The Library Channel: news, events, announcements

The Library Channel

Apr 22, 2019 ·

Last fall Google turned 20. 

Today's ubiquitous search engine is now older than the majority of Arizona State University’s freshman class — many of whom have never experienced a Google-less world.

“Technology has changed everything,” said Israel Zaldivar, a student in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU. "Everyone focuses on doing a Google search. Many students aren’t aware of all the resources we have access to.”

Zaldivar is part of a new library peer mentorship program — the ASU Library Barrett Mentors — aimed at helping Barrett students develop university-level research skills.

As a Barrett Mentor, Zaldivar and his fellow library mentors, Max Hernandez and Lauren Barnes, do everything from conducting workshops on how to use Zotero, an online citation management system, to engaging in lunch-hour conversations with other Barrett students on how to determine the most appropriate research database or develop a thesis question.

“Research is a general skill that applies to many fields, but a lot of students don’t have these skills,” said Hernandez, a sophomore at ASU who is double majoring in accounting and computer science with a minor in sustainability. “By providing support, we’re making sure that students are prepared and equipped for the work they’ll be encountering at the university.”

The Barrett Mentors are paid student worker positions, embedded within the Barrett community for ultimate student accessibility, with the goal of discussing and modeling research skills with and for their student peers in both casual and formal settings.

A good percentage of his classmates at Barrett, Hernandez says, are first-generation college students, unaccustomed to the resources and services of an academic library. 

Figuring out how to navigate those resources is half the challenge of being a college student, he says.

“Even for non-first-generation college students, college is kind of a new experience,” Hernandez said. “It’s much easier to do a quick Google search and pick the first three articles. We want to show them that the library can be accessible and what sources are valid and what sources are not valid. They know what they want, they just don’t know how to find it. We’re helping people discover all the stuff the library has.”

All the stuff includes 740 online databases and more than 200 million print and digital resources, including 150,000 journals and over 4 million print volumes; a center for data science and geospatial research; a makerspace; more than 100 study rooms; and some of the world’s leading rare materials collections.

Tomalee Doan, associate university librarian for the ASU Library, who oversees engagement and learning services across nine libraries, says student mentorship and leadership opportunities are helping steer a changing library infrastructure, focused on active, adaptive and informal learning spaces, where students come first.

“Many of our undergraduate students are part of the most diverse generation ever seen before in the United States,” Doan said. “The question of how to best support their success, their varied learning styles and unique contributions, is driving a number of new and interesting initiatives at the library, many of them student-led.”

Read the full story on ASU Now.

- Melovee Easley and Britt Lewis

Apr 04, 2019 ·

If you’re interested in data, or if you are passionate about sustainability issues like food, water and climate, then this competition is for you!

The Sustainability Storytelling Competition is a 24-hour challenge to create maps, analyses and stories from sustainability and humanitarian data hosted on Resource Watch.

You’ll get the opportunity to explore connections between different resources as well as develop and demonstrate your skills in data visualization and telling stories from data.

The winning team’s data story will be featured on the Resource Watch blog, with YOU as the author! You’ll also be introduced to experts on your issue within the World Resources Institute, which has consistently been ranked as one of the top environmental think-tanks in the world.

The competition hackathon is set to take place at the Tooker House makerspace from 3 to 5 p.m., April 12, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., April 13.

Both undergraduate and graduate students at ASU are welcome to register. No programming experience is required.

Participants will form teams of up to five people and will work with more than 260 datasets to tell a story using one of the provided prompts. Mentors from the World Resources Institute and ASU will be available to help teams craft their narratives and answer data questions.

More information here.

Apr 02, 2019 ·

Julius Caesar’s own account of his nine years at war may be “the best bad man’s book ever written,” writes University Librarian Jim O’Donnell in the introduction of his new translation of Caesar’s work, “The War for Gaul.” 

Caesar was a bad man, certainly, writes O’Donnell, but the book he wrote was magnificent – “clear, vivid, and dramatic, a thing to be remembered and read for the ages.”

Here, O’Donnell, a distinguished classicist and professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, discusses why he’s inviting readers – “brave readers” – to take an unflinching look at an unnecessary war, led by a politically ambitious and amoral man, who, among other things, was a master of language.

