February is Black History Month, and it’s this time every year that we honor, celebrate, and highlight the achievements of African Americans that have helped shape our nation.
Reading books written by Black authors or about Black history is a great way to amplify those underrepresented voices, learn from personal experiences, and help contextualize systemic issues for those who are not impacted by them firsthand. It can help to deepen our understanding of the ongoing struggle for racial equality and justice, and provide a greater appreciation for black culture.
If you’re looking for a place to start your journey, we’ve picked out a short list of wonderful reads for Black History Month. These 12 books get to the heart of many of the racial issues from our country’s past, leading into the present, as well as how to make a better future. All of these books freely are available through FSU Libraries. Check out the catalog on our website to search for more titles!
by Nikole Hannah-Jones &The New York Times Magazine
The award-winning “1619 Project” issue reframed our understanding of American history by placing slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. This new book substantially expands on that work, weaving together eighteen essays that explore the legacy of slavery in present-day America with thirty-six poems and works of fiction that illuminate key moments of oppression, struggle, and resistance. The essays show how the inheritance of 1619 reaches into every part of contemporary American society, from politics, music, diet, traffic, and citizenship to capitalism, religion, and our democracy itself.
“Invisible Man” is a thought-provoking and witty story about race that is beautifully narrated by a young, nameless Black man in 1950s America in search of self-knowledge. Readers are taken on a journey from the Deep South to Harlem, where the protagonist experiences horrifying intolerance, cultural blindness and racial bigotry all in an effort to find the true meaning of self-identity.
Image courtesy of Amazon. Description provided by CNN, 2022.
In “Between the World and Me” Ta-Nehisi Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, “Between the World and Me” clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to “Mister,” a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Beginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves. A deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, “How the Word Is Passed” illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view—whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods like downtown Manhattan, where the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women, and children has been deeply imprinted.
“The New Jim Crow” is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement. The novel challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.
When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the black community owned less than 1 percent of the total wealth in America. More than 150 years later, that number has barely budged. “The Color of Money” seeks to explain the stubborn persistence of this racial wealth gap by focusing on the generators of wealth in the black community: black banks.
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned, and Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
In “Heavy,” the author Kiese Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, he charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and, in front of everybody, shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range. The author brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the residents who witnessed it, the local cops assigned to investigate, and the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion.
FSU Libraries invite you to join us to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Love Data Week, and our love of learning! This year, come and spread the love with our engagement team, who are hosting a variety of events during the second and third weeks of February in both Strozier and Dirac.
There will be two Valentine’s Day tabling events with free exclusive merch on February 8 and February 13 at Strozier. We will also host a special tabling in collaboration with our STEM librarians to share our love for all things data on February 16 and 17.
Aside from tabling, expect a pop-up performance from FSU’s Fountain Five Quintet at Strozier and a virtual Data Analysis with Microsoft Excel Workshop from our Data at Your Desk workshop series on February 14. If you can’t make the performance, be sure to follow us on Instagram to tune into our live transmission and stay up to date with all the events and new swag that we have prepared for this month.
Lastly, make sure to check out our Blind Date with a Book display! It will be up all month on the first floor of Strozier.
Ever wondered what it’s like to work at the library? We sat down to talk shop with one of our Part-Time Engagement Assistants, Jaidyn Smith, who has been with the Libraries since February 2022.
What’s your major and year in school?
I’m a Junior Communication Sciences and Disorders Student.
What’s a song that best describes you?
I would have to say Björk’s “Atopos – Side Project Remix” really connects with me. Like it’s really unique beat wise and that’s really how I would describe myself. I can never really be truly comfortable unless I’m pushing the bounds in some way.
What made you interested in working for the libraries’ engagement team?
From the moment I stepped onto campus, I looked for a way to help out at the Libraries. Growing up, I was always really into books and would go out of my way to surround myself with them whether it be volunteering at my high school library or winning bingo night at my local bookstore. Initially, I just would have been fine working anywhere but I think the Engagement Team is the perfect role for me. I love campus events and connecting with people and this allows me to do both.
What have been some of your favorite projects while working here?
The postcards event was super fun. It was a lot of work to create and I know the whole team put a lot of effort into it. I think the students really appreciated the opportunity to send a postcard. I also loved the Add-Your-Art Tapestry event. One of my favorite parts of the job is being able to connect with other students. It was nice to just be able to de-stress, talk about our lives, and see the students make some awesome art.
Is there a resource or service that the library offers that you wish more people knew about?
I think people could benefit from knowing all the different ways to access their class text. I know all my friends complain about paying a bunch of money for a book they only reference a couple of times and don’t use again after the semester ends. We have a huge eTextbook collection for a wide variety of classes. We also have Course Reserves where you can rent a textbook in the library for a period of two hours. If you need to use that textbook outside of the library, there’s a book scanner. Imagine all the money you could save.
Last Question – what’s your favorite book?
