Welcome to your Patrick Power Library

Hey there, new and returning SMUdents! The start of Fall Semester is almost here and we want to welcome you to Saint Mary’s University and your Patrick Power Library! We’ve lined up some events throughout Welcome Weeks and September to invite you to learn more about the library and how library services will support your academic career — keep reading to learn more. We hope to see you there!

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Brief disruption to Library services May 9-17

As part of the Novanet Consortium of libraries, the SMU Library is updating its online catalogue. While we prepare for the updates to go live, there will be a brief disruption in library services from May 9-17. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience as we upgrade the Library’s catalogue.

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Borrow this year’s Canada Reads contenders from the SMU Library

The ultimate Canadian book battle is taking place from March 28 to 31. During the Canada Reads competition, five celebrity champions defend a book of their choice written by a Canadian. Each day the champions debate and vote to eliminate one title until a winner is declared the book that all Canadians should read.

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Poetics of the Archive, Part 1: “Lost to time”

The Saint Mary’s University Archives recently welcomed students in ENGL/ACST 3307: The Poetics of the Archive to examine records in our collection. This course asks students to respond creatively and critically to archival materials, and we are excited to share excerpts from an assignment in which records in the SMU Archives were the objects of study. This is the first in a collection of 4 excerpts from student assignments, collected by Teaching Assistant Claire Yurkovich, an MA student in the Women and Gender Studies program.

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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.

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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.  

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!