You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Culture’ category.

All of these elegies are making me nostalgic for ye olde print Encyclopedia Britannica, but let’s not forget that it lives on electronically and is available with your library card.  With admiration for its will to survive, I offer this reprint of two earlier blog posts on the E.B.:

Part 1: Britannica vs. Wikipedia

Wikipedia addicts: your options have expanded.  The Brooks Memorial Library’s website offers access to Britannica Online free to all from inside the Library.  Cardholders also have access from home.  Click on Resources > Reference, and log in with your library card number.

Why choose Britannica over Wikipedia? Because it is, according to itself, “the oldest English-language general encyclopaedia,” first appearing in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768.  It has the weight and authority of centuries behind it.  And if you’re working on a paper, chances are your teacher will accept it as a legitimate source in your bibliography.

Why choose Wikipedia over Britannica?  It’s drawing on the brilliance of many authors and has an interesting 21st-century method for establishing authority.  It’s very strong in particular subject areas;  I love it for questions on popular culture, for example. But it isn’t considered a reliable source in many academic environments.

Today, I staged a Britannica/Wikipedia death match over Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini (born January 20th, 1920), and these are my quick impressions:

Britannica:  Nice, long, detailed article about his life and works, with critical commentary.  Surprisingly, it has a wimpy bibliography, and the filmography is incorporated into the essay; there’s no handy list.  But it’s nicely illustrated with public-domain photos.

Wikipedia:  This one also has a substantial essay, but it’s more biographical than critical.  Excellent bibliography and a handy filmography and awards list – plus, you could read the article in Fellini’s native language!  Not many photos; try Google Images for that.

In other words, both sources have unique material, so why limit yourself?  It takes just minutes to search them both, and your knowledge will expand for your efforts.

Photo credits:  Fellini and Masina on the set of La Strada, still from 8 1/2, Mastroianni & Ekberg in still from La Dolce Vita. Courtesy Britannica Online.

Part 2: Using Britannica Online

On the Library’s website, click on Resources > Reference > Britannica Online.  It will prompt you for your library card number: type the whole 14-digit number with no spaces.

Once you’re in, you have various options for searching.  They always have fun features like “This Day in History,” if you just want to browse.  If you want to research a specific topic, you can type a keyword into the search box, but that’s not my favorite way; I think you get better results by clicking the link called The Index, which is near the top of the screen, below the search box, next to the word BROWSE.  On the Index screen, you can click the first letter of the word you want to search or use the Index search box.

For example, find the word ECOLOGY in the index, either by clicking on the E and working your way in through the alphabetical list or by typing the term into the Index search box.  There are two entries for the word.  If you click the first one, it produces a list of reference links to related articles in the online encyclopedia.  Even better, it displays several links on the left side of the screen called Content related to this topic.  If you click on the link for “Main Article,” you’ll get a nice 5-page overview.

To be honest, I think that the online Britannica has to work on its  design.  The way they display search results often obscures the main articles and highlights passing references.  Once you get comfortable with it, though, it’s wonderful having online access to this detailed, authoritative encyclopedia.


revised 3/27/12

George J. Brooks, 1818-1886, our original benefactor  

Happy Holidays!

  • How many amendments does the Constitution have?
  • If both the President and Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
  • What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
  • There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote.  Describe one of them.
  • And for extra credit: who was Publius?

How did you do?  (answers below)

I you are you studying for the Naturalization Test to become a U.S. citizen, or if are you a citizen who hesitated before answering any of those questions, the Library has free study guides to help you brush up on your knowledge of U.S. history & government.  They are shelved in the Reference area and are free for the taking (one of each title per person, please).  You will find guides to the naturalization process, test lessons, a pocket edition of the Constitution & Declaration of Independence, and a lovely illustrated compendium of important facts and documents called The Citizens’ Almanac.

Online, the Citizenship Resource Center has lots of useful material for prospective citizens and teachers, and has practical links for new immigrants, including: find a job, learn English, get a Social Security Number, get a green card, and get a driver’s license.

Answers (from Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services):

  • 27 amendments
  • Speaker of the House
  • Louisiana Territory
  • A male citizen of any race can vote (15th); women as well as men can vote (19th); you don’t have to pay a poll tax to vote (24th); citizens 18 and older can vote (26th)
  • Extra credit: James Madison (his pen name for the Federalist Papers, which he wrote with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay)

E Pluribus Unum!  And can you name a major U.S. holiday that happens in July…?

