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Research

Sep 12 2014

Ready for Fresh AND Affordable

by Rebekah B

un climate summit 2014

At DCPL, if you haven’t already taken note, we have a wonderful collection of documentary films.  A lover of the cinema and an eternal student, I am always eager to check out new additions to our collection.

As world leaders calling for restoration of ecosystems prepare to convene at the United Nations Climate Summit this September 23rd in New York City, the largest people’s demonstration on climate change is also scheduled on the morning of September 21st. In the spirit of environmental awareness, I am trying to do my part to make our society, economy, and food/health-care more sustainable. Although I am unable to attend the NYC march, I can write, watch relevant movies, exercise, buy healthy local foods, recycle and re-use items instead of buying new, travel less…and much more!

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One of the films that I recently watched and found noteworthy from our DCPL collection is Fresh: New Thinking About What We’re Eating, produced and directed by Ana Sofia Joanes in 2009.  With an outlook intended to be as objective as possible while supporting the sustainability and local food movement, the film features visits to industrial or conventional farms and to sustainable organic farms and lightly touches upon the problem of food deserts.  The film also includes interviews with farmers from both ends of the spectrum, some of whom had begun their careers as conventional farmers, later converting to organic farming, as well as urban farmers, activists, and smaller businesses promoting locally produced foods.

By visually demonstrating and comparing the processes, output, economics, and attitudes of industrial and sustainable farming, I was able to observe for myself as well as to learn from the experiences of these Americans who have devoted their lives to farming, producing and distributing food.  There is a lushness and beauty to the farms where animals and humans share information about living in harmony with nature that is so harshly lacking in the feedlots and chicken farms, where the animals appear stressed, their coats and feathers dull or literally hen-pecked. Prior to watching this film, I did not realize that industrial farmers clip the beaks on their chickens and that pigs’ tails are trimmed.  Bored and frustrated, the animals often attack one another in close quarters, where they never see the light of day.

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Organic farmer Joel Salatin of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia demonstrates how he pastures his herd of about 300 cows in fields in which over twenty different types of grasses and wild flowering plants flourish. Conventional farm feedlots group together thousands of animals in close quarters. As in nature, in which cows naturally move to different areas over the course of a day or week to graze, Joel rotates the cows (and pigs) to varied pasture lands from day to day.  Bringing in chickens to the pastures where the cows have grazed, the birds earn their keep by picking the fly larvae from the cow manure deposited throughout the field, allowing the cows to soon return and avoid infection by parasites.

Mr. Salatin explains that sustainable farms are much more efficient and clean than industrial farms.  The animals are healthy, yet they are given no medications, and the veterinarian is almost never needed.

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Conventional farms produce huge amounts of pollution growing grain that does not feed people, but cows (who are by nature consumers of grasses). It is expensive to produce this grain, which requires huge amounts of water and enormous quantities of pesticides.  Groundwater and soil are polluted and depleted by this process, and the natural variety of grasses that would ordinarily populate and regenerate the soil is suppressed.  Feedlot animals are regularly injected with antibiotics and consume pesticides through the grain they eat.  Their feces accumulate in large quantities and cannot be recycled because of contamination by the drugs and pesticides.  Additional pollutants are created through the gases produced by the waste.  The continuous use of low-grade antibiotics causes bacteria to mutate, creating strains that are antibiotic resistant, affecting animals and humans alike and creating risk of untreatable infections. The meats produced by grain-fed cows and pigs are also unhealthy because of concentrations of pesticides, antibiotics, and omega 6 fats accumulating in the meat from the high carbohydrate diet.

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Conventional farmers interviewed in the film complain that they have difficulty finding people to work all shifts in their plants, particularly in the processing areas, because of unhealthy conditions.  It becomes clear that going against nature is expensive, inefficient, unhealthy, unpleasant and sometimes life threatening to both people and animals.

