Monday, March 30, 2015

Ken Burns: The American Story

American director and producer of documentary films, Ken Burns, is known for this style of using archival footage and photographs to tell stories about events that have influenced our lives.  His style of storytelling has educated millions of people by providing a compelling way of relating America’s history.  For excellent background information about Burns and his work, visit Ken Burns America.

From his first documentary shown in 1981 about the Brooklyn Bridge to the present time, Burns’ work has appeared on PBS. All of his film titles are available for viewing through the Al Harris Library.  Many of the DVD sets are located on the display and are available for check out.  Additionally, all of Burns’ titles are available to stream through one of our video databases:  Kanopy, Films on Demand, and VAST: Academic Video Online.  Follow these links to the streaming databases.

In addition to the titles that are part of his collected works, a new three-part film titled CANCER: The Emperor of All Maladies airs Monday March 30 through Wednesday April 1.  The series relates the comprehensive story of cancer, from its first description in an ancient Egyptian scroll to the laboratories of modern research institutions of the present. This six-hour film interweaves a sweeping historical narrative with stories about contemporary patients, and an investigation into the latest scientific breakthroughs that may have brought us, at long last, within sight of lasting cures.

The title of this documentary series is based upon an award-winning book of the same name written by cancer physician and researcher, Siddhartha Mukherjee.  The Emperor of All Maladies and all of the books that are located on the display in the Al Harris Library are available for you to check out.  Take a look and see all of the learning opportunities that are available for you through the work of Ken Burns.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Soldiers and Settlers, Cowboys and Lawmen: African Americans and the American West

There are many people who feel that history is just a bunch of boring facts, but this is far from the truth. For example, the history of the American West is not just facts about the past, but rather stories about individuals who really existed.  Among the people who lived in the West were African Americans who worked in a variety of occupations as they attempted to survive.

Some African Americans entered the West as soldiers.  These troops became known as Buffalo Soldiers. Though black soldiers often faced prejudice, they served their country with pride.  Despite the barrier of racism, their courage was recognized by their commanding officers and even the U.S. Congress.  
Just as important as the Buffalo Soldiers were the African Americans who settled on the land.  Some of them were farmers while others owned businesses.  Their perseverance helped them prevail while facing prejudice and the harshness of the land.

African Americans sometimes worked as lawmen to bring fugitives to justice.  One of the most famous of these lawmen was Deputy United States Marshal Bass Reeves.  A former slave, his law career took him throughout Indian Territory to what later became the state of Oklahoma.

Perhaps the most famous icons of the American West were the cowboys.  Both African American men and women worked in this profession.  One cowboy named Bill Pickett worked for the 101 Ranch in the early twentieth century.  He was famous for his skill at steer wrestling, also known as bulldogging.  Rodeo cowboys still perform this skill today, though without Pickett's twist.

Like other people in the American West, African Americans laughed, cried, fought, worked, and died.  They made unique contributions and sacrifices that helped create a better country for themselves, their descendants, and all Americans.  Visit the Al Harris Library and see the book display about African Americans in the American West.  If you see a book you want to read, please check it out at the circulation desk.  Pick up a book and read and remember the lives of these individuals.

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Oops! ...I Did It Again": New Year's Resolutions and How to Keep from Making the Same Mistakes

The pop song "Oops! ...I Did It Again" makes reference to a hurtful habit in personal relationships.  There are many things from different parts of our lives that cause each of us to say the phrase with regret. 

The New Year is a time to take stock of the previous year's achievements, disappointments, and hopes,  to consider personal changes to make during the upcoming year.  Resolutions are a common part of that change-making process.  Typical goals involve losing weight and getting fit; advancing in academics or career; overcoming addictions to alcohol, substances, or gambling; and making changes toward improving relationships.

Though change is difficult it can be achieved.  SWOSU libraries have many books to assist with behavior changes that can lead to a better quality of life.  They are about each of the topics listed above or about the principles for change as described in  Change Anything and Influencer by Kerry Patterson.  See the book display, providing ideas and techniques for success throughout the year, on the first floor of the Al Harris Library.  The books are available for check out.  Make 2015 a year in which you say "Oops! ...I Did It Again" fewer times.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mystery Novels for the New Year

     Why do readers love mystery?  Do they love the thrill of the chase, saving the damsel in distress, or catching the bad guy?  The answer is probably all three.  When reading a mystery novel, the reader is thrown into a world that is full of danger and suspense.  The reader is given the same clues as the characters in the novels, and the reader has to put the clues together just like the hero/detective in the story to figure out who is the suspect or scoundrel.

     At the end of the novel, we readers have saved the damsel in distress and caught the villain without ever stepping outside our own front doors. 

Humphrey Bogart stars
in this Sam Spade mystery
Video  791.4372 M2615
Sherlock, Season 3
Video  791.45 S5527

     If you are interested in catching a fictional villain, check out some of these great novels, movies, and television shows that are available at the Al Harris Library.  To get you started, here are examples from the three different areas. 

Book by Robert Galbraith
 aka JK Rowling
823 R8847c 


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Exam Prep: It's Never Too Early!

Click here to view larger!
Whether you study weeks in advance or cram the night before an exam, one of the most effective ways to study is by using flashcards! Check out this infographic to see why flashcards work and how to use them effectively!

If pen and paper aren't your thing, check out Quizlet, a FREE online flashcard creator. Here, you can create flashcards about virtually anything and Quizlet automatically generates tests and study games from your flashcards! Quizlet allows users to import images, data sets, and use multiple languages in their flashcards and provides standard definitions or answers for thousands of terms and concepts!

Quizlet is also available on your mobile devices for free! Download the iOS or Android app to study anywhere!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The 'Terrible Swift Sword' of the Depression: Enter John Steinbeck

The year 2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath.  The book won the National Book Award in 1939 and, a year later, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  Many Americans only know this great American classic because of John Ford’s 1940 film that starred Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.

The book has inspired folk songs, theatrical adaptations, the film, and much discussion.   Steinbeck’s title is taken from Revelations 14:19 and the 1861 song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  It provides a symbolic connection with the story as Steinbeck moves his characters to “the promised land” of California. This movement provides an excellent connection because the author created The Grapes of Wrath to focus on economic exploitation in Depression-era California.

As a result, the book angered and moved Americans when it appeared in 1939 and has since remained one of the most widely debated novels in American letters. It has been called “painstakingly accurate, utterly false, obscene, utopian, apolitical, and profoundly political.” When it was written, the text brought about questions regarding the apparent failure of the American Dream.  It was banned from schools and libraries in Steinbeck’s home county of Salinas California  until 1941.

The Grapes of Wrath leaves us with much to discuss and consider regarding the events of the Depression.  Come by the library to examine the display and take a look at the resources that relate to Steinbeck and his work as well as resources about the Great Depression in America.  Check out one of these resources and discover that there is much to be learned from the events of America’s past.

Friday, November 07, 2014

National Book Awards Finalists

Sponsored by the National Book Foundation, the National Book Award winners are selected in four categories:  Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature.  This annual award began in 1950 when a consortium of book publishing groups sponsored the 1st annual National Book Awards Ceremony and  Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.  The goal was to enhance the public's awareness of exceptional books written by fellow Americans and to increase the popularity of reading in general. 

On October 15th, the National Book Award finalists for each category were announced, and the winners will be announced on November 19th.  If you would like to find out more about the National Book Awards or if you want to watch the awards ceremony live on November 19th, please go to

Come and check out the National Book Award Finalists display at the Al Harris Library and see if you can predict the winners!  The display will be updated with winner information when it becomes available.