Why MADGIC is your friend

madgic_landscapeWhat’s a MADGIC?  It’s an acronym which stands for Maps, Data, and Government Information Centre.  The department is located on the first floor of the Library (that is, one floor down from the main level).  Many of the materials in their collection are important to Women’s and Gender Studies. Two important reasons come to mind:

  1. The information comes from authoritative but non scholarly sources, giving a different perspective on your topic
  2. The information is displayed in formats that complement texty scholarly material, which is helpful for people who learn better from visual material.


Did you know that we have maps of Middle Earth?  Seriously, though, visual information can supplement well the points that you want to make in your paper.  Maps are excellent ways to present information succinctly.  Here are some examples that might be useful for Women’s and Gender Studies people:

Interactive maps can show change over time.


Researchers must be able to locate large repositories of data, produce their own data, manipulate data, interpret it and use it correctly in their research papers.  People in MADGIC can help you with all of these tasks.  In fact, we now have a specialist data librarian.  Check out the “data” databases.  Here are some data-related resources to consider:

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

MADGIC also has specialists in locating, using, and creating GIS data.  Software such as ArcGIS is available on workstations within the department.  Did you know that GIS Day is coming up on November 16?  An opportunity to learn about all things GIS from vendors, producers and users.

Government Information

Government sources are considered to be  “primary source” information.  Governments are important voices to include in your research because they regulate social interaction on a global scale.  There also are research organizations which monitor government activity and provide their own reports.  These supplement well the scholarly perspective.  Many such reports are released as ebooks and therefore can be found in the Library catalogue (use the “government information” scope, in the drop-down list to the right of the search text area).  Others are found in government information databases, or on government web sites.

Government information is organized very differently from the scholarly literature, and can be difficult to locate.  The Google Custom Search of various government web sites (depending on the filter applied) can be a good place to start.  Check it out!

What else?

I love to follow the MADGIC blog.  It allows me to imagine new ways of viewing and using tools and information from their collections.  It also can highlight important resources for my research.  For instance, recently there was an article on Women, Gender Equality, and Africa.  If you use an RSS reader, you can be alerted when a new article is posted.  Some are quite serious but there is also a lighter side to their research: for instance, the interactive map of the history of pop music.  Try the blog: you will like it.

Use it, don’t lose it

The word is beginning to trickle out about the heavy budget reduction that the libraries at the University of Ottawa are experiencing.  For any librarian this is heartbreaking.  For a student or researcher, this is a cause for concern.  It is a common refrain across the Canadian higher education landscape.

thumb_money_bag_greenWe at Carleton have fared better this year: we actually received an increase to our base budget.  We are NOT out of the woods: since most of our resources are US in origin, or are purchased via US distributors, the exchange rate still eats into our buying power.  In spite of our budget increase, we still find ourselves in a situation where we must reduce our expenditures on materials by cutting our book budget and canceling journal subscriptions.

To save money, academic libraries make group purchases of large packages.  We participate in two large consortia: Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN) and the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL).  This is a great way to get access to a wide range of resources which, for an educational institution that embraces interdisciplinarity as Carleton does, is a great thing.  The problem is that, when we must reduce our budget costs, the cuts are big, because one cannot selectively cancel individual titles from within a package.  Make no mistake: what the University of Ottawa is doing is gutsy.  They have reviewed the usage of journals within certain packages and they are canceling several “big deal” packages.  But they also know which journals were used most extensively, and they are concentrating their budget on picking up individual subscriptions to maintain access to these well-used journals.

Usage is a key metric (but not the only one) in deciding which resources to retain and which to cancel.  We have been reviewing our numbers, too, and we know which resources are and are not used.  We have already canceled packages due to non-use.  But this does bring into relief an important notion about collection development: the role that you play in what stays and what goes.

normal_library_researchYou have a lot of agency in guiding what we purchase, although you may not realize it.  We make every effort not to cut resources that are core to research, teaching, and learning on campus.  If you want these resources, USE THEM.   If you use our search engines to find resources, you may discover material that others are not using, which can add to your understanding of an issue.  So check out the “journal articles” and “journals” sections of the Women’s Studies or Gender Studies subject guides (or any other guide for that matter) and make them your friends.

reading_booksAs far as books go, we are engaging in a demand-driven-acquisition (DDA) project where we obtain records for our catalogue that permit access to great ebooks that meet the needs of our degree programs (the collection development policy is here, and the subject-specific section for Women’s and Gender Studies is here).  If you use these ebooks, they are purchased automatically.  You can participate in shaping our collection by reading a couple of chapters from our ebooks.  So… check out the “new titles” page regularly.  Learn how to set up “saved searches” in the library catalogue so that you are notified of new material that matches your search criteria.  Read.

