Library Tourism: Dinosaurs in the Library in Pittsburgh (Or Why Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is Awesome!!)

I was lucky enough a few weeks ago while visiting friends in Pittsburgh, PA to make a quick trip to a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (the main branch in the Oakland neighborhood, also called CLP – Main).

Library entrance of the main branch of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

This was seriously one of the coolest libraries I’ve ever visited.  It has everything a classic library lover could dream of….beautiful architecture, a fascinating historical background, an enormous card catalog, multiple floors packed with all types of information resources, and even a coffee shop.  It also has some more whimsical touches, like a view of the dinosaur exhibit in the natural history museum next door, a zine collection, and a piano in the music section that you can play while wearing headphones.  It was such a joy to walk through and explore this library, and afterwards I got to learn a bit about how Carnegie libraries across the US and around the world came into existence thanks to industrialist Andrew Carnegie (check out the virtual exhibit at Digital Public Library of America in the link).

Here are just a few awesome features (and photos) from CLP – Main:

  • Zine Collection(!!): I was so, so excited to see a zine collection at a major public library.  I find zines (usually self-published or locally published pamphlets/magazines) to be really fascinating reads that highlight local and very niche subcultures, and I wish I had a chance to thoroughly browse this collection.  I’m definitely setting aside an hour or two the next time I’m in Pittsburgh to solely dedicate to zine browsing.
  • Lots and Lots of Lizards: The moment I saw the library through the windows of the dinosaur exhibit in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I knew I had to visit.  While walking into the library through a side entrance, I ran into a surprising amount of lizards (both ancient and modern).
Very literary dinosaurs look in on the library next door.
A T-Rex statue outside the library.
A gator guards a classroom.
  • Incredible Architecture: The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh website gives a brief history of the CLP – Main building, which was dedicated in 1895.  Despite a number of renovations and improvements, the beauty of the 19th century architecture is evident throughout the building, and especially in the stairways, hallways, and reading rooms.
  • A Modern Collection and Welcoming Environment: The building may have a classical beauty, but the atmosphere and collection is thoroughly modern and welcoming to all types of patrons, regardless of age, economic status, or language.  I noticed a lively teen section (I think I spotted some virtual reality gear advertised) beside a hip coffee shop, a large career center with numerous computers, an extensive music section with an electric piano (with headphones, of course), and the zine collection (my obvious favorite).
All are welcome here at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
A look at the extensive floor directory at CLP – Main.
  • A Card Catalog, Obviously: There was one wonderfully classic library touch on the second floor – an enormous card catalog.  And according to the sign, this wasn’t even the main card catalog!


I could have spent all day at CLP – Main, and next time I visit Pittsburgh, I may very well spend the whole day there (probably in the zine collection).


Relaxation in the Library: Programs for Stress Reduction

Image created via Pixabay images.

I personally think of libraries as calm, quiet environments, but teens and college students cramming for finals or adults trying to desperately job hunt may not associate libraries with relaxation.  Stress reduction programming is an important tool for public and academic librarians to improve mental health of patrons and promote the library as an oasis for both learning and mental wellbeing.

Here are five quick programming ideas (many found through the American Library Association’s Programming Librarian website) for reducing stress and promoting mental health:

    1. Spa Day: Kimberli Buckley at Programming Librarian suggests a collection of fun activities and crafts (such as towel wraps and homemade lip gloss) to create a spa club for teens in the library.
    2. Adult Coloring Club: Diamond Newman at Programming Librarian offers a detailed program model (including advice on advanced planning, marketing, budget, and program execution) for starting an adult coloring club, which offers “an opportunity for adults to relax and be a kid again.”
    3. Yoga and Meditation: Jenn Carson at Programming Librarian describes how starting a yoga program at the library can benefit the mental and physical health of both patrons and staff.  Carson makes a fantastic point that “offering free wellness sessions to people who might not otherwise be able to afford them also aligns with our mandate to provide outreach, access and support to everyone in our community.”  Just as one example of a public library yoga program, my local public library system (Montgomery County Public Libraries) offers a series of free yoga and tai chi classes at various branches across the county.  Carson also describes in another post on Programming Librarian how she incorporates meditation and mindfulness activities into her programs.
    4. Animal Therapy: A 2010 paper by Jo Ann Reynolds and Laurel Rabschutz in College and Undergraduate Libraries describes the use therapy dogs at University of Connecticut’s Homer Babbidge Library to “to support the physical and emotional well-being of students during the stress-filled week of finals.”  (I’m a strong supporter of cats in the library to reduce stress, as long as no one has allergies!)
    5. De-Stress Fest: In 2017, Penn State University Libraries offered a “De-Stress Fest” during finals week that offered free snacks, art therapy, games, brain massage music, biofeedback programs, and stress management workbooks.

For more programming ideas to promote mental and physical health in the library, check the Health and Wellness section of the Programming Librarian site. Katie Darty of School Library Journal also offers a list of Hands-On Ways To De-Stress for younger students in school libraries.

Surreal Online Art Collections

Some days, you just need a momentary escape from reality.  I don’t have a deep knowledge of art history, but I do know what type of art I tend to be drawn to.  I love dreamscapes and fantastical, sometimes unnerving artwork of the surrealist movement (or surrealism-inspired art).  Here’s a few of the online collections that exhibit the works of my favorite artists: Frida Kahlo, M.C. Escher, and Salvador Dalí.

Frida Kahlo

I have a deep respect for Frida Kahlo and the mixture of pain and technicolor beauty that shines through her artwork and self portraits.  In middle school, I remember writing a paper on Frida Kahlo and looking through some of her works for the first time.  Her work The Two Fridas stuck vividly in my mind, and the image of a woman holding hands with her twin, connected by bloody hearts beating outside their bodies, both haunts and intrigues me still today.

Google Arts and Culture offers an amazing digital exhibit of Kahlo’s work, Faces of Frida. The digital exhibit is expansive and provides so many fascinating insights into Kahlo’s life and artwork.  You can learn about the life story and artistic influences that guided Kahlo during her career, read and view online exhibits describing the “hidden stories, details and themes in her artwork”, zoom in to view the individual brush strokes of her paintings in high-resolution photographs, scroll through dozens of her paintings and sketches, read quotes and letters written by Kahlo, view photos of Kahlo, explore an online exhibit about Kahlo’s distinctive clothing style, explore the Blue House (where Kahlo was born, lived and died), view art collections and editorials about Kahlo’s artistic legacy and influence, and much, much more.

Explore the artwork of Frida Kahlo through the Faces of Frida digital exhibit created by Google.

M.C. Escher

M. C. Escher wasn’t technically a part of the surrealist movement, but his mathematically-inspired prints have an other-worldly feel, featuring impossible staircases and a hand drawing itself.  The optical illusions that Escher includes in his work are hypnotic, and I remember in elementary school staring at a poster of Relativity during art class, just trying to figure out how those staircases worked.

I recently learned that the Boston Public Library made their collection of over 80 Escher prints available online through Digital Commonwealth.  Users can browse the works by topic, place, date, or format and zoom in on the high-resolution images to view the details of each work.

Browse M.C. Escher prints and drawings at Digital Commonwealth.

The largest online collection for viewing Escher’s work is probably the online gallery maintained by the M.C. Escher Foundation, where you can explore collections like Mathematical, Impossible Constructions, and Symmetry.

Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí was a key figure in the surrealist movement and an incredibly prolific artist, producing thousands of works ranging from paintings and prints to objects and photographs.  The iconic Dalí work that I was first introduced to was The Persistence of Memory. The work was referenced in a movie I loved as a child, The Phantom Tollbooth, and I remember being very confused as to why clocks would be melting.

Search or browse through works by Dalí at the Salvador Dali Museum website, which features galleries of objects, prints, photos, works on paper, paintings, and book illustrations by Dalí. Each item in the gallery includes detailed metadata and an in-depth description that provides a look at the influences and history behind the work.

