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SIRS Discoverer: Pro/Con Leading Issues

It is important for elementary and middle school students to develop critical thinking and research skills. Often students are tasked with a research project on a controversial or difficult topic. To fulfill this need, SIRS Discoverer offers a Pro/Con Leading Issues feature that will help young researchers navigate through 60 debated social issues. Each topic lists several viewpoint articles where students can click through to full-text content. These articles provide context that help kids understand the viewpoints on these issues. In addition to articles, editorially-selected photos and political cartoons provide a visual perspective. Since editors create and maintain the topics, educators can be confident that the content will be reliable.

SIRS Discoverer Pro/Con Leading Issues

Each issue contains:

Topic Overview
Terms to Know
Essential Question
More Viewpoints
Visual Literacy
Critical Thinking Questions

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, Pro/Con Leading Issues is also one of the most popular features in the SIRS Discoverer product. We have heard from several media specialists and librarians that when a student is undecided on a subject to research, browsing through the topics often sparks an idea.

We realize the value of keeping the topics updated and so we have added 5 new topics to our Pro/Con Leading Issues feature at the start of the new school year:

Electoral College
Gender Identity
Health Care
Refugees
Vaccines

Educators, do your students use the Pro/Con Leading Issues feature?
Tweet #ProQuest #SIRSDiscoverer

Don’t have SIRS Discoverer? Request a free trial.

 

Elvis! Where Are You?

Elvis Research Topic

Elvis Presley Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Unless you are well over the age of 40, you probably don’t remember when Elvis died. I remember exactly where I was when I found out about the death of “The King.” I had been hired, along with my cousin Ricky, to clean out the inside of an old Ben Franklin store in downtown Russellville, Kentucky. Part of that job was to smash through concrete blocks with sledgehammers, which we did with glee. When I got home, my mom was in the kitchen fixing dinner, and the first thing she said to me was: “Elvis Presley died today.” I remember being stunned, standing silently for a few moments, then saying something like, “No way.” I turned on the TV and waited for the 5:30 CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Sure enough, that was the lead story that night…the death of Elvis. I also recall glancing into the kitchen to confirm what Mom had already told me. I could see that my mom was wiping a tear with the back of her hand, and I never knew whether her tears were for Elvis or on account of the onions she was slicing.

Wednesday, August 16th, marks the 40th anniversary of the death of one of the icons of American music. It is difficult now, in the 21st century, to understand the impact that Elvis had on American music and culture. Many of the most well-known musical artists from the 1950s to the 1980s and beyond were influenced in some way by Presley. You doubt me? Read some of these quotes:

  • Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century.” – Leonard Bernstein
  • Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.” – Bob Dylan
  • It was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody’s ear, and somehow we all dreamed it.” – Bruce Springsteen
  • I would practice Elvis in front of the mirror when I was twelve or thirteen years old.” – K.D. Lang
  • Elvis Presley is like the ‘Big Bang’ of Rock ‘n’ Roll. It all came from there.” – Bono of U2
  • It was Elvis that got me interested in music.” – Elton John
  • Elvis is iconic; a lot of performers today look to that for inspiration.” – Beyonce
  • I doubt very much if The Beatles would have happened if it was not for Elvis.” – Paul McCartney

By now, the story of Elvis’ rise from poor kid in Tupelo, Mississippi, to “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and his tragic death from prescription drug abuse is well known. Sadly, some people’s exposure to Elvis might be the spate of really bad movies and soundtracks he cranked out or the many Las Vegas shows he did in the 1970s, but to get a grasp of the “real Elvis,” one has to listen to some of his recordings from the mid-to-late 1950s and early 1960s where Presley was producing some very innovative music indeed.

Elvis' Graceland in Memphis, TN

Graceland via Wikimedia Commons Photo by Jan Kronsell (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Elvis purchased Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1957. It was a former church that had been converted into a 23-room mansion. He lived there for the rest of his life. I’ve been to Graceland twice, once in the mid-1980s and again in 2001. Sure, it can be kind of schmaltzy and cheesy, but there is a lot of good music history to experience in Memphis (Beale Street, the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and Sun Records Studio). In the end, I came away from Graceland both times a bit sad thinking about what was and what might have been.

