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Mapping books by neighbourhood

  • Jul 13, 2014
  • 340 words
  • 2 minutes
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“Location, location, location” isn’t just a real estate mantra; it can also serve as a succinct definition of geography. But a new online initiative is using Canadian literature to shine light on both geography and real estate.

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) has launched an innovative and interactive website that is designed to help readers find their way. Toronto in Literature: Book Lists by Neighbourhood identifies works of fiction that are set in one of the city’s distinct communities such as Don Mills, North York or Riverdale. By clicking on the ‘open book’ icon on the Google map, readers retrieve a list of books that relates to that particular neighbourhood.

It’s a resource that sits at the crossroads of imagination and reality. The map shows the concentration of literature in certain, easily recognizable communities within the metropolis. North York, for example, is connected to nine works of fiction compared to the less prolific setting of Riverdale with its three titles. Toronto Island has spawned four titles by notable Canadian authors including Michael Redhill, Hugh Hood and RCGS Fellow Margaret Atwood.

Mary-Beth Clark, Senior Services Specialist for Information Services, is a member of the TPL staff who came up with the idea. She is thrilled with the response from readers who have been excited about the resource and busy sending in their suggestions for additions to the book lists.

Buoyed by public response, TPL is committed to make Toronto in Literature a stronger and richer resource by adding more books to the existing lists, including French titles, and expanding to include new neighbourhoods.

Since the site went live, it has attracted national media attention. On May 21st, CBC’s Jian Gomeshi encouraged “the nation’s librarians, cartographers and book lovers” to take inspiration from the Toronto Public Library and expand the map to include their own locations. Such initiatives, if undertaken, would complement existing sites like 49th Shelf’s Read Local: the 100 Mile Book Diet and fill in the map of the literary landscape in Canada.


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