Celebrating National Nutrition Month with Government Publications

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications Department

Every March, numerous private and governmental health organizations from around the country promote what is known as National Nutrition Month. Individuals and businesses have become increasingly aware of what foods and drinks we put in our bodies. The past decade has seen the increased popularization of things such as organically raised meats, vegetables, and fruits (many grown locally in our own communities), along with stores and farmers markets where these items are widely accessible. Thankfully, a variety of online government resources on both the state and federal levels provide information and even recipes that reflect the want and need of Americans to educate themselves about their own health and nutrition.

So, the next time you are looking for nutrition information or a new healthy recipe, for you or your loved ones, for any meal of the day (including snack time!), feel free to peruse these online recipes and other informational resources provided by the State of Tennessee and the Federal Government.

Also, the Government Publications Department here at McWherter Library provides these fun online cookbooks to students and staff to peruse for new meal ideas!

 

Frederick Douglass: A Quick Look at an American Icon

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

We in the Government Publications Department at the University of Memphis feel there are few more fitting subjects to explore during Black History Month than Frederick Douglass. Douglass escaped slavery in 1838 and became one of the most towering figures of his time and in all of American history. A tireless orator, abolitionist, and political commentator, he produced autobiographies, speeches, and other works outlining the evils of chattel slavery in the United States. Douglass believed that the nation needed to live up to the promises of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and shake off the scourge of slavery if it were to reach its full potential and truly provide freedom for all its people. His document “A Lecture on Our National Capital,” first given in 1875, a decade after the end of the American Civil War, was reproduced by the Smithsonian and the National Park Service and is available for check out from our Government Publications department.

In this address, Douglass’ observations of Washington, D.C, serve as a microcosm to the nation at large. He laments the affect slavery and its political influence had on the city in the past, but also contrasts it with the postwar progress made in everything from the attitude of its citizens to new building projects that made it a more livable place. Douglass acknowledges there was still much work to be done; in hindsight we know that it was only the beginning of the ongoing struggle to guarantee rights for African Americans in this country. However, Douglass conveyed a sense of optimism for the future in this lecture, stating his hope that “the best men and the best women from all sections of our widely extended country shall delight to meet and bury their differences.” If you are interested in further exploring Douglass and his place in American history, check out these government resources, along with some supplemental eBooks currently available through McWherter Library.

Government Publications

Online Government Resources

McWherter Library eBooks

Veterans Day 2020

Picture via Pexels and Pixabay

Each year, Americans take time to participate in a day of solemnity and respect for those who have committed their lives to the U.S. Armed Forces. Originally Armistice Day, the history of Veterans Day has been an interesting one. Armistice Day was created to honor and celebrate the end of World War I. The day was chosen specifically because the war ended “on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”. 

While World War I doesn’t quite seem as far away as 100 years, the sentiment of remembrance has remained all too present in the modern day consciousness. Every year, veterans, families, friends, businesses, and government agencies celebrate Veterans Day.  The holiday recognizes the historical and modern implications of what sacrifices are made to support and defend the country as a U.S. service member. 

The sacrifices that are made are many; and often include the events and memories that are celebrated and made in the absence of a service member as they carry out their duties away from home. Birthdays, holidays, months, and sometimes even years go by as a service member is called away on a deployment, or in the greatest capacity, has their life taken in the line of duty. So it’s important to take a moment, even if it’s once a year, to recognize and remember every person who has decided to become a member of the military and dedicate themselves to their country. 

To start, the University of Memphis has a wonderful Veteran and Military Student Services which is an invaluable resource for students and family members of military members. 

The U of M University Libraries also houses the Textbooks for Tiger Veterans Program which supports military affiliated students! 

Picture via Pexels and Pixabay

Across the various government agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs is one that has always been a pillar of support for veterans across the nation. They offer plenty of different resources for any problem or need. One of the ways the VA is able to support veterans is through psychological help for those who suffer from disorders such as PTSD. The Department of Veterans Affairs has many pathways that offer support that positively affect the life of a veteran, and can lead to recovery. From golf, to traditional therapy, to even equine therapy, there is a surprising amount of programs across the country that supports a veteran’s need to seek treatment and also find a therapy method that works for them. The U of M Libraries also has access to many government publications, including subcommittee reports from the U.S. House of Representatives discussing veteran access to mental health therapy. The DVA also has great videos highlighting the lives and contributions of veterans from wars past, such as Daniel Inouye; the late senator from Hawaii who served in World War II, who was also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  

In addition to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Smithsonian provides great learning resources for additional reading and research regarding Native American veterans from the past and present. The National Museum of the American Indian presents great exhibition style resource pages to learn about the Code Talkers of WWII and veterans from other wars like the Korean, Vietnam and modern-day wars. They also have a YouTube channel that presents recordings of their presentations, and other great veteran-adjacent videos. This Veterans Day is special for the museum as well, as they are dedicating the National Native American Veterans Memorial on the day itself, and virtually, for public attendance and appreciation. 

