In the wake of tragic shootings across the country (most recently Alton Sterling and Philando Castile), you may find yourself searching for answers as to why this kind of violence keeps happening. The library may not have all of the answers for such a complex tragedy, but we have some resources to help you start the conversations if you aren’t having them already. Which brings us to a first in what we hope will become a regular series: Have You Read? where we highlight books in our collection that can help you start the conversations that matter.
Today we encourage you to pick up the critically acclaimed work by Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement. Since its publication in 2010, the book has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year; been dubbed the “secular bible of a new social movement” by numerous commentators, including Cornel West; and has led to consciousness-raising efforts in universities, churches, community centers, re-entry centers, and prisons nationwide. The New Jim Crow tells a truth our nation has been reluctant to face.
by Guest Blogger: Danielle Trierweiler
June commemorates LGBT Month (also known as LGBTQ or simply “Pride” or “Gay Pride” month), honoring the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and, depending on the individual or organization, queer communities of the United States and Internationally. For the purpose of inclusivity, I am including the “Q” in writing this blog entry just know that the meaning behind the acronyms is often a work-in-progress.
Celebrated since 1994, when a high school teacher coordinated the event in October to converge with National Coming Out day, (October 11th) but is now celebrated in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Manhattan New York, associated with the “beginning” of the LGBTQ movement and socio-political watershed moment for the community.
LGBTQ month has gained prominence in both the individual and national consciousness through a combination of court cases, activism, art and filmmaking, popular culture, professional career role models and mentorship, education, and private conversations to name just a few. Dialogues on what it means to be a community member, advocate, or ally are constantly shaping daily realities and the future of the movement.
Festivities include parades, public concerts, barbeques, poetry readings, pool parties, and other often public activities. Many US Cities hold major a city-wide event. Pride Seattle for example, is a big deal!
Illinois College is home to its own student LGBT advocacy group SAGE (Straight and Gays for Equality) if you are interested in becoming involved on campus.
Reads: The American Library Association (affectionately known as ALA to those of us in the library) supports a GLBT Roundtable appointed to present the 2015 Stonewall Book Awards List
Lambda Literary.org, also presents a literary award organization for excellence in LQBTQ literature. Of course, Schewe’s display case offers some excellent titles at IC but if you are reading this from a distant land or simply not here in the library, Schewe Librarians (me!) are happy to connect you to our display reading list.
On May 29th 2015, President Obama issued his most recent Whitehouse proclamation acknowledging the month.
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This week, Illinois College administration outlined a plan to radically change the way students purchase their textbooks and course materials. Up until this announcement, things were done pretty traditionally at IC: professors prepared a list of the books their classes would be using for the coming year; the campus bookstore purchased said books; and students went to the bookstore and bought (some of) their books. On the fringes of this equation were third-party retailers (Amazon.com, eBay, etc.), and Schewe Library, who often purchased a select number of textbooks to supplement their course reserve materials. In theory, this arrangement worked, save for one caveat: the students weren’t getting their books! Many wouldn’t purchase a portion of their books, a few wouldn’t purchase any, and with the Library having only incomplete textbook coverage (with short loan periods), the Library could only provide so much support to those who hadn’t made a purchase.
This scenario was not unique to IC, however. Students all over the nation are purchasing textbooks at a sharply declining rate. The reasons for this are multivariate, but uncontrolled price inflation, piracy, availability of alternatives, and good old fashioned sharing seem to be the primary drivers. Fed up with students arriving unprepared to class, and perhaps more cynically, seeking to bolster its student retention rates by obliging unfettered access to course materials, IC has contracted the campus’ textbook-and-course-materials contract to a course materials management firm, Rafter. For a set price, Rafter provides all students rented access to their course texts and readings, either in physical or electronic form. Should the student wish to subsequently keep the text, they may do so at additional cost. As best I am aware, there is no opt-out for the program.
Predictably, students were outraged by the program. Putting aside the “mommy knows best” dimensions of the initiative, the most common student refrains addressed the allegedly-high-costs of the program, the lack of an opt-out, and the fact that the program did not cost-differentiate between classes of student (i.e. fourth-year versus first-year, science versus humanities, etc.). Valid concerns, all, but also voiced too late in the process to impact the (at least initial) implementation of the program.
From a professorial and/or administrative view, this program is a win. It relieves students of their purchasing responsibility, and also disincentivizes the students from engaging in illegal and/or time-consuming behaviour to game the system for a few bucks. Under this arrangement, the Library also benefits as well, as we’re no longer expected to outlay scarce resources on textbooks which will not meaningfully bolster our collections. The students, however, are resentful of the program’s mandated costs, and also feel patronized by the implication that they can’t manage their own education. Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess, but I think we can all agree we’re entering a new era at IC. Comments?
For those unaware, Banned Books Week is an annual event spearheaded by the American Library Association. Banned Books Weeks celebrates the right to read freely, and is often commemorated at colleges and universities with a public reading of banned and/or challenged books. In talking with students about the event, many were surprised to discover that books are still being banned. Of course, the usual suspects (dictatorships, Communist regimes, nations with a high religiosity) account for the majority of book bannings nowadays, but America is not without fault in this tableaux. Parents groups, religious advocacy organizations, and “concerned” citizens have, quite successfully, had books banned at both the local and municipal levels. State and Federal bans seem more-or-less impractical at this point, but books removed from schools and libraries are books that might never find their way into the hands of those who most need them, and so the issue is still one of concern.
With regard to IC, we held a successful Banned Books Week reading on 25/09/2014. The event featured IC students, staff, faculty, and administration reading from a variety of banned and/or challenged books. The readings ranged from more modern selections (including the Da Vinci Code [banned in the Vatican] and Captain Underpants [banned in a whole variety of places]), to more classical works (including The Holy Bible [the most thoroughly banned book in the history of the world] and Candide [banned for scandalizing virtually every member of the French aristocracy during the 18th century]). Though attendance was modest, we managed to get two hours worth of readers, and all enjoyed themselves on a beautiful autumn day.
Having stewarded Banned Books Week events for 30-odd years, we librarians are (perhaps naively) hoping that the idea of banning books is becoming more unpalatable to the world. Google, social media, and the Internet have certainly helped in this regard, but the fact that we’re still holding these events suggests more can be done. What then is the next frontier? Our Circulation Manager, Sarah Snyder, had a pretty sharp idea: Banned Ideas Week. You’d think “banned” ideas wouldn’t exist in a higher education environment, but not so. There are hot-button issues in higher education which, de facto, one simply does not take certain positions on (promotion of intelligent design theory, climate change denialism, the suggestion that genetic factors play a significant role in the formation of racial differences, etc.). There are also topics which are generally avoided for reasons of job security/institutional politics (tenure reform, adminstrative expansion, hiring quotas, etc.). Maybe it’s time we carved out a space for banned ideas as well. Thoughts?