Blogs: Homework databases

If you’ve selected a person for your next biographical report but there are no books about them don’t spend hours looking through Google search results; instead check out Multnomah County Library’s biographies database list.  In these databases you can find quick facts, articles, encyclopedia entries, and even a search engine devoted to famous people.

Still need more information? If you are headed online be sure to evaluate the website before trusting the information. Here are some good questions to ask when doing online research:

1.     Who is the owner of the site? Is it clear who the author of the information on the page is? Is there a way to contact the author or owner?

2.     Is the website trying to sell or persuade you to buy something?

3.     Check the website’s URL to check the authority and validity of the website. When researching, “.edu” and “.gov” are good indicator that it is an official site.

4.     Is the site kept up-to-date, with current links, new material and a creation date listed?

5.     Based on the information you already have, does the website appear to have accurate information? Are there spelling or grammar mistakes?

If you need more help, ask a librarian.

The story of a brave Cambodian mother who saved her family

On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh. The war was over, or so we thought. But instead of celebrating the end of the conflict, all citizens of the capital were ordered to leave the city. 

Wikipedia logo.Wikipedia, is a free encyclopedia with over 5 million articles in multiple languages, created by users all over the world. Can you trust all of them? Probably not, although this website can be great for finding a quick answer when you don't need the information to be 100%-guaranteed accurate.

Your professor or teacher might say that you can't use Wikipedia when you're writing a research paper - but this doesn't mean that it's not useful to you in your research. Many of the articles in Wikipedia have citations indicated throughout them, and a list of references at the end where the authors are claiming to have found their information. This doesn't prove that everything in the Wikipedia article is true - but if you find a fact that you need, you can use the citations and the list of references in the article to find out which source might have that fact. 

And if you need help finding any of the sources listed in your Wikipedia article, just ask a librarian and we can help!

Photo of a cameraYou need a photo or an image for a project you’re working on. You need it fast. You don’t want to pay anything to anybody, or get sued for copyright violation. Luckily, there are a lot of sources on the Web for finding royalty-free images! (Royalty-free = you don’t have to pay any money to use it.) Here is a list of some of the best websites for finding these types of photos and images. Is there a website that you like to use? Add a comment and let us all know!

The creators of many of the images on these websites are giving up some of their copyright protection and allowing you to use their photos and artwork. However, they may have usage rules that they require you to follow: for example, they might ask you to attribute the creator of the image if you use it. (Attribution = including information, on your website or wherever you use the image, saying who made the image and where you found it.) Before you copy or use any image, it’s a good idea to look at the webpage for the image and check for usage or licensing rules. I’ve included links to the general usage rules for many of the websites in this list. Quick disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide advice regarding your legal rights. However, I can help find material that might assist you in your research, or help you learn how to contact a lawyer. Questions? Please ask!

Creative Commons logoCreative Commons Search - http://search.creativecommons.org: Creative Commons is an organization that creates standards for sharing content on the Web (photos, videos, writing, anything!) This webpage has buttons to search many different websites for images and other content that are free to use based on Creative Commons standards - choose a website and then type in your search. Searchable websites from this page include Flickr, Google Images, Wikimedia Commons, and more. Usage information is included on the bottom of the page, below the buttons for the different sites.19th century painting of an American schooner

U.S. Government Images search - https://search.usa.gov/search/images?affiliate=usagov&query=: The USA.gov search engine lets you look for photos and images from the federal government. You can find photos of just about anything, from satellites to Socks the cat, with little or no usage restrictions. Most of the results take you to images located on the Flickr website: before you use the image for your own project, make sure to look for usage information on the image's Flickr page.

Children reading a wireless newspaperThe Commons - http://www.flickr.com/commons: The Commons is a section of the photo-sharing website Flickr which provides access to images from public photography archives at museums and libraries around the world. It’s a great place to find historic photos, and everyone (including you!) is encouraged to add comments and tags to the images. The photos on this site have “no known copyright.”

Encyclopedia of Life - http://www.eol.org: this website’s mission is to “increase awareness and understanding of living nature,” and it includes information and images on all kinds of living creatures, from moths to amoebas to mollusks to monkeys. It includes many images, most of which are free to use as long as you attribute the source. Here is a usage statement for the site.

Photo of a flowerMorgue File - http://www.morguefile.com: a morgue file is “a place to keep post production materials for use of reference.” In other words, it is a place to store things. In this particular online morgue file, you can find many high resolution stock photos. Here is a usage statement for the site.