The National Archives has teamed up with Google Arts and Culture to bring the public virtual access to pieces of history that lead to the commissioning and the ultimate creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Finally, but certainly not least, one of our nation’s most enduring memorials to those who have served is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.  This structure resides in Arlington National Cemetery and is in honor of service members who have passed and who were never able to be identified. It is always quietly guarded, and constantly honored in memory of those who have given their lives for their country. 

For more resources about Veterans Day and military-adjacent publications, check out Government Publications’ Veterans Day Libguide and the display in the elevator alcove outside of the entrance to Government Publications. 

To all those who have dedicated their lives to the United States Armed Forces, thank you!

Halloween Read 2020: The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

As Halloween approaches each year, I enjoy changing my media intake up a bit, filling my days with weird and scary books, movies, and podcasts. I always enjoy things of this nature, but tend to binge during spooky season. This year, I added a long overdue read to my cultural docket: The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. The novel is narrated by its main character, Edward Prendick, who is rescued after a shipwreck by an enigmatic man of science named Montgomery. Prendick soon finds himself an unwanted guest on a small Pacific island run by the novel’s namesake, Dr. Moreau. After encounters with what appear to be human-like ‘Beasts,’ Prendick discovers the dark secret of the doctor and his island. Dr. Moreau has been experimenting on various types of animals by using a combination of surgery (which he terms ‘vivisection,’ a quite unpleasant term when looked up) and hypnosis, giving these creations (for lack of a better term) human traits.  Dr. Moreau rules over the small society he has formed using a combination of physical violence and psychological manipulation in the form of ‘Laws,’ which outline how the ‘Beasts’ should act human and suppress their animal instincts. However, as one might guess, things eventually go terribly wrong, and Prendick finds himself in the middle of a vicious and long-simmering power struggle between Dr. Moreau, Montgomery, and the ‘Beasts’ that inhabit this twisted world.

I am sure the sentiment has been said many times in various forms before, but I cannot help but think of a line said by Jeff Goldblum’s character in the film version of Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they [SHOULD].” Much as in that tale, a scientist, in this case Dr. Moreau, decides to play God and create something that simply should not exist. In forming this society of ‘Beasts,’ he shows no concern for the immense physical, psychological, and emotional pain he causes his subjects. During the era in which this novel was written, there had been significant advances in medicine and surgery, with human science on the cusp of new discoveries that greatly benefit our society today. Dr. Moreau, however, uses science in a reckless manner, and causes mayhem in the process. Prendick is terrified of the ‘Beasts’ early in the novel, but eventually realizes that the remorseless Dr. Moreau is the true monster, the true source of terror in the world he finds himself trapped in. Wells was a wonderful author, and displayed an ability to reflect the anxieties and wrongdoings of his time in his fiction.  The Island of Dr. Moreau is not as much scary in the traditional horror sense as it is disturbing due to its material; by the end, I felt a somber sadness as the suffering increases and the island collapses into pointless chaos. Though over a century old, I did not find the novel particularly dated, as it still serves as a cautionary tale concerning both what humanity can and should do, and how those ideas often end up clashing.

This is also a wonderful opportunity to promote a couple of great features on the University of Memphis Libraries website. First, our Virtual Book Display provides monthly lists, shaped by relevant and timely themes, for the McWherter and Lambuth branches; for example, the one for October is titled Gothic Lit + Ghosts Galore. This fun, interactive resource is a great way to find both leisure and academic reads, so check back every month to see what we are featuring (and browse lists from previous months as well). Second, there are a variety of e-books in many subjects available through the library’s website. The Island of Dr. Moreau, along with a number of other older novels, are available in this format. So if you are ever curious, use the Classic Catalog feature on the front page of our website to search for a title. You never know, you may be able to access and enjoy it without ever leaving your home!

