Monthly Archives: February 2016

Spring Break 2016 Hours

The library hours for Spring Break 2016 are as follows:

Friday, March 4th:  7:30am – 4:30pm

Saturday, March 5th:  CLOSED

Sunday, March 6th:  CLOSED

Monday – Friday, March 7th – 11th:  8:30am – 4:30pm

Saturday, March 12th:  CLOSED

Sunday, March 13th:  10:00am – 2:00am

Developing a Research Question: Digitized Artifacts

By Deirdre Clifford ’16

The beginning steps of developing a good research question can often be daunting, especially when given the added assignment of including a variety of sources. The library provides a vast collection of resources, including online databases, to assist with this search.

To start with, it is best to do a general search of the topic of interest. Here is an example related to “Black History Month”; we started with this as a very broad topic, using the database America: History and Life. This is an EbscoHost database containing articles on history and culture. Searches can be refined to articles with full-text, references available, and ones that have been peer reviewed; parameters can be set on publication dates, and the source type can be chosen based on the user’s needs.




We set the results to only show articles with links to the full text, and then chose the second article, “The Controversy Around Black History.” The abstract, provided by America: History and Life, provides a short summary of the main points in the article. Reading these abstracts not only gives an idea of what the article will provide, but also additional search terms. The abstract provided for “The Controversy Around Black History” gives many points important for an essay. Before even reading the article, we learned that the controversy around black history is not a new phenomenon, and are given small insight into the pros and cons of events such as Black History Month. Using the abstract, we can determine if the article will be useful or not, as well as find ways to further our search.


One way to use abstracts and your initial searches is as a way to find additional key words and ideas to narrow your research. “Black History Month” is too broad a topic to ultimately end up with, so we need to narrow down our focus. The name Carter G. Woodson provided the idea for a more detailed search, while the year 1926 provided the ability to find some primary sources. Primary sources and digitized artifacts can be very useful in developing a research question, because they provide historical evidence, revealing how ideas circulated at specific moments in time. Using the database Slavery & Antislavery, which is a collection of books, manuscripts, court records, and serials devoted to the transatlantic history of slavery, we were able to refine the search. This database allows the user to search through books, pamphlets, newspapers, manuscripts, court records, and references documenting the movement to abolish slavery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The search results can be further refined through publication date, author, and relevance to the search words.

Through a search of Carter G. Woodson, we were able to uncover a variety of search results on cultural studies from the early twentieth century focusing mostly on race relations. Slavery & Antislavery provides access to everything from sections of documents to entire works of historic texts.


By simply skimming the first pages of some of the resources available in Slavery & Antislavery, as well as using the articles provided in America: History and Life, a research question can begin to form. It is important to pay attention to different details in both databases. For example, the majority of articles in America: History and Life were about the controversy of Black History Month. Focusing on that controversy will most likely lead to the most scholarly sources as well as give ways to refine the search. Adding words like ‘controversy’, ‘pro’, or ‘con’ to the advanced search will yield more detailed sources. Additionally, many of the sources from Slavery & Antislavery were between the 1920’s to 1940’s. These would therefore be good years to further investigate for resources and historical events.

Based on this initial question, we can formulate a possible research question and begin to do more advanced searches. For instance, after this first search, we could ask: How has the controversy over Black History Month taken shape since its start in 1926 and what works lead to this disagreement?

Allyship and Racism: The Difference between Opinion and Offense

By Deirdre Clifford ’16

Too often in real-life and online situations, questions about political correctness and offensiveness arise. Pop culture urges everyone to be sensitive to the feelings of others and encourages empathy particularly when dealing with sensitive subjects. However, there is a fine line between not being offensive and not sharing an opinion. On the other hand, once people go on the internet, this sensitivity disappears. Those concerned with the best way to be sensitive and helpful as well as how to be an ally can often be left questioning the best course of action: Do I say what I think when it might offend somebody or do I hide my opinions?

Professor Lannstrom in the Philosophy Department at Stonehill has noticed this problem both inside and outside her classroom: “I find that my new students are more empathic and more concerned with not hurting others every year. This is wonderful and good. But many of them also seem to think that expressing disagreement is hurtful, and so they find it difficult to say what they think whenever they think others disagree with them.” Sensitivity to debated topics quickly turns to over-sensitivity and is translated to silence for many students with good opinions. As a result, classroom conversations reach stalemates, questions and debates are hindered, and honest conversation is impossible.

