Library News Blog
Recently acquired by the Media Department
Timbuktu DVD 1480 a 2014 French-Mauritanian drama film directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, telling the story of an occupation of Timbuktu by Islamic militants, as experienced by one small family.
Woman in gold DVD 1481 An elderly Jewish woman fights a legal battle to recover a Klimt painting stolen from her family by Nazis.
Waltz with Bashir DVD 1473 Animated autobiographical account of the 1982 Lebanon war and massacres at Sabra and Shatila.
Touching the void. DVD 1479 Feature film on surviving a climbing accident in the Peruvian Andes.
La jaula de oro [the golden dream] DVD 1471 Director Quemada-Díez, 2013, social-realist drama of Guatemalan teenagers travelling through Mexico to the United States.
Billy Budd (Peter Ustinov, 1962). DVD 1478
Juno DVD 1470
Alien quadrilogy: Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection. DVD 1472
High school. 2010. “What could possibly go wrong when you steal a psycho drug dealer's stash to get the whole school high?” DVD 1474
Kiss me deadly (Mike Hammer investigates the murder of a mysterious blonde; classic film noir from 1955). DVD 1475
Murder in Coweta county True-crime story set in 1948 rural Georgia. DVD 1463
Looking to assign a DVD to your class? We recommend requesting DVDs for in-class viewing in advance.
For viewing outside of class, students may request a DVD by call number (e.g., DVD 1477) at the Circulation Desk. They may view it in the library with headphones or in the Media Viewing Room (seats 6), but cannot take it out of the library.
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 4:11pm
Recently acquired by the Media Department
Free CeCE (DVD 1482) An African American trans-woman’s experiences of violence, incarceration, and activism highlights transphobia, racism and the everyday dangers faced by transgender people.
Marathon for justice (streaming plus DVD 1485) Environmental justice is explored around the themes of air, water and land in this documentary; activists in Philadelphia protesting industrial air pollution, Navajo people coping with water poisoned by uranium mining, and Lakota in the Black Hills struggling for reimbursement for land stolen from them by the United States.
Last song before the war (DVD 1484) The 2011 music Festival au Desert in northern Mali.
Untouchable (DVD 1483) Ex-Bronx Defender David Feige’s 2016 documentary explores issues surrounding child sexual abuse and the restrictions placed on registered sex offenders. It won the new documentary director award at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.
Capitalism, in six episodes. Streaming from Icarus Films on the Docuseek2 platform:
- Capitalism #1. Adam Smith: the birth of the free market.
- Capitalism #2. The Wealth of Nations: A New Gospel?
- Capitalism #3. Ricardo and Malthus: Did You Say Freedom?
- Capitalism #4. What If Marx Was Right?
- Capitalism #5: Keynes vs Hayek: A Fake Debate?
- Capitalism #6: Karl Polanyi, The Human Factor
Inside the criminal mind (30 documentary episodes, directed by Ron Meyer). DVD 1476
National Gallery. Director Frederick Wiseman, 2014. DVD 1469
You’ve been trumped DVD 1464
Brotherhood: life in the FDNY DVD 1465
Burn: One year on the front lines of the battle to save Detroit DVD 1466
Too hot for Burn (more Detroit firefighting) DVD 1468
Incarcerating US DVD 1467 Also available streaming on Docuseek2 platform.
The brainwashing of my Dad DVD 1461
National Gallery. Frederick Wiseman documentary, 2014. DVD 1469
A good job: stories of the FDNY DVD 1462
American teen Five Indiana high school students tell what it is really like. DVD 1477
Looking to assign a DVD to your class? We recommend requesting DVDs for in-class viewing in advance.
For viewing outside of class, students may request a DVD by call number (e.g., DVD 1477) at the Circulation Desk. They may view it in the library with headphones or in the Media Viewing Room (seats 6), but cannot take it out of the library.
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 4:04pm
When you want library resources, do you typically think about looking for them in databases? Do you search the CUNY+ catalog for a book? Explore the Library’s growing streaming video collections by going to Films on Demand or one of the Alexander Street video databases? Or do you just head directly to a favorite database like JSTOR, PsycINFO, Project Muse or Google Scholar?
