Rolfing Unshelved

Books, news, and events from TIU's Rolfing Library


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Constitution Day: Don’t Think You Can Make a Difference?

“Write a paper about the governmental process.”

20-year-old Gregory Watson, one in a sea of 300 faces in the 1982 spring semester American Government survey class at the University of Texas, read through his syllabus and considered his final assignment. The prompt was broad enough — that was for sure. He figured he’d take a look at the deadline extension of the Equal Rights Amendment, which was set to expire right around the end of the semester. He found a book in the library that listed all the proposed-but-not-ratified amendments to the US Constitution. One in particular caught his interest.

ConstitutionIn 1789, when the ink of the Constitution itself was still drying, Representative (later to become the 4th President) James Madison was concerned about the fact that senators and representatives could vote pay raises for themselves without any oversight. He lobbied to get a clause put into the Constitution itself, but failed — so he decided to take the long way around. He proposed a constitutional amendment that simply read, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” In other words, any salary changes wouldn’t take effect until after the next election (so the American public could have a say in the process). Seven states ratified the amendment, two short of the necessary two-thirds, and then the movement lost steam. However, there was one peculiar characteristic of this particular amendment: James Madison didn’t write in an expiration date. Thus, at least theoretically, it was still eligible for ratification, even if the necessary “two-thirds” was a lot bigger in the 20th century than it was in the 18th.

Gregory had his topic. He dove in with relish, seeking to show that this amendment was both viable and valid in late 20th-century America. He crafted his argument, supported his assertions — and ended up getting a C on the paper. His professor said the idea was “too unrealistic.” Gregory was furious. He quit school, found work as a staff member in the Texas legislature, and started his letter-writing campaign. Armed with little more than a typewriter, he spent long evenings crafting letters to representatives and senators in states that had not yet passed the amendment. Battling (often uphill) against bureaucracy and political inertia, he remained tenacious. Even after gaining key political partnerships and taking advantage of souring popular opinion against US Congressional conduct, he would still have to put in a grueling decade’s worth of work before enjoying the fruits of his labor. But that work did eventually pay off — on May 7, 1992, almost 203 years after John Madison’s initial proposal, Michigan became the 38th state to add its approval to what became the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

All because one seemingly insignificant undergrad took the initiative and followed his passion.

Bibliography:

 Editor’s Note: Constitution Day is September 17, 2014! Check out our display in the front of the library for more books and films about the Constitution.


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Christianity, Game of Thrones, and Reading Objectionable Content

The concept of story is as old as time itself. Everything in existence tells a story. We can dig into the ground and find evidence to construct a history of ancient civilizations. History itself is a story, a high-story, a narrative of past events. Humans have been telling stories since before the introduction of writing in the late third millennium BC. Today we’ve refined storytelling into an art. And since the printing press, storytelling has become a massive commercial market.

The Shadow RisingWe all enjoy a good story. A good story engages you emotionally, and really good stories can pull you in so far that the world around you seems secondary to this other narrative. I remember reading The Shadow Rising (book four in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series), and I had nearly finished the second half of the book in one sitting before I realized that the next day was dawning. Good stories captivate us immensely. The medium doesn’t matter: big screen, TV, smartphone, radio, e-reader, newspaper… they all relay stories. Story is everywhere in our lives. But in regard to Christians and fiction genres — particularly those with so-called “objectionable content” — lines have been boldly drawn between what is appropriate and what is not. As a fan of literature, this has caused me some frustration and concern. So I pose the question: Must we, as Christians, protect ourselves from objectionable content by abstaining from these fictional works, regardless of their other benefits?

What is “objectionable content”? In researching this post, I saw the term thrown about almost everywhere, although few sources actually defined it. For the sake of my discussion, three categories sum it up: gratuitousness (material that is over-the-top, unwarranted, and lacking good reason); explicitness (explaining or stating something in a detailed and graphic fashion); and amoral tone (indifference to what is right or wrong).

Culturally, we are sensitive to this sort of content. Movies, television, music, and video games all have The Blind Sidecontent ratings. Christian bookstores have taken this a step further by actually censoring and banning publications. For example, Rachel Held Evans writes that LifeWay Christian bookstores banned the Academy Award-winning movie The Blind Side (available at Rolfing on DVD) because it contained, according to the Southern Baptist Convention, “explicit profanity, God’s name in vain, and racial slur.” In another example, Jeff Gerke’s experimental imprint Hinterlands — designed to publish Christian sci-fi and fantasy books with mature content — was considered controversial, despite the extreme popularity of its first publication (and Christian novelist Mike Duran has plenty to say about it). We can reasonably conclude that a fundamentally conservative brand of Christianity is opposed to most content that is even remotely objectionable, especially within the Christian market.