A (Very) Short History of Voting Rights in the United States

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

The expansion of voting rights has a long and tumultuous history in the United States, and while the journey is not over (and may never be), a number of crucial events have made voting a more inclusive right that many people cherish as one of the most important responsibilities held by American citizens. The original text of the U.S. Constitution largely left decisions concerning voting rights up to the individual states; thus, the right to vote was held almost exclusively by white male property holders in the early days of our nation. However, several Constitutional Amendments have expanded the electorate since the American Civil War. In the years immediately following the war, the Fourteenth Amendment extended the vote to all males above the age of 21 and further defined citizenship rights, and the Fifteenth Amendment seemingly outlawed the denial of voting rights based on race and “conditions of previous servitude,” laying out protections for former male slaves. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment extended the vote to women, a long overdue protection finally given after a decades long struggle.

The 1960s witnessed a new era in the protection of voting rights, particularly for minorities in certain parts of the country. States in the American South, following Reconstruction in the late 19th century, long practiced efforts to disenfranchise African American voters through things such as a poll tax and literacy tests. In 1964, the Twenty-fourth Amendment outlawed the use of poll taxes, and the following year, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 laid out protections for minority voters, working to realize the promises made by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The Voting Rights Act has been amended several times over the past half century, extending protections to other minorities in the United States, including language minorities and voters with disabilities. Another important step to bring more people into the political conversation took place in 1971 with the Twenty-sixth Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 nationwide.

There are many other important moments and pieces of legislation that serve to protect voting rights in the United States, and I would encourage further research if you are interested in both the high and low points of this part of the nation’s history. The protection of voting rights in the United States continues to be a pertinent topic in our society, and will likely remain so well into the future. There are a number of questions that arise during every election cycle. Are there enough polling places to accommodate the population, particularly in urban areas? What exactly is the future of early voting and mail-in voting, both exacerbated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic? What about the disenfranchisement of felons in many states, either while incarcerated or after release? Should a person have to show identification to vote? One would hope that voting, one of the most sacred rights held by American citizens, one that countless people have fought for during the history of this country, will continue to become easier, with more and more people encouraged to use this opportunity to have their voices heard.

And this brings a reminder: please vote! It is such a privilege to be able to do so. It is important to keep up with what is happening on any given ballot. Many people only consider a Presidential election important. But there are so many elections that happen in conjunction with and in between it. Even in a year such as this one, there are other relevant things on the ballot one should be knowledgeable about. For example, as a Mississippian, I get the chance to vote on the following on November 3: President of the United States; members of the U.S. Congress; state Supreme Court justices; a new design for our state flag; and the possible legalization of medical marijuana. So, remember, being a voter is important, but being an informed voter is vital.

If you are interested in more information on voting rights, here are some links to online government resources that you can check out!

Celebrating Constitution Day and Citizenship Day 2020

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

Constitution Day is observed every year on September 17 to commemorate the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787, which outlined how our federal government would operate and serves as both a functional and symbolic document for this nation and its ideals. It is possible that many people in modern day take for granted that the United States would become what it is today. However, when studying the history of the Constitution and its eventual ratification, Americans of the time debated over what the United States should actually be. Luckily, there are some easily accessible government resources available online that allow us to study the arguments for our Constitution. Perhaps the finest example of this is what has come to be known as ‘The Federalist Papers,’ which you can read in its entirety at the Library of Congress’s website. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote a number of political treatises arguing the need for the Constitution and a more refined federal government to replace the existing Articles of Confederation (which you can view here). These writings provide a glimpse into the political and philosophical arguments and counterarguments of the day concerning the formation of the United States government.

As we know, Hamilton and his allies won the day and the Constitution was ratified; the website of the Architect of the Capitol provides a glimpse into this momentous event with a detailed explanation of the painting ‘Signing of the Constitution.’ It is also important to remember that the U.S. Constitution is an ever functioning document and not simply a historical moment frozen in time. The website of the United States Congress provides us with what is known as the Constitution Annotated, where interpretations of the Constitution are displayed, particularly in a list of laws that have been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. If you are interested in further research concerning the U.S. Constitution and its history, McWherter Library has a number of resources in its collections that are worth a look. And please visit our Constitution Day LibGuide, which highlights a number of resources available physically and online concerning the Constitution and its meaning, along with its relationship to the Census and voting rights.

