Journals and databases for researching Black history and scholarship

February is African Heritage Month and Black History Month, but we know research about Black history and scholarship isn’t confined to one month of the year. The SMU Library has resources to support your research on these topics year round.

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Read a Challenged Book During Freedom to Read Week

February 20-26 is Freedom to Read week, a celebration of the fundamental rights to intellectual freedom and freedom from censorship. Both rights are guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and are strongly supported by libraries across Canada.

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An e-book & film list for African Heritage Month

Want to do some reading to celebrate African Heritage Month and Black History Month but don’t want to venture into the ice and snow? The Patrick Power Library collection includes over 390,000 electronic books (e-books), with many on Black history topics, all available at your fingertips. We have scholarly books to help with your research and books to read when you need a break from studying. Scroll down for a list of suggested e-reading and video streaming.

Continue reading “An e-book & film list for African Heritage Month”

Take A Look Inside the Lynn Jones Collection for African Heritage Month

Dr. Lynn Jones has loved collecting and sharing stories about her community since she was a child. When she was around 8 years old, she became curious about the articles and other “exciting things” her mother collected on the kitchen table of their family home in Truro, Nova Scotia.1 The joy she found in exploring her mother’s collection quickly turned into a lifelong passion for scrapbooking and collecting material of her own interest.2 Now, after more than 50 years and a career as an athlete, politician, activist, and community worker, Dr. Jones has collected thousands of news clippings, meeting minutes, programs, reports and other material documenting Black life.

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Lest We Forget: Preserving our Audiovisual History

Canadian Officer Training Corps students at Windsor Street Campus, ca. 1940.

Did you know that October 27th was World Day for Audiovisual Heritage?

If you didn’t- well, now you do! As Remembrance Day draws near and we spend time reflecting on the past, it’s worth considering how we as a society preserve our collective history.

Unlike books and journal articles, audiovisual (AV) materials can be difficult to access. They’re also more challenging to preserve. Luckily, through Saint Mary’s, you have access to audio visual heritage materials via the University Archive. The physical Archives are located on the third floor of the library, but you can access some materials online through the institutional repository.  

Here’s a quick Q&A with Hansel Cook, the librarian responsible for archives and special collections, on the status of audiovisual materials at SMU.

Q: What are audiovisual (AV) materials?

A: You can broadly describe AV material based on either the output format – audio, video, and photos being the obvious ones, of course – and the transmission medium, which includes digital files, as well as tapes, film, CDs, and a whole lot more. You can make the case that the definition of AV material could be expanded to include many more non-text formats, from video games to 3D printer files!Even if they are not the same thing, they have many of the same preservation and access concerns. 

Q: Why is the preservation of audiovisual materials important?

A: The two big concerns with AV material are: 1. decay of the physical medium, which includes things like video tapes becoming unplayable, and 2. loss of transmission standards, specifically, the inability to read the format even if the file itself has not decayed. This could be because it is using a piece of software that is not readable by current standards (how many people can open a WordStar word processing document?), or because the player/reader itself is obsolete (anyone own a Beta tape player these days?). 

Q: What are the challenges to accessing audiovisual materials as part of our documentary heritage?  

A: One of the solutions to access is also one of the solutions to preservation: transfer the AV material to a new, more-accessible digital format before the physical medium decays to the point that you can no longer read it. The challenge is that you still need to make decisions on transmission format and medium, which may make it easier to access the material now, but is it archival? How long will this new medium last? 

Other challenges include much larger file sizes, and the fact that every time you digitize something you may lose some of the authenticity of the original format. For example, oral history interviews transferred from a cassette tape format into a digital format are, in theory, more accessible, but are you losing anything in the way of authenticity? Did the fact that most cassette tapes record in 30-minute chunks play any part in how the original interview was conducted, and would you know that from a digital file? 

Q: What contributions can audiovisual materials make to research (as opposed to print materials like books or journal articles)?

A: AV material is an important primary source, and one that, due to the preservation issues mentioned above, has a higher chance to be lost through decay than more stable formats (like most paper). Also, AV material is, for lack of a better word, flashy! It’s an easy way to get people interested in your collection or in a topic and can be shared via social media and other formats to increase awareness, in a way that print materials cannot. If a picture is worth 1000 words, a video might be worth even more… 

Q: What audiovisual materials are available through the Patrick Power Library Archives?  

