Friday, August 7, 2009

What You Need to Know: Part 2 (Fall 2009)

I just realized that I haven't said anything about what books I've read in the past couple weeks. So much for that habit.

The main reason for that is The Dumbest Generation, which I started and put down when I got within 100 pages of finishing. In case you're curious, this book discusses what feels like a couple thousand studies, all of which outline a pretty basic, simple fact: the people of my generation, the so-called Millennials, don't read. At all. And this will destroy our civilization. Cheerful.

I put it down before finishing because another book kept distracting me: the Selected Poems of Alfred Tennyson, Baron Tennyson. I usually call him Lord Alfred -- he's one of my favorite poets, along with a few others from that era, but I hadn't read his stuff in a long time, so I finally caved in and brought The Dumbest Generation back here so I could focus more fully on that. Absurd, really: I put down a book that was telling me that I don't read -- in order to pay more attention to a book of Victorian poetry.

Since then, I've gone through The Age of American Unreason, which is sort of similar to The Dumbest Generation, but instead of focusing only on my age group, Unreason examines some of the more disturbing trends in American society over the past few decades toward anti-intellectualism for a number of reasons, culminating -- and this isn't a political opinion, it's just what the book says -- in the last presidential administration. Really a fascinating book. Also Never Let Me Go, which reminds me a lot of Margaret Atwood's work -- which is a good thing if you liked The Handmaid's Tale, not so much if you didn't like Oryx & Crake. It's the gently-dystopian story of a trio of clones in Britain who were bred for organ donations and the ways in which their lives intertwine as they, both together and separately, slowly figure out what it means to be a human being in the face of a society seeking to deny them that knowledge. It's a beautifully-written story -- especially if you like the English countryside, which, in this book, appears to be less damp and more scenic. It also happens to be one of those books with a very ambiguous ending; it's up to you whether or not to feel a sense of closure. Terrific book.

Out of the above, only The Dumbest Generation and Never Let Me Go are on display. Selected Poems and American Unreason don't have very eye-catching covers, which happens to be one of my major criteria for deciding whether to put a book up on display. You can still find them easily, though -- just click on the linked titles above and that'll take you right to their records and call numbers.

Now that that's over with, back to more utilitarian considerations.

Last week, I took you through this blog's previous posts which could be classified as focusing mostly on the librarians, the collection, and our equipment and important resources, as well as a kinda-sorta FAQ. This week, we'll be looking at directly research-related posts -- if you're wondering about how to get started on your research here at the Library, this is where you should start -- and the Questions of the Week by category.

First up: Finding Journal Articles
Part 1 | Part 2
This pair of posts details the process of finding journal articles in our databases. Part 1 gives a general overview of how to find journals in ALADIN and what most of the terms mean, as well as good general advice for starting your research from a broader standpoint (when you know the topic but not the specific articles you want to find). Part 2 gets even more specific, starting with a sample citation and explaining exactly how to find the article it belongs to.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
This series of posts is considerably more comprehensive. Part 1 discusses how to access databases from off-campus, which can be a sticking point for people who are not used to having to log in to see an article. After this point, the general idea is to familiarize you with the hows and whys of databases -- Part 2 covers how our access works (and explaining why it may seem to be funky from time to time), Part 3 is about why our access works the way it does and how much databases cost in general, and Part 4 includes a preview of new stuff we may be getting in the coming months.

Questions of the Week
Bear in mind: all Questions of the Week (or as we refer to them around here in our e-mail missives, QotWs) appear at the bottom of the linked posts. I've split up all the QotWs into four rough categories, as follows:

Library building
What's up with the recent construction around the Library? (July 31, 2009)
Why is the big skylight in the middle of the first floor blocked by sails? (June 12, 2009)
Where can I plug in my laptop or charge my phone? (June 5, 2009)
Does the Library own the entire building? (May 22, 2009)

Library system and policies
How does a new student get into the system? (July 24, 2009)
Why do the Library hours change? (May 15, 2009)
How do the shelves behind the Service Desk work? (March 27, 2009)
What is the Consortium? (March 13, 2009)

Library collection
How does the Library make room for all the new books? (June 19, 2009)
How do I get the Library to buy a book I'd really like to read? (April 17, 2009)
What are "microforms" and how do I use them? (April 3, 2009)

How do I search for a movie in ALADIN without having to wade through a long list of books? (May 1, 2009)
How do call numbers work? (April 24, 2009)
Why can't I find what I'm looking for? (April 9, 2009)
What does 'peer-reviewed' mean? (March 6, 2009)

Alternatively, you can click on the 'qotw' label in the sidebar to the right to see all 15 of them in one go.

Since there are 15 Questions of the Week in this post alone, I'll give you a break and forgo it this week. I also mentioned last week the possibility of comparing our plans for the summer from back in May with what's actually happened, but we'll put it off until next week -- this post is quite long enough already, thanks to my bookish babbling up top.

I'm off to watch the Nationals play Arizona (I would have said "lose to," but my boss is a Nats fan, so ... ). Enjoy your weekend ... if it doesn't rain too much!

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