Government Publications

General Collection

Constitution Day also doubles as Citizenship Day, to serve as a celebration of efforts by people from all over the world to become citizens. It highlights the beauty of our nation at its best, where people from countless backgrounds can gather and continue the ever-changing experiment that is the United States. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides a variety of resources that will help those interested in the road to citizenship. The Government Publications department also provides some valuable citizenship resources, such as online access to this Civics and Citizenship Toolkit. Another appropriate resource, being that it is both Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, are the translations of the U.S. Constitution into a variety of languages that we also provide. Some of the examples include: Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Korean. Hopefully, the resources discussed in this post will help you gain a better understanding of why we commemorate these two vital aspects of the American story.

Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

The coming of age tale has long held an important and cherished place in American literature, and the college novel has taken this genre to complex heights in the past several decades. Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is arguably one of the best examples in recent memory, as it examines both the seductive and alienating aspects of the modern campus. Richard Papen, the main character and narrator, flees an unfulfilling existence in California for the small and exclusive environs of Hampden College in Vermont. There, he soon falls in with a small group of Classics students: stoic and brilliant Henry; the enigmatic twins Charles and Camilla; neurotic Francis; and oafish Bunny. Their elitist instructor, Julian, leads them in the search of beauty and knowledge, creating a bubble that exists on the edges of the school. On the surface, it appears to be a dream existence for all of them; however, a series of tragedies shows that dreams never last, and the real world always brings a harsh reckoning.

Richard remains an outsider through much of the book, despite becoming part of the group and forming close relationships with the others; he shows shame concerning his background, creating fabrications or withholding details about his past in California. Bunny, in particular, tends to needle him for being different from the rest of them, constantly cracking jokes about things concerning Richard’s past that do not add up. Bunny, in his interactions with the rest of the group, is unable to realize that things which are just a game to him are of the utmost seriousness to the others, causing constant mental strain that eventually forces a disastrous break.

The social dynamics of the group create both a unique sense of comradery and constant tensions that build up over time. The members largely come from some form of affluent background, save Richard, and already have a skewed idea of how the world works. Julian, their teacher and talisman of sorts, is independently wealthy and thus separated from the world around him in many ways. Richard even observes that the rest of the group seem disdainful of what is going on in the larger world in regards to politics and other current events. The group is also barely aware of their community beyond the Classics courses, which is already a tight nit and exclusive liberal arts college attached to a small New England community. All of this creates a sense of elitism, especially in Henry. He is content with becoming lost within the Greek translations Julian assigns, or some other literary or artistic pursuit that he alone understands or has interest in. He cuts himself off in numerous ways from everyone, including his closest friends, though we do get glimpses of humanity from him, especially when it concerns Julian.

The class and the group become their entire world. Some take it more seriously than others. It is arguable that Bunny takes nothing seriously, that life is a series of games and jokes and the only thing of importance to him is the fulfillment of base desire. Charles, Camilla, and Francis often seem along for the ride, in search of some form of comradery in a world they do not feel connected to. However, Henry, like Julian, is a true believer, though they are possibly searching for different things to believe in. Julian is clearly drawn to beauty, whatever that may mean; he finds most things in the larger world ugly and vulgar. Henry, with his youthful obsessions, seems to be searching for some form of truth that he cannot find, and most likely does not exist. The others often fall in lockstep with him, which leads them down a road of destruction and madness. And then there is Richard, who just wants to find something that matters, and clings to that idea for as long as possible until it shatters like everything else. Perhaps that is why he moves forward slightly better than the others. Despite his deceptions of who he truly is, to the others and to himself, perhaps being that type of nobody, the type of person that can shift identities as a situation necessitates, allows him to drift through the world without being consumed by its many tribulations.

Ultimately, Richard and the rest of the group are just kids, college students trying to find their way in the world. It is possible that Julian does them a disservice by cutting them off from the rest of the college’s community; he sees this as a positive and the best way for them to learn, but the subsequent isolation and loneliness eventually accelerates their deterioration. Bunny and Richard do a moderately better job in remaining connected to other people. However, Henry, Charles, Camilla, and Francis become trapped in a kind of echo chamber, stranded with each other and, often, inside their own heads. They are the ones that were in the forest the night of the local farmer’s death, which begins the group’s cataclysmic fall; they are the ones that act as the driving force for the climactic event of the novel; and they are the ones that ultimately suffer the most in the end. Richard does as well, of course, but in a different way. He always seems to be the one that is completely afloat, never fully becoming part of the tight band of friends. The others are completely aware of what came before Richard and their fateful Bacchanal. After that ideal falls apart, they are unable to find anything to hold on to and cannot deal properly with the guilt of what they have done.

