Library News Blog

If all of New York City could read one book together, which book should be chosen? You decide!

The One Book, One New York initiative was just announced, and voting is open until February 28. The five books below are the #OneBookNY contenders. Check them out and cast your vote!

Visit the One Book, One New York page to see book summaries and video testimonials from celebrities like Danielle Brooks and Larry Wilmore.


 

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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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

Publisher's description: 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.

 

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In the John Jay Library at Stacks E185.615 .C6335 2015

Publisher's description: In 150 years since end of the Civil War and the ratification of13th Amendment, the story of race and America has remained brutally simple one, written on flesh: it is story of the black body, exploited to create the country's foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite the nation after civil war and today still disproportionately threatened, locked up and killed in the streets. How can America reckon with its fraught racial history? Between The World And Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates' attempt to answer that question.

 

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

In the John Jay Library at Stacks PS3554 .I259 B75 2007

Description: Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim. Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss.

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The Sellout by Paul Beatty

In the John Jay Library at Stacks PS3552 .E19 S45 2015

Publisher's description: Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist at Riverside Community College, he spent his childhood as the subject in psychological studies, classic experiments revised to include a racially-charged twist. He also grew up believing this pioneering work might result in a memoir that would solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a shoot-out with the police, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that's left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral and some maudlin what-ifs. Fueled by this injustice and the general disrepair of his down-trodden hometown, he sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town's most famous resident--the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins, our narrator initiates a course of action--one that includes reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school--destined to bring national attention. These outrageous events land him with a law suit heard by the Supreme Court, the latest in a series of cases revolving around the thorny issue of race in America.

 

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

In the John Jay Library at Stacks PS3537 .M2895 T7 2005 or ...1982

Description: The American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more. -- Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1912. Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prairie was lovely and Shenandoah had a beautiful sound, but you couldn't fit those words into Brooklyn. Serene was the only word for it; especially on a Saturday afternoon in summer.

 


Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2017 - 11:16am


The New York Times recently featured a list of 25 great books by refugees. The Lloyd Sealy Library has many of these books in its holdings, so we've highlighted some here for you. Enjoy reading these!



Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits (1982).
Stacks PQ 8098.1 .L54 C313 1985.
A best seller and critical success all over the world, The House of the Spirits is the magnificent epic of the Trueba family -- their loves, their ambitions, their spiritual quests, their relations with one another, and their participation in the history of their times, a history that becomes destiny and overtakes them all. (From publisher's description)

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951).
Stacks JC480 .A74 2004 and Reserve JC480 .A74 1994.
Suspicious of the inevitability so often imposed by hindsight, Hannah Arendt was not interested in detailing the causes that produced totalitarianism. Nothing in the nineteenth century--indeed, nothing in human history--could have prepared us for the idea of political domination achieved by organizing the infinite plurality and differentiation of human beings as if all humanity were just one individual. ... The Origins of Totalitarianism remains as essential a book for understanding our times as it was when it first appeared more than fifty years ago. (From publisher's description)

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955).
Stacks PS3527 .A15 L6 1997.
The most controversial classic novel of the 20th century ... Awe and exhilaration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in Lolita, Nabokov's most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert's obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. (From publisher's description)

Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (1953).
Stacks K415 .S77 1953
This work examines the problem of natural right and argues that there is a firm foundation in reality for the distinction between right and wrong in ethics and politics. (WorldCat)

Joseph Brodsky, Less Than One (1986).
Stacks PN 1271 .B76 1986
This collection of essays thrusts Brodsky--heretofore known more for his poetry and translations--into the forefront of the "Third Wave" of Russian emigre writers. His insights into the works of Dostoyevsky, Mandelstam, Platonov, as well as non-Russian poets Auden, Cavafy and Montale are brilliant. While the Western popularity of many other Third Wavers has been stunted by their inability to write in English, Brodsky consumed the language to attain a "closer proximity" to poets such as Auden.The book, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, opens and closes with revealing autobiographical essay. (Publisher's description)

Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls (1992).
Stacks PQ 7390 .A72 Z46313 1994.
Arenas recounts a stunning odyssey from his poverty-stricken childhood in rural Cuba and his adolescence as a rebel fighting for Castro, through his suppression as a writer, imprisonment as a homosexual, his flight from Cuba via the Mariel boat lift, and his subsequent life and the events leading to his death in New York. In what The Miami Herald calls his "deathbed ode to eroticism," Arenas breaks through the code of secrecy and silence that protects the privileged in a state where homosexuality is a political crime. Recorded in simple, straightforward prose, this is the true story of the Kafkaesque life and world re-created in the author's acclaimed novels. (Publisher's description)

Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban (1992).
Stacks PS 3557 .A66 D73 1993.
A vivid and funny first novel about three generations of a Cuban family divided by conflicting loyalties over the Cuban revolution, set in the world of Havana in the 1970s and '80s and in an emigre neighborhood of Brooklyn. It is a story of immense charm about women and politics, women and witchcraft, women and their men. (Publisher's description)

Loung Ung, First They Killed My Father (2001).
Stacks DS 554.8 .U54 2000.
From a childhood survivor of Cambodia's brutal Pol Pot regime comes an unforgettable narrative of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her family, and their triumph of spirit. (Publisher's description)

Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone (2007).
Stacks DT516.828 .B43 A3 2007 and browsing collection.
In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived. In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story ... This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty. (From publisher's description)

Masha Gessen, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012).
Stacks DK510.766 .P87 G47 2012
The Man Without a Face is the chilling account of how a low-level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world. ... Her account of how a "faceless" man maneuvered his way into absolute-and absolutely corrupt-power has the makings of a classic of narrative nonfiction.

Gary Shteyngart, Little Failure (2014).
Stacks PS3619 .H79 Z46 2014.
The award-winning author of Super Sad True Story traces his uproarious experiences as a young bullied Jewish-Russian immigrant in Queens, his haphazard college pursuits and his initial forays into a literary career. (Publisher's description)

Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (1944).
Stacks HC53 .P6 1957.
After settling down to teach at Bennington College, Polanyi published his major work, which looked at how the Industrial Revolution was so disruptive that it created the conditions for both Communism and fascism. But capitalism, he argued, did not happen spontaneously. It required an enormous amount of government planning in order to function. “Laissez-faire was planned,” was his counterintuitive summation. (NYT description)

Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus (1947).
Stacks PT2625.A44 D63.
A new translation of a 1948 novel by a German writer based on the Faust legend. The protagonist is Adrian Leverkuhn, a musical genius who trades his body and soul to the devil in exchange for 24 years of triumph as the world's greatest composer. (Publisher description)

Theodor Adorno, The Authoritarian Personality (1950).
Stacks (BF 323 .D6 A95 1982.
Adorno wanted to understand what kind of personality type was susceptible to fascism. He found his answer, via Freud, in a harsh parenting style that led to the kind of person who would crave the approval and guidance of an authoritarian. (NYT description)


Not sure how to find a book by its call number? See our guide.

Hitting your monthly limit of free NYT articles? Sign up for an NYT account through CUNY (a $200 value!).

January 31, 2017


Posted Tuesday, January 31, 2017 - 3:36pm


A recent New York Times article notes that many classic dystopian novels are rising to the top of sales lists again. At the time of this writing, for instance, George Orwell's 1984 is at the top of the Amazon Best Sellers list. The NYT article posits several reasons why: perhaps the phrase "alternative facts" recalls the Ministry of Truth in 1984, or perhaps "sometimes, it’s nice to be reminded that things could be worse."

Many of the works mentioned in the article are available right here through the Lloyd Sealy Library. If you're in the mood for a dystopian novel, take your pick from the ones below.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985).
Stacks PR9199.3 .A8 H3 1998. Description.

1984 by George Orwell (1949).
Stacks PR6029 .R8 N647 2009 and in Browsing Collection. Description.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932).
Stacks PR 6015 .U9 B65 1963 and in Browsing Collection. Description.

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935).
Stacks PS3523.E94 I8. New Yorker article.

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (2010).
Request from another CUNY. Description.

Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945).
Stacks PR 6029 .R8 A5 1982. Description.


Not sure how to find a book by its call number? See our guide.

Hitting your monthly limit of free NYT articles? Sign up for an NYT account through CUNY (a $200 value!).

January 31, 2017


Posted Tuesday, January 31, 2017 - 2:33pm


CUNY Graduate School of Journalism Fake News Cheat Sheet

Check out the new Fake News Cheatsheet!

Written by Barbara Gray, Chief Librarian and Associate Professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, this downloadable guide situates fake news in the context of fact-checking.

