June 9, 2015
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Summer Reading Preview

The summer reading list for first-year Chatham students has been posted! The contents of the list were chosen by your friendly neighborhood librarians, and include entries from different subject areas. There’s something on this list for everyone (and several things that I’ll be adding to my own summer reading list). Here’s a preview of some of the titles; make sure to access the complete list to see some other choices.

 

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth GapCover: The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap
Matt Taibbi

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the Occupy movement, The Divide focuses on the myriad ways that wealth—or lack thereof—affects the rights afforded to US citizens (as well as the way this system impacts the immigration debate). Mass incarceration, stop-and-frisk, and the contemporary landscape of the US justice system provide evidence for Taibbi’s portrayal of a system that privileges wealth above all else.

 

Cover: Eating Together: Food, Friendship, and InequalityEating Together: Food, Friendship, and Inequality
Alice P. Julier

What is the social impact of shared meals? Julier (director of the Master’s program in Food Studies here at Chatham) writes about the intersection of social eating experiences and social inequality, examining the literal and figurative aspects of who has a seat at the table.

 

 

The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 YearsCover: The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years
Sonia Shah

The Fever addresses malaria as a subject with various historical, scientific, and socio-political resonances. Alongside anecdotal evidence of the way the disease is approached and conceived of in malaria-afflicted areas, Shah takes on the ineffectual attempts of various global organizations to curb its effects. The Fever offers a deeper understanding of the way malaria has shaped and continues to affect human history.

 

Citizen: An American LyricCover: Citizen: An American Lyric
Claudia Rankine

From microaggressions to overt racial violence, Citizen addresses life in “post-race” America. Rankine meditates on the ways that this constant narrative of otherness impacts daily life and, in some cases, even personal safety. Composed of prose poems, verse, essays, and images, Rankine’s work is a form-agnostic witness account of contemporary race and racism in America.

 

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’tCover: The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t
Nate Silver

Silver takes on the art and science of forecasting, analyzing the various reasons—from a mastery of statistics to a healthy understanding of uncertainty—why some predictions are successful while others are not. The Signal and the Noise investigates forecasting from multiple vantage points, using examples of correct and incorrect predictions from sports, politics, economics, and more.

 

Source: Music of the Avant-garde, 1966-1973
Edited by Larry Austin and Douglas Kahn

Cover: Source: Music of the Avant-garde, 1966-1973This volume reproduces issues of the avant-garde periodical Source, which published a variety of experimental music bits and pieces. Introductory material provides some historical context, followed by the downright weirdness of the content itself, with pieces from John Cage, Morton Feldman, Steve Reich, Nam June Paik, Harry Partch, and others.

 

 

The Paris of Appalachia: Pittsburgh in the Twenty-First CenturyCover: The Paris of Appalachia: Pittsburgh in the Twenty-First Century
Brian O’Neill

An affectionate tribute to Pittsburgh that also deals some tough love in response to some of the city’s ongoing problems. O’Neill includes the stories of Pittsburgh natives in his analysis, attempting to capture the character of a city situated somewhere between the East Coast and the Midwest both in terms of physical location and regional character.

May 26, 2015
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App Review: Clio – Your Guide to History

Clio logo

© Clio

Equal parts guidebook, GPS locator, and crowdsourced data platform, Clio is an app designed to help you discover local history. Named after the ancient Greek muse of history, Clio uses your location to provide information about nearby historical and cultural sites. Whether you’re a hardcore history buff or are just looking to get to know your city a little better, the network of professional and amateur contributors at work on improving Clio can point you to the important, unique, or just plain weird historical features of a city. You can also add your favorite historical sites to the map for everyone to see!

For new residents, Clio could help you catch up on your Pittsburgh history in no time. While on the Chatham campus, I found 43 sites within 10 miles of the JKM Library. Although there were a handful outside of the city proper, most were concentrated within an area easily navigable on foot or using public transit. Beyond addresses and navigational content, entries tended to provide a robust about of information about individual sites; the records that I previewed included detailed historical descriptions (occasionally including citations), images, hours of operation, contact information, and links to outside resources.

Pittsburgh map view | ClioIn addition to currently operational historical sites such as monuments, historic buildings, and museums, Clio includes “Time Capsule” entries that point to sites where things happened or—particularly relevant to Pittsburgh—where things used to be. A pin at 6th and Wood downtown, for example, identifies it as the site of a “Protest Against Gimbels Department Store, 1935,” while another pin on South Bouquet Street marks the location of the former Forbes Field. Whether you happen to be roaming the city or would like to plan your own historic Pittsburgh outing, Clio could be a useful tool for finding the hidden history all around the city.

Users can create accounts to help build the site database by adding and revising entries. All additions are subject to verification and approval, but the review process seems fairly transparent as revisions (even those by Clio administrators) are displayed in a change log at the bottom of the entry. According to the FAQ, entries are published under a Creative Commons license that acknowledges the creator.

Because you can either search for a location or allow the app to use your GPS coordinates, Clio would work well both for travelers and for local exploration. In its best formulation, this crowdsourced data model could lead to some degree of local flair in terms of the sites included and their descriptions—after all, there’s no better way to learn about a city than from the people that live there!

