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Penrose Library Blog

Summer Read 2016: The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

by Amy Blau  Sep 6 16

Every year, new students entering Whitman College read a book in common before they arrive on campus, attend a faculty-led panel about the book, and take part in discussions of it during Orientation Week. This year’s book was The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. The Empathy Exams is a collection of essays in which Jamison considers aspects of empathy and pain as they intersect with various experiences from her own life. In the title essay, Jamison contrasts working as a standardized patient for medical student training and being a patient herself. Her other topics include: borders, violence, and her travels in Mexico, Nicaragua, and Bolivia; a mysterious illness; an extreme wilderness marathon; one man’s life in prison; the deaths of three boys and the arrests of three others for their murder; sentimentality and artificial sweetener; gender and pain in popular culture, in literature, and in experiences of her friends.

The Summer Read display in Penrose Library illustrates each essay with one or more representative images directly referenced in the essay or inspired by it. Display creator Sarah Owen commented, “Displaying images that portray EMPATHY is near impossible, but displaying images that will remind the reader of Leslie Jamison’s essays may trigger an empathetic response. For that reason, I selected images for each essay that opened my memory to the thought behind the story.”


Leslie Jamison will address the Whitman and Walla Walla communities and discuss The Empathy Exams at Cordiner Hall on Wednesday, September 7 at 7 pm.

Penrose Updates for Fall 2016

by Amy Blau  Aug 29 16

Penrose Library welcomes everyone back to campus for the fall semester. Our hours on Monday, August 29 are 9 am to 10 pm. We open at 9 am on Tuesday, August 30, and our 24/7 schedule resumes from that point on.

We invite all community members to stop by the library and see some of the many changes to the library building that took place over the summer. The first change you will notice when you enter the library atrium is the beautiful new art installation by Jacob Hashimoto, called When Nothing Ends, Nothing Remains. You can read more about it here. The canoe that used to hang in the atrium will have a new home in Sherwood.


You may also note that the arrangement of short bookstacks has changed in the front of the library. We have moved all of the Reference materials to the space by the wall of windows, together with the current newspapers. The books in our circulating collection that used to be in front have been reunited with the rest of our holdings in languages and literatures behind the Technology desk. We have also added some shelving to the fourth floor.


All of the DVDs and videos have been consolidated on the second floor. Where the DVDs used to be on the third floor (to the right of the large display case at the top of the stairs), there are now study carrels, standing desks, and additional seating, in a space designated for quiet study.


We have also added a large new group study room on the third floor (Room 317).


The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has new tables and chairs, and we have new carpeting throughout the library.


Our thanks go to the Circulation staff who shifted books, to Sheehan Gallery staff, to WCTS, and to Physical Plant for all of their help throughout our many projects this summer.

We hope you enjoy our new spaces! See you soon in the library.

Sharpen your research skills with a library class!

by Amy Blau  Aug 22 16

Do you want to learn how to find the best resources for your papers and projects? Would you like to navigate Penrose Library’s databases with ease? Take a library class!

Library 100 – Information Literacy will introduce you to the Library’s resources and services while helping you to develop information literacy skills. We’ll focus on learning how to find, evaluate, and effectively use a variety of sources.  Library 100 is a one-credit class, meeting once per week on a credit/no credit basis, and is offered Fall Semester 2016 on Tuesday OR Thursday from 2:30 to 3:20. For more information, contact Julie Carter (509-527-5915) or Ben Murphy (509-527-5918).

Library Use at Orbis Cascade Alliance Libraries

by Amy Blau  May 13 16

Attention returning students, faculty, and staff. If you will be at another Orbis Cascade Alliance Library this summer (see list of libraries), you can check out books there! Check with Access Services at Whitman (Jen Pope or Julie Carter) to find out how.

Introducing ARMINDA!

by Amy Blau  Apr 19 16

ARMINDAIn the summer of 2015, Penrose Library joined a network of hundreds of academic institutions who use the Digital Commons software service to host their institutional repository. Institutional repositories typically host scholarly and creative material produced by faculty, students, and staff of an institution, as well as other publications and digital archival collections created there. Whitman’s Institutional Repository is named ARMINDA in honor of Arminda Fix (Whitman College class of 1899), the first professional librarian at Whitman College. The “backronym” stands for Accessible Research Materials in Digital Archives.

