Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Library News Blog

From the Spring 2015 Newsletter

Is a single search box a usable interface? Can students use the library website to find what they need? These were the questions that prompted our springtime usability study. 

Usability testing is a best practice among website administrators. A moderator will sit with a participant and ask him/her to complete a number of tasks. Based on the success rate, the website design may be changed to be more usable. We used a “lightning” usability test approach to compare students’ intuitions of different library search methods.

What’s OneSearch? It’s a single-search-box portal to books, ebooks, videos, and a large number of articles and digital materials available through the library. In library-speak, OneSearch is a web-scale discovery service.

Article contents

  1. Background
  2. Methodology
  3. Findings
  4. Appendix 1: students' search strings
  5. Appendix 2: lightning usability script

Background

The CUNY Office of Library Services, the central group that supports all CUNY libraries, rolled out OneSearch in Fall 2014. Since then, we’ve included the search box in the fourth tab on the Library’s homepage, with the explanation that it is a “beta” service. While we at John Jay have tended not to incorporate OneSearch as a primary part of our library instruction, we have been averaging between 400–600 searches in OneSearch each day. In our roles as librarians, we have observed students using it—and liking it—more and more. But how were they using it? Were they really finding what they wanted? What are the pitfalls we’d have to address when teaching OneSearch?

We asked John Jay students to show us how they use the library website, with results both expected and surprising. This usability study was conducted by Robin Davis, Prof. Janice Dunham, Prof. Karen Okamoto, and Allie Verbovetskaya (OLS) on February 4, 5, and 9. Students who participated were rewarded with MBJ $10 cafeteria vouchers, generously provided by the Faculty-Student Engagement Fund (coordinated by Christie Graziano at the Office of Student Transition Programs). 

Methodology

We run usability studies on the Library website at least once a year, and lately we’ve begun to favor “lightning” or “quick and dirty” usability tests. Conventional usability studies have 5–7 participants with sessions lasting 30–90 minutes. When we did such tests before, we felt that we did not receive significant data from such a small number of participants. Moreover, we advertised through library-related channels and on printed-out signs in the library, so our users were self-selecting as heavy library users. We needed a selection of users who would better represent the college’s student body. Lastly, as Prof. Dunham pointed out, the conventional usability study is not a typical use case. Students are often searching for library materials quickly in between other research tasks; they usually do not feel under pressure, enclosed in a small room with a librarian scribbling notes while they are audio-recorded. We wanted to create conditions that more closely mimicked a real use case. 

We set up a table with laptops in the busy Kroll Atrium during Community Hour. Our signs offered the free $10 cafeteria coupons in exchange for five minutes of student feedback on “a website.” Students lined up, often chatting with their friends. Once a student sat down with us, we told them that we were testing the library website and they’d be given 3 tasks to do on the laptop:

  • Find out if a book, The Polar World, is available in the Library
  • Define peer review, either from memory or from referring to any resource
  • Find a peer-reviewed article about different ways college students deal with stress

As they completed the tasks, we took notes in pen on our script worksheets. The most important thing we did was to write down their path (e.g., homepage > catalog > title search “the polar world” > scrolled down page > gave up) as well as their search strings (e.g., college students AND stress). We rated their performance of each task for our own notes.

Because we were only selecting for the kind of student who wants a free lunch (but who wouldn’t?), we netted a range of users: all year levels and the full range of library experience. Some knew exactly which databases they wanted to use, and some had never used the library website before. We had 39 participants in total. 

Findings

Students tend to use natural language search strings in OneSearch and find less relevant articles. Students tend to use keyword search strings in other library databases and get more relevant results.

The research question students were given read, “You need to find a peer-reviewed article about different ways college students deal with stress. What’s the first relevant article you see that you’d want to read? Look anywhere you’d usually look.” Librarians noted if the chosen article was “relevant” if it was peer-reviewed and was about at least one way that college students manage stress. (Note that we were looking at intuition and ease of use here, rather than testing our students’ research savviness. They were only searching for a couple of minutes on a fake assignment.) Fewer students who used OneSearch found “relevant” articles compared to those who used Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, and other library databases.

