Penrose Library Blog

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, Sept. 24 – 30.

by Julie Carter  Sep 25 17

“Encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.”  “Is a filthy, filthy book.” Contains “anti-American attitudes, offensive language, political bias, and disturbing fiction.”  

These complaints were the basis for book challenges in libraries and schools in the United States.  Banned Books Week draws national attention to attempts to remove or restrict books and the harms of censorship.  The campaign promotes shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.  Learn more about banned and challenged books, including the top 10 most challenged books of 2016, at the American Library Association website. 

Penrose Library celebrates your freedom to READ!  Borrow a book from our display of selected challenged materials and stop by the circulation desk to get your own read a banned book sticker.


Complaints levied against A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and The Things they Carried by Tim O’Brien.  From Robert P. Doyle, Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read (Chicago: American Library Association, 2010), 282, 309, 319.

2017 Summer Read

by Amy Blau  Aug 23 17

Image of library display for Make Your Home Among Strangers

This summer, students entering Whitman College read Jennine Capó Crucet’s novel Make Your Home Among Strangers as their common Summer Read. The novel’s narrator, Lizet Ramirez, is Cuban-American, from Miami. A first-generation college student, she heads north to begin her studies at a prestigious East Coast liberal arts college in the fall of 1999. The challenges she faces in this new environment intertwine with the events that unfold when a five-year-old Cuban boy is rescued from the Florida coast, sparking a contentious custody battle with ramifications for Lizet and her family, as well as the country.

The Penrose Library display for Make Your Home Among Strangers combines artifacts related to Lizet’s college experiences and Miami origins with selected background information about Cuban migration to the US and about Elián González, the real-life counterpart of the novel’s Ariel Hernandez. On the short book stacks by the library entrance, you can find a selection of non-fiction works about Cuba and Cuban-American relations, as well as fiction by Cuban-American writers, to browse and check out. Check in our catalog for many more print and digital resources.

Jennine Capó Crucet will be on campus on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 at 7 pm in Cordiner Hall for a discussion and book signing. This event is free and open to the public.

Graduation 1917

by Amy Blau  May 19 17

The Whitman College class of 1917 is not as well-documented as many others; after 1916, there was a hiatus in the production of Waiilatpu, the Whitman College yearbook, that lasted until 1921. However, a member of the class of 1917 wrote a poem about commencement that appeared in the 1916 Waiilatpu, shown below.

On Wednesday, June 20, 1917, 36 bachelor’s degrees were conferred on Whitman College students. Two of these were awarded in absentia for students who were on active duty in the Armed Forces. We know that it was a warm and sunny day from a diary kept by William Denison Lyman, professor of history.

We wish the class of 2017 all the best for their Commencement on May 21. Congratulations!

Thinking Digitally class concludes

by Amy Blau  May 19 17

Three librarians — Melissa Salrin, Ben Murphy, and Amy Blau — were part of the instructional staff for a new team-taught course, Interdisciplinary Studies 230: Thinking Digitally. The instruction team included faculty from the humanities, arts, and social sciences, and staff from technology services and the library, and was led by Emily Jones (German Studies & Environmental Humanities), Sharon Alker (English), and David Sprunger (Instructional & Learning Technology). The course, offered in the spring of 2017, had broad-reaching goals: to use digital tools and theories of the digital to explore research questions related to the Whitman campus and the Walla Walla community. Specific approaches that structured the class were text manipulation, data visualization, and digital storytelling.

To fully integrate their theoretical understandings of various digital environments, methods, and newly-developed skills, students worked in small groups to develop final projects. One project used digital tools to collect demographic data and random word associations from students that could be digitally remixed and then used to inspire stories. Several projects included a spatial component of analysis: one project included mapped links to digital stories presenting memories of spaces and places on the Whitman campus; another mapped trash cans and litter around campus, incorporating a student survey and interviews with grounds and food service staff; and a third archived short anonymous recordings of ephemeral sound from the Music Building. Others built different kinds of archives: one featured images, video, and audio materials about Walla Walla’s Museum of Un-Natural History and its founder; and another juxtaposed images of doodles made by Whitman college students, including information on the class in which they were made. As a component of the project, students reflected on their work, answering questions about how they used digital concepts and tools from the class, how their creative process unfolded, moments of failure, and ways in which the project could be expanded.

On May 11, these culminating projects were displayed and discussed in a public venue. Instructors, students, other faculty, and friends were able to appreciate the complexity of these works, and learn from their creators, as they circulated among the exhibits.