Explore collections of works by Dalí at the Salvador Dali Museum website.

If you want to check out even more surrealist artwork, I recommend browsing the Surrealism collection from the Guggenheim, where you can find works by Max Ernst, René Magritte, and other key figures.

Resources to Kickstart my Data Management Education

Data management training resources from NNLM, NYU Health Sciences Library, and the Medical Library Association.

Tomorrow I’m headed to SLA 2018, and I’m looking forward to a few of the workshop sessions related to data management.  I’ve been trying to focus my continuing education over the past few months on bioinformatics and data management, and the NNLM bioinformatics online course has been invaluable for learning about genomic data resources accessible through National Library of Medicine databases.  I didn’t have anything quite as structured to help me learn about data management, but I still was directed to an excellent collection of print and online resources that I’ve used to train myself (and begin training others) about data management best practices and tools.


I started my data management resource hunt by reaching out to my local Regional Medical Library (RML) for the NNLM SEA Region, and I was provided with the very helpful recommendation to utilize the data management training resources from NYU Health Sciences Library (more on that in a moment).  I also regularly check the NNLM RD3 page, which includes links and information targeted towards health science librarians on managing, storing, and sharing data.  I’ve used the Courses and Workshops page to locate online courses about data management targeted towards researchers, and I occasionally check the Data Thesaurus as a useful reference tool.

NYU Health Sciences Library

The Data Management team at NYU Health Sciences Library (including Alisa Surkis, Kevin Read, and Fred LaPolla) offer a great set of tools to help any health science librarian start on their data management journey, including:

  • Research Data Management Training for Information Professionals – This online course is eight modules long, only takes maybe 5-6 hours to get through, and provides a broad overview of data management concepts (such as the data lifecycle, understanding clinical vs bench research, evolving research data management policies, data documentation best practices, and more). The training provides engaging videos, periodic quizzes to reinforce important points, and text-based content written to accommodate librarians of all skill levels (no coding knowledge required!).  This training was a fantastic place to start with orienting myself to basic data management concepts and resources.
  • Research Data Management Teaching Toolkit – This toolkit includes an instruction guide, a customizable PowerPoint presentation with a detailed script in the notes section, and an evaluation form.  The toolkit can be used by librarians to give researchers, healthcare professionals, or college students a brief overview (about 1.5 hours long) on data management policies, best practices, and tools.

MLA Guide to Data Management for Librarians

I’m currently in the process of reading The Medical Library Association Guide to Data Management for Librarians, edited by Lisa Federer.  I’m only two chapters in so far, but I’ve already learned about the history of data management initiatives at NIH and how librarians can play a role (“Research Data Management for the Digital Research Enterprise: A Perspective from the National Institutes of Health” by Valerie Florance) and the many horrifying consequences of poor data management practices (“What Could Possibly Go Wrong? The Impact of Poor Data Management” by Chris Eaker).

Overall, I’ve still got a long way to go in my data management education, but these print and online resources have given me a solid foundation to build upon.  Hopefully the SLA workshops tomorrow will provide even more ideas and resources for data management.

A Green, Growing World of Online Plant Information

It’s been raining on and off a lot over the last few weeks here in DC, so the world feels very tropical and green.  I’m not much of a green thumb myself (I’m not sure I could even keep a cactus alive), but I do love living in an area of the country that gets very verdant during the spring and summer months.  Plants are beautiful, and it can be interesting to explore the beauty of plants from many different angles, such as through vintage seed catalogs, at the genetic level, in patent format, and in vivid photographs and illustrations.

Seed Catalogs

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries have a collection of over 10,000 seed and nursery catalogs dating from 1830 onwards, and they have digitized over 500 cover art images from the catalogs (from about 1830s-1930s).  Users can browse these incredible illustrations by plant type or company.

seed catalog
Seed catalog covers including images of melons from the Smithsonian Libraries Seed Catalogs collection.

