Friday, June 22, 2012

Pencil Sharpening is Not a Joke

Last year at this time, the Library Circulation desk was briefly without an adequately functioning pencil sharpener. An electric sharpener had just stopped working, while another, older one was still in a drawer, broken. But with students constantly looking to sharpen their pencils, we quickly discovered that the demand for pencil sharpening in the Library at Delgado is simply too great to ignore.

The pencil sharpener at  the City Park Library
We immediately made moves to acquire and install a new, manual sharpener on the side of the circulation desk, next to a pile of scrap paper we like to keep handy. Additional pocket sharpeners were also acquired and left in desk drawers at all public service points, in case of an emergency. Luckily, these acquisitions were made just before the Library budget was frozen last year, whence it could have been too late to meet this recurring need of our patrons.

The recent publication and warm reception of the book How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening is a reminder of how important pencil sharpening is in fact, both at Delgado and probably everywhere. It is exciting to see something so basic receiving such careful attention. The book's author, David Rees, keeps the Artisanal Pencil Sharpening website. Reviews of his new book have been published in such publications as The New Yorker and BusinessWeek.

Pencil shavings at the City Park Library
Delgado Library Circulation staff person Valerie Mesa-Vega reports that the manual sharpener is used often and needs to be emptied at least once per week. She also likes to point out that the manual sharpener is not friendly to left-handed individuals, who may find it difficult to coordinate the sharpener crank with their "wrong" hand.

A keyword search in the Library Catalog for "pencil" finds nearly 100 items. Some dealing with pencil drawing techniques, others dealing with world trade and manufacturing data pertaining to pencils, and one containing "letters, essays, cartoons, and commentary on how and why to live contraption free in a computer-crazed world" (see book here).

All of this is a welcome reminder, especially at a place like Delgado Community College - whose motto is "education that works" - that the economy is open to craft, creativity, and industriousness.

City Park Library Circulation Desk with Valerie Mesa-Vega. The pencil sharpener is on the far side by the windows.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Oxford English Dictionary : Word of the Day

Did you know that you can subscribe to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) “Word of the Day” by email?  This is a great way to learn new words and their histories.

  1. Follow the OED link above
  2. Click Sign up for word of the day, as pictured below
  3. And voila! You'll get a new word each day in your email

What makes the OED a go-to reference for scholars in all disciplines is that it is a descriptive dictionary, and not a prescriptive one. That means it tells us the history of the use of a word over time, and not necessarily how we should use the word. Check it out, scholars make reference to it all the time in their work.

Whenever you're writing about any topic, it's always a good idea to define some of your key terms. And it's always interesting to tell your readers something about how others may have used a given term or topic in the past. Give it a try! It's also an easy way to get another page or two out of any paper. Just pick a key concept, see what it says about it in the OED, and give your readers some context.

If you like the OED, check out some of the Library's other Oxford resources. Some of them are listed on the Title List of databases under the letter O.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sherman Alexie @ Delgado Library

Image from
Book Review by Regina Gillam

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a really good book.  Sherman Alexie (screenwriter of the film Smoke Signals, available at these area libraries) weaves a semi-autobiographical tale of a 14-year old Spokane Indian named Arnold Spirit.  The book is a fast read due to the candor and self- deprecating humor of Arnold.  The characters and plot line are well developed. Several times while reading The Absolutely True Diary I had to remind myself that it is a work of fiction.  

The storytelling draws you in,  as if a friend is telling you a few anecdotes about his life. Although it is fiction it has very real themes dealing with such issues as abuse, poverty, alcoholism, individualism, community, and life on a reservation.  Overall, the book is more humorous than heavy, even with the aforementioned weighty themes.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who is up for enjoyable leisure reading. 

The book can be checked out from any of Delgado’s Libraries. Just click on the link above and it will take you to the item record in the library's catalog. If you need the book transferred to another Delgado location, then just ask a library staff person. It's normally shelved under call # 813.6 A38a, in case you want to browse around in that area.

Additional information about Sherman Alexie is available from a number of the library's databases, including Academic Search Complete, Biography in Context, and Literature Resource Center