I did not read this book when I was college student. I read it several years after finishing graduate school, and reread it recently, which prompted this blog post. I cannot say for sure if it would have been a positive or negative force for me at that point in life. It is easy to become lost in the Romantic aspects of the plot: the closeness of the main characters; their experiences with good books and good food; and being young and beautiful in a place that allows escape into a world of deceptively few consequences. However, this can blind the reader to all the negative aspects of that world that Tartt skillfully uncovers: the strange solitude and self-isolation, even when surrounded by so many potentially likeminded people, and the odd unreality of being stuck between youth and adulthood. One of the driving forces of the novel is that when young, one is often shocked into realizing life and its many decisions have actual consequences. Tartt’s characters, including Julian, the primary example of ‘adulthood,’ become trapped in a dreamlike revelry, and, when yanked out of it, must deal with this fact. As they discover, you rarely come out of the other side of these situations the same person, and sometimes, you do not come out of the other side at all.

Library promotion time! The 3rd and 4th floor stacks are back open for the fall semester. However, if you have reservations about browsing these areas or getting a book from upstairs, McWherter Library is still offering an Item Pickup Request service; you can find the online form here. Our workers in the Circulation Department will pull the book and notify you once it is ready for checkout. Remember: please be wearing your mask and have your University of Memphis ID card ready in order to get into the library. And most importantly: stay safe and healthy!

If you want to read The Secret History by Donna Tartt, it is currently available for checkout at McWherter Library and can be checked out using the Pickup Request service.

Know Your NOAA!

NOAA Research Vessel Okeanos Explorer Photo Credit: Allen Shimada, NOAA/NMFS/OST, via the NOAA Photo Library

Written by Meghan Campbell, Government Publications

Through the U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA or the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, is an amalgamation of a few different government agencies created in 1970. Though its name might be self-explanatory, NOAA exists to observe and protect the interests of our world at large via the earth’s oceans and its atmosphere. Its scientists and personnel cover a multitude of different areas of the planet and its natural relationships to us. Weather warning systems, discovering new ocean creatures, and protecting marine sanctuaries is only a small portion of what makes up NOAA’s work. 

One of NOAA’s more notable contributions is in research; specifically that of the global deep seas. NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, (named after the Greek titan Okeanos), is a research vessel that conducts frequent and enlightening ventures that seek to discover new marine habitats, species, and find new evidence to build upon previous research. The Okeanos’ expeditions to the deep sea has yielded some pretty spectacular imagery from around the world, with a lot of it being in our own backyard! From sea star fights, shrimp battles, and even sea toads, the NOAA Ocean Explorer Youtube channel regularly broadcasts live and also edited clips of some of the footage that has been captured under the surface of the water. 

To quell the curiosity of various subjects between marine life, water cycles, weather, and more, NOAA also has a dedicated resource collection on their website. These brief but informative guides help cover basics for differing subject areas for anyone who wants to know more. In addition to these guides, there is also a section for an elementary audience as well as other resources for educators. 

NOAA provides great kid-friendly resources for younger ages to enjoy and learn from. A Good Catch: Managing Fisheries to Meet the Nation’s Demand for Seafood, is a beautifully illustrated and well-told book that explains the varying facets of ocean fishing and how NOAA contributes to help maintain a healthy ocean. With brief but informative sections from phytoplankton to fish farming, “A Good Catch”  proves to be a wonderful free resource and also serves as an example of what kind of documents are hosted through the NOAA Institutional Repository. The repository hosts many different NOAA publications and documents, including peer-reviewed articles, which makes it another great portal of information for research. The repository can also be supplemented with the NOAA Photo Library, which contains collections of photos that were taken only by NOAA employees.

Other additions that can educate younger audiences are that of a kid’s activity book; made for kindergarten to third graders, it contains facts, crossword puzzles, and even drawing activities to help them become “Official Ocean Guardians”.  To shake things up, NOAA has even put out a great video titled: The Octonauts & NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, which gives a fantastic inside look at the research vessel guided by a host and the ship’s crew! 