This is not the only problem Professor Lannstrom has witnessed on this matter. Online, people seem to have the opposite problem: “to make it worse, instead of an honest face to face conversation about difficult issues, those views are expressed with little restraint online.” While we avoid saying what we actually think, online posts and comments—particularly anonymous ones—are becoming more offensive, prejudiced, and harmful.

As a society, we seem to be fluctuating between two extremes and it may appear difficult or even impossible to find a solution. The key part to this predicament is simply awareness. While political correctness can be a double-edged sword, it has brought awareness and sensitivity to many issues. Professor Lannstrom points out that “we are now getting better avoiding using some terms (when we are not online at least) and certain actions (like dressing up in blackface for Halloween), and at least part of the reason is that we are beginning to recognize how they affect the group concerned.” Understanding of sensitive issues comes through discussion of them and can, hopefully, promote empathy to the point of productivity.

The Office of Intercultural Affairs and the library can provide resources for a better understanding of these issues. Through the use of different databases at the library, you can find the resources describing the differences between expressing one’s opinion in an inoffensive way, and expressing racist ideas.

You can also read more here, in an article entitled “Your Facebook Friend Said Something Racist. Now What?” published by WYNC:



Watching Streaming Videos on Swank

The Library uses a streaming service called Swank to provide Stonehill users with access to major motion pictures. Here are some tips for viewing these films:

  • ​All Swank films are included in HillSearch. When you search for a title, you’ll see a record that looks like this:


  • When you click on “Access Online Video” remember, Swank is not compatible with the Chrome Browser. We recommend using Firefox to view Swank videos.
  • Clicking on the link take you to the full database of Swank titles, with “A Clockwork Orange” showing at the top of the page by default. You can scroll down or search Swank for your specific title.
  • Swank requires Microsoft Silverlight to view their films; if you have trouble downloading Silverlight, contact the IT Service Desk at 508-565-4357 or

  • You must either be on HillSpot or authenticate to the network to access library content. If you receive a screen asking for your name, barcode, and PIN, you are using an off-campus network. Instructions for setting up your PIN are available here.

  • These videos are available to you free of charge; let us know if you have trouble accessing any of them! Please contact the reference librarians at or 508-565-1203.

February’s “Blind Date With a Book” is back in the Library!

IMG_2665This February, why not go on a blind date with a book or DVD?

Our Web & Social Media Intern, Deirdre Clifford ’16, selected titles from a wide variety of genres, authors and directors. We’ve wrapped them all, so you won’t know what you’ve picked until you’ve checked out the book or DVD. However, Deirdre has written a few helpful keywords for each one as a preview; see them all below!

  • “Math and Mental Illness”
  • “True and Wild”
  • “Modern World and Holy Wars”
  • “A Real Love Story”
  • “The Birth of Comedy”
  • “Privilege vs. Passion”
  • “Unlocked Fantasy”
  • “The passion of prisoners and miracles”
  • “Mentality and Mayhem”
  • “Political Power’s Punishment”
  • “Moby Dick’s Match”
  • “Love and the Roaring ‘20s”
  • “Burning Books”
  • “The Power of Stories”
  • “Comedic Compassion in World War I”
  • “Race and Reputation”
  • “Love and Life Through Sarcasm”
  • “The Funny Fight for Freedom”
  • “A History of Magic”
  • “Holden Caulfield’s Update”
  • “Cars and Crimes”
  • “Kisses and Family Curses”
  • “Culture, Politics, and Teenagers”
  • “Snapshots of the American Dream”
  • “Historical Fiction and Heroism”
  • “Cops and Robbers”
  • “Secrecy in the Suburbs”
  • “Price Tagged History”

Come See Works by Our Newest Stonehill Authors

image1This fall, through the FLPP partnership program, students in Stephen Pinzari and Heather Perry’s Children’s Literature class tried their hand at creating an original children’s book.  Each student studied the elements of literature and design then selected a genre in which to create their own children’s book. The works of these debut authors will be on display at the library and may perhaps inspire others to try their hand at authorship.

The students covered many diverse topics, from sibling jealousy to the plight of the Piping Plover. One student wrote an ABC book profiling amazing women of the world.  They employed a variety of techniques from original poetry to sequential story telling. The creativity and wide range to topics explored was truly impressive.