My favorite book right now has to be Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. I think Yanagihara is masterful with her storytelling and really brings life to her complex, emotionally hurting characters. Reading the story has allowed me to connect to my emotions in a way I didn’t previously think a book could. A Little Life also introduced me to my favorite photographer Peter Hujar which is a cool bonus.
This blog post was written by Jaidyn Smith, Student Engagement Assistant at FSU Libraries.
FSU Libraries’ Art in the Library Committee organizes visual and performing arts programming in its spaces to enrich the library as an aesthetic and academic environment. A major part of this program includes exhibiting artwork drawn from the FSU student body on a semester-long basis.
Danielle Wirsansky is a PhD student in History, and her photography focuses on storytelling and themes of anemoia, a longing for a time or place which you’ve never known, may never know, and which is always changing. Gizem Solmaz is a PhD candidate in Curriculum and Instruction and her astrophotography represents the meaning of the deep feelings digested in space, allowing her to express her own feelings in the moment of artistic creation.
The Sum of Many Spaces: Landscape Photography and the Sense of Self, featuring the photography of both artists, is on view at Dirac Science Library during the Spring 2023 semester.
FSU Libraries (FSU): Tell us about this show- give our readers a brief introduction to the work you are exhibiting with us this semester.
Danielle Wirsansky (DW): My works in this show are from a series of nature and landscape photographs taken when I was in Israel. I was born there, and I moved to the US as a child – however, I have always felt a dichotomy of identity with both nations. There is a term, orachat la’regah or “a visitor that comes only for a moment.” This is a theme across my pieces – seeing Israel as someone like a visitor, even though I was born there and am a citizen. Gizem Solmaz (GS): I have always loved photography. One of my youngest memories was when I was about 6 on a family trip and I somehow got control of the camera. My parents were shocked to find all sky photos, no family photos. While this disappointed my parents, I was so excited. This is the first time I was sharing what I saw through my eyes with other people. For the photos in this show at FSU Libraries, as a woman in Turkey I took these photos alone, in the dark, and in that experience I felt so strong and accomplished. I am thrilled to share these with everyone. This exhibition gives me a chance to do just that, so it’s so really emotional.
(FSU): What is your favorite work in this show? Tell us a little more about the story behind it.
(DW): I think it’s actually the piece called Prayer with the woman at the Western wall praying. I was photographing people who wanted really candid photos and I snapped this in the middle of the shoot. I found it really moving and powerful, a special moment in this place that’s important to so many people. (GS): I think In Limbo, because when I was 8 years old in 1999 there was a massive, deadly earthquake in Turkey. I was the first person in my family to wake, and I remember looking at the clear sky, thinking how it felt so close to us because all the lights were out. The city around us was destroyed but I felt so connected with the sky and the stars. I felt safe and like it would all be ok. When I took In Limbo I remembered that night. I was alone with another female friend and we were so scared but we didn’t leave. When I got home I let myself look at the photos to see if I was able to capture the composition I had in my mind, and I was so glad to see it worked. All that fear was worth it and I was so proud of myself for working through it. I would also like to mention that this photograph won the People’s Choice Award at the FSU HSF Excellence in the Visual Arts Awards Exhibition.
(FSU): What does your artwork represent about you? What message do you want to send out into the world through your art?
(DW): Usually, I don’t do landscape photography – I make more portraits. In all my work I get to construct the story I want people to take away, but this series of landscape photography is really personal. It’s about me, as a citizen of Israel and as an American. More generally I like to explore these feelings of longing, like anemoia. That’s really evident through this exhibition because there are so many people who want to go to Israeli but may never get there. These photographs give viewers a glimpse of this place but also into me. (GS): All my life, whenever I get excited about something or try something new, I feel like I’ve been discouraged often that I won’t succeed or I’m wasting my time. No one ever supported or encouraged me to try things. I would like to tell the whole world not to listen to the negativity of others – what matters is what you want to do and what makes you happy. If I had listened to those people I would not be here and exhibiting right now at FSU Libraries. I also think we should keep people close to us who do support our dreams. In fact, I didn’t know about this opportunity until a close colleague told me about it and encouraged me to apply. I wouldn’t have done it without him. Look for the people that show you the light.
(FSU): How does being a student impact your creative process?
(DW): I find that I’ve been really good about making opportunities for myself as a student to combine my research with art making opportunities, and also taking advantage of UROP which sparked so many chances for me to take so many paths that I didn’t think I would. My artwork would not be where it is, I wouldn’t be where I am if I had not been a student for so long. I’ve been at FSU since 2012 and my craft has really grown since this time started. (GS): For taking astrophotos you need expensive equipment to really capture the wide sky views, but because I was a student I was able to take advantage of a program Fuji Film has to freely borrow equipment and learn how to work with it. Similar to the opportunities provided through the Libraries and other student organizations, I was able to explore other opportunities to work through my photography and think through different ways of my creativity.
(FSU):Is research part of your art-making process? If so, could you give us an idea of what that process is like? Where do you do research before you start making? Are there any specific kinds of information that are critical to your work?
