What are we reading? Staff recommended reads for November

NovSliderAre you looking for a good book to read?  Hundreds of thousands of books are published each year, so how does one choose? Read on for several Milne Library staff  book recommendations for the month of November.

Business & Data Librarian Justina Elmore recommends a popular novel by Dan Brown:

Inferno-coverI’ve just finished reading Dan Brown’s latest book Inferno.  Brown is best known for his novel The Da Vinci Code (2003) and his works are guilty-pleasure reading for me. It isn’t high literature, but he’s a great storyteller and you can tell he’s spent a good deal of time in a library. In this latest novel, symbolist Robert Langdon unwittingly finds himself at the center of controversy (again) and in a globe-trotting race to save the world from a bio-terrorist attack.  A task that can only be accomplished by decoding Dante’s Inferno. Dante scholars should probably avoid the agony of reading this one, but it’s a quick and entertaining read for the rest of us willing to suspend reality for a few hours.

Librarian Kate Pitcher recommends a new fantasy novel, The Bone Season, by British writer Samantha Shannon:

bone seasonThe Bone Season is the first of a projected seven book series and is generating  a lot of buzz. Paige Mahoney is a “dreamwalker”, a type of clairvoyant in London, circa 2059.  Paige’s special abilities allow her to walk in and out of others’ minds and take information without their knowledge. Paige works for  a crime syndicate in the shadowy underbelly of London, but her life is dramatically changed overnight when she is kidnapped and taken to the lost city of Oxford.  Paige is kept imprisoned by a race of beings from another world, called the Rephaim, and is assigned a keeper, called Warden.  In order to find her escape, she realizes she must get close to Warden; an uneasy and altogether dangerous subterfuge. Gripping and entertaining, The Bone Season, marks an impressive debut  in what will be an original and thrilling series of science fiction.

For fans of contemporary fiction, Business Manager Ryann Fair recommends two titles this month:

light oceansI’m currently reading The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. If you’re looking for a gripping, emotional, and morally challenging read then I would give this first time novelist a try!

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah is hands down one of my all-time favorites! This novel is beautifully written and will draw you in. It’ll take you on one heck of an emotional roller coaster; making you laugh and (if your like me) cry as you discover the chilling and courageous story of Anya Whitman and her family.

What is the impact of textbook prices on students?

written by Tim Bowersox and Kate Pitcher

It is a commonly heard story on campus that students are feeling the pressure when it comes to textbook prices.  Anecdotally, librarians and faculty have heard about many students’ dropping or avoiding classes because they cannot afford the required texts — not because of content, interest or availability. Next week, Milne Library will be holding a series of events related to the open access movement and how we can redefine the impact of free and open resources on higher education.

How do textbook prices impact college students?

imageWe do know that nationally, students bear a high cost to attend college, but how much do textbook costs factor into these budgets?  In 2012, the Florida Student Textbook Survey was conducted by the Florida Virtual Campus (a network of public colleges in Florida). The researchers interviewed over 20,000 students from all 11 of Florida’s state universities.

Among the many survey goals, officials wanted to find out how much Florida students spent on textbooks during the Spring 2012 semester; the frequency with which students buy new textbooks; how students are affected by the cost of textbooks; what formats students prefer; and additionally, what students’ perceptions of the availability of textbooks in their institutions’ libraries actually is.

In brief, the researchers found several trends:

  • Textbook costs continue to take a toll on students financially and academically

  • Students use various means to reduce costs of textbooks, including purchasing books from a source other than the campus bookstore, renting textbooks, purchasing used books, selling their used books, and using copies on reserve at the campus library

  • Some institutions’ libraries provide textbooks for checkout, extending a lifeline to students who cannot afford to purchase a textbook

How Geneseo students feel about textbooks

Much of this was seen in our own informal polling of our students.  During the Spring 2012 semester, we conducted a brief survey to gage the attitudes of SUNY Geneseo students toward textbook prices. Though the response rate was small, we did receive some candid feedback:

“Sometimes, it makes me not want to take a class. I’m somewhat funding myself, so high costs of textbooks are a deciding factor for me.” — Sophomore

