Prepping for the Races

Spring is upon us, and with that comes the stress and busyness the end of the semester brings. To counterbalance this, there are also a slew of lively events happening around campus and the city of Bloomington. Perhaps one of the most popular events that takes place in April every year is the Little 500 bike race.

The race was started in 1951 by the Indiana University Student Foundation. In 1988, a women’s race was also started. Both events raise money for scholarships through IUSF, and to date have raised over one million dollars for working IU students. This year, the races will be held on April 15th and 16th at Bill Armstrong Stadium. The races can also be heard on the radio or watched through a live video stream. More information on that can be found through IUSF

How can the library help you prepare for the races? Here are some ideas:



Breaking Away: A film released in 1979 that follows a group of four friends who have just graduated high school in their hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, and end up competing in the Little 500 after clashing repeatedly with Indiana University students. The movie was filmed around campus and Bloomington.  Copies of this film can be found at various libraries around campus. 



The Little 59780253335739_med00According to the IU Press, this book is “the definitive history of Indiana University’s legendary bike race, The Little 500, a spring tradition since 1951 (and the basis for the Academy Award-winning film Breaking Away). Schwarb goes behind the scenes with winning teams and heartbroken losers, and chronicles the weekend’s effect on a growing campus and ever-changing student body.”

Everything is BicycleThe Lilly library is currently holding an exhibition on bicycles. The exhibition chronicles the history of the bicycle, from its rise to popularity in the 1890’s to the role of the bicycle here at Indiana University and in Bloomington.

Looking for more? Check out the IUSF and IDS twitter feeds to keep you updated on all sorts of Little 500 events leading up to the races. 

-Malissa Renno

Confronting Those “How-Am-I-Going-to-Get-This-All-Done-And-What’s-The-Point-Anyway Blues”

It’s that time of year when the libraries are filling up with students cramming for the end of the semester. [Can you believe that we only have four weeks left? (Why am I reminding myself?)]

Young man having trouble studying, on white background
Look familiar?

While we may feel like chickens with our heads cut off, overt displays of this manic energy are probably less entertaining in real life than as a star performance onstage.* It’s that time of year when we need to be at our calmest, in order to assure students everything’s going to be all right (at least we tell them that), and we can help them find those five sources for the paper they have been putting off all semester. Last semester I had a young man approach the reference desk who was in need of English sources about Korean traffic problems and potential solutions that would support his paper, which happened to be due in only two hours. He was certainly anxious, and added to my own frantic state of mind, our combined anxieties led to a less-than-perfect search. Of course that paper was probably not going to turn out as well as he would have liked, but our interaction might have been better if I was more sensitive in calming him down. We can’t do much to curb our patron’s immediate state of mind other than being calm ourselves (or offering events like De-Sress Fest, which occurred a couple weeks ago). What we can do is focus on limiting our current stress levels and being cognizant of how our interactions are affected by our personal mental states.

We all have our own problems to juggle, with group projects, overloaded work schedules, final papers, job searches, and personal relationships. So I’d like to suggest a few resources I’ve used to help keep me outwardly, and hopefully inwardly, calm and focused in this maelstrom of academic activity. Hopefully you’ll find them helpful as well, which might improve all our states of mind and relationships with patrons.

Perhaps the most useful resource I’ve used is David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, which was recommended to me by a junior faculty member who lovingly referred to it as GTD. The book focuses on making time for both the things you need to do and things you would like to do, to create a good balance of work and life oriented around priorities. Another suggestion is Christine Carter’s The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Work and Home, which follows along some of the same lines but adds the science of happiness and satisfaction that can improve your work, focus, and personal happiness. 

These readings are for a general audience (they are not in our own collection, though MCPL owns copies of both), but I don’t think we should overlook books of this ilk simply because they seem superficial, hokey, or like just a quick way for the authors to make a buck. I can tell you, while I don’t subscribe to everything these authors suggest, taking a moment and seeing how I can be more productive with less stress has been plenty freeing in the past semester.

Finally, many of us may be struggling with the big questions of why we are in higher education and information fields, and what their broader purpose is. Higher education can serve a very important purpose in our society, which we should really consider in addition to how our own personalities and skills might fit librarianship. Dealing with these questions head-on can provide an ethical component to getting things done and confronting the malaise surrounding the broader purpose of higher education and our positions as public service assistants. I’m personally looking forward to some summer reading of Michael Roth’s Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters and Helen Smalls’ The Value of the Humanities

I hope by improving our own personal conditions, combating stress, improving productivity, increasing the potential for happiness despite overwhelming activity, and considering our broader purpose as future librarians, we can become an even better (and calming) resource for our students.

-Bret McCandless

*Thus, the reference in the title to Stephen Sondheim’s “God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me-I-Oh-You-Do-I’ll-See-You-Later Blues.” 

Recognizing Asian/Pacific American literature

Beginning the last week of March and throughout the month of April, IU is celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which is observed nationally during the month of May. Because of this, it’s a great time to recognize the Asian and Pacific Islanders who have made significant social and cultural contributions to literature.

