Monthly Archives: April 2009

Monday Motivator: Choose Canvas Bags.

Unfortunately, the Monday Motivator is coming out on Tuesday due to the Jolly Librarian’s encounter with a nasty stomach virus last week.

The tip for this week: Choose canvas bags.


  • 400 BILLION plastic bags are used every year.
  • Only 5.2% of those bags are recycled.
  • Plastic bags are not environmentally friendly. They take more than a 1000 years (!) to biodegrade.

So buy canvas bags to use when shopping. Keep them in the car so they’re available for that quick stop at the market on the way home. And, by the way, buy bags made from recycled materials.

Some Earth-Friendly Library Tips from the Jolly Librarian!

The Jolly Librarian is all in favor of helping our planet. So in the spirit of Earth Day, here are some reading/writing tips that might help you do your part to conserve our resources:

  • Check books out from the library instead of buying them. I have to admit that this is not something I regularly do. So I try to make sure that, for every book I buy, I donate one to the library.
  • Limit how much you print out on copiers and printers. Many of us print out way more than we actually need. While it may be a little more time consuming to skim over an article to see if it’s necessary before printing out, it does save paper. And you only have to look around the library to see how much paper is used each day. Also ask yourself: Does every PowerPoint have to printed out from my course shell? Couldn’t I just take notes instead (which may actually increase your learning of the material)?
  • Recycle the paper you do use.
  • Use the online library resources. Save gas and don’t pollute by conducting research in your own home.

Tell me if you have any good tips for saving the planet!

The Monday Motivator: Read (or write) a poem!

Some smarty pants once said that most people who write poems have never read one! But why should people choose between the two? I heartily recommend doing both. But it is probably a good idea to read some first. Poems have a way of speaking to the heart that no other genre can quite manage. And if your memories of poetry consist of pulling a line apart to find similes, metaphors, and personification, then give yourself a break. Just read some poems. Don’t worry about finding any literary devices. Don’t even worry about finding the “right” meaning. Just enjoy!

Lucky for all NSCC poetry lovers, our college literary journal, Tetrahedra, is now available for your reading pleasure. Pick up a copy in the library and enjoy some poetry, essays, stories, and artwork by NSCC students, faculty, and staff. There will be a reception and reading from Tetrahedra contributors on Monday, April 20, in S118 at 1 p.m.

And here’s a taste of the treats in store for you in this year’s Tetrahedra. This poem is by Valerie Belew, Dean of English and Humanities. (Any spelling errors, mistyped words, or spacing problems are the Jolly Librarian’s.)


Saving myself like new placemates and for what?

A visit from the Queen of England or Shakespeare’s ghost?


Much more than the thought of Chinet plates

Or good plastic cutlery

I am

More than a good place setting

Or crystal stemware

More than someone’s dream wrapped warped in

Good china and best intentions


Here the dream sits idle, a reminder of what was

And what will never be

Pink, unnatural flowers wind themselves inside the gold

Circle of plates and cups and bowls

As if to hold in the separation

The moment in time when

We at least agreed upon something

And thought the pattern would somehow

Transfer into our lives


Long after the severed, dead wishful thinking

Is eventual and buried

The plate, the bowl, the teacup still live on

Experiencing the now, the present hopes

For more than Mikasa and Lenox


Someone else’s treasure, not mine

Commandeered the process

Murdering the person and leaving

The gold flatware and lovely plates

For use at a later time


And yet I am all this broken china

Too sharp to pick up and too stubborn

To move myself


I am the gold-plated knife stuck in myself

I am the crystal stemware traded long ago

So we could pay the rent

I am the musty box that housed

The dishes and golden-ware

For so many years


Until the desires for pragmatism pried

Me from my shell

And forced me to use the past

As a lovely table setting for friends

And family

Less the sorrow and losing


I should have three sets by now.



Valerie Belew

Research Tips for the Procrastinating Student!