Available for iOS and Android, and on the web.

May 11, 2015
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App Review: CP HAPPS from City Paper

CP HAPPS logo, © Pittsburgh City Paper

CP HAPPS logo, © Pittsburgh City Paper

Trying to keep up with what’s going on in and around the city this summer? For warm-weather events and year-round happenings, check out CP HAPPS. Brought to you by the folks who publish the independent weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, CP HAPPS is billed as “Pittsburgh City Paper’s Event & Entertainment Guide.” It works as an interactive expansion of the paper’s event listings, so you can check out what’s happening throughout the city while you’re on the go.

There are several different ways to browse for events within the app. The first is a list view that lets you choose by type of event. Following the catch-all “CP Listings,” categories include “Live Music” (with a separate category for “Classical, Jazz & Blues”), “DJ’s,” “Theater & Performance,” “Discount Tickets,” “Comedy,” “Art,” “Food & Drink,” “Sports,” and “Trivia.” You can browse by specific dates, or just take a look through the upcoming listings. If there is sponsored content it will float to the top of the list, which can be irksome when it consists solely of sponsored happy hours; be sure to scroll past to view the list of suggested events arranged in chronological order.

“Pittsburgh Fireworks” by Julia Wolf on Flickr, made available under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license

Pittsburgh Fireworks” by Julia Wolf on Flickr, made available under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license

If you’re looking to see what’s going on nearby, the map view is even more useful. This view will default to the current day, but make sure to tap individual events to check the date—ongoing events that list dates in the description only (I’m looking at you, trivia nights) will always appear on the map! Regardless of this little glitch, this view may be extra useful if you’re new to the Pittsburgh area or are in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Because the map function relies on your current location, you can even get GPS directions right to event locations.

Throughout the app you can select events to get more information and bookmark them for the future. The Activity tab lets you look at your bookmarks, as well as any notifications you’ve received. The Groups tab brings a social component to the app, allowing you to notify and chat with friends about cool things that are coming up on the calendar.

A criticism of the app is that it requires users to create an account or log in with Facebook. Remember, also, that in order to use the map and group functions, you will have to allow the app to access your location and/or contacts.

Overall, though, the CP HAPPS app is a good mobile addition to the already indispensable City Paper listings. Don’t forget to click the More tab for headlines, contests, and more!

CP HAPPS is available for iOS and Android.

April 6, 2015
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App Review: POETRY from The Poetry Foundation

April is National Poetry Month! Why not take a selection of poems with you everywhere with the help of an app? POETRY, the appropriately-titled but obnoxiously capitalized app from The Poetry Foundation (publishers of Poetry magazine), can help you search for and save your favorite poems. You can also find new poems to love with the help of the “Discover Poetry” feature, which caused me to happily while away a good amount of time while writing this review.

“Poetry Library” by John Zacherle on Flickr

Poetry Library” by John Zacherle on Flickr, made available under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license

The app opens and presents you with a curious button: “Spin.” Hitting this button starts a scrolling rainbow of options which eventually settles on a mood and a subject. On my first try I got “Humor & Youth,” which displayed 25 poems beneath the header. Dragging the colored bar displaying the mood, I was delighted to find that you can search by any combination of mood and subject and the app will display poems that are tagged with both. From gloomy combinations such as “Boredom & Love” to the more colorful “Joy & Celebrations,” this approach allows for an interactive and engaging discovery process. My one complaint is that this view displays only the title of the poem and not the author, so I ended up selecting a number of titles that I would have otherwise avoided. On the other hand, perhaps this allows for serendipitous discovery and destruction of literary comfort zones, or at least the element of surprise.

If you’re looking for poems by a specific author, or trying to locate a poem by title or by a line or phrase, there is also a “Find Poetry” search feature. This may be more useful for poems you have encountered while using the Poetry Foundation website or the POETRY app, as the collection is necessarily somewhat limited. The mobile collection does not include all of the poems available on the Poetry Foundation website, probably due to the issues inherent in obtaining the correct permissions. What the app does contain are poems from Poetry magazine, poems in the public domain, and those poems for which the app creators have secured mobile permissions. New poems are added on a monthly basis.

There is a sharing function which allows you to integrate your Twitter, Facebook, and/or email account. Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of integration between the app and the website proper, so your favorites appear to be accessible only within the app interface. The only other distracting element of the app is its (understandable) struggle to represent poetic structure, so line breaks and irregular spacing may not be reproduced faithfully.

I will admit that I downloaded this app in order to review it, but I’m not giving it up. I will be celebrating throughout April and beyond by browsing through its collection while on the bus, waiting in line, and probably in many other places throughout Pittsburgh. (Don’t worry, Twitter app, I still love you. But it’s National Poetry Month.)

POETRY is available for iOS and Android.

March 19, 2015
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Meet Gesina Phillips, Reference Associate!

GesinaIsAwkwardGesina Phillips:

  • wanted to be a marine biologist when she grew up
  • DJ at WRCT-FM, Carnegie Mellon’s radio station
  • is a Reference Associate here at the JKM Library!