Chances are that you have your list of go-to sources and have not thought much about library databases on a more macro-level. If you did, one of the first things you would discover is that the majority of library databases provide access to scholarly journals—those peer reviewed, academic journals that are often required sources for papers and research projects, particularly in upper level courses and graduate work. You would also discover that despite the abundance of these journals in the scholarly literature landscape, the vast majority of them are now only available electronically through libraries.
In other words, opportunities to cozy up with your favorite academic journal are fleeting.
Much to the chagrin of journal editors, most of these journal articles are discovered as the result of keyword searches in databases, without any links to the journal issue. Our speed-of-light, get-it-anywhere-anytime-online delivery methods provide access to these articles, often as an easy-to-access PDF—but without the context of the journal issue.
BrowZine, the Library’s newest tool for browsing journals, is trying to change this. We think this is a good thing, since every year students and faculty at John Jay download the full text of about 1 million journal articles... and context matters!
BrowZine allows you to access and browse over 15,000 academic e-journals, much like you might browse their print counterparts. In BrowZine, you can find any academic e-journal title that the Library subscribes to that has an ISSN or eISSN number. BrowZine operates in a web environment but it uses journal covers and journal page images that have the look and feel of a bookshelf. It has been compared to Flipster, an app for browsing popular magazines (available remotely to all NYPL library card holders), but for academic journals.
BrowZine has a web version and mobile apps. All platforms allow you to view complete issues of e-journals that the Library subscribes to, dating back to 2005, including the table of contents. The web version provides access to more content because it provides extra links to content through the Library website. The web version also shows the impact factor for the different journals. The app version focuses exclusively on the approximately 15,000 academic e-journals that have an ISSN or eISSN number, and is great for tracking and reading your favorite journals on the go from your phone or tablet.
How do I get BrowZine?
To access the web version of BrowZine, you can go directly to browzine.com. Alternatively, you can go to the Browse journals by subject link under Journal titles on the library website. For the app version, download the mobile app on your iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. Select the John Jay College library on the “Settings” page and then enter your John Jay user name and password—the same that you use for your John Jay email.
How do I use BrowZine?
You can search for journals by title, subject, or ISSN. Once you begin typing in the search box, a list of results will begin populating. Be sure to pay attention to the accompanying icon for a particular result. A red file icon indicates that this result is for a subject category. A blue book icon indicates that the result is for the title of a specific journal. For example, a search for “criminal justice” will retrieve both subject category results and journal title results.
Set up a personal account so you can create a personal library and save up to 64 journal titles to your bookshelf. By doing so, you will get alerts when a new issue of a journal is published and be able to save articles to read later, even when you are offline. You can also save citations to tools like Zotero, RefWorks, Dropbox, and Mendeley to help keep all of your information together in one place.
Should I use BrowZine with students?
A common complaint from faculty is that students are not selecting appropriate sources. By introducing students to BrowZine, which only accesses academic journals, they can only get scholarly content. Furthermore, by introducing students to journals, and not just journal articles, BrowZine can be used to put journals back in context for students who are frequently unfamiliar with academic journals and how they are used for scholarly discourse within a discipline.
Consider asking students to follow certain journals in a subject area and identify current areas of research. This will familiarize students with key journals in a field and encourage them to select articles of interest from the recent literature. All subject and journal URLs in BrowZine are persistent links, so connecting students to journals in BrowZine is easy. Simply copy and paste the URL from the address bar into your syllabus or Blackboard course.
What BrowZine is not
Keep in mind that BrowZine is a browsing tool, not a discovery tool. You cannot conduct keyword searches to find articles in BrowZine, and it should not be used as a substitute for a comprehensive search of the library literature.
For more information about getting started with BrowZine, consider viewing a very short video. Once you get started, we look forward to your feedback!
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 3:56pm
The editorial page of any newspaper is often the most interesting. We scream at the small-mindedness. We wonder at the ignorance. We cheer the courage. We consider the nuances. We question our own certainties. And we learn to respect the combative nature of ideas in the public arena.
Our students do not know what an editorial is. Nor, obviously, an op-ed.
I grew up reading newspapers. I read the sports pages (first), absorbed the editorial cartoons, and marveled at the letters to the editor. Early on, I understood the fundamental difference between information—news—and opinion. And so learned to form my own informed viewpoint.
But that was a print world. Students now inhabit a digital world. When was the last time you saw a student carrying a copy of the Daily News? Or, god forbid, the Wall Street Journal? True, all members of the John Jay community have access to a free digital subscription to the Times, but do we know how students use that? Do they click on the editorial pages?
