Library News Blog

CUNY’s institutional repository reached an impressive milestone in March, recording a half million content downloads, accumulated during its first two years of existence. Publications posted on CAW by John Jay’s faculty were downloaded 13,440 times, mostly by users within the United States, but also overseas, as the map above shows.

The first graduate students from John Jay to deposit their theses in CAW were Jillian M. Wetzel and Sannia K. Tauqeer. Sannia’s thesis on touch/trace DNA transfer in the NYC subways has already reached readers in ten different countries, including some in government agencies in Europe and the U.S. The Bundesamt fuer Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik, the Direction Interministerielle des Systemes D’Information et de Communication de L Etat (Disic), and a Ministere de l’Interieur have all noted Sannia’s work.

The work of John Jay’s faculty and graduate students can be seen at

By Ellen Sexton

Read more from the Spring 2017 issue of Classified Information, the Library's newsletter

By Marta Bladek

For the past few years, the Library’s APA/MLA Citation Tools workshop has been the most popular of our Community Hour workshops. We offer multiple sessions each semester, increasing the frequency during midterms and finals. Similarly, our online APA/MLA citation guides continue to receive thousands of views each term.

While the Writing Center offers one-on-one assistance with formatting references, the Library instructs students on the use of citation tools available through many of our databases. We teach students how to get in the habit of documenting sources while they are gathering information for their research assignments. Rather than tackling citations at the very last—and very rushed—part of their research, students can now easily start collecting and storing citations as they find their sources.

These ever more popular citation tools change and get better all the time, but it is still necessary to compare a database-generated reference to the formatting specified in the appropriate style handbook. The following are just three of the many different tools you may introduce to your students.

Google Scholar

All works listed in Google Scholar come with a citation. All you have to do is click on Cite and choose, then copy and paste, your documentation style.

Cite button beneath article's search result in Google Scholar. Choice of style

EBSCO Databases

All of the EBSCO databases (including Academic Search Complete, Criminal Justice Abstracts, and PsycINFO) now feature the Cite option. It provides citations in many popular styles.

Cite button under Tools in Ebsco database; choice of citation style in popup window

ProQuest Databases

All the ProQuest databases (including ProQuest Social Sciences Premium and Criminal Justice Periodicals Index) also offer a citation tool.

Cite button in grey box with email option. Popup of citation style choice

As we remind students, these citation tools are helpful and make research more efficient. However, they are not perfect and the citations are not always completely accurate. While we encourage working with these database-generated citations, we also emphasize that all the citations need to be checked against the appropriate style handbooks.


Read more from the Spring 2017 issue of Classified Information, the Library's newsletter

Since 2013, the Library has co-organized an annual murder mystery-themed scavenger hunt for first-year, transfer, and Summer Bridge students with Student Academic Success Programs (SASP). This year, the challenge evolved into “Escape the Library!”, a group competition inspired by the popular escape-the-room games. Led by a librarian and a Peer Success Coach, student teams solve a mystery using library resources, including real historical documents. This spring’s cohort of 71 mystery solvers explored every corner of the Library and learned how to find information in the catalog and two databases.

The premise: a ghost has trapped everyone in the Library and won’t let anyone leave until they find out where his killer hid from the police. Armed with the ghost’s name and the date of his murder in 1921, students first consult the New York Times archives for an article about the (real) murder. From there, each clue leads to another clue by way of a new library skill, such as locating a book in the stacks. Then students scurry to find the pieces of the murder trial transcript hidden throughout the Library. Finally, each team must construct a properly-formatted APA citation to find a hidden message that reveals where the killer was hiding.

It took most teams the full 45 minutes to finish the challenge, though one team (pictured) completed everything in under 30 minutes. The prize, a free lunch in the cafeteria, so motivated some teams that they had to be (gently) reminded not to sprint in the Library!

Feedback from students has been very positive across the board. The only critique? “Make it more difficult!”

(Photo: Peer Success Coach Kelsey B. led Miranda B., Alondra H., and Aaron P. to win in record time. Printed with permission.)


By Robin Davis

Read more from the Spring 2017 issue of Classified Information, the Library's newsletter


What if everyone in New York City read the same book at the same time?

That’s the concept behind One Book, One New York, a program organized by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. New Yorkers cast their votes in February to choose which book they wanted to read, and the results are in! This spring, New York City will read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award-winner for fiction.