These findings do not mean that OneSearch does not give relevant results! Finding articles in OneSearch is easy since the index is enormous, but finding articles relevant to a given research question requires a certain level of searching skills. With a good search string like “college students AND stress management,” OneSearch delivers very good search results. But a bad search string will deliver confusing results, like when students typed in “different ways college students deal with stress” (a natural-language phrase) or “peer review student stress” (misunderstanding how to use keywords). Most students who chose to use OneSearch used these poorly-constructed search strings, whereas students who used other library databases broke the question into keywords and used two search boxes connected with AND. See the bottom of this article for the actual search strings that students used.

It is probable that because we used OneSearch’s one-big-box look on our default page, students took the cue that that they could use the search box like Google, which can handle those kinds of natural-language searches. But at heart, even though its index is web-scale, OneSearch is still a library database that responds best to keywords and Boolean operators. Because of this usability study, we are considering defaulting to OneSearch’s advanced search interface.

OneSearch is much easier to use than CUNY+ when performing title searches.

All of the students who searched for The Polar World (1964) in OneSearch found it. None of the students who searched for The Polar World in CUNY+ found it. CUNY+ is limited in two major ways: first, search results cannot be sorted by relevance, and are sorted by date by default. Second, “title begins with” searches require a/an/the to be stripped from beginning of the title, a fact no students in this study realized, even with the hint highlighted below the CUNY+ search box. Based on this finding, we are considering using OneSearch as the primary access point for records in the CUNY+ catalog. OLS has provided OneSearch widgets that can be limited to material type, including print books & ebooks.

Students like the tabs design.

The default tab shown on our test homepage was OneSearch. Over half of the students clicked the Books & Media tab when asked to find a book. Two-thirds of students clicked the Articles & Databases tab when asked to find an article. Some students even noted that one thing they liked about the library website was the tabs box. Narrowing down a library search before clicking the search button may be intuitive for these students, even the ones who said that they hardly ever used the library. Based on this finding, we will be keeping our tabs box, and using the aforementioned type-specific widgets in each. 

Library classes are a big benefit.

Having had a library class session was extremely beneficial to students. Our “one-shot” library sessions usually last under two hours, and most students only get one or two of these class sessions throughout their entire career at John Jay. One-shots are often bemoaned among librarians, as it is truly difficult to pack so many research skills into such a short time. But from our data, students who had a library session have a significant advantage in research skills.


With these findings, we will be redesigning our OneSearch tab box as well as customizing the John Jay-specific OneSearch interface. We will also use the intuitions and pitfalls we came across to guide how we present OneSearch in library class sessions and at the reference desk. We appreciate the participation of so many students in a project so valuable to the Library!


Appendix 1: search strings

Search strings used in OneSearch
  • different ways college students deal with stress
  • different ways college students deal with stress
  • different ways college students deal with stress 
  • different ways students deal with stress
  • peer review
  • peer review student stress
  • stress AND college
  • stress peer review
  • student stress
  • ways that college students deal with stress
 
Search strings used in other library databases
(Academic Search Complete, CQ Researcher, Gale Virtual Reference Library, JSTOR, Opposing Viewpoints, PsycInfo, and SocIndex)
  • college AND stress
  • college AND stress
  • college AND students AND stress AND new york city 
  • college stress
  • college student AND stress
  • college students AND stress
  • college students AND stress
  • college students AND stress
  • college students AND stress
  • college students deal with stress
  • college students stress
  • different ways college students deal with stress
  • different ways college students deal with stress
  • stress AND college students
  • stress management AND college students
  • stress management AND college students
  • stress management AND college students
  • student stress
  • ways college students deal with stress
 
Search strings used in Google or Google Scholar
  • how do students deal with stress in college
  • peer review article stress
  • peer reviewed articles on stress

Appendix 2: lightning usability testing script

Lightning usability script

Note: we were testing for several things in this script, including whether our new discovery service was a usable way to search for books by title. The questions were broad enough that they also served as a litmus test for students’ library skills, which informs our instruction. Feel free to be inspired by our script and try out a version at your own library!

1. Intro. Hi, I’m [name], a librarian here at John Jay. What’s your name/major/year? … We’re testing the library website to see what works and what doesn’t work. This will probably take around 10 minutes. I’ll be giving you three tasks to do. I’ll be timing you, but work at the pace you usually work at when you do your homework. There are no right or wrong solutions to these tasks. We’re testing the website, not you. So if you can’t find something, that’s a problem with the website, not you! Do you have any questions?... All right, let’s get going.