(DW): Absolutely. I got involved with research early through UROP at FSU and I was actually part of the first cohort of arts researchers – it was still small and there were almost no arts research projects for me to work on. I ended up working as an assistant to a History professor and I enjoyed that research work so much that I decided to pursue a MA and eventually a PhD in History. My research is also heavily informed by dramaturgy practices as I was a Theatre undergraduate major. With this influence I am very detail-oriented and that shows in my photography. For example, this summer I did two concept shoots while I was in Israel. One was a reinterpretation of the medieval Ecclesia and Synagoga – I thought a lot about how they were depicted then, why, and how I wanted to depict them as equals to craft this new narrative. So in researching I wanted to find new and creative ways to tell the story and to share that with my viewers. (GS): Yes, research is a BIG part of astrophotography. You need to know when stars or planets or the Milky Way will appear in the sky, what the weather will be like with temperature and humidity, and if specific sites will photograph well. This may not require advanced research skills but it really does require research. Sometimes research for astrophotography includes site visits before you shoot to see what it looks like in person as well. My research process also includes getting to know my photography equipment, practicing techniques, and learning about how other photographers use their equipment. Research in general is a really big part of my personal and professional life, but photography really pushed me to search more, experiment more, and even fail more in the process.
(FSU): Who are your biggest artistic influences?
(DW): Bella Kotak is a photographer I admire. She does fairy tale-type photography where she inserts herself into her photos within these fantasies. She is South East Asian and lately she’s been pulling in fairy tales from her culture as well. I also really admire Jamie Beck. She does a lot of photography on nature and her work looks like paintings. Her work is full of symbolism and is evocative of old paintings. I really like her style and I’m interested in trying something like it one day.
(FSU): Are there any trends in the art world (past or present) that influence you?
(GS): Not really, I was never really looking at trends through art. I was more involved with the techniques of astrophotography, but I might look more into trends to think through different perspectives moving forward. I do follow other astrophotographers – they travel and work to speak about climate change or poverty, and their stories have impacted me. I appreciate their work and the purpose behind it.
(FSU): How does art-making fit into your day-to-day life?
(DW): Right now I am studying for my Ph.D. comps in January and for me, it’s been a great way to both procrastinate and do something I enjoy. In my daily life, I try to do photography everywhere I can. I work as a social media assistant for the History department and I’ve been really fortunate to be able to focus on more creative, cinematic projects in that role. I am also a co-founder and the managing director of White Mouse, a theatre company here at FSU. I sometimes still do marketing photography for them. I hope after comps I can also do more creative shoots just for me.
(FSU): Why do you make art?
(GS): I don’t know if it is because I am an extroverted person but I’ve always felt like I had something to tell and add to this world. But then I’ve learned in life that not everyone will want to hear about you or what you think. What I’ve learned is that only the people who are really ready to talk to me about my work and my story get in touch with me, even if others don’t. I think – I just want to add something, be something in this world. And say in this big world, I am valuable.
(FSU): Do you have any long term goals related to making your artwork?
(DW): I set yearly goals for myself. Last year I was really focused on magazine publications, and this year I focused on gallery exhibitions. So far I’ve exhibited in 20 galleries! I haven’t really decided what I want to focus on next year but I do want to think about what I can learn about my craft and perfect or experiment with. I want to explore what types of stories I can tell and what I want to say. I want a larger body of work to be able to say more with my photography than just one or two things. I am really grateful for this opportunity at FSU Libraries to have my work in conversation with someone else’s work. (GS): I’m unsure. Getting to exhibit my work was a long term dream and I didn’t expect this to happen now. I always imagined it happening at a much later time in life. I think my goal now is to be able to tell my story to my family and friends, show others how my life has gone and can go. I am a fan of poetry and if I can combine my poetry with my photography I hope to one day do that kind of work and to continue exhibiting and telling my stories.
(FSU): What is your dream project or collaboration?
(DW): There are 2 projects I’ve been thinking about lately. First, to make a series of historically inspired portraits of real queer figures in history where we don’t have photographs – to give these figures back a face, to raise awareness of their stories with concrete images. I think it would be great for queer people today to be able to embody these figures and to continue to tell their stories which are historical but still relevant. The second project leans more into landscape and nature photography. There’s a project called YOLOCAUST around selfies at Holocaust sites as Holocaust education. That’s a real passion of mine, in terms of the pieces of history that I study. I think a lot of the locations of Holocaust atrocities are being forgotten and I would like to go and do my own interpretation to show viewers what it was and what it is now. I want to explore how people grapple with historical preservation and historical memory.
(FSU): What inspired or influenced you to become an artist?
(GS): Two things specifically: 1) Even though they never really shared their art with other people, both my mom and dad were poets. I actually found their work locked away at home (not because they showed it to me), and that was when I realized I could be an artist without being rich or famous. My parents are really ordinary people but they could still be artists. I was probably about 7 when I found out. And then 2) my grandfather inspires me so much – was a really successful businessman for his whole career but now he is disabled. One day he decided he would be happier and more fulfilled volunteering and he closed his business to do that. Now he volunteers, and even though walking is hard for him, he’s never given up on his passion. By now he has supported about 15,000 students through his volunteering. He shows me that if there’s something I really want to do that I can do it.