“There is no denying that this is a great work of literature, one of the greatest,” writes O’Donnell, “and at the same time, there should be no denying that it is a bad man’s book about his own bad deeds.”

Question: Most people don’t think of the legendary Caesar as also being a great storyteller (who apparently exceeded in time management). What about his book is significant? 

O'Donnell: First of all it's a great yarn. Let your imagination play with what it was like for a bunch of landlubber soldiers who'd never seen open water outside the Mediterranean try to navigate by the thousands across the English channel and only then learn about what tides and currents can do. Caesar is very dry about it all, but vivid nonetheless. 

But it's also a book that obvious gets a lot of its interest from the fate of its author. The Caesar we meet in the story and the one who writes down the year's doings every winter back in Italy wasn't yet the Caesar of history, so we get to see him on the make, spinning his yarn to play back home, staging what are almost 'media events' to impress the voters. It's a "you are there" moment of huge importance in world history.

Q: You’ve written that Cormac McCarthy would be an ideal writer of the story of Caesar in Gaul. How do you distinguish yourself from other translators of Caesar?

O'Donnell: I keep it short, like Caesar: clean, crisp. I thought it was time to strip away some of the chatty helpfulness of other translations and let Caesar write the book he wanted.

Q: Your translation includes a map of Gaul and comes with year-by-year introductions for each part of the story. How do these elements work in the retelling of Caesar’s story?

O'Donnell: Caesar is the magician who wants us to look where he wants us to look. I'm the guy who wants you to see how he's doing his tricks and what he's really up to. The introductions are meant to put you in his mind as he wrote, juggling military and political realities and looking to make some serious money out of his time in Gaul as well. I think you can enjoy the book more if you know all the things he doesn't want to tell you while he's telling you the ones he does.

Q: What did you learn in the process of translating Caesar’s story? Were there any surprises along the way?

O'Donnell: The book we get from the ancient manuscripts is in eight 'commentaries', basically one for each year of his time in Gaul. But he never wrote one for the last two years, so that got filled in later by one of his colonels, a man named Aulus Hirtius. By the time I got to that part, I'd been translating for a good while, rocking and rolling with Caesar's prose, when suddenly –  when you start that last book – it's like going off-road in the mud in a Volkswagen beetle. The story is there and that's important, but I hope my translation makes it as clear as the Latin does that Caesar is the great writer here and Hirtius is, well, a better colonel than he is a writer. My notes try to show just how clunky he can be and to let the reader then really feel how great Caesar –  the writer – was. (Caesar the general and politician? Make up your own mind.)

O'Donnell will lead a talk about his new translation of Caesar's "Gaul" at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 10.

Mar 22, 2019 ·

About 10 to 25 students make weekly visits to the Hayden Library Data Science Lab to connect with collaborators, mentors and projects around data science. 

The open labs, which take place every Wednesday from 1-3 p.m, have been increasingly popular with students, who benefit from problem sponsors, or “clients.”

"Open labs are sessions where all students who want to work on data science can come in and learn, collaborate and practice through project-based curriculum," said Michael Simeone, director of the Unit for Data Science and Analytics. “It’s a great example of a new form of outreach and collaboration with students.” 

Simeone and David Little, Data Scientist, recently hosted Rachel Phillips from the Desert Data Science group in Phoenix.  Phillips presented on the professional ins and outs of being a data scientist as well as examples from her work consulting with SRP and Neudesic.

"It was a really good perspective on what it means to be a working data scientist," said Simeone. "These kinds of speakers are important to prepare students for their lives after ASU."

ASU students use the open lab to pursue projects in peer groups, listen to guest speakers and instructional sessions, and both present and work on projects they’re doing with the data lab.

On Wednesday, March 27, ASU students are invited to a special open lab workshop from 1-3 p.m. 

All students are welcome in the lab.

Mar 20, 2019 ·

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the seventh-largest killer in the world, citizens around the world will attempt to get closer to one on Citizen Science Day

It is estimated that just two hours of participation by each person on Saturday, April 13 will accelerate Alzheimer’s research being carried out at Cornell University by one year.

