Library News Blog
From the Desk of the Chief Librarian, Larry E. Sullivan
On Easter Monday, April 21, 1930, the most famous fire in American prison history occurred. Flames raged through a locked cell block in the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus and burned inmates to death in their cells. Did the guards refuse to open the cells when the fire broke out, as reported by many caught in the blaze? We’ll probably never know for sure, but when the prisoners did get free of their deadly cages, order vanished and a riot broke out. The warden called in the National Guard to calm the penitentiary and over 500 guardsmen surrounded the prison. By the time the fire was extinguished, this legendary, calamitous fire killed 322 convicts and put an additional 230 in the hospital.
Doing time at the penitentiary during the fire was the noted African American novelist Chester Himes. Himes, best known as the author of the Harlem detective novels (Cotton Comes to Harlem, A Rage in Harlem, and others, many of which were made into films) with the characters Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, also wrote the prison novel, Cast the First Stone, which describes the fire, as does one of his first short stories, “To What Red Hell,” published in Esquire.
Contemporaneous with Himes in that really “big house” in Columbus was Joseph “Specs” Russell, Cleveland’s “smoked-glassed bandit” in the late 1920s, himself a published author during his prison years. Specs was doing a 55-year sentence for committing at least 52 low-yield stick-ups while wearing sunglasses, hence the sobriquet. The Sealy Library recently acquired a significant gathering of Russell’s correspondence and unpublished manuscripts.
Russell (b. 1908 – d. 19—?) started writing fiction and magazine articles early in his prison career as a plan to get early parole. His idea was to get paid for the articles and establish a fund at the penitentiary to pay back his victims. The Pathfinder (1932) wrote that “On hearing of this, a former store clerk wrote him [Specs] a letter asking that he be given ‘preferred creditor’ status in being reimbursed the $8 that he was relieved of in 1927.” He was a prolific writer and had some publication success, at least enough to catch the attention of a number of well-known journalists and others. He wrote such pieces as “Facing Fifty-Five Years,” which appeared in a 1931 issue of The American Magazine and numerous pieces in the magazine of the Ohio Penitentiary. This contemporary literary fame and his bravery during the 1930 fire were rewarded with a parole in January 1941 after 13 years in stir. A number of distinguished writers, such as H.L. Mencken (the “Bard of Baltimore,” known for publishing ex-convict writing in The American Mercury), and such politicians and statesmen as Newton D. Baker (former mayor of Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of War), wrote in support of Specs. We do not know if Russell and Himes were acquainted, but the Ohio Penitentiary had a reputation for published authors. The most famous graduate of this institution was O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), who wrote 14 of his short stories while serving time there for bank fraud.
This acquisition points once more to the depth and breadth of Sealy Library’s criminal justice resources.
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2018 - 4:42pm
If all of New York City could read one book together, which book should be chosen? You decide!
The winning book, along with city-wide readings and events, will be announced in early May.
Behold the Dreamers: A Novel by Imbolo Mbue
Publisher's description: Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son.Working as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers, he displays the punctuality, discretion, and loyalty that Edwards demands. Neni temporary work at the Edwardses' summer home in the Hamptons means a brighter future-- until Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers' façades. As the financial world threatens to collapse, the Jongas become desperate. And as their marriage threatens to fall apart, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Publisher's description: Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family with the Great Depression underway. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career with the Ziegfeld Follies, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a nightclub, she chances to meet Dexter Styles again, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father's life, the reasons he might have vanished.
White Tears by Hari Kunzru
Publisher's description: Two twenty-something New Yorkers. Seth is awkward and shy. Carter is the glamorous heir to one of America's great fortunes. They have one thing in common: an obsession with music. Seth is desperate to reach for the future. Carter is slipping back into the past. When Seth accidentally records an unknown singer in a park, Carter sends it out over the Internet, claiming it's a long lost 1920s blues recording by a musician called Charlie Shaw. When an old collector contacts them to say that their fake record and their fake bluesman are actually real, the two young white men, accompanied by Carter's troubled sister Leonie, spiral down into the heart of the nation's darkness, encountering a suppressed history of greed, envy, revenge, and exploitation.
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
Publisher's description: Like the blues—sweet, sad, and full of truth—this masterful work of fiction rocks us with powerful emotions. In it are anger and pain, but above all, love--the affirmative love of a woman for her man, the sustaining love of the black family. Fonny, a talented young artist, finds himself unjustly arrested and locked in New York's infamous Tombs. But his girlfriend, Tish, is determined to free him, and to have his baby, in this starkly realistic tale ... a powerful indictment of American concepts of justice and punishment in our time.