The guide includes questions to ask yourself about fake news (Who says? How do they know?) and an explanation of confirmation bias.


Posted Thursday, January 26, 2017 - 11:10am


Front page of New York Times, January 16, 2017 — photo of President ObamaYesterday, the New York Times published a front-page article, "How Reading Nourished Obama During the White House Years." We have quoted parts of the article where Pres. Obama mentions authors and book titles, and noted where you can find these books at John Jay or across CUNY. For authors mentioned, we've pulled out just one or two notable works, but do check OneSearch to see our full holdings for each author.

Not sure how to find and check out books? Tutorial: jjay.cc/findbookJJ)

The writings of Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, Mr. Obama found, were “particularly helpful” when “what you wanted was a sense of solidarity,” adding “during very difficult moments, this job can be very isolating.” “So sometimes you have to sort of hop across history to find folks who have been similarly feeling isolated, and that’s been useful.”

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings. Located at Stacks E 457.92 1969

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. Ebook link

Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?  Ebook link

Gandhi

An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi. Located at Stacks DS 481 .G3 A34813 1983 and as ebook

Gandhi in India, in His Own Words. Located at Stacks DS 481 .G3 A3 1987

Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Located at Stacks DT 1949 .M35 A3 1995 

Even books initially picked up as escape reading like the Hugo Award-winning apocalyptic sci-fi epic “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, he said, could unexpectedly put things in perspective: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!”

The Three-Body Problem

Located at BMCC. Request from catalog (by Liu Cixin)

In his searching 1995 book “Dreams From My Father,” Mr. Obama recalls how reading was a crucial tool in sorting out what he believed, dating back to his teenage years, when he immersed himself in works by Baldwin, Ellison, Hughes, Wright, DuBois and Malcolm X in an effort “to raise myself to be a black man in America.”

James Baldwin

Collected Essays, located at Stacks PS 3552 .A45 A16 1998

Go Tell It On the Mountain, located at Stacks PS3552 .A45 G62 2005

Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man, located at Stacks PS3555 .L625 I5 1995

Langston Hughes

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, located at Stacks PS 3515 .U274 A6 1990

Richard Wright

Native Son, located on Reserve PS3545 .R815 N25 2005

Works (several novels and other writing) by Richard Wright, located at Stacks PS 3545 .R815 1991

W.E.B. DuBois

The Souls of Black Folk, located at Stacks E185.6 .D797 1990 and as an ebook

Black reconstruction (essay), located at Stacks E668 .D83 1956

Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, located at Stacks E 185.97 .L5 A3 1992 and as an ebook

Later, during his last two years in college, he spent a focused period of deep self-reflection and study, methodically reading philosophers from St. Augustine to Nietzsche, Emerson to Sartre to Niebuhr, to strip down and test his own beliefs.

St. Augustine

Confessions, located at Stacks BR65 .A6 E5 2008

Friedrich Nietzsche

The Portable Nietzsche (essays, letters, notes), located at Stacks B3312.E52 K3 1968

The Will to Power, located at Stacks B3313 .N5 1968

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Essays & Lectures, located at Stacks PS 1605 1983

Jean-Paul Sartre

Nausea, located at Stacks PQ 2637 .A82 N3 1964

Reinhold Niebuhr

The Irony of American History, located at Stacks E744 .N5 2008

To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”).

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Located at Stacks PQ8180.17 .A73 C513 2006 (by Gabriel García Márquez)

The Golden Notebook

Located at Stacks PR6023 .E833 G6 1999 (by Doris Lessing)

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts

Located at Stacks CT 275 .K5764 A33 1989 (by Maxine Hong Kingston)

And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”

The Underground Railroad

Located in many CUNY libraries: check locations or request from catalog (by Colson Whitehead)

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Located at Stacks BF441 .K238 2011 (by Daniel Kahneman)

The Sixth Extinction

Located at Stacks QE721.2 .E97 K65 2014 (by Elizabeth Kolbert)

...for instance, he found that Marilynne Robinson’s novels connected him emotionally to the people he was meeting in Iowa during the 2008 campaign, and to his own grandparents, who were from the Midwest, and the small town values of hard work and honesty and humility.