What do you do here at The Jennie King Mellon Library?

I’m a Reference Associate, which means I’m one of the people you might talk to if you contact Ask a Librarian or email/call/stop by the Reference Desk at the library.

What made you choose your current profession?

I’m still studying for my Master’s in Library Science at the University of Pittsburgh, but I’ve chosen to become a librarian because I love teaching and learning. Collaborating with people to find answers to their questions is fulfilling for me both as a people person and a researcher. Plus, my previous degrees are in English literature, so it sure is nice to be surrounded by books all the time.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A marine biologist. I grew out of that sometime during high school biology, but I still really like whales.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I really enjoy helping people through the research process. It’s great to be able to point people toward new resources or search strategies so that they’ll be better equipped to find things in the future. I also love the range of research topics that I encounter—I always learn something new!

If you could do one thing to change/improve the JKM Library- with no worries about time or expense, what would you do?

I would love to put in a cozy and inviting space for collaboration, like a cafe or a commons, and fill it with tons of supplies (whiteboards, interactive technologies) and leisure reading materials (magazines, newspapers). The library has a lot of these things already, but I would love to combine them all in a more casual open space.

What do you like to do on your days off?

When I’m not at the library I enjoy reading, getting out & exploring the city, finding new music to listen to & revisiting old favorites, playing video games, and making baked goods.

What’s the last thing you checked out?

The last book I checked out–and I’ll be honest–was Volume 3 of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy (a compilation which includes The Conqueror Worm and Strange Places). Mignola’s use of shadows is gorgeous, and who doesn’t love a good comic book halfway through the semester? I got it from CLP Main, which has a great collection of comics, graphic novels, and even zines!

What book do you think everyone should read? Why?

I think everyone should really read Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s funny, it’s important, and it’s light enough sci-fi to be a potential gateway to some really nerdy stuff.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Pittsburgh?

I’ve heard it described as “the biggest small town” and I tend to agree. People love living in Pittsburgh, talking about Pittsburgh, and getting excited about all things related to Pittsburgh. I think that energy is great and above all quite infectious.

What’s one thing you think everyone should do while they live in the city?

Everyone will tell you to take the Incline, but they’re right! It’s a great thing to do because a) it’s part of the transit system, which is weird, and b) you end up with a lovely view of the city. Also make sure to take advantage of both the world-class venues and the little hole-in-the-wall spaces in the city that cater to art, music, and more.

Tell us some surprising things about yourself:

  • I’m a DJ at WRCT-FM, Carnegie Mellon’s radio station.
  • I’ve been cited in an academic publication…for talking about Viking Metal.
  • I’m on a constant search for the best burger in Pittsburgh.

February 23, 2015
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Services for Book Lovers: Goodreads

Looking for a way to tame your “To Read” list? Obsessive about keeping track of things you’ve already read? For book lovers, social media junkies, and everything in between, Goodreads might be the service you’ve been looking for. A number of our staff—myself included—use Goodreads with varying degrees of fanaticism, so we’ve decided to feature it on the blog so you can join in as well!

"d-221 books" by azrasta on Flickr

“d-221 books” by azrasta on Flickr, made available under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license

The best thing about Goodreads is that it gives you a lot of options; you can use whatever functions you want and ignore the rest. If you’re not into the social networking aspect, for example, you can use it instead to very specifically track your own reading habits. While writing this review I consulted my own profile, which devolved into a period of obsessive organization of my virtual bookshelves—by date read, by rating, by shelf. I have lists going for books I’ve read, books I am reading, and books I would like to read. If I put a book down for a time (or run out of renewals at the library!), I can record what page I was on for the next time I pick it up. You can also create custom bookshelves and write public reviews. For the organizationally-minded user, it’s a wonderful tool for generating a lot of lists about your library and reading patterns. There are even some functions that provide statistics on the number of books you read in a given year or the authors that you read the most!

This might be good for someone who wants to use the site simply to curate a personal library, but how about people who are looking for recommendations? Goodreads offers a few different ways for you to find out about new books you might like to read. The social aspect of the site allows you to connect with other users and see what they are reading. From that one friend with killer taste to other Goodreads users you meet while discussing your favorite books, you can develop a network of people whose reading habits are similar to your own. There’s also an algorithmic option for recommendations, which suggests books for you to read based on what you’ve added to your bookshelves.

There are some other functions within Goodreads, some of which are pretty neat. You can set a personal reading challenge for the year (good for goal-oriented types!) or import your Amazon purchases directly onto your bookshelves (this makes a little more sense when using the Kindle app version; otherwise, it seems somewhat intrusive). There are author interviews and curated lists galore for you to read, and if you love vehemently disagreeing with people, you can always check out the user reviews.

Overall, the social networking and personal library aspects of Goodreads work well together, but users can also tailor the experience effectively to their own needs. In addition to the web interface there are free apps available for iOS, Android, Kindle, and NOOK. Reviews are generally good for the apps, although the web interface offers the most comprehensive access to the service’s many features.

Check out Goodreads at goodreads.com, or download the app for your device from iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

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