Readings, panels, and other public events related to Americanah are scheduled from March until June. The One Book program also provides a discussion guide for book clubs (and classes), as well as a free audiobook download. See for all events and program information.

One Book programs have been popular in many cities, here and abroad, as a way to connect community members through a common text. One Book, One New York is the first such event organized for New York City—and of course, being held in the Big Apple, it is now the largest community reading program ever organized.

About Americanah: “Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland” (publisher’s description).

Americanah is available in the John Jay Library at Stacks PR9387.9 .A34354 A72 2014 and as an ebook (1 user limit).

Other #OneBookNY contenders:

  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty, available in the John Jay Library at Stacks PS3552 .E19 S45 2015
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, available in the John Jay Library at Stacks E185.615 .C6335 2015
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, available in the John Jay Library at Stacks PS3537 .M2895 T7 2005 or ...1982
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, available in the John Jay Library at Stacks PS3554 .I259 B75 2007


By Robin Davis

Read more from the Spring 2017 issue of Classified Information, the Library's newsletter

By Bonnie Nelson

The Library’s third triennial survey of “in-Library use” confirms it: Lloyd Sealy Library users are a serious group.

  • 55.5% come to the Library to study or work individually
  • 46.7% come to use a library computer for academic/course work

They multitask:

  • 398 library users engaged in 1,118 separate tasks

They visit frequently:

  • 70% come to the Library at least twice a week
  • 89% come at least weekly

And they want to be heard:

  • 59% of those responding took the time to write a comment

The results from the survey, answered by 406 individuals who came to the Lloyd Sealy Library from Thursday, November 15, 2016, to Saturday, November 19, 2016, were very similar to the surveys conducted in 2010 and 2013. If anything, fewer students engaged in non-academic activities such as “used a library computer for fun/to shop” (only 7% in 2016 vs. 11% in 2013). Read the full report, or scroll down for a summary.


What did you do in the Library today?

What did you do in the librar today? Most studied or worked individually

They consider almost all library services to be important to them. On a scale of 1–5, 3.99 was the lowest average importance rating, given to “Tools to facilitate group work.” And they give the Library very high scores on all services. “Quality of databases/electronic resources” was the highest rated (4.47 out of 5) while the lowest rating was given to “Noise level” (3.93).

To find out what was really on students’ minds, though, it is necessary to read their comments. Two hundred forty-one people wrote an answer to the question, “What can we do to make this library better for you?” They made 314 suggestions—all of which were read and categorized. A full 30% of the comments had to do with computer issues and, overwhelmingly, they wanted more: more computers, more access to software on computers, more printers.

The second major thread in the comments was the need for more electrical outlets—11.5% of respondents to this question complained about the lack of outlets. This is despite the fact that, as a result of the 2013 survey, we rearranged furniture to make carrels closer to existing outlets, added a commercial charging table, built a 12-seat charging bar, and purchased and deployed over 20 small charging hubs.

But 21% of the comments were equally divided between the desire for more space—especially space to study individually—and a concern about noise. There is no doubt that our students want, need, and deserve a quiet place to study.

Compared to the 2013 survey, complaints about staff in the comments were down (only 3% of comments vs. 9% in 2013) and general compliments (“the library’s great!”) were up (12% vs. 8% in 2013). We had identified overcrowding and understaffing during the recently-introduced Community Hour as a factor in the 2013 complaints and took steps to improve staffing. These seem to be working.

Our final question this year was, “If there were to be a major library renovation, what would you like to see in a changed library?” Two hundred twenty-four of our users ventured an opinion. Not surprisingly, the answers mirrored those from the previous question: more quiet study rooms, more outlets, more computers and software. But there was also a desire for a better-looking, more comfortable library with more amenities: new furniture, better lighting, couches, more rooms for group study, more rooms for individual study, a place to eat, better ventilation, a “more modern feel.” Some commenters reminded us of other needs: “sleeping room,” “more green real plants,” “puppy room for stress, college students need this.”

As a result of this most recent survey, we have already added MS Office to more computers in the Library Reference area and have added a new mobile print station downstairs. We have ordered more charging hubs and are searching for places near outlets to deploy them. We are examining ways to increase student seating areas in parts of the Library where older runs of periodicals and law materials have been reliably replaced with online access.