Marilynne Robinson

Housekeeping, located in the Browsing Collection

Other novels served as a kind of foil — something to argue with. V. S. Naipaul’s novel “A Bend in the River,” Mr. Obama recalls, “starts with the line ‘The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.’ And I always think about that line and I think about his novels when I’m thinking about the hardness of the world sometimes, particularly in foreign policy, and I resist and fight against sometimes that very cynical, more realistic view of the world. And yet, there are times where it feels as if that may be true.”

A Bend in the River

Located at Stacks PR 9272.9 .N32 B4 1979 (by V.S. Naipaul)

He points out, for instance, that the fiction of Junot Díaz and Jhumpa Lahiri speaks “to a very particular contemporary immigration experience,” but at the same time tell stories about “longing for this better place but also feeling displaced” — a theme central to much of American literature, and not unlike books by Philip Roth and Saul Bellow that are “steeped with this sense of being an outsider, longing to get in, not sure what you’re giving up.”

Junot Díaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, located at Stacks PS3554 .I259 B75 2007

Drown, located at Reserve PS3554 .I259 D76 1997

Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake, located at Stacks PS3562 .A316 N36 2003

Interpreter of Maladies: Stories, located at Stacks PS3562 .A316 I58 1999

Philip Roth

American Pastoral, located at Stacks PS 3568 .O855 A77 1997

Saul Bellow

Herzog, located at Stacks PS 3503 .E4488 H45 1964

He had lunch last week with five novelists he admires — Dave Eggers, Mr. Whitehead, Zadie Smith, Mr. Díaz and Barbara Kingsolver.

Dave Eggers

What is the What, located at Stacks PS3605 .G48 W43 2007

Colson Whitehead

The Colossus of New York: a City in Thirteen Parts, located at Stacks F128.55 .W54 2003

Zadie Smith

On Beauty, located at Stacks PR6069.M59 O5 2006b

White Teeth, located at Stacks PR6069 .M59 W47 2001 and the Browsing Collection

Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees, located at Stacks PS3561 .I496 P76 2000

Prodigal Summer, located at Stacks PS3561 .I496 P76 2000


Books by President Obama

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, located at Stacks E185.97 .O23 A3 2004

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, located at Stacks E901.1 .O23 A3 2006b

RCD • January 17, 2017


Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - 12:42pm


I was invited to participate in the 2016 Library Leaders Forum[1] which took place at the Internet Archive (IA) in San Francisco the last week of October. John Jay is a digitization partner with the IA, with which we have so far digitized 823 books, serial issues and pamphlets readable on their platform.[2] The first day was a celebration of the 20th birthday of the IA. Subsequent days gave us a deep dive into all the IA projects, which included their well-known website archive called “Wayback Machine” as well as the machines which provide microfilm, audio, film and book digitization. We were also introduced to the newly launched Political Ad Archive[3], which provides searchable coverage of the 2016 election and its aftermath, and GifCities: The GeoCities Animated GIF Search Engine.[4] We also learned about IA initiatives in research data management, website preservation and imaging standards. The forum included a diverse mix which included librarians, data archivists, technology specialists, lawyers, programmers and digital curators.

Take-aways from this conference are services that the Lloyd Sealy Library might consider using, should staff and funding become available, to solve some thorny digitization needs beyond books, which we will continue to digitize with the IA. Possibilities include using the IA’s “Archive It” to digitally preserve John Jay College webpages and submitting video in the College Archives to be preserved on the Moving Image Archive.[5] There is also the possibility of using the IA for digitizing microfilm in our collection, including our Criminal Trial Transcript Collection.

Some libraries have been using the Internet Archive to make post-1923 books that they physically own, digitally available using the IA Open Library[6] platform to lend them to one user at a time. This was called the 1/1/1 rule meaning one physical book can make one digital book which is lent to one user at a time. This has been particularly helpful for making print books digitally available in DAISY format to blind, low vision or other accessibility challenged readers, which has been interpreted as allowed by copyright law. An informative session on copyright implications of such practices was led by Michelle Wu, Law Librarian and Professor, Georgetown University Law Library and Lila Bailey, a legal counsel to the Internet Archive.

The conference included many opportunities to contribute to and shape the Internet Archive’s vision for Libraries in 2020. A white paper on this vision, written by IA founder and director Brewster Kahle – who called it version 0.0 - has been distributed for comment. Links to these and other resources on these topics are provided here: libraryleadersforum.org/learn-more.

