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.

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.

October 31, 2018
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Book Recommendation: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Image taken from Amazon.

Looking for something spooky to read under the covers with some tea tonight? Look no further than Shirley Jackson, the master of creeping dread and spooky suspense. You may know Jackson’s famous short story The Lottery from high school, or perhaps you have watched the recent Netflix reimagining of her classic The Haunting of Hill House. Her works are often described as horror, but the subtlety of her writing gives it something more universal. Her themes often focus on the dark side of domestic life and isolation, and they often feature agoraphobia and critiques of the expectations of traditional society.

Jackson also wrote nonfiction about what it was like to be a mother and manage a home, something she considered to hold its own degree of horror. Jackson also felt that she and her family were considered outcasts in her small New England town, and they experienced anti-Semitism in the insidious manner one sees in “civilized society”.  Toward the end of her life, she became so painfully agoraphobic she wouldn’t leave her bedroom. Much of what makes her fiction work horrific is because it is Jackson’s true-life experiences expressed through a fantastical lens, and as such there is something recognizable in it to all of us. We see how easy it could be for us to slip into some kind of madness, or for the precarious society around us to suddenly turn vicious. It is not gore or jump scares that make Jackson’s work terrifying, it is how she exposes the truth and ugliness in us all.

For this fall, I wanted to recommend a lesser talked about Jackson classic: We Have Always Lived in the Castle. This short (under 200 pages) novel is dark, twisted, unconventional, and incredibly beautiful. We enter into the lives of Mary Katherine (Merricat) and Constance Blackwood, two young women who live isolated in their large house with their wheelchair-bound uncle, Julian. The fractured family fell into disrepair after arsenic in the sugar bowl killed the rest of the Blackwoods half a decade ago. The only two who were not poisoned in the incident were Merricat and Constance, while Uncle Julian did not ingest enough of the poison to kill him. Constance, having been put on trial and then acquitted of the crime, now suffers from such extreme agoraphobia that she cannot leave the house. Uncle Julian is so much diminished from the poisoning that he struggles to keep one foot in reality. He depends on his nieces to care for him, which they do lovingly. The town is happy to keep them isolated, making disparaging comments and singing a haunting little nursery rhyme about the murders whenever Merricat comes near. And it is only ever Merricat that leaves their extensive grounds to go grocery shopping and run quick errands.

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October 10, 2018
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The Year of Ireland Book Display

Every year, the JKM Library creates displays of books and resources related to the country selected as the Global Focus country for that academic year. This year, Chatham has selected Ireland! The Year of Ireland display highlights books written by notable Irish authors or written about Ireland’s history, culture, politics, etc. The intention is to make resources available to the Chatham community so you may further educate yourselves on the country of focus selected by the university.

The display can be found on the first floor of the library in the lobby area next to the New Books display. All the materials on the Year of Ireland display are available to be checked out with your Chatham ID card. Wondering if we have a specific book that you don’t see on display? Ask a librarian! We can check our catalog for any materials you’re looking for.

Some items on display include the following. To browse more, click here!

  • Dublin: The Making of a Capital City by David Dickson
  • The Gathering by Anne Enright
  • The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849 by Cecil Woodham Smith
  • Ireland’s Pirate Queen: The True Story of Grace O’Malley by Anne Chambers
  • Time and Tide by Edna O’Brien
  • Women and Politics in Contemporary Ireland: From the Margins to the Mainstream by Yvonne Galligan
  • Stories by Elizabeth Bowen
  • The Princeton History of Modern Ireland edited by Richard Bourke & Ian McBride
  • At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien
  • The Course of Irish History edited by T.W. Moody and F.X. Martin
  • The Dancers Dancing by Eilís Ní Dhuibhne
  • Death and Nightingales: A Novel by Eugene McCabe
  • Ireland in Prehistory by Michael Herity and George Eogan

August 29, 2018
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Textbooks in the Library!

For the first time ever, the library is able to offer limited textbooks for checkout! We understand how expensive textbooks can be, which is why we have embraced an idea brought to us by members of the Chatham Student Government. We now accept student textbook donations for our circulating collection. What does this mean? Well, it means that you as a student can check out any of the textbooks we have in our limited collection for four (4) days to use for classwork. You can browse the textbook collection on the third floor next to our Olkes collection. You can find them on the shelf to the right as you walk out of the elevator. If you find a book you think will be helpful, you can check it out at the Circulation Desk downstairs on the first floor.

Because these textbooks were donations from your peers, they might not be the most recent editions. This also means that our selection is still small since we rely on you for textbook donations. So what if you want to donate your old textbooks? First of all, thank you! You’re helping your fellow students decrease the cost of their education. In order to donate your textbooks to the library, bring them to either the Reference or Circulation Desk on the first floor.


Faculty are also encouraged to donate materials and make use of our Course Reserve service by putting materials (such as books, DVDs, or articles) on reserve in the library for your students to access. You can learn more about Course Reserve here.

We know that there will still be books for class that you won’t be able to find in our library, but don’t worry! You can still check E-ZBorrow or ILLiad to see if another library has what you need. If you have any questions about our textbook collection or how to find books for class, please contact a librarian! We’re available through email, phone, chat, text, and in person at the Reference Desk, and we’re always happy to help!

April 23, 2018
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National Poetry Month 2018: Suggested Reads!

April is National Poetry Month, and we at the JKM Library have a soft spot in our literary hearts for poetry. This month, student workers Alie Davis and Carina Stopenski worked together to design and curate our Main Book Display. Items selected ranged from classics like Sylvia Plath to Chatham students’ chapbooks and everything in between.

While all the poetry collections on display are worth checking out and exploring, Alie Davis has selected three that stand out to her. Read her bite-sized reviews below for poetry collections you can check out today!

Andrea Gibson’s first book, Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns, inspires action in all of its readers. This collection is brimming with brutal tenderness. Gibson covers topics that are relevant to the current political climate. This collection is full of poems about gender, love, violence, and an overwhelming optimism for surviving no matter what.

 

Lori Jakiela, a local Pittsburgh poet, released her chapbook, Big Fish in 2016. This collection sings with humor, playfulness, and light, but does not shy away from the hard things. Jakiela writes about landscape, motherhood, and giant fish sandwiches. Big Fish is a rich collection to dive into and swim through.

 

Lighthead by Terrance Hayes is his fourth collection to be published. Always blurring the line between story and song, and reality and dream, Hayes engages with how we ground ourselves in the everyday and how we construct experience. Musical and dream-like, Lighthead offers meditations on desires and history. Masterful precision of language and sound moves this collection to a Must-Read for all.

March 12, 2018
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Placing Holds on JKM Library Items

Ever found a great JKM library book while doing research from your dorm, office, or home? Wish you could have placed a hold on that item so you could pick it up later?

Well now you can!

Look for a link to “Place hold” when searching our library catalog via the Books+ tab on our website. When you are prompted to login, enter your Chatham username and password, and then you’ll be able to place a hold for the item. We will pull it from the shelves and hold it for you for 14 days.

Please be aware that if someone else finds the item on the shelf before we have a chance to pull it for you, they will be allowed to check it out.

Lastly, for items that are checked out or missing, use E-ZBorrow (for books) or ILLiad (for books not available in E-ZBorrow, as well as DVDs and CDs) to order them from other libraries instead of placing a hold. You’ll get them much faster that way.

Any questions? Ask a librarian!

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