Okay, despite your best intentions to start on your research paper early, you just didn’t quite get around to it. Now it’s due next week, and you’re a little panicked! Here are some tips that might help:

  • While your first impulse might be to rush in and start writing, don’t! Your best bet is to take a minute and plan out your strategy. Look at the assignment, making sure you understand what you are supposed to do. When you don’t have much time, make sure you’re not having to go back and redo things because you didn’t read carefully the first time.
  • Your first impulse might be to go to the library and check out five or six books on the topic, but once again, this is probably not your best bet. For one thing, at this stage, most books on the more popular research topics have already been checked out. Second, journal articles will probably give you the most bang for your research buck. You can search databases either on campus or at home. You can limit your search much more efficiently with a database, which means you can find information directed at supporting your thesis without wading through quite as much material.
  • Ask the librarians for help. Sometimes students are embarrassed to ask because they have waited so long to start their paper. Don’t be. The library staff won’t judge you, but we will help you find some good sources. We can also save you a lot of time if you are new to searching library databases.
  • Take good notes on your source material. Once again, because you’re rushed, you might be tempted to print off material without getting all the information you’ll need for your works cited page. DON’T!!!! Taking a minute to write down the author, title, publication, date, and page numbers when you find the information will save you time when you’re writing your works cited page. And since most of us write the works cited page last, that’s the very time that we don’t have a moment to spare to go back to a source to look up an author’s first name. (Two strategies that I’ve successfully used: I make a notecard for each source when I use it in the paper. When I do the works cited page, I just put the notecards in alphabetical order. The other is to keep a running works cited page as I write my paper. But if you take a source out of the paper, you have to remember to remove it from the works cited page as well.

The main message here is don’t panic or beat yourself up. You can still get that paper written. And renew that vow to start earlier next semester.

Also, Emily Bush is offering another research skills workshop this Saturday, April 18, from 10-11 a.m. in the Kisber Library.

Monday Motivator: Prepare for an Emergency.

After last Friday, this is a timely reminder. 800 tornadoes are reported each year. A tornado’s path can be more than 50 miles long and 600 feet wide.

We can’t prevent disasters, but we can try to be prepared to deal with them.

  1. Develop a family communication plan so that you know that everyone’s all right. (Remember that cell phones are often jammed with users after a disaster, so have an alternate communication plan available.)
  2. Have a meeting place designated.
  3. Have an emergency supply kit to get you through 3 days if necessary. Include items such as
    • battery-operated radios
    • fresh water
    • food that doesn’t need cooking or refrigerating
    • flashlights
    • can opener
    • money

Finally, when a disaster strikes and you have been spared, please keep in mind those who were not. Give to the Red Cross or other relief agencies. And whatever you do, don’t go sightseeing in disaster areas!

Writing an Opinion Paper? Check out Points of View Reference Center!

At this point of the semester, many of you are writing argument papers. For the past few days, students have been looking for articles on topics such as:

  • smoking
  • animal rights
  • English first
  • adoption

Points of View Reference Center can be a great source for these types of papers.  It is one of the selections under “multidisciplinary” on the library database page.

Some of the advantages of the Points of View Reference Center are as follows:

  • It is organized by topic, which makes searching very easy.
  • Once you choose one, the first screen gives you an overview of the topic, summing up the various arguments for and against.
  • The sources themselves are broken down into type, such as periodicals, newspapers, primary sources, and images.
  • Each topic also has a “Guide to Critical Analysis” which gives you a step-by-step guide in thinking through your paper.
  • There are also helpful research guides on all aspects of writing a paper or speech.

If you haven’t already, take a look at this database. I think you’ll find it very useful!

Can a Source Be Unbiased?

Last week, Emily Bush, our instructional librarian, was giving a presentation to a philosophy class. She was showing  a database that provided opposing viewpoints on various topics. A student raised his hand and asked, “Aren’t those biased sources?” He wanted sources that were unbiased.

And that, my friends, is the problem at hand. Is there such a creature as a totally unbiased source?

Let me be clear on the front end that I am being biased when I answer the question. And to me, the answer is no. I grant that there are facts that can be proven or disproven. For example, George Washington was the first president of the United States is a factual statement, and I would agree that there is no bias in that statement. But most would also agree that as a piece of common knowledge, it is not terribly useful as a source. Very few papers would ever try to prove that George Washington was not the first president.

But when looking at sources that defend or contradict controversial topics, there will always be some bias.

Think about the subtle ways that we are biased towards certain things each day. You may think that a newspaper is an unbiased source of information. But there are decisions that are made every day about what goes into a newspaper. Who decides that the story that gets the biggest headline is the most important news of that day? Who decides what news gets placed in the paper and what gets left out? How does a reporter decide that he/she has interviewed enough people and gotten enough background information?

Perhaps, you’re thinking that you’ll just spend time on facts and statistics, but we all look at statistics in different ways. Just think of the news commentators: Both liberal and conservative pundits have the same facts available to them. But the conclusions they draw are worlds apart.

The safest thing to do is to assume that you will be confronted with biased information. (One problem may be that we’ve been trained to think that bias is bad. It may be more useful to think of it as inevitable.) Then use your critical thinking skills to analyze and evaluate the source.