You can also explore over 43,000 fully digitized seed and nursery catalogs through the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Plant Genetics

The Taxonomy Database from the National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) is a great place to start for locating a variety of genetic information available through NCBI databases for a wide range of species, including plants.  A search for “tomato” brings you to the Taxonomy Browser record for Solanum lycopersicum, where information about the organism’s name and lineage is available, along with links to various NCBI databases with pre-made searches related to that organism (including a link to the genome overview record for the tomato plant).

Organism Overview for the Solanum lycopersicum (tomato) in the Genome database from NCBI.
Another helpful resource for finding genetic information about plants is the list of general plant databases from the OBRC: Online Bioinformatics Resources Collection, created by the Health Sciences Library System at the University of Pittsburgh.

Plant Patents

Plant patents are a special form of patent protection in the US that cover “distinct and new varieties of asexually reproduced plants (other than tuber propagated plants or plants found in an uncultivated state)” (according to the Plant Patents page from North Carolina State University Libraries).  One of the interesting features of plant patents is that they often include color photos of the plant, since color images are required if color is one of the distinguishing features of the plant. University of Maryland Libraries provide a Plant Patents Image Database, where users can search by patent number, title words, inventor names, and US Patent Classification “PLT” codes to find information about specific plant patents, including links to the color pages in the USPTO Patent Full Text and Image Database.

patent plant
Color image from plant patent PP20208 — Miniature rose plant named ‘KORfrosdra’.

Plant Drawings and Photographs

One of my favorite digital collections of all time (which I mentioned in a previous post) is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pomological Watercolor Collection, which includes over 7,500 watercolor paintings, lithographs, and line drawings of fruit and nut varieties (including 3,807 images of apples!).

Sooooo many apples.

The USDA also offers an image gallery of photos and line drawings of plants (focusing on US plants), and the gallery can be searched by a wide range of criteria including plant name, category, duration, growth habits, native status, wetlands status,  growing region, artist name, image type, and more.

Fern images from the USDA Image Gallery.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History also offers botanical art and a plant photos archive in its Botany Collections.  If you’re interested in more botanical illustration resources, check this LibGuide from Western Libraries at Western Washington University.

Even if I can’t go outside right now with the rain, I can still enjoy the digital gardens available online.  (Although as soon as the sun comes out, I’m heading over to Brookside Gardens.)

3 Types of Information Resources for Immigrant Patrons at Libraries

Image adapted from Pixabay

One of the reasons I’m so proud of the library profession is that libraries are truly for everyone.  Public libraries in particular offer critical information services to every person in a community, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexuality, income, or legal status.  The American Library Association (ALA) offers a strong statement of support for  rights of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers: “ALA strongly supports the protection of each person’s civil liberties, regardless of that individual’s nationality, residency, or status; and, be it further RESOLVED, That ALA opposes any legislation that infringes on the rights of anyone in the USA or its territories, citizens or otherwise, to use library resources, programs, and services on national, state, and local levels.”

My home in Montgomery County, Maryland has an estimated population of 32.6% originally born outside of the US, and 39.8% of residents over 5 years of age live in homes where a language other than English is regularly spoken.  The Montgomery County Public Libraries system (MCPL) therefore offers a wide range of information services targeted towards patrons who speak a language other than English and/or who are seeking citizenship in the US.

Based on some of the services listed at the Citizenship LibGuides page from MCPL, as well as some multilingual health resources from National Library of Medicine (NLM), here’s a quick look at three types of information resources available to immigrant patrons at libraries.

Legal Information

Under the Citizenship and Naturalization section of the MCPL Citizenship page, patrons can find:

  • A calendar of free citizenship preparation classes at MCPL libraries (taught by organizations like BCCC Citizenship Preparation program and CASA de Maryland).
  • Links to the library catalog to find books, DVDs, e-books, on naturalization, citizenship, and immigration.
  • Free legal services offered by the Montgomery County Bar Foundation for low income county residents in civil cases.
  • Links to local and national legal assistance resources for immigrants.
  • Links to information and resources to assist with the immigration, citizenship, and naturalization process, including a video and links for preparing for the US Citizenship Exam and Interview.

