Comfort Reading

The other night, I found myself watching the Hallmark channel. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a Hallmark channel movie that was actually “good” or possessed any particular quality, but they are occasionally a guilty pleasure of mine. This particular installment was no exception:

Oh good blonde Lizzie

Oh good blonde Lizzie

Naturally, this was a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with the added twist of both Lizzie and Darcy being involved in dog shows. Unnecessary name changes abounded, such as Darcy’s sister being called “Zara”, Darcy himself became “Donovan” Darcy, and most mysteriously Jane became “Jenna”. At this point, Pride and Prejudice has been remade or adapted roughly as many times as a Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

From a Pride and Prejudice Blog

From a Pride and Prejudice Blog

One could spend any length of time wondering why exactly this is a movie, but I think the reason for this is actually more in line with the idea of comfort reading (or in this case viewing) than it is Hallmark having to constantly churn out movies and running out of ideas (though that’s certainly going on, too).

Having worked at the reference desk for a year now, I’ve noticed just as often as people check out textbooks, newer works, or things for classes, they’re checking out items like The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien, and most of all any and all of the Harry Potter books by J.K Rowling. It’s likely they’ve already read these works. Most people have. However, there are some books people do not mind reading again and again and again. My mother used to read the same group of books every summer, for example.

There is no denying that Harry Potter has a powerful sway, particularly over people of a certain age. After all, the last book came out in 2007, the movie in 2011, and somehow all tweets from J.K. Rowling are still consistently trending. The reason for this, too, is simple: We grew up with these characters. They’re like old friends. Now that we know what happens to them, we want more and we want to go back and revisit their story. It’s comforting. It feels as though they aren’t really gone. Sometimes we need to know that, at some point in time, Harry is still living through all his adventures.

Jane Austen’s books have had this same power since 1813. It’s nice to see some stories are enjoyed for so long, and I think this speaks well for the future of libraries. After all, we enjoy revising stories and characters so much that Hallmark could make Unleashing Mr. Darcy with the general expectation that someone would watch it. I know I personally watched it because of the “Mr. Darcy” in the title.

And, who knows, maybe decades from now someone will adapt Harry Potter into something equally ridiculous.

-Margaret Agnew

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Read What You Love, Recommend What You Love

“Where is the classic American literature?” asks the young man who approaches my desk, baseball hat on backwards and pants sagging low. His friend stares down at his phone, seemingly uninterested in the exchange.

“Well, that might depend. Are you looking for a particular book or author?”

“No… Well… Maybe I should ask you this: What’s something you’ve read lately that you loved?”

Taken slightly aback – I’m almost never asked for reader’s advisory while working the reference desk at Wells – I pause before saying, “Well, I’m not sure… What do you like to read?”

“I just want something that’s fun to read but still has substance and meaning, you know?”

Now I’m truly at a loss for words. No one ever asks me for something with meaning – and, honestly, I can’t blame them. After an entire semester filled with school work, the last thing I want to do is think. But here is an undergrad completely defying the expectations I’ve set for my day-to-day work at the library. Substance and meaning, he says. But what to recommend?

While I had a list of recommendations available in my head, and was able to send these two students away satisfied – yes, two; the friend who seemed disinterested immediately engaged in conversation once we began discussing book titles – I had to wonder: What recommendations would my fellow public service assistants have made? Would Tessa’s recommendation, for instance, have been better-suited to these students? Or maybe Tim would have provided them with the book that became their new favorite as well.

And so the following list was born. I hope you’ll not only find something for yourself on here, a book that speaks to you personally and perhaps brings you out of the “I can’t possibly think any more today” mentality to which I’m sure you, too, occasionally fall victim. But I also hope you think of this list the next time a student (or professor, custodian, circulation supervisor, etc.) asks, “What’s something you’ve read lately that you loved?”

(The fantastic thing for those of you here at IU-Bloomington is that, at the time of this posting, most of the following books are currently available in the Wells Core Collection. And those that aren’t here yet should be arriving soon!)


Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

“I like reality reading. Grad school killed me, and I like the escape of listening to other people’s problems and how they’ve overcome them.” – Kate Otto, Learning Commons Librarian

Learn more here.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

“A fascinating book about falconry, humanity, and grief.” – Carin Graves, public service assistant

Learn more here.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakeur

“I am an avid fiction reader with a deep fear of non-fiction, but in an effort to get over my fear I read Into Thin Air. The book very much reads like fiction as a journalistic narrative of true events. Gripping and intriguing!” – Catherine Fonseca, public service assistant

Learn more here.

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard

“The story of Teddy Roosevelt and his son Kermit’s exploration of an unmapped section of the Amazon. This story is packed with suspense, adventure, murder, and more. It’s a page-turner if there ever was one.” – Brian Plank, public service assistant

Learn more here.


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

“It’s a very moving and incredibly well-written story following the lives of a young girl living in France and a young boy living in Germany, during World War Two.” – Sarah Klimek, public service assistant

Learn more here.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Tells the story, spanning years, of Ifemelu and Obinze. Starting in corrupt Nigeria, the novel follows their separate paths in the UK and USA. Themes include: race, love, identity.” – Kelsey Hayes, public service assistant

Learn more here.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

“Hard sci-fi space opera meets feminism with clear investments in gender justice.” – Nicholae Cline, Digital Research Librarian

Learn more here.

The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson

“A fascinating and disquieting look into the mind of a woman falling apart – or perhaps finally being put back together.” – Kaitlin Bonifant, public service assistant

Learn more here.

The Helios Disaster by Linda Boström Knausgaard

“A coming of age story that ties together myth and other things that make it pretty cool.” – Tim Berge, public service assistant

Learn more here.

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry

“It’s a great coming of age story about a bored boy in a small town – lots of nostalgia.” – Ryan Frick, public service assistant

Learn more here.

Lumberjanes Vol. 1 & 2 by Noelle Stevenson

Lumberjanes has it all: camping, friendship, dinosaurs from another dimension, and hardcore lady types.” – Kristin McWilliams, public service assistant

Learn more here.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

“A beautiful commentary on the act, and art, of creating. Honestly, everyone should read this book at least once.” – Kaitlin Bonifant, public service assistant

Learn more here.

The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross

“Ross combines the best of music criticism with an entertaining and informative journey through music in the 20th century.” – Bret McCandless, public service assistant

Learn more here.

Syzygy, Beauty: An Essay by T Fleischmann

“Fleischmann blends prose poetry, memoir, and art criticism into a beautiful essay on non-binary experience, art, and desire.” – Tessa Withorn, public service assistant

Learn more here.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

“Chinua Achebe was a master storyteller and ‘the father of African Literature.’ Things Fall Apart is his most famous book.” – Carin Graves, public service assistant

Learn more here.

-Kaitlin Bonifant

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The New and Improved Reference Desk

Christmas came early at the reference desk! The desk has finally been remodeled to make our presence in the Scholars’ Commons a little more welcoming and approachable. Gone are the days of patrons awkwardly towering above us or shouting for more staples from behind the printing bar! The taller counter and chairs accommodate for sitting or standing at eye level with patrons, and we can easily rotate the computer monitors toward them. It’s also easier to relinquish the keyboard and walk around to the other side, putting the patron in control of learning and discovering library tools. While the new desk has improved on a practical level, it’s also symbolic of our relationship to patrons–we’re on the same level. In the past, reference librarians were seen as “experts” responsible for retrieving the best and correct answer for the patron. However, this is problematic for a number of reasons as it relies on the librarian’s privileged assumptions and biases. Instead, we strive to guide and empower patrons, listening to their needs and helping them meet those needs.