I am available to discuss past, present and future Library digitization efforts with any interested member of the John Jay College community. We want these efforts to be helpful and relevant to the curriculum, criminal justice research and our collections as well as responsive to the needs of our patrons as we too move toward 2020. Please email me.

References

1. libraryleadersforum.org

2. archive.org/details/johnjaycollegeofcriminaljustice

3. politicaladarchive.org

4. blog.archive.org/2016/11/01/gifcities-the-geocities-animated-gif-search-engine

5. archive.org/details/movies

6. OpenLibrary.org

See also: Thorough report on the program from Yasmin Alnoamany

Photo of Library Leaders 2016 participants taken from the ceiling of Internet Archives Headquarters (posted by the IA on Twitter). The IA recently bought and moved into this former church because it looks just like their 20 year old logo (in center of photo).

Ellen Belcher

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Read more from the Fall 2016 issue of Classified Information, the Library newsletter


Posted Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 5:26pm


The Special Collections has a small but growing collection of items related to John Jay, the man for whom our college is named. We recently received a number of objects back from our conservator, and they are now ready for research and exhibits. Here is a selection of before and after pictures of documents from our John Jay Collection. We thank Ursula Mitra of Mitra Conservation Services for her excellent work. To make an appointment to see these or any other of our Special Collections, please contact me.

four images of the letter in varying states of conservation

John Jay Letter to Mayor Richard Varick Sept. 2, 1791, was folded up in an old frame and mat (top). It is now in an open mat so that the full letter, as well as the seal and address on the back is visible. This letter was purchased for our Special Collections in the 1980s.

 

This Certification of Appointment of Daniel DeWolff, ensign April 26, 1797, was endorsed by John Jay, Governor of New York. We received this in 2015 (top left). Conservation treatment flattened out and lightly cleaned the document and encased it in acid free mylar, so the front and back can be viewed (bottom left). This matting also offers a better view of John Jay’s paper embossed seal, which is affixed with to the upper left of the document. We thank the DeWolff family for gifting this important document to the Library.

Bible before conservation

The Jay Family Bible is on long term deposit with the College. The Bible was in pretty bad shape when it arrived and we offered to send it to a conservator. Work involved reattaching some torn pages and edges, and reattaching the covers with a new leather spine. A custom box was created to protect it. Above are pictures of the Bible when we first received it, and below are pictures of it after conservation. We thank the Hughes family—who are descendants of John Jay—for making this resource available to researchers and the John Jay community.

Bible after conservation

Ellen Belcher

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Read more from the Fall 2016 issue of Classified Information, the Library newsletter


Posted Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 5:22pm


Photo of Professor Balis and class

Professor Andrea Balis has been teaching history at John Jay for 16 years. She teaches history methodology courses as well as a wide range of topics including the history of science and medicine. For the past two years, she has also been teaching Doing History, a course which focuses on how historians think and encourages students to examine physical and textual primary sources helping them to connect the past and the present.

What are some of the resources you encourage your students to take advantage of?

The library! And New York City. Free research resources in the city. The statue on your street corner.

When you developed “Doing History,” the title suggests action and experiential learning. What is the most valuable lesson students come away with in this class?

How to ask questions. That might well be the most important thing you learn at John Jay. Learning how to ask searchable questions. Learning how to investigate. And of course, the library teaches you how to investigate.

What are students’ attitude about this kind of approach when you first meet them?

Their experience is restricted. Most students’ experience with doing research is that they are given a topic but not questions. So they don’t know how to get from typing in the name of their topic to knowing how to find interesting ways to ask the questions.

How do you help them get started with that progression?

We teach content at John Jay, and we should. But we also have to teach learning curves. Knowing how to learn how to research is what keeps you from having a flat learning curve. This is my standard pitch: Knowing how to acquire new information is a critical 21st century skill, and that should be one of the things students think about while they’re here. In Doing History we spend a lot of time figuring out where to start, how to begin.

How can they get motivated to do that? Do you have tricks?

Yes! I have tricks but students need their own. You need to learn how to engage yourself. It might be that a way for you to connect is to look at pictures. For someone else it might be to listen to something or else it might be thumbing through newspaper articles. We all have things that spark our imagination in our everyday lives. We know how to find a pair of shoes we really want. We know how to find out the best way to apply make-up. What students need to realize is how to take those skills that they already have and connect them to the things they need to know in the professional or academic world. Students have research skills, but they don’t realize it. But you need to connect those things and know how to transfer your skills for finding the best price for a particular backpack – they are the same skills. That is research. You know what kind of question to ask if you’re looking for shoes. You know to look for materials, prices, heel height. You know the criteria. And people are good at it! So to motivate them is to remind them, “You already know how to do it.”

