All posts tagged "culture"

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The Internet: Friend or Foe?

Unlike previous generations, many of us spend a good deal of our working and recreational lives "plugged in" to the Internet – whether through a computer, tablet, smart phone, or some other electronic device. The benefits of the Internet seem so obvious that its value tends to be taken for granted. Thanks to the Internet, our access to information, social interaction, and entertainment has never been greater or more immediate. But what if there’s a cost to all that time we spend "plugged in"?


The Internet is unique in the history of mankind. It provides multiple, simultaneously streaming channels of information, with more streams of information just a click away. Is it possible that access to all this attention-fragmenting information has negative consequences for the human mind? Internet critics such as Nicholas Carr say "yes." Carr argues that the almost unlimited possibilities for distraction available through the Internet have adverse effects on memory, learning, and even our humanity.  Internet defenders disagree. They argue that the Internet is either a neutral tool that has benefits and costs depending on how it is used or a positive influence on individuals, culture, and/or society.


Who’s right? The San José Public Library can help answer that question. In his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, accomplished writer and thinker Nicholas Carr presents persuasive evidence for the problematic consequences of the Internet. Check out these other books on the individual and social consequences of the Internet and explore this important issue for yourself!

cover image of Alone Together cover image of Cult of the Amateur cover image of Dumbest Generation cover image of Smarter than you Think

Question of the Week: History of Mexico, Culture, & Customs

A 6th Grade student requested assistance on his research to retrieve resources for his school assignment on the history of Mexico including culture and customs.  He asked for books and articles, including magazines and newspapers.


First, I recommended the library catalog for books and provided a search strategy on "Mexico, Culture, Customs". The customer selected the book: Mañana Forever?: Mexico and the Mexicans from the General Collections at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. Then we changed our approach and limited the search to the "Children’s Collection". The student selected two books: Costume Around the World: Mexico and from the section on "Countries/States" he selected the book Mexico.


Secondly, I recommended using the printed World Book Encyclopedia for his research and looked up Mexico for his topic.  The student selected a 2012 printed edition of The World Book Encyclopedia in order to checkout.


Thirdly, I also recommended and searched the SJPL databases for articles including the History Reference Center and Academic Search Complete.


Using the terms "Mexico, Culture, and Customs" in searching the History Reference Center database, the student selected the article "Mexican Holidays. By: Kalman, Bobbie, Mexico: The Culture, 2002". Also, by using the same terms in the Academic Search Complete database, the article "Extending Current Boundaries Between the Private, Domestic and Public Display of Mourning, Love and Visual Culture in Mexico City" was selected.


Finally, I recommended and searched the SJPL database World Book Student using search the term "Mexico".  A complete article is available on Mexico. Also suggested to use database Masterfile Premiere ("Articles from Magazines, Journals & Newspapers") and did an Advanced Search on "Mexico, Culture, and Customs" and the customer selected two articles by Goldman, Phyllis Barkas: "Mexico's Unique Culture" and "Monkeyshines on Mexico".


The student was amazed having retrieved all information for his school assignment and excited to learn that he can have access to all the SJPL databases from home with his valid SJPL card.


See more Questions of the Week

Hey, Back Off! , You Grow Girl! , and Inside Out and Back Again

Hey, Back Off! book coverWritten by two teachers, Jennie Withers and Phyllis Hendrickson, M. Ed., Hey, Back Off! sheds lights on the topics of Teen Harassment and Bullying At School.  It helps both parents and teens understand more about the Harassment Law , the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (outlawing harassment),  the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (prohibiting discrimination based on disability).


This book helps readers realize different types of bullying: cyberbullying (sending mean text messages), sexual harassment, verbal teasing, and hitting or punching.  It explores different cases and different personalities:  passive teens (who have passive parents) becoming victims, and bullies being bullies because they have aggressive parents, and it shows how a person can become assertive from being passive or aggressive.  It portrays true life experiences of agressive people and how they become that way.  After reading the chapters on these cases of Passive Personalities and Aggressive Personalities, I realized that the authors have helped people on both sides of the spectrum:  victims of bullying and the bullies.


October was the Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. is an important web site to check out.  Go to "Resources, "Public Awareness", click on "Bullying Prevention Awareness Month" to learn about "Facts and Tips for Teens" to stay safe from cyberbullying.  This site also provides us with links regarding other types of abuse/bullying:  "Finding Help for Sexually Abused Children", "National Homeless Youth Awareness Month", and "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month".  Under "Get Help Now", there are links to crisis hotlines, victim assistance programs, how to deal with school crises, how to help abused or neglected children, and more.



You Grow Girl! book coverWritten by two conselors and moms, Gina Scarano-Osika and KimDever-Johnson, this book You Grow Girl:  A Self-Empowering Workbook for Tweens and Teens is definitely a book to be shared with your friends and you parents/teachers/conselors.  It helps you build self-esteem and body confidence, understand and maintain healthy eating attitudes, learning about stress management and how to cope with stress, how to nourish positive thinking and eliminate negative feelings.  It depicts female role models from various backgrounds and ethnicities.  It encourages teens to become beautiful inside and out by giving teens different scenarios and thought-provoking exercises.  Issues such as culture and peer pressures, deceptive media images, food/weight, mindfulness, etc. are also explored. 