Elvis was born in 1935. He died when he was just 42. Today, had he lived, he would be in his 80s. Like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe who went before him, it is hard to imagine an 80-year-old Elvis Presley.

This August would be a good opportunity for music teachers, or even history teachers with a keen interest in pop culture, to use the resources in eLibrary to introduce your students to the musical and cultural influence of “The King.”

And, as John Lennon of The Beatles noted, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”

Let others know about some of your Elvis or Graceland memories. You can tweet us using #ProQuest.

Just some of the many eLibrary articles and videos about Elvis:

The Day Elvis Died Atlanta Journal and Constitution (Newspaper)

Elvis Presley American Cultural Leaders (Reference Book)

Elvis Presley Is Drafted into the Army MPI Video

Elvis Presley Marries Priscilla MPI Video

Elvis: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Reluctant Rebel History Today (Magazine)

Stuck on Elvis: Elvis Presley: Perceptions and Legacy The World & I (Magazine)

A Few More Quotes:

  • I saw Elvis live in ’54. It was at the Big D Jamboree in Dallas and the first thing, he came out and spit on the stage…it affected me exactly the same way as when I first saw that David Lynch film. There was just no reference point in the culture to compare it to.” – Roy Orbison
  • But the [record] that really turned me on, like an explosion one night, listening to Radio Luxembourg on my little radio when I was supposed to be in bed and asleep, was “Heartbreak Hotel.” That was the stunner. I’d never heard it before, or anything like it. I’d never heard of Elvis before. It was almost as if I’d been waiting for it to happen. When I woke up the next day I was a different guy.” – Keith Richards
  • I’m sitting in the drive-through and I’ve got my three girls in the back and this station comes on and it’s playing “Jailhouse Rock,” the original version, and my girls are jumping up and down, going nuts. I’m looking around at them and they’ve heard Dad’s music all the time and I don’t see that out of them.”  – Garth Brooks
  • If life was fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.” – Johnny Carson

 

Teaching Activity: Regional Food Tour

A spread of Moroccan appetizers, which include dishes made from tomatoes and squash to potatoes and beans. (Fes, Morocco, October 2006) Image Source: Aaron Thompson

Did you know that CultureGrams features country-specific recipes for each of its 209 country reports? The following activity explores cuisines from around the world. This activity comes from the CultureGrams Teaching Activities PDF, which features more than 70 activities to help teachers make the most of our country, state, and province reports.

Grade level

9–12

Objective:

In this teaching activity, students compare foods from different continents and write about what they’ve learned. See the Teaching Activites PDF for Common Core and other national curriculum standards met by this activity.

Time requirement

Preparation: 30 minutes

In-class: 1 hour and 30 minutes, two different days

Materials

CultureGrams World Edition

CultureGrams Online Edition—Recipe Collection CultureGrams Online Edition—Interviews

Instructions

  1. Ask each student to select four countries, each from a different continent, for which there are corresponding interviews. To save time, you may wish to select these yourself. (For an index of all available interviews, access the main Interviews page.)
  2. Using the CultureGrams World Edition, have the students read the Diet section for each of their selected countries. They may also access the Recipe Collection to learn more about typical
  3. Ask each student to read one interview for each of the four countries he or she has What has each interviewee identified as a favorite food or foods?
  4. Have the students write a one-paragraph response essay identifying which of the four countries’ cuisine seems most appetizing to them. Of all the dishes described—in the World Edition Diet sections, Recipes, or Interviews—which would they most like to try?
  5. In a second short response essay, have the students compare the cuisine from the different continents. How did they differ? What staple foods, dishes, or popular ingredients were unique to one continent?

Extension activity

Have the students select a recipe from the Recipe Collection to make at home and bring to class. You may wish to select a limited number of options beforehand that have simple instructions and readily available ingredients.

Below are some photos of meals from the CultureGrams photo gallery.