For much of their schooling, students have been taught to look out for bias. Bias is bad. From there it is a short bridge to seeing opinion as bad, and therefore editorials are suspect.
In my own research on urban affairs, I always look to see what the Times thought. I go into the New York Times Historical database and limit results to articles and editorials (and then, being a historian, “oldest first”). When I ask students whether an editorial would be useful for their topic, they invariably answer no.
How can students who have not read editorials or understand their role in public discourse comprehend the concept of a community of opinion, or the role of opinion shapers? When news comes from everywhere, there is no authoritative voice, and thus no opinion carries more weight than any other.
We have digital access to many newspapers. You will find Ethnic Newswatch; New York State Newspapers; National Newspaper Index; LesisNexis, and more. Consider also Opposing Viewpoints in Context, listed on our website under the subject Current Events. Ask students to find and evaluate opinion pieces on the same issue. Does everyone agree? Are their own viewpoints validated? Are they outraged? What do they think?
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 3:49pm
Open/Alternative Educational Resources at CUNY
Might students be more likely to arrive in class ready to learn if getting access to assigned readings did not involve paying a large amount of money? Would they read the first week’s materials in time if they did not have to wait for a book to be mailed to their home? Would the course be better if the learning materials were customized for your needs?
Faculty around CUNY are dropping textbooks in favor of open and alternative educational resources. Hundreds of courses are currently listed in CUNYfirst as “Z” courses—those with zero textbook costs for students—and New York State has awarded $4 million to CUNY to develop more. One way of making a course zero-cost is by using Library reserves, or by putting links from your Blackboard site to electronic journal articles and book chapters licensed or owned by the Library—that’s what we are calling “alternative” educational resources (AER). The “open” educational resource (OER) concept moves far beyond those strategies, embracing remixing, re-editing and re-creation of content.
David Wiley, the man behind Lumen Learning/Waymaker, has defined open educational resources as copyrightable works that have been licensed so that users can retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute the content. Creative Commons licenses are commonly used to indicate various degrees of openness. The MERLOTx repository, led by California State University, and the Open Textbook Library hosted by the University of Minnesota are two of the best-known repositories of open learning materials. They are great places to see the range of easily discoverable materials available for adoption, remixing, anthologizing, etc. Lumen Learning hosts open textbooks but requires students to pay a small per-semester fee for access. CUNY has taken on the payment of such fees for the spring semester. Of course, “zero-cost to students” does not mean free of effort from faculty. Creating or choosing and adapting open resources involves labor. As OER practitioners have observed, open is “free” as in puppies, rather than “free” as in beer.
Professor Karen Okamoto has created a guide to zero-cost (to students) textbook alternatives for John Jay faculty, with links to CUNY and SUNY activities.
Introducing Vee Herrington
Vee Herrington is joining us to support CUNY’s initiative to replace costly textbooks with alternative resources at zero-cost to students. Vee led an open educational resource initiative at CUNY’s Guttman Community College, where she was Chief of the Library and Director of Academic Technology. Her familiarity with library licensed content and OER will be invaluable in supporting faculty who are exploring new pedagogical practices.
Vee has worked at Bell Labs and was Command Librarian of the US Army Military Intelligence Corps. Her many credentials include a doctorate in instructional technology. Vee will be with us as a non-teaching adjunct librarian, for two days a week, working closely with Ray Patton and Gina Foster. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open Access: Have you received an email from Saad?
Librarian Saad Abulhab has been tasked with reaching out to faculty to encourage them to deposit copies or pre-prints of their published articles in our institutional repository, CUNY Academic Works. He is trawling through bibliographic databases to gather citations, and checking journals’ self-archiving policies. His aim is to identify works that are permitted by the publisher to be posted on the institutional repository. He has been sending out emails to faculty whose work we believe may be posted on CUNY Academic Works if the author agrees. Faculty grant permission via a web form, where they type out the title of the work(s), tick a box agreeing to terms and conditions, and click a button to submit. Saad is a scholar of Arabic scripts, and has posted his own articles on CUNY Academic Works.
