Flower

SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month: Winter Holidays Around the World

The winter season is here! For many people, the winter season means cold, wind, and snow. Trees may be bare and the ground could be icy. The sun may set sooner, delivering darkness to our late afternoons. Whether you live in a place that’s cold, hot, or somewhere in between, winter means lots of fun holidays and celebrations around the world.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree
Image by Susanne Nilsson via flickr is licensed under CCA-SA 2.0 Generic

These holidays may be associated with religious beliefs, spiritual customs, past events or cultural practices. This diversity makes each holiday very unique. Just think about all of the ways holidays are celebrated! Traditions may include festivals, lights, singing, decorations, parades, gift-giving, prayer, fairs, fasts or feasts. Each holiday has its own symbols, too, such as red lanterns for Chinese New Year, pine trees for Christmas, menorahs for Hanukkah, ears of corn for Kwanzaa, and Yule logs for the winter solstice.

Hanukkah Candles

Hanukkah Candles
Credit: Public Domain

Wonderful holidays full of light, warmth, family, and love have been created out of these cold, dark days. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates the miracle of light with family and communal rituals, including the lighting of a Menorah candle each night for eight nights. Christmas, a Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, is observed with family gatherings, songs, and trees decorated with lights representing the Star of Bethlehem. Some families take part in a Kwanzaa ceremony, which incorporates candles, music, food, and blessings. A beautiful luminary can be part of the Mexican observance of Las Posadas.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa
Image by soulchristmas via flickr is licensed under CCA-SA 2.0 Generic

Visit SIRS Discoverer’s Spotlight of the Month and learn more about winter observances and holidays and the many ways that they light and warm our winter months.

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Comoros

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

comoros-flag

Flag of Comoros via CultureGrams

The new Comoros report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about Comoros:

  • Comoros is one of the top two producers of vanilla in the world (second to Madagascar).
  • The name Comoros came from the Arabic word qamar, meaning “moon”
  • Arab slave traders used Comoros as a base for transporting African slaves as early as the 16th century.
  • Comoros has one of the largest populations of the coelacanth fish, once called a “living fossil” because it was thought to have become extinct more than 65 million years ago, until it was rediscovered in the 20th century.

Read about local Comorian games and sports, as well as musical instruments and styles, all in this colorful new report.

December 7, 1941: Infamy at Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Pearl Harbor Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan.”

With those words, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war against Japan.  Seventy-five years ago tomorrow Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaii Territory.  The surprising assault came in the early hours of a tranquil Sunday morning, and it hastened the United States’ entry into World War II.  Over 2,400 servicemen and civilians lost their lives that day.  For the Greatest Generation, Pearl Harbor was their September 11th.

The attack at Pearl Harbor was a pivotal moment in American history.  Until December 7, 1941, the United States’ policy regarding World War II was one of isolation.  The provocation by the Japanese that day transformed America from the once fourteenth-ranked military power to the world’s leading superpower.  It moved the United States to be more involved on the world stage.

Very few, if any, American military and government leaders thought Pearl Harbor would ever be attacked.  It was believed to be “the strongest fortress in the world” and too far from Japan.  The Philippines was a more likely target.  Two waves of Japanese Zero fighters, more than 350 in total, launched from six aircraft carriers within 300 miles of the Hawaiian islands from took aim at Battleship Row and Hickam Airfield where over 300 American warbirds stood tip to tip.  Japan’s goal was to prevent the United States from hindering its military actions in Southeast Asia by neutralizing the U.S. Pacific Fleet.  In just 90 minutes, Japan devastated the American forces at Pearl Harbor.  The attack was a great tactical victory for the Japanese.

The numbers were staggering: 2,403 lives lost, 1,178 wounded, five battleships sunk and almost 200 planes destroyed.  The sight of the sunken USS Arizona remains one of the most iconic images of that day.  To this day, 1,177 men lie at rest in her remains on the harbor floor.

Department of the Navy [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Wreckage of the USS Arizona [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

The numbers of World War II veterans dwindle each day and their personal accounts go with them.  To read their stories and learn more about the attack at Pearl Harbor, search eLibrary and its vast resources of timely newspapers, magazine articles and primary source materials.

