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.


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.

Little Known Thanksgiving Facts

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879), who tirelessly worked to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, was also an advocate for education. She was the first person to advocate women as teachers in public schools, the first to advocate day nurseries to assist working mothers, and the first to propose public playgrounds. She was also the author of two dozen books and hundreds of poems including “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

The Lilly Library at Indiana University Bloomington contains the book “Poems for our children: designed for families, Sabbath schools, and infant schools, written to inculcate moral truths and virtuous sentiments.” This book contains the first book appearance of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Guide to the Collections: Food & Drink

Random Facts about Thanksgiving

Poems for our Children

A Song of National Thanksgiving


A Virtual Cornucopia of Thanksgiving Tradition

For most college students, Thanksgiving symbolizes a much-needed break in a long Fall Semester, trips home to visit friends and family, football, and perhaps most importantly, food. Most of us went through elementary school hearing romanticized stories about pilgrims, Native Americans, and the first feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts. However, it is less likely that we have considered the actual origins and practices of the first Thanksgiving. Curious about the historical origins of the Thanksgiving holiday? Wonder why we eat turkey instead of chicken or pork on Thanksgiving? Interested in knowing where many of our favorite Thanksgiving foods come from? Then check out these resources to learn more about our Thanksgiving dinner traditions and how they have evolved over the years.

The Documents Behind Thanksgiving
Check out this blog post, courtesy of the Government Information and Kent Cooper Services Department at the Herman B Wells Library, which provides links to historic documents explaining how Thanksgiving became an official national holiday.

“Give Thanks, all ye People”
The song “Give Thanks, all ye People” celebrates President Lincoln’s declaration of Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday in 1863. Courtesy of INHarmony: Sheet Music from Indiana and the Indiana University Digital Library Program.

Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday
For an in-depth history of Thanksgiving from the days of the Puritans to the 21st century, read this e-book, available free online for students from IU Bloomington, Columbus, IUPUI, East, and Southeast.

Thanksgiving Maps and Posters
Librarians from the Geology Library have created a list of maps using a Geographic Information System (GIS) program to illustrate which U.S. states produce the largest quantities of some of our favorite Thanksgiving foods.

Drake Cookbook Collection
For recipe ideas to help create your own Thanksgiving feast, check out the Drake Cookbook Collection, available in the HPER Library.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America
Use this database to find information about Thanksgiving or about the origin, history, and use of individual food items.

Thanksgiving feast

With all of these resources, the next time you sit down with your family to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast, you’ll wow them by telling them where sweet potatoes come from and astound them with your knowledge of why pumpkin pie is the traditional Thanksgiving dessert! Even if you choose to keep this knowledge to yourself, at least you can give thanks for the library’s virtual cornucopia of information! Have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the break!


T-Minus Three Days

Thanksgiving is still three days away and already the Information Commons is looking deserted!  Most of us are probably headed home, others are staying in, but there’s one thing that’s for sure:  pretty much none of us want to spend any time of our precious break inside the walls of the library!  Therefore, in the spirit of the holiday, I’ve created a list of things that I’m thankful for … things OUTSIDE the IC. 

Here are some things that I’m thankful for, as a librarian-in-training and as an IU grad student …

G – Getting a break from classes, woot woot !

I – Image databases, like ARTstor and AP Photos.  It’s so easy to use these and find really high-quality pictures, and it’s nice not to worry about watermarks or the other difficulties with using a Google image search.  If you appreciate art or architecture, or need pictures for a poster or presentation, you should definitely check out ARTstor! Just type it into the main search box on the libraries’ page and it should come up first.

V – Virtual reference services.  By using the Ask a Librarian button on the libraries’ home page, I can call, email, or send an anonymous chat to a librarian … from wherever!  So when I’m struggling from home this break, I know there’s someone I can turn to.

E – EBSCO databases.  I’m thankful for these AMAZING databases (like Academic Search Premier, found in the Resource Gateway drop-down list) that search multiple places all at once, saving me so much time!  I’m thankful that they have all the cool options that they do, but I’m especially grateful that they create citations for me so I don’t have to worry about APA/MLA style reference pages anymore!