A: Most of our AV materials are related to the University itself, and includes oral history interviews with past staff, faculty and students, and video tapes of convocations and other university events. Much of our material has been digitized for the Institutional Repository, including old sports films from the 1960s of football and basketball games, as well as our entire University photo collection. 

There is so much to explore at the University Archives. You can visit the University Archives section of the institutional repository and take a trip to the past at Saint Mary’s University through audiovisual materials! This includes SMU’s involvement in the World Wars. AV materials in the Repository include an oral history interview with C. Anthony Law, the first curator of Saint Mary’s Art Gallery, who enlisted in the Canadian Navy in 1939 and went on to become one of Canada’s most prominent war artists. More information on Tony Law’s collection can be found at MemoryNS. You’ll also find a documentary on Stanisław Swianiewicz, a former Professor of Economics at Saint Mary’s, who served in the Polish army in World War Two and is the only known survivor of the Katyn Forest Massacre.

If you’re interested in learning more, or have additional questions, feel free to connect with a member of the Research Help team at the Patrick Power Library.

Latin American Heritage Month 

The Day of the Dead display in the Patrick Power Library, put together by Dr. Erica Fischer, from the Department of Modern Languages and Classics.

Did you know that October was Latin American Heritage Month? Latin American Heritage month was established in 2018 to recognize the significant contributions that members of the Latin American community have made to the social, economic and political make-up of Canada. The month was officially designated by the Latin American Heritage Month Act as a way to express gratitude to the Latin American community and promote the celebration of diversity. 

Latin American Heritage Month gives us the opportunity to learn about and acknowledge the vibrant cultures, traditions and history of the Latin American community in Canada that continue to enrich our nation today. Music, cuisine, literature, art, architecture, dance, and language are some of the many things that the diverse Latin American culture has brought to Canada.

One of the most recognized holidays that takes place just after Latin American Heritage Month is Día de los Muertos – Day of the Dead. The two-day event is takes place on  November 2nd to 3rd with festivities that celebrate and remember the lives of family and friends who have past.  You can learn more about Day of the Dead by checking out the display in the Patrick Power Library, or explore more about the holiday here.

There is so much to learn during Latin American Heritage Month that we couldn’t possibly pick one topic to cover. That is why we encourage you to do your own research, on a topic of interest to you!   

Below you will find a list of journals that will help you start to learn more about Latin American Heritage.  

If you’re just starting to learn about Latin American history and culture, there’s lots of information available – we know that can be both exciting and overwhelming! If have a question, are unsure where to start, or are looking for some extra assistance, don’t hesitate to contact our Research Help team.  

The Economics of Halloween

A broom on a porch next to a sign that says "Eat, drink, and be scary".
Photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

Holidays like Halloween are great for the economy (and enjoying festivities and treats!). Extra purchases like decorations, costumes, celebrations and of course, candy create a significant short-term boost that would not happen without the formal holiday.

But what’s the true cost of Halloween for Canadians? How significant is the impact?

We went to the Statista and Statistics Canada databases (provided to you by the Patrick Power Library), to find the spookiest and most surprising statistics about Halloween in Canada. Check out the stats, explore the databases and let us know if you find any other interesting facts by commenting below!  


The Jack-O-Lantern is a classic Halloween decoration, created by carving a pumpkin. In 2018, Canadian growers produced 75,855 metric tons of pumpkins which can be turned into decorations, pumpkin pies, or pumpkin spiced lattes! In addition to pumpkin décor and goodies, Canadians also spend an average of $43 on Halloween decorations each year. With just over 16 million people planning to purchase Halloween related items this year, the economic impact of these festivities is sure to give you ‘pumpkin’ to talk about (see what we did there?).


There are many ways to celebrate Halloween. If one of your favourite festivities is attending a costume party, you’re not alone! It has been noted by Statista that an average of $77 is spent by Canadians attending a party, with an additional average of $55 for drink purchases. If catching a scary movie is more your style, you’re also in good company- approximately 96,032,391 tickets are sold in Canada for all types of movies as of 2018.  


One of the best things about Halloween is dressing up, right? Must be- there are about 2,270 businesses that provide costume rental services in Canada as of June 2017. Whether you’re renting, purchasing or doing a DIY, the average amount of money spent on a costume in Canada is $52. Halloween makes a significant contribution to the estimated annual total value of vestments and costumes, which is $3.8 million in Canada.


Trick or treat! About 3.87 million children between the ages of five and fourteen trick or treat on Halloween across Canada. This promotes the sales of approximately $613.2 million worth of candy, cookies and other snack food items sold at large retailers across the nation. The average Canadian spends about $42 on candy each Halloween in Canada.