Happy summer!  The sun is shining as I post the hundredth entry on the Ready Reference blog.  But I know you don’t want to spend the day online: you want to get outside, even if it’s only for a stroll on your lunch hour.  If you live in the Brattleboro area, check out the Brattleboro Chamber of Commerce Hiking & Biking Guide or the Retreat Trails map & podcast or the lovely pamphlet called Treasured Trees: A Walk Thru Brattleboro by the Brattleboro Tree Advisory Board.  JMW

Here’s the lowdown:

“Brattleboro’s heart is as big as all outdoors and we’re proving it at the party of the year!”


A Brooks House Party:  Unity for Community!


An all-community gala event to show our neighborly love for and support of the residents, businesses and employees whose lives have been affected by the Brooks House fire

Friday, May 6th / 5 – 9 p.m. (yes, along with Gallery Walk!)

Downtown Brattleboro– with Elliot Street closed to traffic and open to celebration!

Be on hand to salute the many individuals and organizations that responded first and fantastically to help with the downtown recovery:

Brattleboro Fire and Police Departments
Brattleboro Town Manager and staff
Rescue Inc.
United Way of Windham County
Green Mountain Chapter of the American Red Cross
BaBB, BDCC and
All the social and human services professionals
who do what they do better than anyone could!

Father Rich O’Donnell,  Chaplain of the Brattleboro Fire and Police Departments

Non-stop music by:
Stockwell Brothers
Cool Beans
Sugarhouse and Friends

Bring your appetite, your heart and your pocketbook!  There will be folks stationed all around Main Street to collect your donation to the United Way’s special fund to benefit the displaced residents of Brooks House. 

This event is brought to you by WTSA, WKVT, WYRY, the Brattleboro Reformer, the Commons, ibrattleboro, Building a Better Brattleboro, Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, United Way and the Red Cross.


Make it your business to be there!

But if you have to miss it, SEVCA (800) 464-9951 x127 and United Way (802) 257-4011 are welcoming your contributions to the Fire Fund.


During National Library Week (April 10-16), Reference Librarian Jeanne Walsh & friends will pack up the laptop and venture into café society to show off the Library’s online resources.  So mark your calendar for a coffee (or tea or cider) break at one of these wonderful Brattleboro cafes:

The Works Bakery Cafe, 118 Main St., Wednesday, April 13th, 10:00-11:30


The Blue Moose, 29 High St., Thursday, April 14th, 10:00-11:30 (with special guest: Christine Friese, Vermont’s Assistant State Librarian!)

Mocha Joe’s, 82 Main St., Friday, April 15th, 10:00-11:30

(Mocha Joe’s painting by Linda Marcille)





New Neighbors: Bosnia is a website from the Vermont Folklife Center, “the first of a series that will present the personal experiences and cultural heritage of new Vermonters who have been resettled here as refugees.”  Check it out for film and audio portraits of some of our newest neighbors, including pieces of their “silent history,” the stories that are “violent and difficult to hear.”

In the words of the VFC, “The Web site includes research-generated materials from the Vermont Folklife Center Archive, new pieces by filmmaker Mira Niagolova and videographer Paul MacGowan, and photographic images and text created by photographer/ethnographer Ned Castle, as well as an education section and links to online resources,”  such as a study guide for using the website with Katherine Paterson’s Vermont Reads book for 2010, The Day of the Pelican.  Well done!  

The files in the Library’s Local History Room are full of interesting (flat) objects as well as lots of newspaper clippings.  All of them are searchable in the online catalog, and anyone is welcome to view them.  Just visit the Reference Desk or the Circulation Desk, and we’ll sign you up and take out the files you would like to see.

For example, check out these printers’ sample books from the  “Printing and Publishing” folder:

Avoid social faux pas when using calling cards

Learn about the Vermont Printing Company & its neighbors down by the tracks

Enjoy a sing-along with your angelic child

Bored with the flying sheep game and the app that reminds you to drink water?  Try these, readers:

Worldcat Mobile to search for books, DVDs, etc. in libraries all over the U.S. and beyond.  For more about Worldcat, check my post from 2008.

Library of Congress Virtual Tour for an awe-inspiring look at some of our national treasures.


Everybody who’s anybody (well, lots of people) are searchable and findable in the Wilson Web biography databases on the Brooks Memorial Library website; click Resources > Biography and type in your library card number.  If you don’t have a library card, visit the library and ask at the Reference Desk: we’ll get you in. 

So, who can guess the identities of today’s randomly-chosen stars?

Have fun!  JMW

About this blog



Brooks Memorial Library Reference Department:

Jeanne Walsh, Therese Marcy, Sharon Reidt, Jess Weitz, and sometimes Jerry