Related Research Topics

World War II

Japan in World War II

U.S. Navy

 

6 Outstanding Libraries in U.S. Prisons

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2014, there were more than 1,500,000 adult prisoners in state and federal correctional facilities in the United States. America has had libraries for prisoners since 1790 when the Philadelphia Prison Society began furnishing books to the inmates in the Walnut Street Jail. The first state prison library was established in 1802 at the Kentucky State Reformatory. It contained primarily religious books and was supervised by the prison chaplain. Prison libraries offer inmates a place to improve reading skills, write a letter home, watch an instructional video or just escape for a while by reading for pleasure. The American Library Association also works to provide library services to prisoners and their families. While many correctional institutions have book lending services or small libraries, some of the best facilities and programs in U.S. prisons are featured below:

Folsom State Prison in California (Credit: Carol M. Highsmith via Library of Congress) [public domain]

Folsom State Prison in California
(Credit: Carol M. Highsmith via Library of Congress) [public domain]

1. Angola State Prison, Louisiana. The nation’s largest maximum security prison’s Main Library was dedicated in 1968, but there are actually four other branches that serve Angola inmates as well, called Outcamp libraries. The prison is part of the Inter-Library Loan Program with the State Library of Louisiana.

2. Bucks County Correctional Facility, Pennsylvania. Prisoners here work with the local Lions Club to produce reading material for the blind. The program was the first in the country of its type and uses county inmates to transcribe textbooks, worksheets, and tests into Braille for blind students.

3. Folsom State Prison, California. A March 2003 profile of the library noted that its collection included 16,522 fiction and 4,176 non-fiction books, as well as 1,449 law texts. The law library is the most popular and offers a Paralegal Studies Program to train inmates in research skills to help them find forms and legal resources. The library also offers educational programs, as well as a vocational-intern program to prepare certain inmates for the working world outside of jail.

4. Illinois State Prisons. The Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners project accepts request letters from Illinois inmates, finds books that meet their needs and provides them at no cost to the inmates. The community and individual libraries provide donated books, and volunteers staff lending libraries in local jails, interacting directly with the inmates. At last count, they have provided over 120,000 books to more than 18,000 prisoners. They also publish prisoners’ writings and artworks.

5. Norfolk Prison Library, Massachusetts. When a young Malcolm X was incarcerated here in 1948, he taught himself to read and write by copying an entire dictionary page-by-page. He later took advantage of the large library, reading every book available in philosophy, history, literature, and science. Today the library still provides education programs to inmates in the culinary arts, computer technology, HVAC, college transition, ESL, reading enrichment, and getting a GED.

6. Racine Correctional Institution, Wisconsin. In 2006, the Racine Correctional Institution Library hosted a poetry slam and competition. Another program is the Shakespeare Prison Project, a collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Fifteen to twenty inmates study and rehearse Shakespeare plays for nine months, working with theater artists and preparing to perform for the other prisoners and for the community.

We Are ProQuest: Jean Ward

Dexter the Very Good Goat, Jean M. Malone, Jean Ward, Children's Picture Books

Photo with permission to use from Jean Ward

We Are ProQuest: ProQuest is only as successful as its staff. The ProQuest difference is people behind-the-scenes using their skills to create products and features to provide the optimal research experience from kindergarten to post-graduate to life-long learner. We Are ProQuest features profiles of some of our talented team members. Today let’s meet Senior Product Manager, Books for the OASIS/CIS products, Jean Ward.

Jean Ward has made a name for herself as Jean M. Malone writing children’s books and has a novel in the works. Her children’s picture book, “DEXTER the very good goat” was mentioned in a ProQuest newsletter when Jean was praised for her work. While Jean has recently changed roles to become Senior Product Manager, Books for the OASIS/CIS products she also balances that job with her writing career. Jean shared with me her journey, challenges and what she dreams to accomplish in the future.

How did you come to work at ProQuest?