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 3:41pm
If you have been using RefWorks to manage your research and citations, you may be aware that changes are afoot. As you export a citation from an article database to RefWorks, you have likely seen the option to export to either the “legacy” (original) version or the new version. As the legacy version is guaranteed to remain available only through the end of 2017, we suggest you take the time now to migrate to the new version.
To do a “soft migration,” after you log into the legacy RefWorks, you will see a link at the top of the screen that says, “Move to the newest version of RefWorks from ProQuest.” Choosing that link will move your account data to the new RefWorks. You will be prompted to login to the new RefWorks using your college email. Even if you used your college email to create your original account, do not choose the option that says “Use login from my institution,” if you see it. At this point you are essentially creating a new account. If you currently sign into legacy RefWorks with your institutional email, you are advised to use a different password from the legacy account to avoid confusion. Your new RefWorks account will be created and all your records and folders will be copied from legacy RefWorks.
You may also move your references to the new version from within the new RefWorks. This requires that you have already created an account in the new version of RefWorks. Use “Import References” from the Add menu icon to move your references from the old to the new RefWorks. For this method and for new RefWorks users, simply head to the new RefWorks.
It is possible to have accounts on both platforms, but it is only possible to import new citations to one. We advise that once you migrate your citations from the legacy RefWorks to the new version, you no longer use the legacy RefWorks. While it may take a little bit of getting used to the new environment, the improvements are more than worth the brief adjustment period.
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 3:35pm
The library now subscribes to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Papers database. According to their website, NBER, “founded in 1920, (is) a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to conducting economic research and to disseminating research findings among academics, public policy makers, and business professionals.”
Working papers are written by scholars and experts in a field, prior to submitting those papers to peer-reviewed journals or book editors. They typically contain extensive datasets including time-series data on a wide variety of topics. They also include comprehensive bibliographies.
While the papers found in this database are primarily socio-economic, their scope is in fact much broader. Working papers can be found on topics such as criminal justice, public administration, political science, history, demographics and education.
For example, a simple search on the term immigrants pulled up papers with an expected economic bent such as:
- The Earnings of Undocumented Immigrants
- Are Immigrants a Shot in the Arm for the Local Economy?
But the search also retrieved papers on the following cultural, historical, sociological, and demographic topics:
- The Educational Attainment of Immigrants: Trends and Implications
- Immigrants and Gender Roles: Assimilation vs. Culture
- Intergenerational Persistence of Health in the U.S.: Do Immigrants Get Healthier as they Assimilate?
Posted Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 5:32pm
Coupled with the current political climate, the College’s mission to educate for justice has been prominently reflected in the kinds of research questions and interests we have been encountering this Fall at the Reference Desk, in our workshops, and course-tailored library sessions. Fittingly, students and faculty have been seeking more information on critical issues that have been garnering the media and public attention.
The Library offers access to an array of current events resources. One that stands out is the Opposing Viewpoints in Contexts database, readily embraced by students who first encounter it in their first-year library workshop. Faculty who touch on current events and debates in their courses and have students research related topics may want to take a closer look at it.
Opposing Viewpoints in Context appeals to students because of its visual and multimedia-rich platform. It is also easily searchable and browsable by topic. Featured resources range from print-based (news items, including editorials, magazine, and journal articles) to multimedia (NPR podcast and news video clips), with statistics and maps if available. As with a vast majority of databases, students can print, email, save, and get help with citation.
The range of topics Opposing Viewpoints covers complements the ease and convenience of its interface. Regularly updated and featuring newly available content, the database addresses such pressing issues as Confederate Remembrance, Freedom of Speech, Gerrymandering and Redistricting, North Korea, US-Puerto Rico Relations, and many others. The range and variety of information offered allow students to get a fairly comprehensive understanding of an issue, thus providing a great foundation for an in-depth engagement with a topic.
Posted Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 5:26pm
Posted Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 5:22pm
Interview by Kathleen Collins
Photo: Bonnie shows off a gift at her travel-themed retirement party.
This interview was published as Bonnie Nelson, Associate Librarian for Information Systems, retires.
