Friday, October 19, 2012

Clean Water Act Celebrates 40 Years

This week we celebrate the achievements of the Clean Water Act as it reaches a 40 year milestone.  Through the early decades of the 20th Century, rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters had become gravely threatened by pollution from unchecked industrial sources and outdated and inadequate wastewater treatment infrastructure. Countless waterways across the country were so polluted they were unfit for any purpose.  The impact of this unchecked pollution reached a undeniable crisis moment when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland in 1969.  The dramatic sight of these burning waters certainly provided a strong impetus for future legislation.

American citizens then pressured Congress to act to protect our water resources. This advocacy led to the Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments of 1972, a landmark expansion of previous provisions to protect the nation’s water resources. The Clean Water Act, as these Amendments came to be known, have led to tremendous progress in the restoration of America’s waters.

While much has been accomplished, there is always more to be done to protect our water resources.  EPA's website concludes "many challenges remain and we must work together to protect clean water for our families and future generations. Everyone has an impact on the water and we are all responsible for making a difference. Water is worth it."

Resources for further reading:

The EPA Clean Water Act 40th Anniversary Page
EPA's Summary of the Clean Water Act
History of Water Quality Standards
University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute
My Clean Water Act Advocacy
EPA Information for Kids

Monday, October 15, 2012

RADIOACTIVE - a guest book review

We asked Yael Gen, our in-house designer and talented artist in her own right, to read and review for us this year's GO BIG READ title, RADIOACTIVE by Lauren Redniss. Below are her thoughtful words about this year's choice.

"As an avowed bibliophile and print designer who only recently succumbed to (and thoroughly enjoyed) my first e-reader, encountering Lauren Redniss’s Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout is a joyous reminder of the impact of the printed page. Redniss reveals a story of love and loss that includes Marie’s sad childhood, Pierre Curie’s untimely and random demise under the wheels of a horse cart, a storybook romance between their daughter and Marie’s research assistant and even scandal, when the widowed Marie Curie carries on an affair with a married scientist. There was no delineation between Marie and Pierre Curies’ research and personal lives. “Their handwritings intermingle in their notebooks. …the initials ‘M’ and ‘P’ are scripted directly atop each other.”

Redniss creates a modern hybrid of an illuminated manuscript crossed with a graphic novel; rich with image and text. There are details one could squabble with. The typeface that is used throughout the book can be difficult to read on some of the pages that are dense with text. But it’s hard to take Redniss to task after reading the lovely and extensive notes and discovering that she created the typeface “based on title pages of manuscripts at the New York Public Library.” 

Redniss’ drawing style is loose and spidery and the cyanotype process imbues them an ethereal quality. She artfully weaves archival documents (Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Irving Lowen’s FBI file ) and photos between her original, luminous cyanotypes and vibrant narrative to create something that is classified as a graphic novel for convenience. Radioactive is a unique book-as-object experience, one that I recommend you keep on your nightstand. When you switch off your light, the cover glows in the dark like the jar of radium Marie Curie kept by her pillow."

Ms. Redniss speaks tonight (Monday October 15th) in Madison at a free event.  Details.

Thanks to Ms. Gen for her review!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The "dirt" on Dirt

We recently screened the documentary film Dirt! the movie.  The film explores the relationship between humans and soil, including its necessity for human life and the numerous threats brought caused by short-sighted activities such as monoculture, deforestation, pesticides, and mountaintop removal mining.  The film also highlights many positive steps being taken to safeguard and restore this essential resource. The Wisconsin's Water Library has over a thousand journals, books, and reports related to soil, erosion, and its impact upon our water resources.  Consider browsing them to find out more on the subject.  

Here's more info on the documentary:

Dirt!: the movie 
View movie trailer here
Curtis, J. Lee, & Logan, W. Bryant. (2009). Dirt!: the movie. Deluxe ed. [U.S.]: Common Ground Media.

And here's some other Dirt-themed selections from our collection:

Dear dirt doctor : questions answered the natural way
Garrett, H. (2003). Dear dirt doctor : questions answered the natural way. 1st rev. ed. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Eat more dirt : diverting and instructive tips for growing and tending an organic garden
Sandbeck, E. (2003). Eat more dirt : diverting and instructive tips for growing and tending an organic garden. New York: Broadway Books.

