This past weekend I was watching the 1983 movie WarGames, in which Matthew Broderick’s character, a high school hacker, nearly inadvertently starts World War III. In trying to hack into NORAD’s computer system, Broderick’s character must do some research. He heads to the library (yay!) and is shown rifling through the stacks, pouring over microfiche of old newspapers, and flipping through the author cards in the card catalog. The movie devoted some time to this part of the story, highlighting the importance of the research process. If the movie were made today, I believe the filmmakers would show a teenager going to Google and finding what he needs almost instantaneously (Bella in Twilight is a good example of this). What they ought to show is a kid going to the library website to find the old article in Historical Newspapers in addition to searching Google (or perhaps after a Google search doesn’t produce the best results).
Matthew Broderick's character searching the card catalog in WarGames.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not nostalgic for the card catalog or microfiche. I am so happy that doing research has become faster and easier with online catalogs, document digitization, and online databases that provide access to items not readily available on the free Internet. That being said, though, I worry about students satisficing when doing research and merely clicking the first few links they see rather than conducting meaningful research that engages them with critical thinking, decision making, and reading comprehension.
In October, a Pew research study, How Teens Do Research in the Digital World, was published. The 100+ page study dives deep into the habits of students just like those who attend Urban. The Pew study states that:
students ‘doing research’ has shifted from a relatively slow process of intellectual curiosity and discovery to a fast-paced, short-term exercise aimed at locating just enough information to complete an assignment.
As someone who has been on the front lines of this topic for the past six years, I can’t say the study surprised me, but it is affirming to know that the work we do at Urban is important and necessary in today’s ever-changing digital landscape. When I work with teachers to ensure that students are becoming critical researchers who go beyond skimming the surface to dive deep into topics, I hope to plant the seeds that will hone their intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and critical reading skills. I also hope that students at Urban learn when Wikipedia or a simple Google search is sufficient (figuring out how many tablespoons are in a cup, who starred opposite Matthew Broderick in WarGames, what the flag of Angola looks like) and when they need a more robust research tool (library databases, books, google scholar, a face-to-face chat with the librarian).
This week in the library we are celebrating those great mammals of the ocean: whales!
There is something magical that happens when students are taking American Romanticism and Marine Biology in the same term. The desire to gaze over ocean waters in search of sneaking a peak at a whale starts to take over. Students fall in love with the chapter on cetology in Moby Dick (the same one a dear friend of mine told me to skip during my first reading of the classic--I didn't!) and all of a sudden we've got some serious whale love in the halls of Urban.
Join the Library Leaders on Thursday in the back of the library for quiet study time with whale sounds and on Friday in the same space for a whale themed book party--it'll be a great chance to peruse our books about whales, the ocean, and even books that have nothing to do with either but may be a good read over the upcoming Thanksgiving break. there will be whale snacks as well!
Illustrator Rockwell Kent's depiction of Moby Dick breaching.
on Tuesday November 6, 2012 at 02:17PM
I’ve been reading a lot of books the past couple of weeks, and they’ve been pretty amazing! I’ll be posting some reviews over the next few posts of some of my favorites.
I recently finished one of my friend’s favorites: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. This novel tells the story of Liz Hall who has died and gone to Elsewhere: the afterlife. The book is clever and paced perfectly. While Liz isn’t the most loveable character of all time, Zevin puts us in her shoes in a remarkably realistic manner, especially considering that the reader must suspend disbelief to even be on board with the book’s premise. You might think that a book about life after death would be sad, or that a book with talking dogs would be trite, but Zevin has managed to make her book sincere and interesting. A great read if you like books like The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, The Fates will Find Their Wayby Hannah Pittard, or If I Stay by Gayle Foreman.
Need a book recommendation? Let me know!
on Monday September 24, 2012 at 12:45PM
The library has a great new way to find books, dvds, and other library materials!
Our new catalog is up and running. It has some great features (beyond searching for books) including:
placing books on hold
checking to see when your books are due
renewing materials that are overdue
creating thematic lists of books
tagging books with unique keywords
rating books (1 to 5 stars)
leaving comments on books
I hope this catalog is useful for you! I know it is already useful for us. We are better able to track what books are being used and checked out, inventory will be easier, and overdue notices will automatically be emailed to folks with overdue books.
