When genetically-modified wheat was discovered in an Oregon field in the spring of 2013, the long-standing debate over genetically-modified foods intensified. How was Roundup Ready wheat created? And how did it end up in a field in Oregon, years after it was discontinued? What is the government’s role in regulating such technology?
Citizens and scientists have been debating the pros and cons of GMOs for years. Polls have shown the public is skeptical. Environmental and food safety organizations are concerned about the risks GMOs pose for humans and the planet. However, the companies engineering the crops, such as Monsanto, insist they are safe, as do some farming groups. A number of scientists take a middle ground, acknowledging the potential benefits of genetic engineering but criticizing the current use and regulation of GMOs. Some writers have even argued for an “open-source” model of food genetics.
For an excellent overview on this issue, check out Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center in Context, which contains articles, statistics, audio files, and images. You’ll need to log in with your library card number and PIN to access this resource from outside the library.
Are you looking for some specific information not covered here? Contact a librarian for help.
A few years ago, I walked the Great Glen Way in Scotland. Ever since, I've been wanting to go back to Britain and do another walk, but I wasn't sure exactly where to go. After reading a review of Simon Armitage's Walking Home: A Poet's Journey, I immediately put a hold on the book. I had heard of the Pennine Way and thought perhaps I might like to try a portion of it as it is mostly in the northern part of England which I love.
Thankfully, I actually read the book and learned that there is no way in heck that I would ever attempt even a small part of 268 miserably wet and foggy miles that Armitage experienced on his journey. That being said, it was a lot of fun to read about someone else doing the trail! Armitage is a well-known poet, and decided that he would fund his trip by doing poetry readings almost every night of the 19 days he spent on the trail. Sometimes only a few showed up, but other nights the pub or hotel where he was staying was packed, and people gave generously. Armitage mixes in several poems he wrote along the trail with his thoughtful, humorous and self-deprecating journal. While I won't attempt his journey, the narrative has inspired me to seek out his poetry.
The felt swan shown here, on display in the Hermitage Museum, dates from the 4th-5th centuries BC. An object made of felt and deer hair with the figure supported by wooden stakes, it was part of a burial mound in the Eastern ranges of the Altai region in Russia. This image is from the book Felt, by Willow G. Mullins, an account of the many uses of felt over spans of centuries to contemporary times. It is an example of a type of book in the library that can serve as good starting points for your imagination, beginning with raw materials.
When experimenting with various types of media and processes associated with them, another type of book that is useful to remember about are the books about art hazards. As many people know from studying art, it's easy to forge ahead and forget that some of the properties of materials may be less than benign for health.
Summer may be winding down but there's still plenty of time to find a bestseller, discover a new author or explore a brand-new genre. Need some suggestions? Take a look at the following lists from selected newspapers and websites and see what appeals.
Lots of holds on a must-read title? Don't despair! Library shelves are full of new books to discover. If you're in the mood for sweeping tales that span centuries and generations, browse the Epic novels and stand-alone sagas reading list. If you prefer a quick read, try Stories, samplers and short works, engaging writing that can be read in one sitting.
Be sure and pick up a Read4Life adult summer reading game card to record your books. Return your card to any library by August 31st - you'll be entered to win an e-book reader.
NPR's Summer books 2013 critics' lists have something for everyone -- historicals, romance, forgotten classics, the urban experience, comics and poetry are some of the categories. USA Today features booksellers' picks for summer reading; scan their predictions for hot fiction, nonfiction and "sleepers" and see if they're on track. The LA Times' Summer Reading Guide includes 156 book picks: thrillers and young adult books, history and novels, memoirs and science fiction, pop culture books, kids books and more.
Find out-of-the-mainstream titles on Your mega summer reading list: 200 books recommended by TEDsters (designer Chip Kidd, editor Maria Popova, choreographer Bill T. Jones, to name a few). More hot, new and undiscovered titles appear on the DailyCandy's 14 New Books That Save Brain Cells This Summer: Essay anthologies, scorching family dramas and more.
Subject-specific lists to consider: Scientific American's Best Summer Books, recently-published science books worth reading selected by SA editors, bloggers and contributors; Theater Books for Summer Reading on the Broadway & Me blog; JP Morgan's Summer 2013 Reading List offers "a global exploration of topics including philanthropy, gender equality, business and art"; stretch your mind with some readable philosophy from the hosts and guests of Philosophy Talk.
Librarians love to steer book lovers to Indiebound, the independent booksellers website. Book groups will enjoy their Summer 2013 Reading Group Indie Next list. And no reading list would be complete without Oprah's summer picks: best cookbooks, compelling paperbacks, arresting memoirs and much more.
The books in the Library about the art of Maori people and other groups from the islands of the South Pacific provides us with "a sense of awe, the admiration for arts that are both beautiful and profound, with a history that commands our respect both for what we can know of it and what we cannot." - Arts of the Pacific Islands by Anne D'Alleva. This summer, the Library added a new book published in 2012, titled Art in Oceania: A New History, that spans art of the Pacific Islanders from the remnants of thousands of years ago to contemporary artists of this decade. Chapters describe by centuries the impact of political and social changes upon art of these islands, with effects of trade, war, and globalization of culture.
