Archive for March, 2010

Women’s History Month

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

March is Women’s History Month.  Traditionally hidden or unexamined in historical record and study, Women’s History Month recognizes the contributions of women. This celebration has been approved yearly by Congress since 1987. This year’s theme is “Writing Women Back into History,” which additionally pays tribute to the 30th anniversary of the National Women’s History Project.

In honor of Women’s History Month, I recommend the accompanying government website. The website brings together selected resources from the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Resources include images, audio and video clips, and links to exhibits and collections of both renowned and ordinary women.  For example, the online exhibit “Breeches, Blouses and Skirts: 1918-1991” showcases women’s National Park Service uniforms over the years.

The Monroe Library has many additional materials pertaining to the study of women’s history. Try browsing the HQ shelves for books on women, or talk with one of our librarians if you are interested in a particular topic.

Malia Willey, Information Literacy/Learning Commons Librarian

Don’t Make Me Think! by Steve Krug

Dont Make Me Think

Krug, Steve.  Don’t make me think! : a common sense approach to Web usability.  Que, 2000.
Call number:  TK 5105.888 .K78 2000.

Only slightly dated, this excellent, easy-to-read book gives some great tips and techniques for improving the ease of use of web pages and sites.

Krug’s First Law of Usability:  Don’t make me think.  Make it easy for users to answer questions about where to start and what’s clickable, use plain, unique and unambiguous language, and easy-to-locate navigation.

How we really use the web:  Users scan pages, find something that looks like what they want; users don’t completely read pages and then think carefully through choices.

Users muddle through.  Pages are like billboards, so design great billboards.

Billboard Design 101:  Create a clear visual hierarchy.  Take advantage of conventions.  Break pages up into clearly defined areas.  Make it obvious what’s clickable.  Minimize noise: busy-ness & background noise.

Krug’s Second Law of Usability: It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice.

Krug’s Third Law of Usability: Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.

Street signs and Breadcrumbs:  Web users like to search or browse, not both.  Browsing requires good navigation.

Searching requires good search tools.  Persistent navigation is comforting.  Breadcrumbs: at the top, tiny type, bold last item.

If given a random page, can you identify:

  • What site is this?
  • What page am I on?
  • What are the major sections of this site?
  • What are my options at this level?
  • Where am I in the scheme of things?
  • How can I search?

Admit your home page is beyond your control.

Some things the Home page has to do:

  • Site identity and mission
  • Site hierarchy
  • Search
  • Teases
  • Timely content
  • Short cuts

And in addition:

  • Show me what I’m looking for
  • And what I’m not looking for (but might need)
  • Show me where to start
  • Establish credibility and trust

But that’s not all!

  • Everybody wants a piece of it
  • Too many cooks
  • Has to appeal to everyone

Problems with rollover menus:

  • You have to seek them out
  • You can only see one at a time
  • They’re twitchy
  • They’re ineffective unless the popup appears near where you’re pointing

Problems with pulldown/dropdown menus:

  • You have to seek them out
  • They’re hard to scan
  • They’re twitchy

Web design team arguments about usability are a waste of time. Everybody has preferences and we think most web users are like us.

Not “do most people like pulldowns?” but “does this pulldown with these items on this page with this wording in this context on this page work for most users?”  Answer with testing.

Usability testing:  Keep it simple to do more. Test early and often, but one is better than none. Not important to get ‘representative users.’  Doesn’t have to be expensive.

Ideal number of testers per round:  3 to 5.

Two types of testing:

“Get it” testing: Show the site, see if they ‘get it:’ purpose of the site, how organized, how it works, etc.

Key task testing: Ask the person to do something and watch how well they do

What to look for:

  • Can they figure out the site or page?
  • Can they find their way around?
  • Head slappers and shocks
  • Inspiration
  • Passion
  • What to do:
  • Brace yourself
  • Don’t panic
  • Be quiet
  • Grade on the curve
  • You’re seeing their best behavior
  • Pay attention to actions & explanations not opinions

Typical problems

  • Users are unclear on concepts
  • Words they’re looking for aren’t there
  • Too much going on


  • Make web sites as easy to use as possible
  • Do usability testing at every stage of development

To find more books like this one, search subjects web sites-design and web site development.

Jim Hobbs, Online Services Coordinator

Mirch Masala on DVD

Mirch Masala

Image from

Mehta, Ketan (Director). (2001.) Mirch Masala. Samrat International.
Call Number: DVD-001487

Mirch Masala [ A Touch of Spice] is a Hindi film released in 1985 and directed by Ketan Mehta.  Starring:  Smita Patil, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Suresh Oberoi, and Deepti Naval

The film takes place in rural Colonial India during the early 1940′s.  A sleepy village has been shaken by the occasional invasion of the abusive subedar [local tax collector] and his army.  The villagers are expected to turn a blind eye to the army’s pillaging and cater to the subedar’s every whim.  Even the mukhi [village chief] cowers to the subedar’s authority.  Unfortunately for the villagers, the subedar has an insatiable appetite for women and he is not above abusing his power to get what he wants.  In this case the subedar’s eye has fallen on Sonbai, whose husband has gone away to work in the city.  The strong-willed Sonbai refuses his advances and slaps him across the face, running for her life.  She finds apparent safety in the masala karkhana, the mill where local women grind red chillies into powder.  That is, until the men of the village decide that Sonbai should give herself to the subedar in order the save the village from his retaliation.

The film depicts a rural Indian village on the cusp of independence and change.   Their struggles address the injustice of colonialism, Gandhism, the power of education, women’s rights and the community’s need for basic human decency.  Beautifully shot in lush colors, with memorable characters and a delightful dance sequence.  This is not typical Bollywood fair, more of a political drama portrayed in an operatic fairy tale fashion.  Oh, and the greatest moustaches you will ever witness.

Michelle Melancon, Bindery Specialist (Baking With Medusa at Blogspot)

Some information about the Census

Check out some books on the U.S. population in the Monroe Library.

Or read some interesting studies on educational attainment, income and poverty, and families.

And don’t forget about the firefighters:

March to the Mailbox

Free Language Courses

Are you traveling this summer, or planning on studying abroad for a semester? If yes, try using this great source to practice or touch up your language skills. The courses were developed by the U.S. Foreign Services, and are freely available to the public.

Follow this link for more information:

FSI Language Courses