Our next step is to set up our own self checkout system!
on Thursday September 13, 2012 at 09:55AM
On May 25th, geeks around the world celebrate Towel Day, a tribute to Douglas Adams, author of the Urban School’s summer all-school read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
We’ll be having a party in the garden that day at lunch (next Friday) where you’ll be able to buy a copy of the book from The Booksmith (a steal at only $7.99). If you bring your towel, it’ll be 10% off. You’ll also be able to check out books to read over summer.
We’re excited for the all-school read this year. Many of us thought that it would be great to start the year off on a light note. We’ll have events in the fall to talk about the book, watch the movie version, and ponder the meaning of life. I hope you enjoy the all school read. See you at Towel Day!
on Thursday May 17, 2012 at 02:35PM
Do you like to read in silence or with music on in the background? Personally, I find some music distracting when I am reading, so sometimes I just read quietly. Recently, though, I’ve been thinking about how music can have a more symbiotic relationship with what you read.
Flavorwire, a cultural website, often posts Literary Mixtapes, in which they create playlists inspired by characters or novels that you can stream on Spotify. My favorite is the one for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. It includes songs by Belle and Sebastian, Rilo Kiley, Leonard Cohen, and Adele. It is exactly what Jane would’ve had on her playlist if she were alive (and nonfictional) in 2012.
Some books even come with accompanying music. Laura Esquival, best known for her novel Like Water for Chocolate wrote a book called The Law of Love which came with a CD filled with music to listen to while reading the book. Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern Issue number 6 also came with a musical CD. More recently, a multimedia novel called Chopsticks comes with not only music playlists, but also an accompanying tumblr with links to bonus material and youtube.com videos.
Have an idea for a literary mixtape of your own? Let Sarah the librarian know!
Did you know that Earth Day began 42 years ago? What better way to celebrate Earth Day (coming up on Sunday) than to read books that will inspire you to do right by our home planet?
My favorite environmental author is Edward Abbey. In the library, you can check out Desert Solitaire, a non-fiction memoir about Abbey’s life as a park ranger. The Monkey Wrench Gang, on the other hand, is a fictional account of an environmental terrorist group who fight for wilderness preservation.
The Carbon Diaries 2015 is a novel that explores one teenager’s experience in a future world ravaged by the effects of global warming.
A classic tome in environmentalism is Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Published in 1962, many people believe Carson’s book sparked the environmental movement.
Stop by the library to check out these and many more books on environmental topics!
on Monday April 16, 2012 at 02:53PM
The movie adaptation of Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins comes out tomorrow evening at midnight (anyone going to the first showing?). There has been a lot of excitement about the film, which has reignited interest in the book. The New York Times, in fact, reports that while 9.6 million copies of the trilogy had sold before marketing began on the film, there are currently 24 million copies in circulation.
Here are some books available in the library that you might love if you liked the Hunger Games trilogy.
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami also has a film adaptation
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Cinder by Marissa Meyer (series)
Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess also has a film adaptation
Divergent by Veronica Roth (series)
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card also has a film adaptation in production
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury also has a film adaptation
Genesis by Bernard Beckett
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (series) also has a film adaptation for the first book
Gone by Michael Grant (series)
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (series)
Maze Runner by James Dashner (series)
Matched by Allyson Condie (series)
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (series)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy also has a film adaptation
Ship Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi
Uglies by Scott Westerfield (series)
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
on Wednesday March 21, 2012 at 10:34AM
The Encyclopaedia Britannica, a 244-year-old institution in the world of reference works, has decided to stop printing their multi-volume set of encyclopedias.
The New York TimesMedia Decoder Blog states that, "In an acknowledgment of the realities of the digital age — and of competition from the Web site Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools."
While Wikipedia can be a great resource for many students due to its ease of access and simple format, Britannica Online (click link to access) is a great source to find succinct topic overviews that are often more bite-sized than their Wikipedia counterpoints. For instance, the Britannica Online article about Che Guevara is just under 800 words while the Wikipedia page is nearly 14,000 words.
The Urban Herbst Library got rid of the print version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 2010.
on Wednesday March 14, 2012 at 03:35PM
RESEARCH AND WARGAMES by Sarah Levin, Urban Librarian
This past weekend I was watching the 1983 movie WarGames, in which Matthew Broderick’s character, a high school hacker, nearly inadvertently starts World War III. In trying to hack into NORAD’s computer system, Broderick’s character must do some research. He heads to the library (yay!) and is shown....read more.