(FSU): Where can our readers learn more about you and your work?
Are you an artist or a group of artists looking to exhibit your work? Interested in sharing your art with the FSU Community? Have a curated exhibit you’re ready to share? Submit an exhibition proposal for the summer semester by February 17, 2023. This semester the Art in Library Committee is accepting proposals to exhibit at the Dirac Science Library, on the main floor in the hallway surrounding the central stairwell and elevators. This space is viewed by hundreds of students, staff, and faculty a day and can accommodate 10-15 hanging works depending on the size. For more information and to submit your exhibition proposal, visit this link.
Get back into those favorite habits with some Pop Lit Picks for the new year! With an entire genre selection on self help and inspiration, work on building your healthy habits with advice from some of the best authors and more. From simple goal setting and habit making advice, to digging into the harder topics like setting boundaries and confronting racism, below is a list of just a few of those helpful “Self Help” books we keep in the Pop Lit collection in Strozier Library. While January is winding down, 2023 is just starting – and it’s never too late to work on your goals!
James Clear, an expert on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results. He draws on proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible.
Actress, vegan superstar, and “America’s Mom” Tabitha Brown offers inspirational life lessons in her warm, charismatic voice. For years Brown pursued acting while raising a family and dealing with undiagnosed chronic autoimmune pain. Before she became vegan, her condition made her believe she wouldn’t live to see forty. With her relatable personality and health struggles, approachable and nonjudgmental take on plant-based living, and warm voice reflecting her Southern upbringing, she shares with readers how to make a life for themselves that is rooted in kindness and love, both for themselves and for others. Brown roots her lessons in stories about her own life, career, faith, and family.
Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we’d no longer feel inadequate. So most of us perform, please, and perfect, all the while thinking, What if I can’t keep all of these balls in the air? Why isn’t everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations? What will people think if I fail or give up? When can I stop proving myself? In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown shares what she’s learned from a decade of research on the power of Wholehearted Living — a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness. In her ten guideposts, Brown engages our minds, hearts, and spirits as she explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough, and to go to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave. And, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.
Michelle has always had a problem with the word “fearless.” Facing your demons doesn’t mean you’re fearless; it means you fear them, but you do it anyway! So for 100 days she faced 100 of her fears, and the message went viral. Written in Michelle’s hilarious, honest voice and driven through storytelling, expert interviews, and practical tools, Hello, Fears conveys the lessons she learned from facing each fear and inspires readers to make the right choice – the brave choice. For readers of Girl, Wash Your Face and 100 Days of Brave, Hello, Fears is a growth mindset personal development book for those who are ready to push past their comfort zone and embrace their fears
Chip Gaines is well known as a TV star (HGTV’s Fixer Upper), renovation expert, husband to Joanna, and father of 4 in Waco, Texas. But long before the world took notice, Chip was a serial entrepreneur who was always ready for the next challenge, even if it didn’t quite work out as planned. Whether it was buying a neighborhood laundromat or talking a bank into a loan for some equipment to start a lawn-mowing service, Chip always knew that the most important thing was to take that first step. We walk alongside him as he relives some of his craziest antics and the lessons learned along the way. His mentors taught him to never give up and his family showed him what it meant to always have a positive attitude despite your circumstances. Throw in a natural daredevil personality and a willingness to do (or eat!) just about anything, and you have the life and daily activity of Chip Gaines.
Healthy boundaries. We all know we should have them–in order to achieve school/work/life balance, cope with toxic people, and enjoy rewarding relationships with partners, friends, and family. But what do “healthy boundaries” really mean–and how can we successfully express our needs, say “no,” and be assertive without offending others?
“What happened to you?” Many of us experience adversity that has a lasting impact on our physical and emotional health. What happens to us in childhood is a powerful predictor of our risk for health problems down the road and offers scientific insights into the patterns of behaviors so many struggle to understand. Here, Winfrey shares stories from her own harrowing past and her understanding of the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma at a young age. Joining forces with Dr. Perry, one of the world’s leading experts on childhood trauma, Winfrey marries the power of storytelling with science and clinical experience to better understand and overcome the effects of trauma. The two focus not only a new understanding of people’s behavior but also on trauma’s effects on our own lives. It’s a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma that allows each of us to understand our past so that we may clear a path to our future – opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way.
This enlightening and reflective guide studies the psychological impact of racism and discrimination on BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people and offers steps to improve wellbeing. It includes definitions of race, racism and other commonly used terms, such as microaggressions, and evaluates the effect of definitions used to describe BAME people. Each chapter of the book focusses on one category of wellbeing – self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, positive relations with others, environmental mastery, autonomy – and includes case examples, spaces for reflection and practical, creative exercises. For use as a tool within counseling and therapeutic settings as well as a self-help tool by individuals, each category provides a framework for thinking about how to manage everyday racism, live with more resilience, and thrive.
