Friday, July 28, 2006

Library Staff Welcome New Students

by Susan Lieberthal

The Library Staff at the Melville Library has been participating all summer in the numerous orientation days organized for new incoming students at Stony Brook. Orientation begins in the lobby of the SAC. Several vendors and university departments take tables to show the services they offer students. The library staff started off using the counter at the north side of the lobby. This seemed to marginalize us and lately we have taken one of the tables in order to be closer to the flow of students and their parents.

We have distributed some leaflets about the library and the campus in general. We have also given out many “freebies” consisting of refrigerator magnets with the library’s URL printed on it, and post-its with the library’s URL printed on them. The library is in possession of a large green table covering with our logo and this is laid out on the table before each orientation. We also have a screen shot of our home page which has been made into a laminated board and sits nicely on the table.

The magnets have proven very popular with parents. However, pointing out the URL on the magnet has been a useful way to talk to students about our rich database collection that is available to them once they have their student ID.

The library staff began by staffing every orientation. It soon became clear that our time was not spent in a constructive way on the days when there were the very small orientations for specialized groups. We therefore decided to participate only when the large groups had their orientation. I for one was very busy welcoming students, their parents, handing out freebies and bragging about how many databases we had.

Being part of the orientation has been very important for our image. Also the friendly welcome, and help directing people to the orientation tables, Seawolves café and restrooms has gone a long way towards welcoming everyone to Stony Brook and all that it has to offer them.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bibliographer Extraordinare!

Janet Clarke, selector for Asian American Studies (and Head of Library Instruction), was a contributing bibliographer for the forthcoming Resources for College Libraries (RCL), which is the long-awaited update to Books for College Libraries, 3rd edition (BCL3), published in 1988. RCL, a print and web resource on essential books for college library collections, will be available in Fall, 2006.

Janet’s contributions to this work are significant: she has incorporated scholarly and creative works germane to the undergraduate Asian American Studies curriculum into the new edition of RCL. The 1988 edition contained no subject headings for Asian American Studies, and less than 20 titles scattered across other traditional disciplines, even though Asian American Studies courses have been taught since 1969. In this new edition of RCL, Asian American Studies has its own chapter with about 1,000 titles.

There has been a considerable increase in scholarly and literary publishing since BCL3 was published. Contemporary works from the late 1980’s to present are emphasized in RCL, with some older classical works included even if they are out-of-print or available only as reprints.

When asked about her work on this project, Janet remarked: "Those of us in the field knew there was a real need for a collection development resource like RCL for Asian American Studies, so I felt very excited to be part of this project."

More information about Resources for College Libraries is available from

Monday, July 17, 2006

Avoiding Plagiarism

by Susan Kaufman

What is all the buzz about plagiarism today and why does it really matter? Consider the following:

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Pulitzer winning historian for her book, No Ordinary Time (1995), full professor at Harvard, commentator on celebrated news hours and judge for the Pulitzer competition recently acknowledged lifting several passages from other authors for her 1987 best seller The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys. She was forced to resign from these positions. In addition, several universities withdrew their initiations for speaking engagements.
  • David Kelly, weapons inspector and advisor to the British Ministry of Defense believed the weapons inspection report in Iraq was inaccurate and soon after Tony Blair authorized involvement in the war on Iraq, Kelly committed suicide.
  • Joe Biden, a democratic presidential hopeful, was accused of plagiarism regarding certain passages in speeches and interviews he borrowed from British politician Neil Kinnock. He withdrew is candidacy.
  • Eugene Tobin, the President of Hamilton College, resigned after admitting to improperly attributing his sources in a speech he gave to incoming freshmen.
  • The president of Southwest Texas State University resigned when his dissertation was found to be plagiarized. He lost not only his job but his doctorate was well.

Today, more than ever, it is very easy to commit plagiarism. We cut and paste the information we find online without regard to where it comes from and who wrote it. Why should we, if it is on the net, it must be ok to use: it is just information; it is free information… not exactly.

Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of somebody else’s words, ideas, images, sounds or creative expression. It includes having a friend write a paper for you, submitting the same paper for more than one class and downloading or buying a term paper from the web. Another’s work includes laboratory data, computer programs, physical models, chemical samples, photographs, tables and graphs. In other words, whatever isn’t your idea or work is plagiarism, except for one thing: common knowledge. You do not have to cite common knowledge.

What is common knowledge? Common knowledge is an idea(s) taken for granted by people knowledgeable about the topic. Facts easily found in standard reference books are considered common knowledge. In some disciplines, information covered in class lectures do not need acknowledgement. Some interpretive ideas also are so well accepted that they don’t need referencing, such as the idea that Picasso is a distinguished modernist painter or that smoking is harmful to health.

If you would like to learn more about plagiarism, a workshop is being offered by the library. You will learn misconceptions about plagiarism as well as strategies that can be used to keep yourself from getting into very hot water….like expulsion from the university….ouch.

For detailed information about this and other library workshops, see or call 632-7110 for registration.