Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Book Review

Cover art courtesy of

Fun Home: A family tragicomic
By Alison Bechdel
741.5973 B391f

Alison Bechdel’s 2006 novel is receiving renewed interest based upon controversy for its inclusion in Duke University’s Freshmen Experience reading list. This controversy was part of the impetus for me to read this book.

I really enjoy graphic novels–something about the medium brings issues to a more simplistic level linguistically, while at the same time covering the complexity through the drawings (see Art Spiegelman’s Maus).  Bechdel’s writing is surprisingly elegant, vulnerable, and at times, wrenching, and her illustrations capture the tension and discomfort she feels. You can relate to her feelings of confusion about her family, herself, and her place in this world, regardless of your sexual orientation or your own life experience.

At essence, this is a story of a coming of age: exploring life to find yourself and your purpose and then coming to terms with the ultimate discovery that parents are complex people with their own lives and secrets.

Although there are some illustrations that are sexually graphic, there was nothing gratuitous or unnecessary to the narrative. It is simply a graceful look at a moment in time that defined a person and helped her become the person she is. And that’s something we can all relate to.

Maria–Submitted by Maria Bagshaw, Reference/Instruction Librarian

Welcome New Reference Librarian, Julie Keating!

keathingJulie Keating comes to ECC library after a long career in public libraries, most recently at Bloomingdale Public Library. She received her undergraduate degree from University of Illinois and her MLS from Dominican University. Julie  believes in the power of information to change lives, and looks forward to meeting and working with students and faculty at ECC. In her spare time, Julie enjoys spending time with her husband, three daughters and son-in-law, painting watercolors, reading (mostly non-fiction), and spending time outside.

For Faculty: Check out the Copyright Research Guide!

Copyright-Symbol_52Confused about copyright?

The Copyright Guide focuses on the basics of copyright, fair use, ethical use of images, and websites that will assist you in correctly using materials for your classes.

A Quick note on Fair Use

To determine fair use, you want to look at the Four Factors:

  • Factor 1 – The Purpose of Your Use  –  Do you seek commercial gain, or are you using these for scholarship, teaching, or writing a paper?
  • Factor 2 – The Nature of Your Use  –  Characteristics of the work itself are important in looking at fair use. Are you using a very highly creative work? If so, the judgment might be against its use as fair use.
  • Factor 3 – The Amount of the Work You Use – Are you trying to use an entire book, a chapter, or an art image?
  • Factor 4 – How the Potential Market for the Work Will Be Impacted by your Use – If you copy 100 book chapters, that is 100 copies pulled from the market.

If you have questions about copyright, please contact Jerry Mackay, Associate Dean of the Library, at 847-214-7595.

Banned Books Week is September 27-October 3

According to

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 311 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2014, and many more go unreported.

This article discusses censorship and its relation to diversity in YA literature, and the map below shows the prevalence of censorship across the country.

With these thoughts in mind, some of our library staff are celebrating their freedom to read and have picked those works most influential to them.

Jana Porter

Jana Porter’s pick:
Beloved by Toni Morrison
A few years after this work was published it was required reading at Rice University where I was an undergraduate. I remember it being a captivating work of literature and a story I couldn’t stop reading. I love this banned book because I could visit the world of another – reading expands our horizons that way.


Stacey Shah: I love banned books because I love the freedom to read something that pushes boundaries.

Stacey’s picks:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
From the library catalog, this work is “set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits–smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.”

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
A realistic novel about migrants’ experiences during the Great Depression.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
An ambitious yet naive black man travels through American society in search of his place in the world.

 Karen new picKaren Klein: I love banned books because they are stories that discuss issues that people might otherwise be afraid to address. I love the freedom to read about topics that are challenging. I think the best thing about reading is choice: you can read something meaty and interesting or to find something that is just fun or fluffy.

Karen’s picks:
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky
This work is the first bildungsroman (also known as a coming of age novel) that I read where I related to the main character. I had previously read both A Separate Peace and Catcher in the Rye, but could not relate to either of the protagonists.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale chilled me to the core. I have read many of the classic dystopian novels, such as 1984 and Fahrenheit  451. However, the political climate of the modern world made it feel like the world Atwood spun could be a reality. It demonstrated the way that political and religious extremists can exert undue influence.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Morrison does a great job with conveying how the beauty standards of thin, blond hair and blue eyes affect all girls. I learned a great deal about race and racism from reading this book.