This meal in Barbados includes curried chicken and lamb with okra and chickpeas. Bajan food is, for the most part, a unique combination of African and English traditions. (Bridgetown, Barbados, December 2015) Image Source: Joshua Ligairi

Fresh avocado, limes, crispy tortillas, soupy black beans, and a variety of sauces—all of these elements accompany the main focus of a classic Mexican meal: the taco. (Mexico City, Mexico, September 2008) Image Source: Peter Stone

This pub meal consists of pork sausages, peas, and Yorkshire pudding—a traditional English food made primarily of flour, eggs, and milk. (Newcastle, England, United Kingdom, October 2006) Image Source: Adam Blackwell

Mohinga is a soup that is eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is made of rice noodles, catfish, and spices and garnished with lime, cilantro, and peanuts. (Mae Sot, Thailand, June 2010) Image Source: CultureGrams

A simple dinner of rice, fish, and fried plantain is served in a Brazilian restaurant. (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 2007) Image Source: CultureGrams

 

Comparing Two Controversial Executive Orders

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution requires that before U.S. presidents can assume their duties they are required to take the oath of office, affirming in part that they “will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. This post will review and compare two controversial presidential executive orders that were issued in the interest of national security, and that many believe violate various provisions and protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Among these are the First Amendment rule barring the establishment of religion, the Fifth Amendment’s right to due process of law, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order #9066

On December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A total of 2,403 were killed, including 2,335 military personnel and 68 civilians. The United States entered World War II by declaring war on Japan the following day. A wave of anti-Japanese sentiment across the country was accompanied by widespread fear of a Japanese attack, especially on the vulnerable West Coast. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Secretary of War to declare certain areas of the United States military zones in order to prevent espionage and sabotage.

Residents of Japanese Ancestry Awaiting the Bus at the
Wartime Civil Control Station, San Francisco, Apr. 1942
By Dorothea Lange, U.S. War Relocation Authority via Library of Congress [public domain]

Within weeks, all persons of Japanese ancestry–whether citizens or enemy aliens, young or old, rich or poor–were ordered to assembly centers near their homes. Soon they were sent to permanent relocation centers outside the restricted military zones defined by the order. Around 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were native-born citizens of the United States, were forced into remote and desolate internment camps with armed guards and barbed wire for the duration of the war. There were 10 different sites across the country, including Tule Lake, California; Minidoka, Idaho; Manzanar, California; Topaz, Utah; Jerome, Arkansas; Heart Mountain, Wyoming; Poston, Arizona; Granada, Colorado; and Rohwer, Arkansas. Many lost their homes and businesses and were separated from loved ones for the duration of the war.

In 1942, 23-year-old Fred Korematsu, who was born in Oakland, California, to Japanese immigrants, refused to go to the government’s incarceration camps for Japanese Americans. After he was arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order, he appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that Congress, the President, and the military authorities did not have the power to issue the relocation orders and that he was being discriminated against based on his race. The government argued that the evacuation was necessary to protect the country. In Korematsu v. United States (1944), the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the need to protect the country in time of war was a greater priority than the individual rights of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans. One of the three dissenting opinions, written by the lone Republican-appointed Justice Owen Roberts, stated that “I think the indisputable facts exhibit a clear violation of Constitutional rights.”

Protest Against Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban
By Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


2017: President Donald J. Trump ‘s Executive Order #13769

Skip to 75 years later. One week after taking office, on January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order #13769, ordering a halt on immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries–Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Two days later, the president released a statement which read, “To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion–this is about terror and keeping our country safe.” The order sparked immediate protests both across the country as well as internationally.

The next day, a federal judge in New York blocked part of the order. On March 6, Trump released a revised travel ban that excluded Iraq from the list of Muslim-majority countries whose citizens were temporarily blocked. A federal judge in Hawaii then issued a nationwide restraining order on the revised travel ban March 15, ruling that it still discriminated on the basis of nationality. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling on May 25. The Trump administration then appealed to the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on the travel ban order in October 2017. Stay tuned.