How often do you visit this library in person? 46% say 2-3x per week

The best news, though, is that CUNY has committed resources to the development of a Master Plan for a complete renovation of the library, and this renovation is now a priority in the CUNY capital budget. Library faculty will be working with architects to come up with a plan that will meet the many student needs expressed in the In-Library surveys.

Read the full 2016 In-Library Use Report »


Read more from the Spring 2017 issue of Classified Information, the Library's newsletter

Skepticism is a virtue

Check out the ad campaign created by Mark Graham (CD, Art Director) with Josh Tavlin (CD) and John McNeil (CD) for Brill's Content: Skepticism is a Virtue. [Thanks to Mr. Graham for granting us permission to use this brilliant graphic].

By Kathleen Collins

A LexisNexis search reveals 117 instances of the term “fake news” in headlines from 2012 through 2015. In the first two weeks of March 2017, the number of headline references was 270. This is one small piece of evidence supporting the argument that fake news—recognizing it and contending with it—is currently an urgent and far-reaching issue in the U.S. Until late 2016, the term often referred to parody TV news shows like The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, or more generally about the dangers of the Internet, but the 2016 election season, campaign, and aftermath have breathed new and far more impactful life into what “fake news” means and how it can affect politics and daily life.

Librarians have long been concerned with encouraging the careful and critical evaluation of information sources. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that a new surge of fake news has caused us all to sit up and take notice as never before. Libraries all over the U.S. have quickly put together guides to help students, staff, and faculty sort through what fake news is and how to recognize it. At the Lloyd Sealy Library, we adapted a guide created by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism (“Fact Checking, Verification & Fake News”), which can be found in the Research Guides link on our home page.

Librarians are not the only members of the faculty capitalizing on this opportunity to emphasize messages that we have long been delivering. Faculty all across the college are addressing the importance of evaluating information sources, especially those who teach journalism and digital media who see how the scourge of fake news can impact the citizenry as well as the education and possible future careers of their students. They take a broad and critical view of the media and its practices as a matter of course.

Professor Alexa Capeloto of the English Department teaches “Self, Media and Society” and a variety of journalism courses. “When the web became more interactive, a lot of us thought that as uncontrollable as this new world was, it would be self-regulating,” she says. “We predicted that facts would win. We didn’t predict that facts would stop mattering. Sure, it’s still worth fighting falsehoods with facts, but I don’t think that’s enough anymore. Messages that reinforce our beliefs are way more powerful and seductive than messages that are true, and they come to us so easily now through the web. I think when it really matters, we should still work to decipher whether information is real or fake, but we should also look at who’s behind the information, how they operate, what motives they might have, and what motives we have in accepting or rejecting it. We have to question ourselves as well as the media.”

Professor Devin Harner, who also teaches journalism courses in the English department, says, “I’m a bit more skeptical than you might expect when it comes to discussions about how ultimately consequential today’s fake news is. I’m far more concerned with sloppy reporting by the real media and with the trend toward opinion and meta-pieces that aren’t grounded in ANY reporting. I can’t help but think that mainstream journalism’s lax standards paved the way for fake news, cost journalists the public’s trust and provided a crack in the foundation waiting to be exploited.” But he offers the possibility that “fake news has been good for real news, because real news can position itself as the cure for fake news, and because it has us talking about news.” Harner believes that fake news is “a symptom rather than a disease. ... And we need to teach media literacy now.”

Professor Capeloto and her colleagues are developing a news literacy module including readings and lesson plans that any faculty member can use and incorporate into their classes.

Read more from the Spring 2017 issue of Classified Information, the Library's newsletter

Larry Sullivan’s article, “Why retribution matters: Progression and not regression,” co-written with Kimberly Collica-Cox, was published in Theory in Action 10(2) in April 2017.

Ellen Belcher co-presented “Barcın Höyük. Archaeological Investigations of a Neolithic Settlement (2007-2015)” at the Symposium and Workshop at the Netherlands Archaeological Institute, Istanbul, Turkey in November 2016. She also gave a presentation titled “Discoverability of Small Things: Historiographies of Prehistoric Mesopotamian Comparanda” at the British Association of Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology (BANEA), Glasgow, Scotland in January 2017. With Karina Croucher, she published “Prehistoric Figurines in Anatolia (Turkey),” chapter 20 (pp. 443–467) in the Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Figurines (ed. T. Insoll, Oxford University Press, 2017).