  • Student information: first-year / soph. / junior / senior / senior+ / graduate
  • Major: _______________
  • Have you had a library intro session before? yes / no

2. Find a book: You’re looking for a book with the title The Polar World for a class paper. Does the library have it? [If the student has trouble finding it, say: Okay, at this point, just describe to me what you would normally do next.]

  • Path to find book: _______________
  • Time on stopwatch:    _______________
  • Private: How easy was it for the student to find this book? 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

3. Find an article, part 1: This is a two-part question. You will need to find a peer-reviewed article for a class paper. First, show me how you would find the definition of peer review if you don’t already know. You can look anywhere you’d usually look. Then tell me what you think it means.

  • Path to find information: _______________
  • Student’s definition of peer review: _______________
  • Time on stopwatch: _______________
  •  Private: How do you rate the student’s understanding of peer review? 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Article, part 2: Now, let’s search for a specific article. You need to find a peer-reviewed article about different ways college students deal with stress. What’s the first relevant article you see that you’d want to read? You can look anywhere you’d usually look.

  • Path to find article: _______________
  • Time on stopwatch: _______________
  • Private: How easy was it for the student to find the article? 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5
  • Private: Is it a relevant article? yes / no

4. Debrief: We’re almost done. Tell me what you think of the tasks you did today and your thoughts overall on the library website and the library as a whole. What do you like? What bugs you?

  • Likes:   _______________
  • Dislikes: _______________

Robin Davis

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Posted Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 12:03pm


From the Spring 2015 Newsletter

Librarians never underestimate the power of encyclopedias. They are invaluable sources for the students who are in the beginning stage of their research and are looking for an overview of a subject, background information of an issue, key dates, ideas or persons in a particular subject area. The Library strives to keep its collection of encyclopedias current and makes regular updates in the holdings to stay comprehensive, especially in the field of criminal justice. Last year, the Library acquired two encyclopedias and both are called Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. It is not rare that an encyclopedia title would have a “twin,” but it is rare that two books with the same title would be published in the same year. Both encyclopedias are geared towards academic libraries. 

The print Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice was published by Wiley and edited by Jay S. Albanese, a celebrated authority on criminology and criminal justice and the former head of the International Center at the National Institute of Justice. In addition to a world-renowned editor-in-chief, the 540 entries in 5 volumes are authored by experts from ten countries and peer-reviewed by 14 associate editors. The entries are arranged alphabetically and range from 2,000 to 5,000 words in length. They cover history, current state, and future directions of a topic; many include interdisciplinary approaches. There is also an extensive section on international crime and comparative crime and justice issues. The contents are listed in three ways: by 15 major categories (for example, Corrections and Sentencing, Courts and Adjudication, Law Enforcement and Policing, Types of Crime, Victimization, etc.), then alphabetically by topics, and also by keywords. All entries are cross-referenced so that readers can locate entries on related topics. Each chapter ends with references and suggestions for further readings. Wiley is planning to publish more encyclopedias on the general topic of criminology, with future titles covering juvenile justice, crime and punishment, and criminology theory.

The other Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice was published by Springer and co-edited by Gerben Bruinsma and David Weisburd. Available in electronic format, this work comprises 10 volumes and its contents were overseen by two editors-in-chief in consultation with 12 associate editors and more than 180 area editors who are “often the originators of theories, practices, or methods.” This work covers ten broad areas, including Corrections and Criminal Justice Supervision in the Community, Explanations for Criminal Behavior, Data, Methods, and Statistics, Crime Places and Situations. Fields related to criminology, such as police science, forensics, and certain areas of psychology are covered in 579 entries. Many entries not only outline basic chronology of an issue but also hint at the future developments or questions that might be asked. The entries are arranged in alphabetical order; all of them are cross-referenced. 

Please ask your students to use both encyclopedias for comparison.

Maria Kiriakova

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Posted Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 11:51am


From the Spring 2015 Newsletter

We are always expanding our special collections which document criminal justice, broadly and deeply. This is a selected list of recent acquisitions.

Rare books

Jennaway Pearson, Sum of our Parts: An Examination of Death Rituals in America. Washington D.C., 2014.

