“Which bridge did Muhammed Ali throw his medal off of?” and other interesting questions answered by the Research Assistance & Instruction Department

By Anna Marie Johnson

Imagine a job where you were able to learn about all kinds of different and fascinating topics in the process of helping someone answer a burning question that they have. That is part of the work of the Research Assistance and Instruction (RAI) office. Librarians, professional staff, and peer research assistants answer questions like these (and much more prosaic ones such as “Why can’t I access this journal article I need?”)  via e-mail, chat, phone, or face-to-face:

  • How many buildings are there on Belknap Campus?
  • How did St. Paul come to be a Roman citizen?
  • What is the childhood address of Hunter S. Thompson?
  • What was the roll call vote for the Kentucky senators and House members for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
  • Can you help me research design for justifying the excavation of a privy?
  • What are the cultural reactions regarding American Indians during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1870-1929)—particularly in how American Indians and the related federal policies were represented in the media?
  • Where can I find industry and consumer data for Gillette Fusion?
  • What are the general prosodic characteristics of English and Spanish?

Over the years, we have helped with questions that ranged from the esoteric (journal articles on the dead Sabaean language, from someone wanting to piece together the language and write a book about it) to the downright impossible, such as the patron who wanted a copy of the WHAS Radio broadcast license from 1927, or the patron researching obscure magicians and street performers from Europe.

“What’s the best book you’ve ever read?”

While we go to great lengths to track down an answer, sometimes there’s a little luck involved. One day, a call came in to Rob Detmering, the librarian responsible for Film Studies. The caller was looking for one of the original copies of a 1972 film called Asylum of Satan. The film had reportedly been shot here in Louisville and the out-of-state caller thought that the university might have a copy. Rob asked around to the Archives, the Art Department, and a few other campus contacts that he thought might know something,

“How many theaters exist in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel?”

but to no avail. Rob did some digging in the online database for the Courier-Journal that the library subscribes to and discovered the film had been shown at a film festival in 2008 at Baxter Avenue Theatre. Rob called the theater and spoke with someone who not only knew the film but knew the location of the copy that they had used in the showing.

We often learn a lot as we’re helping.  Our former Libraries Diversity Resident George Martinez received a question from a faculty member asking about the history of the African American Theater program at UofL. He looked through some microfilm and consulted with our colleagues in the Archives & Special Collections to find articles that traced the history of a controversy over how money generated by the Fiesta Bowl was being used for scholarships. The results of that controversy was the increase in hiring and scholarship distribution to increase the diversity at UofL.

Got Questions? Ekstrom’s RAI Department can help you track down your answer! Oh, and there is some doubt as to whether Ali ever threw his medal off any bridge, but the closest answer is the Clark Memorial.

 


Note to Shelf: A Book’s Journey

One of life’s greatest pleasures is browsing bookshelves, searching for topics at random, finding the unexpected, neglecting all commitments to ponder at leisure.

Anyone seeking such non-digital delights can visit libraries on the Belknap or HSC campuses, or for virtual browsing, our website. But how did these physical and virtual books make it to the stacks and website, to be discovered by inquiring eyes and fingertips?

Each book’s journey to the shelf is deliberately egalitarian, says Tyler Goldberg, Head of Technical Services and Print Collection Development. Anyone affiliated with the University may request books, videos, recordings or other materials via this link on the Libraries’ website (http://library.louisville.edu/forms/order-recommendation). Allowing suggestions from University-affiliated individuals aligns with the Libraries’ mission to provide free and open access to information for our patrons.

After a request comes in, Tyler and Technical Services Acquisitions Specialist John Burton confer to determine: 1) whether we already have an item; 2) whether it meets basic criteria for inclusion in our collection; 3) if so, where to order it; and 4) how to pay for it.

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Shelves of book labels in Tech Services’ basement offices in Ekstrom Library.

After searching Amazon or other online sites, John orders an item, inspects it when it arrives, and ensures it is as advertised, i.e., not ripped, not missing pages, published in the wrong language, or another book altogether. (These errors have all happened.) Before the book is ordered, John has to choose a fund from which to order the book, either from an endowment or gift*, or from the main Libraries budget.

