Friday, February 28, 2014

Watch This: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

A bi-weekly series featuring a recommendation of a movie available in the Reeves Memorial Library DVD collection

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
Directed by Joseph Sargent

Four men wearing glasses, fedora hats, and fake mustaches board a New York City subway train (the Pelham 123) at different stops.  Heavily armed and using code names (Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Brown), the men overpower the motorman and conductor, isolate a group of passengers in the front car, and disconnect it from the rest of the train.  They demand $1 million ransom from the city of New York, to be paid within one hour, or they will begin shooting one hostage every minute until the money is paid.  Their message is received by transit police Lieutenant Zachary Garber (Walther Matthau), who becomes their main contact with the authorities.  The question arises in the minds of Garber and his colleagues: how will the criminals escape from the enclosed subway tunnel?

So begins the plot of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, a gripping, gritty, and undeniably entertaining crime thriller that remains one the most underrated American films of the 1970s.  Strong characterization and a terrific ensemble cast help to elevate the material beyond the realm of the standard heist thriller.  Matthau gives his Lieutenant Garber a sardonic, rebellious quality, showcasing the type of character that will be an unexpected delight for viewers who may only know him from his late-career Grumpy Old Men films.  One of the film's strongest points is the way it depicts the dynamics and conflicting personalities within the group of criminals: the shrewd, disciplined leader, Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw); the cold-ridden, knowledgeable Mr. Green (Martin Balsam); the overzealous, trigger-happy Mr. Grey (Hector Elizondo); and the young, stuttering Mr. Brown (Earl Hindman).

Astute viewers who have watched a fair amount of television sitcoms over the past two decades will recognize a number of familiar faces in the cast. Jerry Stiller (of Seinfeld and The King of Queens fame) portrays Garber's transit police colleague, and Doris Roberts (Marie from Everybody Loves Raymond) pops up as the mayor's wife.  Home Improvement fans will be treated to performances by Dick O'Neill (best known for playing Tim's high school shop teacher, Mr. Leonard) and Earl Hindman (next door neighbor Wilson), whose mustache-wearing Mr. Brown might lead you to think that he built an entire career out of hiding his face from audiences.

The film holds its own extremely well against contemporary crime films such as The French Connection (1971) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975), thanks to tight plotting, a welcome dose of humor, and a memorably groovy musical score by David Shire.  More than anything, though, the film is one of the truly great New York films, a depiction of the Big Apple in all of its unruly, dangerous, melting pot glory, before the era of political correctness and a cleaned up, tourist-friendly Times Square.  The characters are colorful, profane, and sarcastic, creating an effect that is, at least from a modern perspective, surprisingly endearing.

For those who are interested in seeing Walter Matthau in other roles that lie outside the realm of comedy, the library's collection also offers the crime film Charley Varrick and the cop drama The Laughing Policeman, both released theatrically in 1973.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What is compact shelving?

While our new shelving setup won't be exactly like the ones in these videos, the clips below will give  you a good idea of the kind of shelving that will be housing our collection in its new home downstairs.

As you can see, compact shelving will allow us to make sure that the space between shelves will always be exactly where we need it and never wasted where it's not. The print collection will require a much smaller building "footprint" to house the same number of books and periodicals.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The plan!

We've had a lot of questions recently about what the library is going to look like when everyone returns in the fall. While some things have been changed since these plans were created and not all of the details have ben finalized, we can give you a good idea of where everything will be and what it's going to look like.

Who's moving in? The Career & Professional Development Center, Instructional Design, the Solution Center, and the Writing Center will be joining the Library in the new learning commons.

The main floor, where most of the books and study spaces are now located, is going to be reconfigured into a more flexible and informal space that encourages conversation, collaboration, and group work. There will also be staff offices, conference rooms, and other spaces for student and faculty use. This is where you'll find the departments that are joining us in the building.

The children's room will remain on the main floor but it will be shifted down the glass wall to where the fiction collection is currently located.

The ground floor of the building will be housing the library's print collections on compact shelving (more information about that coming in a following post). The first part of the collection will be in what has been used as storage space behind Harlan Gallery, and the rest of the compact shelving will be located in the room where we previously stored the print journals.