Today, virtually every mainstream genre has an alternative Christian sub-genre that intertwines these genres with conservative theology, while omitting any edgy material. In a Library Journal review, Melanie Duncan notes how Christian fiction is criticized as simplistic storytelling that can’t compete with the mainstream publishing market. Even when the Christian market has endeavored to expand into edgier genres, it still holds to some basic principles: Christian morals, inspirational themes, and family values. However, it is undeniable that there are a plethora of great stories that aren’t Christian and that occasionally lack the aforementioned principles. So, how do Christians approach these stories that contain “objectionable content”?

A game of thrones book coverConsider the epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, more commonly known as Game of Thrones. The first book was published in 1996 and it, along with every succeeding book in the series, won numerous literary awards. The television adaptation on HBO has become that network’s most successful series to date. The series’ success is not surprising, as George R. R. Martin has written a true epic that is incredibly complex yet relatable.

HBO’s adaptation, like the books themselves, does not shy from violence, sexuality, crude language, and a very raw depiction of a depraved human nature. The popular series has sparked much discussion about how Christians should interact with stories that contain such content. In an interview with Michael Trimmer, Christian science fiction author Simon Morden responds to several inquiries regarding the series’ more graphic material. Morden points out that certain attractive, rich elements of story-writing are present in the series, and considers these benefits in relation to the “objectionable content” in the same books.

As Christians, do we draw a line? Do we dismiss a series like this due to its “objectionable content” or do we say, “Enjoy the story, but please read/view responsibly”? As consumers of literary material, we have liberty to choose what we want to read; as Christians, we need to make a responsible choice. What do we do?

Allow me to offer some guidance. Amy Becker argues in Christianity Today that Christians should be reading non-Christian fiction because these novels challenge us to see things about our culture through a different lens, purporting perspectives that can educate us about our culture and how we can engage it. They also challenge us to realize the humanity that we “share with everyone else, in our common brokenness and our common beauty.” In a similar vein, Alan Noble says, “Sometimes we have to read hard, ugly, offensive, depressing things to understand our world, and thereby love our neighbor.” The point here is that sometimes there are hard truths found in non-Christian fiction that are valuable, even from a Christian worldview.

Game of Thrones on HBOHow do A Song of Ice and Fire and the Game of Thrones TV series measure up? In a Christianity Today article from last year, Jonathan Ryan states that Game of Thrones is too dark to be realistic, refuting George R. R. Martin’s claim to hold a realistic view of humanity. But then again, Martin’s world in Game of Thrones is amoral at best, says Morden. Furthermore, there is no great good versus evil struggle in Martin’s books, a theme to which Christians readily relate. Is there any benefit, then, for Christians to read this series and others like it?

One benefit is that the broken world in Game of Thrones can shake us out of apathy. It is easy to forget that we live in a similarly broken world, one that increasingly requires the efforts of Christians to improve and protect it. There is also an element to Game of Thrones that I — and many other Christians — can identify with. Martin’s fictional land of Westeros is caught up in endless conflict, yet there is still a subtle resurgence of hope for resolution and redemption. That is very much a Christian theme! It’s beneficial to us to remember that Christian faith and hope is forward-looking and teleological. I think that non-Christian fiction often depicts worldviews that share desires similar to ours, even in the face of a raw-nature’d humanity.

Finally, can a Christian university library have series like A Song of Ice and Fire in their catalog? Absolutely! Rolfing even has Game of Thrones. I think that as students, library patrons, and avid readers, we ought to be committed to a good story — and good stories don’t always come with a “PG” rating. We can appreciate such literature for the art that it is. It’s not just entertainment; it engages our minds and imaginations.

Grey MattersI don’t think that there are lines that we must draw when it comes to “objectionable content” in non-Christian fiction. Ultimately, what one does and doesn’t read is an individual choice. (If you do need some direction, Brett McCracken’s Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism & Liberty offers a helpful model of discernment.) However, when we do read books with “objectionable content,” we have a responsibility to be critical of their themes and worldviews. As Christians, we should challenge ourselves to read these stories responsibly and critically.


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Not Two Ways to Skin a Cat — I-Share v. Illiad

Interlibrary Loan

Trinity has a pretty awesome library. But what happens when Trinity doesn’t have that book, article, media, etc. for which you are looking? Well, as students at Trinity, we have the amazing privilege of having access to thousands of other materials through our two inter-library loan systems, I-Share and ILLiad.

But what are these two systems? And why do we have two? What are the differences between them? How do I know when to use one and not the other?

What are I-Share and ILLiad?