In Conclusion…

Halloween can have a big impact on the economy and the stores you’re purchasing from, due to the increased spending associated with the holiday. We encourage you to think about ways you could choose to shop local this Halloween. Maybe this could even save you a buck or two! We hope you stay safe and have a Spook-tacular Halloween this year!

If you’re curious and want help digging up some more stats, data, or information about Halloween, or any other subject, please connect with Research Help.

Faculty Author Series: Creating Sustainable Change Around the World with Dr. Tony Charles

What are communities around the world doing to conserve their local environments? What motivates them? How do they handle things like decision making and power when working to create sustainable local solutions to global problems?

In honour of Open Access Week, we’re celebrating the recent publication of Communities, Conservation and Livelihoods, a freely-available book that explores how communities around the work balance conserving their local environment with sustaining their livelihoods.

Communities, Conservation and Livelihoods is the product of over a decade of work and meaningful collaboration on the part of the Saint Mary’s-based Community Conservation Research Network (CCRN), an “international initiative to study and support local communities in their efforts to engage in environmental conservation that sustains local livelihoods, and to encourage best practices of governments to support these community initiatives.”

This book also takes us on a journey around the world, showcasing real initiatives in real communities who are working to address challenges and strike a balance between the economy and the environment.

Join us online or in the Library Classroom next Wednesday, October 27 at noon to hear from Dr. Charles on how this book came about and the research behind it; what it was like to work with so many collaborators across the globe; and how they and why the contributors decided to make it a freely available ebook.

The Research Toolkit workshops are back for Fall 2021!

Every Tuesday and Thursday evening throughout October, starting October 14th, students can once again tune in to the popular Research Toolkit workshops to learn advanced research tactics.

Facilitated by librarians from the Patrick Power Library, and delivered via Microsoft Teams, the Fall 2021 Research Toolkit workshops are a great opportunity for research assistants, teaching assistants, and graduate students to connect with one another and with information experts, ask questions, and expand their research skills and knowledge.    

“The Research Toolkit is designed to provide a solid foundation for students who need to develop advanced research skills,” explains Heather Sanderson, Information Literacy Librarian and co-creator of the workshops. The sessions are geared towards research assistants, teaching assistants, graduate students, honour students and anyone who is ready to move on to more advanced search techniques.

The sessions include key topics such as citation searching; effective searching of Google and Google Scholar to find grey literature, and finding and using data and statistics. Students will also learn the basics of copyright in academia.

Whether you are interested in one session or all five, you only need to register once! Students who attend any one session will receive access to all recordings.

Those interested can register online anytime.

For more information, please contact Information Literacy Librarian, Heather Sanderson ( or Instructional Development Librarian, Cindy Harrigan (

Research Toolkit – Fall 2021 Schedule

Thursday, October 14, 2021

5:30 – 6:30           “Researching the Literature Review” with Heather Sanderson

What is a literature review, and what do you need one for? Where do they appear, and how they are typically organized? We’ll cover several key tools and strategies for crafting your lit review, such as citation searching, to help you be more comprehensive and systematic in your literature searches.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

5:30 – 6:30          “Internet Expertise for Researchers” with Cindy Harrigan

This session will focus on how to find useful, quality information for academic or scholarly research, using Google and Google Scholar. Topics covered include grey literature, search strategies, and tips on how to evaluate search results. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

5:30 – 6:30         “Show Me the Numbers: Stats and Data Discovery Tools to Support your Research” with Joyce Thomson

This session will focus on key concepts and challenges in finding data and statistics for your research as well as several useful places and strategies to explore, particularly for survey data from Statistics Canada.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

5:30 – 6:30         “Scholarly Journal Quality and Open Access” with Peter Webster

Can you identify the quality of a scholarly journal? This is a key skill for researchers and authors. Topics covered include various impact measures in use and strategies to identify the “best” articles in a subject area, as well as the benefits of open access and how to avoid predatory journals.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

5:30 – 6:30         “Copyright and You: What You Need to Know” with Amy Lorencz

How does copyright relate to your thesis/dissertation? Quite a lot, actually! Save yourself a headache later on by tuning in to learn about licenses, Creative Commons, using images, and what you need to know before you submit.

How and why you should diversify your reading list!

Cozy up to a new book this Thanksgiving weekend. Photo by Alex Geerts on Unsplash.