English Language Learning Resources

The MCPL Citizenship page offers a Learning English section that lists a calendar of English conversation clubs to practice speaking English at local MCPL libraries. The page also offers links to materials in the MCPL catalog to assist with learning English, including resources for speakers of 15 different languages.  Finally, this section offers links to English-language classes in the local community, including free and low-cost classes.  The MCPL Citizenship page also offers a separate section for online resources for learning English, including access to Mango Languages, Muzzy Online, and Rosetta Stone.

Health Information in Multiple Languages

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) offers a wide range of online multilingual health information for the public, including:

  • A full version of the consumer health portal MedlinePlus in Spanish.
  • Links to multilingual health information in about 59 languages, which can also be browsed by health topic.
  • The HealthReach portal allows both healthcare providers and patients to search a large library of multilingual health resources (including text, audio, and video).  Patient materials can be filtered by both language and format.

For more information on library services and resources for immigrant patrons, I recommend checking Libraries Respond: Immigrants, Refugees, and Asylum Seekers from the American Library Association, which includes the ALA Resolution in Support of Immigrant Rights, guidelines for responding to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an overview of Project Welcome, guidelines for outreach to immigrant populations, and links to additional resources and news related to library support for immigrants and refugees.


May 2018 Library News Round-up: PubMed Data Filters, Data Management Webinars, and Staying Up-to-Date with MLA 2018

After a few exciting weeks of profiling incredible librarians from around the world, I’m relieved to return to familiar territory with a good ol’ fashioned news round-up.  For May 2018, I want to highlight a few interesting new data resources for librarians from National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), including new data filters on PubMed and PubMed Central and an upcoming webinar series about research data management.  Also, there’s the equivalent of the Super Bowl for medical librarians coming up next week, the annual Medical Library Association (MLA) conference, this year in Atlanta, GA.  I unfortunately won’t be there in person this year, but I’ll follow along through Twitter and blogs.

PubMed Data Filters

On April 24, 2018, the NLM Technical Bulletin announced the ability to filter PubMed and PubMed Central search results to view articles that have associated data sets.  The NLM Technical Bulletin article describes the following data-related filtering options:

  • PubMed
    • Use  data[filter] to find citations with related data links in either the Secondary Source ID field or the LinkOut – Other Literature Resources field.
Data filter on PubMed.

Availability of related data sets is an important step towards improving reproducibility and transparency for research articles.  Hopefully these data-related filters will eventually be more prominently featured in the PubMed filter options (such as in the side-column list of filter options beside search results).

NNLM Research Data Management Webinar Series

The NNLM Research Data Management (RDM) webinar series is kicking off June 14, 2018, 2-3pm ET, with the free webinar Research Data Management Services: Beyond Analysis and Coding.  The presentation by Margaret Henderson, a Health Sciences Librarian at San Diego State University Library, will “show you how to start RDM services, even if you don’t feel confident about your statistical skills or knowledge of R.”

The NNLM RDM webinar series will be an ongoing bimonthly webinar series, with the aim to “support RDM within the library to better serve librarians and their institutional communities.”  I’m personally very excited about this series, since I’ve recently become interested in finding free online training resources related to research data management that are more geared towards information professionals (and less heavily focused on programming skills).  Once again, NNLM delivers with incredibly useful (and FREE!) online professional development resources.

MLA 2018 Resources

I won’t be at the annual MLA conference this year unfortunately (it was an incredible experience last year), but I can avoid fear of missing out (FOMO) thanks to a few helpful resources:

  • Twitter: I’ll definitely be following the #mlanet18 hashtag to learn some of the great insights other medical librarians are taking away from MLA speakers, sessions, and posters (especially the official MLA ’18 Tweeters).
  • Blogs: I’ll check the blog post summaries from the MLA’18 Blog Correspondents.

Have a great time if you’re going to MLA 2018, and remember to Tweet!