I-Share

I-Share is a consortium of Illinois academic libraries that lends its collections to any member of a fellow I-Share library. I-Share involves over 75 libraries throughout the state of Illinois. And best of all, it’s free to use!

When ordered, items are delivered to whichever library you select (e.g., Rolfing). When your I-Share book arrives at Rolfing, you will receive an email the next day letting you know. Further, members of an I-Share library can visit any other I-Share library and borrow items onsite.

You can access I-Share through the Rolfing website, or consult our research guide for more information.

ILLiad

ILLiad, which stands for “Inter-Library Loan Internet Accessible Database,” is an inter-library loan system that allows one to borrow books and receive photocopies of periodical articles that are not available at Rolfing but can be obtained from other libraries. Unlike I-Share, which is specific to participating Illinois libraries, ILLiad’s database includes libraries across the country and even throughout the world.

ILLiad is usually free. However, if the item you want is only available from a library that charges a fee, then you will be responsible to pay that borrowing fee.

Like I-Share, when your requested items arrive at Rolfing, you will receive an email. In the case of journal articles, you will receive an email containing the article itself.

You can access ILLiad through the Rolfing website, or navigate to our research guide if you need help.

Wah-Wah…

I-Share and ILLiad services are available to all current students, faculty, and staff of TIU. But — bad news — patrons not currently affiliated with the university (i.e. those with courtesy and visitor accounts) are not eligible to use I-Share and ILLiad services.

When should I use I-Share or ILLiad?

I-Share

Use I-Share when you are looking to borrow a book but it is not available at Rolfing Library. Simple. 🙂

ILLiad

We should first ask, when shouldn’t one use ILLiad? Think of ILLiad as the last resort. One shouldn’t use ILLiad if the material for which you are looking is available in either Rolfing Library or another I-Share library (in other words, check I-Share first). Consequently, if you submit an ILLiad request for an item that’s currently available in I-Share (i.e. the library owns this item and it is not currently checked out), your request will be denied… Sorry. 😦

In short, you should always start you inter-library loan endeavors with I-Share. If the item is not available in I-Share, then consider submitting a request for the item through ILLiad.

Comparison Chart!

 

I-Share

ILLiad

Who Can Request Books or Other Returnable Materials? Any current individual of TIU living near an I-Share library Any current individual of TIU within a 60 mile radius of the Deerfield campus
Who Can Request Articles or Other Copied Materials? N/A Any current individual of TIU
Cost No cost to borrow Free if possible, determined by lending library, patron notified of all charges prior to item being requested
Fines/Fees Patron responsible for lost/replacement fees Patron responsible for lost/replacement fees
Materials Borrowed Books primarily, other materials on a limited basis Books, microfiche, media
Materials Not Borrowed Non-circulating serials Textbooks and/or books required for classes, books available in the TIU library, entertainment
Loan Period 28 days Determined by lending library
Renewals 3 renewals, 28 days each (faculty get 6 renewals, 28 days each) Determined by lending library, 1 renewal max
Patron Account View all materials checked out from TIU or I-Share libraries, request materials from I-Share libraries, renew I-Share materials View materials, request renewals, and place requests through ILLiad account


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Surveying for Change

We’re humbled (and pleasantly surprised!) that a recent Scrawl article gave a welcome “shout out” to the library. The article, “Memo to the Next President,” gave recommendations about how to improve the university. The first priority considered school operations, and encouraged the administration to survey students in order to learn what they think needs to be improved. The author observed, “Here the library deserves a special shout out: they solicit input every year (and even try to beat their previous record of responses!). I suspect some suggestions are good, some have already been tried, and some are impossible. Simply having the data, however, allows them to create accurate metrics of quality, discern changing needs, and be on the lookout for industry best-practices.”

Discerning the needs of our patrons has certainly been the library’s goal in conducting its surveys. We used the results of our recent surveys to benchmark our services against other university libraries and to determine our strengths and weaknesses. These surveys were also valuable for discovering what students care about and what they want to see changed. In addition, more focused surveys allowed us to solicit specific feedback on possible projects and improvements.

The surveys have affirmed what we do well here at Rolfing, yet have also identified problems. Thanks to a recent survey, we discovered that students gave positive ratings to the service provided by librarians and staff. One patron commented, “The staff are always helpful, courteous and wonderful. Any improvement needed is more on the side of resources and services.” (Thanks, dear patron!) This and other responses suggested that resources and the library building were the greatest areas of concern. Our surveys confirmed that students want access to a greater number of books and journals, both in print and online. Patrons also desire a more pleasant study environment: better lighting, more numerous electrical outlets, a more stable temperature, comfier furniture, and an inviting yet studious atmosphere.

new-chairs

Our new study chairs!