Library staff have begun configuring ARMINDA to house and enhance access to selected collections of digital materials. The first materials to be deposited were the Whitman College Honors Theses. ARMINDA will also feature other forms of student work, such as papers written by students in Professor Rogers Miles’ course on the Secularization of Whitman College (REL 348). In that class, first taught in 2011, students were introduced to finding secondary sources on religion and higher education in America in the 19th and 20th centuries. They used these secondary sources in combination with archival materials to produce original research papers on the history of the College. Over three offerings of the course, student topics have ranged from studies of the history of the College’s mascot, to the relationship between religion and the science curriculum, to studies of notable faculty and staff members of Whitman College. Materials in the Religion 348 collection may be accessed at


(Ending) Poverty Exhibit in Penrose

by Amy Blau  Apr 8 16


Sojourn Theatre’s How to End Poverty in Ninety Minutes, in production at Whitman’s Freimann Studio Theatre from April 13-17, will offer audience members the opportunity to try to answer the question, “How do we attack the problem of poverty in America?” as they collectively determine how to spend $1000 dollars to help address this problem. More information on the participatory performance, directed by Jessica Cerullo, can be found on the Harper Joy Theatre blog.

In conjunction with the performance, Penrose Library has created a display of books and artifacts related to poverty in the United States. Students in Jenna Terry’s Intermediate Composition class chose these artifacts related to poverty in Walla Walla from holdings in the Whitman College and Northwest Archives. The students have provided brief examinations of their findings as part of this exhibit; their more extensive explanations in audio form will be available in the theatre lobby during the run of the production.

Whether or not you will attend the performance — but especially if you will — we invite you to consider historical, political, and economic contexts of poverty presented in the books from Penrose Library’s collection, on display through April 18. All books in this display may be checked out.

Display credit: Sarah Owen, with Jen Pope. Thanks to Bill Huntington and Melissa Salrin in the Archives for the scans.



International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month

by Amy Blau  Mar 8 16

For International Women’s Day on March 8, library video streaming service Kanopy has created a collection of films that document women and women’s achievements and challenges in a variety of contexts. Films on Demand has curated video from its collection for Women’s History Month. And you may have already noticed that Google’s International Women’s Day doodle has interesting video footage of women from around the world.

Learn more about International Women’s Day at the United Nations website, or via articles accessible through library databases (a few are listed below; log in with your Whitman ID and password to view). Also check out the Women Working, 1800-1930 digital collection available through Harvard University Library Open Collections Program, for a wide range of digitized primary source materials related to women’s work in the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Curthoys, Barbara. 1994. “International Women’s Day in Newcastle in the Fifties and Sixties: A Personal Account.” Labour History, no. 66. Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Inc.: 122–28. doi:10.2307/27509241.

Kaplan, Temma. 1985. “On the Socialist Origins of International Women’s Day.” Feminist Studies 11 (1). Feminist Studies, Inc.: 163–71. doi:10.2307/3180144.

Klemesrud, Judy. 1975. “March and Rally Celebrate First International Women’s Day.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Mar 09, 1.

Leap year: ladies’ choice

by Amy Blau  Feb 29 16

The English term “leap year” refers to the bissextile year, which has 366 days rather than the usual 365 in order to reconcile the tropical year (cycle of the seasons) with the calendar year. (For more history and the rest of the rules that determine a leap year, see this explanation from the US Naval Observatory). The best-known custom associated with leap year in Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States was that during a leap year, women were allowed to propose to men. The origins of this tradition are murky. One newspaper article from 1956 attributed it to a misinterpretation of the Latin term “bissextile” as having to do with the sexes (rather than indicating when in the Roman calendar the extra day was added in the leap year). [1] However, this explanation is not widely given in discussions of leap year traditions, and it too may be based on a false etymological interpretation.

Leap year privileges could include less permanent decisions than marriage — the principle of ladies’ choice extended to invitations to dances, parties, and other social events. In the words of a newspaper article from Vincennes, Indiana in 1868, “The ladies must not forget that this is leap year, and that the peculiar privilege of leap year continues throughout the year 1868. All the etiquette of the sexes is reversed. If ladies wish to walk or ride with gentlemen, to dance at balls or escort them home from parties, to attend concerts, or to treat them to ice creams, they have the right to ask, or rather command everything, for it is not to be supposed that a refusal in such a case is within the bounds of possibility.” [2] The Vincennes Weekly Western Sun had also reminded women of this custom in earlier Leap Years, noting on February 6, 1864 (and again on the 13th) that as men were scarce due to the Civil War, women should “go to WATSON’S book-store, and procure a supply of Valentines with which to lay siege to the hearts of the sterner sex.” [3]