When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
Available through several CUNY libraries (how to request)
Books in Print description: [The author's] story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her warring parents and seven siblings led a life of uproar, but one full of love and tenderness as well. Growing up, Esmeralda learned the proper way to eat a guava, the sound of the tree frogs in the mango groves at night, the taste of the delectable sausage called morcilla, and the formula for ushering a dead baby's soul to heaven. But just when Esmeralda seemed to have learned everything, she was taken to New York City, where the rules - and the language - were bewilderingly different. How Esmeralda overcame adversity, won acceptance to New York City's High School of Performing Arts, and then went on to Harvard, where she graduated with highest honors, is a record of a tremendous journey by a truly remarkable woman.
Posted Tuesday, April 17, 2018 - 1:23pm
The Pop-Up Library was in the Kroll Atrium March 19-22 and 28, 2018, from 1pm-3pm each day.
Our Ask a Librarian table featured handouts and barcode activations, along with a Reference Librarian who was happy to answer questions. How do you cite an online news article? How can I save money on textbooks? Ask a librarian!
Plus — we had a cart full of free books! (Students took home dozens of these free books!)
Our Tell a Librarian table featured survey sheets, hands-on feedback activities, and candy & healthy snacks for participants. What's your ideal John Jay Library like? What do you usually spend on textbooks? Tell a librarian!
The Pop-Up Library was a big success, with over 370 students stopping by our tables to fill out surveys. See survey results »
Made possible by Faculty-Student Engagement funding from the Division of Student Affairs.
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018 - 1:33pm
Graduate student online workshops are available this Spring!
Using Library Databases for Research: Learn about specific databases for different research topics and discover general search techniques to facilitate your research process.
How to Write a Literature Review: Discover how to choose the most relevant material, write the literature review and compile references, while exploring answers and solutions to common writing challenges.
There are four more sessions still to come:
Session 1: Closed
Session 2: Closed
Session 3: Closed
Session 4: 4/16/18 - 4/23/18
Session 5: 5/7/18 - 5/14/18
Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - 1:37pm
The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and the Department of Africana Studies, in partnership with the Lloyd George Sealy Library, present:
Moving Toward Community Justice in the 21st Century
The 27th Annual Lloyd George Sealy Lecture
Speaker: Kenton Buckner, Chief of Police, Little Rock Police Department
Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 6:00pm
Moot Court, Room 6.68 NB
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019
For more information, please contact Rulisa Galloway-Perry, Africana Studies Department, 212-237-8701.
Related: About Lloyd George Sealy
Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - 6:44pm
Some things in graduate school are inevitable. Literature reviews, research papers, statistics...
Luckily, Graduate Studies is hosting a series of co-curricular workshops designed to help you succeed!
How to Write a Literature Review
- Discover how to choose the most relevant material, write the literature review and compile references, along with finding answers and solutions to common writing challenges.
- Monday, January 29th, 5:30-7:00 PM, L2.72.03 NB
Using Library Databases for Research
- This workshop will focus on the specific databases appropriate for different subjects as well as general searching techniques to help facilitate your research process.
- Tuesday, January 30th, 5:30-7:00 PM, L2.72.04 NB
Writing a Research Paper
- Learn how to narrow a research paper topic to a speciifc question, gather sources, organize your paper, and cite using the APA style.
- Wednesday, January 31st, 5:30-7:00 PM L2.72.03 NB
- Students will examine the statistics behind everyday activities in the quantification of the social sciences in the United States. Workshops will emphasize mathematical skills and basic topics related to the understanding of probability and statistics. Students may choose the module(s) most suitable to their needs, or elect to participate in all.
- Module 1: Descriptive Statistics
- Monday, January 29th, 6:00-7:30 PM, L2.72.04 NB
- Module 2: Graphing Data
- Thursday, February 1st, 7:45-9:15 PM, L2.72.03 NB
- Module 3: Prediction and Association
- Monday, February 5th, 6:00-7:30 PM, L2.72.03 NB
- Module 4: Parametric Inferential Statistics
- Thursday, February 8th, 7:45-9:15 PM, L2.72.03 NB
- Module 5: Nonparametric Inferential Statistics
- Monday, February 12th, 6:00-7:30 PM, L2.72.03 NB
Posted Friday, January 26, 2018 - 3:29pm
The New York Times Book Review editors chose their top 10 books for 2017. All are available through the CUNY library system! They are listed here with their catalog/publishers' descriptions and library availability information.
If a book you're interested in reading isn't available at your home campus, you can request it online through OneSearch. The book will then be delivered to your campus library and held under your name, usually within 5 business days. (How do I request a book?)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet — sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors — doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. Exit West follows the couple as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are.
- Available at John Jay, Stacks PS3558.A42169 E95 2017
- Also available at several other CUNY libraries (link)
Autumn by Ali Smith
Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Two old friends—Daniel, a centenarian, and Elisabeth, born in 1984—look to both the future and the past as the United Kingdom stands divided by a historic, once-in-a-generation summer. Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand-in-hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever. A luminous meditation on the meaning of richness and harvest and worth, Autumn is the first installment of Ali Smith’s Seasonal quartet, and it casts an eye over our own time: Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearean jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s pop art. Wide-ranging in time-scale and light-footed through histories, Autumn is an unforgettable story about aging and time and love—and stories themselves.