T – Technology.  I love that I can stay in touch with my friends and family no matter where I am.  I also love that IU has such strong tech support and I can take my laptop to the Support Center in the IC and get things fixed asap.  They have the Geek Squad beat, for sure!

H – Holiday-themed candles.  Nothing gets you in the spirit more than a pumpkin-pie-scented room!

A – Access to SO much with the click of a button!  I am thankful that I don’t have to worry about coming to the library and sorting through card catalogs like people used to have to do.  The online catalog and all the online resources are amazing, and they definitely come in handy for those of us who tend to procrastinate!

N – New and old movies that I can check out for free in the Media & Reserve Services room.  I love that they have video games, language-learning cds, and seasons of tv too.  I can keep them for an entire week, so I don’t have to make blockbuster runs over the holiday … score!

K –  I’m thankful for this super helpful website, and it still amazes me that so many people don’t know about it!  It’s a place where you can search for all sorts of technology and IU related help info.  I always use it when I have questions about printing or software.

S – Sweet professors who give extensions on assignments until AFTER break.  You know you appreciate the extra time !  So take advantage of these away-from-the-library resources and have fun, productive breaks!


A feast is worth a thousand words

Pumpkin pie and whipped cream dreams from

Thanksgiving…it’s just a few weeks away and I can already  smell the pumpkin pie. Whether you’re looking forward to a traditional turkey dinner, or this is the first time you’re experiencing our American tradition of eating too much and being thankful for it, we have some appetizing books to get you ready for the big day! Forget all those deadlines looming just around the corner and take a few minutes to remember all you have to be thankful for…family, friends, the Internet and food!

These titles can all be found in the IC Undergraduate Collection on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Wells Library West Tower. If they’re not on the shelf, try finding them in the special features display across from the IC Reference Desk…this month, it’s all about the food! Last, but not least, find all these books and more on our great list of cookbooks and foodie reading on Worldcat.

An Edible History of Humanity (GT 2850 .S73 2009): The bestselling author of “A History of the World in 6 Glasses” brilliantly charts how foods have transformed human culture through the ages. (WorldCat review)

Food Matters (RA 784 .B55 2009): From the award-winning guru of culinary simplicity and author of the bestselling “How to Cook Everything” and “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” comes a plan for responsible eating that’s as good for the planet as it is for the waistline. (WorldCat review)

In Defense of Food (RA 784 .P643 2008): “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” These simple words go to the heart of food journalist Pollan’s thesis. Humans used to know how to eat well, he argues, but the balanced dietary lessons that were once passed down through generations have been confused and distorted by food industry… (WorldCat review)

Righteous Porkchop (TC 930.2 .N56): Part memoir, part expose, “Righteous Porkchop” offers a searing account of the factory farm industry–and the effects the techniques have on health and well-being–by an engaging crusader who finds love and purpose along the way. (WorldCat review)

Food: the History of Taste (TX 353 .F668 2007): Traces the history of food from the hunters and gatherers to the modern consumer age and a new landscape for gastronomy.

From Hardtack to Home fries (TX 360 .U6 H33 2002): As any cook knows, every meal, and every diet, has a story — whether it relates to presidents and first ladies or to the poorest of urban immigrants. From Hardtack to Home Fries brings together the best and most inspiring of those stories, from the 1840s to the present, focusing on a remarkable assembly of little-known or forgotten Americans who determined what our country ate during some of its most trying periods… (WorldCat review)

Cooking Green (TX653 .H49 2009): The foods we eat and the ways we buy, store and prepare them are significant contributors to global warming. This information-packed volume, from cookbook author and founder Heyhoe, provides detailed guidance for those looking to make their cooking and eating habits earth-friendlier. (Publishers Weekly)

American History Cookbook (TX 715 .Z36): This book uses historical commentary and recipes to trace the history of American cooking from the first European contact with Native Americans to the 1970s.  (Abstract)

The New Taste of Chocolate (TX 767 .C5 P74 2001): Presilla, a marketing consultant for a Latin American chocolate producer, explains the history, science and production of what many consider the world’s most delectable snack.  (Publishers Weekly)