This is most likely more than you want to know about how libraries maintain their research collections.  It’s a major focus of academic and professional research in our discipline.  If you would like to know more, don’t hesitate to contact me (janet [dot] hempstead [at] carleton [dot] ca).  Or… well… we have a subject guide for Library and Information Science, too!

[Images courtesy of pdclipart.org]

Finding my way

frustration-and-perseverance-women-s-bjj-blog-dhdz7f-clipartSome of you may have wondered why there has been so little activity on this blog for a while; did something happen? Is it dead?

I guess the answers are yes, and no. I have been thinking — incubating — in terms of things that I have been reading in blogs and elsewhere, and trying to relate them to being a librarian and doing library research. I wanted to understand why I have been responding so strongly to trigger warnings.  I actually talked about this briefly in a first year women’s studies class in the summer where one of the topics being discussed was sexual violence. I mentioned that I had wanted to blog about Brock Turner but I felt too strongly about it to write. They indicated that I should write about it anyway.

Good point. Of course they are right, but I still needed to stop and think about why I was having such a strong reaction to this particular incident. Why this incident, why now? It may be not so much about the fact that it occurred AND he actually went to court, but moreso that it’s 2016 and we still have to explain in very simple terms that this kind of behaviour between human beings is more than “inappropriate”, it’s WRONG. It bugs me that we have to use laws to encourage respectful human behaviour. But when we do make these laws, we find that they can be bent or broken depending on who you are. Why is this? How did we get here?

Does it matter that you are white, from a well-to-do family, and a student at a prestigious university? Research shows that yes, yes it does. Furthermore, the fact that Turner’s father could be granted the space to intercede on his behalf to secure a more lenient sentence, and that a judge would actually accede to this persuasion, indicates how systemic whiteness is within the legal system.

White privilege is one aspect of sociolegal preference. Over the years blackness has become associated with shadowy, underdefined notions of criminality (for instance, Davis discusses the notion of the “black rapist” in Women, Race & Class). It has led to a “shoot first, ask questions later” form of policing, as in the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. This is not, however, a US-only problem, as the death of Abdirahman Abdi shows. Bringing this back to the Turner case, whether or not a rape has been committed, whether or not one is a rapist, and whether or not one should feel the full consequences of the law can at least in part be understood through whiteness, or more specifically, white privilege. What we are witnessing is that a particular aspect of sexual violence, “rape culture”, is emerging as a loaded term that has been wrapped up in a very unsavoury configuration of intersectionality.  Legal outcomes can support the notion that white guys committing rape aren’t as bad as black guys committing anything.

My silence has another dimension. Within the profession of librarianship, there has been much discussion as to how librarians help. Should they take sides in an issue? Should they show their biases when selecting resources for a collection, or providing research help? This collides directly with a critical feminist notion that one should engage with injustice wherever it is found, and work for positive change. How can one be both feminist and a librarian?

I have decided that one has to be the person one is, good or bad, and one must act in accordance with who that person is. So I won’t remain silent. I am writing to learn, to understand, to find a way to deal with the uncomfortable fact that as a white middle class Canadian with a good education and stable employment, I come from that part of society which is capable of oppressing others in ways that it cannot even recognize or comprehend. I am writing so that I can begin to “get it”, and so that I can begin to make change, even if it is only in a small way. I need to earn the right to be your librarian, every day, in spite of what I am or am not. But I don’t want to repeat what others have said. I will continue to do what I do: to show strategies that uncover what the research says on this topic. So here goes.

The first thing, always, is to decide on terms. Do we talk about whiteness, blackness, and “rape culture”? Or do we use the terms “sexual violence” and intersectionality? And in which search engines are we going to test drive these terms? Try them all and see which yield the best results.

We have a great ebook, entitled The construction of whiteness : an interdisciplinary analysis of race formation and the meaning of a White identity.  Others that may be of interest are:

If you look up “sexual violence” in the catalogue as a subject heading, you will find that this term is not used. It will, however, suggest “sex crimes” or “sexual abuse victims” as alternate terms.   Unfortunately, the term “intersectionality” is too new for there to be alternate terms. If you look for it as a keyword, you are led to resources where the subject headings are “critical theory”, “interdisciplinary research”, or “discrimination”. Hmmm… It’s not enough. Given that subject headings regulate your access to research because they are conceived by foreign body (the Library of Congress is an American government institution), is the absence of terms possibly related?  To fully uncover the nuances of the topic of intersectionality and sexual violence, you must construct careful advanced searches using both AND and OR.

