Thursday, May 28, 2009

World History Rules

Our latest book display explores world history. A wide variety of subjects get cataloged in the world history area (909). Since the display is popular, I thought that it would make a nice blog entry. Often people miss these books because they look at the area for a specific country instead of this more general area. I have been having a good time exploring this area and I hope you will too. Listed below are the most popular books from the 909’s.

The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam
by Riley-Smith, Jonathan

In order to understand the preoccupations of Islamist jihadis and the character of Western discourse on the Middle East, Riley-Smith argues, we must understand how images of crusading were formed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

I Wish I'd Been There (R), Book Two : European History
by Hollinshead, Byron (Editor, Author); Rabb, Theodore K. (Editor, Author)

What is the scene or incident in European history that you would like to have witnessed—and why? This is the question that the editors posed to twenty superb historians, who each wrote a personal essay in response. The result is this engrossing book, a worthy sequel to the acclaimed volume on American history,I Wish I’d Been There.

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
by Huntington, Samuel P.

Huntington here extends the provocative thesis he laid out in a recent (and influential) Foreign Affairs essay: we should view the world not as bipolar, or as a collection of states, but as a set of seven or eight cultural "civilizations", one in the West, several outside it; fated to link and conflict in terms of that civilizational identity.

How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped the Modern World : The Vikings, Vandals, Huns, Mongols, Goths, and Tartars who Razed the Old World and Formed the New
by Craughwell, Thomas J.

This highly readable, entertaining, but authoritative book contains action-packed stories, little-known facts, and information from the latest research on the barbarians and their importance in world history.

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997
by Brendon, Piers

A magisterial work of narrative history, hailed in Britain as “the best one-volume account of the British Empire” and “an outstanding book”. Brendon tells this story with brio and brilliance; covering a vast canvas, he fills it with vivid firsthand accounts of life in the colonies and intimate portraits of the sometimes eccentric British officials who administered them. It is all here—from brief lives to telling anecdotes to comic episodes to symbolic moments.

The Other
by Kapuscinski, Ryszard; Lloyd-Jones, Antonia (Translator)

Reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski reflects on the West's encounters with the non-Europeans throughout the ages. Kapuscinski traces how the West has understood the Other from classical times to colonialism, from the age of enlightenment to the postmodern global village. He observes how today we continue to treat the non-European as an alien and a threat, an object of study that has not yet become a partner in sharing responsibility for the fate of the world. In our globalised but increasingly polarised post-9/11 age, Kapuscinski shows how the Other remains one of the most compelling ideas of our times.

The Great Upheaval : America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800
by Winik, Jay

Winik offers a comparative history of the 1790s “the decade that made the modern world” that focuses on the experiences of the United States, France, and Russia. In interweaving the political histories of these three countries, he hopes to demonstrate not just the intertwined fates of nations and individuals but the world-spanning forces and conflicts of ideologies, cultures, and religions.

Mysteries of the Middle Ages : And the Beginning of the Modern World
by Cahill, Thomas

From the bestselling author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, a fascinating look at how medieval thinkers created the origins of modern intellectual movements. After the long period of decline known as the Dark Ages, medieval Europe experienced a rebirth of scholarship, art, literature, philosophy, and science and began to develop a vision of Western society that remains at the heart of Western civilization today, from the entry of women into professions that had long been closed to them to the early investigations into alchemy that would form the basis of experimental science.

The Secret History of the World : As Laid down by the Secret Societies
by Booth, Mark

They say that history is written by the victors. But what if history - or what we have come to know as history - has all along been written by the wrong people? What if everything we've been told is only part of the story? What if it's often the wrong part?" "In this groundbreaking culmination of a lifetime's research, Mark Booth embarks on an enthralling and mind-opening journey through our world's secret histories. Starting from a dangerous premise - that everything we've been taught about our world's past is corrupted, and that the stories put forward by the various cults and Mystery schools throughout history are true - Booth produces nothing short of an alternate account of the past three thousand years.

The Sixties Unplugged : A Kaleidoscopic History of a Disorderly Decade
by DeGroot, Gerard J.

