Blog - Library Services Centre

There is little Canadians like to talk about more than the weather. And for good reason: those of us in Ontario have seen snow squalls with 50km/h winds, +10 degree weather and everything melting, showers, and a freezing rain system that shut down universities, major roads and even some libraries. All within the past two weeks! Of course we want to talk about this craziness!

 

According to a 2014 report from Influence Communications, news stories in Canada were 229% more likely to focus on the weather than anywhere else in the world.  The biggest reason behind this is that we are an enormous country with varying climates; where the Maritimes might get a blizzard, southern Ontario might be completely clear and Vancouver probably has rain.

 

Regular weather doesn’t usually get that much attention, but we do love reading and talking about extreme weather and natural disasters.  With the advent of social media, we’re able to get weather updates in real time from both professional meteorologists and storm hunters, and from people all over the country.  Of course, this also means every time Toronto gets a snowstorm, someone brings up the army digging them out (dear rest of the country: get over it).

 

Personally I love a good storm, though as a nervous driver I prefer a summer thunderstorm over ice and snow.  There’s something almost energizing about stormy weather and seeing the power of nature.  This has also led to watching a number of terrible disaster movies (Geostorm, I’m looking at you) but I don’t hold it against the weather.

 

Of course, bad weather brings with it dangerous conditions and storm safety is important to know, especially for kids.  In July, Beech Street Books will release a series of books on disasters and storm safety, focused specifically on Canada.  Books in the series include Snow and Ice Storms, Tornadoes, and Floods.  Although spring is approaching (allegedly…) natural disasters can occur at any time of year.

 

We get help from man’s best friend when dealing with some disasters and nasty weather.  In the mountains of British Columbia, dogs are trained to help first responders rescue people trapped in avalanches.  One of these dogs is Henry the Border Collie, who works with a team based in Whistler.  When not searching for avalanche victims, he also helps clear both black bears and Canada geese away from inhabited areas.

 

Although our winter weather gets a lot of attention, our summer weather can bring both thunderstorms and tornadoes, mostly in the stretch between Saskatchewan and Quebec.  Manitoba has the distinction of Canada’s first (and so far, only) F5 tornado, Elie in 2007.  I was in Toronto during the 2009 tornado outbreak that saw two tornadoes touch down in Vaughan; although I was safely in North York at the time, I still remember just how black the sky was and how strong the lightning and winds. And last year, Ottawa was surprised by a disastrous tornado that they are still feeling the effects of.

 

We all saw Twister and, bellowing tornadoes and flying cows aside, the movie had some decent storm science in it.  DOROTHY was based off the 1980s TOTO project, and storm chasers really do exist (and run tours).  Tornado science has continued to improve, and in 2003 scientists in South Dakota were able to deploy instruments to study the interior of a tornado for the first time.  This increased knowledge can help meteorologists and weather scientists predict dangerous storms sooner, potentially saving lives.

 

One of these scientists is Robin Tanamachi, featured in the book Tornado Scientist: Seeing Inside Severe Storms. Tanamachi and her team spend their summers driving around the United States heartland in a Doppler radar truck, chasing tornadoes.  The data she and other storm chasers collect is modelled on computers, improving our collective knowledge of how, when, and where tornadoes happen.

 

Unfortunately, we can’t talk about the weather and natural disasters without also touching on climate change.  Climate change brings unpredictable weather, which means an increase in extreme conditions.  Recent evidence indicates that our trouble with the dreaded polar vortex over the past few years can be attributed to climate change; specifically that the increasing warmth in the Arctic is upsetting the jet stream, causing it to kink – and bring that cold Arctic air down to the rest of us.

 

Kids (or adults; no judgment) can learn more about climate change with PowerKids Press’s Climate Change, part of the Spotlight on Weather and Natural Disasters series.  Staying informed is the best way to combat any issue, whether it affects our entire world or just how many layers one should put on when leaving in the morning.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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LSC is proud to announce that we can now provide educational toys and low-level makerspace equipment to Canadian libraries. 

 

We all know how important books and reading are for babies and young children. I don’t need to go into detail about how books are essential for teaching children communication, listening and early literacy skills. Board, Picture and Early Reader books are the stepping-stones to learning and growing.

 

However as important as books are, there are other ways to help children learn. Libraries are changing. Gone are the days when a library was simply an information collection point. Now, libraries are community hubs. A common place for all members of the community to come together, to access unique and imagination-spurring resources. And libraries are starting to branch out and introduce educational toys to help enhance those literacy skills and teach key concepts such as colours, shapes, numbers and sounds etc.

 

We know that not all children learn the same way and having a diverse toy collection in a library is an excellent way to help support children of all abilities and families of all income levels. Toys in a library can focus on auditory, fine motor, gross motor, language, social, tactile, thinking, and visual skills development.

 

LSC is a co-op, and we serve the needs of our clients. So when a client came to us needing help, we listened. They wanted toys that fulfilled certain aged-based skills and educational outcomes. They also needed help cataloguing and processing these unusual items. This is the sort of challenge to which LSC is uniquely suited to provide assistance.