We recently acquired this beautiful book by the book artist Jennaway Person; the book is based on her MFA Thesis project. It exists in four copies, one in the artist’s collection and one is at the Library of Congress.  This book features silkscreen, zinc plate etchings, letterpress, on handmade cotton rag paper, with audio recording in a custom built pine box inlayed with one of the zinc etching plates. Each sheet features the name and prisoner history of a selection of prisoners executed in Texas 1982-2013.  An MP3 player holds recordings of each prisoner’s last words. One interesting aspect of this book is that the ink used to portray barbed wire was infused with ground glass. 

Images from a recent exhibit of Sum of our Parts by Jennaway Pearson

 


Suringar, Willem Hendrik and Moreau-Christophe, L.M., Translator. Considerations Sur La Reclusion Individuelle Des Detenus. Precedees d’une Preface et Suivies du Resume de la Question Penitentiaire. Paris: Chez Mme Bouchard-Huzard, 1843. 

A discussion on Pennsylvania’s system of separate confinement, which influenced European penology at this time. The authors were leading prison officials in Holland and France.


The Great Canals Scrip Fraud, Minutes of the proceedings and report of the evidence in the investigation of the case, by the grand jury of Sangamon County, Ill. At the April term of the court of said county, 1859. Springfield, Illinois: Daily Journal Steam Press, 1859. 

This pamphlet describes the investigation into the issue and cover up of ‘canal scrip’ fraud, which implicated then Illinois Governor Matteson for larceny for using state funds to purchase these bank note substitutes. Boxes of this scrip had apparently been purchased, allegedly with state funds and then stored in the State Capital Building and discovered much later. Although the Governor was cleared of all charges, the Grand Jury voted to publish the proceedings of the trial. This item is an addition to our existing Fraud and Swindles Collection. Only eight copies are known to exist of this pamphlet, none in New York State. 

Image: Illustration of a canal scrip, from John M. Lamb. (Nov. 1977) “The Great Canal Scrip Fraud.” The Magazine of Illinois 16/9: 57-60

 


An Illustrated Catalog of Knowles Improved Fire Pumps. New York and Boston, 1885.

This trade catalog features many illustrations and descriptions of pumps which supplied water to fire suppression systems in large buildings. According to this pamphlet and to an advertisement in American Machinist, Knowles pumps were dependable and the industry standard. This will be a great resource to those researching early urban fire prevention systems. We are now the only library on record that holds this pamphlet.

Image: Advertisement for Knowles Steam Pumps in the front pages of American Machinist 9 (1882) from Google Books

 


Report of special committee to the Prison Association of New York on convict labor. 1885

This report is an early criticism of the system of prisoner labor in New York State, which it characterizes as akin to slavery. Our recently digitized Annual Reports of New York State Prisons, available on the Internet Archive details what work the prisoners were assigned inside and outside the prison grounds. In just a few pages, this small pamphlet reviews an issue in corrections that still resonates today. Consider for example this statement on page two: “…on the broadest grounds of public policy, the convict’s reformation is more profitable to the State than his prison labor can be.” Only five libraries are known to have this report. 


The life of Anson Bunker : “the bloody hand,” the perpetrator of no less than fifteen cold-blooded murders, amongst which were the great Nathan murder of New York City, and those of his three wives, and several others in various parts of the country: his horrible confessions and terrible doom. Philadelphia 1881.

A sensational and lurid first person account of fifteen murders committed by Anson Bunker, including all three of his wives. We are one of the few libraries that hold this edition.

Images: Two of the many illustrations in The Life of Anson Bunker from an earlier edition available digitally from Harvard Libraries

 


Manuscript collections

William Preston Papers — (40 linear feet) Bill Preston was professor and chair of John Jay’s History Department from 1973-1988 and the author of Aliens and Dissenters: Federal Suppression of Radicals, 1903–33. We thank Bill’s children, Michael, Margo, Evie and Lauren for donating his papers to the Lloyd Sealy Library. We will be processing this collection soon; a preliminary inventory is available from the Library’s Special Collections Subject Guide

Records of the Town of Brookhaven Police Department (Suffolk County) — (½ linear foot) This collection is also the papers of Edward E. Bridge who organized and oversaw this town’s police force from 1937 to 1959. On January 1, 1960 Brookhaven, along with many adjacent towns, joined forces to create the Suffolk County Police Department. A finding aid is available from the Library’s Special Collections Guide.

