September 10, 2019
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Book Recommendation: How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

In Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, she makes a strong case for moving away from the capitalist idea that we need to be constantly optimizing, producing, and innovating. Instead, we should turn our attention back to our actual place in the world and try to reconnect with people, animals, and our bioregion in a way that repairs the harmful results of behavior capitalism has encouraged and even required of us.

With the rise of internet culture, student and credit card debt, the gig-economy, environmental and social crises, and late stage capitalism, we find ourselves increasingly burnt out and restricted. As a group, humans are disconnected and fractured. We spend so much time working or distracted by the internet and media that we regularly forget to look up.

According to Odell, removing ourselves from the attention economy and invasive addictive technology for a time allows us to refocus our attention. Her book does an amazing job at illustrating how powerful our attention is, both for destruction and for building. She uses successful acts of activism from the past as examples of the positive power of our combined sustained focus. Unfortunately, our attention is currently being drained from us at a rate impossible for us to maintain, hence the constant overwhelmed state. Due to that, we no longer know how to focus together as a group on shared goals.

Odell champions the idea that not every space, be it physical, digital, or mental, needs to have what capitalism would consider a net gain. Not every idea or thought needs to be profitable. Sometimes the important work is not that of optimizing, but of sustaining. To undo the harm of constant “innovation”, humans can learn instead how to be stewards of the spaces around them, offering only the amount of support needed for it to maintain a stable existence.

Odell brings in ideas from environmentalism, art, technology, psychology, philosophy, sociology, and more to illustrate her points. Part of the beauty of How To Do Nothing is watching Odell seamlessly blend together these multiple concepts into a cohesive message. Odell, a visual artists and professor at Stanford, is both highly academic and engaging in her discussion. How To Do Nothing is incredibly well researched without being dry.

Odell’s arguments feel plausible and urgent. This is important for a book discussing what might be considered by some as a breakdown of society. Those who read How To Do Nothing will see their world in a new light and, if Odell has been successful, be inspired to make changes to how they exist in it.

You can checkout Odell’s How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy from the JKM Library today!

June 17, 2019
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Book Recommendation: The Stranger

Image from Goodreads

Imagine it’s 1942. You’re French. Einstein has already refuted the absolutist notions of time and space, Darwin’s findings have nearly dismantled creationism, and Freud has speculated that there’s a subconscious realm where much of the mind’s processes are at work. Nietzsche fathomed nihilism, addressing the question: what would happen to a post-religious society? Worse yet, the Nazis have risen; you’ve been warring with Germany for three years.

Albert Camus published his debut novel, The Stranger, in this context. The soccer-loving philosopher writes an apathetic, emotionless protagonist who searches for meaning in a meaningless world. Camus prescribes a set of absurdist strategies for dealing with love, grief, and violence. In short, he suggests one ought to refrain from investing in such matters.

Though Camus personally rejected the term ‘existentialist,’ he is often grouped with his existentialist contemporaries. Like them, Camus rejected the notion of a universal purpose. No overarching truth or religion suits existentialists, nor do they accept the notion of a comprehensive moral code befitting to all. Fundamentally, they believe human flourishing is a myth; life is nothing more than a waiting room, and the room is full of hardship, loss, and setbacks. Ironically, from this rejection of Meaning arises a new purpose. The existentialists’ simple commandment is to treat life as something to conquer. Do not get bogged down with other people or expectations or feelings or morality. Existentialists urge: do what you want to do, precisely when you want to do it.

All of these philosophies are instantiated in Meursault—a man who traipses around avoiding his feelings to a nearly sociopathic degree. He makes sense of his world by suspending his passions. In the opening pages, for example, when the reader discovers that Meursault’s mother has died, the protagonist treats the event as a mild annoyance. One might expect that this degree of flippancy could only arise from someone who despises his parentage. Yet Meursault does not seem angry. Rather, he appears dispassionate, reacting as if his own mother were not the one dead.

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April 16, 2019
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8th Annual International Edible Book Festival

On April 1st 2019, the Jennie King Mellon Library held its 8th Annual International Edible Book Festival, co-sponsored by Chatham University’s Food Studies Program. The entries were delightfully creative and absolutely delicious. And while every year we are impressed with the Edible Book creations submitted by participants, we were extra blown away this year. The competition was incredibly tough! We saw 12 Edible Book creations and enjoyed record breaking attendance with over 50 folks joining us for some yummy fun!