When you search for academic resources, do keep in mind that you won’t find discourse about recent events in scholarly sources. What you may have to do is to analyze the contents of news articles instead. We have many subscriptions to newspapers and newspaper databases; see the News subject guide for help in choosing the right resources.

Similarly, it may be a while before the scholarly sources connect race and rape through the words “whiteness” and “rape culture”. Because these issues target social issues, I suggest that you start with Sociological Abstracts or Summon over Gender Studies Database. Use your terms, configure your searches, and analyze critically what the abstracts tell you.

But is this all?  Is there another way?  Recent feminist work involves looking for new ways of doing things and new voices to include in the discussion.  I wonder if restorative justice and indigenous ways of dealing with injustice may contribute constructively to this conversation.  For instance:

What should I say to wrap up this unusually long blog? My inability to write about this issue makes me think about how best to choose a topic for an essay. I used to advise that you choose an issue that sets you on fire, that is meaningful to you. Perhaps that needs to be moderated. If you are TOO emotionally involved, you may be unable to complete the assignment. Strong emotions can prevent you from taking a critical stand, and working toward a solution in a constructive way. Moderation may be the key: pass up that inflammatory topic and find one that captures your attention and makes you curious instead. Any topic that is worth pursuing will still be worth pursuing with time and perspective.

[image from Clipart Kid, http://www.clipartkid.com]

Doing Qualitative Research


Perhaps you are in the middle of conducting your qualitative research project. Have you considered how you will analyze your data? You might want to use NVivo. It is free to use for Faculty of Arts and Social Science students, and $12 for people in all other faculties. NVivo cannot tell you what your data is telling you about your research topic (that’s your job!), but it can help you to organize your thoughts in memos and to create hierarchies amongst your concepts. You can bring in audio clips, videos, interview transcripts, web pages, images, primary source documents such as pamphlets, and tweets. Some people use it to do their literature review, bringing in references from citation management software such as Endnote or Zotero (we offer training on these applications too) and marking up data from the references, and PDFs from articles or book 9781462515752 chapters, to identify the main topics covered and how the topics are treated. From all this data you can quickly develop queries and make tables, graphs and charts of the results.

We offer training in using NVivo
on both Mac or PC. For more information on NVivo in general, check out our NVivo web page.
Need more information about conducting qualitative research, or collecting and analyzing qualitative data sources?  We have lots of books.  Check out these:

Need more?  Try the subject headings for qualitative research or qualitative research — methodology.

We also have journals whose topic is qualitative research.  Check out these:

Course Guides


Now that it is mid-July, it is time to begin thinking about the fall-winter term (sorry!!).

Registration has been going on for a little while, and I have been checking the course schedules to see what is being offered when.  Some library search strategies sessions have already been arranged.  Professors tell me that when they make time for me in their classes, the papers that they get to read are better.  I hope that that means that people have been able to dive deeply into a topic, and that it has been a rewarding experience for them.  All this makes me feel good.

For the classes where I do teach, I make a course guide that is geared toward the topics and kinds of research assignments that students have to do for that class.  I have learned a lot by putting them together, so I hope that I am hitting the mark.  Students say that these guides have helped them to find materials that they otherwise would not have found, so I guess they are working.  I try to do more than just give lists of materials, since I can never know exactly what people will be researching: I try to offer some strategies for starting with those sources and branching out to others, or crafting their own searches.  To me, this seems to be a staple of feminist scholarship: to share insider information and how-to strategies that help others out.  I hope that I am carrying on that tradition.

These course guides may be useful for you, too, even if you are not in the class, since they do provide approaches to a particular topic.  If that topic is your topic, it could be a place to start.  Go to the Library’s home page and, in the “Research” column, check out “Course Guides”.  Perhaps you will find a really interesting topic and want to find out more…

I hope you are getting excited about the courses that you will be taking in the fall.  Enjoy the next few weeks and see you in the Library soon!

Graphic Novels

dangerous curvesgraphic womenwonder women

Have you ever considered studying social issues through the lens of a cultural product such as a graphic novel?  Did you know that we have a small collection of graphic novels in our library?

They are relatively easy to find, using the subject heading Graphic novels in the catalogue, but they will be moving to the second floor over the summer, so they will be even easier to find!  Here are a few analyses of graphic novels that may be of interest to Women’s and Gender Studies:

And here are some of our graphic novels which touch on women’s and gender issues:

Happy reading!  Are there titles which we should have in our graphic novel collection?  Please send details to janet dot hempstead at carleton dot ca and I will see what we can do about it!

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia


To honour the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, a few recent resources from the Library’s collection on LGBTQ issues in Canada:

To find out what is trending in scholarly research, try searching the tables of contents for issues of sexuality studies journals, in particular

[image courtesy of hdnicewallpapers.com]