Today, we face a quandary.  Large industrial farms receive federal government grants to raise grain that does not feed people.  These single crop farms threaten plant and animal diversity and are creating an environmental disaster.  By producing local food even in urban areas, we can lower the costs of creating sufficient, healthy, fresh foods and make them affordable and available to everyone in the country, including low income families in urban areas.  By watching this film, while already convinced of the necessity to make healthy and local foods available at reasonable cost to our entire population, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location, I feel the urgency to help people become more aware of the environmental consequences of conventional agriculture in this country.

industrial vs conventional farming

As consumers, the film notes that each purchase we make is a vote, a demonstration of each of our voices in the democratic process. By purchasing local foods, we are supporting the sustainable movement.  By supporting organic farms that produce quality products, we are supporting our economies and producing jobs in places where people enjoy their work and are well paid for the work they do.  Animals who are raised in accordance with the laws of nature are happier and healthier, and the interconnected process of sustainable farming ensures sufficient food for everyone at a lower cost with infinite benefits for all.  The rear panel of the jacket of a documentary new to DCPL, Fed Up, reads: “This generation will live shorter lives than their parents. By 2050, one out of every three Americans will have diabetes.”  If this is not a wake-up call to change your family’s eating and buying habits and to take action to change the American way of life for the better, I don’t know what is!

basket of veggies

Industrial agriculture and feedlots are responsible for the production of more greenhouse gases than the burning of fossil fuels, to the order of at least 18% (in 2008) according to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  An Indian economist and vegetarian, Dr. Pachauri recommends a reduction in the consumption of meats as an important personal contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases and the global warming effect.  Choosing to eat grass-fed organic meats or organic poultry is also a good choice. Whatever decisions you consciously make in this direction contribute to the return to balance of man’s relationship with nature.  Your stomach will thank you!

A selection of documentaries on sustainable living and health, the environment, and climate change in the DCPL collections:

Fed Up  2014

Hungry for Change 2012

Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic? 2010

Plastic Planet 2009

Burning the Future: Coal in America 2008

Carbon Nation  2011

Children of the Tsunami 2011

Garbage Warrior  2007

No Impact Man 2008

Food, Inc. 2008

Blue Gold World Water Wars 2008

Car of the Future 2008

Farmageddon 2011

It’s a Big Big World. The Earth Needs You: Recycling and Caring for the Environment 2007

Freeze, Freeze, Fry: Climate Past, Present, and Future  2007

The Science of Climate Change 2014

Sustainability in the 21st Century 2008

Tapped  2010

The Garden 2008

Fast Food Nation  2006

Business Advice for Organic Farmers 2012

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Dec 3 2010

The Morrow Project

by Jesse M

Do you ever wonder what the future holds? How all of the new technologies currently being developed and implemented will change the way we live our lives? If so, you may be interested in The Morrow Project, “a unique literary project which shows the important effects that contemporary research will have on our future and the relevance that this research has for each of us.” Four authors (Douglas Rushkoff, Ray Hammond, Scarlett Thomas, and Markus Heitz) produced short stories inspired by “research currently being conducted…in the fields of photonics, robotics, telematics, dynamic physical rendering and intelligent sensors”. The results are available as a free e-book download (EPUB or PDF) or in podcast form.

If you are interested in further reading along a similar vein, there is an abundance of excellent and thought provoking science fiction in the DCPL catalog. Two I’d recommend in particular are David Marusek’s Counting Heads and Accelerando by Charles Stross, both of which illustrate the pleasures and perils of post-scarcity economics and the frightening and fascinating places technology will take us over the coming decades.

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Feb 12 2010

Who is Brett Favre?

by Amanda L

I often have questions come to me about information concerning a variety of people. The Library has a wonderful resource called Biography Resource Center. I have found that if the person is even remotely famous, you can find information about him/her in this resource.

The type of information available ranges from short biographical entries to very detailed biographical information.  Biography Resource Center often provides links to magazine articles. If you have a library card with us, you can access this resource 24/7 using your library card and PIN number.  It is located on our Reference Database page under the History and Biography section.

To answer my original question, Brett Favre is a quarterback who has been playing professional football since 1991. He has played for the Atlanta Falcons (drafted),  Green Bay Packers,  New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings. Want to know more about Brett Favre? Check out the Biography Resource Center. Of course, we also have a few biographies about him if you want a more detailed account about his life.

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Oct 16 2009

Best Free Reference Websites 2009

by Jesse M

For the eleventh consecutive year, the Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) has put out a list of the best free reference websites. This annual series was initiated “to recognize outstanding reference sites on the World Wide Web”, a task which it has once again performed admirably. This year there are over two dozen sites listed, specializing in all manner of information.