 

Our Selection team immediately set about sourcing educational toys and low-level makerspace equipment. Our cataloguing department put their expertise to work in creating MARC records that will be of value to patrons. And our processing department scoured our suppliers, finding just the right containers to house the toys.

 

Like all LSC products, libraries have a choice to receive the items direct, or have them catalogued and/or processed by us. For processed items, you can chose between a transparent tote making for easy stacking on shelves, or a transparent backpack that can be hung (and kids love to sling over their shoulder). If a library wishes to provide LSC with branded bags or containers of their own, we will process the material in these containers. All processed material is photographed to show all components.

 

The totes can come with a component and skill level checklist inside the container, so patrons and library staff alike can easily check to make sure everything where it should be. For the bags, we have developed a luggage tag that attaches to the bag, featuring the item picture, list of components, and the item barcode.

 

If you are looking for some ideas, check out Pyramid of Play. 5 wooden nesting blocks with fun graphics help with recognition of letters, pictures, colours, numbers and sizes, plus shape shorting, nesting and stacking.

 

Another great toy for toddlers is The Counting and Sorting Farm. Soft round stalls have numbers printed on the bottom with the same number on the stuffed farm critters. These little animals fit inside the little stalls and help teach children to count, match and sort.

 

My First Emotions helps young children learn to recognize and understand different emotions using bright buildable giant LEGO pieces. Children can turn the double-sided face bricks to explore the different facial expressions and use the story bricks to create their own tales around moods and feelings.

 

And finally, with The Shape Sorting Clock, children can match the colours, sort the shapes and solve the puzzle as they manipulate the colour clock and turn the hands. This help to build cognitive and motor skills and lays the groundwork for learning how to tell time.

 

Having accessible toys, games, puzzles and soft books to use both in and out of the library is just another step in helping your library community and the children within it connect, grow and learn more than ever before. 

 

The toys and makerspace equipment available to us is growing, and our Selectors are ready to source new materials at the request of a library. ARPs, based on skill level or material types, can be set-up so that your experiential learning areas are constantly refreshed with new items that we have the expertise to pick and provide.

 

As we develop this service, we will create regular Slists referring to new items that we have added to the catalogue. Currently, if you wish to purchase toys and makerspace equipment from us, please contact Sara Pooley directly. For the time being, please refer to our 2018 Selections for the types and skills available.

 

The 2018 SList is available here.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Take care!

 

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According to Wikipedia, there are over thirty holidays, observances, and traditions celebrated world wide in the month of December. Some as ancient as Shabe Yaldā and some as new as Festivus. Most of them celebrating, in some manner, the shortest day of the year, and the turn away from the Bleak Midwinter. One holiday in particular nearly lapsed into obscurity until, a century and a half ago, it was rescued by some ghosts.

 

Last year saw the release of the film the Man Who Invented Christmas, telling the story of Charles Dickens and the mutual life support his A Christmas Carol gave to both himself and a fledgling celebration that had long since been dwarfed by Boxing Day. By the beginning of the 1800s, Christmas had already had a turbulent history. The Romans had celebrated Saturnalia at this time, but didn’t have to contend with snow. As they expanded into Northern Europe, they encountered the Germanic Yule, and other “pagan” celebrations happening at the same time, and merged those traditions with their own.

 

Time, as it likes to do, moved on, and Christmas largely remained an excuse to drink and be merry, with emphasis on the drinking. The rowdier elements of the pagan traditions did not sit well with the English Puritans, and Christmas was banned in England by Oliver Cromwell in 1645. It was restored along with the monarchy a few years later, but the wind was taken out of its sails, and for the next two hundred years the celebration in the UK was a much more subdued, private affair. No decorations, no presents, no carols or fanfare.  Just a goose, if you were lucky.

 

In 1819, Washington Irving (of Sleepy Hollow fame) wrote an account of Christmas celebrations, which were almost certainly fabricated. Irving was a notorious liar, who is also responsible for the myth that people before Columbus thought the Earth was flat. But Irving’s idea of a seasonal gathering which brought together people of all status, to celebrate a new year and enjoy the customs of the ancients caught the imagination.

 

In 1823, Clement Moore published The Night Before Christmas in New York (with its long Germanic and Dutch heritage, as well as healthy immigrant population), fully bringing the Germanic and Nordic traditions of St. Nicholas into the Christmas story. A few years later, back in the UK, a young Queen Victoria married the German Prince Albert and with him came more of the German traditions, still heavily influenced by the ancient pagan practices. Mistletoe, Holly wreaths, candles and carols came to England with the Prince. In 1841, a tree was decorated in Windsor Castle for the first time, illustrations of which made their way across England and over the ocean, cementing the Christmas tree as the centerpiece of the holiday home.