Thinking Digitally instructional staff:

Sharon Alker, English

Amy Blau, Instructional & Data Services Librarian

Rachel George, Anthropology

Sarah Hurlburt, French

Emily Jones, German Studies & Environmental Humanities

Colin Justin, Instructional & Learning Technologist for Humanities

Justin Lincoln, Art

Lydia McDermott, Composition & Director of the Center for Writing and Speaking

Ben Murphy, Instructional & Research Librarian

Mike Osterman, Director of Enterprise Technology

Nico Parmley,Spanish

Melissa Salrin, Archivist & Special Collections Librarian

David Sprunger, Director of Instructional & Learning Technology

Exhibit on Creative Nonfiction

by Amy Blau  May 8 17

What is Creative Nonfiction? Students in Professor Kisha Schlegel’s course English 176: Introduction to Creative Nonfiction have each answered this question in their responses to creative nonfiction texts from Penrose Library. The texts they chose include memoirs and journalism in the form of alternative comics, essays and essay anthologies, life writing, collections of poetry and prose pieces, and literary journalism. Student responses have echoed this range of possibilities within the genre of creative nonfiction, and include poems, recipes, and drawings, together with critical analysis. Stop by the exhibit in the front of Penrose Library to read their analyses and check out the books they read, on display through May 19.

Books on display:

Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Range of Voices edited by Tod Marshall

More than Things by Margaret Randall.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

In-Between Days by Teva Harrison

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

Blankets by Craig Thompson

The Mad Feast by Matthew Gavin

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr

Living in Storms edited by Thom Schramm

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

Voices of the Xiled: a generation speaks for itself edited by Michael Wexler and John Hulme

Forever Fat by Lee Gutkind

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

The White Album by Joan Didion

National Children’s Book Week 2017

by Amy Blau  May 1 17

This year, National Children’s Book Week is May 1-7. This national literacy initiative was first established in 1919, and is administered by the nonprofit foundation Every Child a Reader. Penrose Library has nearly 2500 books for young readers in our Juvenile Collection, shelved on the First Floor across from the elevator. These range from picture books to young adult novels, and include many classics as well as recently-published works. There is a subcollection of foreign-language and dual-language books. The majority of these are in Spanish, but other languages are also represented. The Juvenile Collection originally supported Whitman College’s course offerings in Education; a dedicated endowment supports the continued purchase of award-winning children’s books at the college.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter is one of many children’s books held in Penrose Library. Image: “You may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden.” From the New York Public Library Digital Collections. The New York Public Library has found that this item is in the public domain under the laws of the United States.

Earth Day

by Amy Blau  Apr 18 17

Earth Day was first observed on April 22, 1970. U.S. Senator from Wisconsin Gaylord Nelson had begun to organize a nationwide teach-in and day for environmental action the previous September. Although there was an organizational infrastructure, events were not planned centrally, so each of the over 12,000 events nationwide owed its existence to local planners and participants. In his 2013 book The Genius of Earth Day, Adam Rome argues that Earth Day “built a lasting eco-infrastructure: national and state lobbying organizations, environmental-studies programs, environmental beats at newspapers, eco sections in bookstores, community ecology centers” (x-xi). Read more about the history of Earth Day and explore the Gaylord Nelson Collection, housed in the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives.

Adam Rome describes a number of Earth Day 1970 celebrations around the United States, which prompted the question: What was happening in Walla Walla on Earth Day in 1970? In addition to a number of Associated Press articles on Earth Day observances regionally and nationwide, local coverage of Earth Day in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin began on April 19 and continued through the week. On Earth Day, some 400 students and faculty at Walla Walla and DeSales high schools arrived at school by bike, skate board, roller skates, by foot, or on horses (!) rather than by car (UB April 22, 1970, p. 1). Speakers at Wa-Hi included representatives from the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Washington State Game Department, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as a public relations department representative from the lumber company Boise Cascade, who talked about the actions of corporations to decrease pollution. Films related to ecology and environmental issues were shown throughout the day, and students collected litter (UB April 22, 1970, p. 1). Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University) planned a full day of assemblies and seminars both for its students and the general public. These included a panel discussion on pesticide use, and seminars on air and water pollution; food-world need; sociological implications of technology; and environmental problems and politics (UB April 19, 1970, p. 10). At Whitman, a “plant-in” (where students could plant trees and other plants) was scheduled for the 22nd by the student ecology group, and students distributed environmental literature in the Student Union Building, but there was no formal program (UB April 21, 1970, p. 7; April 22, 1970, p. 1). The Whitman Pioneer called on students to establish their own priorities in response to the environmental crisis.

An editorial in the Union-Bulletin on April 23 looked back at the “abundance of whoop-la” and judged that Earth Day might have a “constructive effect.” “Pollution wasn’t built in a day, and it won’t be remedied in a year. Heaven knows the environment needs some concentrated attention. It calls for joint and judicious concern by government, industry and the public, not for injudicious and emotional flailing at ‘the system’” (UB April 23, 1970, p 4).

The theme of Earth Day 2017 is Environmental and Climate Literacy. This year the March for Science takes place on Earth Day.