On Citizen Science Day, everyone, everywhere can directly impact Alzheimer’s research simply by participating in the day’s Megathon activity – stall catching – an activity that will support research exploring a connection between the disease and clogged blood vessels in the brain, known as “stalls.”

By reducing the number of stalls, the lab at Cornell was able to restore memory and reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice. Citizen scientists (volunteers) will assist the research by identifying when they see these stalls occur. 

Those wanting to participate can do so from any of these four ASU campus locations:

Citizen science is described as a collaborative process between scientists and the general public to spur the collection of data. Using crowdsourcing, citizen scientists are able to make a real scientific impact simply by their numbers. Anyone can be a citizen scientist, given the right tools, guidance and collaboration. 

Interested in participating in Citizen Science Day?
Show up at any of the four ASU locations on Saturday, April 13. 

Need more information?
Contact Britt Lewis at

Mar 04, 2019 ·

ASU students now have a new way to connect with the library – by texting 480-525-9826.  

The new text messaging service is offered as part of the ASU Library Ask-a-Librarian chat service.  

Simple, directional questions work best:  

How late is the library open?  

Does the library have this film?  

When are my books due? 

Answers are sent through text.

The Ask-a-Librarian service gives the ASU community remote access to support through a variety of channels, including email, online chat and now text messaging. Students can also connect with library collections through Ask an Archivist. 

Questions about texting? Email Stephen Arougheti, Operations Supervisor for the ASU Library, at, or visit


Feb 27, 2019 ·

Earl Arkinson (Chippewa Cree) was raised with the Native American Church his whole life.  

“When my mother was carrying me, I consumed the holy sacrament Peyote,” said Arkinson, who will discuss the history of the Native American Church as the guest speaker for the annual Simon Ortiz RED INK Indigenous Speaker Series, happening March 12-13 on the ASU Tempe campus. 

With his vast knowledge of Native American religion and culture, Arkinson served three terms as President of the Native American Church of North America. 

“I am also a Roadman for our way of life,” he said. 

Underscoring Indigenous American experiences and perspectives, the RED INK series, sponsored by the Labriola National American Indian Data Center, a unit of the ASU Library, seeks to create and celebrate knowledge that evolves from an inclusive Indigenous worldview and that is applicable to all walks of life. 

The series is led by Henry Quintero, the editor of RED INK and an assistant professor in the Department of English at ASU.  

Quintero’s research focuses on Native American Church music, better known as “Peyote music.” 

“Peyote music is a philosophical, musical and literary system that dates back older than any of the Abrahamic traditions, and belongs to a larger tradition of indigenous plant medicines that we utilize to navigate the human experience,” says Quintero, who is affiliated with American Indian Studies. “It’s like any other glorious representation of everything in our human experience. It’s a way of understanding interrelations with what’s around us – our earth, our families, other human beings.” 

In Peyote ceremonies, the tipi plays a foundational role, from the way it’s constructed to the stories that are embedded and the relationships interwoven. 

“Anyone can take a pill, anyone can take a drug,” Quintero says. “When it truly becomes a medicine, from an Indigenous perspective, is when it integrates with your life, beliefs and culture. In this way, the tipi is a kind of ‘cultural container,’ a way of utilizing time, place and space with plant medicines to facilitate the best outcome." 

All are welcome inside the tipi, where Arkinson will discuss the history of the Native American Church, from 3 to 4:20 p.m., March 12-13.

In addition to the afternoon talks, all are welcome to enjoy refreshments on Wednesday, March 13 from 4:30 to 6 p.m., in room 117 of Ross-Blakely Hall.

Feb 25, 2019 ·

With the ease of digital publishing, comes the Herculean effort of digital preservation. 

When pages of content get removed quickly from federal government websites, like those belonging to the EPA or to the White House, access to that information is left hanging in the balance.

“The systems that we previously relied on to provide long-term access to public information did not carry over to the digital era, and now our challenge is to develop the infrastructure that is needed so that we don’t lose this entire era of history,” said Shari Laster, head of Open Stack Collections for the ASU Library.

Laster is a co-editor of an environmental scan report addressing national concerns over the preservation of government information.  

