Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I was surprised to read in this USA Today article that Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic was banned at Fruitland Park Elementary School library in Lake County, Florida because for "...inappropriate content" that "promotes disrespect, horror and violence."

And according to the article, as many of us know, "...virtually everything by Judy Blume" has been challenged and/or banned at one time or another. But the article states, and it's true, that "...many women (and men!)...swear Judy Blume saved their lives by being the only adult who didn't lie to them."

Madeleine L'Engle's classic A Wrinkle in Time was challenged in Anniston, Alabama schools in 1990 for, among other things, promoting witchcraft. This same challenge has been leveled at the Harry Potter books.

It seems that whether a book is too realisitic, as in the case of Judy Blume's writing, or too fantastical—in the wrong way—as the in the case of Madeleine L'Engle's, there will be someone(s) who will dispute what is perceived as either an objectionable portrayal of reality or an objectionable portrayal of a fantasy world. Either way, readers lose.

Monday, September 27, 2010


This video, about an initiative established by two Notre Dame undergradutates, was played during this past weekend's Notre Dame/Stanford football game.


This article from the New York Times offers something for everyone: a list of the most frequently challenged books in schools (To Kill a Mockingbird makes the list); a link to a list of the top 100 banned or challenged books; ideas for creating book clubs and reading groups focused on the theme of banned books; an account of how the Brooklyn Public Library handles challenges to reading materials; and links to books and websites banned in other countries. For example, we would expect to see Amnesty International banned in China. But according to the Times, sites such as the Learning Channel and PBS are also banned. The end of the article contains an interesting list of related articles from the Times Learning Network.

Friday, September 24, 2010


In honor of Banned Books Week, which takes place September 25-October 2, I will be offering a series of postings on the astonishing variety of books that have been banned for various reasons over the centuries. And I do mean "centuries."

John Wycliff's English translation of the bible was banned in 1408. William Tyndale's translations of the Bible, which was thought to include views heretical to both the Roman Catholic Church and, later, to the Church of England as established by Henry VIII, was banned, and so was he—in a very final sort of way. He was burned at the stake in 1536, at the instigation of agents of Henry VIII and the newly-formed English Church.

A wonderfully fascinating online exhibit from Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology is titled Heresy and Error: The Ecclesiastical Censorship of Books, 1400–1800." It focuses on books that the Christian Church sought to suppress from the very beginnings of church history—books and other writings that were thought to contain "heretical" or erroneous teachings.

The most fascinating elements of this online exhibit are the many primary source facsimiles available for viewing. Here, for example, is a facsimile of one page from Wycliffe's Bible. Clicking on the large thumbnail image at the left will enlarge it for you. The exhibit includes an entire section on censorship in England

The writings of one 16th-century bishop residing in the Netherlands comments that "...the invention of printing by Johannes Gutenberg had resulted in a world infected by “pernicious lies.” The bishop singles out the writings of Martin Luther and Jean Calvin, the Talmud, and the Qu’ran, but expresses particular disdain for Erasmus, "...whose writings...had corrupted the Christian religion from within by subtle trickery."

Also included are materials related to censorship at the University of Paris, and, of course efforts to expunge the writings of the Dominican preacher Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498), who wrote "numerous works calling for ecclesiastical reform and spiritual renewal," and who was himself expunged through torture and eventual execution by burning at the stake in Florence's Piazza della Signoria. Holding and expressing wrong ideas was dangerous business.

This online exhibit is a digitized version of the physical exhibit on display at SMU's Bridwell Library, September 20–December 17, 2010.

When you hear the term “banned books,” you probably think of contemporary books containing inappropriate content. But books have been banned in societies all over the world for many centuries and for many reasons. Books that have been banned include English translations of the Bible, The Diary of Anne Frank, Huckleberry Finn, and To Kill a Mockingbird. The banning of books is a complex political, religious and moral issue. This week, I will be posting materials about the enormous variety of books that have been banned over the centuries, and that are still targets of censorship.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


On Monday evening during my reference shift a student asked me to help him find a simple and clear definition of the term "black belt." He was referrring to the geographic region of Alabama that goes by this name.

I was happy to be able to point him directly to the excellent online resource Encyclopedia of Alabama.

The Encyclopedia of Alabama is a free, online reference resource that covers Alabama history, culture, geography, and the natural environment. The site is hosted by Auburn University. It was developed in partnership with University Outreach, the University Libraries, the Office of Information Technology, and the Alabama Humanities Foundation.

You can read in more detail about the EOA here. It is a high-quality source with a great variety of well-written and carefully evaluated information. It is, therefore, an online encyclopedia you can trust, and a wonderful source of information about the state of Alabama.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Alabama Energy Rebate Funds Still Available


We all use Wikipedia. Yes, librarians too—or some of us anyway—use it for our own casual reading. I emphasize casual. We love the way terms, names, and concepts are hyperlinked. We love finding articles on everything from the Velvet Underground to Christopher Isherwood. And we appreciate the fact that many Wikipedia articles are now including end notes—reference notes—that we can use to followup on our reading. I once found the source for an obscure quote by Saul Bellow this way.

But in spite of Wikipedia's ubiquity—it's often the first item to appear in a Google search—there are other options, and we need those too, especially since Wikipedia is the wild west of sources.

The online source IPL2, the product of a merger between the Internet Public Library and Librarians' Internet Index, is the place to start. IPL2 is hosted by the College of Information Science and Technology a Drexel University, with major support from the College of Information at Florida State University. There are many ways to make use of this excellent resource, but for now, let's click on "resources by subject," and then "reference." The resulting page contains many items; note the menu on the left, which contgains a link for "encyclopedias."

