Monday, January 10, 2011

askON Expands: Research Help from Libraries as Close as Your Keyboard

ONTARIO, January 10, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Are you trying to find a comprehensive list of award-winning Caribbean authors, career statistics for a long-retired NHL player or a trade association that can help your business expand to Mumbai?

Fast, expert help is as close as your computer—and, best of all, it's free.

Since January 2008, many Ontario libraries have been collaborating to provide an online inquiry service called askON, along with a similar French-language service called ONdemande. askON and ONdemande are among the five digital services of Knowledge Ontario, a not-for-profit collaborative. Seven more public libraries joined the service on January 3, so a total of 63 libraries across the province are now participating.

Here's how it works. You go to your local library's website or to the askON home page ( and open a live chat session. After you post your question, a real librarian—not an automated search engine—finds the information you need. The service is available 45 hours a week, and most inquiries take about 10 to 15 minutes to answer.

Each library provides two to eight hours of live chat help each week. As a result, Ontarians in even the smallest and most remote communities can get almost instant answers to their research questions. "It's an excellent example of how libraries work collaboratively," says Cathy Matyas, CEO of the Brampton Library.

askON is the sort of service very few libraries could provide on their own. However, it's exactly the sort of service they need to offer to stay relevant to many of their users.

"Providing wider access to library services is a key priority for us," says Matyas. She points out that technologically savvy users have flocked to askON. "The uptake has been tremendous in our community."

askON has been particularly popular with students and businesspeople—two groups who might not naturally visit a brick-and-mortar library but who spend a great deal of time online. "We're actually going where they are," says Laura Master, co-ordinator of information services at the Kitchener Public Library. "It's one more avenue for people to explore and discover our libraries."

Once users have made that initial contact, librarians can use the opportunity to help them increase their digital literacy. Many Ontarians, for instance, don't realize that their library cards give them access to a wealth of authoritative databases that can take them far beyond what a simple Google search can offer. In an online chat, librarians can help clients access and navigate these databases.

"askON is a really good way to promote our other online services," says Master.

Librarians are unabashed fans of the service, which helps them develop their technical skills and gives them an opportunity to do what they do best: find information. But perhaps the biggest raves come from askON users themselves, who often leave testimonials on the service's website.

"I really appreciated being able to get library help online from the comfort of my own home," wrote one user. "I don't always have the time to go to the library so this service is very valuable to me. Keep askON going!"

About Knowledge Ontario

Knowledge Ontario (KO) serves Ontarians through five digital services, including askON. KO is a not-for-profit collaborative of public libraries, colleges, universities, school boards, museums, archives, historical associations, hospitals and health libraries.

About askON

askON is a real-time information service, supported by Knowledge Ontario. Using live chat, askON connects people with librarians who can help them find authoritative online information while exposing them to new and relevant sites and sources. Launched on January 7, 2008, askON has grown to include 42 public libraries, 14 college libraries and 7 university libraries across the province. For more information, visit or

A list of participating libraries and current hours can be found at

Friday, January 7, 2011

How can we fix the gridlock on Canada's roads?

For one in four Canadians, the two-way commute takes more than 90 minutes, and it's getting worse —Maclean's Andrew Coyne has a solution

TORONTO, January 6, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Traffic. Immobilizing, enervating, infuriating traffic. Whether it's the Armdale Rotary in Halifax, the Autoroute Décarie in Montreal, Toronto's "Don Valley Parking Lot" or B.C. Lower Mainland's Port Mann bridge, Canadians are not imagining it: traffic is getting worse.

Statistics Canada reports the average time spent commuting to and from work nationwide increased from 54 minutes in 1992 to 63 minutes in 2005. In a year, that adds up to about 32 working days spent sitting in traffic. And that's the average. In Calgary, it's 66 minutes; in Vancouver, 67; in Toronto and Montreal, it's now up to nearly 80 minutes a day. And statistically, that's among the worst cities in the world.

The price is high for this congestion: wasted time, excess fuel consumption, greenhouse gases and risks to personal health, among other costs.

So what's the answer? Maclean's national editor Andrew Coyne examines strategies both here and abroad. What he suggests is a model that is being tested in various cities around the globe, with promising results.

