Arduino in the Library

August 26, 2016

Arduino UNO


Over the last few years you may have heard about something called Arduino, but might not be quite sure what it is.  Arduino is a really amazing circuit board that you can connect to a computer, and relatively quickly build an electronic circuit that can be used as a prototype for something you wish to make.  Arduino was developed by Massimo Banzi as a way to bridge the gap between having to understand complex electronics principles and building circuit boards while allowing designers to prototype electronics into their products and allow them to express their creativity.

The Arduino board allows a designer to connect different electronics components to it such as lights, speakers (for sound), sensors (such as light, pressure, temperature), switches (including tilt switches like those found in phones), and various types of motors for movement.  Then the Arduino board is connected to a computer and the user can modify or create their own small programs (called sketches) and program the Arduino board to function as they would like.

Using the different components along with the sketches allows the designer to create things that light up, sense, and/or move allowing for a wide variety of applications.  From making toys that sing and dance, having your house plant tweet you and tell you to water it, or as the foundation for a satellite, Arduino is an amazing tool for do-it-yourselfers (aka Makers).  They have been finding many novel and ingenious ways to use this fun designer friendly little board to create amazing things.  Also, with the internet of things (electronics connecting to the internet) being utilized more and more, many amazing things are being done with Arduino boards.

With the traditional role of the library changing to adapt to the modern needs of patrons, we are starting to see many libraries create Maker spaces.  These spaces serve as a new hands on way of learning that takes the information in the book stacks and magazine racks and allows patrons to apply their new found knowledge.  It is also a great way to bring a sense of community back to the library and make it a central place for meeting, learning, and sharing ideas.

Because the Arduino board is meant to make it easier for designers to take their ideas and make them a reality with significantly less technical knowhow, it allows for greater artistic expression and advancement in technology.  Because Arduino is open-source, ideas and designs are readily shared and showcased in maker communities which honours and rekindles the freedom to learn that Gutenberg’s printing press elicited.  With access to the internet, and as libraries begin to embrace new technologies such as Arduino and build creative commons, a library can work towards creating a space where patrons come and learn.  This places the library as a centre of academic excellence and cultural centre in the great tradition of the Library of Alexandria and honour the muses of literature, the sciences, and the arts.

If you are interested in getting started with Arduino in your library, there are some great beginner books that nicely lend themselves to workshops, and there a lot of amazing online tutorials to learn from and share with patrons.  Below is a recommended list of books and websites to help you incorporate Arduino into your library and build your own creative commons space.

Make has created a really nice and readable series of books related to Arduino:

  • Getting Started with Arduino: The Open Source Electronics Prototyping Platform
  • Basic Arduino Projects: 26 Experiments with Microcontrollers and Electronics
  • Getting Started with Sensors: Measure the World with Electronics, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi
  • Make: Action: Movement, Light, and Sound with Arduino and Raspberry Pi

There are also some really great websites that offer free step by step tutorials and code to help get you started.  Some personal favourites:

Adafruit Industries

Started by Limor Freid in her dorm room while at MIT. Adafruit Industries offer many step by step tutorials for all learning levels and also sell the Arduino board and electronic components for building projects.

Jeremy Blum and

Back in 2011 while still a student Jeremy started making Arduino tutorial videos on YouTube, which have since had over a million visitors.  Jeremy is still creating videos to this day, and has built on the success of his tutorials by recently writing a book Exploring Arduino, which a testament to the success of his video tutorial series.

Sparkfun and

Like Adafruit, Sparkfun is another Arduino reseller that also sells electronics components to use with the Arduino.  Sparkfun has created a seven hour tutorial video on YouTube to take people new to Arduino through the basics and walk them through creating projects and using a virtual design program called Fritzing.


Instructables is a great DIY resource that allows contributors to share the instructions for any project they have completed with a larger community.  They also have a section devoted to Arduino projects because of the popularity of the board.

Written by Kris Levey, e-Services Technician.

Flipster Update!

June 29, 2016


Earlier this year, St. Thomas Public Library launched a new online magazine lending service: FLIPSTER!

Flipster provides access to digital copies of magazines, that you can download via an app on your tablet, or the browser on your computer! Now you can download magazines to read offline, anytime, anywhere, for FREE!