As we gear up for a long Thanksgiving weekend, in addition to rest and relaxation (always a must!), we recommend picking up a good book- maybe one that wouldn’t ordinarily appear on your reading list.


Maybe you’re not much of a reader, and would like to start reading for fun (not just for classes). Maybe you’re interested in a particular topic. That’s great! Take this opportunity to start. See if you can pick up a book by an author from a community other than your own.

Or maybe you already read for fun. Maybe you read a wide range of books, from fiction to biographies. That’s diverse, right?

Well…yes and no. While you might read different genres of books, it’s important to ask yourself: “who’s writing what I read?” Have you picked up a book lately that was written by someone outside your community, race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity? If not, this is a great opportunity to do so!

Reading diversely means seeking out books that are written and/or illustrated by marginalized writers. It means reading stories that use culture in various ways – for example, maybe the main character is a marginalized person, but their identity is not the focus of the plot. Or, perhaps cultural influence helps to set the scene of a story. There’s no “one approach” to establish what a diverse book is. “Diverse books” simply means books that highlight experiences not typically represented in literature or the media.

Why is it important to read diversely?

Diversifying representation in our books is strongly associated with positive outcomes such as breaking down negative stereotypes, increasing opportunities to self-identify with characters, and improving our empathy for others. In addition, reading diverse books provide readers with a safe space to challenge our own assumptions about different cultures while growing our own awareness and understanding, without burdening those from marginalized communities whom we may know with our well-intentioned questions.

Diversifying your reading also helps to support marginalized authors and illustrators. Currently, most major publishing houses are dominated by white writers. This is problematic, because the people “behind the book scenes” act as gatekeepers, determining which voices are amplified and which are not. In a study done by the New York Times in 2018, only 11% of the books in their sample were written by people of colour. The infographic below illustrates data collected from the 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey showing that diversity in publishing is lacking.

These charts show the the demographics of the publishing industry circa 2019.

One thing we can do to help change these results is to diversify our reading lists! Here’s how to start:

Search by Genre 

Start with what you know and love.

If you’re just beginning to read for fun, think about what interests you, and look for a book on that topic.

If you’re already a reader, diversifying your reading list doesn’t mean forgetting about the books you already know and love! Use your favourite genres to help you find books by marginalized writers. You can use the following resources to help you search:

  • Connect with Research Help at the Patrick Power Library – we love chatting about novels and helping your search for your next favourite read!
  • Browse the Halifax Public Libraries’ website for curated reading lists and recommendations.
  • Browse GoodReads for lists – use terms like ‘author of colour’ in the search box to find reading lists such as the 2019 Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy books. 
  • We Need Diverse Books is a great grassroots organization specializing in helping people like you find diverse books that you will love. Check out their list of sites that offer recommendations for diverse titles here.

Search for Authors 

Next, you can search for popular and diverse authors.

You can do this by using search terms like ‘popular BIPOC’ or ‘popular LGBTQ’ or ‘popular disabled’ authors. These search terms will lead you to several lists of authors and books that you can explore!

You can use the #OwnVoice when searching for diverse books and authors. The #OwnVoice is used to tag books where under-represented authors have written from their perspective to share their own experiences. Using #OwnVoice to guide your search can help diversify your reading list by finding authentic stories with true representation.

Here are a few #OwnVoice books from the Patrick Power Library:

  1. There there by Tommy Orange
  2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  4. Between the world and me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  5. On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Search for Resources 

One of the best ways to learn about and stay up to date on the latest diverse reads is by following individuals and organizations that advocate for diversity. We recommend researching online book clubs, diverse book blogs, or bookstagramers that suit your interests!

Although diversifying your reading list helps to improve your perspective of other identities and cultures, keep in mind that teaching readers is not these books’ sole (or even main) purpose. Every book tells a unique story, and engaging with that story is so much of the beauty of reading widely!

Ultimately, the best reason to diversify your reading list is to have more fun. Books are opportunities to explore the world through the eyes of someone whose life experience is vastly different than our own, and to learn about different identities, cultures, and worldviews. Living and learning through books can make life more interesting, fun, and exciting, and make us all more empathetic, compassionate, and understanding humans in the process.

Do you have a book recommendation, or more tips for diversifying your reading list? Please let us know in the comments!

Also, don’t forget that if you live in Halifax, you’re eligible for a FREE library card through Halifax Public Libraries, where you can find all kinds of books in all kinds of formats- so if reading a physical book isn’t your jam, try an ebook, an audiobook, or even try diversifying your playlist or movie watching!