This issue of Maclean's will also be available on iPad

The Maclean's Application for iPad is available for free from the App Store on iPad or at Each downloadable issue, priced at $2.99, comes complete with all the news, commentary, photography and columnists of the regular newsstand version. The content is beautifully rendered for iPad with an array of enhancements that bring the pages to life: embedded video, photo galleries, digital links, a live letters section, issue-at-a-glance and other navigation tools. It also gives readers the ability to save their favourite articles and share them with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.

About Maclean's

Maclean's is Canada's only national weekly current affairs magazine. Maclean's enlightens, engages and entertains 2.4-million readers with strong investigative reporting and exclusive stories from leading journalists in the fields of international affairs, social issues, national politics, business and culture. Visit

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Alzheimer's disease… it's more than you think

First wave of baby boomers turning 65 not ready for Alzheimer's

TORONTO, January 4, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - An online survey of baby boomers across Canada conducted by the Alzheimer Society reveals a worrying lack of awareness about Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer Society survey reveals alarming knowledge gap

Canadians can test their own knowledge at

Survey results show that an astonishing 23 per cent of boomers can't name any of the early signs of Alzheimer's disease, even though their risk doubles every five years after age 65.

Of those surveyed, 50 per cent identified memory loss as a key symptom, but failed to mention other critical signs.

"Boomers are their own best detectors of Alzheimer's," says Mary Schulz, National Director of Education at the Alzheimer Society. "This is an insidious disease. Most people associate memory loss with Alzheimer's but it's so much more. Sudden changes in mood, misplacing common household items (like keys in the refrigerator), repeating words or statements or difficulty with everyday tasks like getting dressed can all be warning signs that need to be discussed with a doctor."

Most boomers are familiar with the common hallmark of Alzheimer's disease of not recognizing familiar faces and objects. But less than half know about life-altering changes, such as hallucinations or total dependency on others for basic care, that occur in the disease's later stages. More troubling, respondents are unaware that diabetes, obesity, heart disease and chronic depression significantly increase their odds for developing the disease.

Today's findings confirm a disturbing lack of knowledge about Alzheimer's disease among boomers, the country's largest demographic group, who will become increasingly at risk as they age. But the reasons for self-awareness and prevention have never been more compelling. Without a cure or drugs to stop the disease, Alzheimer's is destined to be the most pressing and costly health issue boomers will face in their lifetime: either they will get the disease themselves or be faced with caring for someone with the disease.

In Judy Southon's case, it might have saved her a lot of anguish. The 63-year-old former school teacher and business owner was blindsided four years ago when her husband Vic, an electrician, was diagnosed with both Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. "I started noticing he was having trouble fixing ordinary things and using a drill. He couldn't follow instructions, use his cell phone or handle money; he couldn't even tell time. I was traumatized. The grief never goes away, but the more you know about this disease, the better you'll cope and plan ahead and make the most of each day. It's important that people really understand and be aware of the signs." At 74, Vic is now in the last stages of the disease and is being cared for in a long-term care facility.

During Alzheimer Awareness Month, the Alzheimer Society is asking Canadians to test their own knowledge by taking the survey at The Society also urges Canadians, especially those 40 and older, to practice prevention by learning the risks and making simple lifestyle changes: eat a heart-healthy diet, stay active, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and monitor their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

This year's campaign is made possible in part through an unrestricted educational grant by Pfizer Canada.

About Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is the leading form of dementia. It is a fatal progressive disease of the brain that robs memory and steals the ability to reason, communicate and perform daily tasks. Changes in the brain can begin to appear decades before diagnosis and progression can last between seven and 10 years. Eventually, the person affected will require 24-hour care and supervision. Age is the single biggest risk factor but the disease can also strike as early as 40.