“Forced to get old outdated versions where the page numbers dont match up because buying the right/new version is too expensive.” — Junior

“I have to really think ahead and plan ahead to make sure I will have the money to buy my textbooks. There have been classes I haven’t taken because the cost of the textbooks has been too high for me to afford.” — Junior

“It is very expensive to buy textbooks. Generally my professors are honest about whether or not we will use the text during class, but sometimes I go through a whole semester without even opening it. Textbook buy-back stinks because I barely get a fraction of what I initially paid. Basically, it is an incredibly expensive addition to the already incredibly expensive cost of furthering my education. “ — Junior

“I had a work study job this year to cover various expenses, but with the costs of textbooks, I rarely had cash to spend. My parents are helping pay for my college education and they too are financially strained by how expensive the textbooks can be in addition to everything else we need to pay for.” — Freshman

Milne Library can’t do it alone

In an effort to mitigate some of the burden of purchasing textbooks, Milne Library has developed a Textbooks on Reserve collection. Currently, the collection consists of 787 unique titles — that’s roughly 72% of the unique titles assigned by faculty for the Fall 2013 semester. Although some of the titles were already in our collection, we rely heavily upon donations from faculty and students in order to stay current. Why? Because we simply cannot afford to buy the latest edition of each textbook every year.

FreeTextbookOur Textbook on Reserve collection also has limited reach. In order to ensure that as many students as possible can access the collection, students can only check out one book at a time for 4 hours. Since we often only have one or two copies of a book, not every student can access a copy when they need it most: often the night before an assignment is due.

Some students also try to borrow their textbooks through Information Delivery Services (IDS). However, this also has limitations. Many libraries do not allow us to borrow textbooks through interlibrary loan. We are often forced to borrow older or alternate editions. As with all materials we borrow from other libraries, due dates are often limited to 4-6 weeks — meaning students have to return the items before the end of the semester.

Where do we go from here?

We want to know your thoughts. Please respond to our blog post with your comments – how do textbook prices impact your educational experience at Geneseo?  What are some strategies or alternatives used to avoid buying a textbook?

Download and read the 2012 Florida Student Textbook Survey

New Common Core Textbooks!

my_mathWould you like to get your hands on the newest Common Core-aligned textbooks?

Milne Library has added new Math, Science, and ELA textbooks to its collection (Math and ELA include the common core standards).

Common Core Resources:

  • EngageNY.org – Common Core-aligned educational resources, instructional content, performance tasks, and assessment guidelines and materials developed by NYSED.
  • NYSED.gov – New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy and Core Curriculum.
  • commoncore.org – The Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project provides educators with high-quality, low-cost curriculum tools based on the Common Core State Standards for ELA.
  • NYSED.gov – Common Core Learning Standards for Mathematics and Core Curriculum.
  •  NCTM.org – Core Math Tools is a suite of interactive software tools and are appropriate for use with any HS mathematics curriculum and compatible with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.
  • School Library Journal – Common Core blog, chock-full of wonderful articles and resources to help in lesson planning.

For help finding these texts or if you have questions/concerns please contact Michelle Costello ([email protected]) CCTexts

What are we reading? Staff recommended reads for October

Are you looking for a good book to read?  Hundreds of thousands of books are published each year, so how does one choose? Read on for several Milne Library staff  book recommendations for the month of October.

In the mood for a spectacular YA fantasy?  Then read the following recommendation by Bill Jones, IDS Project Creative Technologist, for a truly amazing young adult novel:

The multiple award-winning YA novel, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, is a story filled with surreal illustrations and a captivating a-monster-callsstoryline that leaves the reader wondering what is in fact real and what is simply perceived to be.  The story is told through the eyes of a teenage boy named Conor, who describes his struggle in coming to terms with his mother’s cancer and the terrifying possibility of losing her.  Awakened from a nightmare, a monster comes to help Conor understand his future and admit truths that he holds deep inside.

Throughout the novel, the monster shares with Conor three stories to help him understand the truths of life and what lies ahead.  “The answer is that it does not matter what you think,” the monster said.  “Because your mind will contradict itself a hundred times each day. You wanted her to go at the same time you were desperate for me to save her. Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.”

