enough to do something about it, like GTFO. Yesterday I GedTFO.

I didn’t tell you that I later saw one of the construction workers directly involved in this nonsense standing inside the glass walls of the abomination known as the Cube wearing a shit-eating grin as he photographed the numerous firetrucks.