I came to ProQuest through the Coutts acquisition from Ingram in 2015, and it has been a very positive experience.

What is your educational/professional background?

I double majored in English (Creative Writing concentration) and Motion Pictures (Screenwriting concentration) at the University of Miami, and then after graduating I started working in a bookstore. It was a small, family run shop where half the charm was the serendipitous discovery, but the lack of Dewey Decimals or a catalog actually drove me nuts. From there I went to work in my local public library for a few years, and then I joined Ingram as an assistant cataloger, which was the perfect outlet for my organization-starved self.

While working at Ingram I went back to school to earn a Master’s of Library and Information Science at the University of Alabama, and eventually transitioned from cataloging to a collection development position within Coutts, first as a title selector and then as the department manager. Recently I left that department to become the Senior Product Manager for the OASIS product at ProQuest.

I understand you’re a writer. When did you start writing?

Gosh, I’ve been writing for about as long as I can remember. I guess I’m not embarrassed to admit that I started out as I think probably many writers do, writing fan fiction when I was a teenager (Star Trek). Then I did a heck of a lot of writing in college, and after college, I wrote my first novel, which will never see the light of day.

What do you enjoy best about writing?

That’s a really hard question! I think what I love, even though I also hate it, is the revision process, and once I learned to embrace that, it really freed me because it allowed me to write truly terrible drafts so that I could just get things out on paper and see how they worked, and then go back to them. I think the most beautiful thing about writing is how it’s like a painting, and this is what I realized a few years ago when I finally learned how to revise. It made me think of The Girl With A Pearl Earring movie, where you actually see the way Vermeer would have painted: first there is a shape. Just a shape. And then you come back and you add more textures and more colors and the shape turns into a blob. And then you come back and add another layer–and after several layers, you have this beautiful amazing piece of art. But it didn’t start out as a beautiful, rich, textured work–it started out as shapes and blobs. And I think writing is exactly the same.

How do you balance work and writing?

When you find out, you tell me. It’s basically having two jobs, right? There have been long periods of time where I really burned the candle at both ends, but I have not been very good at this lately, and by lately I really mean for about the last two years. As I have taken on greater levels of responsibility at work, I have less and less energy to devote to writing, and I go through long dry periods where I just don’t write at all. Or it comes in fits and starts which are too sporadic to be useful.

But what I have found is that the best way to write is to have a routine. If I can manage to get myself into a routine for awhile where I sit down and write for an hour or two every day, then I find it much easier to stay in that routine. But life happens, it gets in the way. We moved this year, I have a longer commute, my husband’s schedule changed, my work schedule changed–so I have not been in a routine for awhile. I’m working on getting back into one right now. I’m not really like some writers. I don’t write to stay sane like my sister does. I actually watch TV to stay sane. I write because when I don’t write, I feel very disappointed in myself.

You’ve been published. How did you get published?

Every single path is different, right? I had a screenwriting classmate in college who got a job at Penguin, and she put out a call when she became an editor–send me writing samples if you ever think you might like to write for Penguin. So I did, and one day she called me and said all her writers were busy and she needed a book about flamingos on a short deadline–I think she needed the first draft in about 10 days, could I do it? And I said “Of COURSE I can do it!” and promptly went to the library to learn everything I could about flamingos. I ended up doing 2 more books for Penguin, and what I learned is that you always say yes when presented with an opportunity, even if it’s a little bit scary.

What has been your proudest moment?

I think my proudest moment on this journey has been to do with my latest book. It is a picture book, and the text actually began as my writing sample for that Penguin editor. I loved it so much that I asked my dear friend JJ, who is an amazing young artist, to illustrate it for me, and she breathed life into it in a way that I hadn’t even imagined. Since this book wasn’t an assignment or publisher request, but was all of our own making, it has been incredibly exciting. My proudest moment was finding out how much my–let’s see–she would be something like my cousin-in-law once removed? Anyway, she is the most adorable little girl, and she is Dexter’s biggest fan. Hearing about how much she loves Dexter, how she keeps her book in a special spot in her play kitchen and how she knows all the words by heart–that is definitely my proudest moment so far. Knowing that something about the book struck a chord with her and makes her so happy.