Looking for a job? Check out the Dept. of Labor sponsored Careeronestop. It offers career resources and workforce information, such as salary data, where to file unemployment insurance, locations of career centers, self-assessment tools, and resume advice. The site also includes links to other useful resources, such as the online version of the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Need help with measurement conversions? Try Onlineconversion.com, which boasts over 5,000 units and 50,000 conversions, lending credence to their claim to be able to “convert just about anything to anything else.” Whether you are attempting to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius or are interested in more esoteric conversions, like comparing clothing sizes across countries or finding our how much you’d weigh on different planets, this is the site for you.

Tired of defective online translation services mangling your intended message? Head over to Lexicool, a directory of “all” the online bilingual and multilingual dictionaries and glossaries freely available on the internet (currently numbering over 7000), many of which have been created by translators working in specialist fields.

Are you a sports fan? Sports-reference.com is “a combination of sites providing top notch statistics and resources for sports fans everywhere. Our aim is to be the easiest-to-use, fastest, most complete sources for sports statistics anywhere.” With sections devoted to baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and Olympic sports, the site has something for sporting fans of all varieties.

Or perhaps you are interested in procuring locally grown and/or organic food in your area. If so, you can utilize Local Harvest to find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food. Search by zip code or state, or use the interactive map. Other offerings include a monthly newsletter, recipes, and blogs by members.

Want more sites? Check out the combined index of lists from 1999-2008.

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Aug 10 2009

Homework, Help!

by Amanda L

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With school starting back today, homework is not far behind for the students of DeKalb County. How many times as a parent have you had your child come to you early in the evening and say  “I have an assignment due tomorrow morning, and I need to go to the Library!” I know my first thoughts are I don’t want to go out now.  My second thought is usually, the library will be closing shortly or is already closed.

We have a variety of electronic resources that may help you or your child with homework from home. They can be found on our Reference Database page.  For elementary and lower middle school children, many of the resources can be found on our Children’s page. You will need your DeKalb County library card number and your personal identification number (PIN) to access these resources. (The PIN is a 4 digit number.)

For general research help, we have online encyclopedias such as Groliers and Britannica. For social studies homework, there is Grolier’s Passport, Sirs Researcher, Student Resource Center for middle school and younger. For high school or older students, we also have CQ Researcher available.  For Science homework, there is Student Resource Center, Encyclopedia of Animals, and the National Science Digital Library  (available through GALILEO).  For literature homework, there is Literature Criticisms Online and Literature Resources from GALE.

Although the Learning Express Library is listed under test preparation, this resource has several tutorials, tests and diagnostic tests that can help with homework. For instance, they have practice and diagnostic tests for reading comprehension, a variety of math for all levels and vocabulary for high school students. This resource also has a few courses available such as Middle School Writing Courses, and some basic math courses.

Searching for newspaper or journal articles? We have a couple of resources for this type of research. The easiest way to search is to go to GALILEO.  (It will ask you for your library card and PIN numbers and then give you the current password. You will then type in the password to proceed.)  If you click on the search button and type in your keywords, it will search for relevant articles.  These are just a sampling of electronic resources that you have available at your fingertips from home.  Feel free to browse our database page or GALILEO.  If you need specific help on where to start your search, don’t forget to use our Email A Librarian service. It can be found under the Research tab on our home page.  Be sure to select “I need help finding information.”

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dare-coverSometimes when you find yourself with a case of the mulligrubs early in the morning, the best thing is to put something larruping down your goozle.

If you had trouble deciphering the above sentence, you can look up the unfamiliar words in the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE for short), which is available at the library.  “DARE is a reference tool meant to capture not the homogeneous whole of English found in conventional dictionaries, but the rich regional variety that has been spoken and written across America.” (Mattmiller 2009). As the DARE website explains, what makes DARE unique “is that it shows where people use the words that are included” (for example, it tells you what different regions of the country might call a sandwich on a lengthy bun: sub, hoagie, grinder, etc.)