Me and White Supremacy teaches readers how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too. When Layla Saad began an Instagram challenge called #MeAndWhiteSupremacy, she never predicted it would spread as widely as it did. She encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviors, big and small. She was looking for truth, and she got it. Thousands of people participated in the challenge, and over 90,000 people downloaded the Me and White Supremacy Workbook.
Not seeing one you like? Just type “self help” into the one search bar and narrow your search by location (on the left side of your screen) and choose the Popular Literature Collection.
Data literacy is the combination of a few unique skill sets: statistical literacy, information literacy, and technical proficiency. It also involves being able to visualize, critically evaluate, determine the accuracy and reliability of, and understand data sets. There are many reasons why it is important to be data literate, especially in recent years with the advent of the internet and social media. Data literacy is also crucial to many different industries and research areas. It is important to interpret the data that you are collecting to make sure that the results are accurate and to be able to understand that data so that you can create useful visualizations for others.
There are a variety of concepts to keep in mind when critically evaluating data. For example, you need to consider the methods that were used to collect the data and whether those methods are ethical. Furthermore, when evaluating how the data is presented, you need to consider whether that representation or visualization is the most accurate way to portray the data. Another particular topic of concern is bias. There are different points at which biases can be introduced, such as when data is collected, when it is analyzed, and when it is shared with the public. Also, if you are critically evaluating your own data, it is important to check that there are no biases within your own work. In this post we will be discussing the critical evaluation of data through the lens of data collection, data presentation and visualization, and data ethics.
In the context of data collection, several different collection methods can be used for research. Some of these methodologies, such as focus groups, surveys, and participant interviews, are familiar to the public at large. However, there are other specific data collection processes that many people outside of certain academic disciplines may not be aware of, such as web scraping/text mining, phlebotomy procedures for blood tests, observational behavior recording for time series data, and many more.
Consequently, not only is recording the data itself of importance for experimental duplication purposes, but it can also be important for interdisciplinary work. Some fields of research may have different research data collection methods that researchers in other fields may not be aware of, even across seemingly similar disciplines. For example, accounting and finance may seem similar but can have drastically different ways of interpreting monetary data. The way accountants and financial analysts calculate when a company is at a net zero (i.e., a break-even) between revenues and costs is different. Even within the same field of research, transparency with how data is collected is important for peer review – whether it be for ethics accountability or determining methodological flaws within research. An incomplete set of data can make it difficult or impossible to know whether or not the data was collected in a way to prevent bias, and further make it impossible to know if the data is accurate and/or precise.
Failing to document data and data collection methods can also create problems reproducing or using the data for further research, particularly if things such as question types, experiment conditions, and units of measure are not properly documented. For example, while the hypothetical idea of cold fusion (nuclear fusion performed at room temperature) would be a low-cost energy solution, the experimental methods and data were not recorded. As a result, the concept of cold fusion is now widely looked at with skepticism because none of the data was recorded! A less extreme case where incomplete data may cause research problems is that the way that a survey is constructed can bias responses. Therefore, documenting how a survey was written can be helpful in evaluating why a research study came to a specific conclusion, as well as testing whether or not changing questions or even question order would change results.
Furthermore, data cleaning – which is the process in which things such as incorrectly formatted data, corrupted data, etc are reformatted or fixed so that it can be used in analysis – can also contribute to statistical bias(es) via things such as eliminating outliers, accidentally losing a variable, how you decide to categorize your data, and more. Therefore, documenting how you clean your data is also a critical component of research – explaining what outliers you decided to keep or remove and why can help you and other researchers down the road. It is also important to consider the order questions are asked in and the way questions are worded when conducting surveys. While it might seem counterintuitive at first, the way that questions are ordered and worded can impact the percentages of people that respond in a certain way, whether or not potential participants qualify for research projects, and even the numeric values of the data itself.
Data Presentation and Visualization
Most have probably heard the phrase “label your axes” at some point, even before college. It is often mentioned in K-12 education, with the pretense being that someone will not know what your graph(s) are depicting without them. While this is indeed correct, labeled axes constitute only one of many different components of data presentation and visualization.
Figure 1: Axes that are labeled!
A good place to start on the types of ways that data visualizations can be best implemented would be The Data Visualisation Catalogue. While the site was originally established with graphic designers in mind, Severino Ribeccca himself stated “I felt it would also be beneficial to…anyone in a field that requires the use of data visualisation.”(Ribecca n.d.) As such, almost anyone who uses data typically has to consider how to visually communicate data in a way to an outside audience, or even the general public outside of the realm of academia. A nifty feature of The Data Visualisation Catalogue is that there is a way to filter recommended data visualization types by what concept you are trying to demonstrate.
One consideration when looking at a data visualization is whether the data is represented in a way that is appropriate for that specific data type. While it might not seem like the data presentation would differ between data types, certain visualizations will serve to more accurately and sufficiently depict different types of data. For instance, data related to time and Geographic Information Systems mapping produce distinct data types. While they can be combined and represented in the same graphic (i.e., how has the land of a certain area changed over time?), they both have their own distinct issues to consider to make sure that you are not creating misleading graphics. Namely, one cannot make a map with time data alone, and a map would be hard to make with a line graph that is meant to show trends in time.