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Back-to-School for Educators: ProQuest Is Here to Help

Are you ready to make or finalize lesson plans? Have you made your school year shopping trip yet? Do you know how you want to decorate your classroom? Educators have so much to do before the school year starts let alone during it. While there’s a lot to think about, having helpful tools ready to go and a checklist of what you need to do can make it easier. The ProQuest story is to curate enriching content, simplify workflows for our customers and connect with our vast community of educators, researchers, and librarians. As an editor that works on the Guided Research products, my department works hard to not just do all of the above but also to create new ideas and content that help students grow and thrive in K12 plus preparing for what comes after. Our editors do the research to come up with new Leading Issues and create them from beginning to end. We create new product features and curate the content that’s highlighted and we make sure our customers feel connected.

Simplifying an Educator’s School Year

Curating and Creating Content for All Researchers

SIRS Discoverer

Animal Facts and Pro/Con Leading Issues are two product features in SIRS Discoverer that were created in-house.

In collaboration with product management, Content Editor, Senior Jen Oms came up with the idea for Animal Facts and Content Editor, Senior Ilana Cohen came up with the idea for Pro/Con Leading Issues. Jen and Ilana both explained why they wanted these two features in SIRS Discoverer.

Before Animal Facts was created, Jen knew it was a feature SIRS Discoverer needed. She said the product had articles about animals, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted to simplify the time and process kids would have to go through to learn all the key facts on their favorite animals. She also wanted such a feature to complement the product. She knew SIRS Discoverer had articles on tigers for example. She wanted there to be an Animal Fact page for tigers too. Jen collaborated with another colleague Michelle Sneiderman to create what is now totaled at over 300 Animal Facts (with more being added). They modeled the idea on a 1-page table style of animal characteristics, conservation status and additional information like fun facts. Jen also said one of the main sources used to create Animal Facts came right from the encyclopedia content in SIRS Discoverer. Jen wanted Animal Facts to be robust and it is one of the most popular features in the SIRS Discoverer product.

Bobcat Animal Fact via SIRS Discoverer

Bobcat Animal Fact via SIRS Discoverer

The creation of Pro/Con Leading Issues for SIRS Discoverer seemed a logical decision. Ilana said it was modeled as an “entry-level pro/con research product for young audiences,” something the product didn’t have but would be beneficial. She created the initial pro/con issues and added supporting content in collaboration with a few other editors. These issues are created and updated dynamically on a yearly basis. While SIRS Issues Researcher includes main and sub-issues, SIRS Discoverer Pro/Con Leading Issues only contains main issues. It currently has 60 Pro/Con Leading Issues that students can choose from, and Ilana explained her process for choosing new ones to create includes looking at existing content and search reports. This feature also includes a Visual Literacy asset which presents a cartoon and pairs it with critical thinking questions. Pro/Con Leading Issues is also one of the most popular features in the SIRS Discoverer product.

Pro/Con Leading Issues via SIRS Discoverer

Pro/Con Leading Issues via SIRS Discoverer

SIRS Issues Researcher

Visual literacy, information literacy, and critical thinking are three skills the Guided Research products help build. SIRS Issues Researcher Leading Issues are created in-house. Editors curate the content to support them that students can debate and discuss in and out of the classroom.

Recently, I worked with my colleague Jeff Wyman to make it possible for our editorial team to create charts and statistics in-house. Sometimes our content providers lack this and we wanted a way for ProQuest editors to fill the gap when it happens. Knowing how to read charts is a skill that students can continue to develop as they advance in their research and go on to college.

EU Favorability Chart Created by ProQuest Staff

EU Favorability Chart Created by ProQuest Staff

SIRS Issues Researcher also includes Curriculum Guides that are helpful in building information literacy, visual literacy, critical thinking, and research skills. These guides help students understand editorial cartoons, infographics, primary sources, research, statistics and writing arguments.

Both Leading Issues and the skills they support drive the ProQuest story. We simplify educators’ workflows and not just curate, but create too. SIRS Issues Researcher delves into the heart of the issues affecting people all around the world every day. It gives students the chance to explore topics they may have never thought of before and think critically about them.

Connecting with Customers and Our Community

ProQuest Guided Research products equip students to learn information and media literacy skills. Free trials are available.