Back in January, we selected 25 magazine titles that we thought would be popular.  Recently, we reviewed the usage and feedback from library customers, to see which ones hit the mark, and which ones weren’t so interesting.

Based on that information, we’ve now decided to keep some of our original picks, but also try some new ones!

Here are all the titles we will be offering, starting in July:

  • Clean Eating
  • Chatelaine
  • Car & Driver
  • Creative Knitting
  • O, the Oprah magazine
  • Cooking Light
  • Popular Photography
  • Discover
  • Canadian Geographic
  • Today’s Parent
  • Motorcyclist
  • Canadian Wildlife
  • Cottages & Bungalows
  • New York Review of Books
  • Sports Illustrated for Kids
  • Seventeen
  • HGTV Magazine
  • Amazing wellness
  • Fast Company
  • Garden Making

Because we want to make sure that we provide the most popular magazines, we will be reviewing these titles again in December 2016, to see if there are any that should be replaced!

Want to learn how to use Flipster? Check out our blog post from January 2016!

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

Virtual Tour

June 6, 2016

St. Thomas Public Library’s website has a brand-new feature: a VIRTUAL TOUR!

If you haven’t been into the Library for several years now, and are curious what it looks like today, here is your chance to get a sneak peek before you even set foot in the door!

In April, we had photographer Aaron Burns come into the Library early in the morning before we opened to the public. Once here, he took over 5000 photos of the building – pictures were taken from every angle, so that, once stitched together, they give us a complete 360 degree view of the space. Every detail is included – all around, the floors, the ceilings, everything! We placed the camera in the central areas of many of our rooms – so that you can get a good idea of the layout of the building.

When you click the link on our website (, here is a screenshot of what you will see:Virtual tour

You begin the tour at the front of the building, outside. You can click and drag your mouse anywhere on the image, effectively pulling the pictures around you; this is what gives you the 360 degree feel! In addition to viewing up, down, and all around you, you can navigate to different areas of the building; between floors and to the east and west areas of the building, by clicking the arrows. There is also a menu in the upper-right hand corner, helping you switch between levels quickly. If you want to see a floorplan of the level you are looking at, just click the little “floorplan” icon at the bottom of the page.

We had a lot of fun bringing this tour to life, and we feel as though it shows off our best side! But really, the library rarely looks like the way it does in the virtual tour – we are never empty! You’ll have to use your imagination to picture the more than 800 library members who walk through our doors each day!

Have you checked out our virtual tour yet? We think it’s worth your while!


Questions, comments? Email


– Sarah Macintyre, Systems & Support Services Librarian

Local History and Geneology Fit into the Big Picture of National History

May 25, 2016

Blog 1

In April, St. Thomas Public Library was contacted by a Forensic Genealogy Coordinator working for the Canadian National Defense.  They were seeking to identify a recovered WWII soldier who they believed to be Pte. Kenneth Donald Duncanson, killed in action September 14, 1944.  The Coordinator had searched the Elgin OGS (Ontario Genealogical Society) online index for the St. Thomas Times Journal and found a marriage announcement for his sister, Lyla Patricia Duncanson.  The Coordinator was looking for a copy of this announcement, other family information, and the existence of any children, and asked us if we could help!

In our research, we found the marriage announcement for a woman named Iyla Patricia Duncanson.  Though we could not find an obituary for Pte. Donald Duncanson, we did find that he was buried (presumably without remains) in the Fairview Cemetery in Dutton.  The inscription on the tombstone reads “Their Son   Kenneth D.  1915 – 1944   Killed in Action, Belgium.”   We forwarded this information to the Coordinator, and directed her to the Elgin Archives, and their holdings of the  Dutton newspaper the Dutton Advance. The Forensic Genealogy Coordinator must have taken our recommendation, and found additional information which substantiated the identity of the remains, because on May 17, 2016 local newspapers carried an article that an “Elgin Soldier’s Remains Found in Belgium” were indeed those of Pte. Kenneth Donald Duncanson of Dutton. Read more from the St. Thomas Times Journal:

We are so pleased that we got to be a small part of solving this mystery!

Learn more about our Local History collections on our website!