So, in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (and because librarians and library students often love to talk about books), I put together some recommendations of great works by Asian/Pacific Americans. All of these can be found through IU Libraries.

At the drive-in volcano
At the drive-in volcano, Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s third collection of poetry, spans geographic continents, from the Philippines to India to New York City, and spans the emotional continents of love found to love lost to love found again. You can read or listen to “First Anniversary, with Monkeys,” one of the poems from the collection, at Poetry Foundation.

My American Kundiman
In My American Kundiman, Patrick Rosal uses the idea of the kundiman, which is a Filipino song about unrequited love, as a source of inspiration for this collection of poetry, which is his love song to America. Learn more here.

Huntress, Malinda Lo’s second novel, is a prequel to her debut, Ash, but works as a stand-alone novel as well. While Ash is a retelling of Cinderella, Huntress is a beautifully crafted story influenced by the I Ching that tells the story of the first Huntress in the same world as, although earlier than, Ash. Learn more here.

More recommendations:


The next American revolution : sustainable activism for the twenty-first century by Grace Lee Boggs

The making of Asian America: a history by Erika Lee


Everything I never told you by Celeste Ng

The sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen


Gutted by Justin Chin

For more recommendations, check out the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, which is given out by the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association.

-Kristin McWilliams

Maker Mondays

This semester the Scholars’ Commons hosted a series of workshops to highlight different tools used in makerspaces. In case you missed it, here’s a quick rundown of the five tools we explored. And if you’re new to the maker movement, check out this recent article from the Atlantic that chronicles the rise of the makerspace in libraries.

Google Cardboard
What is it?
Cardboard housing that turns your smartphone into a virtual reality viewer
What can you do with it?
• Watch 360-degree videos on YouTube
• Play virtual reality games
• Create your own 360-degree images, or photo spheres, using Google Street View

What is it?
A kit of electronic modules that snap together to create inventions
Kits start at $99
What can you do with it?
• Make music with the Korg Synth Kit
• Make a Drawbot
• Create your own Bubble Maker

MaKey MaKey
What is it?
A kit that turns everyday objects into replacements for your computer keyboard and mice
What can you do with it?
• Play the banana piano
• Turn almost anything into a controller
• Create interactive art

Raspberry Pi
What is it?
A tiny computer
What can you do with it?
• Send your Pi into outer space
• Make a baby monitor
• Make music using Sonic Pi

What is it?
A micro-controller that allows objects to interact with their environment
What can you do with it?
• Make interactive art
• Monitor moisture levels in the soil of plants
• Keep an eye on your beehive

-Leanne Mobley

Short Stories for the Weary Student

Around this time of year, as workloads start to pile up and and midterm assignments loom ever closer, I inevitably find myself neglecting my leisure “To Read” list, and the stack of half-read and yet-unopened books I had eagerly acquired slowly starts to collect dust. As much as I enjoy reading, and no matter how many times I tell myself, “This is the year! I will make it through my entire reading list!” I can never fully live up to that expectation. School and work slowly eat up more of my time, and after spending hours doing my required readings for classes, sometimes the last thing I want to do is sit down and commit myself to reading another couple hundred pages, no matter how well-written they might be.

One solution I’ve found to help me make room for fun reading during the school year is to read short stories. They are, well, short, and don’t require the same kind of time commitment that a full-length novel usually needs. I can get through one story in an afternoon or two, and if I have a week when I can’t manage to dedicate much time to reading, I’m not picking up a novel halfway through and trying to remember what was happening when I left off. One of my favorite collections is The Basil and Josephine Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which follow the adventures and mishaps of Basil Duke Lee (based on Fitzgerald’s childhood self) and Josephine Perry. They are charming, surprisingly deep, and stick with you long after you turn the last page. And if I’m looking for something more on the mysterious and suspenseful side, pretty much any short story by Edgar Allan Poe does the trick. His poems and short stories are completely captivating and thoroughly spooky. Since I grew up in Baltimore, Poe’s work admittedly has a special hold on me, but I’d recommend them to anyone in a (tell-tale) heartbeat.

For me at least, short stories are an easier way to get in some leisure reading and make sure I still have a chance to wind down and escape for a little bit with a good story. And after all, having those moments to make time for yourself and temporarily get away from all the stresses and day-to-day worries is so important, no matter the time of year.

So without further ado, here are a few lists of top short stories and short story collections to get you started:

Classic Short Stories List from the Huffington Post

NPR’s Best Books of 2015: Poetry and Short Stories

The Short List: Best Short Story Collections of the 21st Century (So Far) from Powell’s City of Books

And if you really can’t bear the idea of looking at more words on a page, try NPR’s Selected Shorts podcast series!

-Sarah Klimek

Celebrating Queer Books

I love the serendipity of following two posts about favorite books, favorite things we want others to read and favorite things we cannot help but read and read again. I hope this list introduces you to some new favorites that you’ll be excited to read and return to, savor and share.