Furthermore, the scales and units that are utilized in a data representation are also important considerations! Using our previous example, we can note that the visual scales of a map are different from the visual scales of time series data. For instance, you can get drastically different data visualizations if you transform data from a linear scale to a logarithmic scale (i.e., a scale that plots data based on what exponent would be needed to get your number back). This can be useful for situations where the data you are working with is so large that it is hard to see everything in an efficient way. For example, a logarithmic scale of time where millions of years are condensed into smaller numbers that are easier to conceptualize leads to graphs where you can see things like different geographical eras.
On a more human scale, while logarithmic data could be used to misrepresent data, a far more common tactic for misrepresenting data involves a truncated or broken axis on a graph (Figures 2a and 2b); a truncated graph deliberately not starting at zero on the y-axis, and a broken axis subtly skipping a large amount of units. This is a common tactic that is present in some graphics that news outlets might use, whether it is intentional or not. Some other characteristics of misrepresented data might be plotting two graphs that are not on the same scale or zooming your scale in to make a trend look far larger than it truly is.
Figures 2a and 2b: Graphical Examples of a graph with a broken axis and a graph with a truncated axis, respectively
While there are many examples of distinctly misleading graphs, there are also many graphs that accurately portray the data, but use an incompatible or inaccessible color palette. Related to this, many color palettes used in data visualizations can be inaccessible to those with vision impairments such as green-red and blue-yellow color blindness. Utilizing distinct color-blind friendly palettes can help to make visualizations more accessible. Furthermore, using alt-text descriptions of what the graph is showing enhance the ability of screen readers and other tools utilized by those with low-vision and blindness to interpret the visualization. Thus, being hard to see or just looking aesthetically displeasing does not make a graph misleading, and is an important distinction to make (although the two are not mutually exclusive!)
Figure 3: A “Painbow” Graph
When examining a dataset, it is also important to consider whether there are any biases present that may affect interpretation of the data. Two common categories of biases are cognitive biases and statistical/algorithmic biases. Cognitive biases involve individuals interpreting the results of a study to best fit a specific narrative. This may involve a data producer deleting data that does not fit the conclusion that they are trying to prove. At the same time, a data producer may also add data that is not accurate in an attempt to strengthen their claims. Furthermore, studies may be designed to collect data that only represents a small subset of a population, while claiming to be representative of the entire population.
Similar to cognitive biases, statistical/algorithmic biases describe the concept of bias as your sample poorly describing your population. In that context, it is significantly mitigated (if not outright eliminated) if your data collection methods are not generally or statistically biased. This is particularly noticeable when examining artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. These algorithms are often trained with unequal datasets, which then leads to skewed results when performing data analysis with said algorithms. Therefore, when examining data that is outputted by an algorithm, one should consider whether the algorithm has been trained with accurate and equal data sets. An industry where statistical and algorithmic biases are extremely important to consider is the healthcare industry. For example, many hospitals use artificial intelligence to sort through patient data, which helps doctors determine who needs immediate emergency attention. While there are many benefits to such algorithms, there have been issues in the past because of them. In certain instances, if a patient has pre-existing medical conditions that affect their health, the algorithm will not be able to take that into account. In addition, many algorithms that are commonly used in healthcare systems are racially and gender biased. As mentioned in “Algorithmic Bias in Health Care Exacerbates Social Inequities — How to Prevent It” written by Katherine Igoe, “algorithms in health care technology don’t simply reflect back social inequities but may ultimately exacerbate them.” Igoe also mentions that certain prediction algorithms used for detecting heart diseases in the medical industry were biased in their design. For example, the “Framingham Heart Study cardiovascular risk score” worked very well for caucasion patients, but not for African American patients. This is due to the fact that around 80% of the collected data used for this algorithm was from caucasian patients. Utilizing such an unequal dataset to train the algorithm can lead to unequal care and treatment in medical practices (Igoe). This example is just one of the many examples of bias due to algorithm design.
Companies such as Amazon have also faced huge problems relating to algorithm bias. A few years ago, Amazon tried to utilize an algorithm that used artificial intelligence to hire new employees. However, it turned out that this algorithm was biased against women. This is because the algorithm was trained on resumes that were submitted during a time period where the number of male applicants was significantly higher than the number of female applicants. This ultimately caused the algorithm to be trained to favor men over women.
Critical evaluation of data is an extremely important skill set for any student or professional to have. Knowing the importance of checking the reliability, accuracy, and the bias in any data set is necessary when reading or working with data. Some questions to keep in mind are: is the collection method clear and documented? Is the data visualization appropriate for the dataset and for what the author is trying to represent? Is the data biased in the collection or visualization stages? It is important to evaluate data to ensure that we are using quality and accurate data to make sound decisions and conclusions.
