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Stuck at Home: A PSC Library Newsletter

Stuck at Home: A PSC Library Newsletter


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What's Newsworthy

The Sustainability Committee and Student Sustainability Club are hosting events for Earth Month throughout April. Events include sharing sustainable recipes, a workshop on integrating sustainability into your curriculum, a virtual beehive tour, and citizen science, among others. Many of these activities will allow you to enjoy the spring weather. To see the full schedule and access event links, view their website for details.

How-to look after your mental health

We’ve been doing this for a year. With more vaccine availability there is light at the end of the tunnel, but this has been a dark year, and the pandemic isn’t over. It is okay not to be okay. It is okay to call the primal scream line. With this in mind, the library created a Mental Health During COVID-19 research guide as a small way to provide resources to anyone that needs them. This guide includes hotlines, like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, how to access Student Services, and an acknowledgment that Self-Care Is Dead. Our Human Resources Department also has a robust EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to help with any challenges you might face.

New book club meeting

The next meeting of our book club is Monday, April 26th from 1:00 – 2:00 pm on Google Meet. The book is Michelle Obama’s Becoming. All are welcome and while we hope you finish the book, please come even if you haven’t. No RSVPs are required.

Meeting ID:

Phone Number: (US) ‪+1 617-675-4444‬‬ PIN: ‪867 972 429 8565#‬‬‬

What’s new in the PSC Archives?

Digitization projects are still ongoing. To have a look at what has been digitized, click here. The PSC Archives also has a large collection of newspaper clips regarding the events, major milestones, graduations from 1968 until the 2000's. These clips can be viewed in the Archives by appointment. For more information, please email the College Archivist Alex Altan at:

30 seconds to information literacy: storytelling your data

This month we will discuss storytelling your data. We generate a lot of data as part of the daily work of higher education. We also give datasets to our students to interpret, hoping that they take away the “correct” lesson from them. We don’t create data to let it sit--we create it to prove a point, which can get lost if the data is difficult to interpret. Rather than relying only on graphs, consider a different approach to help your listener better remember your point: storytelling. Storytelling can be a useful strategy to better communicate data and sway opinions. Since storytelling is a fundamental part of the human experience, it is an accessible way to communicate information that will then be retold.

What might this look like in practice? Here are your ingredients for your story: the data is your character, the challenge is your struggle that needs to be overcome, and your setting establishes your plot.

There are three common ways that stories are told, each of which uses different literary theories. Use different story structures for different situations.

  • Equilibrium stories: our protagonist is living normally, there is an upset, and then things return to a new normal
    This story works well to talk about an organization going through some sort of change.
    Example: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

  • The hero’s journey/monomyth: our protagonist is called to adventure, which they initially reject, but they eventually do go on said adventure.
    They encounter helpers, have a rite of initiation, have a rebirth and return, and finally integrate their old and new selves, markedly changed by the experience.
    This story works well to highlight the triumph of a single hero, like your students.
    Example: The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

  • The enigma code: This story has an iterative process of back and forth, with new information gained each time.
    In this story, the data are investigators. This story works well to describe the research process or any process that is incomplete.
    Example: Most mysteries

Not all situations fit into one of these structures, but if the information you want to communicate lends itself to a story-like structure, it can be very effective. Raw numbers can sometimes be opaque and some people have math anxiety. If you can turn it into a story, odds are good that it will at least make an impact.

I relied heavily on the work of Kate McDowell, Associate Professor at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to write this. If you are curious to learn more, you can watch her lecture on Storytelling Structures. Dear Data is a book about postcards shared between two friends over a year and the data they collect along the way.

Featured eBooks

April’s eBooks will continue with the Earth Month theme.

Cover: No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference

Greta Thunberg

Cover: The Efficiency Trap

The Efficiency Trap

Steve Hallett

Cover: The Human Impact on the Natural Environment

The Human Impact on the Natural Environment

Andrew Goudie

Cover: Eden


Tim Lebbon

Cover: Nature's Best Hope

Nature's Best Hope

Nature's Best Hope

Cover: Reinventing Fire

Reinventing Fire

Amory Lovins

Cover: Stuffed and Starved

Stuffed and Starved

Raj Patel

Cover: The Uninhabitable Earth

The Uninhabitable Earth

David Wallace-Wells

Cover: The Whole Story of Climate

The Whole Story of Climate

E. Kirsten Peters

Cover: Toms River

Toms River

Dan Fagin