Just a reminder.


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..for today, July 1.

1863: The Battle of Gettysburg begins, three bloody days that ended Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North, which Lee had hoped would force the North to sue for peace. Union General George Meade’s army of 90,000 took on Lee’s invading force of 75,000 resulting in three days of grueling fighting that resulted in roughly 51,00o casualties and forced Lee to return to Virginia. The battle has inspired a number of award-winning books, including the eminently readable Gettysburg: The Last Invasion and  Twilight at Little Round Top. For a fictional treatment of Gettysburg, try Michael Shaara’s critically acclaimed novel The Killer Angels.


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scIt’s been a big week at the Supreme Court: the Affordable Care Act upheld, gay  marriage bans struck down, and a blow struck against housing discrimination.

The Supreme Court’s rulings have had a profound impact on American society: their decision in Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) ultimately ended legal school segregation; New York v. Sullivan (1964) established certain protections for the press.

The profundity of the Court’s influence is ironic given that when it Imacon Color Scannerwas established it was considered very much a junior branch of government. Some presidents felt free to ignore it all together. When the Supreme Court ruled that Indian tribes were sovereign nations (Worcester v. Georgia, 1832), Andrew Jackson supposedly said, “Justice Marshall has made his ruling, now let him enforce it,” and proceeded to force the entire Cherokee tribe out of its territory in the Southeastern US.

The Court didn’t even get a building of its own until 1935. Before that it met in a room in the House of Representatives.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Supreme Court (seriously, it’s more interesting than you might imagine) check out Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court. It’s a fascinating look at the personal and ideological conflicts between Obama and the Court during his first term.  Another book, The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction is a sad but gripping book about the aftermath of the Civil War, our government’s betrayal of African-Americans, and the reprehensible role played by the Court in that betrayal. And finally I recommend mcone of my favorite works of intellectual history: The Metaphysical Club.  The book is only partially about the Supreme Court. The book’s title refers to a group of men who met regularly in Cambridge, Mass.  for a few months in 1872 to talk about ideas. Among them were William James, brother of Henry and father of modern psychology and Oliver Wendell Holmes, a lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice. Holmes had a fascinating, original mind. One of the narrative threads in this book begins with the impact of Holmes’ Civil War service on his later judicial philosophy and ends forty years later with his dissent in U.S. v. Abrams–an opinion that laid the foundation for contemporary understanding of freedom of speech.

And if all that sounds like too much work for you, below is a 2009 sound clip from the NPR comedy/news quiz show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me in which Supreme Court Reporter Dahlia Lithwick plays “Not My Job.”



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Search engines such as Bing, Google or DuckDuckGo  can only access about 0.03 % of all the information stored on the Internet.  Search engines compile their collection of websites available for searching by using crawlers, programs that gather information about web pages for their indexes.  However, crawlers can’t find information that needs to be accessed by a search interface, such as the Minuteman Library Catalog. Nor can crawlers find password-protected pages or web pages that aren’t linked to any other web pages.

These pages are what’s known as the Invisible Web or the Deep Web. You can find information in the Deep Web using more specialized search tools. Here are a few below:


Created by Deep Web Technologies, Mednar is a search interface for medical and health information that simultaneously accesses government sites, medical institutions, and mainstream media outlets. Just be warned that the number of search results can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t limit your search to full-text retrievals.


This gem is a nonprofit online library of books, audio, and websites that is staggering in its variety. One section, the Wayback Machine, is an archive of defunct but often delightful websites. In the rest of Archive.org you can find  items such as Somerville City Reports from 1843 to 1925,  1950s fallout shelter construction manuals, old community access television shows, and jazz recordings from the 1920s.

The Life Picture Collection

This searchable database of photos from Life, one of the truly iconic magazines of the twentieth century, includes work by some the greatest photographers of the time, such as Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisentsaedt and Andreas Feininger. It’s basically a mini-gallery of recent modern history: there are photos of Gandhi on the Salt March, Alexander Fleming in his lab, Mia Farrow hanging out with Frank Sinatra, and Martin Luther King praying at Selma. For fans of photography and history, this database is a treat.


