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Summer Reading: Silent Spring

Silent Spring

Silent Spring
Rachel Carson
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002

Originally published in 1962, Silent Spring is credited with advancing the concepts of environmentalism that led to the founding of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and existing laws that protect the air and water. Currently the agency, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Water Act are threatened. Gaining knowledge of the basis for the creation of the Agency and these environmental regulations allows one to articulate a position for maintaining and strengthening them.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

From the University Librarian: Welcome to Fall 2017!

students gather on memorial glade

Students gather for Golden Bear Orientation on Memorial Glade this week. (Photo by Cade Johnson for the University Library)

On Tuesday, incoming freshman gathered outside Doe Library as they began the official start of their college career, an eight-day orientation to Berkeley and its tremendous resources. Today, as I look outside my office window, students enjoy lunch from multi-ethnic food trucks beside the Campanile. The campus is bursting with new energy and enthusiasm, and the Library is excited to be at the heart of it.

University Librarian

University Librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason

This semester, we are launching Level Up, a new program designed to empower all students to acquire 21st-century information skills. Level Up will offer a menu of skill-building workshops and online resources on topics such as fake news, social media for social good, and advanced data analysis.

We’ve launched a new initiative to help address the high and ever-increasing cost of education to students and their families, as state support continues to decline. We are leading a campus-wide collaboration on two pilot programs to improve course content affordability. We expect students to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in just the first year of this new program.

Our halls are filled with materials from our unique and diverse collections, including a gallery devoted to recent acquisitions by The Bancroft Library, and exhibits on the world-famous Summer of Love, the history of Syrian culture, and the team of female mathematicians featured in Hidden Figures.

It’s an incredible time to be at Berkeley and the Library, where we are passionate about our mission to “help current and future users find, evaluate, use, and create knowledge to better the world.” From incoming students to esteemed scholars, the Library welcomes you.

— Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, University Librarian

5 things you didn’t know about solar eclipses

Total solar eclipse (CC via Flickr)

By Tor Haugan

It’s bird! It’s a plane! It’s — an eclipse?

On Monday, the moon will completely cover the sun and cast a shadow across the country, marking the first total solar eclipse visible in the United States since Feb. 26, 1979 — and the first one whose path has traveled from one American coast to the next in 99 years.

Although the forthcoming solar spectacle will be fully visible only from a 70-mile-wide, 3,000-mile-long band — “the path of totality” — which stretches from Oregon to South Carolina, you won’t have to travel far to get your eclipse fix.

Earth and physical sciences librarian Sam Teplitzky, who recently chose the items for a Cal Day eclipse extravaganza in the Physics Library and a Maps and More pop-up event at the Earth Sciences Library, says she has noticed a surge in interest in the topic.

“We’ve had several patrons use the eclipse-related maps to help chart their own eclipse-chasing plans,” she says, “and the new books I purchased related to next week’s eclipse have been checked out all summer.”

Those who can’t make it to the path of totality to witness the full-on phenomenon in person can check out the eclipse-centric displays here on campus. One, on view until Oct. 1, is outside of the Earth Sciences & Map Library (open weekdays from 9 to 5 p.m.), in the lower level of the lobby of McCone Hall. The other, which will be up through the end of the month, is at the main reading room of the Physics-Astronomy Library (open weekdays from 1 to 5 p.m.).

Eclipse exhibit

Eclipse resources are on display at the Earth Sciences & Map Library until Oct. 1. (Photo by Cade Johnson for the University Library)

Eclipse books on display

The main reading room of the Physics-Astronomy Library will feature eclipse materials through August. (Photo by Cade Johnson for the University Library)

Bonita Dyess, circulation supervisor at the Earth Sciences & Map Library, was instrumental in putting together the eclipse displays.

“I hope people gain a different outlook on our science libraries from looking at our displays,” she says. “I also hope they gain a better understanding of what a total eclipse truly is and how rare this extraordinary event occurs, especially in the U.S.”

We pored over many of the eclipse-related offerings at the Library, full of little-known tidbits and fun facts. Here are just a few things we learned.

1. Eclipse chasing is old.
Heading to Oregon in time for the big event? You’re not alone. Many eclipse enthusiasts are making their way the path of totality — from Boiler Bay in Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina — for primo viewing. But eclipse chasing isn’t new: It is said to have started in 1715. In fact, that year, Sir Isaac Newton created diagrams of the eclipse in England for the public, according to “Total Solar Eclipses and How to Observe Them.”