But, the new desk doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of getting patrons to come to us at all. For the past few years, libraries across the country have been reevaluating the traditional reference desk and coming up with innovative ways to best serve patrons’ needs. Norwich University adopted a similar service point in 2011 that included seating for patrons for extended questions and research help (Ahlers & Steiner, 2012). Other libraries have introduced even more radical strategies, such as the “Help Zone” at the University of New South Wales. With no reference desk at all, this “one-stop shopping” experience seems a little more like a supermarket, but it does allow patrons to go to one prominent place for a variety of questions, and encourages patrons to learn and discover on their own, with staff serving as guides instead of experts (Fletcher, 2011). While I was working in the Reference department during undergrad at the University of Louisville, their main library also opted to demolish the desk and switched instead to a consultation model. Here, patrons could walk in and sit with a librarian or reference assistant for in-depth help. Not only did the new model cut down on the directional questions we were constantly getting at the reference desk (my particular favorite being, “Where’s the stapler?”), but it also focused the purpose of the reference desk on individual research help.

While the consultation model worked well for a smaller institution, every university is different, and the reference desk should serve the unique needs of its campus. At Wells, I think the most important reason for retaining a physical reference desk is visibility and approachability. Wells can seem like a giant, impenetrable tower meant to confuse and bewilder freshman, as well as students who have been here for several years. Even if we’re answering simple questions like how to look up books in the catalog or showing people where the nearest water fountain is, it’s important to make the reference desk the place where anyone feels comfortable asking for help. Hopefully the new desk, along with the ever-helpful reference librarians and assistants who staff it, will contribute to creating a more welcoming environment. The more we as librarians can be seen and give students a positive experience with asking for help, the more likely they are to come back.

–Tessa Withorn


Fletcher, J. (2011). Breaking down the barriers – The no desk academic library. 

Ahlers, D., & Steiner, H. (2012). The approachable reference desk: How Norwich University Kreitzberg Library’s desk got a new look. College & Research Libraries News, 73(2). 70-73. 

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Thanksgiving Spirit, Revisited

Thanksgiving has come and passed, leaving the majority of us stuffed and satiated. Yet, as finals week looms like the darkest of clouds, poised to seep the remaining life force from students, it strikes me that perhaps we shouldn’t be so hasty to put the spirit of Thanksgiving to rest. Rather, I suggest we take a moment—librarians and students alike—to appreciate and give thanks for the vast resources our libraries provide.

Too often is access to information taken for granted, a circumstance that rings especially true in the case of America’s technology-driven society. With powerful search engines and personal devices permeating our everyday lives, access to information largely goes unchallenged. Such is the relative ease with which we access information in this country that the issue of non-access is all but rendered inconceivable. Not once at the Wells reference desk have I informed a patron a resource was completely unavailable. Services offered by IU Libraries like inter-library loan (with a two-day turnaround), document delivery (with a week-long turnaround), and purchase requests nearly always fulfill information needs. Oftentimes, however, even these relatively quick retrieval periods are considered too slow by patron standards. I couldn’t begin to guess the number of students who have approached the reference desk needing resources for their assignment due the very next day. This reveals a certain expectation held by the millennial generation that information should be instantly accessible and probably points to a common belief that the general facility with which we find information is enjoyed everywhere. Yet it is important to acknowledge that this is not always the case and that our ease in accessing resources is a luxury of circumstance more so than an extensive norm.

If your Thanksgiving resembles mine, there’s always one cantankerous relative who spouts some version of the timeworn adage “You don’t know how good you’ve got it”, proceeded by an anecdote repeated for the umpteenth time regaling the hard times of yesteryear. And while a solid eye-rolling is the appropriate response accorded by tradition, there certainly is truth in the saying. A great many of us don’t truly realize the privileges we enjoy by living in a highly-developed country. One such privilege is our information infrastructure. The United States boasts one of the largest national library systems in the world (an estimated 120,096 libraries of various types); our country is practically inundated with libraries and archival depositories when compared to the dearth of information services found in developing or transitional countries.

I was confronted with the implications of this disparity a few years ago while living abroad for a year in Peru. I attended PUCP, the top-ranked university in the nation and one of the twenty-five best universities in Latin America. Despite such accolades, I was absolutely shocked at the modest size of the single university library on campus. Having attended IU during my undergrad, I was thoroughly spoiled, expecting a much more extensive collection than what I found. PUCP’s library holds roughly 130,000 books and has access to 38 databases–a paltry figure when compared to the collection held at Indiana University. Frustrated with the lack of relevant material available for my research topic (the subject matter, funnily enough, pertained to Peruvian poetry), I turned to IU’s online repository of journals and e-books as my main source of documentation.