What is a dream you have in life?

I want to continue to write picture books because they are so much fun, but my dream is to be a novelist published by a mainstream publisher. I’m currently revising my third novel, and have been for an embarrassing number of years now. I dream big–I want to touch people’s lives–especially young people–through my writing. I want to win the Printz. And then I also have this nerdy obsession with Hallmark Christmas movies, and I have several Christmas novels that I want to write–and then write the screenplay adaptations for them as Hallmark movies of my own.

CultureGrams: New Kosovo Interviews Added!

kosovointerviews

In November, we added interviews from Kosovo to our CultureGrams Interviews collection! There are four interviews, and each captures different viewpoints about life in Kosovo from people of various ages living in diverse parts of the country:

These interviews by country natives are not only interesting and fun to read, but they also give students insider knowledge into what life and culture in the country are really like.

Here’s an example from the interview with Blerona, in which she talks about what being a citizen of Kozovo means to her:

kosovobleronaBeing a citizen of my country means that I belong somewhere. I’m from Kosovo, a country that has suffered a lot from wars and poverty. There is a lot to fix here. I still believe that one day I will be truly proud of my country. For the moment, there is a lot of corruption here, and the youth have problems finding jobs. As a future student, I want my studies to not be worthless, and I want to be able to have good work prospects.

Find more interviews from countries all over the world in the CultureGrams Interviews gallery!

Thank You, Teachers and Librarians

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to reflect on what and who we are grateful for, but it also reminds us that expressing our thanks should happen year-round. Gratitude, after all, has numerous health benefits, including improved physical and psychological health. Expressing gratitude also has the ability to improve someone else’s well-being. Unfortunately, teachers and librarians rarely get the recognition they deserve.

Only 29% of teachers said that they had received recognition or praise for their work within the last seven days.

According to a Gallup employee engagement poll, only 29% of teachers said that they had received recognition or praise for their work within the last seven days. When recognition does finally arrive, it usually happens during the last days of the school year, before summer recess. Teachers and librarians work hard all year long. Recognition shouldn’t be limited to the last day of school.

At ProQuest, we recognize teachers and librarians for who they truly are: heroes. From all of us at ProQuest, thank you to teachers and librarians for your service and dedication. And Happy Thanksgiving!

How do you show gratitude? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @ProQuest or in the comments below.

We Are ProQuest: What We’re Thankful For

 

Happy Thanksgiving from the ProQuest Team

Photo credit: kennymatic / Foter / CC BY

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, turkey-induced comas, long weekends, and of course, a time to reflect on what we’re thankful for in the past year. For this edition of our We Are ProQuest feature, our editors share what they’re grateful for this holiday season.

“I’m thankful for my family (which includes my pets), my friends, my job and my co-workers, my house and the community I live in, and most of all my health, which allows me to enjoy all of the other blessings I have. In October, I celebrated 10 years as a breast cancer survivor!”—Becky Beville

“I’m thankful for my family.”–Michelle Brault

“I’m thankful for having incredible friends and family. I’m thankful for the wonderful opportunities I have at work. And I’m also thankful for all the Black Friday deals I will be taking advantage of this year.”–Kim Carpenter

“I am thankful for wonderful family and friends and the Florida sunshine.”–Ilana Cohen

“Although I may not have everything I want, I have everything I need, and for that, I am grateful.”–Jennifer Genetti

“I am thankful for my wonderful husband and my two beautiful children, who surprise me with how much they learn every day. And I am thankful for my loving parents and my brother who are all such wonderful people.”—Jennifer Oms

“I’m grateful for many blessings–my home, job, health, coworkers, friends, and family. I’m especially grateful for my Mom who just moved near me after 20 years of being in separate states.”—Christie Riegelhaupt

“I am thankful for friends who have been like family, an amazing first year in Boca Raton with the best team, gorgeous weather, and the ever-lovely cortadito.”—Juliana Rorbeck