This January, American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table (GLBT-RT) announced the winners of the annual Stonewall Book Awards. The award, first given in 1971 to Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller, recognizes “exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.” If you’re interested in checking out the current winners and honor books from the IU Libraries, look no further.  

The word "George" in colorful letters with a little face peaking out of the O.
George by Alex Gino.

For more Stonewall Book Award winners visit the GLBT-RT’s Awards List page.

ALA’s GLBT-RT also announced the 2016 Over the Rainbow book list in January. The list compiles 68 titles published from July 2014 to December 2015 in categories such as “Top Ten Favorites,” “Art/Photography,” “Fiction,” “Graphic Narrative,” “Non-Fiction,” “Non-Fiction/Biography/Memoir,” “Non-Fiction- Essays,” and “Poetry” as well as a list of books from 2015 under consideration for the book list. What I’m trying to say is, there are a lot of wonderful options out there! Some books you can check out from the IU Libraries include:

A person stands on train tracks over a river in a blue dress, with flowers in their hair and a cane in their left hand.
Dirty River by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

Happy reading!

-thom sullivan

February: A Time for Reflection

February means a lot of different things for a lot of people. Some of us are thinking about the Super Bowl, truly a national holiday by now. Others, to be sure, are looking forward to sharing Valentine’s Day with a special someone–or possibly defiantly opposing the tradition. But for many people, February marks the annual month where we take the time to honor some of the most important and influential people in history. I’m referring, of course, to Black History Month.

Black History Month was first established as a week in 1926, long before it was expanded to a month in 1970. The United States officially accepted the practice in 1976 in conjunction with the American Bicentennial. It has since expanded to the United Kingdom and Canada, with several other countries getting involved as well. Following is just a (very) short list of the people and works you should know.

An excellent entry point into the subject would be Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Color Purple. Despite being often censored or banned, the novel has persisted for four decades, detailing the fictional stories of black women living in the South in the 1930s, before the Civil Rights movements of the fifties and sixties. It is a harsh, yet beautiful account of the lives of strong women. It later inspired a Steven Spielberg film by the same name, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Like poetry? How about music? Legendary poet of the Beat Generation, Amiri Baraka, chronicles the history of African-American music and how it was shaped by the experiences of Black cultures in his study, Blues People. Ostensibly, it is a book about music, but it goes so much deeper into the cultural impact of Black Americans. With his poetic background, you can be sure that Baraka brings a flair to his writing and focuses some attention on the intricate relationship between music and poetry.

Black History Month does not, however, focus solely on pre-Civil Rights history. Instead, the month is a time for celebrating all defining careers and moments in African-American history. The undeniable role African-Americans have played in the world of sports is showcased in two films: 2001’s Ali and 2012’s 42, respectively about Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson. Both are equally moving biopics about two great athletes.

Much criticism has been made against the celebration of months such as this–that one month is too limiting for an entire culture, that we should be celebrating all year long, that the month makes certain people out to be heroes while minimizing the effects of others. These arguments may be true, but the fact remains that it is never a bad time to enjoy some classic works by African-American creators. This year, for Black History Month, celebrate by reading some classic literature from our African-American heroes, or by watching a film detailing the life of one of America’s greats. It is a fantastic time to reflect on a formative dimension of our history and culture.

For some more information, visit the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center on campus. They recently held an event where local high school students read works by African-American authors. It was the 13th annual occurrence of the event, and the Center continues to provide excellent programs connecting Indiana University to Black culture.

-Joseph Wooley

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

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

The Auxiliary Library Facility: Only a Click Away

The Ruth Lilly Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF) is a high-density shelving facility for materials from the IU Libraries. It houses almost 2 million books, manuscripts, and other materials! While 2 million books and other items seems like a lot, Herman B Wells Library currently houses over 3 million items! To fill the ALF completely, it would take more than twice the amount of materials in the Wells Library.

Within those 2 million items currently in the ALF, you’re bound to find some pretty cool things! The Film Archive currently calls the ALF home. In this collection, you’ll find more than 55,000 films covering a variety of topics, including educational films on social guidance and productions from the U.S. Department of War. Stephen Spielberg’s first movie and John Ford’s home movies are also within this rare collection.

Not interested in film? There are literally millions of books in the ALF that might interest you! This includes books in many different languages.

Inside the ALF vault
Inside the ALF vault

The ALF consists of two vaults, with the most recent being completed in 2010. These vaults are kept at a temperature and humidity level that helps to preserve the materials inside.

Even though the ALF is not open to the public, many of the materials within can be delivered by request to Herman B Wells Library or other IU Libraries. Requesting books from the ALF is easy! Once you find an item that you are interested in using IUCat, you’ll need to click the red button on the right hand side of the page that says “Request This.” This will prompt you to select “ALF Request”. (See picture below.)

To request delivery from the ALF, simply select ALF Request.
To request delivery from the ALF, simply select ALF Request.

If you place a request before 12:00 pm (noon), it will be delivered by 5:00 pm on the same day! If you place a request after 12:00 pm, it will be delivered by 5:00 pm the very next day.

You can find more information about the ALF here.

Happy hunting!

-Jessica Neeb