In 1980, John Jay’s president, Gerald Lynch, needed information about the potential for corruption in casino gambling in New York. Chief Librarian Eileen Rowland excitedly told him about a wonderful new way of searching literature, and she tasked her newest librarian, Bonnie Nelson, with helping the president with his research. Lynch visited the library, still wearing running shorts from his morning workout, and sat with Bonnie as she used an acoustic coupler with a dedicated “dumb” (unconnected computer) terminal, dialed a phone number, got a tone and put the handset in the cradle attached to the terminal so the terminal could communicate with the mainframe located in some faraway location. All that before she could even begin a (very slow, 300 bytes/second) search using precise Boolean language and controlled subject headings in Dialog, just to come up with a list of bibliographic references (maybe abstracts if she was lucky) to print out and then locate on the library shelves or on microfilm (if she was luckier).
It sounds cumbersome and archaic now, but Bonnie was at the forefront of library technology. As a Bronx High School of Science student, she had taken take a class in computer programming. That minimal knowledge marked her as a semi-expert, allowing her to get hired as a librarian at NYU where they were implementing a new computerized circulation system. “It was tough times in 1973,” says Bonnie. “Nobody was hiring. They were firing. I was lucky to be hired at all, anywhere.” She played an important role in getting that new system underway and also did reference (of the mediated type described above). She stayed for almost seven years, and was the first librarian to come up for tenure as they had just been granted faculty status. “[NYU] decided everyone needed a PhD,” says Bonnie of the tenure requirements. “And should have written a book or something. I was the test case. I was pretty young and they didn’t want to make a commitment to someone so young.” But more to her credit, she revealed a trait that would serve her well later on: “I didn’t know enough to keep my mouth shut at faculty meetings.” Combined with the overly stringent requirements and an austere economy, the stars were not aligned for Bonnie to remain at NYU, and she was not granted tenure. “It was a rich person’s university,” says Bonnie, admitting that she had not been completely comfortable there. NYU’s loss was CUNY’s gain, where she clearly found her niche and remained for the rest of her library career.
It was fitting, too, as Bonnie started her academic life at City College where she had been a college student and where she had experienced the tumult of the transition to another new era. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, campuses all around the U.S. were frequently closed due to antiwar activity. Bonnie recalls there being two or three years in a row when Spring finals were cancelled. “There were so many protests,” she says. “It was exciting and unnerving.” Adding to the revolutionary air at CCNY during the same time period were equally passionate protests about another issue. Bonnie was a freshman when more than 200 students (mostly black and Puerto Rican) chained the gates to the college in protest about admission standards. “City College was very elitist and white and you needed a 92 average to get in,” says Bonnie. “There we were, in in the middle of Harlem, a black area, with all these elite, white middle class kids.” Eventually, the Chancellor agreed to work towards open admissions which guaranteed every New York City high school graduate a place at City College. “It was the civil rights era,” says Bonnie. “There was a feeling that things needed to change.”
Sympathetic to the causes, Bonnie was easily caught up in the spirit of activism all around her. “It’s what everybody was doing,” she says. A year or two after the open admissions protest, New York State raised the minimum wage, but she was a student aide in the library, making even less than a college assistant, and CUNY was not required to pay student aides minimum wage. She was one of the co-organizers of a one-day strike in protest. A few months later, the aides received their deserved increased pay. Bonnie’s family was not particularly politically active, but in high school, she says, “I was mentored by a fellow student who was much more radical, and she educated me about what was really going on in Vietnam, and so I started tentatively taking steps towards demonstrating against the war. And then in college, I met my husband [Bob Nelson, later Deputy Director of Student Services at the Graduate Center] when I was a freshman, and he was pretty left wing, came from a left wing family, and he continued my education.” Her family eventually came around, too, “as the rest of the country did,” says Bonnie.
A self-described bookworm as a child, Bonnie frequented the public library in her northeastern Bronx neighborhood. “Though I never spoke to a librarian other than to get my library card,” she confesses. She actually had some librarian training before she started at City College. After high school, her mother enjoined her to do volunteer work, so Bonnie headed to Montefiore Medical Center thinking she might be interested in the medical field. On the way to her interview, she passed the patients’ library and spontaneously told the volunteer coordinator she wanted to work in the library, which she did for the summer. As a student at City College, she worked as a staff member in the library for four years. She was an anthropology major but not too keen on the idea of conducting fieldwork in exotic locations for the rest of her life, so she decided to go to library school after college. It was this unusually early start in the field that allowed her such a long library career.