Many of the sculpture and other objects of wood, stone, and textiles historically were created for ceremonial uses, with elements of design and representation of human form that far exceed the merely practical. The wood carving shown here on the cover dates from 1896, by Tene Waitere, a master woodcarver and teacher, who during his lifetime created many commissioned works such as this panel. It is an example of the powerful sculpture and other forms of art in this book, interspersed with photographs, poetry, and stories from master craftsmen, artists, tribal leaders, travellers, and historians.
View an excerpt from this book from the publisher, Oxford University Press.
Looking for more books about the art of this region of the world? There is a good selection at Central Library. Find them collectively in the Library catalog with a search by subject heading: Art- Oceania.
You 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 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.
U.S. Government Photos and Images - http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Graphics.shtml: This webpage gives links to many different government websites offering photos and other media like videos. There are links to photo sites for all sorts of topics, from science to space to money to military. The webpage includes this usage statement: “Some of these photos are in the public domain or U.S. government works and may be used without permission or fee. However, some images may be protected by license or copyright. You should read the disclaimers on each site before using these images.”
The 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.
Morgue 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.
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:
- Photo of a camera, by Rodrigo Senna from Brasília, DF, Brasil (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Photography.jpg
- Creative Commons logo, http://creativecommons.org/
- 19th century painting of an American schooner, courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/collection-search-result.html?accession=1991.144.1&pageNumber=1
- Children reading a wireless newspaper, http://www.flickr.com/photos/nationaalarchief/4193509648/
- Photo of a flower, http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/196907
- Scissors illustration, http://openclipart.org/detail/25380/scissors-half-open-icon-by-pitr-25380
This probably won’t come as a surprise but librarians like questions. And we really like answers. We like finding them and sharing them. But there are questions that don’t work that way: What is right and what is wrong? When do you keep a secret? Is it ever OK to break the law? Where should a person’s loyalties lie? Complicated in the best of times, when you enter the world of whistleblowers these questions really get messy. It’s not that they don’t have answers, more that they don’t have only one answer. And as the stakes get higher, often the answers are harder to pin down.
According to the National Whistleblowers Center, we have laws to protect people who “stop, report, or testify about employer actions that are illegal, unhealthy, or violate specific public policies”. Seems pretty clear, right? Well…only sort of. It’s just that no one seems to agree on what counts as being whistleblower and what is just breaking the rules. NPR reported a recent study that found that 55% think NSA leaker Edward Snowden is a whistleblower while 34% call him a traitor. And any of you who are good at math will notice that those numbers don’t come anywhere near 100%. So while we wait to discover Mr. Snowden’s future, let’s meet some other players in the whistleblowing world. And whether you prefer to read the Handbook, follow the official paper trail or sneak a look at Hollywood’s take, the library has you covered.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Whistleblower programs each received around 3000 tips from both private and public employees. They oversee the laws to protect people when they come forward with information. For many cases, this might be as far as it goes. Does the relative anonymity of these cases make them any less complicated or risky? Or is it true that we are all the stars of our own dramas? At the other end of things we have some of the country’s best known if not always the best loved whistleblowers who were involved in everything from Watergate, to police corruption, to nuclear power, to farming. And an entirely different approach to whistleblowing was introduced to the world by Wikileaks, who instead of blowing the whistle on one thing publish any and all secrets. Even from these few examples it’s obvious that being a whistleblower is a precarious and downright dangerous thing to be, even if they do make a movie about you.
If you want to explore this topic more, 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.
Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
There are loads of you out there who love to read a fat book (Hi, Mom!). You're drawn to authors like David McCullough, Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin. I've always regretted that I'm not one of you. I was not at all looking forward to reading this fat book, but it was for a book club so there was no getting around it. I cajoled myself with thoughts like, 'it won the Pulitzer Prize--it'll be good for you,' like it was a giant vitamin, and 'c'mon, you really like science writing.'
So I did it. I read Emperor of All Maladies because I had to. And sometimes when you read something you wouldn't normally choose, you stumble on something that will keep you thinking for weeks after. Like the little boys, as young as 4, who were apprenticed or indentured as chimney sweeps in England during the 17 and 1800's, working nearly naked in flues as narrow as nine inches square. If asphyxiation or burns didn't get them as kids, then dying in young adulthood from cancer caused by the soot that stuck to their bodies seemed almost guaranteed. I'm thinking of the sort of 'why don't we try this?' experimentation on cancer patients through history. I'm thinking of the horrifying, radical surgeries, done for decades, with the idea that cancer could be physically removed by surgeons if they just removed enough flesh. I'm thinking of the amazing discoveries of scientists that seemed almost random, like a light bulb suddenly went off over their heads in a very, very dark room.
We've all lost a loved one or friend or neighbor or coworker to cancer. Or maybe you're fighting its spread in your own body right now. Every week it's in the news. A new medication, a gene discovered, a warning about food or chemicals or the environment. Strangely, and I didn't expect this, reading Emperor was a comfort to me. That we really have made progress. That each form of cancer is so specific, working on the big picture is important. And working on the rare, one-in-a-million cancers is just as important, because the science behind a discovery is always connected to something else, even if we don't know what it is right away.