 

Chincoteague Bay Wetlands Photo Credit: Captain Albert E. Theberge, NOAA Corps (ret.), via the NOAA Photo Library

America’s Wondrous Wetlands: A Quick Overview of Government Resources

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

One of the greatest things about the United States is the richness of its physical landscape and environment, which many of us constantly interact with throughout our lives. Wetlands are an integral part of this intricate network, coming in many different forms and serving a myriad of purposes in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. The Clean Water Act defines wetlands as “areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.” This in turns provides guidance to a number of federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in identifying and properly protecting these delicate areas.

The modern world can often be harsh on the wetlands of the United States. They provide homes to a wide variety of plant and animal life, along with migratory waystations for numerous bird species. Wetlands also serve as an integral part of a larger system of waterways, as they often provide relief during floods as temporary reservoirs and are able to help remove toxins from the waters that pass through them. However, human encroachment from things such as development and farming can cause irreparable damage to these habitats. Other threats that are mostly unpredictable include climate change and manmade disasters. A horrific example of the latter that affected this region was the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which caused millions of gallons of oil to dump into the Gulf of Mexico, doing immeasurable harm to wetlands in Louisiana and other areas of the Gulf coast.

For these reasons, it is vital that federal agencies continue to work closely with state and local governments to protect our nation’s wetland areas. Native American Tribal governments take an integral leadership role in this effort, working in conjunction with these organizations to preserve these landscapes that are so important to our environment’s continued survival. Here are a number of government resources that will help you gain further knowledge on these ongoing projects.

Videos

NOAA Fisheries – Huntington Beach (CA) Wetland Restoration

EPA – Wetlands and Wonder

Bill Nye the Science Guy – Wetlands (Not a government resource, but fun nonetheless!)

Agency Websites

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – National Wetland Plant List

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services – National Wetlands Inventory

Fish and Wildlife Services – Working with Native American Tribes

EPA – Wetlands Protection and Restoration

NOAA Fisheries – Five Reasons We Love Wetlands

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation – Wetlands

McWherter Government Publications eResources

Saving the Nation’s Wetlands

Wetlands: An Overview of the Issues

Wild About Wetlands *kid friendly*

Restoring America’s Wetlands

America’s Gulf Coast: A Long Term Recovery Plan After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

 

Thirty Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

 

President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act
President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act July 26th, 1990. Photo courtesy of the National Archives Flickr

Written by Lauren Gilbreth, Government Publications 

On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush; this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of its passing. The ADA was and is a landmark piece of civil rights legislation, meant to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and provide them with greater access to public life. Divided into five titles, the first four each address a different area of public life covered by the Act: employment, state and local government, public accommodations, and telecommunications.  The ADA slowly went into effect over the course of the four years following its passing, with full compliance expected by the end of 1994.

The institution of the Americans with Disabilities Act was not welcomed by everyone. Numerous court cases challenged the new regulations required, including a set of Supreme Court cases known as the Sutton Trilogy. The Sutton cases resulted in a narrower definition of disability than the one provided in the initial act, which in turn limited the number of people protected by the ADA. A later Supreme Court Case, Toyota Motor Manufacturing v Williams, further limited the protections provided by the Act by once again pushing for a narrower definition of disability.

These Supreme Court Cases, as well as other issues, eventually resulted in the ADA Amendments Act, signed into law in 2008 by President George W. Bush. The Amendments Act expanded the legal definition of disability and provided broader protections against discrimination. While the 2008 Amendment was the most major change to the Act since it was passed, there have been several updates and additions in the past decade and a half, adapting it to changing times and technologies.

The full text of the act is available through the University of Memphis Libraries (https://sierra.memphis.edu/record=b2409512~S5).  Numerous government publications connected to the ADA are also available from the Libraries, ranging from congressional hearings concerning aspects of the act to a guide to writing an accommodation request letter. Many of these resources are highlighted in the ADA Awareness Virtual Book Display: https://libguides.memphis.edu/virtual-book-display. If you’re interested in exploring the ADA, its history, and its applications further, the following links should also be useful:

The National Park Service and Accessibility: Change for All

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

A man in his off-road wheelchair enjoying Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service/Jacob W. Frank Flickr

The National Park Service lists the Americans with Disabilities Act as one of its guiding principles in its continued efforts to make parks around the country more accessible to all visitors. On their website, the NPS outlines their efforts at compliance with the commercial section of the Act, stating that “accessibility law prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life.” In 2012, a task force was created to fully realize accessibility goals that dated back to 1961 and have continued up through today; the task force admitted that the National Park Service has not done enough in the past to assure that visitors with disabilities could fully enjoy what their parks had to offer. In a document titled All In! Accessibility in the National Park Service 2015-2020, it outlined a 5 year strategic plan to enact widespread improvements to National Parks and create a “cultural shift” that would stretch well beyond 2020. The Task Force expressed the following at the beginning of this process: “Barriers to National Park Service facilities and programs deny visitors with disabilities the opportunity to experience their parks, and our ability to share America’s stories with all visitors. While notable advancements have been made, much is needed to break down the barriers and embrace greater inclusivity.”