This book revisits the Sixties we forgot or somehow failed to witness. In a kaleidoscopic global tour of the decade, Gerard DeGroot reminds us that the Ballad of the Green Beret out sold Give Peace a Chance; that the Students for a Democratic Society were outnumbered by Young Americans for Freedom, that revolution was always a pipe dream, and that the Sixties belong to Reagan and de Gaulle more than to Kennedy and Dubcek.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Let's see...Should a post about an excellent obituary web site go to the Library's newsletter, its Web Site of the Month page, Facebook page or right here on the Blog? Or maybe I should just tag it on Delicious or add a page to the Reference Department wiki. (We're so 2.0!) Well, by now, you're probably aching to know just what this site is, so Blog it is. was created to help people cope with some of the practical tasks that abound after a family member has died. There are resources on writing eulogies, obituaries, thank yous, funeral readings and more. Equally useful are the links for finding newspaper obituaries. Clicking on a state and then a town newspaper brings you right to recent obituaries. This is not an obituary database, so we can't search more than one newspaper at a time and each newspaper provides a different sort of coverage. A useful site for those dealing with a death.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Emmy Award-Winning Libraries and a Record-Setting Book

Congratulations to the Douglas County Libraries in Colorado for their Emmy Award-winning Public Service Announcement, "Discover Your Library." Check out their PSA video below, it's a fantastic visual representation of how libraries connect people with the world of information--and it even features our long-lost friend, the card catalog!

In related award news, the late Agatha Christie is now a three-peat Guiness World Record setter. Previously having the record for the best-selling author, and the author with the longest-running play, Agatha Christie has set another record with the publication of a 4,000 + page collection of her stories, being the book with the thickest spine in the world. If you'd like to purchase this limited edition book, you're looking at a price tag of £1000. From the website:
Measuring over a foot long, with 4,032 pages, the volume contains the complete Miss Marple stories – all 12 novels and 20 short stories.

With 252, 16-page hand-sewn sections, the production values of this limited edition are amazing and the attention to detail is remarkable. Bound by Cedric & Chivers Period Bookbinding, cased in Winters Wintan leather, blocked in gold on the front and spine, with head and tail bands, four silk ribbon markers to keep your place, and with only 500 made, this special limited edition is for fans and collectors alike.


Thursday, May 21, 2009


With the consumer in mind, we have set up a Consumer Table on the second floor in Reference. You may consult resources such as:Also look for our free brochure entitled Consumer Resources which offers a listing of print, subscription databases, and websites to you in making informed purchasing decisions.

Online Databases we offer include:

  • General Onefile (Remote use)--Includes Consumer Reports and Consumer Reports On Health

These databases may be accessed through our catalog database page.

...AND the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health have provided an excellent, free database, MedlinePlus, which brings together authoritative information from the NLM, NIH , and other government agencies and health-related organizations to help answer health questions. The database gives easy access to medical journal articles. MedlinePlus also has extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and the latest health news. (Information taken from MedlinePlus database.)

So don't shop uninformed. Stop by the library or use our databases to find the information that will bring you the best results!

Monday, May 18, 2009

3000 Characters in Search of Content

Which of these is most likely to make the heart of a reference librarian sing?

a) the sight of a Nancy Pearl action figure moving her finger to the Shhh position.
b) the addition of Diabetes Type 1 to the Dewey Decimal System.
c) the arrest of Shelly J. Koontz for not returning a library book.
d) the retrospective digitization of newspapers and magazines.

If you guessed (d) then you might be interested in this great story from Australia. It seems that the National Library of Australia embarked on an ambitious project to digitize over 3 million pages from Australian newspapers (from 1803-1950s). Wait: pause the story for a little background.
While scanning images is by now pretty mundane, the recognition of those images as letters and words is still more than a bit spotty. In order to search those scanned pages for particular subjects, the search engine must recognize each little squiggle as a specific letter and then groups of those letters as words. Faded type, blotches, tears and other blemishes on the originals make for a lot of mistakes. Human beings (remember them?) are extremely useful for correcting these errors.
So, back to the story. The National Library, not having nearly an adequate budget to hire humans to read every article, quietly put out the word among researchers that help was needed. Before they knew it, they had over 3000 volunteers (genealogists, historians, researchers) making words out of squiggles and even applying tags to stories. Some volunteers are working up to 50 hours a week! Talk about singing hearts...
(Thanks to Research Buzz for the story)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Books for book groups

Are you always at a loss trying to pick new titles for your book group to read? Well, help is on the way! The Wellesley Free Library subscribes to the Novelist database, which has a special section of book discussion guides. The best part of these discussion guides is that they not only include questions, but also have the answers! To access Novelist, go to: and type in your library card number, then choose Novelist from the list of available databases. The link to book discussion guides is in the column on the left of the Novelist home page.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Care of DVDs and CDs


Dirt, fingerprints and scratches of any severity can prevent a disc from working properly.