Throughout the course of the semester the students had the opportunity to work with professional artist, Greg Marathas, to learn the elements of design. The authors applied these elements to their illustrations to most effectively communicate their messages. The students used a variety of artistic techniques to create the illustrations for their books. One students used photography to bring a fire station to life, another skillfully manipulated photos to create just the right mood to celebrate the joy of a new family member. Another student painted the backdrop for two friends on an exciting adventure. Students effectively used their artistic skills to bring their stories to life.

The students used a program called Blurb, which guides you smoothly through the creation process.

Two new authors reflected on their experiences:

  1. Kelsey Friedman who wrote on the adventures of two caterpillars said:

    The most important part to me in making my children’s book was the illustrations. Growing up I always found art as a way of expressing myself so creating a book where I could represent that for other people to see was a great experience.

  2. Kristina Colon said:

    I have a passion for diversity and inclusion. I believe children at a young age should learn and be exposed to situations that they might encounter in the future. The book I created, Color Me Diverse, explains in a short, yet simple way what it means to be diverse.

I was very impressed with the creativity and originality of these student creations, and I am sure you will as well.  The books will be on display at the library in front of the circulation desk; the books do not circulate, but you are encouraged to come and take a look at the students’ hard work!

Students taking Children’s literature this semester, or planning to take it in the future, can take inspiration from the work of this cohort of students.

By Heather Perry

The Rebirth of Birth of a Nation

birthofnationRace and movies seem to go hand in hand in everyone’s minds these days. With Spike Lee’s surprising strike on the Oscars, due to the white-washed nominations, race is at the front of everyone’s critical eye in the cinematic news. The renewal of interest in a long standing problem in Hollywood is one of many reasons the new film Birth of a Nation is receiving such wide press. 

Nate Parker, the writer, director, and lead actor of the new movie, calls his film a “massive blow to white supremacy.” The independent movie is a retelling of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion of 1831. Its debut at the Sundance Film Festival drew in many excited viewers and did not disappoint. Parker’s work is not the first retelling of Nat Turner’s story. Having had only white writers telling stories of the uprising for years makes it a story well worth rewriting. Many different versions have appeared throughout the decades, including more experimental forms, such as Kyle Baker’s graphic novel retelling, Nat Turner. The new Birth of a Nation appears to be a strong new piece in the history of the 1831 slave uprising. 

Where Parker really makes his mark (not to mention some waves in the news) is not in the content of the movie, but in its infamous title: Birth of a Nation. Many non-film buffs may not recognize the D.W. Griffith title for what it is, but those versed in film history certainly do. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was a key piece of film history, airing in 1915, and introducing the world to movie aspects that are commonplace today. Where Griffith’s film really stands out is in its unbelievably racist retelling of the American Civil War, which features one-sided, frightening black characters and turns the Ku Klux Klan as the heroes of the picture. 

Professor Itzkovitz opens his Race and Cinema English course with a discussion of Griffith’s film. The class turns a critical eye to the techniques Griffith used to manipulate the audience’s perceptions and emotions. Music, flat characters, and camera effects are all able to manipulate the viewership, even a modern one, to fear the black characters they see as villainous, and root for the most abominable of figures, the Klan. Professor Itzkovitz points out to his students that the film never overtly claims it is about race–instead all the black characters happen to be evil, while all the heroes happen to be white. This kind of subliminal messaging can lead to all kinds of chaos in terms of perception and race. After the release of Griffith’s Birth of a Nation in 1915, the Ku Klux Klan, which had been in the process of dying out, returned with renewed force. 

White audiences can look at white-washed movies and the Oscars strike as though they are nonissues or overreactions. Claiming directors and the Academy are not being racist, or that this is just the way things are, are common assertions. The reappearance of the title, Birth of a Nation, gives pause to these excuses. When seen with a critical eye, the effects of concealed racism are much stronger than it first appears.  

Want to read more about the original film Birth of a Nation? You can find more in D. W. Griffith’s The birth of a nation: a history of “the most controversial motion picture of all time by Melvyn Stokes or in Fighting a movie with lightning : “the birth of a nation” and the black community by Stephanie Laufs.

By Deirdre Clifford ’16