Continuing the journey, a book, DVD or other item arrives at a Technical Services staffer’s desk, to be barcoded, cataloged (added to Libraries’ online catalog), and passed to a staff member for labeling, stamping, and a final check. Items without records or incorrect information are bounced back to Tyler. For those items without records, she creates and adds a record to the WorldCat database.

Tyler

Tyler Goldberg (photo, Ashley Triplett)

After final processing, materials arrive at their final destination, perhaps the Browsing Collection on the third floor of Ekstrom Library, or the African American Collection on Ekstrom’s second floor, or the general stacks — wherever it will be among its counterparts, waiting to be gazed at fondly by browsing eyes.

So there you have it. Our librarians and staff deal with machinations behind the scenes so you can study, research, write that scholarly paper, or continue in the simple pleasure of book browsing.

 

*Many of our loyal and fantastic donors have contributed funds for general materials and specific genres, and the Libraries depend upon these gifts to augment our collections. Some of these funds support specific subject areas, such as Asian studies, humanities, engineering, women’s studies, finance, children’s literature, biology, American literature, and even railroads. Given the budget cuts to collections, these gifts are more valuable than ever.

 


Research DIY: Self-Guided Library

By Amber Willenborg

Research assignments can lead to enlightenment, but, as the scholarship on information literacy indicates, the path isn’t easy. The Project Information Literacy Freshmen Study found that students face many challenges with finding and using information, from locating appropriate databases to reading research articles and evaluating information. With this in mind, and in direct response to faculty requests for a one-stop research resource for students, the library has unveiled our new Research DIY website.

choose topic

Research DIY is an online tool featuring visually appealing infographics, videos, and step-by-step instructions to help students get started with a wide variety of research tasks. The PIL Freshmen Study revealed that students struggle most with formulating online searches, selecting and locating research resources, and reading and comprehending materials. On the DIY website, students will find resources that directly address these struggles: a video on generating keywords for searching, numerous videos with instructions for finding a variety of source types like scholarly articles, and an infographic on how to approach reading research articles. Research DIY also includes content created in conjunction with the University Writing Center to help students appropriately integrate sources into their research papers.

ask yourself

While the website is easy for students to find and use on their own, we encourage instructors to link to the site on Blackboard or in their syllabus, or direct students to sections of the website that would be helpful for particular assignments. In addition to Research DIY, the library offers a variety of teaching tools including online learning modules for practice with information literacy concepts and research guides for more in-depth information on research topics and resources. Librarians are also available to create custom content tailored to your class or assignment. The path may not be easy, but the library is here to illuminate your way forward to success.

additional tips


Then and Now in the Library: UofL Libraries Promo Video from 1986 Highlights Big Changes

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.

cleocard

“Cleopatra” showing her Libraries card.

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.

cleocardsnake

Accompanied by Yaz, the snake (at left), from the Louisville Zoo.

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.

pervis and angela

The two “competitors” were UofL basketball (then) rising star Pervis Ellison, and (then) SGA President Angela McCormick (now a Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge).

“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.”

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University Libraries Archivist Tom Owen (l) introduced the competition for viewers.

“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.”

gorilla

An erudite gorilla peruses a rare book in Archives and Special Collections’ research room.

“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.


Interest in Dystopian Fiction Surges

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.

1984

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.

Other examples of dystopian fiction include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World,  Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Want to dig further into our collection of dystopian fiction? Here’s a list:

handmaids taleThe 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

 

 


Celebrate Banned Books Week Sept. 25 – Oct. 1

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 george.martinez@louisville.edu.

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.

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Image: Banned book mark, The COM Library. Creative Commons

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.

Find out which challenged books made the 2015 list, which was released as part of the 2016 State of America’s Library Report.

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 oif@ala.org.

 


He swings, fans swoon: UofL library displays its renowned Tarzan collection

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 carrie.daniels@louisville.edu.