About the survey

More than 1,000 Canadians aged 45 to 65 completed the survey in July 2010. Men and women were split evenly. Of those surveyed, 37 per cent had some personal connection to the disease. None were affiliated with the Alzheimer Society in any way, nor have they or a family member donated to or used any of the Society's programs and services. Boomers were tested in three areas: early signs of Alzheimer's disease (unaided and aided awareness); later-stage symptoms (aided), and key risk factors (aided). To read the results, visit

About the Alzheimer Society

The Alzheimer Society is the leading nationwide health organization for people affected by Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in Canada. The Society is a principal funder of Alzheimer research and training, provides enhanced care and support to people with the disease, their families and their caregivers, and is a prominent voice within all levels of government. Active in more than 150 communities across Canada, the Society is also a founding and key member of Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), an organization at the forefront of global efforts to fight dementia.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

10 Reasons to Leave the House this Winter

Experience Ontario's Winter Wonderlands from Barrie to the Bruce Peninsula

TORONTO, December 29, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - With snow on the ground and the kids home for the holidays, Ontario's winter wonderlands from Barrie to the Bruce Peninsula are finding new ways to keep you entertained this winter. Whether you're skiing in Blue Mountain, taking in a spa in Collingwood, or antiquing in Bruce, there are so many great reasons for you to leave the house this season.

Here are 10 worth experiencing this winter:

E'Terra - Tobermory, Bruce County
Nestled amongst the cedars of the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, this ultra-exclusive, award-winning luxury nature estate offers personal privacy and luxury like no other. With a focus on holistic health, your mental, physical and spiritual wellness will be well taken care of and renewed in time for 2011.

Rainbow View Farms - 1274 Rainbow Valley Rd W., Phelpston
Cuddle up to the one you love on an old-fashioned horse-drawn sleigh ride or wagon ride. Experience Mother Nature's snowy wonderland from under a blanket - something the kids will surely love as well.

Princely Pear Tea Room & Guest House - 9 Queen Street, Cookstown.
Come in from the cold and warm up to a cup of tea while in downtown Cookstown. Less than an hour away from Toronto, this cozy, yet traditional Victorian tea house offers full tea services and home-cooked, gourmet lunches. The shop's boutique next to the tea room offers a selection of home décor and personal accessories, as well as a bake shop.

Mariposa Market - 109 Mississaga St. E, Orillia.
This is the season to indulge! See, touch and taste the charm of years gone by, while strolling through the five historic shops that make up this locally celebrated bakeshop: a quaint café, a fudge & candy shop, a home decorating store, and a shop for handmade soaps and candles.

MacGregor Point Provincial Park - RR 1, Saugeen Shores
For adventure lovers and families looking for a unique holiday, nothing beats winter camping in Bruce's MacGregor Point Provincial Park, a winter wonderland located within a natural forested corridor on a seven-kilometre stretch of Lake Huron. Campers sleep in tent-like Yurts with electric heat, bunk beds for six and a kitchen. This all-weather paradise offers spectacular scenery, exploring, adventure, exercise and renewal.

Nature's MillWorks - 4575 Bruce Rd 1, RR 2, Paisley.
Antique hunters will love exploring this one-off shop set in an authentic 1800s-type backdrop. A great spot to treat yourself this season, featured items include: antiques, crafts and children's books.

The Philosopher's Wool Company - 2 Alma St., Inverhuron.
A sheep farmer and owner Eugene, along with wife Ann began The Philosopher's Wool Company in 1986. Specializing in hand knitting kits for Fair Isle sweaters, shawls and cardigans, the company also sells queen size blankets, milled in PEI; hats; scarves; socks; mitts; sheepskins; perfect for cozy winter days and nights.

Bruce Peninsula Helicopter Tours -
Give the gift of flight this holiday season with a sightseeing tour over the world famous Bruce Peninsula. Stay warm as you and Grey County-born chief pilot and owner, George Burnside discover the beauty and history of Bruce in a helicopter built for two.

Café Chartreuse - 70 Hurontario St., Collingwood
Warm up to a little Parisian passion courtesy of French-trained chef Patrick Bourachot. After years of dreaming about opening their own café, Patrick and wife Ruth packed up their young family in 2005 and shortly after, Café Chartreuse opened for business.

Le Scandinave Spa - 152 Grey Road 21, Blue Mountains
The second of its kind in Canada (the first is in Mont Tremblant), Le Scandinave offers winter weary patrons outdoor Scandinavian baths, Finnish saunas and massages. Just minutes from downtown Collingwood and surrounded by 25 acres of lush forest, this retreat is paradise within a winter wonderland.