One of the items on the "encyclopedias" page is titled "" We can feel good about using it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the editors of IPL2 have included it as a source.

We invite you to explore these alternative online resouces. You don't need to banish Wikipeida from your life, but only to realize that there are, when you need them, other online sources that have been evaluated by information professionals and that can be useful to users of all age ranges and for a great variety of needs and subjects.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Today's post offers a link that is not related specifically to libraries, but rather, to general quality of life (in my opinion). Many, or perhaps most of you are familiar with the online streaming radio service called "Pandora" ( With Pandora, you can enter a term, such as "ambient" (my favorite), or the names of particular artists, such as Ravi Shankar or Brian Eno (other favorites), and listen to a stream of music related to your chosen theme or artists.

My latest favorite online listening service is called "StereoMood." It allows you to listen to music based on--as the name indicates--your state of mind or current activity. Your choices are very wide-ranging, and include "beach party," "asleep on my feet," "cleaning," "relax" and "groovy." (I am a big fan of "trippy.")

One of the things I enjoy most about this online streaming service is the variety of new music it has introduced to me--titles and artists I probably would have never discovered.

Many people enjoy working or studying to some kind of background music, and I won't venture into the debate about that, although I do some of my best work in coffee shops and really love ambient music--lyric free for work purposes. If you're looking for a new source of interesting music organized in a really unique and creative way, check out StereoMood.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Have you ever found yourself asking this question when starting a class research project? So many resources--where to begin?

Research is never (or seldom) simple, but there is a good answer to the question about where to start. Two of our most often-used databases, Academic OneFile and Academic Search Premier, are multi-subject resources that can yield productive searches for a wide range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences.

Note that these databases allow you to limit searches to scholarly/peer-reviewed materials, and to full-text materials.

Both resources are available on this page, as well as on many subject pages. It's in your best interests to use both of them, because there will be a certain amount of overlap in the materials you will find, but there will also be some differences.

Monday, September 13, 2010


This article from "Justin the Librarian" provides candid observations about the strengths and weaknesses of four e-readers: the Sony Reader Touch Edition; the Apple iPad; the Amazon Kindle; and the Barnes and Noble Nook.

Anyone considering purchase of a device for reading electronic books will find this clearly-writte, unbiased and often humorous piece very helpful.

Friday, September 10, 2010


You can support the University Library every time to make online purchases through some of your favorite online stores such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AbeBooks, Alibris, and Family Christian Stores. Click here to learn how easy it is to support the library!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


With thanks to George Atchley for his ongoing reporting on astronomical events to the Samford community.

Dr. Atchley wrote:

"This past Sunday, NASA scientists at the Tuscon-based Catalina Sky Survey discovered two asteroids that will pass close to Earth. Neither will hit Earth. The first, estimated at approximately 32 to 65 feet in size, will miss Earth by approximately 154,000 miles on Wednesday at 4:51 a.m. CST. The second, about half the size of the first, will pass within approximately 49,000 miles of Earth about 12 hours later at 4:12 p.m. Again, neither will hit Earth. Even if they did, because of their small sizes, only small pieces would reach the surface after producing a spectacular meteor (fireball) while passing through our atmosphere.

I’m certain the internet will buzz with misinformation. A moderate-sized amateur telescope should be able to view the asteroids, but it will be challenging...Here’s a great website if you’re really interested in this event:"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


If you've ever had books that you wanted to donate and wondered where you might find information about organizations that accept and make good use of used books, this LibGuide from the Passaic County Community College Library is for you: Book Donation Programs from the Passaic County Community College Library.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Documents of the Month: Hurricane Katrina, 5 Years Later


Attention new students, old students, faculty, staff, and any other readers living in Jefferson County. The public library system in this area is exceptionally well-developed and makes available a very impressive variety of books, music, and DVDs. I'm continually impressed with the wide range of materials and the evident thoughtfulness given to collection-building in Jefferson County libraries.

The libraries of Jefferson County include the Birmingham Public Library system, and cardholders from Birmingham Public or any one of the Jefferson County libraries have access to the entire Jefferson County Library Cooperative.

What does this mean for you? It means that a large, diverse and resource-rich system is available to you.

The library closest to Samford (and my own favorite branch) is in Vestavia. I've always found the staff there to be exceptionally friendly and helpful, so if you need help obtaining a card or have other questions, I suggest you pay them a visit.

One particular item I want to tell you about is the excellent collection of books in the area of studio art and art history in the central branch of the Birmingham Public system. A number of Samford students have been able to find books they have needed in that collection.

We encourage you to explore, use, and support our wonderful public library system. Now go get that card!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


This story has been widely reported. I've chosen two venues as the bases for this post:

"The head of Oxford University Press, Nigel Portwood, recently caused a stir by openly considering the possibility that the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary might be published in electronic form only. What prompted those thoughts was the success of the online version of the O.E.D., as it is usually called, and the limited sales of the printed 20-volume edition."

We can intuit the reason without much effort, and a spokesperson for Oxford University Press confirmed that users prefer to look up words using its online product. Although I'm not a user of ebooks and remain a little skeptical about the notion that ebooks will eventually come to replace physical books altogether, I must admit that I haven't used a paper-based dictionary for English-language needs in quite a while. (Other languages are a different matter.) Read the story in more detail here.