Finally here's the dirt-themed dessert our co-worker Terri Liebmann made to share for our screening!  We literally ate "dirt", and it was delicious!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Improvements for Website

In preparation for their 10th Anniversary in December, has recently made some significant updates to their website that launched in 2002. They have added video content, created new search features, and now offer a Spanish language version. is a tremendous research tool that can conduct searches of over 55 databases, over 2100 selected websites, 13 federal agencies, while culling its results from over 200 million pages of authoritative U.S. government science information.  Topics can now be visualized within your search results and multimedia is automatically searched in addition to text. now connects users with the video resources of Science.Cinema, MedlinePLUS, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) and by using innovative audio indexing and speech recognition technology users are able to search for specific words and phrases spoken within these video files. And finally, is the new Spanish version of the website and utilizes Microsoft’s Translator to initiate searches with results appearing in Spanish.

On the subject of the updates, OSTI Director Walter Warnick concludes “Now contains multimedia content and is accessible to the Spanish-speaking public. We are pleased with these developments and we fully intend to continue enhancing the value and utility of” 

Explore the new Results Visualization Tool here

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Banned Books Week - Science Edition

This year marks the 30th annual Banned Books Week and Wisconsin's Water Library has created a display of challenged and banned science books to mark the occasion. The American Library Association and others sponsor Banned Books Week to "highlight the value of free and open access to information."

For our display, we chose to highlight the importance of free scientific discourse while considering the potential harm caused by censorship.  Many libraries, schools and bookstores nationwide display books that have been challenged for the presumed dangers of their content and ideas being made available to the public. However, the Library Bill of Rights states in article III that: "Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment."  With this goal in mind, we encourage you to explore some of these important science texts that are part of the display and read why they have been challenged over the years:

BIOLOGY by Karen Arms and Pamela S. Camp
(1985) Bowing to pressure from opponents of the textbook planned for the use in a high school honors course, the Garland Independent School District’s (Texas) central textbook selection committee withdrew its recommendation because the text includes “overly explicit diagrams of sexual organs, intricate discussion of sexual stimulation, and the implication of abortion as a means of birth control.”

HEALTH by John LaPlace
(1984) Challenged at the Randolph High School (New Jersey) by a group of parents and clergy who say “the textbook is too liberal and should be replaced or supplemented by a more traditional book.”

HUMAN SEXUALITY by Elizabeth Winship, Frank Caparulo, and Vivian K. Harlin
(1994) Removed from use in health classes by the Belleville School District School Board (Missouri) after parents had complained that the book “didn’t stress abstinence from sex by high school students,” and because “it didn’t say whether sexual relations before marriage, homosexuality, masturbation, or abortion are right or wrong.”

(1981) Officials of the Christian Research Center requested San Diego (California) school administrators to keep this title out of all high school libraries because Asimov “subjects the Bible to merciless and unremitting destructive attack.”

(1997) The Franklin County school board (North Carolina) ordered three chapters cut out of the ninth-grade health textbooks.  Those chapters dealt with AIDS, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases; pairing, marriage, and parenting; and sexual behavior and contraception.

(1859)  Banned from Trinity College in Cambridge, England. 
(1925)  Tennessee passed a law prohibiting teachers from teaching the theory of evolution in state supported schools.  John T. Scopes, a science teacher in Dayton, volunteered to be the test case for Tennessee’s anti-evolution law.  The Scopes’s “monkey trial,” eventually was thrown out on a technicality.
(1935)  Banned in Yugoslavia.
(1937)  Banned in Greece.
(1925)  Tennessee passed a law prohibiting teachers from teaching the theory of evolution in state supported schools. 
(1980)  Arkansas and Louisiana state boards of education required teaching both creationism and evolution in public schools.  These laws were ruled unconstitutional in 1987 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard.

(2006) Retained in the Seaman Unified School Disrtict 345 (Kansas) elementary school library.  Objections were raised because the book is about the scientific theory of evolution.

(1977) The Brighton School Board (Michigan) voted to remove all sex education books from the high school library.

Source used: Doyle, Robert P. Banned Books : Challenging Our Freedom to Read. Chicago, Ill.: American Library Association, 2010.