Openclipart - http://openclipart.org/: Unlike many websites which offer photos to use, this site has royalty-free clip art (clip art = little images and drawings ready to use in electronic documents). You can even register and submit your own clip-art for other people to use! Here is a usage policy for the site.Scissors illustration

Are websites not your thing? Do you prefer books? Well, the library still has plenty of those. We have many books of illustrations and prints on all sorts of topics, most of them royalty-free. To find them, just do a subject search in the library catalog for “clip art.” You’ll find books with images of Victorian women’s fashion, birds, children’s book illustrations, fairies, and much more, many of them including CD-ROMs with computer files of all the images in the book. At the end of this blog post is a book list showing examples of the types of clip art books that the library owns.

If you still have trouble finding the images that you want, or if you have more questions about any of this, you know what to do: Ask a Librarian! We’ll be happy to talk more about it.

Images included in this post:

If you think cells are simple boring organisms, well think again, cells are in fact fascinating basic structural, functional living organisms that also refered to as "Building Blocks of Life". Even though cells come in all shapes and sizes, they seem invisible to our eyes. We need the aid of microscopes to explore the world of cells. You can visit “A Tour of the Cell” by clicking on the video below provided by Bozeman Science. Further, you can find out more about cell division through this link “Scientists Solve a Mystery of Cell Division” provided by Today’s Science.

Chromosomes, DNA and Genes

The command center of a cell is it's nucleus. Within the nucleus is the genetic material or the blue print of each cell also known as DNA. The DNA molecules form into a structure that shapes like a letter X. For more information about chromosomes and DNA check out the videos below. 

 

This post contains high levels of drugs, crime, and lawyers. What we may be missing is quite enough justice…

Statue of Lady Justice

How often do we hear the words of the Miranda Warning, You have the right to remain silent; you have the right to an attorney in our favorite cop shows?  Usually, that’s where the show ends. And yet the real story is only beginning. 

I admit I really don’t spend much time thinking about criminals or lawyers, except to avoid them.  So when Attorney General Holder gave a speech to the American Bar Association  last month about how we send people to prison, saying that “as a nation, we are coldly efficient” at putting people in prison and that “we must face the reality that, as it stands, our system is in too many respects broken”, I had only a vague idea of what he was talking about. Turns out it is all about numbers: The number of prisoners, the number of years they are in prison, the number of cases that public defenders have, and the money we spend as a nation.  The forces at play?  Mandatory minimum sentencing and the 6th amendment’s right to an attorney.

The right to an attorney can be found in the Bill of Rights. Our modern idea of it is from the case Gideon vs. Wainright:  When Clarence Gideon was tried for stealing $55 dollars and breaking into a pool hall the State of Florida told him they didn’t have to give him an attorney.  He was sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and used that time to change the legal system

Mandatory minimum sentencing says there are crimes people shouldn’t serve less than a set amount of time for.  They aren’t new- the minimum sentence for the killing a meat inspector was set in 1907- life in prison or the death sentence.  (That's the year after Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was published.)  Then in the mid 80s and 90s sentences were set for a wide range of drug crimes.  The effect?  The U.S. now has the highest prison population in the world, but not in any equal sort of way, and we spend huge amounts of money ($80 billion in 2010) locking people up.  

Sing-Sing Prison in the early 20th century

When people are sent to prison for set amounts of time no matter the situation, things just get weird.  And don’t let me forget the Cooperation Paradox: the more involved you are in a criminal enterprise, the more information you have to bargain with- meaning that the criminals who are the guiltiest get the lighter sentences.  

So, two very different parts of the legal system.  What happens when they collide? Nothing good.  There are too many people in the system for the number of public defenders.  Many people never actually see their lawyer- or a trial.  In a wonderful if curse laden interview by John Oliver with the director of the documentary “Gideon’s Army” Dawn Porter they explain better than I ever could

Steve Edgar, Prison number 21655

So let’s head back to where we started: Holder’s speech for the Smart on Crime Initiative.  The gist of the initiative is that by focusing on prosecuting the most serious of criminals and not snaring everyone else in mandatory minimum sentencing crimes, the Department of Justice will be able spend money and effort elsewhere, saving people from the system and the system from the burden of all those people.  It’s pragmatic and surprisingly readable.  Changing the laws will literally take an Act of Congress, but the U.S. Attorneys can choose how to charge people.  Will it work?  I can’t tell you that.  I’m a librarian not a seer.  But we can hope for the best.

Curious to know more?  Check out the Reading and Viewing List on the subject or ask us a question!

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