Journal of Kansas City Police Matrons Miss Anna W. Taggart and Elizabeth Burns 1904-1909 (one volume) — This journal records the activities of female police officers working in Progressive Era Kansas City. Daily observations and activities include arrests of prostitutes, burglars, murderers as well as interactions with abandoned infants, runaways, drug abusers, domestic violence survivors and much more.  


For more information or to make an appointment to see any of these in our Special Collections Room, please contact Professor Ellen Belcher.

Ellen Belcher

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Posted Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 11:40am


From the Spring 2015 Newsletter

Image: GMU library newsThe amount of material that the library has available for both students and faculty in our collections can seem a bit overwhelming to approach. There is a plethora of information available; students in particular may be unaware of how much the library has for them or even where to begin looking. Regardless of whether you are a professor or a student, a good place to get started would be with our subject guides

You may be wondering, what are subject guides? They are a listing of available resources put together by librarians to help users locate materials that they can use in their research and papers. Subject guides can vary but usually contain lists of suggested books, databases and journals, links, and sometimes pictures and video on whatever topic the guide is discussing. It is a roadmap of extremely helpful, relevant, and academically acceptable knowledge that a librarian constructed for users to use. 

From all the guides available at the Library, the best one to recommend to somebody just beginning to learn about doing research would be our “How to Use the Library” guide. For anyone looking to improve their bibliographies and citation skills, our guide “Citing Sources: APA, MLA & Chicago Styles” may be invaluable. If you are a student having a hard time figuring out if an article or journal is academically acceptable, take a look at our “Evaluating Information Sources” guide. Anyone looking for a source of valid statistics should take a look at our Statistics guide. We also have specific guides for English 101 and Speech 113 classes in particular.

It is also never too early for students to begin to think about the types of careers that they can pursue after their time here at John Jay College, particularly in criminal justice fields. Students who are interested in career resources at the library as well as internship sources, exam study guides, and generally how John Jay College can help you launch your career should take a look at our “Careers in Criminal Justice” subject guide, as well as our “Careers in Forensic Science” subject guide. 

Also as distance education has become more prevalent, subject guides have become crucial in helping faculty and students who will never actually step foot on the physical campus. The library has guides on many topics that would be helpful to those involved in distance education such as our ebook guide, available at guides.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/ebooks and our guide “Finding Legal Information: The Absolute Basics." Graduate students, who may only be able to visit the campus in the evenings, if at all, may find our “Graduate Student Resources” guide to be very useful. 

Images: MIT OpenCoursewareMeanwhile, faculty will find our “Faculty Scholarship Resources” guide and our “Information Literacy” guide to be very helpful as they pursue their teaching and scholarship both on and off campus. And of course as part of fostering a sense of belonging to the wider John Jay College community, there is a guide on library exhibits, which allows for graduate and distance students to experience some of the many displays and materials that faculty and students who visit the physical library regularly are able to enjoy.

This academic year, we introduced several new guides for students on a variety of subjects including guides on classics, emergency management, gangsters, Shakespeare, and several history guides on events like the Holocaust and world wars, as well as eras such as Reconstruction and the Depression. We have also made major updates to existing guides such as “Corrections,” “Crime in New York 1850–1950,” “Fire Science,” and “Security Management.”

Subject guides from the Lloyd Sealy Library offer faculty and students, both on and off campus a gateway to begin their studies and improve their research. Feel free to take a look and encourage your students to take a look as well!

Mark Zubarev

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Posted Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 11:31am


From the Spring 2015 Newsletter

Two new Annual Review subscriptions: Statistics & its Application, and Organizational Psychology & Organizational Behavior 

Our collection of Annual Review journals provides critical literature reviews of primary research in 18 disciplines including the social sciences. Most recently we have added subscriptions to the Annual Review of Organizational Psychology & Organizational Behavior, and the Annual Review of Statistics & its Application.

This is the landing page of the Annual Review of Statistics and its Application. You can browse current and past articles from this page. The single search bar on the upper right allows you to search for articles within a specific Annual Review journal or across all the Annual Review content we subscribe to. 

Launched in March 2014, the Annual Review of Organizational Psychology & Organizational Behavior focuses on industrial psychology, human resource management and organizational behavior. Topics covered include motivation, leadership, gender and diversity, and research methodologies. The Annual Review of Statistics and its Application covers tools and developments in statistics such as new theories in methodologies and applications in the areas of economics, psychology and sociology among others. Both reviews can be searched by clicking on the title of these journals from the main page of Annual Reviews. Once you click on the title you can enter your keywords into the single search bar at the top, or browse current or past issues. You can also search across the 18 disciplines we subscribe to via the single search box appearing at the top of each screen or via the Advanced Search option. 