Find us on Facebook or Tweet us @ProQuest. We love our customers to reach out and say hello!

The Total Solar Eclipse and Scientific Literacy

On August 21st, around 1:24 pm Central Standard Time, on the historical Orchard Dale Farm just outside the little hamlet of Cerulean, Kentucky, there will be a few curious humans wearing all manners of strange sunglasses staring up in the sky to witness a once-in-a-lifetime event: a total solar eclipse.

Path of Totality

Animated Video of the Path of Totality (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

Unlike the thousands of other eclipse worshipers in the nearby town of Hopkinsville, where there will be a well-planned festival with live music and parades, the few hardcore eclipse fanatics who are precise in their geographical coordinates will visit this farm because it is the spot where the eclipse’s greatest coverage, and one of the longest in duration, can be viewed. A total solar eclipse is where the earth crosses the shadow of the moon, completely obscuring the sun and cutting off all direct rays of sunlight to earth. Stars will appear, the earth will cool, and the moon’s black disk will exhibit a halo around its edge from the sun’s corona.

This spectacular eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse in the United States since 1991 and the first coast-to-coast in nearly 100 years. The path of totality will cast a shadow 70 miles wide and will first present itself on the Pacific coast of Oregon near Salem, and then proceed across the heart of the country before exiting the Atlantic coast near Charleston, South Carolina.

Events like solar eclipses are great teachable moments for educators to not only teach students about eclipses but also for students to become more science literate. Science literate students, whether or not they go on to science-related careers or not, become a more informed public, and a more informed public means better decision making.

One of the goals of science literacy (and by extension, the scientific method) is to describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena. For science educators teaching astronomy, science literacy is not not just about explaining the world around us, but also explaining and predicting the behavior of other objects in our solar system, such as the sun and our moon, and our relationship with those extraterrestrial bodies.

Today, astronomers can now easily predict such things as the precise times and places of various celestial events such as meteor showers, comet visitations, and of course solar eclipses; not only the precise time an eclipse will happen at a particular location, but also where and when the longest duration and greatest extent of an eclipse. eLibrary can assist science teachers toward the goal of helping students become science literate. It has a wealth of information on all things astronomical, including its Research Topic on solar and lunar eclipses. Be sure to check out these and other resources at the end of this blog.

So, where will you be viewing the solar eclipse? Can’t be there? Too far away from the path of totality? For those who can’t watch the eclipse live, you can visit NASA’s Total Eclipse website and view their Eclipse Live Stream page here.

Parisians, circa 1912, Viewing a Solar Eclipse

Parisians, circa 1912, Viewing a Solar Eclipse (Wikimedia Commons)

If you decide to view the total eclipse in person, there are a few safety precautions you should take before attempting it. First, if you plan on looking directly into the sun, be sure you have the proper solar filter sunglasses for viewing. Using anything else will risk severe eye damage or blindness. If you are within the path of totality you may remove your solar filtered sunglasses briefly when the moon completely covers the sun but be sure to replace your solar viewers soon after to watch the departing eclipse. An alternative method for viewing the eclipse is the pinhole projection. Simply punch a hole in an index card or a sheet of cardboard and project an image onto a nearby surface. Alternatively, hold out and cross your hands in front of you with your fingers of both hands slightly stretched open to project the sun onto the ground in front of you and watch the projection of the spaces between your fingers change as the eclipse takes place. For more indepth safety tips for viewing the solar eclipse, visit NASA’s eclipse page on viewing safety here.

Finally, for those of you who plan to view the eclipse along the path of totality: Happy sun gazing and here’s wishing for clear skies!

Here are some eLibrary Research Topics and other helpful articles that will assist you in viewing and understanding the upcoming solar eclipse:

 

CultureGrams Teaching Activity: The World Game

Looking for new ways to incorporate CultureGrams into the classroom? Look no further than CultureGrams’ collection of over 75 teaching activities! This collection of educationally engaging activities is organized by grade level and activity type. Each activity includes an objective, curriculum standard correlations, a list of materials needed, the amount of time required to do the activity, instructions, and extension activities. These activities help promote critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving.