During her time in the library science graduate program at Columbia University, she continued working at the City College library where she mostly did reference work. After library school, while working at NYU, she also obtained a second Master’s degree in Anthropology (starting at Hunter and finishing at NYU). “I didn’t expect to wind up at a criminal justice college,” says Bonnie. “I had no interest in it and knew nothing about it. I thought, well, it’s a job for a few years and we can pay the rent.” Her experience at NYU starting the new computerized circulation system was attractive to Chief Librarian Rowland at John Jay where they were also implementing a new system—using punch cards. “That was old technology even at the time,” says Bonnie, “and they were desperate to have someone who knew something about computers.” Like most faculty who come to John Jay with little background in criminal justice, Bonnie got interested quickly. She vividly recalls helping a forensic science student, who later went on to work for the medical examiner, do research on blood spatters. “And I helped someone in fire science find out the temperature at which blood boils. They needed to know how hot was too hot for firefighters to go in before blood could no longer deliver the oxygen. There were these very gross searches, and I thought, wow, working at John Jay, this is really different!” She also began to stay abreast of crime stories in the news since she knew she would be asked about such subjects at the Reference Desk.
After nearly four decades here, Bonnie is well known for her active role in PSC-CUNY. But despite her early days in activism at City College, she was not a union crusader right away. For her first few years, her time was occupied by trying to publish and get tenure. Junior library faculty at that time got no automatic reassigned time but were eligible to apply for special two week reassignments for research. After being granted tenure, she had her daughter, Miranda. Jim Cohen, Public Management faculty (now emeritus) and chapter chair, asked if she wanted to be more involved in the union, and she said, “Ask me again when my daughter is more independent.” A few years later he did. She served as an alternate delegate and was then tapped to be secretary. “I was very good at taking notes,” she says, and she discovered that distributing notes of Labor-Management and Chapter meetings was actually critical to helping colleagues engage with the union. She also spent years on the PSC Delegate Assembly Library Faculty Committee. “Working with the union and librarians in the union and helping the union to understand librarians are just like other faculty but a little bit different,” she says. She was “in the troops” with other faculty librarians to advocate and win the two additional weeks of annual leave for librarians in the most recent contract, bringing library faculty closer to the parity they have long sought.
In addition, and even more meaningful for Bonnie, was her work related to technology and academic freedom. She was on the John Jay Faculty Senate Technology Committee, serving as co-chair from 1996 to 2017. In 2005, Bonnie was appointed by the University Faculty Senate to the CUNY IT Steering Committee, a body comprised mostly of vice presidents, or as Bonnie describes, “people who were authorized to make decisions on behalf of their colleges … The UFS needed someone knowledgeable about technology and willing to go to meetings.” In both groups, for about a dozen years, she says, the faculty felt very much under attack with regard to their use of technology. “When the web became a big thing,” says Bonnie, “there were attempts to censor what faculty were seeing and what they could search for. They were keeping logs of every site that faculty went to. Some colleges in CUNY put software on computers in libraries so you couldn’t freely search, but we fought that off at John Jay. [The administration] wouldn’t promise that they wouldn’t use the logs to track what people were doing, and at John Jay, we felt it was a great attack on academic freedom, particularly at a place where faculty were researching terrorist organizations, murder, pedophiles, sex crimes, things like that. There were big fights over whether the college could or should do this [monitoring]. The Faculty Senate Technology Committee was right in the forefront of that.” After 9/11, the FBI began visiting libraries—including John Jay’s—and demanding records of Internet use to identify suspicious activity. “We always fought that [keeping track of use of individual computers] because we wanted the students and faculty to be able to be anonymous,” says Bonnie. “So one of the things I’m most proud of is the work I did here and CUNY-wide, in keeping the enemies of academic freedom at bay.”
She and her colleagues were successful at John Jay in that regard. “We won here and were able to get the support of the important people and came to good resolutions,” she says. “But CUNY was more difficult. I kept very good notes of what was going on at the IT Steering Committee and I tried to alert the chair of the UFS to what was going on. And I used to send my notes to the chair of the UFS where they printed and distributed them. The IT Steering Committee was not a governance body. It was not in the charter anywhere, but it was making these very important decisions. They decided they would have this one faculty representative, and that was me. I could try and speak up for the faculty and occasionally they would listen but more often what happened was the UFS would take alarm, appropriately, and try to pressure the chancellor or various people. Finally they fired me off the UFS. I was a pain.”
