Reading: Black Lives Matter

Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Veto
Left Bank Books, an independent bookstore in Saint Louis, Missouri responded to the Ferguson protests with “a community curated list of books that explore race” in the United States. That project, known as Black Lives Matter:A Reading List is available for download in PDF format.

Interested in checking out a few books from the list? Here are some of the titles available at UB:


Who is watching you online?

Libraries have always been concerned with protecting people’s privacy.  Some say that, in our online world today, privacy is dead and we should resign ourselves to this unfortunate fact.  Not so.  If you are concerned about protecting your privacy online, yet find yourself feeling powerless to guard your data, take heart!  There are some very easy ways to both find out who is tracking you online and control the amount of data that you provide to those trackers.

Figure 1 - Lightbeam visualization
The two most likely entities tracking you online are individual companies hoping to glean personal data that will better prepare them to market their products and services directly to you, and advertising aggregators, which are businesses that build dossiers of your personal data which they then sell to individual companies.  

Lightbeam is a free Firefox browser add-on with a great visualization feature that allows you to see, at a glance, all the different trackers watching your activity on a particular website, as well as relationships between the trackers themselves, and which trackers are using cookies (Figure 1).  You can use Lightbeam to block individual tracking sites, but beware that this may impede functionality on certain sites.   

Figure 2 - Ghostery alert bubble
Another free browser add-on, similar to Lightbeam, but available across more browsers, including mobile devices, is Ghostery.  Once you’ve installed Ghostery, every time you visit a new webpage in your browser, Ghostery will automatically load a pop-up list of all the trackers watching you on that site (Figure 2).  Like Lightbeam, Ghostery’s add-on makes it easy to block individual trackers on a site and even gives you the option of blocking individual cookies.
Both Lightbeam and Ghostery require lots of hands-on engagement and configuration to block trackers.  If you want something that runs in the background and automatically blocks trackers without you having to think about it, give PrivacyBadger a try.  

If you want a tiny glimpse into what the trackers know (or think they know) about you, check out your Google ad profile (must be signed into Google account) or visit Axciom’s About the Data project to take a look at your profile there.  (Axciom is a marketing company that specializes in reselling your personal data to other firms.)


Romantic Reels

Are you looking for “date movies” with which to woo your sweetie this Valentine’s Day?  Or do you just want to kick back with a cinematic love-a-thon regardless of what the calendar reads?  Langsdale has you covered with a vast collection of DVDs sure to make you swoon. Whether you are in the market for a traditional boy-meets-girl movie, or vastly more interesting variations like boy-meets-boy (Brokeback Mountain), girl-kisses-girl (Kissing Jessica Stein), boy-meets-life-sized-inanimate-doll (Lars and the Real Girl), boy-meets-nearly-omniscient-operating-system (Her), or vampire-slow-dances-with-vampire (Only Lovers Left Alive), a quick search of our database reveals many treasures.  We’ve even made a handy-- albeit not exhaustive—list of romance DVDS for your perusal.  You can also stop by the circulation desk on the third floor of the library, where we have arranged a display of specially selected romantic flicks. Much like that cutie pie you keep stealing glances of in your Information Literacy class, we hope you'll check us out really soon!


Not everything is forever online!

There's a very dominant narrative in our culture that online is forever.  We warn young adults to be careful about what they post on social media lest it wind up in the hands of future employers.  But not everything is forever.

Lots of people are familiar with "The Wayback Machine" which tries to preserve the internet of the past by archiving as much as possible, but it can't store everything.  A recent article in the Atlantic pointed out that generations who grow up with the internet are even at risk of losing their cultural touchstones.  As popular culture moves increasingly online will parents be able to share with their children the cultural artifacts they experienced through Youtube or the websites of the past?


Finding AV in Special Collections

There have been a few blog posts written before about the WMAR-TV and WJZ-TV Collections, but today I would like to discuss the process of actually finding and accessing an AV item that is requested.