The three-story library on the PUCP campus in Lima, Peru

Well Library: a real whopper by comparison

Here in Bloomington, we are fortunate to attend a school with not one, but roughly twenty-five library or archival institutions. That number does not even begin to cover the broader network IU Libraries integrates through online databases, the libraries of statewide campuses, and other academic library systems. At IU, students can access more than 800 databases, 60,000 electronic journal titles, and 815,000 e-books, along with non-digital holdings on campus as well as through IU’s seven other regional campuses. To make a truly illustrative comparison of the disparity in information infrastructure, our Wells Library alone—featuring a collection of roughly 3 million books—holds more physical publications than the entire Mexican National Library (a holding size of 1.25 million documents) and the Chilean National Library (a holding size of 1.1 million documents) combined!

The intent of this post is not to be didactic in nature, calling on you to extol the virtue of the United States and chide anyone who dares to want more from our libraries or nation at large. Rather, my purpose in writing was to express my own amazement at the sheer amount of information to which we have access and the incredible potential of that bounty. Perhaps growing up as a child of an immigrant, this interests me on a personal level. My own grandmother is illiterate, my grandfather did not receive an education beyond the equivalent of the sixth grade, and while my father is a fairly successful software engineer, he is completely self-taught and did not attend college. I look at the profound differences between these three generations, my own included, and it is staggering. I’ve heard about the hardships my grandparents had to endure throughout their lives, of the difficulties my father faced upon emigrating to the US, and I contrast it to my own circumstance, so very privileged by comparison. This generational evolution within my family, I believe, is almost entirely the consequence of increased access to information.

Information stands as a vehicle to education and the liberation that follows that education, and I lament the fact that the ease with which many people in this country can access information is not a global standard. So, in this post-Thanksgiving season, I’m grateful. Grateful to be a part of IU Libraries, an institution which promotes the culture of learning. Grateful to those patrons who utilize the information resources offered by our libraries. Grateful for the ways in which information access has improved the circumstances of my family and others. I guess I’m just really grateful.

—Catherine Fonseca
Suggested readings:

Global Library Statistics.” OCLC, 2014.

Havard-Williams, P. “Libraries and Information In Developing Countries.” IATUL Proceedings, 1981.

Menard, Laura. “Information Atrocities: Records and Memory in Post-Dictatorship Latin America.” Diss. University of North Carolina, 2011.

Ugah, Akobundu D. “Obstacles to information access and use in developing countries.” Library Philosophy and Practice, 2007.


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Exploring Labor in Sheet Music

As the topic for this Themester, labor has been a focus for many undergraduates across campus. Courses explore the intersections of labor with race, gender, history, technology, the legal system, and art. I am sure each course takes a vastly different approach to this topic, but there is one resource that provides a provocative insight into how labor might have been viewed in the early twentieth century. While photographs and primary documents can be extremely helpful in understanding these intersections in a somewhat more objective manner, we can also look at the popular image of these issues through other relics of the time.

I’d like to introduce you to IN Harmony, a digital library project that provides access to popular American sheet music from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries held at the Lilly Library, the Indiana State Library, the Indiana State Museum, and the Indiana Historical Society. In their era, these pieces of music could be found in many homes throughout the country, bought both for their entertainment value in a time of limited sound recording and for their eye-catching covers. The combination of the colorful cover pages and the rather frank lyrics (along with the occasionally startling melodic turn) spurs thoughts about what these lyricists and artists thought would be topical and popular enough to sell. By examining the objects these creators thought would sell well, we can start to piece together what that era might have been like.

Images abound on topics of labor, and here are just a few.

Cover art to

“Why Shouldn’t They Be Good Enough Now?” Lyrics by Kate Elinore and Sam Williams, Music by William Tracey, Cover art from the Barbelle School. New York: Shapiro, Bernstein and Company, 1919.