Interested in the history of eclipse chasing? Rebecca Joslin’s “Chasing Eclipses: The Total Solar Eclipses of 1905, 1914, 1925” tackles the subject, and its beautiful imagery makes it one of librarian Teplitzky’s top eclipse-related picks at the Library.

2. Eclipses come with their own weather.
Like a neighborhood in San Francisco, eclipses are said to come with their own microclimates. Solar eclipses are associated with a drop in temperature — the moon is blocking the sun, after all. Tracking software, however, isn’t sophisticated enough to predict the the weather changes they trigger, according to “Total Solar Eclipses.”

But rapidly fluctuating weather? That’s something all of us in the Bay Area are used to.

3. According to legend, a dragon (or frog or vampire or werewolf or dog) ate the sun.
Eclipses have been explained throughout the years in legends and lore, which vary from culture to culture. The Chinese and Indonesians, for example, historically held that the eclipse is caused by a giant dragon eating the sun, accounting for its apparent disappearance. In fact, the Mandarin word for eclipse is “shi,” which means “eat.

Eclipse myths involving creatures eating the sun are not uncommon, although the beast ingesting the planets can vary depending on the stories’ origins. In Bolivia, it was a huge dog; in Vietnam, a ginormous frog; a werewolf in Serbia; and a vampire in Siberia, according to the fascinating tome “Total Eclipses: Science, Observations, Myths and Legends.”

4. Eclipses have appeared in many books throughout history — including maybe the Bible.
Eclipses are featured in some of the most highly regarded works in history, including those by Shakespeare (“King Lear”) and Mark Twain (“A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”). Even one of the “Twilight” books is called “Eclipse.”

Most notably, though, is that the Scriptures may depict a solar eclipse. The Bible mentions three hours of darkness in the daytime during Jesus’ crucifixion, according to “Total Eclipses.” But whether this was a religious miracle or a normal (albeit rare) astronomical occurrence — or something else entirely — remains up for debate.

5. Someday, solar eclipses will no longer be visible.
The moon is drifting away from the Earth at a rate of 38 mm per year — which is the thickness of about five iPhones stacked on top of one another. Someday, the moon will appear so small in the sky, it will be unable to obscure the sun, according to “Total Solar Eclipses.”

But don’t worry, chasers — it won’t happen anytime soon.

How to see the eclipse

If you do want to see the eclipse but are stuck in the Bay Area on Monday, fear not: Although the region doesn’t lie on the path of totality, we can catch a glimpse of a partial (or about 75 percent) eclipse — that is, if Karl the Fog is cooperative.

Set your alarm to 10:15 a.m. — or a few minutes earlier, for some wiggle room — so you don’t miss it.

If you don’t end up seeing it in person, of course, there’s the Eclipse Megamovie Project, a crowdsourced venture spearheaded by UC Berkeley and Google, which pulls together volunteer-submitted images of the eclipse from across the country. So, like the sun come Monday, you’ll be covered.

Librarian Teplitzky says, if the weather allows, she’ll likely step outside to look at the eclipse — “with my eclipse glasses,” she adds, referring to the protective eyewear that filters out harmful rays.

You’ll want to nab a pair, even if you’re watching from the Bay Area. After all, you wouldn’t want to risk your eyesight for when the next total solar eclipse is visible in the United States — in 2024.

Sources: ABC Channel 7, American Astronomical Society, “Chasing Eclipses: The Total Solar Eclipses of 1905, 1914, 1925,” NASA, “Total Eclipses: Science, Observations, Myths and Legends”, “Total Solar Eclipses and How to Observe Them,” Washington Post

Two upcoming Free Speech events


Free Speech Movement CaféAlice Waters
Thursday September 7
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
FSM Café

The Bay Area luminary and world-renowned founder and owner of Chez Panisse will read from her new memoir, Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook. In her book, Alice Waters ” . . . retraces the events that led her to 1517 Shattuck Avenue and the tumultuous times that emboldened her to find her own voice as a cook when the prevailing food culture was embracing convenience and uniformity.” (Penguin Random House)

The Free Speech Movement (FSM) Café, centrally located at the south entrance to Moffitt Library on Floor 3, is a casual place to gather, study, or take a break with friends and colleagues. The Café honors Mario Savio, who played a key role in the struggle for free speech at UC, and commemorates the events of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley. Indoor and terrace seating is provided.

Erwin Chemerinsky,  Dean of Berkeley Law

Note: This day/time are currently under review. Check back for an update.

