Perhaps nothing terrifies a college student like the research paper: finding a topic, creating an original thesis, searching and vetting sources, reading thoroughly, writing meaningfully – all difficult, time consuming tasks requiring focus and perseverance.
However, today’s technologically transformed library offers students tools that vastly simplify the research process. Sources emerge with a finger swipe, and incorporating them into a paper is simpler with an online library catalog. Compared with 30, even 20 years ago, searching and finding sources today has never been more streamlined, and academic research has benefited.
Students curious about library research methods pre-Internet – or promotional videos from the mid-‘80s – should see this quirky, parodical video, made in 1986 to feature Ekstrom Library, which had been built five years earlier. Unearthed recently by Anna Marie Johnson, UofL Libraries Head of Research Assistance and Instruction, the video is interspersed with tongue-in-cheek “ads” promoting various library resources (one features Cleopatra requesting information on asps, a large python curling nearby). It presents a pseudo-athletic event, held in Ekstrom library, in which two students compete to find information the fastest on an obscure subject (“squirrel cage motors” and “dancing mice”) using the various tools in the library.
In the video, students confront the difficult “athletic” challenge of conducting research, something intended as parody. However, compared with today’s research methods, the students’ tasks do indeed look athletic.
“Conducting research was very different from today’s methods,” says Johnson. “In fact, back then the process of finding a scholarly journal article involved several time-consuming steps in three separate locations.”
“First, you had to find the right subject index. So, if you were looking for articles in psychology, you needed to know that there was such a thing as Psychological Abstracts and that those were located in the reference section of the library. In addition, if you wanted all the articles on your topic for the last five years, it would likely involve paging through multiple volumes of the Abstracts.”
“Once you settled on some articles – which may have required you to also look up a journal abbreviation since the journal names were often abbreviated to save space – and wrote down the citations , you had to look at a printed list, which was often on a different table or shelf, of all the journals the library subscribed to in order to determine if the articles you wanted were in the library.”
“Remember, there were no cell phones handy to take pictures of your citations,” she added.
“Finally, you would take your list of citations upstairs to the journal stacks and choose the correct bound volume of the journal that you needed.”
“Contrast that with today,” Johnson goes on. “You probably are not even walking into the library, but you are accessing a database on the web that Ekstrom Library subscribes to, searching 50 years of those printed volumes, and with often one or two subsequent clicks, finding a PDF of the article you’re seeking, all without leaving your couch.”
So while we sympathize with students confronting their first college research paper, we can say this: researching a topic today is wildly more convenient than in years past, and as a result, the act of writing, research, and even thinking, can be deeper, better synthesized, and stronger.
You can see the video for yourself here.
By Carolyn Dowd and George Martinez
Following the November election, George Orwell’s 1984 became an instant best-selling novel. It is one among a number of 20th Century dystopian novels making a resurgence in popularity recently. A bitterly contested American election and subsequent change in governing style may have prompted some to seek out fictionalized accounts of dystopian realities, as an odd form of comfort.
What is dystopian fiction? Contrary to utopian fictions, in which an author projects an ideal worldview of humanity, dystopian fictions offer a darker vision of human behavior, where desired societal norms are turned on their heads. Thus, a society might led not by a beneficent, wise and humane ruler, but an immature, inhumane, simple-minded fool.
In 1984, Winston Smith lives under the intolerable, crippling and constant scrutiny of the ironically named ruler of Oceana, Big Brother. His attempts to find individual freedom within such a society forms the main drama of the novel.
Want to dig further into our collection of dystopian fiction? Here’s a list:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
The Stand by Stephen King
V For Vendetta by Alan Moore
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Blindness by José Saramago
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information.
The University Libraries are sponsoring several events to commemorate Banned Books Week, including:
- Film Screening: September 26 at 4:00pm in Ekstrom Library, Room 117A/CLC
- Persepolis (2007): A film based on the autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi about an independent young woman growing up in Iran. (Donuts will be served!)
- Banned Books Read Aloud: September 27-29 from 11:00a.m. to 1:00p.m., East Side of Ekstrom Library
- Faculty, students, and staff will be reading from their favorite banned or challenged books on the east side of Ekstrom Library.
- Create Your Own Book Cover: September 27-29 from 11:00a.m. to 1:00p.m., East Side of Ekstrom Library
- Create your own book cover with the Writing Center and reflect on why a particular banned book has been meaningful to you
For more information, contact George Martinez at email@example.com.
Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles lists of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country.
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.
The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.
If you would like more information about banned and challenged books, contact the Office for Intellectual Freedom at (800) 545-2433, ext. 4220, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
UofL Archives and Special Collections will display a portion of its enormous Edgar Rice Burroughs collection July 1, just in time for the release of the new “The Legend of Tarzan” film. Burroughs famously created the original Tarzan character and stories.
The Burroughs collection is the largest in the world, with more than 100,000 items such as first-edition books, fanzines, film stills, scrapbooks and posters, games and other memorabilia from the author’s life and works.
Known as “The Grandfather of American Science Fiction” Burroughs penned 63 novels, 21 short stories and 26 literary sketches. Originally writing for pulp magazines, Burroughs quickly mined a deep vein with his Tarzan character by capitalizing on the stories’ success by allowing merchandisers to create knives, bows and arrows, belt buckles, watches, figurines, candy, bread, pop-ups, coloring books and costumes. Many of these items are part of the collection.