The song “Why Shouldn’t They Be Good Enough Now?” highlights the fact that the role of women as workers while men were at war precedes the overshadowing discussion of the return of soldiers from World War II. Sample lyrics:

“If they were good enough before/To help us win the war,/Why shouldn’t they be good enough now?”

Cover to Cotton Time

“Cotton Time.” Lyrics by Earle C. Jones, Music by Charles N. Daniels, Cover art by the Frew School. New York: Jerome H. Remick, 1910.

In the song “Cotton Time,” plantation owners happily dance to the music of African Americans who sing while they pick cotton. The music is very syncopated and reflects a common stereotype of African American music. Sample lyrics:

“In cotton time, the love bells chime./Then you will be my honey in the sunny cotton time.”

Cover page to

“This Grand Countrie,” Lyrics by Mabel Ervin, Music by Ione T. Hanna, (Chicago: Clark Ervin, 1894).

“This Grand Countrie” celebrates Eugene Debs, a prominent American socialist who would go on to found the Industrial Workers of the World and would be the socialist candidate for five presidential elections. The hymn-like setting of the song celebrates the working man, and the poem envisions an America that benefits all its citizens. Sample lyrics:

“Behold a million working men, their banners lifted high!/You can see the fire of battle in each patriotic eye!/You shall hear their shouts of vict’ry in the coming jubiliee/For these men shall be the rulers of this grand countrie!”

Cover to

“College Life March and Two-Step,” Music by Henry Frantzen, Words by Jack Drislane (New York: F. B. Haviland, 1905)

Jack Drislane’s added words to Henry Frantzen’s popular, dance-able (and apparently whistle-able) two-step celebrating the leisure of college life as opposed to the work of the real world. Sample lyrics:

“Bring back the days of the golden past,/Those good old college days,/Those days we never knew a care or strife”

The length and purpose of this blog post doesn’t really permit me to examine any of these songs in depth, but each does beg several questions: When does entertainment become political? When does labor become entertainment? How might this sheet music have been used? Why would people be interested in hearing this kind of music?

Sheet music is often neglected in many studies, but it can provide an impetus to all kinds of questions about the relationships between entertainment and pressing subjects during different points in history. Hopefully this exposure to the treasures of popular sheet music will spur some new thoughts as to the uses of all kinds of documents.

– Bret McCandless

Further resources:

The Sheet Music Consortium

Holmes, Robyn., and Ruth Lee Martin. The Collector’s Book of Sheet Music Covers. Canberra, Australia: National Library of Australia, 2001.

Walas, Tony. Visions of Music: Sheet Music In the Twentieth Century. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard, 2014.

Wenzel, Lynn, and Carol J. Binkowski. I Hear America Singing: A Nostalgic Tour of Popular Sheet Music. New York: Crown Publishers, 1989.

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A Confused Library User Turned Library Advocate

My first few years as an undergraduate were marked by an uneasy relationship with the school’s campus library. Every semester, as research papers and assignments rolled around, I dreaded the point when I would have to sit down and use our library’s website to start looking for sources on whatever topic I’d chosen. Outside of our book catalog and OneSearch article database, with which I was generally familiar, I was overwhelmed by the extensive lists of databases, digital collections, and journal titles all over our website. I never knew where to start, or how exactly they differed from one another, and usually decided for sanity’s sake to stick with the catalog and OneSearch for my research, ignoring the rest. While I could usually find enough sources to meet the basic assignment requirements with these two, my searches always felt painstakingly long and difficult. I knew there were a lot of potentially great sources I was missing out on, but I simply had no idea how to get that information.

Despite my persistent frustration with our library, I never bothered to ask anyone for help. I knew we had a Reference Desk at our library, but I always assumed that was where people went to get directional assistance, or if they couldn’t find a particular book they wanted, and that wasn’t exactly the problem I was facing. I didn’t want someone to simply find sources for me; I wanted someone to show me how to use our website more effectively and how to find relevant sources without spending ages combing through catalog result lists that mostly included completely irrelevant sources. I definitely didn’t think the Reference Desk could help me with that.