There will be quiet study space in the old journal room, as well. The main quiet study area will be in the space that has been occupied by Harlan Gallery. We plan to have a check-out desk located there by the entrance doors from the street. These downstairs study areas will be more traditional "library" spaces to facilitate quiet, individual work.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A rough moving timeline

We've had a lot going on at Reeves over the past year, but the biggest changes are still to come! While the heavy construction work to remodel the building's main floor will be taking place over the summer, some significant steps will be happening between now and May.

The best-laid plans gang aft agley, but here are some approximate dates for the steps that will most impact the campus community:

February 28th-- 
Weeding will conclude. The books will then be "shifted" one final time to assess how many sections of shelving are still needed to hold the print collection.

March 17th-- 
Most of the library plants will need new (permanent) homes. If you are interested in adopting a plant, please contact Dr. David Stanley.

Downstairs shelving will begin going up in the former periodicals room and in the storage area behind Harlan Gallery.

April 25--
The children's room collections are closed for boxing and moving to temporary storage (more info).

April 30--
The rest of the physical collections are closed to new borrowing so it can be prepped and moved to its new location (more info).

Library staff offices will be moved to their "summer home" in the former Harlan Gallery space.

Renovation of the main floor of the building will take place to transform the space into a collaborative Learning Commons model (more info to follow in a few days-- stay tuned to the blog).

Library staff relocates to their permanent office location on the main floor.

Stay tuned to the blog for more details and information! We will have posts going up in the next several days about the new building layout and the new shelving. As details and dates become more concrete, we will make sure to publicize them here and will link especially significant information on Griffin's Lair.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Watch This: Reeves Does Romance Right for Valentine's Day

A bi-weekly series featuring a recommendation of a movie available in the Reeves Memorial Library DVD collection

From dramatic tearjerkers to quirky comedies, here are some of the many romantic films available from the library, just in time for Valentine's Day:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

From the wildly inventive mind of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) comes this unique meditation on love and memory.  Jim Carrey steps out of his comedic comfort zone to play the solemn, heartbroken Joel, who finds out that his ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet) had her memories of him erased, and decides to undergo the same procedure.  However, he changes his mind mid-process, and attempts to hide away some of his happiest recollections of their time together.  The film is a beguiling labyrinth, bouncing back and forth between reality and memory, but it is anchored by the brilliant, grounded performances of the two leads.  Eternal Sunshine reminds us that while love may not always last, the blissful moments will always remain with us.

Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004)

Before Sunrise finds American tourist Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and French student Celine (Julie Delpy) meeting by chance on a train to Vienna.  They connect immediately, and Celine accepts Jesse's invitation to spend the rest of the day and night with him, walking around Vienna before he departs the next morning.  What will happen when morning comes?  Will they ever see each other again?  The latter question is answered in Before Sunset, which finds best-selling author Jesse in Paris nearly a decade later, where he reconnects with Celine after a book signing.  They spend the day together, and clearly their bond is still strong.  Again, they are faced with the same dilemma: do they part ways at the end of the day, knowing that they seem meant to be together?  Both films are conversational in nature, but the premise never approaches dullness, thanks to terrific writing and the wonderfully lived-in performances of Hawke and Delpy.

Brief Encounter (1945)

Married housewife Laura meets married doctor Alec in a railway station cafe, where the two continue to meet every week as they gradually fall in love.  Both are tempted toward infidelity, but propriety and practicality demand that they cannot be together.  Rarely, if ever, has a film explored the theme of adultery with such thoughtfulness, sophistication, and lack of judgment.  A fair warning, though: this is a classic tearjerker, so make sure you have a box of tissues handy.  The film was directed by the great David Lean, best known for his work on large-scale epics such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), and its quality is proof that he was equally adept at helming intimate dramas.

Sweet Land (2005)
This little-known gem tells the story of Inge, a spirited German mail-order bride who travels to rural Minnesota in 1920 to begin her arranged marriage to fellow immigrant Olaf, a Norwegian-born farmer.  Anti-German prejudice and a possible bank foreclosure threaten to prevent them from beginning a happy life together.  The film is a moving tribute to love and endurance in the face of hardship, but it is an equally potent work of social commentary, providing a earnest portrait of both prejudice and the immigrant experience.  Beautifully shot, and featuring nuanced performances from a talented cast (including Alan Cumming, Lois Smith, John Heard, and Ned Beatty), Sweet Land is a tender love story not to be missed.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Paul Thomas Anderson's oddball romance is certainly one of the more unusual cinematic love stories from the new century.  Adam Sandler plays Barry Egan, a lonely small business owner with a heart of gold and a penchant for brief, violent outbursts, often the result of constant hounding by his overbearing sisters.  One day he meets the sweet-natured, quirky Lena (a luminous Emily Watson), and they immediately hit it off.  However, his complicated personal life threatens to derail his newfound romance.  Sandler's portrayal of Barry is a revelation, offering a more sophisticated take on the alternately violent/sweet man-child character that Sandler built his career on in films like Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy, and Jon Brion's intoxicating musical score sets the perfect tone.

