Faculty Bookshelf: Rachel Hall

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Professor Rachel Hall in Holland.

Rachel Hall, Professor of English, Director of Writing, and award-winning author, is an avid reader of fiction, especially short stories. As a young woman, she became enamored of the short story, and continues to read them for inspiration and enlightenment. The stories of Alice Munro were especially important to her, in particular, Munro’s exploration of characters and their psychology.

Many of Professor Hall’s favorite short stories are by Alice Munro: “Dimensions” and “Free Radicals” from the collection Too Much Happiness; “My Mother’s Dream” from The Love of a Good Woman; “Friend of My Youth” and “Differently” from Friend of My Youth; “Labor Day Dinner” from The Moons of Jupiter; “Miles City, Montana” from The Progress of Love; “Carried Away” from Open Secrets.

Finding a Girl in America
Finding a Girl in America

She also enjoys Andre Dubus’ stories collected in Separate Flights and Finding a Girl in America, Robin Black’s If I Loved You I Would Tell You This, Jean Thompson’s Throw Like A Girl, The News From Spain by Joan Wickersham, and Siobahn Fallon’s You’ll Know When The Men Are Gone. And when she wants something new, literary magazines keep her well supplied.

Professor Hall says, “My philosophy on books and reading is that you can never be bored if you love books. I grew up in a family of readers and that is one of the best gifts my parents gave me.  I’m always reading something.  I read for many different reasons–for pleasure, or inspiration, or research or for models (how was this story built?) especially when I’m rereading.”

If I Loved You I Would Tell You This
If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This

Next on Professor Hall’s reading list is Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s collection of related short stories about Vietnam, and two books by Philip Caputo, Rumor of War, which is a personal narrative of a soldier in Vietnam, and 13 Seconds: A Look Back at the Kent State Shootings.

Not surprisingly when you look at her “to do” reading list, Professor Hall’s next writing project will be a novel set in the 1960s-70s, so she is set to enjoy researching for that book. Another future project is the Rochester Jewish Book Festival. She is on the committee that sponsors the festival and she will be traveling to New York City soon to recruit speakers for that event.

When asked what her favorite books were as a child, Professor Hall reveals a fascination with The Endless Steppe, by Esther Hautzig, spending hours imagining herself as the protagonist in frozen Siberia. Additionally, she enjoyed The Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and biographies of women such as Helen Keller.

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Professor Hall shares her love of reading with her daughter; the two are members of a mother-daughter book club. While this gives her the opportunity to explore some new books with her daughter, it also means she has to read some books she’d rather not (Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson comes to mind).

The author Professor Hall would love to meet and talk to? Alice Munro, of course! If such a meeting could happen, Ms. Munro would undoubtedly enjoy the conversation with Rachel Hall immensely.

 

History Professors Weed Milne Garden!

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What’s going on with all the books? WEEDING!

SUNY Geneseo History professors spent some time recently “weeding” the history books on Milne’s top floor. Weeding is the kinder, gentler word librarians use for discarding books!

The reality is that every library has to discard books from time to time, to make room for new books and to rid the collection of old, outdated, and possibly misleading books. In the science and medical section, for instance, a book from 1950 could be dangerous, with information that has long since been proven wrong!

Weeding the history section, however, can be tricky because a book whose information is out of date still has use for historiography purposes, in other words, to study the changing interpretation of historical events over time. So, for instance, a book published in 1962 that mentions Malcolm X might not be accurate in light of recent research about Malcolm X, but that 1962 book may be extremely useful as a primary source when studying changing attitudes about race in this country.

The history professors, then, had to determine the worth of each book as an information source, as a classic historical text, and as a primary source, as well as considering the condition of the book, how easy the book would be to obtain on interlibrary loan, and if students at Geneseo are studying the topic or not. If a book doesn’t meet the criteria, out it goes! Since January, 522 books have been weeded from the Milne history collection, and 129 new history books have been ordered so far to replace them.BWB

But don’t worry, the books we “weed” aren’t tossed in a garbage bin! We send them to a company called Better World Books, which re-sells them for us and sends us a portion of the profit, which we use to buy new books.  A portion of Better World Books’ profit also funds high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world.

Gandy Dancer Ball

Come one, Come all to the Gandy Dancer Ball!!

Please help us celebrate the official launch of Geneseo’s new online literary journalGandy Dancer, Issue 1.2.

When: Friday, May 3
Where: Welles 111
Time: 1-3 pm

Nourishment for body and mind provided!

Gandy Dancer, which serves the entire SUNY system, is titled after the slang term for the railroad workers who laid and maintained the railroad tracks before the advent of machines to do this work. Like the gandy dancers, writers and artists arrange and rearrange, adjust and polish to create something that allows others passage. Check the journal out at gandydancer.org

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Data: What Do YOU Need in our Collection?

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Paul Scipione talks about his mentor and friend Dr. George Gallup, well know for developing the Gallup opinion poll.

The library held a successful Celebration of Data event last Wednesday (April 24, 2013) where Professor Emeritus Paul Scipione gave a lecture on the value of census data.

“Looking at census information, you are able to see not just statistics, but that there are stories in there…”.  The data provides “the very story of the United States,” giving us a historical picture of when Americans became affluent enough to afford a family car, televisions, college degrees or their own homes.  Scipione tells us how businesses saw the value of census information for market research and how technological advances impacted what and how much information could be collected and offered by the Census Bureau.  For more, watch the lecture online.

The event was part of the 2013 International Year of Statistics, an initiative of over 1900 participating organizations from all over the world who are holding events to celebrate data and promote the importance of statistics.

But we don’t want the conversations to end there!

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Tell us, what are your data needs?

It is most fitting that during this year of statistics, Milne is developing a census and data collection for Geneseo.  The purpose of the collection is to provide student, staff and faculty researchers easy access to data; and to provide area entrepreneurs and small businesses access to economic and demographic data for market research.

This collection will be most useful if folks like you have a hand in its development.  Let us know what resources you need in this collection.