It wasn’t until I actually landed a job working at our Reference Desk that I realized how completely wrong I’d been about library reference services. Not only could the Reference librarians show me how to use our catalog, databases, and online collections more effectively, they were by far the best people I could turn to for help. I learned so much from simply talking to the different reference librarians I worked alongside and getting their feedback on how to do research in our library, but what struck me the most was how happy they were to share their knowledge, both with me and with anyone who came up to the desk. The librarians I worked with all understood trying to navigate through all of our resources and actually use the library to do research could sometimes be really frustrating, especially for anyone new to the library. They consistently went out of their way to work with students to figure out what problems they were having, and ultimately what tools and skills would best meet their needs and allow them to use the library’s resources effectively on their own.

The two years I spent working at the Reference Desk were what led me to enter the field of librarianship. I had learned so much about all our library had to offer, and I wanted to be able to share that with other students who might be struggling with using the library the same way I had. But I was also motivated to enter librarianship because I only learned about what the Reference Department did and the services it offered once I actually started working there. I knew from talking with other students and peers that many of them were just as unclear about what the Reference department was as I had been, and this made me question whether a deeper disconnect existed between the services our libraries have to offer and what students think their libraries have to offer. And that disconnect is surely affecting the impact we have – after all, how could anyone expect students to use the library, or even simply ask librarians for help, if they don’t really understand who we are, what we do, and what we have to offer?

While I’ve only just started working towards a career in librarianship, I hope to become a part of the conversation on how librarians can break down some of those barriers – and perhaps in doing so, I can help turn a few more wary students into empowered library patrons and advocates.

-Sarah Klimek

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Pictures Worth Thousands of Words

Photos have always had a big impact on me. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with parents who took pictures constantly and always took advantage of the latest technological advances in camera equipment. Today, photographs are extremely common. We’ve got cell phones that take relatively good pictures, and digital cameras we can take along with us and take as many shots of events as we would like. We can then print them off or simply post them to social media if we want.

I had to do a project a while back that required photographs. It was a project focusing on history, and they couldn’t be current photographs. I decided to dive on in to one of the many ephemera photograph databases IU subscribes to. I didn’t know we had access to these until this project, but knowing they exist now, I go back to them whenever I have the chance. In addition to photographs, I also enjoy history of all kinds, so looking at these old photographs combined two things I have an interest in. I always have fun examining old photographs in an attempt to better understand what life was like during that time period. Words can take you so far, but photos allow you to really see things exactly as people during that time did, without your brain filtering in and making it’s own choices on what objects would have looked like.

One of the collections I used for my project was the AP Images archives. Many of these images are iconic and easily recognizable. You can search for whatever you want, but what truly makes this collection interesting is they break down the photos into categories, if you’d just like to browse. They even have a “today in history” category.

The Charles Cushman Collection also fascinates me. Cushman spent many years traveling to different areas and taking photographs. He ended up donating his collection to IU, where it was digitized. If you’d like to see the everyday lives of many types of people, then this collection is right up your alley.

Today, we take photos for granted in many ways. I know I enjoy just taking a quick photo of something instead of trying to describe it to a friend or family member; it’s simply faster. That doesn’t make photos less valuable, though, and we need to remember to step back and see more in the image than just the mundane object it may be capturing.

-Malissa Renno

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Don’t Forget Thanksgiving!

November is here. Another Halloween has come and gone, and people are going through the last of their candy. Stores are taking down the aisles of ghouls, princess costumes, and Halloween-themed candy and replacing them with items for the next festive season: Christmas.

Wait, come again? Aren’t we missing something here?

People tear down their ghost and pumpkin décor and begin to shop for the Christmas trees and lights. You walk around the stores today, and even before the end of the Halloween season, you see the orange and black gradually displaced by red and green. Christmas coupons and advertisements are already designed and printed, waiting to be sent to your mailbox. Meanwhile a small shelf of Thanksgiving decorations sits in its lonely corner, overwhelmed by aisle upon aisle of ornaments, Santa Clauses, and snowmen.