Ellen Belcher and Tania Colmant-Donabedian prepared and installed a temporary exhibit of materials from the Lloyd George Sealy Papers in conjunction with the “Lloyd George Sealy Panel Discussion,” held on February 28, 2017.  A permanent exhibit from these papers can be viewed in the Niederhoffer lounge on the first floor of the Library.

Robin Davis presented “Drupal + Git” at the CUNY IT Conference in December 2016, as part of the “CUNY Libraries and Open Source” panel. She published two “Internet Connection” columns in Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, "The Future of Web Citation Practices" in 35(3) and "APIs and Libraries" in 35(4).

Jeffrey A. Kroessler presented in a session titled “From Sunnyside to Seaside” at the National Convention of the American Institute of Architects. His review of Politics Across the Hudson: The Tappan Zee Megaproject appeared in Planning Perspectives (vol. 32, issue 1).

Ellen Sexton co-authored “The CUNY-Shanghai library faculty exchange program: Participants remember, reflect and reshape” (with Chao, S.-Y. J., Evans, B.,  Phillips, R., Polger, M.A., Posner, B.) in  International Librarianship:  Developing Professional, Intercultural, and Educational Leadership, edited by Constantinou, C., Miller, M. & Schlesinger, K. and published by SUNY University Press. She also spoke on a panel, “Sponsorships of Queer (Information) Literacy: Recovering Past to Improve Our Futures,” with Mark McBeth (JJ and GC) and Patrick James (GC) at the Georgia International Conference on Information Literacy, Savannah, in September 2016.

Read more from the Spring 2017 issue of Classified Information, the Library's newsletter

Did Bertha Barton commit suicide, taking her child with her, in the icy waters off Coney Island, or did the nefarious bigamist, Mr. Martin X. Boyce, murder her? An anonymous author wrote about Bertha’s woeful and sorrowful life in the semi-epistolary, semi-autobiographical dime novel Bertha Barton: Or. The Coney Island Mystery, published in 1876 and recently acquired by the Sealy Library in the only American edition.

Bertha went to the Twelfth Baptist church in Philadelphia to hear its pastor, the Reverend Mr. Bott, with his “sweet face and musical voice” and “persuasive way of explaining the Gospel,” preach a sermon. Mr. Bott was so eloquent that Bertha converted almost immediately.

It was at the church that she met Mr. Boyce, who seduced her, soon married her in secret (performed by a fake minister friend of Boyce) and impregnated her. Only after Bertha gave birth to Boyce’s child did she find out that he was already married. Next thing, she and her baby were found dead on the shores of Coney Island. Was it murder or suicide? Who’s to say?

This extraordinary New York mystery tale recently found its way to the Special Collections Division of the Sealy Library where it resides among our incomparable rare book collection related to crime and punishment.

Bertha is included in one volume with Life and Death in a Barn! … A True Incident of Centennial City Life. Both novels are extraordinarily rare, found in only three U.S. libraries, and sensationally detail the miseries, poverty, and crime in urban settings during the 1876 centennial year. This most germane acquisition to the collections is another indicator of Sealy Library’s comprehensive and historical coverage of crime and punishment.

Larry E. Sullivan

Read more from the Spring 2017 issue of Classified Information, the Library's newsletter

Fake news. Alternative facts. Post-truth. We are living in a world where facts are easier than ever to find, yet seem to matter less than ever before. This has critical implications for our students in their academic, professional and personal lives, and is relevant in just about any course they might take in their college careers. If you are interested in learning or teaching about news and information literacy in the Digital Age, consider attending the session "News Literacy Matters" on Thursday, April 27, from 1:40 to 2:40 p.m. in the Teaching and Learning Center, 335T. Prof. Alexa Capeloto (Journalism) and Prof. Kathleen Collins (Library) will share tools, resources and activities designed for easy inclusion in your courses.

By Ellen Sexton

incarcerating US cover

We have acquired licenses to stream 15 documentaries to the John Jay Community, for viewing on or off-campus thanks to our proxy server. URLs can be shared, e.g. via email, or embedded into course software. 

Incarcerating US “is a feature-length documentary that asks fundamental questions about the prison system in America: What is the purpose of prison? Why did our prison population explode in the 1970s? What can make our justice system more just? … Through both empirical evidence and the eyes of those tragically affected by the system for committing minor crimes, we see the failures of two major initiatives: the War on Drugs and mandatory minimum sentences.”