- Available at several other CUNY libraries (link)
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant-and that her lover is married-she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
- Available at several other CUNY libraries (link)
The Power by Naomi Alderman
When a new force takes hold of the world, people from different areas of life are forced to cross paths in an alternate reality that gives women and teenage girls immense physical power that can cause pain and death. A rich Nigerian boy; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. When a vital new force takes root and flourishes, their lives converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls and women now have immense physical power-- they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And everything changes ...
- Available at several other CUNY libraries (link)
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds.
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager. ... Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an unforgettable family story.
- Available at several other CUNY libraries (link)
R. Davis • December 11, 2017
Posted Monday, December 11, 2017 - 1:03pm
It's finals season, so let's review some handy tips on saving & backing up your work!
Losing a document you've spent hours on is awful — we hope you never experience data loss. You can take steps to limit the risk of losing your digital documents.
Rule of thumb: Save copies of your work periodically in multiple places. Save a copy to your device(s) and save a copy to the cloud. Here's how.
Save copies on your device...
Save multiple copies to your USB thumb drive, laptop, desktop computer, tablet, etc. — however you usually access your file. It's not a good idea to keep all your copies of your file on a USB drive, by the way, since they're easy to lose.
Occasinally, files get corrupted on your computer and can't be opened, so for big projects, it's also a good idea to have a "Backups" folder on your computer. It might look like this:
Even if you're working on a cloud-based app, like Google Docs, download a copy of your document periodically, just in case you get locked out of your Google account or something happens to the file.
... AND save a copy to the cloud
Every day you work on your project, save a copy online by...
- Emailing it to yourself, or
- Uploading it to your Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive account, or a similar free or paid service
That way, even if your computer dies or your USB drive gets lost on the C train, you'll be able to download a copy of your document from one of these online locations.
None of these services is endorsed by the Library, but they are provided as examples of services you could use. Always read the Terms of Service and make sure you're comfortable with how a company is using your data before signing up for an account.
Questions you might have
What if I want to back up ALL of my files? It's a good idea! You can set up nightly or weekly computer backups using an app like Time Machine (Mac) or Backup & Restore (Windows). This software will save all the files on your computer to an external hard drive (like a mega-USB stick that lives at home). This could be done manually as well, just by dragging and dropping files into an external hard drive. You should also consider using a paid cloud-based backup service like BackBlaze or IDrive, in case your computer and external hard drive somehow both die or disappear.
I lost a USB thumb drive — where could it be? It could be in the Library. We have a whole drawer full of lost USBs turned in by your fellow students. Ask in the Reserve Lab and at the Reference Desk, or call us at 212-237-8246. You can also check Public Safety's main Lost & Found.
What's "the cloud"? It just means a computer run by a company in a different place. By saving your document to a computer located somewhere else, you're ensuring that even if you lose your own computer, your document is retrievable from another place.
More questions? Email me and I'll be glad to advise on backup matters.
Robin Davis, updated Dec. 2018
Posted Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 5:24pm
ROGUES GALLERY: Forty Year Retrospective of Courtroom Art from Son of Sam to El Chapo
Curated by Larry E. Sullivan (Chief Librarian), Aggie Whelan Kenny, and Elizabeth Williams
On view November 30, 2017 to February 2, 2018
Location: Shiva Gallery, located just inside the 11th Avenue entrance to John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Address: 860 11th Avenue (between 58th & 59th St), New York, NY 10019.
The Shiva Gallery is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 10am – 6pm.
A large portion of the items on view are from the Richard Tomlinson, the Aggie Whelan Kenny, and the Elizabeth Williams Courtroom Drawings Collections, all housed in the Lloyd Sealy Library Special Collections.
"Courtroom Confidential," Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times, Nov. 24, 2017
Drawings in the promotional image are by Elizabeth Williams, Aggie Whelan Kenny, and Richard Tomlinson.
Posted Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 4:53pm
The Graduate Studies office has long been offering workshops for graduate students on topics such as resume writing, statistics, and communication and leadership skills. Generally offered in the early evening to accommodate student schedules, these workshops are always appreciated by those who can fit them into their busy schedules, but too often they are not well attended. In an attempt to try to reach more students with the information they need to support their graduate level learning, Graduate Studies is now offering two of these workshops—Using Library Databases for Research and How to Write a Literature Review—via Blackboard. Students can register and take the workshops, which are divided into modules, at their convenience. Badges signifying skills and achievements can be earned for use in ePortfolios or to share with outside organizations.
A full complement of workshops are still offered in person at the start of each semester, and there are plans to add more online workshops in the future. You can register for these online workshops. For more information about how John Jay supports grad students, visit the Graduate Studies page.
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 4:45pm