Family fun at the JKM Library’s 8th Annual International Edible Book Festival

The event was held in the Jennie King Mellon Library lobby. Our planning committee included Reference and Outreach Librarian Jocelyn Codner and food studies graduate student Jordan Mason, with support from Falk School Administrative Assistant Hallie Jensen. Hallie is always a huge help during the logistical planning of this event.

The International Edible Book Festival is an event celebrated in libraries around the world. It began in 2000 by two women who wanted to combine love for literature with love for food and cooking. It is traditionally celebrated on or around April 1st in honor of French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

Folks who decide to submit an Edible Book select a favorite book, or perhaps just a book that sparks inspiration, and they craft a food item or beverage that creatively interprets and represents that book! A few ways to accomplish this could be in a clever name (puns encouraged), the way the food item is decorated, the ingredients in the food item, or perhaps by featuring a particular food item that was featured in the book itself. The result is fun, delicious, and literary. Participants bring their Edible Books to the event, and attendees and judges get to taste and judge each entry!

JKM Library book display featuring food writing, cookbooks, and more to celebrate Edible Books.

At our Edible Book Festival, we offer five prize categories:

  • Most Sustainable (ingredients must be clearly marked as being organic, local, sustainable, etc)
  • Most Creative Literary Interpretation
  • Best Tasting
  • Crowd’s Choice
  • Grand Prize

This year’s official judges included Assistant Professor Marc Nieson and Archivist and Public Services Librarian Molly Tighe, who both have volunteered to judge in previous years, and new judge Assistant Professor Sarah Shotland. They selected the winners of Most Sustainable, Most Creative Literary Interpretation, Best Tasting, and the Grand Prize. The 50+ attendees all voted on Crowd’s Choice. Keep scrolling to see who the big winners were and what kind of amazing Edible Books were submitted this year!

This year’s amazing judges, (left to right) Sarah Shotland, Marc Nieson, and Molly Tighe

“Call Me by Your Bundo” by Erica Cohen and Sarah Fink.

Most Sustainable Winners Erica Cohen and Sarah Fink for “Call Me by Your Bundo”.

“Make Room! Make Room!” by Dan Nolting

Most Creative Literary Interpretation winner Dan Nolting for “Make Room! Make Room!”

“Game of Scones” By Kate Emory

Best Tasting winner Kate Emory for “Game of Scones”

“Jack and the Beanstalk” by Suhui Dong and Yuchun Tung

Crowd’s Choice winners Suhui Dong and Yuchun Tung for “Jack and the Beanstalk”

“Dune” by Sarah Birmingham

Grand Prize winner Sarah Birmingham for “Dune”

Our Most Sustainable winner was “Call Me by Your Bundo” by Erica Cohen and Sarah Fink. This Edible Book played off of the books Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman and A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by E.G. Keller (presented by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver). It was a playfully decorated carrot cake that won for it’s sustainable ingredients and it’s socially sustainable message. Our Most Creative Literary Interpretation was “Make Room! Make Room!” by Dan Nolting, which drew its inspiration from the book Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison (later turned into the 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green). Dan created a multimedia experience with his scifi steam-punk Edible Book that included a looping video with sound to accompany his lime coconut jello shots. The Best Tasting award went to “Game of Scones” by Kate Emory, obviously inspired by A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R. R. Martin. This Edible Book featured scones with four different delicious flavor profiles to represent four major families in the book series. The winner’s of the Crowd’s Choice award was “Jack and the Beanstalk” by Suhui Dong and Yuchun Tung for their stunning crepe cake flavored with matcha, rum, and red bean paste decorated with candy meringues and adorable illustrations and figures. And finally, the Grand Prize was awarded to Sarah Birmingham for “Dune”, inspired by the science fiction novel Dune (Dune #1) by Frank Herbert. Sarah’s Edible Book involved handmade pumpkin sherbet (pun intended), handmade cinnamon beignets, and (most impressively) handmade chai gummy worms!

Our 2019 winners!

Click through the gallery to see additional Edible Book entries and more photos from the festivities! We hope this inspires you to join us next spring for our 9th Annual International Edible Book Festival.

February 6, 2019
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The Wray and Olkes Book Collections at the JKM LIbrary

Have you ever checked out a book and noticed it was marked with a sticker that says, “Wray”? Or what about that collection of books on the small bookshelf near the elevator on the third floor marked “Olkes Collection”? Have you ever wondered what Wray and Olkes mean?