Check out Patrick Ness’ amazing three-part Chaos Walking Trilogy:  The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008), The Ask and the Answer (2010), and Monsters of Men (2010).
Download the free prequel of the trilogy, A New World, today from Amazon Kindle!

Special Collections Librarian Liz Argentieri recommends an Irish writer and a trilogy which broke numerous social and literary barriers when first released in the 1960s.

Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls trilogy includes The Country Girls (1960), The Lonely Girl (1962), Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964).  All three novels were then reissued together with an  Epilogue in 1987.country girls

The impetus to pick up Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls trilogy came from chancing upon a panel discussion of it on the Diane Rehm show last spring.  Dealing with growing up female and Catholic in mid-20th century Ireland, it sounded intriguing: controversial, daring, and literary.  And since I liked what I had read of O’Brien’s short stories, I thought I’d tackle her trilogy. I’m glad I did.

The novels center on Caithleen (“Kate”) Brady, mainly, and her friend Bridget (“Baba”) Brennan, whom we first meet as two young teenage girls living in a small Irish town and straining against the confines of their lives – as teenagers often will.  They are an unlikely pair, and I never did grow to like Baba. Throughout, she bullied Kate and quite literally led her astray, beginning with her orchestration of getting them both expelled from convent school (an opportunity Kate, whose mother had recently died and whose drunk of a father drifted in and out of her life (usually violently) could ill-afford to squander).  But Kate was not easy to root for either.  Watching her drift through her own life, allowing friends, family, and lovers to largely decide her course, often made for frustrating reading, and if it weren’t for her sweetness and vulnerability and the unfortunate events in her life that she truly was unable to control, I might have had less sympathetic feeling for her.

lonely girlThe tone and point of view of the narration shifts between Kate and Baba.  When Baba’s telling the story, the language is more lively, the attitude more devil-may-care, but I’m sure I sensed an underlying pathos in there, especially in the last novel and Epilogue, when the two had more or less “made their beds.”  A current of loneliness flows through Kate’s rather spare narrative voice, especially when she’s talking or thinking about her girlhood home, a run-down farm on the edge of town.  The language she uses to describe that place and her life there – which was not without happiness and love – evokes the stereotypical image of a rainy, damp, bleak Ireland.  The feeling carries through her days in Dublin as a shop girl and Baba’s reckless tag-along, her romantic misadventures with older married men, and her ultimate fate.

Are you a fan of contemporary literary fiction?  Librarian Kate Pitcher recommends Life After Life, the latest novel by Kate Atkinson:

Ursula Todd is born on a cold and blustery night in 1910, and then dies.  She is then reborn, living through her traumatic birth, until a tragic death by drowning.  Ursula is then reborn again, lives a happy but chaotic childhood and dies in a firebombing during World War II.   She is then reborn again.life after life

Kate Atkinson (author of the wonderful Jackson Brodie mystery novels; Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There Be Good News? and Started Early, Took My Dog) is an expert storyteller and a literary artist.  In her newest novel, she takes on an interesting device to tell the story of her heroine, Ursula Todd. What if your life didn’t really end at your death, rather, that your life is actually a series of lives as one person, and that you are destined to relive some of the same experiences over and over again, until you get it right?  This is the conceit that Atkinson employs to show Ursula’s development as a character and a person living through some of the worst calamities the human race has ever known – two World Wars and the almost entire destruction of people, namely those of the Jewish faith during the Holocaust.

Atkinson’s novel explores Ursula’s surreal sense of déjà vu and it works – the reader plays along and relives these lives; each one slightly different than the one prior, depending on how Ursula “learned” from that life.  What captures the reader’s imagination is the authors’ shaping of the narrative; how she uses the same plot and events, but almost every chapter reads like a different story.  It is a completely inventive and captivating story and engages the reader from page one, until the end, when we are left with the desire to relive those lives all over again.  Highly recommended, especially for fans of literary fiction and authors such as Margaret Atwood and Jennifer Egan.