"Why are you throwing out all the books?!"

There's been some concern about this lately, and we understand. Most of us came to work in libraries because we really love books, after all!

We've talked about this a couple of times before, but it's an important topic and one worth re-addressing. So let's answer some questions that people have been asking! Here's more than you ever wanted to know:

Why are you doing this?

The short answer is because we're about to move the whole collection to the lower level of the building this summer, and it a) needs to fit, and b) we don't want to move and re-shelve things that shouldn't be kept. It's exactly like how you go through your stuff for a Goodwill donation before you box up for a move. 

Collection management is an important part of regular library maintenance. Worn out, unused, tattered, and superseded books need to be removed on an ongoing basis to have a usable library collection. Old, falling-apart stuff that isn't being used actually makes it harder to find the up-to-date, helpful information. For a variety of reasons, collection evaluation was not a focus here for a long time, and we are dealing with a backlog of weeding that should have been done little by little over the last few decades. That's why the scale of our current project is so huge!

How do you decide what to pull from the collection?

We held several events over the last year to encourage faculty to come take a look at the collection in their areas of expertise, and in many areas (like the sciences and education), they made most of the decisions. Faculty were easily able to identify materials that contained incorrect information or terminology and ideas that are now considered offensive or outdated.

In areas where librarians have been making more of the decisions, we take several factors into consideration. The most important factor is whether or not the item has ever been checked out. We run usage reports before making any weeding decisions, and most of the materials in the discard pile haven't been checked out even once since the library acquired its first computer system about 25 years ago. 

Circulation statistics are only part of what we take into consideration, however. Another important factor that we consider is whether or not the material is easily available elsewhere. In the literature sections, for instance, many of the materials are in the public domain and are available for free online at or  If a book has not been checked out at all in 20 years and you can download a copy for free from the internet, it's a candidate for weeding.

Of course, if something is in really bad condition, that is also a reason to pull it from the shelves. In cases where we have more than one copy of the same book, we keep the copy that is in better condition and pull the one that's in worse shape.

One librarian makes the initial decision, and then a different librarian reviews the books to make sure that nothing is being removed that should be kept.

Here's an example of sets that we pulled and why:

Most of the volumes in these sets had never been checked out, with a couple of individual volumes having been checked out once or twice in the last 20-25 years. The entire text is available online (Schiller) (Goethe). And perhaps most importantly, the leather binding on the books is degrading into an orange powder that rubs off on your hands and clothing when you handle the book (just ask our student aides!).

What happens to all of those books that you're discarding?

We send all of the discards that we possibly can to Better World Books.

BWB is a fantastic organization, and we encourage you to check them out and to support them when you are buying books online. Part of the proceeds goes to literacy-focused charities, and the rest is split between their administrative costs and a small cut that comes to us. Anything that they aren't able to sell, they recycle. They take great pride in never sending anything to a landfill.

Faculty and staff have taken a lot of books, and students have taken others. Some are being turned into art projects or iPad cases! "Throwing books out" is an absolute last resort.

If you are interested in giving a good home to any of our discards, we welcome it! Just please make sure to check with the staff and ONLY TAKE BOOKS THAT ARE ALREADY ON THE FLOOR. This is important because we have some record-keeping to do to withdraw the records from the catalog and aren't done with the ones on the tables yet. Those still need a final review and processing before we can let them go.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Undergraduate Research Award

Announcing the Reeves Memorial Library Undergraduate Research Award!

If you're created a really impressive paper, podcast, website, etc., we want to see it. We're awarding two $250 prizes; one will go to a first- or second-year student, and the other to a junior or senior. The application deadline is midnight on Sunday, March 23, and you may enter a project that was created in the Spring 2013, Fall 2013, or Spring 2014 semesters.

For more information and an application, visit