Gracefully prepared by two conselors, this book offers a lot of wisdom to girls ages 9 to 16.  Strongly recommended to not just girls, but to Moms and Dads alike.


Inside Out & Back Again book coverAfter hitting the book market in 2011, this book Inside Out and Back Again quickly became a best-seller.  The month of October was the Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, and this book once again was actively sought after.  Every year thousands of high school students are being bullied due to differences in religion and culture or norm, or the way they portray themselves, dress, talk, or socialize.   Among these student victims of bullying, many came from Vietnam.  This book is a series of heartfelt poems telling stories of how Ha`, the protagonist, went through years of being bullied by her classmates, and how she coped with bullying. 


Her story is symbolic of the high school life of many other Vietnamese students and students of other ethnic backgrounds who came here to America when they were in the ages of 9 to 18.  In the end of the book,  Ha` delivered a powerful message to the world:  she stood up, "gave her bullies a lesson" by becoming an excellent student whom both her family members and the school officials were so proud of.


This book won many awards such as Newbery Honor, National Book Award, and was placed on the New York Times Bestsellers list.  You can access the Newbery Medal home page through SJPL (San Jose Public Library) home page,, under "Homework, research, articles", then go to "Research Guides", "Books and Literature", "Book Awards", "Newbery Medal".


June was the month to recognize the refugees' plight.  Again, check out the web site to understand the refugees and the circumstances they have to live through.  Go to "Resources", "Public Awareness, click on "World Refugee Awareness Month". 


Hopefully you will see the image of yourself and your friends' through these books and the web sites recommended here, and will do your part to foster a better learning environment for your school.


Ha` was one of hundreds of thousands of political refugees who left Vietnam in 1975 when she was 10 years old.  She and her family settled in Alabama.  Her pen-name is Thanhha Lai.  Her first name is Ha`, Thanhha`, or Thanhha.

Online Book Club - The Butterfly Mosque, Week 4

The Butterfly Mosque coverFor March 2012, our Online Book Club continues by discussing The Butterfly Mosque by Willow Wilson, another featured title of this year's community reading program, Silicon Valley Reads, which focuses on the theme "Muslim and American."


Each week, we'll put forth a different question to prompt reflection on the book and its ideas.  We hope you will participate in the discussion by leaving comments below!


For Week 4, we'd like to ask: After reading about Willow's experience living in Egypt, how has your perception of life in the United States changed or deepened? Have any personal trips abroad had a similar effect on you?


Reading about Willow's life in Cairo, it really hit me how fortunate we are in the United States to have relatively clean environments in which to live.  Dealing with our air pollution is one thing, but I'm not sure how long I would last breathing in smelly dust from desert dirt.  And I'd gladly risk pesticides and preservatives over having to dodge maggot-infested fruit and contaminated meat.


I also was struck by Willow's surreal experience with Patriot Act survelliance in the Denver airport.  Of course, she still has no idea what really happened - that trenchcoat-wearing man who snapped her photo could have just been an ordinary guy who wanted a picture of an odd white woman in a hijab.  But clearly survelliance was going on - as evidenced by the experience of her friends who were questioned.  I guess I'd hope the authorities would've concluded much earlier that she didn't pose a threat.  It's scary that this could happen to you for so long without any obvious signs and then that innocent people would continue to have their lives inconvenienced by their own government.


Finally, I could relate to the embarassment she felt in the taxi when the other American girls launched into a loud, sexually-explicit, conversation.  In my first trip overseas, I was intent on experiencing life in another country on its own terms and not my own.  Unfortunately, I had to share this experience with other American college students who were only interested in getting drunk on a daily basis and made no attempt to modify their behavior to fit their new environment.


What about you? How has your perception of life in the United States changed or deepened after reading the book? Have personal trips abroad had a similar effect on you?


See our Online Book Club page for more information about this book and the previous weeks' questions

Online Book Club - The Muslim Next Door, Week 3

The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing by Sumbul Ali-KamaliFor February 2012, our new Online Book Club is discussing The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing, by Sumbul Ali-Karamali.  This is one of the books chosen for the community reading program, Silicon Valley Reads, which this year focuses on the theme "Muslim and American."


Each week, we'll put forth a different question to prompt reflection on the book and its ideas.  We hope you will participate in the discussion by leaving comments below!


For Week 3, we'd like to ask:

Can you think of aspects of your own tradition/culture/religion that could be misunderstood or perceived in a negative light?


Throughout her book Ms. Ali-Karamali writes about how Islam is misunderstood and often confused with culture/politics.  She writes about the misunderstandings her friends and co-workers had about her religious beliefs and practices, ranging from dating to the role of women, to evolution. 


As a child, my family was never involved in any organized religion.  Upon leaving my hometown for college, I was surprised to have new friends and acquaintances ask me how I could live a moral life without a religion to guide me.  My parents had taught me much about evaluating a situation and acting in a responsible manner; yet my friends wondered how I could know I was doing the right thing if I didn’t have a religious text or tradition to turn to.


This is only my personal experience, but perhaps you have a completely different experience you would like to share.  Tell us:  Can you think of aspects of your own tradition/culture/religion that could be misunderstood or perceived in a negative light?


See our Online Book Club page for more information about this book and to preview the next weeks' questions

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