Cocaine unwrapped. (2013). Bullfrog Films.   Tells the story of "coca farmers in Colombia, drug mules in Ecuadorian prisons, cocaine factories in the Bolivian jungle, dealers on the streets of Mexico, law enforcement officials on the streets of Baltimore -- and the everyday consumers around the dinner tables of the West.  It's a story of politics, death, economic and environmental devastation and human suffering, and explores realistic alternatives to the war on drugs.  The film features front line reportage, exclusive access to the political leaders of Latin America, such as Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador, as well as revealing interviews with drug czars."

Crips and Bloods: Made in America. (2009). Bullfrog Films.  "Chronicles the decades-long cycle of destruction and despair that defines modern gang culture. From the genesis of LA's gang culture to the shocking, war-zone reality of daily life in the South L.A., it traces the origins of their bloody four-decades long feud. Contemporary and former gang members provide street-level testimony that provides the film with a stark portrait of modern-day gang life: the turf wars and territorialism, the inter-gang hierarchy and family structure, the rules of behavior, the culture of guns, death and dishonor."

Destruction of memory. (2017). Icarus Films. "Explores the loss of priceless artwork, artifacts and historical sites through war and terrorism".

Do not resist (2016). Vanish Films. Directed by Craig Atkinson. On Film Platform. A “chilling,” “urgent and powerful exploration into the militari- zation of American police forces.” It has won numerous awards, including best documentary at Tribeca’s Film festival in 2016.

Ghosts of Attica. (2001). First Run/Icarus Films . "The definitive account of America's most violent prison rebellion, its deadly suppression, the days of torture that ensued, and the almost 30 year legal case that followed."

Intended consequences (2008). Media Storm  "In Rwanda, in 1994, Hutu militia committed a bloody genocide, murdering one million Tutsis, and repeatedly raping thousands of women. Many of these women became pregnant, and have had to try for years to reconcile their contradictory feelings of both love and hate towards the children they bore as the result of their brutal rapes. These are some of their touching stories." (15 minutes).

The Life and Times of Sara Baartman.(1999). Icarus FIlms. "The strange and sad case of Sara Baartman, kidnapped from South Africa in 1810, 'exhibited' around Great Britain, and then treated as a scientific curiosity."

Profits of punishment. (2001). Icarus Films.  "A critical look at America's booming private prison industry."

Red Hook Justice. (2004). Icarus Films.  "Profiles an innovative court in a Brooklyn neighborhood plagued by poverty and crime that is at the center of a legal revolution - the community justice movement." (55 minutes).

Refuge. (2014). Bullfrog Films. "Refugees, asylees and caregivers share their stories to help professionals and volunteers understand the needs of the more than a million survivors of torture rebuilding lives in the US."

El Sicario, Room 164. (2011). Icarus Films.  "In an anonymous motel room on the U.S./Mexico border, a Ciudad Juarez hitman speaks. He has killed hundreds of people and is an expert in torture and kidnapping. He was simultaneously on the payroll of the Mexican drug cartels and a commander of the Chihuahua State Police. …Aided only by a magic marker and notepad, which he uses to illustrate and diagram his words, the sicario describes, in astounding detail, his life of crime, murder, abduction and torture."

Tadmor. (2017). Icarus Films.  "Victims recount torture in a Syrian prison."

The Visitors. (2009). Scorpion TV.  "Every Friday night about 800 people, mostly women and children, almost all of them African American and Latino, gather in Manhattan for the long journey to rural New York to visit their loved ones in prison."

Welcome to Refugeestan. (2017). Icarus Films.  "The UNHCR manages camps that shelter more than sixteen million refugees all around the world, creating a virtual country as large as the Netherlands."

You've been Trumped. (2012). Bullfrog Films. Fans of Local Hero can re-visit the Scottish landscape where local people lose a fight to preserve a fragile coastal environment against a golf resort developer. 


Please see our Media guide for more about the Library's collections of documentaries, feature films, training films, and more, in streaming and DVD formats.  Please contact the librarian responsible for media, Ellen Sexton, with questions, comments, acquisition suggestions.  DVDs may be reserved for classroom use.  

Read more from the Spring 2017 issue of Classified Information, the Library's newsletter