 


 

Oxford Bibliographies in African Studies, Latino Studies, and Psychology

The Library now subscribes to the African Studies, Latino Studies, and Psychology subject collections of Oxford Bibliographies. They provide annotated citations and introductory overviews for a range of topics, including authors (e.g., Chinua Achebe in the African Studies collection) and concepts (e.g., borderlands from the Latino Studies collection and lie detection from the Psychology collection). The annotated sources include books, journal articles, websites, data sets and archives. Each citation can be saved to a personal account and emailed or exported to a citation management program (e.g., RefWorks). Citations also include a convenient link to the CUNY+ catalog and WorldCat, both of which allow users to search for the availability of the item at John Jay or other libraries. Some citations also include a link to Google Books. 

Sample citation from the Lie Detection in a Forensic Context bibliography. Each citation can be saved and exported. Links to the CUNY+ catalog, WorldCat, and Google Books are provided.

Oxford Bibliographies provide a range of search features. Researchers can browse bibliographies in each subject collection by an alphabetical title listing or search across subject collections via the single search box at the top of each page or through the advanced search. The advanced search options also allow researchers to limit searches to specific types of citations, for example primary documents or multimedia sources. 

oxford bibliographies

From the main page of a subject collection, you can browse bibliographies by title, or you can search for bibliography topics using the search bar at the top.

Researchers who are new to a field and are looking for key sources to start their research will find these bibliographies to be useful. 

 


 

eMarketer 

aggregates research related to online marketing and e-commerce by drawing data from over 4,000 sources, including companies, research firms, consulting companies, universities and government agencies. Although the marketing and e-commerce focus of this database may not seem relevant to research agendas at John Jay, students and professors may be interested in the Internet and mobile adoption data made available by eMarketer. The database provides forecasts up to 2019 for topics such as the number of mobile phone users, broadband households and Internet users in different countries. Other topics include social media usage by specific groups such as millennials in the United States, the number of mobile phone users by race and ethnicity, as well as data about digital privacy and security. Search results can be filtered by format and source types such as charts, reports and industry articles. 

The image on the right is a chart from eMarketer illustrating the demographic profile of mobile phone owners in Peru, 2013. Charts can be emailed and downloaded as a PDF, JPEG or Excel file. 

Karen Okamoto

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Posted Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 11:22am


Paola Rojas, from the library to border patrol

From the Spring 2015 Newsletter

Paola Rojas was one of Saundra’s favorite “babies.” Paola worked six years as a Sealy Library College Assistant, graduating with a BS in Criminal Justice in 1998. 

After graduation, the sweet-faced, Spanish-speaking Paola was hired by the United States Border Patrol to carry a gun and enforce the Arizona border. She did her new job with the same good cheer and competence she displayed while working for the library. Although the western style grew on her, Paola was happy to move back to friends and family in New York three years ago. You might find her now at one of the airports as an investigator for Customs, or at a New York Yankees game. 

Though Paola keeps up with Saundra Dancy and the college assistants she worked with years ago, the rest of the library staff were happy to catch up with her again at Mrs. Dancy’s retirement party.

Janice Dunham

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Ed. note: We misspelled Paola's name in the print newsletter. We regret the error.


Posted Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 11:06am


From the Spring 2015 Newsletter

Saundra Dancy, the Sealy Library Circulation Supervisor, celebrated her birthday on March 30 by retiring from John Jay College. She was aided and abetted in this decision by her husband, Darryl Dancy, who retired from John Jay’s Facilities Department during the previous month. While we wish them both well in their spring bower in Pennsylvania, the College will surely miss them. 

Saundra arrived at the Library nearly twenty-five years ago upon the high recommendation of Margaret Schultze, for whom she had worked in Human Resources. Saundra’s bright spirit, ready smile and quick intelligence was immediately apparent. It wasn’t long before she had mastered the arcane details of library circulation: “unlinked item records,” “pick list,” “Aleph conversions,” “library stops,” “local patron,” “global records,” and so many others. Where Saundra always shined the brightest, however, was in her management skills.