So in order to celebrate the coming of Thanksgiving, here are some highlights from the IU collections!

First up is a photo of Herman B. Wells cutting a turkey on Thanksgiving, 1954:

HB Wells Turkey

Herman B Wells Cutting the Thanksgiving Turkey

Speaking of food, did you know a group of IU students known as the International Friendship Association put together a campus-wide Thanksgiving dinner in 1997? The goal of the event was to teach international students about the holiday and provide food for those who couldn’t leave IU over the short Thanksgiving break:

dinner 2

International Friend Association’s Thanksgiving Dinner

dinner 1

International Friend Association’s Thanksgiving Dinner: Entertainment

Next we have an excerpt from The Vagabond, a bi-monthly periodical published from 1923 to 1931 featuring poetry, visual art, essays, criticism, short stories, and humor targeted to the Indiana University community:

Thanksgiving Comes But Once a Dozen alias Wild Life Among the Cracker by Wolfgang Beethoven Bunkhaus Pg 1

Thanksgiving Comes But Once a Dozen alias wild life among the cracker by Wolfgang Beethoven Bunkhaus, Pg 1

Bunkhaus, Pg 2

Bunkhaus, Pg 2

I’m not sure who Mrs. Baker was, but she sounds like a lively person…

Finally, for those of you looking to get into the Thanksgiving spirit, here are some great Thanksgiving-themed movies to check out:

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

A Charlie BrownThanksgiving

Pieces of April








-Julia Kilgore

For more information, see:

Herman B Wells cutting the Thanksgiving turkey. Department of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

International Friend Association’s Thanksgiving dinner. Department of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Bunkhaus, Wolfgang Beethoven. Thanksgiving Comes But Once a Dozen alias wild life among the cracker. Department of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles. Directed by John Hughes. Hollywood, CA: Paramount, 2000.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Directed by Bill Melendez and Phil Roman. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2008.

Pieces of April. Directed by Peter Hedges. United States: MGM Home Entertainment, 2004.

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A Portrait of the Library as Treasure Island

When I was twenty-one years old, I lived in a shabby four-bedroom house in a shabby college town with six other twenty-one year olds. It was disgusting. I shared a bedroom with a fine art student named Peter Van Wie. Peter often put on jogging shorts and a headlamp to go to the art studio late at night. There he would cover himself in paint and stomp all over his canvas. He dumped woodchips and trashcans on his paintings and then peed on them. When he was finished, he’d crawl into the art studio sink and bathe himself. Sometimes he painted pictures of giraffes. Peter was weird.

When we slept, we slept on a bunk bed. After our other roommates went to bed, we would turn off all the lights and light an oil lamp. We called it “the midnight oil.” Often while burning the midnight oil, we would find new ways to entertain one another. Sometimes we arm wrestled, sometimes we had dance parties on our roof, sometimes we tried to eat all the cereal in the house so that our housemates’ mornings would be ruined, sometimes we collected forty televisions and stacked them floor to ceiling in the living room.[i] We spent too much time together.

One night, we built a treasure chest. In it we put locks of our hair, money, pages from our favorite books, pictures of motorcycles, a mix cd, and a cassette tape with a recording of our last will and testament. We spent the rest of the night walking through town writing hints and riddles, drawing pictures, and counting paces, all for the purpose of making a treasure map leading to our really cool and very valuable treasure chest. The night ended with us burying the treasure under home plate of the only baseball diamond in town. The next morning, we went to the public library and put our treasure map in an old copy of Treasure Island.

This incident has been on my mind lately. A couple weeks ago, a man at the reference desk asked for a call number for a dissertation. The dissertation was in ALF.  The patron was leaving town that day, but said he’d get it the next time he visited Bloomington. He went on to explain that while working on their Ph.Ds., he and his friends joked about how no one checked out dissertations after they were written. As a testament to this, they all put $10 bills in their dissertations with the intention of coming back years later to see if they were still there. After he left the reference desk, I requested his dissertation from ALF. Unfortunately for me, Charles Costa’s dissertation on Indiana school finance changes between 1963 and 1983 had been checked out via interlibrary loan in 1990 and the $10 was gone.