The JKM Library has, in addition to our main circulating collection, smaller collections of books that are focused on certain topics, aimed at certain age ranges, or were donated by certain people. We give these collections of books different names in order to honor the person who donated the items or to make it clear that there is something special about the items in the collection. For example, our Curriculum Collection is comprised of books for young readers and includes picture books, middle-grade fiction and nonfiction, young adult fiction and nonfiction, and graphic novels appropriate for those age ranges. In the case of the Wray and Olkes collections, these are items donated by Professor Wendell Wray and Dr. Cheryl Olkes respectively.

Wendell Wray, a library and information science professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh, was an avid book collector. The first African-American man to graduate from the then Carnegie Institute of Technology’s library science program with a master’s degree in 1952, Wray was an influential voice in the library profession. After graduation, he went on to be one of the first African-American men to be hired by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Raised in Beltzhoover, Wray’s resume includes military service during WWII and working at the New York Public Library, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the inner city outreach program the North Manhattan Library Project. Wray returned to Pittsburgh in 1973 to take a position as a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh in the library school. He was honored the same year with the Distinguished Alumni award from Carnegie Tech. He moved to California in 1988 upon his retirement, where he spent the rest of his life until his death in 2003.

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December 6, 2018
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Clear This Display Contest!

Don’t be fooled by our gentle demeanor. Librarians have a bit of a competitive side as well. True, it comes out in strange ways, but it is definitely there. For example, it is not uncommon for groups of librarians to ask one another how many books they currently have checked out from their respective libraries. The winner will usually have a number in the hundreds. We LOVE checking books out of the library, sometimes more than actually reading them.

While we don’t expect you to match our own checkout numbers, we invite you to pile up a fun stack of books to checkout over your upcoming winter break! What could be better than fun, comforting winter reads while you’re resting up for the spring? Well, what if we told you that you could actually win prizes as well? That’s better, right?

2018’s Clear This Display main book display

Welcome to our annual Clear This Display Contest! Each book you check out from our main book display earns you an entry into our raffle. You may enter as many times as you like (read: check out as many books as you like). Simply fill out the slip tucked in the book, fold it up, and put it in the red contest submission box at circulation! We draw two winners in January once we’re all back from break.

The rules for the contest are as follows:

  • Be a Chatham University student.
  • When checking an item out, fill out the slip that comes with it and submit your entry at the circulation desk after check-out.
  • Enter as many times as you want! One entry per item checked out from the table.
  • Take items home and enjoy 🙂 Be aware of the due dates.

We have two prizes for participating students: a guaranteed individual study room for ALL of Spring 2019 finals week, stocked with your favorite study goodies, OR a $10 gift certificate to Café Rachel. We alert winners via their Chatham email, so it’s important not to skip that line on the slip when submitting an entry for a prize.

So, how many books do you think you can check out before you leave for winter break? We want nothing left on this table by the end of the semester…do your worst.

November 14, 2018
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First Annual Day of the Dead Celebration!

The touching and insightful Disney Pixar film Coco pushed the Day of the Dead to the front of popular culture in the United States last year, but this celebration has been around for thousands of years in one form or another. The Day of the Dead is an established international holiday that can trace its roots back to indigenous traditions in the Americas and the Catholicism brought by the Spanish and other Europeans. Continue reading to hear about Chatham’s celebration of the holiday and see images of our ofrenda.

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August 13, 2018
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Book Recommendation: Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe

 

Image taken from Amazon

Lori Jakiela opens her memoir with a line as humble as the title, describing her memoir “primarily a work of nonfiction.” What follows is a dramatic account of Jakiela’s search to make contact with her biological family after the death of her adoptive parents. Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe is an evocative story of one woman’s yearning for closure, love, and family.

The presentation of these ideals are developed through Jakiela’s description of loss. She articulates her pain in ways that are acute, poignant, familiar. Her pages are decorated with mediations on a particular grief—the kind of unique sorrow that stems from her identity as an adoptee. Through her attempts to contact her native family, for example, she continues, with insistence, to refer to her adoptive family as her “real” family.

Some craft elements will engage readers from the start. Jakiela, a native Pittsburgher, describes a setting that Chatham students will find pleasantly relatable. More uniquely, Jakiela subtly challenges storytelling conventions through experimental use of dialogue. She presents uninterrupted, staccato quotes and repetitive dialogue tags, both of which reveal a one-of-a-kind style—clever and intentional in its pacing.

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