And Zappos.com is a database!

Yes! That should be the title.

Kathleen Collins

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Read more from the Fall 2016 issue of Classified Information, the Library newsletter


Posted Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 5:16pm


An easy online clicker alternative

Classroom clickers have a number of benefits: they take the temperature of the class’s understanding through instant polls, they punctuate lectures with an engaging activity, and they encourage participation from those who would rather not speak up in class. Clickers are typically simple handheld devices that let students vote in polls whose results appear in real time on the screen. A number of large lecture classes at John Jay require students to bring clickers to class; the Library maintains a full set of clickers as well. Unfortunately for me, the clicker plugin is not compatible with my PowerPoint software for Mac. However, I was happy to find GoSoapbox, a full-featured, web-based clicker alternative.

Most students want to hear about saving money on textbooksGoSoapbox enables instructors to deploy polls and short discussion questions quickly and easily. It’s ideal for classroom labs, where every student is at their own computer, though the web app is also mobile-friendly. Instructor accounts are free for classes of 30 students or fewer. Instructors can create polls and discussion questions for each class, and each class’ content is saved under the instructor’s account and can be accessed again later. All collected responses can be downloaded or emailed. 

In every library class session I’ve led this semester, I’ve set up GoSoapbox activities. Students simply sign into gosoapbox.com with an access code (e.g., libraryweek) and enter their name or nickname. Generally, students have no trouble logging in and understanding how to participate. GoSoapbox does not collect any further personal information and does not require students to create accounts.

I have found GoSoapbox to be an excellent addition to my active learning curriculum. In my class sessions, I try to balance hands-on activities that are extrovert-friendly (like a fast-paced, shouty keyword guessing game) with those that are introvert-friendly (like contributing an answer to a GoSoapbox poll that is not timed). The GoSoapbox polls and discussion questions encourage all students to contribute replies that show up instantly on the big screen. The web app has been useful for me as an instructor for spotting misunderstandings of course curriculum that might have otherwise slid by. In some classes, the discussion questions have served as an easy place for students to collaborate in collecting keywords and resources for shared paper topics or group projects. For the latter activity, I send their professor a link after class so students can access their lists again.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with GoSoapbox. The setup is seamless and fast for both instructors and students. It’s a great way to collect data quickly without intruding on students’ privacy, and it encourages engagement and participation.

You can see more samples from classes I've taught on my Emerging Tech in Libraries blog.

Robin Davis

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Read more from the Fall 2016 issue of Classified Information, the Library newsletter


Posted Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 5:13pm


Readership distribution around the world

In 2014, my article “Preserving the Historic Garden Suburb: Case Studies from London and New York” appeared in The Journal of Suburban Sustainability, a digital journal of the National Center from Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, where the paper was first presented. Soon after I began receiving monthly reports from Scholar Commons, a digital platform supported by the University of South Florida library, informing me of the number of downloads and their location. Interesting, I thought.

I posted this article and other essays and PowerPoints in CUNY Academic Works, the university’s digital repository, and now my monthly report includes information about those works also. Over the past two and a half years there have been a total of 1,398 downloads; the map shows the global distribution. “Preserving the Historic Garden Suburb” has been downloaded 682 times, and “Bombing for Justice: Urban Terrorism in New York City from the 1960s to the 1980s,” is at 391 (that article appeared in a volume found in the John Jay Library, and a total of 9 other institutions worldwide). I also posted an unpublished essay, “The City as Palimpsest,” about historic preservation, memory and the living city. There was no journal where I could place that, but since it went into Academic Works it has been downloaded 196 times at institutions from Yale and Columbia to the University of Nottingham and the National Technical University of Athens.

How do readers find these works? Most hits come through Google or Google Scholar, but many others come Academic Works itself, and I expect a growing number to come through OneSearch, a new tool for searching holdings in CUNY libraries found on the library’s home page. However they get there, researchers around the world have ready access to my work, and that is more than gratifying.

Jeffrey A. Kroessler

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Read more from the Fall 2016 issue of Classified Information, the Library newsletter


Posted Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 5:10pm


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