Recently NPR did a story on The DARE project in anticipation of the publication of the final volume in the series (S-Z) next year. As the article relates, the project was initiated in the 1950s, when the founder, linguist Frederic Cassidy, sent field workers out in “Word Wagons” to all regions of the country, where they interviewed more than 3000 people over the course of six years. The first volume was published in 1975, with subsequent volumes following over the years. Sadly, Cassidy passed away before seeing the conclusion of the project, but even posthumously he displays his enthusiasm for the work; his tombstone declares “On to Z!”

It is important to note that the Dictionary of American Regional English is cataloged as a reference book, and thus it cannot be checked out of the branch where it resides. However, if you wish to save yourself a trip and examine it from the comfort of your home computer, you can view selected pages from all the volumes on Google Books.

However you access it, the Dictionary of Regional American English is an informative, entertaining resource, from A to Izzard. Check it out.

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Doing research and limited to a certain number of resources? Do not fear the Library is here! As a Reference Librarian, I often help people find sources to answer their questions, or write a paper. Often when it is school related, I hear “I can only use blank number of web sources. I have already checked the Internet.” When I ask if they have checked our Reference Database page, I often hear, I cannot use that because we are limited by the number of Internet sources.

Did you know there is a difference between Internet sources and electronic sources? The Library has electronic resources that are different from a web-based source. What is an Electronic Resource? You access the source through your web browser (Internet Explorer, Foxfire, Safari, Chrome…) but these sources were created in print before they were loaded and available on the Internet.

How do you access them? Go to our home page and click on the Reference Database button. Here you will find a list of resources that we have broken down by category. We have over twenty-six print based electronic resources. A few of these sources do have links to the Internet but most have a print-based component.

Curious to know which one you might be able to use? If you move your mouse over the title a short synopsis will show up and tell you what the resource is about and what it includes. For example, the Biography Resource Center’s synopsis indicates that it draws its information from Reference books, and from journal articles including  the Marquis Who’s Who. The Student Resource Center‘s synopsis indicates that it draws its information from Reference documents, articles and dictionary entries.

Need an example of a source we have on the page that is an Internet Source? Look at The New Georgia Encyclopedia. According to the synopsis, it contains information on people, places, events and histories of Georgia. The site includes articles and images on every aspect of Georgia and links to related Internet sites. I hope this helps you or someone you know the next time there is a paper due. Remember these Electronic sources are available 24/7 through our elibrary.

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Mar 19 2009

Know Your Accents

by Jimmy L

I’ve always liked accents.  Every day people speak the same language very differently to each other, reflecting their unique backgrounds.  When I found out that there are websites that track and study accents in an organized fashion, I was hooked.

The Speech Accent Archive has an archive of people from all over the world saying the same (rather ridiculous) sentence.  You can browse by language or by geographical region. Their website stresses “that accents are systematic rather than merely mistaken speech,” and it even provides a guide to show you the common characteristics of each accent.

International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) is another similar website, which also accepts online submissions of samples.  These websites can be very useful for people as diverse as the ESL teacher trying to teach English to non-native speakers to actors who are trying to master a certain accent.

The last accent-related website I found is the Language Trainers Group’s Can You Guess Where My Accent is From? game.  It’s pretty fun.  See if you can beat it!

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Are you doing research and need help with where to start? Would you like to find out more information about a particular subject you are interested in? Maybe you are a student who would like to learn about new resources that will help with homework or school projects? Check out our new subject guides for help!

Subject guides are lists of library books, databases and websites that are chosen by librarians and intended to help you get started on your research. There are over forty different guides covering subjects such as Health and Medicine, History and Biography, and Student Resources. Searching is fast and easy with direct links to the catalog, reference databases, and websites. We’ve got guides for adults, teens, and kids.

To access the subject guides go to our main page at www.dekalblibrary.org. Under the Research tab click on Subject Guides.

We’d love to know what you think, so please leave comments or suggestions.

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Sep 10 2008

Homework Help

by Ginny C

With school back in full swing, lots of students are coming to the library in need of homework help.  Books are great places to start when doing research for reports and projects.  Sometimes, though, the book your child needs just isn’t available.  More often, teachers are requiring students to use books AND articles.  We have several databases that are designed specifically for students in elementary, middle in high school.  They can be found here or by going to our homepage, clicking on Reference Databases under the Research tab and scrolling down to Student Resources.

Each database has a short description of the kind of information and the subject areas it covers to help you choose.  If you need help navigating the databases, library staff are always happy to help!

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