MariaMaria Bagshaw: Banned books intrigue me because I often find that what people choose to ban are uncomfortable topics, but that those same topics are issues that we (or others) deal with in everyday life. By censoring, we do a disservice to the truths that are out there, and we sanitize the world. Banned books often reflect a truer picture of our society.

Maria’s picks:
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
I read this in college, and it resonated with me that women have continually struggled with issues of feeling free while at the same time fulfilling the roles that are expected of them. I feel fortunate to live in a time where I have more freedom to chart my own course without social stigma.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? by Judy Blume
This is a great example of a book reflecting reality.  How many girls haven’t had the thoughts in this book during their adolescence?  When I read this as a child, I remember realizing that my thoughts and feelings were a shared experience with many people and that I wasn’t alone.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
I just recently finished this graphic novel and chose to read it because of recent controversy  at Duke University and its challenged status.  I found it to be a well-written look at an important time in a young person’s life and the reaction to self-discovery.

Barb Evans’ pick:
Go Ask Alice
I read this book in high school. It was not available in the high school library because of it’s content, including drug use, but of course copies of the book were being passed around among friends. I liked the book because it described a phenomena that was happening among teens at the time, the romance of running away from home, and the realities. Later when I was in library school, there was an attempt to ban the book from the local public library which made the national news.  My library school professors and many of us students spoke out against banning the book.

Top 5 Tips for Smarter Google Searching

Searching Google is easy, right?  You just type in your word into the pretty white box and get 40 billion awesome results (NOT!)

We are going to make your life easier by providing these Top 5 Tips to smarter Google Searching.  Feel free to share your own tips in the comments!

  1. Quotation Marks 
    For example: “higher education” instead of higher education. This will narrow your results and allow the computer to search for the phrase.
  2. Boolean operators: AND and OR 
    AND is the default for Google searching, so when you add terms to your search, it will keep narrowing your focus.
    OR is a way to expand your search if you keep hitting dead ends. For example: higher education OR college OR university. Good for synonymous terms.
  3.  Site (domain) search: keyword + site:extension or name 
    For example, a search for children “mentally ill parents” site:gov
    will filter out most other site extensions and bring back government websites (.gov). This allows you to target one type of website as you search. You can also specify a specific site such as:
    anxiety site:Mayo Clinic to just retrieve results from the Mayo Clinic website.
  4. Google Scholar
    If you’re unsure where to start this can be a good starting point that directs you to scholarly resources. Sometimes you will get full text available through the library on this site as well. Not everything will be in full text.
  5. Advanced Search
    This tool is also great when you are looking for a specific source as it has a field for “all these words” as well as a field for “this exact word or phrase”.

–Submitted by Karen Klein, Reference Librarian

The Time Traveler’s Wife Book Review

Cover courtesy of

 The Time Traveler’s Wife
By Audrey Niffennegger

Audrey Niffenegger’s debut is the story of Clare, a beautiful, strong-minded art student, and Henry, a punk librarian. They’ve have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is the first person diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder. This means his genetic clock randomly resets and he finds himself misplaced in time. He finds himself pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life both past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, and lend an urgency to Clare and Henry’s love story. That their attempt to live normal lives together is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control makes their story intensely moving.

This is a book I find myself coming back to and reading at various points in my life. I would recommend it to anyone who likes stories that have romantic elements, time-travel, and adventure mixed all together. I loved the mix of the everyday and extraordinary in the world of this book. I would also recommend this book to anyone who likes magical realism or Neil Gaiman.

(If you don’t have time to read the book, the library has the film: check it out!)

Karen new pic–Submitted by Karen Klein, Reference Librarian

Top 5 ways to keep your items safe in the library

Image courtesy of Quickmeme

When you are studying and concentrating, it is easy to become distracted. The last thing you need is to lose your work or study materials through theft or inattention.  Here are 5 tips to help keep your stuff safe in the library:

  1. Keep personal items with you at all times, even when just going to the printer or restroom.  This includes bags, purses, phones, laptops, flash drives, and other items.
  2. Do not put purses or bags on the restroom floor where others could quickly grab them.
  3. Always log off of your library computer before you leave the library so that no one else can access your account.
  4. Report any suspicious or disruptive behavior to the Reference Desk, Computer Help Desk, Circulation Desk, or any library staff.  Do not confront any suspicious or disruptive person yourself.
  5. For emergencies, call the ECC Police at X-7777.  For non-emergencies, call X-7778.

ECC has a website devoted to safety issues, including weather, fire, and lockdown procedures.  See the ECC Campus Safety site for more information.