Remove dirt, fingerprints, etc. by wiping with a clean, soft, dry cotton cloth in a straight line from the center of the disc outward.

Carefully remove the disc from its case by pressing or squeezing the center button and easing the disc out gently.

When the disc is not in a player, please keep it in its case.

Please hold the disc by the EDGES ONLY.

Do not touch the silver (unlabelled) side of the disc.

Do not expose discs to extreme temperature changes or sunlight.

Young children should not handle the discs by themselves.

Please check the contents of the case for ALL DISCS before returning.

Please alert the library staff if a disc is not playing properly. We check and clean all questionable items before returning them to the shelf.

With your help, we can greatly reduce replacement costs and provide a more comprehensive collection for your listening and viewing pleasure.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Remember PRINT Magazines?

The Best New Print Magazines
I find magazines make great gifts. There are so many niche magazines, you can almost always find a publication to match the peculiar interests of those on your birthday list. Check out Library Journal for an interesting list of Best Magazines launched in 2008. The mags cover a range of subjects from cheese to the Bible to the NCAA and politics. In addition, read a concise summary of the current state of magazine publishing.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Reader's Bill of Rights

The Reader's Bill of Rights are the creation of author Daniel Pennac. His book Better Than Life asks important questions about reading. What happens in the life of a child that makes him enter school longing to learn how to read, and then leaves him loathing the act of reading by the time he leaves grade school? Many of the “rights” go against the grain, yet the goal of The Reader's Bill of Rights is to create students who love to read.

The Reader's Bill of Rights
1. The right not to read.
2. The right to skip pages.
3. The right to not finish.
4. The right to reread.
5. The right to read anything.
6. The right to escapism.
7. The right to read anywhere.
8. The right to browse.
9. The right to read out loud.
10. The right to not defend your tastes.

Hop on a Wagon Train to the Stars

With the recent release of the new Star Trek Movie I thought some space opera would be fitting. This type of science fiction uses a large scale narrative often extending over long periods of time, and involving many people who are in some cases related. Intergalactic adventures have come a long way since the old “westerns in space”.

Isaac Asimov, the Foundation series start with Foundation

Asimov’s classic, Hari Sheldon founder of the theory of psycohistory attempts to prevent the Galactic Empire from falling into a new dark age.

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Vorkosigan Series start with Ethan of Athos

Ethan braces himself for his first encounter with those most alien of aliens--females of his o
wn species. Light and full of laughs.

Michael Flynn The January Dancer

Full of rich echoes of space opera classics from Doc Smith to Cordwainer Smith, this is the story of an ancient pre-human artifact of great power, and the people who found it

The Firestar Series start with Firestar

A story set around the rebirth of innovative technological expansion on earth and in space.

Peter Hamilton, The Night's Dawn Trilogy start with The Reality Dysfunction

Epic in scale, with dozens of characters, hundreds of planets, and universe-spanning plots,
that range from wooden huts and muddy villages to sentient starships and newborn suns.

The Commonwealth Saga start with Pandora’s Star

Over one thousand light-years away, a star . . . vanishes. It does not go supernova. It does not collapse into a black hole. It simply disappears. Since the location is too distant to reach by wormhole, a faster-than-light starship, the Second Chance, is dispatched to learn what has occurred and whether it represents a threat.

The Void Trilogy start with The Dreaming Void

Now an even greater danger has surfaced: a threat to the existence of the universe itself. At the very heart of the galaxy is the Void, a self-contained microuniverse that cannot be breached, cannot be destroyed, and cannot be stopped as it steadily expands in all directions, consuming everything in its path: planets, stars, civilizations.

Ken Macleod Newton's Wake

Across the universe in the aftermath of the Hard Rapture-a cataclysmic war sparked by the explosive evolution of Earth's artificial intelligences into godlike beings-a few remnants of humanity managed to survive. Lucinda Carlyle, head of an ambitious clan of galactic entrepreneurs stumbles upon a forgotten relic of the past that could threaten the Carlyles' way of life.

Alastair Reynolds the Revelation Space Series start with Revelation Space

Something annihilated the Amarantin civilization just when it was on the verge of discovering space flight. For the human colonists now settling the Amarantin homeworld, what caused the species' destruction is of little more than academic interest. Reynolds is an astrophysicist expect some "hard science".