The point of these two ridiculous stories is to illustrate the unnoticed, un-assessed, and untraceable ways in which the library is used by patrons. Those uses are intrinsic to the value and charm of a library. Hiding little notes in books is an innocent and fun way to communicate with a complete stranger, who at the very least has in common with you an interest, however fleeting, in the same book. Activities like this are not essential, but they do happen and they do mean something to those involved. Of course, it is completely impractical and will never land anyone a job, lead to better grades, help someone finish a dissertation or thesis, or teach someone how to nail an interview. No meeting will ever discuss the ways in which the library can better foster patrons leaving secrets, correspondences, treasure maps, or money for another user to find in the stacks years down the line. It would be impossible to do so, and would compromise the integrity of the activity to try. As more books are moved offsite and more room is made for computer stations, offices, and study rooms, the library is becoming more practical, more useful, increasingly efficient, and staying relevant in the twenty-first century. While I think all those things are good, I can’t help but feel something is being lost along the way. Something that can’t be accessed online, or if requested before noon, picked up at Wells the same day.

-Tim Berge

Costa, C. (1984). Identification and analysis of Indiana school finance changes and trends, 1964 through 1983 (Doctoral Dissertation). Indiana University, Bloomington.

Stevenson, R.L. (1998). Treasure island. New York: Oxford University Press.

[i] Here is a video of Peter standing on our coffee table in front of 40 televisions late at night, eating what I think is cereal.

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Bitten: A History of Vampires

Long before the age of Stephanie Meyer, vampires were a horrific fixture of our culture. Movies, art, and literature have almost turned them into an obsession within the horror genre. For almost two hundred years, the lore behind these mystical beings has evolved, but many of the core facets–blood, sunlight, garlic, etc.–remain the same. And if you are truly serious about exploring these fascinating characters, you can get a great overall sense of what makes a vampire in the shelves of Wells Library.  

Where better to start our evil inquiry than Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula. To be sure, it is the definitive vampire novel, popularizing many of the qualities familiar today. It introduces a mysterious aristocrat taking up residence in London, only to prey on victims for their blood. The story also establishes Abraham Van Helsing, possibly the first example of someone who has made a career of vampire hunting. Drawing heavily on a short story (John Polidori’s 1819 “The Vampyre,” which can be read here, in print or online), Dracula can absolutely be credited with bringing the horror icon into popular culture.

Let’s turn to film: two classic, early entries to the vampire saga are F.W. Murnau’s silent 1922 film Nosferatu and the 1931 film Dracula (available at our Music Library here) featuring Bela Lugosi as the Count. Both films hold up incredibly well, and are in many ways just as terrifying as modern horror films. These films continue the tradition of a mysterious Transylvanian gentleman who is more than he appears. In these films, we also witness two means by which these monsters can actually be vanquished–sunlight and stakes to the heart.

Nosferatu Shadow

The iconic scene from the 1922 film. Notice the creepy angles and shadows!

When you’re ready to make a long-term commitment, you can dive into the 90s television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a story that tells just as much about being a teenager in the nineties as it does about vampires. We follow a young girl as she deals with the day-to-day mundanities of high school, followed by a nightlife of hunting and killing vampires. And don’t forget to start the spinoff, Angel, when it’s time (somewhere around season 4 of Buffy).

Buffy and Angel

Sigh. High school.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I did not mention several modern choices of vampire literature. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles is one such example, adding new themes to its characters and blurring the lines of their moralities. I also have to mention what is probably my favorite Steven King novel, Salem’s Lot, an incredible story about a town overrun by monsters after a pair of strange men set up an antique shop. Finally, there is a rule on the Internet:  If it exists, there can be romance (or something more explicit than that). At any rate, you are all familiar with the phenomenon of the Twilight franchise. Is it just me, or is the popularity of these books and movies finally slowing down?

If you consider yourself even a passing fan of horror, then you already have a grasp on one of the most famous villains of the genre. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t dig a bit deeper into the legend. It is truly a fascinating journey.

-joseph wooley

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