“I’m thankful for my family and friends, especially that they are all healthy.”—Jaclyn Rosansky

“I am thankful for weekends at the beach with my dogs, Loki and Scooby.”—Amy Shaw

“I am grateful for every day that I can see and feel the love and positivity in the world, and for each day that I am hopeful and happy. (I’m working toward being grateful for the days I am not those things.) I am thankful every day for my daughter, and for her wisdom and compassion. She certainly helps me in the hopefulness and happiness departments.”—Michelle Sneiderman

“I’m thankful for good health, a growing family (more grandchildren!!!) and beautiful Florida weather. I am also extremely thankful for a Chicago Cubs World Series Championship!”—Kathy Starzyk

“I am thankful for good health, good people, good food, good books, and good days.”—Jeff Wyman

What are you thankful for? Share with us! Comment below or tweet us using #ProQuest.

Jack London Died 100 Years Ago Today

Jack London Research Topic

Jack London Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Jack London doesn’t make many reading lists these days, but in the early 1900s, he was one of the most-read and best-loved American authors of his time. He was born John Griffith Chaney in 1876 in San Francisco. The son of an unwed mother and a father who was never part of his life, Jack grew up hard. He quit school at the age of 14 to work in a factory. As a teen, he rode trains, pirated oysters, shoveled coal and served on a seal-hunting schooner in the Bering Sea. When he had free time, Jack soaked up all the novels and travel books he could find in the local library. His life as a writer began in 1893. After surviving a harrowing sea voyage, the 17-year-old London entered a writing contest and won first prize ($25) by writing about the event. Years later, he briefly attended the University of California at Berkeley but quit and headed to Canada and the gold rush in the Yukon. He moved back to California and began writing in earnest. London found international fame at the age of 27 with his novel “The Call of the Wild” (1903) and later with the publication of “White Fang” (1906).

The Call of the Wild Research Topic

The Call of the Wild Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

While writing novels, short stories and travel tales, London also found time to cover the Russo-Japanese War for William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers. A colorful, controversial figure, he was often in the news for his adventurous exploits. Between 1900 and 1916, London wrote more than 50 fiction and non-fiction books, hundreds of short stories and magazine articles. London also supported many social issues of his day including women’s suffrage and workers’ rights. He was among the first writers to work with the movie industry. His novel “The Sea Wolf” (1904) became one of America’s first full-length silent motion pictures in 1907.

The Sea Wolf

The Sea Wolf [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

White Fang

White Fang [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack London’s hard-driving lifestyle eventually caught up with him. His doctor urged him to change his work habits and his diet and ordered him to stop drinking. London refused to comply. He died on November 22, 1916, at the age of 40. On a personal note, if you read only one of Jack London’s books, I recommend “The Sea Wolf.” It is a great psychological thriller involving shipwrecks, rescues, and a mutiny. The novel is propelled by the brilliant, but savage, Wolf Larsen, captain of the doomed ship Ghost. If you can’t find time to read the novel, check out the 1941 film of the same name starring Edward G. Robinson as the title character. While not completely faithful to the novel, it is a very fine movie in its own right. And don’t forget to search eLibrary’s many literary resources!

November 22 Death Trivia:

Q: Jack London shares a death anniversary date with which U.S. President?

A. John F. Kennedy (November 22, 1963).

Q: Which two famous literary figures also died on November 22?

A: C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley (both on the same day JFK was assassinated).

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: São Tomé and Príncipe

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

F;ag of São Tomé and Príncipe via CultureGrams

Flag of São Tomé and Príncipe via CultureGrams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new São Tomé and Príncipe report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some fascinating Did You Knows about São Tomé and Príncipe:

  • São Tomé and Príncipe is Africa’s second-smallest country by population.
  • The country’s islands are actually extinct (not active) volcanoes.
  • The island of São Tomé is located about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of the island of Príncipe.
  • São Tomé and Príncipe was one of the first African countries to grow cocoa, which was introduced by the Portuguese in the 18th century.

Find out about popular children’s games on the islands, read about traditional street plays, and discover what life is like as a kid, all in this colorful new report.