The NPS has also created an interpretative Disability History Series for those interested in the long path towards the ADA and wider accessibility in our society, which you can view here. Finally, the Government Publications collection at McWherter Library contains material on individual parks printed in braille for visitors with low sight or blindness; these materials are created at the Harpers Ferry Center for Media Services, and you can further explore its role in the National Park Service’s goals toward greater accessibility here. It will be interesting to observe the NPS as it continues to strive towards making its parks, one of our nation’s great resources in education and recreation, more accessible and inclusive to all potential visitors.

Additional ADA Government Resources

Written by Meghan Campbell, Government Publications 

To support the ADA, many federal agencies have adopted their own policies to help accommodate those who need it. Agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), for example, have an extensive list of accessibility guides. These guides range from services such as “711 for Telecommunications Relay”, Closed Captioning (for a variety of different formats), to “Speech-to-Speech Relay” services.

Even with these protocols in place though, no system is perfect, and that is where the Government Accountability Office (GAO) comes in. In 2015, the GAO submitted a report titled: “Accessible Communications : FCC should evaluate the effectiveness of its public outreach efforts”. This report provided an evaluation, encouraging the FCC to consider their outreach endeavors and how it affects their accessibility programs. These types of inquiries and evaluations ensure that protocols and services are constantly being updated and improved.

In addition to the FCC, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has their own ways of contributing to the ADA. In their recent publication “Beyond the Cases: 26 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act”, the DOJ features stories from around the country and how the ADA has affected change. From transportation, voting, accessible technology, and other areas of everyday life, the DOJ highlights ways the DOJ has helped contribute to the enforcement of the ADA.

Alongside these other agencies, Access Board (also known as the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board) is an independent federal agency that helps develop (in their own words from their “About” page): “accessible design” and “accessibility guidelines and standards”. Since 1973, Access Board has provided guidance in assuring that facilities such as recreational areas, buildings, sidewalks, and even medical equipment is ADA compliant and is accessible for all. To celebrate the 30 anniversary of the ADA, Access Board is hosting a virtual celebration via Zoom, open to the public. Details can be found here.

 

The Past, Present, and Future of American Space Exploration

International Space Station

This has been an interesting stretch for space travel in our country, with the joint NASA-SpaceX launch of the manned Dragon spacecraft being a highlight of what has proved to be a difficult year. Also of note, June 3 was the 55th anniversary of the first American spacewalk. And June 30 is one of those fun holidays often celebrated by educators in order to promote scientific learning, Asteroid Day. In honor of these achievements and recognitions, we in Government Publications wanted to point out some aspects of NASA’s history of space exploration and share some resources that may serve as a jumping off point to any studies in these topics.

Written by Meghan Campbell, Government Publications

 ISS: The International Space Station

The International Space Station, or ISS, is mankind’s first concerted effort to collaborate outside of Earth. This satellite, which initially launched in 1998, moves at an average pace of about 17,150 mph, orbits our planet approximately 16 times every 24 hours, and is home to astronauts of differing nationalities. The ISS and its crew sustain a successful environment where progress in scientific experiments further the knowledge of space and other scientific research. At the time of this posting, there are currently 5 people living on board the ISS. Two of which, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, recently completed a historic spaceflight which ended with their boarding of the ISS utilizing the SpaceX “Crew Dragon” spacecraft.

The experiments conducted on the ISS further the achievements of mankind and prove to be consistently astounding. In the document “International Space Station: Benefits for Humanity” these experiments and the ways in which they help better life on Earth are listed. One of the experiments documented shows the progress in which the results of the tests performed on the ISS betters water filtration on Earth.

A fun fact about the ISS is that it is the third brightest object in the sky and can be seen with a pair of binoculars! To figure out if the ISS is flying overhead, NASA has set up a handy website aptly titled “Spot the Station” where one can find out the window of time that the ISS can be viewed over a particular location.