For journalists, policymakers, historians, and others who rely on public information to fuel their work, gaps of government data and information present major obstacles, and ultimately limit our collective ability to conduct analyses and hold the government accountable.   

In honor of Endangered Data Week, Laster discusses the challenges and opportunities of providing access to federal information and the work she is carrying out as part of the steering committee for the PEGI Project (Preservation of Electronic Government Information), comprised of eight librarians representing six academic research institutions, including Arizona State University.

Question: What is the report you worked on and why was it needed?

Answer: Researched and written by Sarah K. Lippincott, the environmental scan report, which was completed with funding from participating institutions including ASU Library, describes an incredibly complex environment of how government information is made available, and how it’s collected, described, and preserved for future access both by government entities and non-government entities. A lot of work is happening but very little of it is coordinated, and through our work in the PEGI Project we became convinced of the need for an environmental scan. Commissioning the research and writing of this report was an opportunity to improve cooperation and alignment where it’s possible. If we can know more about the information ecosystem and the work we’re all doing, then we can better identify where the gaps are and what efforts are needed.  

Q: Why is born-digital government information so difficult to preserve?

A: There are a few reasons. The first is that the systems that are currently in place to capture this content are collectively inadequate to the challenges at hand. Information disseminated by the government online is inherently fragile – content can change, it can go missing – and we need new systems in place that can be effective in capturing it. There’s also just a lot of content. While the public is exposed to greater quantities of information than ever before, it's become a huge challenge to collect and preserve due to the vastness of what's out there.

There is also less awareness about the importance of these efforts. Everything that shows up on federal government websites is public information, but not all of it is considered as a permanent record for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to maintain for the long term. Some of it is collected by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) or the Library of Congress, but a lot of it not for various reasons. With the current piecemeal way that this content is preserved, the historical record is fragmented and not all that complete, and access to that record is increasingly difficult to navigate.  

Q: Has this issue of access to federal information become more urgent?

A: The issue has been especially high profile since the beginning of the Trump administration. While the PEGI Project pre-dates the 2016 election, there was a lot of public attention and concern in the months immediately after the election. In 2017 we saw many new efforts that emerged, both in research communities and from libraries and cultural heritage institutions.   

Q: Access to information is maybe something we take for granted given the abundance of it these days. How should we be thinking about access in the long term?

A: The more that information is only available online, the more vulnerable it becomes because it’s easy to change what’s available to the public. It’s an enormous investment in resources and labor to determine what is worth collecting and preserving for long-term access, but that access is essential for future research and analysis. For example, journalists rely on long-term access to information to see how the public record has changed over time. There are also researchers and historians who are going to be looking for documentary evidence and will need as complete a record as is possible. It’s difficult to know what information will be historically valuable, but we must take a long view when it comes to preservation.     

Q: How is ASU connected to this work?

A: Arizona State University has always been invested in this work. The ASU Library was designated as a Federal Depository Library in 1944 as a way to provide the public direct access to government documents – reports, statistics, studies and other materials produced by federal agencies – and this commitment has grown over time. For example, ASU Library is one of only a few institutions that collects and provides access to public information from the State of Arizona. Access to open digital content is a part of the ASU Library’s goal to deliver “everything for everyone, everywhere.”  By supporting the PEGI Project, ASU is investing in information access not only for today but also for future generations – for researchers, journalists and interested members of the public that will need to rely on the collections of libraries and archives to understand and hold governments accountable, and to learn from the past so we don’t repeat it.

Feb 19, 2019 ·

If you’ve ever wondered who to root for in a hypothetical battle between a giraffe and a fossil baboon, well, you’re not alone.

Each spring, thousands of people from around the world descend upon the ASU Library website in search of information about the more than 60 mammal species selected to compete in fictional battles against one another, as part of the annual NCAA-inspired tournament known as March Mammal Madness.

Using their knowledge of natural science, participants make their predictions bracket-style, and their curiosities loom large.

Could a quokka defeat an Irish elk?

What are the fighting behaviors of a leopard?

Is the preferred habitat of a jerboa a deciding factor?

When it comes to making informed bracket selections regarding battling mammals, ASU librarian Anali Perry says there’s a method to this madness.