John Scalzi Old Man’s War Series start with Old Man’s War

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news i
s that planets fit to live on are scarce—and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. Reading Scalzi is a lot like reading Robert A. Heinlein.

Karl Schroeder Permanence

This is the story of Rue's quest to visit and claim this ship and its treasures, set against a background of warring empires, strange alien artifacts, and fantastic science. It is a story of hope and danger, of a strange and compelling religion, Permanence, unique to this star-faring age, and of the re-birth of life and belief in a place at the edge of forever. A complex and satisfying story of interstellar intrigue, cosmology, theology and nanotechnology.

The Virga Series start with Sun of Sun’s

An adventure filled tale of sword fights and naval battles set on Virga, a balloon-world warmed by artificial suns.

Charles Stross, Accelerando

For three generations, the Macz family has struggled to cope with the rampant technological achievements that have rendered humans near obsolete. And mankind's end encroaches even closer when something starts to dismantle the nine planets of the solar system in an effort to annihilate all biological lifeforms.

David Weber, Honor Harrington Series start with On Basilisk Station

The Basilisk Station was a place to sweep incompetents, fools, and failures under the rug or to punish officers with enemies in high places. Commander Honor Harrington has enemies, and she's about to make more of them. It’s Horatio Hornblower in space.

Starfire Series start with Crusade

Neither side in the Human-Orion war was strong enough to defeat the other, so it fizzled into an uneasy peace filled with hatred and mistrust on both sides. Then a ship appeared from the dim mists of half-forgotten history, and fired on the Orion sentry ship, igniting the fires of interstellar w
ar anew. Weber is at his best when writing military science fiction.

Scott Westerfield Risen Empire

The undead Emperor has ruled his mighty interstellar empire of eighty human worlds for sixteen hundred years. Because he can grant a form of eternal life, creating an elite known as the Risen, his power has been absolute. He is worshiped as a living God. No one can touch them. Not until the Rix, machine-augmented humans who worship very different gods: AI compound minds of planetary extent. The Rix are cool, relentless fanatics, and their only goal is to propagate such AIs throughout the galaxy.

Walter Jon Williams Dread Empire’s Fall start with The Praxis

For millennia, the Shaa have subjugated the universe, forcing the myriad sentient races to bow to their joyless tyranny. But the Shaa will soon be no more. The dread empire is in its rapidly fading twilight, and with its impending fall comes the promise of a new galactic order . . . and bloody chaos.

Verner Vinge A Fire Upon the Deep

A gripping tale of galactic war told on a cosmic scale. Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit a universe where a mind's potential is determined by its location in space, from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths. Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these "regions of thought," but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artifact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence. A Fire Upo
n the Deep won the Hugo Award in 1993.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New Google Tools

Google recently released a couple of their famous Google Labs projects (of which gmail, GOOG-411 and Google Maps are all graduates), which have been causing a stir recently.

A twist on Google Images, Similar Images allows users to disambiguate images corresponding to words with double meanings (think Paris as in France and Paris as in Hilton). Beyond that helpful step lies another, and more interesting method of searching: once you've entered your search term and have your list of results, you can further refine the results by image size, content or--even cooler yet--by color. For example, try this search for sea anemone, and then see what happens when you limit the results to the color blue.

As fun and helpful as Google Similar Images is, Google News Timeline is by far the more useful and, by extension, more interesting. Drawing its content from diverse sources such as Retrosheet (sports scores), blogs, Wikipedia, and Freebase (for media and images), News Timeline also includes magazines and newspapers via the Google News Archive and Google Books. Once you've entered your search term, you'll be presented with a navigable field going through the decades, chock full of relevant news results. Going forward or backward, you'll see as the interest in the story grows. Of greatest interest to us librarians, however, is the ability to add more sources to your queries, helping define your results to more relevant materials.


Changing Your Life One Byte at a Time

Cool Tools
There are just so many cool gadgets for computers! Now I have to admit that my own computer habits are not exactly cutting edge. I wait for my colleague Mike to try things out and then show me how they work. But that doesn't stop me from being wowed by really really clever tools. There's Ning for creating your own social network, Wikispaces for creating your wikis, Audacity for audio production and ...if you're still reading this why not go to Jane Hart's site for Top Tools for Learning 2009. There are separate lists for learning professionals and for "learners" (everyone else?). The descriptions and comments are uniformly well-informed and the rest of the site is also worth exploring. Some of the tools cost money, but most seem to be free. And if you discover some awesome product, please let us know via comments.