Questions? Email us at

By Donna Hanson, Technical Services Coordinator

Bald Eagles in Elgin County

May 3, 2016

They’re back. I can tell by the line of cars parked along the busy country road. If there are several vehicles parked, but spaced out along the road, there may be one or two big, long cameras pointing out a car window. If there is a cluster of cars parked together, the inhabitants of those cars have emerged and can be seen congregated, and chatting, with their heads turned to the north and their faces angled upwards. Chances are that there is a beautiful bald eagle in the forest, sitting in a massive nest near the tree top. The nest is a bit obscured by all the branches, and one needs to focus to see that distinctive, white head.  If the roadsters are lucky, they will clearly see the other eagle perched on a favoured branch, at the very outside edge of the forest –  a site chosen no doubt to give it clear view of the gawkers at the roadside.  This is the third year that they are have used that nest, a nest that must have been so carefully and skilfully constructed.  The first year, as I was driving to work, I was so surprised to catch sight of such a huge clump of sticks at the top of the forest. Could it really weigh 2000 lbs? How strong can those supporting tree limbs at the tree top be? Imagine sitting up there – the view, the gentle swaying, the frog chorus at night, and being so much closer to the stars.

There are a few sightings of bald eagle nests throughout Elgin County. This site is on Ron McNeil Line, just west of Wellington Road, in the forest on the north side, not far from my home. Soon, the leaves will be unfurled, the view of the nest will be obscured, and the line of cars will disappear. I will still be looking to sky everyday though as I drive by the forest, always hoping to catch a glimpse of a magnificent bird, gliding ever so gracefully into the forest.

Book Suggestions:

Birds of Elgin County by Naturalists of Elgin County

Birds of Elgin County

Birds of Canada ed. David M. Bird

Birds of Canada



April 11, 2016

Knitting always makes me think of my Nana. She tried many times to teach me knitting but I could never master it. For his Feb 19 - Anne 2sixth birthday, my oldest son received an activity book which included instructions to knit a teddy bear. He asked me to show him how to knit! Me? Teach someone how to knit? By this time, Nana had been gone for many years, so I couldn’t turn to her and ask for help. Luckily, the book had clear photos and simple instructions, I figured it out. The simple instructions for children were just what I needed, I was even able to master the elusive skill of casting off. After I completed the five pieces required to build his bear(he decided early on he didn’t need to learn to knit after all), I put them all together for a pleasant little creature. It turned out so well,  I ended up making many of them to share with our family and friends. My Nana would be proud.

My youngest son discovered Harry Potter this autumn and I decided to make him a scarf with the Gryffindor colours. I found a project online, but it required a trip out to buy the round knitting needles it called for. I had never knit in the round before, so this didn’t seem odd to me until I started knitting. Knitting in the round proved to be awkward and difficult. This is supposed to be a scarf? A long, straight scarf? Why is it looking more like an infinity scarf? Why is there a twist in my knitting? Is this twist supposed to be there? Turns out, it is not supposed to be there! All advice I was given said tear it out, start over. So, I pulled my progress off the needles. Since I was finding it so difficult to work on the round needles, I switched the pattern over to a set of long straight needles, and progress is much faster on this familiar territory.  With my love of knitting sparked again, I intend to learn more about it. The St. Thomas Public Library is the best place for me to go, with a massive selection of books on knitting.

In the knitting section, I found many, many books. I looked through a few which I found to be more complicated than I am ready for. I found one that described with pictures and simple steps that were familiar to me. The title is Knitting for Dummies! Some pages I found helpful are: page 43 where I found a list of abbreviations and short hand; page 63 which describes thumb (or e-loop) cast on; pages 64-67 which teach a basic knit, also called a garter stitch; pages 67-68 where I learned that purling is also a garter stitch; page 73 which shows the basic way of casting off; and pages 61 and 69 which talk about left handed knitting. The other two books I found helpful were actually in the Children’s section of the library. Kids Can Do It Knitting includes instructions for such things as: adding a fringe; making pom-poms;  tassles; a cozy blanket; a rolled brim hat; and a patterned headband. The second children’s book is called Kids Can Do It Fix It. This book includes a section on pages 16-17 for learning how to fix some common knitting mistakes.



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