This Parasonics corporation database is a searchable archive of sounds. I’ve found recordings of drums, harp music, tiger roars, beluga whale vocalizations, earthquake sounds and noises made by unspecified monsters: monsters growling, monsters moaning, monsters groaning.  But this is 2015, and we all know goats rule the Internet (lolcats are so 2006). And they have lots of caprine recordings. This will get your goat:

More from the Invisible Web in future posts.



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The screening of “A Jihad for Love,” a documentary about LGBT Muslims, planned for June 26 at SCATV, has been cancelled.


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There are so many different types of e-readers; it’s hard to know which one is right for you. First off, you have the Amazon Kindle, the nook, Kobo, Sony reader and of course the multi-functional IPad.

So, how do you choose?

Questions to ask yourself before your purchase:

  1. How do I want the screen to look? Color or just black and white
  2. Battery Life- Do I need a long lasting battery?
  3. Weight/size – Will I be lugging this thing around town with me?
  4. How many books will I be downloading? Will I need a lot of storage space?

Here’s a breakdown of some popular types of eReaders:

Barnes & Noble: The Nook – Easy to read, B&W screen– holds up to 1,000 books, magazines, and newspapers. Screen size 6.2” Strong Battery Life  Weight: about 6.2 oz.

Amazon Kindle – Easy to Read, E-Ink screen, stores over 1000 books, magazines and newspapers. Screen size 6” Moderate Battery Life  Weight: About 6 oz.

Kobo – B&W screen, stores 1000 books. Screen size 6.8”, low to moderate battery life.  Weight: About 8 oz.

Sony Reader – E-Ink B&W screen, 1.3 GB of storage, Screen Size 6,” Strong battery life Weight: about 5.9 oz.

IPad- Color Screen, 16 GB of storage, Screen size 9,” 10 hour battery life, Weight: 1.05 lbs.

Check out this site for a further comparison.

Still not sure which eReader to get? Schedule a one-on-one appoitment with the Somerville Technology Librarian. Call 617-623-2900 ext. 2920!


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When you’re in a cafe, hotel, library (or any other place besides home or work) access to a public wireless network is really convenient, but you need to take some basic precautions. This video from CNET shows you how to make sure you’re using a secure connection and how to protect your laptop/tablet/smartphone:


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The_Martian_2014Our next book for Somerville Reads, our annual community one town/one book series of events, is the critically acclaimed best-seller The Martian, the story of an astronaut stranded on Mars and his struggle for survival. The Wall Street Journal called it “The best pure sci-fi novel in years.” Kirkus Reviews praised it for being “sharp, funny and thrilling.”  A film adaptation directed by Ridley Scott (the genius behind one of the best sci-fi films of all time) will be in theaters in November.

Copies of the book are at SPL now. Come get one!


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eileen Today is the last day of work at SPL for Eileen F., who starts a full-time reference job at the Thomas Crane Library in Quincy next Monday. During her time at SPL Eileen shelved, worked circulation, helped write press releases, contributed to the blog, and volunteered with StoryCorps.

At left is a photo of Eileen with one of her parting gifts of gourmet chocolate.

Good luck, Eileen! You will be missed.


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Tamer-InstitutJoin us at the Central Library next Monday June 8 at 7 pm as Jessa Lingel of Microsoft Research talks about libraries, information centers and access to books in the West Bank.  In April 2015, Jessa was a member of a delegation from Librarians and Archivists with Palestine (LAP) who traveled to the West Bank to meet with representatives of cultural centers, librarians and community education centers. They participated in workshops on topics such as access to information, library science education, and access to children’s books in Arabic.  Jessa Lingel will report back on the 2015 delegation, the different organizations, institutions and libraries visited, and the different projects and partnerships emerging from these meetings.


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