If you don’t have access to CultureGrams, enjoy this free teaching activity today and sign up for a free trial of the product to access more.

The World Game

Grade level: K–5

Objective:
Students will develop basic map skills and learn about the worldwide appeal of soccer.

 


Time requirement:
Preparation: 40 minutes
In-class: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Materials:
CultureGrams Kids Edition
CultureGrams Online World Edition regional maps:
North America
South America
Europe
Africa
Asia
Oceania

Instructions
1. Divide the class into four groups, and assign each group one of four regions:

  • North and South America
  • Europe
  • Africa
  • Asia and Oceania

2. For each region, print out a list of the countries in the Kids Edition. Have each group locate
these countries on the regional maps (listed above).

3. Have students access the “Games and Sports” page for each country on their list. Have them determine in which countries soccer is popular and highlight these countries on their regional maps. What number or percentage of the countries on their lists play soccer?

4. As a class, discuss their findings. Explore some reasons why soccer is such a popular sport around the globe (inexpensive to play, introduced by colonial powers, etc.).

5. During an international soccer competition (e.g., World Cup, UEFA European Championship, Africa’s Cup of Nations) assign each student a country to follow during the competition. Use the success of particular teams to launch a discussion about those countries. Internet sites that may be useful include:

International Football Federation (FIFA)
Union of European Football Associations
U.S. Soccer Federation

Image from CultureGrams Mozambique Slide Show “Homemade Soccer Ball.” Photo by Salym Fayad

 

Let’s Debate…Education Reform

Education reform, particularly federal spending on public education, has been a political hot-button issue since the 1960s. Questions that were asked then are the same that are debated now: Do the funds provided by the Department of Education improve students’ learning environments and opportunities, or do they simply allow states to decrease money allocated to education? Does federal funding advance education in public schools, or does it stifle public schools with regulations and oversight?

Check out Let’s Debate…Education Reform below for an overview of the topic. Also visit the SKS Spotlight of the Month, which explores the 2017-2018 National High School Debate Topic: The United States federal government should substantially increase its funding and/or regulation of elementary and/or secondary education in the United States.

 

Library Showdown: Cats Vs. Dogs

My coworker Jaclyn Rosansky and I collaborated on a post about 50 unusual things you can check out from libraries besides books. While researching that post, I learned about libraries that offer therapy dogs that university students can check out to relieve stress during final exams. For example, Countway Library of Medicine, an alliance of the Boston Medical Library and Harvard Medical School, lets students check out a Shih-Tzu named Cooper for 30-minute sessions.

BOW WOW!

Being that we are in the dogs days of summer and also because I am a dog lover and a fan of libraries, I wondered, aside from literature, what else could I find regarding libraries and dogs?

Lots, it turns out.

I found canine sculptures, a dog with its own library card, and much more. Reading therapy dogs seem to be especially popular with many libraries. Read on to learn about four libraries and their canine connections:

Knee_Hi

Knee-Hi, the Free Library of Philadelphia mascot (Photo used with permission by Sandra Horrocks, Vice President of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation)

Knee-Hi: According to Sandra Horrocks, Vice President of External Affairs at the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,  the charming little dog pictured above was posed in front of the library to be their mascot and also may have been used to promote Summer Reading. These days, therapy dogs can still be found at various branches of the Free Library. The Andorra Library has a Tail Waggin’ Tutor where kids can read to Charlie and the Whitman Library features PAWS for reading where kids can ready to Bella the Frech Bulldog. Ms. Horrocks also mentioned to me that they have a dog that goes to their Chestnut Hill Library branch for children who are reluctant readers and “they love reading to him!”

Ruff

Ruff, a plush puppet that can be checked out at Randall Library. (Photo used with permission by Christine Morrison, Youth Services Librarian, Randall Library, Stow, Massachusetts)

Ruff and M.U.T.T.S. Club: Youth Services Librarian Christine Morrison of Randall Library in Stow, Massachusetts, has a plush dog puppet named Ruff that can be checked out by patrons.  The library features a page on their website dedicated to Ruff’s adventures, including a visit to a farm to see goats, bumper cars at a fair and a trip inside a washing machine. Ms. Morrison also mentioned that the library has a M.U.T.T.S. Club for teens. The club, which is currently on summer vacation, offers teens an opportunity to help shelter animals in need and become involved in programs that promote animal welfare.