The Library has a revolving crew of fifteen college assistants and four or five work-study students who zip in to work for a few hours between classes. Our students are subject to the vagaries of student life everywhere, plus dependent families, no previous work experience, and special immigrant status. At the center of the maelstrom, Saundra dependably orchestrated crises and continuity, going well beyond work responsibilities to mentor, cajole, encourage and help our John Jay students one after another. An indication of the influence she had on so many young lives was the number who flocked lovingly to her retirement party on March 20. Their tributes to Saundra Dancy and how she changed their lives were reminiscent of the things we usually hear at faculty retirements. The role Saundra played in the College was in the best spirit of our educational enterprise. We are grateful for her presence among us.

Janice Dunham

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Posted Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 11:05am


From the Spring 2015 Newsletter

This loving couple, Nadyia Middleton and Miguel Onativia, both John Jay graduates, met, courted, and exchanged their first Valentine’s Day gifts in the Sealy Library. 

When Miguel wanted to surprise Nadyia and ask her to marry him, of course it had to be in the Library. With the help of Jerylle Kemp, Director of Alumni Relations, and the fond participation of everyone present in the Sealy Library on December 13, Miguel and Nadyia became engaged (please notice the ring). In July they will married. (But not in the Library.)

Janice Dunham

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Posted Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 11:02am


From the Spring 2015 Newsletter

Larry Sullivan’s review of the Morgan Library and Museum’s exhibition, “Gatsby to Garp: Modern Masterpieces from the Carter Burden Collection” was published in the Spring 2015 newsletter of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP). His book review of Ruth Ahnert’s The Rise of Prison Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2013) was published in the same issue of the SHARP newsletter. He also gave the lecture “The Brownsville Boys: Jewish Gangsters of Murder, Inc.” in the Jewish Experience series at The Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center on March 27.

Kathleen Collins had a chapter entitled “The Rise of the ‘Foodie’ and the Role of Mass Media” published in The Routledge History of Food edited by Carol Helstosky (New York: Routledge, 2015). 

Robin Davis presented “Taking Care of Digital Efforts: A Multiplanar View of Project Afterlives” at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention in Vancouver in January. She presented “The Internet is your business card” in April as part of the “Social Media: Finding a Platform” workshop organized by the Office for the Advancement of Research (OAR), as well as presenting “Who does the Internet think you are?” at the 2015 LACUNY Institute.

Marta Bladek was a presenter in the “Altmetrics: New Measures of Scholarly Impact” workshop organized by OAR in May.

Janice Dunham

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Posted Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 10:58am


Laurent ou les prisonniersFrom the Spring 2015 Newsletter

In a 1916 Atlantic Monthly article, Samuel Crothers coined the term “bibliotherapy.” In 1970s America the use of books as therapy for prisoners became fashionable among rehabilitationists. Reading is always good, but researchers carried out few studies for outcomes. From the 1980s affective bibliotherapy caught on, especially among cognitive behavioralists, who based their practice mainly on the reading of moral fiction and self-help books with stories or models that could improve behavior among prisoners, the mentally ill, addicts, and others. In truth, the concept of reading for therapeutic behavioral modification reached back at least to the Middle Ages and even beyond.

A recent addition to Sealy Library’s Special Collections offers a prime example of bibliotherapy in early 19th century France. In 1819, French King Louis XVIII founded the Society for the Improvement of Prisoners. One of the Society’s first actions was to hold a competition for authors to write edifying fictional literature to distribute among prisoners. An anonymous donor provided 1000 francs as a prize for the winning novel. In 1821, the contest ended with a mere ten books passing the first cut. After further examination, only two novels were in competition: Antoine et Maurice (Paris, 1821) by Laurent de Jussieu (nephew of the famous French botanist) and Laurent, ou les Prisonniers by Jean-Marie Achard-James (Paris, 1821). Jussieu’s novel won the prize, perhaps because the protagonists in the novel were not already incarcerated, but received the light and reformed before their criminal behavior put them in prison. In Laurent, however, the protagonist was a convicted criminal and his moral actions while behind bars had an ameliorating effect on his imprisoned colleagues.

We were fortunate to obtain a first edition of Laurent, the only copy outside of France where one resides in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and another in the Bibliothèque de Lyon. This most rare book once again showcases our international reputation for criminal justice materials.

—Larry Sullivan

CUNY+ record for Laurent, ou les Prisonniers »

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Posted Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 10:51am


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