First, how might researchers even know where to look for WMAR, WJZ or Baltimore-area news footage? They would most likely conduct a Google search which would show (a few hits down in the results) the Langdale Library Special Collections’ website. We also have a collection-level entry in ourlibrary catalog that will show as a result in searching WorldCat.org. This points to collection-level finding aids, which then points to that particular collection on the Special Collections’ website.

Our website has inventories online that describes many item-level objects for these two collections--although not everything that we have is mentioned online. For the WMAR-TV Series I film reels, we inherited old paper-filled log books where most of the films are described with key subjects and terms, chronologically. Large portions of these have been electronically transcribed and are in word-searchable HTML tables that are also searched by Google (here is an example of one). For the rest of the collection, the logs are either not online or scanned but not searchable (and in cursive, which many people these days cannot read). The WJZ-TV inventory is a list of the titles on the videocassettes containers in word-searchable PDFs—just CTRL-F and type in the term you are looking for.

Binders full of films: the WMAR-TV Collection Log Books
Once you know what you want, we have a location register in Excel for me to easily find the boxes in our storage areas. The film reels take a bit more time to find as their locations are not in the register: they are not stored in boxes so they need to be entered into the Excel at the item-level and there are about 4,000 of these reels (we are slowly working on this, but, like many libraries and archives, we have limited time and resources).

After I physically find the item, if it is a Umatic, VHS, or Betacam tape, I then can make a digitized copy for you pending some restrictions. However if it is any other AV format it must be sent out to a vendor at cost to the patron. If it is one of our 4,000 16mm films, I can only send a photo of a pertinent frame for whatever subject you are looking for. We cannot project the film as this will irreparably damage the film and as archivists we are bound to “do no harm” to our collections. 

Recent film frame sent to a patron: Eubie Blake playing the piano in 1973.
If you see the photo I send to you and absolutely must have a digitized copy of the film, you must pay to have it sent to a professional preservation vendor to have the whole reel or video digitized (we must approve of the vendor as there are many qualifications they must meet). We initially provide 1 hour of work for free (please read more about our services here). These charges help us to maintain our expensive obsolete AV equipment, purchase preservation supplies and containers, and to overall better care for and provide access to these collections.

As tapes and films are digitized, we take any information we can find about that item and upload them to the InternetArchive collection for viewing and downloading for non-commercial purposes. There are several hours uploaded per week of unique Baltimore-area history, so please stay tuned for more!


Reference Ebook of the Month: The Statistical Abstract of the United States

Over the past few years, Langsdale Library has been providing access to a growing collection of ebooks,  Even if you are someone who prefers the printed page, reference books seem particular well suited to an electronic format.  For these sources, a good part of their value comes from the ability to look up a topic and get solid background information when you need it.  So having online access to these resources can be a boon.

Our electronic reference sources are findable through the library catalog, but they can be difficult to discover if you don't know what we have available.  So this semester, I will take some time to tell you about some of the reference books we have available online.  To begin is one of my favorite reference sources, the Proquest Statistical Abstract of the United States.


Until 2012, the Stat Abstracts were  published by the U.S. Census Bureau, and media outlets like NPR would routinely do segments on some of the interesting statistics located inside its pages.  Due to cuts in funding, the federal government stopped publishing the Stat Abstracts, and a company called Bernan Press stepped in to take it over.  So the most recent versions are available to UB students, staff and faculty, but you must go through the library home page in order to gain access to it.  The video above gives you some idea of things you can find within the Stat Abstracts, but there is a lot more. If you have the opportunity to look through the ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States yourself, maybe you can find your own favorite statistics.


Happy 2015 and Langsdale's Winter Hours

Happy 2015! Here at Langsdale, we're less about New Year's resolutions and are more geared toward evolution: namely, we are dedicated to the continued intellectual development of our patrons with regards to their learning and achievement, even when classes aren't in session. That's why the library is fully staffed in January, and we've got leisure reading, DVDs, reference assistance, internet access, and inter-library loans to keep you busy all during January. Come visit us Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The library will be closed on January 9th for a staff development day, and again on Monday, January 19th in observance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Spring Semester hours will begin on January 26th: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. See you soon.