According to a custom known in Great Britain and the United States through the 19th century, if the man of her choice refused her proposal, the woman might expect a silk gown from him as a gift to ease her disappointment at being turned down. A February, 1856 article in the Provincial Freeman, a newspaper by and for fugitive slaves who had settled in Canada, specified that the gift of a silk gown was contingent upon the woman wearing a scarlet petticoat beneath her dress when she proposed, and showing the lower hem of the petticoat to the man if he refused her. The article noted a trend in the wearing of scarlet petticoats that winter season. [4] The silk gown tradition (but not that of the scarlet petticoat) also appeared in a story by Leigh North, published in 1919. For the ten-year-old girl in that story (whose twenty-something cousin does not want to accept her proposal, for obvious reasons) the silk gown was far more attractive than the man. [5]

Want to read more about this custom that turned gender roles around every four years? Penrose Library’s primary source databases are rich in content. Starting from the Primary Sources Subject Guide, you can access subscription databases through the library that include text and images from newspapers, magazines, and books. We searched for “leap year” in a number of these databases to find  the interesting tidbits above. There are also many primary sources available on the open web. The HathiTrust Digital Library is an excellent place to find texts in the public domain. You can find an interesting collection of Leap Year postcards in a database hosted at Monmouth University. Wherever your search takes you, enjoy this Leap Day!

You will need to log in with your Whitman network ID and password to read the articles in notes 1-4. For notes 2-4, you must search within the database; there is no direct link to the article.

[1] Barnes, Aleene, “Yes, girls, there’s a basis for leap year,” Los Angeles Times, February 29, 1956. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times.

[2] “Leap Year,” The Vincennes Weekly Western Sun, January 18, 1868. Accessible Archives.

[3] “Leap Year,” The Vincennes Weekly Western Sun, February 6, 1864. Accessible Archives.

[4] “The Ladies’ Law of Leap Year,” Provincial Freeman, February 16, 1856. Accessible Archives.

[5] North, Leigh, “A Leap Year Bargain,” in Verses and Stories by C. E. D. Phelps and Leigh North (New Brunswick, N.J.: Press of J. Heidingsfeld Co., 1919), 69-73. HathiTrust Digital Library.


1904 A Leap Year Valentine. Image from the Library of Congress

We believe that this image is in the public domain in the United States with no known restrictions on its reproduction. If you know of a restriction, please contact us and we will remove this image from our blog.

Art @ Penrose: Dots Front Misfire

by Amy Blau  Feb 22 16

dotsfrontmisfireThis is the second post in an occasional series on works of art on display in Penrose Library.

Research and post by Philip Stefani

Dots Front Misfire – Gina Osterloh – 3rd floor across from staff elevator

This print of a photograph captures a scene in a 2011 installation in the Sheehan Gallery. Gina Osterloh’s larger installation project was titled Cut Room. The installation’s accompanying photographs depict the room seen in this photo with vibrant streamers on all surfaces, and the same sculpture in the center, as well as other similar papier-mâché figures. Osterloh’s Cut Room installation follows her Rash Room and Blank Attempts installations in a series titled Shooting Blanks; the installations have shown in the United States and the Philippines. Much of Osterloh’s work explores environments saturated in vibrant colors with particular focus on textured surfaces.


Library Flix: Kanopy Videostreaming

by Amy Blau  Feb 16 16

kanopyStreaming video is not brand-new to Penrose Library. We first offered Films on Demand, a collection of thousands of educational programs, in 2010, and have since added specialized collections for Theatre and Dance such as and Digital Theatre Plus. We added Kanopy to our collection in August, 2015.

Kanopy extends our streaming video offerings considerably because it includes many feature films in addition to documentaries and educational videos. Collection strengths include foreign films (especially French and German), many classic titles from the Criterion Collection (including The Battle of Algiers), and a number of silent films, as well as works by independent filmmakers. There are also many, many educational titles that range from documentary films and series to recorded lectures and training videos in a wide variety of areas.

If you look for a particular film in Sherlock, our library catalog, and you see a result that is held in Kanopy, just click on the Kanopy Streaming Video link in the View Online tab. If you are already logged in, you will go directly to the film.

You can also access Kanopy and browse its holdings by clicking here, or by searching for Kanopy from the Database A-Z page (under Databases & more on the Penrose Library home page) or by finding the link through a Library Guide. When you access Kanopy via these links, you will be prompted to log in with your Whitman network ID and password.

In general, our users who have tried Kanopy have found the streaming quality to be good (albeit better on-campus than off-campus). As with any library resource, if you have difficulties accessing a film, please let us know; we’ll do what we can to help. Access is available via Whitman network ID and password to current faculty, staff, and students.

We hope you enjoy using Kanopy!