Tuesday, September 26
6:00 p.m – 7:30 p.m.
Morrison Room, Doe Library

Erwin Chemerinsky became the 13th Dean of Berkeley Law on July 1, 2017, when he joined the faculty as the Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law. He will be discussing his new book, Free Speech on Campus, which ” . . . provides the background necessary to understanding the importance of free speech on campus and offers clear prescriptions for what colleges can and can’t do when dealing with free speech controversies.” (Yale University Press)


Summer Reading: Where Song Began

Where Song Began

Where Song Began: Australia’s Birds and How They Changed the World
Tim Low
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016

Low’s book challenges expectations that all species originated from similar areas of the globe, instead arguing that most birds around the world today originated in Australia–and that they have influenced the world, including humans, to sing. He provides interesting insights into the size and aggressiveness of Australian birds, as well as odd and rare species, such as those with poisonous feathers.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

The eclipse, the Library, and you

Chasing Eclipses

Whether you’re hopping in an Oregon-bound car to catch the total solar eclipse in Salem, boarding a plane for central Wyoming to watch the moon’s shadow pass over Casper, or just staying put to catch a partial view right here in the Bay Area, the library has tons of great information to help you enjoy this rare celestial event. Make sure to check out our Maps and More Guide about the eclipse (and solar eclipses in general). Read Chasing Eclipses (pictured above), a 1929 account of the total solar eclipses of 1905, 1914, and 1925. See this 1957 report from the Georgetown Observatory about eclipses by Vera Rubin (who, incidentally, helped make the case for the existence of dark matter, as described in this New York Times profile). And for a literary accounting of a total solar eclipse, find a copy of Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk and and (re)read her essay about her experience watching (and feeling) the sun disappear behind the moon in central Washington on February 26, 1979:

What you see in an eclipse is entirely different from what you know. It is especially different for those of us whose grasp of astronomy is so frail that, given a flashlight, a grapefruit, two oranges, and fifteen years, we still could not figure out which way to set the clocks for Daylight Saving Time. Usually it is a bit of a trick to keep your knowledge from blinding you. But during an eclipse it is easy. What you see is much more convincing than any wild-eyed theory you may know.

Library tours, August 22-29

Library Tours

Join other students and get your bearings with a 3-in-one tour of the Doe Memorial Library, Moffitt Undergraduate Library, and the Main Stacks. See these central libraries and learn about the student services they provide. Tour starts at the north entrance of Doe Library.

Tour dates and times:

Tuesday 8/22: 2-3 pm
Wednesday 8/23: 10-11am and 2-3pm
Thursday 8/24: 10-11am and 2-3pm
Friday 8/25: 10-11am and 2-3pm
Monday 8/28: 10-11am and 2-3pm
Tuesday 8/29: 10-11am and 2-3pm

Summer Reading: Making Sense of Science

Making Sense of Science

Making Sense of Science: Separating Substance from Spin
Cornelia Dean
Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2017

Cornelia Dean was a New York Times science writer for over thirty years and is currently a writer-in-residence at Brown University. Given her excellent previous work, I have every confidence that her new book, Making Sense of Science, will be well written and informative. The book is targeted for non-scientists who seek the background needed to evaluate scientific claims. Books like Dean’s are especially timely because of the anti-science climate that now reigns in Washington.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

Library closures due to wildfire on Aug. 2

The following libraries have reduced hours on Wednesday, August 2 as a precaution due to the wildfire in the East Bay hills.

Closing early:

  • The Bancroft Library — closed
  • Business Library — closing at 5pm
  • Doe Library (and all libraries in Doe) — closing at 5pm
  • Environmental Design Library — closed
  • Gardner (Main) Stacks — closing at 5pm

All libraries that routinely close at 5pm will continue to do so. The Engineering Library (open until 6pm) and Moffitt Library (open until 9pm) will follow regular hours unless something changes.

Summer Reading: Paying the Price

Paying the Price

Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream
Sara Goldrick-Rab
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016

Goldrick-Rab conducted this study of thousands of young people to understand the obstacles they face in completing a degree whether at a two-year or four-year college. She discovered what you probably already know. Young people from middle class and low income families alike confront many challenges just to get an education: rising tuition and fees; the high cost of living (rent, food, gas, books, etc); a complicated and insufficient Federal aid program; difficulties finding flexible work that allows students to pay for and stay in school full time. Politicians will tell you that they worked their way through college and so should you. But, only a generation ago, theirs was a very different world in which hard work and determination got you a degree. Implementing policies that will make college affordable for all can happen. But first, we as a society must agree that a college education is a right for all and not just a privilege for those who can afford it.

This book is part of the 2017 Berkeley Summer Reading List. Stay tuned for more weekly posts!

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