Alessandro, Brian d’, Cathy O’Neil, and Tom LaGatta. “Conscientious Classification: A Data Scientist’s Guide to Discrimination-Aware Classification.” ..Org. Cornell University ArXiv, July 21, 2019. https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.09013.
Edwards, Brent D. 2019. “Edwards, D. Brent. “Best Practices from Best Methods? Big Data and the Limitations of Impact Evaluation in the Global Governance of Education.” Edwards, D. Brent. “Best Practices from Best Methods? Big Data and the Limitations of Impact Evaluation in the Global Governance of Education. 39: 69–85. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-367920190000038005.
Lavalle, Ana, Alejandro Mate, and Juan Trujillo. “An Approach to Automatically Detect and Visualize Bias in Data Analytics.” CEUR, Proceedings of the 22nd International Workshop on Design, Optimization, Languages and Analytical Processing of Big Data co-located with EDBT/ICDT 2020 Joint Conference (EDBT/ICDT 2020), 2572 (March 30, 2020). https://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/104029/1/2020_Lavalle_etal_DOLAP.pdf.
Loo, Mark van der, and Edwin de Jonge. Statistical Data Cleaning with Applications in R. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2018.
Mark, Melvin, Kristen Eysell, and Bernadette Campbell. “The Ethics of Data Collection and Analysis.” New Directions for Evaluation, 1999 1999, no. 82 (November 5, 2004): 47–56. https://doi.org/10.1002/ev.1136.
Paradise, Elise, Bridget O’Brien, Laura Nimmon, Glen Bandiera, and Maria Athina (Tina) Martimianakis. 2016. “Design: Selection of Data Collection Methods.” Journal of Graduate Medical Education 8 (2): 263–64. https://doi.org/10.4300/JGME-D-16-00098.1.
Silva, Selena, and Martin Kenney. “How Computing Platforms and Algorithms Can Potentially Either Reinforce or Identify and Address Ethnic Biases.” ..Org. ACM Digital Library, October 24, 2019. https://dl.acm.org/doi/fullHtml/10.1145/3318157.
The GEOSET Initiative at Florida State University (FSU) is the original branch of a global initiative focused on the advancement of scholarly communications in science, engineering, and technology. Located in Dirac 207, GEOSET specializes in providing media services to the entire FSU community.
How It Started
GEOSET—which stands for Global Educational Outreach in Science, Engineering, and Technology—was founded by Sir Harold Kroto in 2006 with the assistance of Dr. Colin Byfleet and Dr. Steve Acquah. The main goal of the initiative was to pave the way for researchers all over the globe to easily create and distribute informational, scientifically accurate content.
Sir Kroto figured the best way to get videos from the scientific community out into the world was to develop a fast, cost-effective way to put science videos online in one place. Back in 2006 when GEOSET was founded, YouTube was only a year old. A student couldn’t easily find videos of scientific lectures or fun, at-home experiments as easily as we can today. But Sir Kroto knew that wouldn’t always be the case. He had a concept he called the “GooYouWiki-World,” the idea that the internet—especially websites like Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia—were going to revolutionize how the world shares information and education content.
Knowing that we were moving quickly into this GooYouWiki-World, Sir Kroto founded GEOSET. The original GEOSET website became a place where researchers could share their passion and knowledge by uploading recorded lectures and lessons through a system hosted locally at their own university. GEOSET was not only for established researchers, however. Eager undergraduate and graduate students began sharing their scientific research activities on the website, widening the range of content offered and sparking the creation of a small recording studio in the Dittmer building here at FSU.
Sir Kroto shared his passion for educational outreach worldwide, inspiring many universities and educational organizations to join the GEOSET initiative. At one point, universities and researchers all over the world were contributing content to the site, from universities in the United Kingdom to Toyo University in Japan.
How It’s Going
GEOSET is still actively advancing scientific communications at Florida State University today. Activity is focused in the main GEOSET Studio, located in Dirac Science Library. The Studio was opened by Sir Kroto, Dr. Byfleet, and Dr. Acquah in 2012. While the library studio is not the first of its kind at FSU, the opening was an exciting moment as the new studio would be a more accessible place for people to make GEOSET-style content for free. It was such a big deal that Bill Nye came to celebrate the opening!
Providing the opportunity for presenters from all levels of academia to share their expertise and enthusiasm to a global audience has always been a major part of the GEOSET initiative. The studio continues this mission by providing FSU faculty and staff with the space and tools necessary to produce educational content for a wide audience.
GEOSET has recently expanded our team to further this purpose. With backgrounds in audio and video production, journalism, and universal design, we are fully equipped to assist in any project that helps advance academic communications, whether that be a video series, podcast, or other form of media. Our team here at FSU, along with partners throughout the world, are working to keep Sir Kroto’s vision alive.
How We Serve You
Ever wanted to start a podcast after realizing you could go on for hours about your research? Ever thought about a short video series explaining key concepts of your field? Or maybe outreach videos to include in your grant? GEOSET can help! All you need to do is visit our website and submit a project request. A team member will then reach out to schedule a consultation with you. During the consultation, we’ll get an idea of how we can help based on your time frame and preexisting skills. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or someone who’s never plugged in a microphone, we’ll help you come up with the best plan to complete your project. We can help revise your content, offer use of our professional studio and equipment, and assist with editing.