As the Scrawl article noted, it can be difficult to make needed changes in response to feedback. One of the major limitations for the library has been budget issues — all these requests cost money (crazy, I know)! Despite our financial limitations, Rolfing staff has worked to find innovative ways to move forward and make some of the improvements you’ve requested. For example, we can’t afford to redo the lighting in the library, but we can (and do!) provide desk lamps for students to check out. Other improvements include our coffee machine, a new vending machine, and a scanner. We’ve also recently purchased new furniture: study chairs, “comfy” lounge chairs, and laptop tables. Recently, we partnered with the GSGA to purchase and install whiteboards in our study rooms. We do hear your requests, and we’re striving to make improvements — albeit small ones — whenever and wherever possible.

Your input is crucial in identifying what changes we should make. We continue to value your critiques and comments, especially as the world of libraries and higher education changes. As the Scrawl article noted, feedback is the best way for us to improve. We always appreciate your suggestions —  keep ’em coming!

Rebecca Miller is Head of Public Services at Rolfing Memorial Library. If you have any ideas to share, please post a comment below or email Rebecca.


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October is Theological Libraries Month!

The American Theological Library Association (ATLA) annually promotes Theological Libraries Month (TLM) in October. The goal is to highlight and advance the importance and value of theological libraries, the services they provide, and the library staff’s behind-the-scenes work to ensure that you have all the resources you need to do incredible research. In honor of the annual event, here are some important highlights about Rolfing Memorial Library.

2013-TLM-LogoThere are more than 166,000 volumes in circulation at our library! That’s a lot of books! But even if you can’t find what you need, fear not. Through I-Share, you have access to 82 other libraries in Illinois. Did you check to see if the book you need is available as an e-book? Rolfing Library has three e-book collections. Another important resource for all the aspiring scholars here on campus is access to scholarly journals. You can access more than 70 article databases which include more than 30,000 online journals at the Article Databases tab on the library website. Did you know that you can also find Dissertations, Theses, and DMin Projects that have been completed here at Trinity? You can search them online or find them on the back wall shelf behind the Main Collection A-BS on the main level.

Such a vast array of resources can be daunting or confusing to navigate. This is where the library staff here can really help you. When it comes to locating books in TrinCat (or the shelf where those books live), searching online article databases, or any number of other questions that I’ve had myself, seek guidance at the library’s Reference Desk or the library website (which boasts resources like Library Tutorials and Citation Help). And if you weren’t able to take advantage of the Research Workshops this Fall, be sure to attend one when they come around next!

Rolfing Library brings a wealth of research tools and resources directly to you, and the library staff is always working hard to ensure that never changes. On your next visit to the library, or if you’re like me and camp out here several times a week, perhaps take a minute to thank the library staff for all that they do to bring these resources to the Trinity community. Leave a comment below, or on the library’s Facebook. You can even Tweet it @TIUlibrary!

Happy Theological Libraries Month!


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Great Family Films for the Summertime

Did you know that the library has an ever-growing collection of family films? This summer, check them out! (Literally.)

Disney/Pixar Favorites:

Chronicles of Narnia:

VeggieTales:

Film reelOther Feature-Length Cartoons:

  • The Secret of Kells: “In a remote medieval outpost of Ireland, young Brendan embarks on a new life of adventure when a celebrated master illuminator arrives from foreign lands carrying a book brimming with secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the magical book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest that takes him into the enchanted forest where mythical creatures hide.” (from the DVD jacket)
  • Rise of the Guardians: “An epic adventure that tells the story of a group of heroes — each with extraordinary abilities. When an evil spirit known as Pitch lays down the gauntlet to take over the world, the immortal Guardians [Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Sandman] must join forces for the first time to protect the hopes, beliefs and imaginations of children all over the world.” (from the Rise of the Guardians website)


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Summer Movie Marathons

For students, the summer is a golden opportunity to loosen up and cast off (some of) the cares of the academic year. What better way to do that than to hold a movie marathon!

The great news is that the library has in its DVD collection all three mainstays of movie-marathoners. Yes, my friends, the great Triumvirate of Trilogies can be found on our shelves: Indiana Jones (sorry, no Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), Star Wars (the original three — of course!), and The Lord of the Rings (yes, even the extended editions!).

Each is epic. Each is exciting. Each is perfect for a summertime couch-bound decompression session. So put down the summer Hebrew homework, gather some friends together, pop some popcorn, and spend a day at your nearest home theater munching, gabbing, and enjoying the show.

Plus, unlike your local multiplex, tickets to these movies are free. Or as Yoda would say, “Free of cost they are.”

Yoda

Credit: starwars.wikia.com