2013.OctSR

 

Faculty Bookshelf: An interview with Steve Bein

Faculty.Bein2Steve Bein is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, teaching classes on Asian philosophy.  Dr. Bein sat down with Kate Pitcher earlier this year to talk about books, reading and his writing life.  Dr. Bein’s second novel in the Fated Blades series (Year of the Demon) is newly published by Roc (an imprint of Penguin Publishing) this October.

What are your current research interests?

My recent projects have been in compassion, environmental ethics, and applied ethics.  My upcoming project is a book chapter on a Japanese philosopher called Watsuji Tetsurō.  There I’m writing about problems of how we self-identify in the face of climate change.

What is your favorite literary genre to read for pleasure?

At heart I’m a science fiction and fantasy guy.  They’ve got the most potential to be philosophically provocative.  But when I’m reading for pleasure, I also have an eye for reading the kind of stuff I’m currently writing.  So for Daughter of the Sword and Year of the Demon, I’ve been reading urban fantasy, historical fiction, and anything with strong female protagonists, because my books have all of those elements.

Do you read one book or multiple books at a time?

I read multiple books at a time.  (In my line of work, there’s not much choice!)

What book(s) are currently on your nightstand or e-reader?

I make it a point to read some philosophy and some fiction every day.  In philosophy I’m reading a lot of Watsuji Tetsurō right now.  In fiction, Kurt Vonnegut’s Sucker’s Portfolio and Hugh Howey’s Wool.

Tell us about a book that changed your life:

Introduction to Zen Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki is the first book I read on Zen, at fourteen.  It’s the book that put me on my career path. It taught me the importance of mental discipline, and that you didn’t necessarily need to replace one religion for another. The essential message is that your problems are problems because they are problematic for you.  Stress is not objective.  It’s not like weather; it’s not inevitable.  You can manage it.the-hobbit-tolkien

As for fiction, I read The Hobbit when I was a kid and I was hooked on fantasy after that.  Tolkien led me to Madeline L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, Robert E. Howard, all of that stuff.  From there I got into the sci fi side: Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, writers like that.  But I think The Hobbit is the snowflake that triggered the avalanche.

Name a book you just couldn’t finish & why:

I was asked to review a first novel, The Name of the Wind, which was advertised as Tolkienesque.  In my review I wanted to write, “it’s exactly as Tolkienesque as my work is Tolkienesque, which is to say not at all.”  No one is Tolkienesque—not until they redefine an entire genre and influence everyone in it.  My review of that book was, “Harry Potter without an interesting school, interesting adventures, or interesting friends, blathering on endlessly while taking superhuman efforts to remain a virgin.”

What were your favorite books as a child?

The Black Stallion, Choose Your Own Adventures, typical kid stuff. Thousands of pages of comic books. So many Conan novels. I was just at the right age when comic books made the shift from kid’s fare to adult fare.  Batman, Wolverine and those guys were my mythology, but then graphic novels came into being, so I could follow them into high school and beyond.

Do you have any favorite books related to your academic background in Japanese philosophy and history—books that non-experts would find accessible?

SophiesWorldZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is brilliant, and very accessible.  Robert Aitken is also very accessible; he’s one of the guys who brought Zen Buddhism to the United States.  The Mind of Clover stands out as a good choice.  On the Western side, Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World is a lovely little introduction to philosophy.

You also write fiction –how do you manage the difference in the writing process (or is there a difference?) between creative and scholarly writing?

They’re different but they inform each other. I think the demand for research in my academic life has trained me to do a lot of background reading for my fiction—which is a good thing, because historical fiction is heavily research intensive.  On the flipside, the fiction acts as a reward system for the academic scholarship; in fact, I’m sure I never could have finished my dissertation without it.  I was writing a novel at the time, and my system was to write 500 words a day for the dissertation before I was allowed to do any fiction writing.  A year later I had a finished dissertation and a novel manuscript in hand.

And then there’s the obvious: no matter what you write, I think the more time you spend writing, the better you get at it.  In my philosophy I want to be clear and lucid; in my fiction I want to write with panache.  Not a lot of philosophers focus on the latter, but in my opinion, writing clearly, lucidly, and with flair is no bad thing.