As of right now, the International Space Station is set to remain commissioned and functional above the Earth until at least 2030. Until then we can also enjoy images from the ISS and pictures of the satellite itself thanks to NASA’s generous collection of images.

One can also take a tour of the ISS alongside astronaut Suni Williams here.

Artemis

NASA’s newest mission, named after the twin sister of Apollo, is Artemis. Its primary mission will focus on getting the first woman and next man on the South Pole of the moon (by 2024) in its first lunar landing mission since Apollo 17 in 1972. In addition to this, all missions that include lunar landings will also serve as missions to build knowledge and understanding of the moon and how we may use it to move forward in space exploration.

For these missions, the South Pole of the moon (chosen for its abundance of water) is the primary area of focus for the future Artemis astronauts. NASA states that one of the tasks of the Artemis missions will be to locate this water and ice and be able to utilize it.  Though the ultimate goals of the Artemis missions are not only to put the first woman on the moon, but also to eventually put the collective eyes of humanity on moving toward putting the first humans on Mars.

While many publications and materials are most likely going to be released closer to the execution of the program’s first missions, the Government Publishing Office and NASA have recently released a small promotional booklet and an activity book for ages 4-12 to help the public learn about the program (both of which are available for checkout at the McWherter Library, and the activity book can also be found online in our catalog if you don’t want to come in person!). NASA’s website is another wonderful resource to fulfill any kind of curiosity about the program.

Landsat

Since 1972, the Landsat missions have provided NASA, the USGS, and countless others with data that reflects the changes to our planet’s landscape as humans continue to modify the Earth’s landscape as the decades move forward. Originally known as the “Earth Resources Technology Satellite”, Landsat has about 8, soon to be 9 different models that have adapted to ever changing technology and scientific standards.

Landsat is responsible for more than 8 million images of the Earth’s surface and provides valuable data on human movement, the effects of nature and natural disasters, among so many other sections of scientific development. Its images have even helped scientists discover new species of flora and fauna!

One of the more distinct applications of Landsat is the use of its images to compare ideal landmasses that are identical to the surface of Mars so mission planners can create scenario in preparation for potential habitation of the planet. The land picked for this research just so happened to be on the Big Island of Hawai’i.

Another wonderful contribution that is available to the public through NASA and Landsat is a plethora of at home activities that can satisfy anyone’s knowledge of Landsat or anyone’s need to be occupied. These activities among others can be found here.

Voyager 1

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

NASA’s Journeys into the Outer Solar System

With the recent launch of two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station by a joint effort between the government agency and the private company SpaceX, the first mission of this sort launched from American soil since 2011, there exists the possibility of renewed interest in our nation’s efforts at space travel and exploration, both to (relatively) nearby places such as our Moon and to the far reaches of our solar system. The history of NASA’s unmanned missions to the outer planets, which include Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Uranus, and, once upon a time, Pluto, along with moons of the aforementioned planets, is a storied one. Pioneer 10, the first of these missions, was launched in 1973 and provided information about the solar system beyond Mars, including the first photographs of Jupiter. Check out the NASA website’s page on Pioneer 10 to learn more details about this historic mission, including a clock of how long it has been in space.

Subsequent missions have performed flybys of the other outer planets, along with other firsts for deep space exploration. The Voyager program, the first of its two probes launched in 1977, have sent back invaluable information on the outer planets, and continue to function in this regard in the far reaches of our solar system and beyond. According to NASA’s website, Voyager 1 and 2 became the third and fourth manmade objects, along with Pioneer 10 and 11, to move beyond the “gravitational influence of the Sun.” In 2005, the Cassini-Huygens mission accomplished the first successful probe landing in the outer solar system, on Saturn’s largest moon Titan. One interesting fun fact is that the New Horizons probe was launched in 2006 with the intent of a flyby of Pluto; by the time it reached this goal in 2015, Pluto had been downgraded to a dwarf planet. Nonetheless, the pictures sent back of Pluto’s surface are worth examination, and can be seen here along with more details of the mission at large. And with future missions planned, such as Europa Clipper (which is destined for Jupiter’s moon Europa), NASA will continue to be on the forefront in learning more about the still mysterious outer planets and their moons.

Interested in learning more about this ongoing chapter in NASA’s history? Here are a few resources available through Government Publications that can expand your understanding of these exciting and important missions into deep space.