Saturday, October 24, 2009

Notable E-book: American Ethnic Writers

It's always been easy enough to research well-established literary writers of the the type I generally refer to as "Dead White Guys." Esteemed writers like William Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne and John Milton have been read and studied by English students for a hundred years or more. Scores of scholarly treatises have been written about their lives and work. So, if you do a bit of research in any of our literature databases, you will find materials on the symbolism of "The Minister's Black Veil" without undo effort.

But in the last thirty years, the editors of literary anthologies and many college professors have tried to widen the spectrum of authors that students read. They have rediscovered "lost" women writers like Charlotte Perkins Gilman and looked to contemporary writers of every race and ethnicity to expand our experience of literature.

The problem is that it takes a long period of time for a body of literary criticism to develop around a particular author. And sometimes it is still hard to find even a short overview of a contemporary "minority" author who might appear in a textbook anthology.

One three volume set, published by Magill/Salem Press, and available on our GVRL platform, helps fill the gap. It is American Ethnic Writers, Revised Edition, published earlier this year. As the editors claim: "This edition of American Ethnic Writers covers not only the core writers and the classics of African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Jewish American, and Native American novels, short stories, plays, and poetry—but many recent voices as well." They continue that "all major American minority cultures are covered: African American, Asian American, Jewish American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American; the set also includes 94 women. The authors represented here are identified with one or more of the following ethnicities: African American (103), Caribbean (5), Chilean American (1), Chinese American (14), Cuban American (7), Dominican American (1), Filipino American (4), Japanese American (7), Jewish American (31), Korean American (1), Mexican American (24), Native American (20), Peruvian American (2), Puerto Rican (12), South and Southeast Asian American (6), Spanish American (1), and Vietnamese American (1)."

So, yes, you will find Sandra Cisneros and Gish Jen profiled here. And, clearly an attempt has been made to represent many forms of diversity beyond obvious racial/ethnic heritage, too. Gay authors like Harvey Fierstein and radical feminist writers like Andrea Dworkin can be found here. (Both are conveniently identified as "Jewish.") But even writers who are simply multicultural in their approach to literature and life are included, like the "Euro-American" Barbara Kingsolver.

To use the book, just click on the link in our online catalog entry. You can then either plug the name of the author you want into the "Search....within this publication" box to the left. Or you can browse authors using the "eTable of Contents" link in the middle of the opening page. The entries are clearly written, but brief. A good starting point for your interest and research. But don't forget to explore those previously mentioned literature databases to (hopefully) find more materials in the journal and reference book literature. And keep in mind that your author might be profiled in some other ebooks in our GVRL collection, as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Database: Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center

Sawyer Library recently added a new database via the Boston Region contract that will be a helpful tool for anyone researching contemporary "hot button" social issues, with an eye towards a balanced, both-sides approach to coverage.

Called Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center, it is, according to the publisher Gale/Cengage, "a full-text resource covering today’s hottest social issues, from Terrorism to Endangered Species, Stem Cell Research to Gun Control. Drawing on acclaimed series published by Greenhaven Press and other Gale imprints, Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center brings together all the information that’s needed to fully understand an issue: pro and con viewpoint articles, reference articles that provide context, full-text magazines, academic journals, and newspapers, primary source documents, government and organizational statistics, multimedia, including images and podcasts, links to hand-selected web sites, and more."

The database is very user-friendly. When you go to the opening screen you will notice that there is a long, two-column list of some of the most "popular" topics. But you can also do your own basic search using the box on the left.

Let's say that even though I see "Animal Rights" listed in the hot topics, I decide to look for materials that speak directly to vegetarianism. If I do a basic search for that

The default tab is the "Viewpoints" section that presents arguments about the topic, like the entry "Human Consumption of Animals is Immoral" from a 1999 Opposing Viewpoint Digest. More up-to-date materials are also available, like an item entitled "A Vegan Lifestyle Is Necessary to Stop the Mistreatment of Animals" by Bruce Friedrich, from Current Controversies: Rights of Animals, 2009.

And note those other colorful tabs above the results that lead to materials like "Reference Books," "Academic Journals" and "Statistics." For different topics you will find more or less material of various levels of usefulness at these other tabs.

Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center is just another tool for those interested in a pro-con debate-oriented presentation of social topics. CQ Researcher is another excellent source for both sides to key social issues. And a periodical available through Academic Search Complete, called Congressional Digest, is another very useful pro-con resource.

For more on Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center, you can take a look at some materials prepared by the publisher: An Overview Factsheet PDF, A Search Tips Guide, and A PowerPoint Demonstration of database use.

[FIND Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center on our "Databases by Subject" List on the second column of our "Social Sciences" list. ]

Monday, October 5, 2009

Meebo Instant Messaging

What is Meebo?

While reading the Mildred F. Sawyer Library Blog, you may have noticed the box on the right side of the page that reads “SawLib.LiveHelp." The Reference staff is now offering a means for the Suffolk University community to ask a question using Meebo, which is an instant messaging system. Simply go to the library blog page and type a question. You are automatically signed-in to Meeboquest. When you send us a message, we will try to answer immediately. In addition to our telephone and email services, Meebo is another way for our patrons to obtain reference service.

If Librarians are not currently available...

If reference librarians are not available, the Meebo box will read "Away,"
"e-mail us instead." In this case, please email your question to or call 617-573-8532. Occasionally Meebo accidently logs us out, and the message in Meebo box reads,"leave a message." The Meebo system does not, however, actually leave us messages, therefore it is important to use email or phone as your alternative means of reaching us.

What kind of questions may I ask?

We will attempt to answer all of your questions about library resources and
services. Any question you might ask at the Reference Desk is appropriate.
In order to answer your questions fully, you may be asked to email the
librarian or to schedule a research consultation.

[FIND Meebo on the Mildred F. Sawyer Blog Page]