If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be?  What would you want to know?

Plato, and everything.

Milne Library textbook resources

With the Fall semester right around the corner, it’s time again to go textbook shopping. If you have a tight budget, Milne Library may be able to help you access your required textbooks.

Textbooks on Reserve Collection

Milne Library has a growing collection of textbooks available for 4 hour loan. You can easily search the collection from our Find Textbooks and Course Reserves library guide. If the textbook is available in our collection, just drop by the Service Desk to request it. (Note: you can only check out one textbook at a time.)

Information Delivery Services (IDS)

If Milne Library does not own the textbook you need, you can request a copy through Information Delivery Services. If we are able to find another library that can lend us a copy, then we will borrow it via interlibrary loan. Please be advised that most interlibrary loan books can only be borrowed for 4-6 weeks and renewals are not guaranteed. As a result, this is not the ideal way to access a textbook you’ll need for the entire semester.

We highly recommend that you allow 2-4 weeks for us to find a lending library for textbooks. Because textbooks are in high demand (and because many libraries will not lend them through interlibrary loan), it can take longer than usual to borrow them. (Note: if a book is located in our Textbooks on Reserve Collection, we will not borrow it from another library.)

 

 

 

Milne Library Publishes Its First Original Monograph!

Tagging Along CoverMilne Library is pleased to announce the publication of Tagging Along: Memories of My Grandfather, James Wolcott Wadsworth, Jr., by Stuart Symington, Jr., the first of what Milne hopes will be a long run of original titles published by the library through the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. This handsome 131-page, illustrated book is now available from Amazon.com, on a print-on-demand basis, for under $10. It will also be freely accessible in Open Monographs Press beginning in July.

A small group of librarians-cum-editors began working last fall with the author, who is the son of  U.S. Senator Stuart Symington, Sr., and Evelyn Wadsworth Symington, daughter of U.S. Senator James W. Wadsworth, Jr., of Geneseo. With Symington, the editorial team worked out style issues, added photographs, and designed the cover and layout for the book–everything, in short, that publishing houses do to ready a book for publication. Milne Library then uploaded the electronic file of the book to CreateSpace, and descriptive and ordering information for the book appeared in Amazon.com. When copies are ordered, CreateSpace will print them for Amazon to ship. It’s a publishing model that Milne has been using in conjunction with hosting the open access ebook versions on Open Monograph Press. The initiative began last fall, when Milne issued Recollections of 3 Rebel Prisons, by G. G. Prey, the first title in its Genesee Valley Historical Reprint series.

 Symington with his grandfather, James W. Wadsworth, Jr., in Paris during WW II
Symington with his grandfather, James W. Wadsworth, Jr., in Paris during WW II

Tagging Along recalls the time Symington spent with his “kind, wise, generous, and very patient grandfather.” The story of “Grampa” Wadsworth’s political career and private life, woven together with the author’s memories and impressions of long childhood visits to his grandparents’ home and farms in Geneseo, is set against the rich background of Wadsworth family history. As SUNY Geneseo President Christopher Dahl says in the book’s foreword, Tagging Along is “a lively, affectionate memoir of a politician and statesman who was present at some of the major events of the twentieth century, a man who represents a conservative tradition rooted in respect for the soil and responsibility to his community–a tradition, sadly, very little in evidence in today’s civic and political life.”

Stuart Symington, Jr., a retired member of the Missouri Bar and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, was born in Rochester, N.Y., and spent much of his youth on the Niagara Frontier and in Washington, D.C. He served overseas in World War II and graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School.

 

Faculty Bookshelf: Rachel Hall

HallSlider
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!

WeedingGraphic
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.

Donate to the Future

TextbookReserveMilne Library is doing its part to save students textbook dollars, and now we need YOUR help!  The Milne Library Textbook Reserve Program currently contains approximately 780 textbooks and about 230 media items.  Since August of last year, these books/items were used 11,034 times!  If you have used this service, you know just how valuable it is!

How can you help? We need new and updated copies of texts so that others may use them next year. Simply drop your used textbooks in the book donations box by the front door of the library. Help us meet the needs of students in future classes.