In the decades spanning Bonnie’s CUNY career, the most obvious change has been the growth of technology and the Internet. “I used to be the only person I knew who used email,” she says. In 1984, John Jay won a Department of Education grant that included IBM microcomputers, and Bonnie was charged with administering the grant. “In December, we got this big delivery of twenty microcomputers, and they were really expensive and they were put in this room that was going to be the computer lab, but it didn’t have a lock yet and security didn’t have enough staff to protect the machines. So I spent New Year’s Eve sitting in a room with a bunch of microcomputers, guarding them.” That was the first student computer lab at the college. Very few faculty had computers in their offices. “Most faculty didn’t know how to use them, so one of the things the library did was teach faculty how to do word processing, introduction to email, and when the World Wide Web came along we showed them how to search.” She recalls that she and Kathy Killoran (a librarian at John Jay from 1990 to 2006, now Executive Academic Director in Undergraduate Studies) set up what was either the first or second CUNY library connection to the Internet. “We did it ourselves,” she says. “We got the equipment, ran a few wires, plugged it in and there we were. We were very proud of ourselves.”
Bonnie considers building the Library’s IT infrastructure—both equipment and personnel—to be her most important contribution to the library. With the support of all three of the chief librarians with whom she worked, she made sure the library controlled its own equipment and content. After the then-head of the Microcomputer Lab tried to edit the library’s web page on the brand new John Jay College website, the Library developed one of the first library websites in CUNY. “We did it by hiring an NYU student who built us a webserver on an IBM desktop and wrote web pages in basic HTML,” Bonnie recalls. That interference by John Jay’s IT department was an aberration, however, and generally relations with DoIT have been constructive and mutually beneficial. “I’ve been lucky that throughout my time at John Jay key people in DoIT have understood that robust library IT infrastructure is critical to the academic success of both faculty and students,” says Bonnie. “We have probably the best relations with the college IT department of any CUNY school—based on years of building trust.” Bonnie said that this allowed her and her staff to build what was needed to provide access to remote library resources from on campus and off—for many years providing better service than was available almost anywhere else in CUNY. Following those early years of reliance on part-time student help and as IT became more complex, Bonnie increasingly turned over the technical aspects of the job to highly-skilled adjuncts and then to specially-educated HEOs (currently Geng Lin) and librarians (like Robin Davis) as she coordinated in her role as Associate Librarian for Information Systems.
One of her most salient memories from her early years at John Jay is a painful one. The Library (and the rest of the college) was located in North Hall, and her office was near the circulation desk. Late on a Friday afternoon in January 1985, Bonnie heard a thud and looked out to see Lloyd Sealy, a formerly high ranking NYPD officer and faculty member at John Jay, lying on his back. “He’d had a massive heart attack,” says Bonnie. She and another woman performed CPR, but he did not survive. It was his 68th birthday. Lloyd had always spent a lot of time in the Library, and students always knew they could find him there. Appropriately, he became the library’s namesake in a 1991 dedication ceremony.
In more recent years, Bonnie became interested in assessment and spent much of her time analyzing library data. “I liked playing with the statistics to see if I could make them tell some kind of story about how we were getting better or how we could do things better, and just looking at trends over time.” Reflecting on how the role of librarians has evolved over the course of her career, recognizing that there is a misperception that librarians are not as essential as they were back in the days of mediated searching, Bonnie says, “Students need a guiding hand. As with so much else in colleges they think they know things they don’t know. They think they know how to weigh what’s true and what’s not. We can see what happens in the country when people don’t know how to tell what’s objective reality and how to figure out what’s real and what’s fake or when they’re being snowed.” She believes that librarians are uniquely suited to try and help people understand where information comes from. “It’s getting worse because of technology,” she says. “It used to be if you saw something on paper you thought it was authoritative, and now if you see it on the computer screen you think it’s authoritative. And it’s so much easier to put anything up on a computer screen. Propaganda used to be expensive. You had to have a printing press. Now just about everybody can do it.”
While Bonnie says that she misses the people at John Jay, “It’s very nice not going to work.” Shortly before she retired, she talked about going camping with her husband, something she expressed some reticence about. They’ve gone twice in the last four months, and she and Bob (who retired in 2016) are planning a cross-country trip to visit national parks. Never one to take the easy path, Bonnie continues to challenge herself. “We survived. Camping is fun in a masochistic way.”
Posted Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 5:15pm