 

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Rufus at Kids Opening Day 2016 (Photo used with permission by Lisa Mauch, Content Specialist, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Ohio)

Rufus the Reading Dog: I learned about Rufus the Reading Dog from Lisa Mauch, Content Specialist at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Rufus is named after Rufus King II, the founding father of the library and has been keeping very busy as the library mascot for 10 years. You can view his photo page on Pinterest. Rufus isn’t the only dog at the library. On Fridays at 3 pm, the Main Library offers a Tales to Tails program in which children practice reading aloud to a certified therapy dog.

Read to a Dog Program

Child reading to a dog in Oshkosh Library’s Read to a Dog program. (Photo used with permission by Lisa Voss, Head of Library Development, Oshkosh Public Library, Oshkosh, Wisconsin)

Read to a Dog Program: Oshkosh Public Library in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, also offers a program in which trained therapy dogs are used to improve literacy skills in children. The dogs are trained through the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program, a division of Intermountain Therapy Animals. “Reading to a dog is a fun and effective way for children who struggle with reading to build both skills and confidence,” notes Lisa Voss, Head of Library Development at Oshkosh Library.

Vs. MEOW!

After all I had learned about dogs and libraries, I thought, what about cats? Sure enough, there are libraries with kitty connections, too. And, I’m not talking about World Cat. There are hundreds of libraries around the world that house cats, including, even, the spooky ghost cat, which I mentioned in a Halloween blog post. Below are four cat-loving libraries, past and present:

Calling Miss Gertrude: A search in ProQuest Historical Newspapers revealed a Hartford Courant story on January 25, 1959, about a library cat named Miss Gertrude Bronson. The cat was reported as being listed in the Waterbury, Connecticut, city directory as an assistant at the public library.

ProQuest Historical Newspaper article

Screencap of a ProQuest Historical Newspaper article from the January 25, 1959, edition of the Hartford Courant.

 

 

Stacks on a Book Cart

Stacks the library cat (Photo used with permission by Sara Zumwalt, Library Director, Litchfield Public Library District, Litchfield, Illinois)

Stacks the Library Cat: Litchfield Public Library District in Litchfield, Illinois, is home to a celebrity. The purrfectly named Stacks has been featured in Cat Fancy magazine, the Springfield Journal, and the Chicago Tribune. A long-haired domestic female cat, Stacks has been living at the library since 2009, when she was adopted from Adopt-a-Pet Shelter in Benld, Illinois. Sara Zumwalt, Library Director, considers Stacks to be a great asset to their library, with people coming in all the time to ask “where’s Stacks?”

 

 

 

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Trixie the Library Cat (Photo used with permission by Young Adult Services Coordinator Brittni Trytek, Independence Public Library, Independence, Kansas)

Trixie the Library Cat: Trixie, who lives at the Independence Public Library in Independence, Kansas, has much in common with Stacks. As with Stacks, Trixie arrived at her library home in 2009. Both cats are approximately eight years old and have been written about. Trixie, who was once featured in a magazine in Germany, is a social media star with a blog that details her younger years and also a Facebook page. According to Young Adult Services Coordinator Brittni Trytek, Trixie is well loved and very playful. She notes how some mornings, the custodian will find craft supplies (yarn, pom poms, and feathers) dragged from the third floor to the first floor.

Kitten Kuddle

Kitten Kuddle (Photo used with permission by Lisa Voss, Head of Library Development, Oshkosh Public Library, Oshkosh, Wisconsin)

Kitten Kuddle: Cats and dogs in the same library? Oh, yes. Not only does Oshkosh Public Library have a Read to a Dog program, but Head of Library Development Lisa Voss also let me know that they also partner with the Oshkosh Area Humane Society (OAHS) to offer a Kitten Kuddle event for teens. OAHS brings in five or six kittens to the library for kids to help socialize the animals by playing with them. The teens also make crafts that the OAHS sells as a fundraiser.