Perry is the lead author of what is currently the ASU Library’s second-most viewed library guide: the March Mammal Madness Library Guide, a one-stop shop of information in support of the tournament, which was created in 2013 by Katie Hinde, an associate professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Hinde says the guide has made a huge impact in maximizing the learning outcomes of the tournament.

Replete with teaching materials, research databases and player rules, Perry's guide is 100 percent accessible to the public, and now serves as an official tournament resource to a growing number of educators (and their students) who have incorporated March Mammal Madness into their science curriculum. 

“The guide is a stable and consistent location for information about the tournament, and provides a list of freely available, librarian-recommended resources to help folks do their research for filling out their brackets,” said Perry, a scholarly communication librarian, who specializes in open access and open education.

Here, Perry discusses the increasing popularity of March Mammal Madness and the library guide, and why the ASU Library is one of the tournament's biggest supporters.

Question: As a librarian, how did you get involved with March Mammal Madness?

Answer: I discovered the tournament in 2016 and became a huge fan, even though I'd never before participated in choosing any sort of bracket, basketball or otherwise. As I watched the tournament unfold, I was so impressed by the narrative that is woven by the team – on Twitter of all things – and I could see the level of engagement that the fans brought to the game.

The tournament's narrators often reference scientific articles to support their facts, and they provide links to the full text. As a scholarly communication librarian, I am always aware of how few people actually have access to those articles. I wanted to find a way to highlight this lack of access, look for open access versions of articles, and also recommend ways to connect folks to good resources other than just googling. I worked with a team of librarians to compile a list of recommended resources that would help March Mammal Madness fans research their bracket picks, and have gradually added more content and information over the years.

The library is a huge supporter of this tournament, and March Mammal Madness is a great way to highlight the resources, services and knowledge that libraries provide. We love answering reference questions about the tournament and getting the opportunity to showcase some of our newer services, like filming the 2017 Wild Card Battle video in our mkrstudio.

Q: How has the library guide responded to the growing popularity of the tournament?

A: The tournament has grown in scope, particularly in what it provides in the way of resources to educators. While the official site continues to be Katie's blog, the library guide allows more flexibility and organization of information, which makes it easier for folks to navigate and find what they need. One of the great features of the library guide is that we can get statistics on how many people are using it over specific periods of time, and we can see which links are being used. We use this information to help us refine what resources we recommend and how we can best present information about the tournament. When the library guide was released in 2017, it received nearly 19,000 views. The popularity of the guide grew exponentially in 2018 with over 90,000 views in just 6 weeks. 

Q: This year's bracket drops March 4. Can you offer some librarian advice for filling it out?

A: I always recommend using reliable resources when doing your research. Google and Wikipedia can be good places to start, but it can be harder to find the tournament-critical information you need to make informed picks.

My best piece of advice is to be aware of a creature's home habitat and where the encounters will take place. In the first rounds, the battle is in the native environment of the higher seeded species, which really impacts the results. As we learned last year, no matter how awesome a giant octopus is, it doesn't do so well in freshwater. Most importantly, though, I recommend you fully commit to your choice for champion, no matter how improbable, and enjoy the ride. It's almost as much fun to win as it is to have a completely busted bracket, which is what normally happens to me.

The March Mammal Madness bracket will become available for download on March 4, with the first battle scheduled to begin March 11. You can follow the tournament on Twitter at @2019MMMletsgo.  

Feb 12, 2019 ·

Do you love the Grand Canyon National Park? 

This month, the ASU Library will bring together scholars, explorers, geographers and the general public to examine the complex and fascinating history of the Grand Canyon National Park, all told through maps. 

"It's almost inconceivable," said Matt Toro, director of the ASU Library's Map and Geospatial Hub, in a recent episode of Science Friday, which aired nationally Friday, Feb. 8. "Even if you're on the rim, you can't see the whole thing. The tolls that allow us to see the canyon in its entirety are maps."

Toro is at the helm of the Mapping Grand Canyon Conference, coming to the ASU Tempe campus for two days beginning Thursday, Feb. 28 through Friday, March 1. The conference will explore the art, science and practice of Grand Canyon cartography. 

Watch and listen to Toro discuss the variety of styles and technical aspects of the library's large collection of maps.