Beginning July 1, to synchronize with the movie’s release, ASC will exhibit editions of “Tarzan” in 37 different languages, to emphasize the worldwide appeal of Burroughs’ iconic character. It will be on the first floor of Ekstrom Library, in the west wing across from the circulation desk, and run until Sept. 2, one day after Burroughs’ birthday.
“What better time to showcase some of this important collection, which means so much to the numerous fans of Burroughs, than at the release of another ‘Tarzan’ movie,” said Carrie Daniels, director of Archives and Special Collections. “Just the fact that this story, with an indelible character at the center, prompts a major movie release shows the longevity and imaginative depth of Burroughs’ original tale.”
Most of the collection was donated and curated by Archives and Special Collections Professor and Curator Emeritus George T. McWhorter, as a tribute to his mother, who taught him to read early in life using Burroughs’ stories. The collection is officially named in her honor.
In addition to the displayed exhibit, all items from the collection are available in Archives and Special Collections Research Room, Ekstrom Library, lower level 17. Anyone with a photo ID may view or research individual items 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
For more information, contact Daniels at 502-852-6676 or email@example.com.
Beneath the flurry of renovation on the third floor in Ekstrom Library, the Libraries have made some strategic moves to allow for expanded digital access to some bound journals that have been removed prior to construction.
Older, hardbound journals have been removed to clear space for the Delphi Center’s new Teaching Innovation Learning Laboratory (TILL), slated for construction this summer in Ekstrom. However, these collections haven’t gone away; most have either been replaced by digital versions, or moved to the Robotic Retrieval System (RRS). In most cases, the Libraries are expanding access to journals and other collections.
“We’ve increased the number of journal titles available digitally,” said University Libraries Dean Bob Fox. “This will greatly benefit all the Libraries and their patrons.”
“In some cases, we’ve been able to provide access to all editions of journals that were previously only available in part.”
The Libraries’ administration has forged agreements with publishers, including Mergent, for business collections; JSTOR, for humanities and social science materials; Wiley, for science, public health, medicine, and social sciences titles; and the NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine).
“The TILL, the expanded collections, and, in future, the renovated learning spaces, are all ways the Libraries are working to advance the University’s research and teaching mission,” Fox said.
Fundraising efforts are in place to renovate the entire third floor, to upgrade student seating and study spaces. Over the summer, an additional arm of the RRS will be built to house lesser-used journals and other materials removed from the third floor.
If you walk around the third floor in Ekstrom Library, you’ll notice some changes in progress. Crews have removed furniture and dismantled shelves in the northeast to make way for enhanced study spaces, more comfortable seating, and a new teaching laboratory.
With a fully renovated third floor as the ultimate goal, space is currently being cleared for construction of the Delphi Center’s new Teaching Innovative Learning Lab (TILL), which is set to open by Fall semester 2016.
Currently in the final design phases, the TILL will provide space and equipment for faculty to learn and experiment with innovative teaching methods. The new laboratory, which is part of the University’s 21st Century Initiatives and supported by Interim University Provost Neville Pinto, will provide a large learning lab, collaborative spaces, conference rooms and offices for Delphi Center staff. Construction will proceed throughout the summer to prevent major disruption for students.
Some logistical changes will confront visitors in the near-term: several large study tables frequented by large groups have been moved to the second floor, where recently upgraded lighting will better serve group study.
Reference materials formerly shelved in the northeast have either been relocated to the Robotic Retrieval System (RRS), or replaced by expanded online databases available via the Libraries website. For example, databases such as JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/), a digital repository of academic journals, books, and primary sources, has been expanded to offer access to new materials.
For the relocated physical reference books and other materials, Ekstrom plans to build a new arm within the RRS. Libraries Dean Bob Fox worked closely with the Provost and the Delphi Center to move this key library priority forward.
Remaining renovations to the third floor, including new study areas, furniture and other enhancements, are part of later phases of the project.
On Monday, February 8, words of African American authors will come to life as volunteers gather to read their written works out loud at the 27th Annual African American Read-In.
Attendees will gather in Ekstrom Library’s newly renovated First Floor East, in the Learning Commons, under the Cardinal Birds, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the event.
“The requirements for what may be read, or by which authors, are very broad,” said Joan D’Antoni, U of L professor of English Composition. “Participants can read books, poetry, articles, or anything – the only requirement is that the author be African American.”
Every 20 minutes or so, attendees will get the chance to win a free book by an African American author. Organizers plan to give 15-20 books away.
“The book give away is unique to our read-in,” said D’Antoni.
The University of Louisville has hosted a read-in since it was first established by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English in 1990; it has been hosted by Ekstrom Library for the past 10 years. Now international in scope, the read-in celebrates Black History Month in February with a focus on literacy; the NCTE encourages schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, and other community groups to host and coordinate the read-in events.
“People who come to the read-in are really attentive,” said Fannie Cox, an Outreach and Reference Librarian and member of the Commission on Diversity and Racial Equality (CODRE). “They will stop and listen and they are amazed to be getting books.”
Anyone interested in reading at the event should contact Joan D’Antoni at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event is co-sponsored by the University Libraries and the U of L Department of English.