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New York Public Library Lion

Fortitude, one of the lion statues outside the Main Branch building of the New York Public Library by Ken Thomas [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

Unlikely Friends: Mark Twain and Ulysses S. Grant

Last Photograph of U. S. Grant

The Last Photograph of U. S. Grant via Library of Congress [Public Domain]

On Monday, July 20, 1885, after 11 months, two volumes, 1,231 pages and 291,000 words, “he put aside his pencil and said there was nothing more to do,” Mark Twain remembered. Twain was referring to Ulysses S. Grant’s heroic task of finishing his memoirs before succumbing to throat cancer.

History teachers know Grant as the general who saved the Union during the Civil War and as the 18th President of the United States. Teachers of Literature know Mark Twain as the author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and other great works.  What many may not know is that the two men were friends, and Twain was the publisher of Grant’s memoirs. Both Huck Finn and The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant were published in 1885, and neither book has gone out of print since that time.

A little background: After leaving the presidency in 1877, Grant made a series of financial miscues. It seems he was a much better general than financier. He became a partner in and invested a substantial sum in a Wall Street firm called Grant and Ward. The firm collapsed, leaving Grant and his wife Julia with $130 Julia had stored in a cookie jar and Grant with only $80 in his pocket. Desperate for funds, Ulysses agreed to write his memoirs to be published in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. Century offered Grant only a 10% royalty for the book, a sum much smaller than even a novice author would have received.  Mark Twain, knowing that his friend was being cheated, contacted Grant and asked him to not sign a contract with Century. Twain convinced Grant to sign with Twain’s own publishing outfit, Charles L. Webster & Co. Twain offered Grant 75% of the sales and a small advance which enabled Grant to write without worrying about money.

Mark Twain Research Topic

Mark Twain Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Shortly after beginning the book, however, Grant was diagnosed with advanced, terminal throat cancer. Grant knew he was in a race against time to finish his project, hoping that it might sell enough to provide for Julia and his family after he was gone. Doctors moved Grant and his family to a resort on Mount McGregor in the Adirondacks, hoping the fresh air would prolong his life. He suffered terribly during the writing of his memoirs. Working against the clock, he sometimes hammered out 25 to 50 pages per day. As his condition worsened, he wrote propped up in his chair by pillows, too weak to walk or even talk above a whisper.  “I am sure I will never leave Mt. McGregor alive,” he confided to Julia. “I pray God however that I may be spared to complete the necessary work upon my book.”

Grant Writing His Memoirs at Mt. McGregor 1885

Grant Writing His Memoirs at Mt. McGregor, 1885 Library of Congress [Public Domain]

 

Grant finished the book on July 20, 1885, and he died just 3 days later. Twain himself worked furiously during that Summer and Fall following Grant’s death to get the two-volume autobiography/memoir published.

 

Grant could not have known that his memoirs would sell enough for Twain to give some $450,000 to Julia (over $10 million today), making her one of the wealthiest women in the country.

 

Today, Grant’s autobiography is still considered by many scholars to be one of the greatest military memoirs ever written.  According to his friend Mark Twain, “General Grant’s book is a great, unique and unapproachable literary masterpiece.”

History and literature teachers should let their students spend some time searching eLibrary for more information on these two great figures from America’s past.

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EXTRA:

*Grant dedicated his memoirs to “the American soldier and sailor” – both Northern and Southern. “As it is, the dedication is to those we fought against as well as those we fought with. It may serve a purpose in restoring harmony.”

*A quote from General William Tecumseh Sherman: “Other books of the war will be forgotten, mislaid, dismissed. Millions will read Grant’s Memoirs and remember them.”

*Among the last words in Grant’s memoirs were the words that would eventually be engraved on his tomb: “Let us have peace.”

*Twain visited Grant on several occasions in the months prior to his death. After one such visit, Twain noted: “One marked feature of General Grant’s character is his exceeding gentleness, goodness, sweetness. Every time I have been in his presence–lately and formerly–my mind was drawn to that feature. I wonder it has not been more spoken of.”

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