While the studio primarily serves faculty and graduate researchers, everyone at FSU is welcome and encouraged to reach out to us for help with their digital media projects. However, we also know that not everyone needs our resources to make fun educational videos or talk about their research. That’s why GEOSET is in the process of developing a space for everyone at FSU to use freely. Need a green screen for your short film or a quiet space to record your class presentation? This space is for you! The Media Suite at Dirac, coming this Spring, will allow anyone at FSU to create incredible audio and visual content with professional equipment. The best part is that you will be able to book the suite online like any other library space, giving you maximum flexibility to record and edit without having to go through the booking and consultation process required to use the main GEOSET Studio.
How You Can Keep In Touch
For updates on the upcoming Media Suite, follow FSU Libraries on this blog and other social media outlets. If you have any questions or are in need of project help, please visit FSU’s GEOSET Studio website. You may also feel free to visit us in Dirac 207, located just to the right of the circulation desk on the main floor. We’ll be glad to give you a tour or assist you any way we can!
This blog post was written by Sabine Joseph, GEOSET Studio Assistant at Dirac Science Library.
Happy Spring! With classes just starting, it’s a perfect time to do some reading for fun before the semester gets too busy. FSU Libraries has many popular and bestselling books from lists like the New York Times available for students to check out for free. With TikTok and the hashtag #BookTok on the rise, we’ve compiled a list of 10 trending books to help you find your next read!
All of these books are located in the Pop Lit collection in Strozier Library, which is just next to the Starbucks café area inside the library. We also have tons of popular YA titles available in Dirac Library. Check out the libraries’ catalog on our website to search for more titles, and even reserve books online for pickup!
Lily is overwhelmed with passion for the inflexible and proud Ryle. But her too-good-to-be-true romance is suddenly a lot more complicated when her first love, Atlas, suddenly comes back into her life.
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Patient comes a spellbinding tale of psychological suspense, weaving together Greek mythology, murder, and obsession, that further cements “Michaelides as a major player in the field” (Publishers Weekly).
Running into reclusive author Shane Hall at a literary event, bestselling erotica writer Eva Mercy, over the next seven days, reconnects with this man who broke her heart twenty years earlier until he disappears again, leaving more questions than answers.
Florida State University Libraries has named Neelam Bharti as its new Associate Dean of Research and Learning Services. She will start Feb. 3, 2023.
Bharti comes to Florida State from Carnegie Mellon University, where she served as the Associate Dean for Liaison Services and the Senior Librarian for Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Material Science and Engineering since 2018.
In a university full of students, insane professors, and ‘gross’ dining halls, Amber (that’s me) will try to do the impossible: create a guide that will help you survive Finals Week.
Here are some top library resources to help you conquer those exams, projects, and what-feels-like-1000-page-long essays! Stay tuned for Finals Week Events at the end (and there’s FREE stuff!). Follow @fsulibraries on social media for the latest updates on services and events!
Check out FSU library hours!
This will ensure you’ll be able to plan ahead for your study grind, and hopefully not end up having a Strozier “sleepover” (all-nighter) the night before your exam.
Strozier offers free tutoring for chemistry, math, and physics every Sunday – Wednesday, 8 pm to midnight in-person and via Zoom. This will def help you because there are WAY too many numbers and letters involved 😛
Instead of heading to that (sketchy) house party down the street before finals you KNOW you have to study for, take advantage of study rooms and spaces! Invite your friends and hold each other accountable, too (despite how tempting that party may be lol). 2-hour group rooms can be booked on our website up to 3 days ahead of time. Check out a key for a 4-hour individual room at Strozier’s Scholar Support desk, or reserve one at Dirac online!
Don’t be shy (I’m serious: most, if not all of us, have experienced library anxiety) to stop by the Scholar Support Desk at Dirac or Strozier to check out books, laptops, cameras, and more!
Need any help with finding information for a research project (that you may or may not have procrastinated on) or finding (annoying) peer-reviewed sources? The Ask Us! service provides research and reference support through live online chat. Feel free to take a look back at theLibrary Hours page in Tip #1 for updated chat hours!
FREE Study Supplies (because us college kids love free stuff)
Tuesday, 11/29, 3:00-4:30pm @ Dirac
Thursday, 12/1, 3:00-5:00pm @ Strozier
Build-Your-Own Study Snack Mix (FINALS WEEK!!!)
Monday, 12/5, 3:30-5:00pm @ Dirac
Tuesday, 12/6, 5:00-6:30pm @ Strozier
This post was written by Amber-Lynne Jensen, Distance Library Services Assistant.
Disclaimer: This blog post was prepared by an undergraduate student, the opinions expressed in this article are to make light and fun during a stressful time! Based on the popular TV show, Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, this post lightly makes fun of some of our beloved campus buildings and is in no way an expression of the Libraries’ opinions.