 

For more on the history of Christmas, and how it evolved over the centuries, check out the gorgeously photographed Christmas: from solstice to Santa by Nikki Tate.

 

Then came the ghosts. The Victorians were no strangers to ghost stories; they permeated much of their literature. As the Victorian age marched on and the Scientific Revolution began to take hold, spiritualism spiked. Charles Dickens wasn’t a spiritualist, but he did think of ghosts often. Not as the white sheeted frights of horror, but as the memories of those who have passed, especially in the last year (this being the Victorian era, and death common and indiscriminant). It was his belief that there was no better time of the year to consider the lessons ghosts might teach us then in the deep of the winter, when the trees were bare and the air cold, and candles danced shadows through long nights.

 

Having suffered a series of commercial failures, Dickens was desperate for a hit. But Christmas was a long shot at best. A holiday people barely made mention of was hardly the foundation for a best seller. His publishers were nervous, but Dickens had his ghosts to guide him, and wrote his Christmas Carol not based on any religious practice but on a common human decency. That Christmas was a time for families to come together, to celebrate and rejoice in their company, and toast the year to come. Most of this was – again – largely fictional. It made for a good story but shared little in common with a reader’s actual experience.

 

It struck a chord though. Upon publication, it was an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Readers saw in Dicken’s morality tale not what they had, but what they wanted and could have. Christmas as an idea exploded across the British Empire, heralded by ghostly warnings and promises. Ghosts never really took off as a Christmas staple – they lost their moral compass and became spooks over on Halloween. Thanks to Dickens though, they’ve never really left Christmas either. Each year more writers are inspired to tell their own paranormal tales - such as in the short story colletion Ghosts of Christmas Past, including the works of Neil Gaiman - usually featuring spirits seeking to put right what once went wrong.

 

This year we’ve put together two lists (40777 for fiction and 40653 for everything else) of recent and popular material the celebrate the holiday season. With more than thirty to choose from, there is surely something for everyone in the coming month. And if you’d rather skip them all, there are still roaring fires, hot cocoa, and thoughts of tropical beaches you’d rather be on to keep you warm. Whatever and however you celebrate being halfway out of the dark, if you happen to meet any ghosts along the way, mind what they tell you. They might be friendlier than they look.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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I’ve been riding horses since I was thirteen. By the time I was seventeen, I had convinced my mom to go halves on a horse. I had visions of a trained show pony, preferably black as coal, who never spooked and did everything I asked. Instead, I got Riff Raff. 

 

While he’s actually (mostly) named for the Rocky Horror Picture Show character, the name also fit him as an unwanted baby from Alberta, brought to Ontario to be sold to the African Lion Safari for food. At first, I didn’t want him either.  He was unbroke, spooky, and somewhat ugly with his big heavy head and giant donkey ears.  I wanted a horse I could get on and ride, not an uncut stallion terrified of the little white Shetland pony he shared a field with.  I remember bringing him into the stall the first time (after spending 20 minutes catching him) and being really angry at him for his antsy behaviour.

 

To see him, Riff looks similar to the horse featured on the cover of Scholastic’s upcoming Horses: the Definitive Catalog of Horse and Pony Breeds.  Inside are some horse breeds that even I’m not that familiar with, despite spending the past 20 years around horses in some capacity.  Everyone remotely interested in horses (which I’m pretty sure is all of us, at least those of us who were once little girls) knows about the Chincoteague, but there are plenty of other wild island ponies, including the Eriskay from Scotland, the Padang from Indonesia, and the Skyros from Greece.

 

Canada also has its own horse, called – shockingly – the Canadian (or French Canadian) Horse.  Before their popularity waned in the 1970s, there were three types of Canadian Horses: the Canadian Heavy Draft or St. Lawrence; the Frencher (also sometimes called the St. Lawrence for maximum confusion); and the Canadian Pacer.  The Pacer was known for being able to race on ice, which probably means it should replace the beaver as our national animal.

 

The Canadian Pacer is thought to have influenced a number of breeds in the United States, including the Tennessee Walker, a horse well-known for its unique gaited walk; the American Saddlebred; and the Standardbred.  Riff currently lives in a small herd with a Standardbred mare named Elly and Elly’s daughter, Raina. 

 

Standardbreds are best known for their harness racing, and Elly was in a few races in her youth, meaning she’s trained to pull a sulky or buggy.  She didn’t do very well, possibly because she’s somewhat bad-tempered and uncoordinated.  When leading Elly somewhere, watch your toes; she tends to fling her feet off to the sides.  She and Riff are both approaching 20 years old, so she’s mellowed somewhat.

 

I’ve had Riff for 14 years now.  Once he was gelded and given some attention, he blossomed into one of the sweetest horses I’ve ever known.  When he's feeling good, he plays keepaway in the field: he waits until I get almost close enough to put his halter on, then trots off a good distance before turning back to watch me try to approach him again. He’s good-natured and patient, though that doesn’t mean he won’t buck me off if I deserve it.  And he did, finally, grow into his ears.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

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