BIG BOOKS/little books

The book displays in the library entrance area are usually united by some sort of common thematic content.

This month, we’ve taken a slightly different approach: we’re displaying some of our collection’s biggest books and some of our smallest ones.

Did you know…?

  • The size of a item is usually recorded in its catalog record. If you look at the catalog record for a book, its height in centimeters is included under “Description.” For the hardcore library geeks among you, that’s the 300 field, subfield c of the MARC record.
  • The word “libretto” literally means “little book.”
  • None of our little books on display are libretti as most people think of them.
  • The Ancient Greeks had a saying: μέγα βιβλίον μέγα κακόν (roughly, “Big book = big evil”).
  • The big books in our display take exception to that characterization. They think of themselves as forces for good.

Little book with penny for scale.

Big book with penny for scale

Many thanks to Tobias Gelston for the inspiration for this month’s display, and to Amber Hunt for figuring out how to pull lists of big and little books out of the library catalog. (Otherwise, we’d still be upstairs browsing.)

A behind the scenes look at the library work room

Have you ever wondered what the door near the 500s led to?  Been curious to know what happens once the library decides to purchase an item you’ve requested?  Longed to learn where library books go when they start to fall apart? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, please read on for a backstage look at some of the inner workings of the mysterious room on the library’s middle floor.

The library work room plays host to a tremendous amount of important events in the life of a Rice-Aron Library item.   New books, DVDs, and CDs are typically ordered here, and are delivered here to be unpacked.  Depending on the material, a new item undergoes some combination of stamping, stickering, and barcoding.  Then it’s time for the items to be cataloged.  This can be a quick process, a time consuming one, or something in-between, depending on the nature of the item and whether or not another library has already cataloged it.

Once items are cataloged, they get spine labels listing their brand new call numbers so that library users will be able to locate the  items once they’re in the AV/Reserve room or in the stacks.  Hopefully, the books and DVDs have seen the last of the work room.  However, there are times when books are returned with ripped pages, torn covers, broken spines, and other ailments.  When this occurs, they are taken up to the work room for mending.  The books are repaired using an assortment of archival glues, tapes, and papers.  Once the repairs are complete, the books return to the stacks.

If you are interested in learning more, please stop by the work room!

Letter-writing social: Wednesday, February 22, 2:15 pm

Have you ever been irritated by the sound of someone typing at a computer while you are trying to study in the library?

It could be worse. Much worse. Come and see!

On Wednesday, February 22 at 2:15 pm (after Dedicated Hour), Student Life and the Library will be hosting an old-fashioned letter-writing social in the Library Reading Room (300s).

Resurrect the art of letter writing! Imagine the surprise and delight that someone in your life will feel upon receiving a handwritten or typed epistle from you. A friend; a family member; your Plan sponsor…

Many people have generously lent and donated a selection of fine vintage writing instruments for you to try out, including several models of manual typewriters from the early and mid-twentieth century; quills; fountain pens; ink; and sealing wax. Bring fancy paper and envelopes if you have them; we’ll have some on hand, too.

There will be snacks, tea, soda in little glass bottles, and perhaps some 78 RPM records to provide suitable background music.

If you’d like inspiration before sitting down to inscribe or type a letter, try these links:

No RSVP necessary, handwritten or otherwise. Just come with your friends for an afternoon of epistolary fun. We will wrap things up by 4:15 pm, at which time the Reading Room will turn back into a sanctuary for reading, reflecting, and blessedly quiet laptop typing.

Thanks to Amherst College for the original idea for this event

Google search personalization

Last week in Finding Stuff: Research Methods in the Humanities, a class Adam Franklin-Lyons and I are teaching this semester, each student with a personal laptop performed a Google search for global warming debate. And the results? Well, everyone had a different results. While I knew this was likely to happen, it still surprised me to see it in action. Our search results were personalized.

Most of our search results in Google are personalized. Your own personalization depends on what you searched in the past, what you clicked on in the past and other web activity tracked by Google. And soon, after Google changes their privacy policy in March, all Google products will be more connected. More connection will mean greater personalization. After March 1st, your Gmail activity may affect what you find in YouTube and your YouTube activity may affect your search results.

It’s almost impossible to know search by search how and why your search results are personalized, but one small insight may be to check the ad preferences Google has set up for you. Even if you don’t have a Google account, the web browser you are using may have a cookie stored that is tracking searches and clicks that may evetually affect your search results. Check out your Google ad preferences. They might make you chuckle.

Looking for more? Check out Eli Pariser’s TED talk about filter bubbles, and librarian Barbara Fister’s blog post.


Take your research on the road: Van trips to UMass Amherst Libraries, 2/26 and 4/15

The W.E.B. Du Bois Library at UMass Amherst.

The library will once again sponsor two van trips to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries this semester.

  • Sunday, February 26
  • Sunday, April 15

Both trips will leave the dining hall at 11:30 am and return in time for dinner at 5:30 pm.

UMass Amherst is home to the behemoth 26 story W.E.B. Du Bois Library as well as the Sciences & Engineering Library (across campus in a different tall building).

At UMass, you can take advantage of hundreds of research databases and millions of full-text articles online (email to yourself or bring a flash drive). You can also browse their millions of books, note any that you’re interested in, and request them via our library’s interlibrary loan service. (If you happen to be a Massachusetts resident, you can sign up for a state borrower card and borrow things directly from UMass — the one caveat is you also have to return them, in person or via the mail.)

Want to make the most of your visit? Make an appointment with Emily or Amber, your Marlboro librarians, before the trip. We can review the UMass Libraries website with you, identify the best sources for your paper or topic, and give you some tips on navigating the library building and services.

Space is limited — we have room for 14 people (plus a driver) on each trip. Sign up at the Library Service Desk.

Rapid Reviews: A Valentine to your favorite books…

Would you like to share your favorite books with the Marlboro College Community?  The library is still looking for a couple students and a faculty member who would like to review their six to ten all-time favorite books,  talking about each one in a minute or less during Rapid Reviews at the end of the semester.

Think of it as sharing your valentine to the books you love the most!  You would also be helping the library add awesome books to it’s collection, since we buy any book being reviewed that we don’t already own.  Yes, that means we would purchase a copy of your favorite cookbook, a copy of that beloved novel you read every year in high school and the book of Chinese Proverbs you drove your family crazy with last year.  Or why not a book of love poems?

Would you like to learn more?  Watch last semester’s Rapid Reviews Dec. 2011 or  email Bonny at

Interested in being a Rapid Reviewer in May?  Email Bonny now to express your interest!


Chicago Manual of Style Online Trial

The library recently started a three month trial of the Chicago Manual of Style Online. The trial is available to current faculty, staff, and students until the end of April.

The trial includes access to the entire 15th and 16th editions for all your grammar, punctuation, and documentation needs. Chapter 5 has some very helpful information. Check out 5.46 the singular “they” or 5.225 Nine techniques for achieving gender neutrality.

Let us know what you think to help us decide if we should subscribe. You are welcome to post comments here or email