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Behind the Digital Curtain: An FAQ with E-Resources Management Graduate Assistant Maddy Newquist

by Staff Pratt Institute Archives on 2020-08-26T11:53:00-04:00 in Library Collections, Library Databases, Visual and Multimedia Resources | 0 Comments


Post contributed by Electronic Resources Management & Public Services Graduate Assistant Maddy Newquist (Library and Information Science ‘20).

Hello there! I’m Maddy, a Graduate Assistant for E-Resources Management and Public Services here at Pratt Institute Libraries. As a Graduate Assistant in both departments, part of my job is to make using the Libraries’ electronic resources more transparent, more effective, and more accessible. This includes working on projects such as the Ebooks and Open Access Resources LibGuides and testing new databases to make sure they’re the best choice for our Pratt audience. Here, I highlight some unique and maybe unexpected resources in our digital library and how to utilize them for both work and play.

Let’s start with the obvious: I’m off-campus, but I'm used to going to the library in person to find sources. What are some behind-the-scenes tips for using the digital collections?
Something that I rely heavily on when I’m working on a project, or helping someone at the reference desk do research, are the Research Guides. If you know your topic area but aren’t quite sure where to start, you can search the Research Guides (found on the front page of by subject. Each guide is tailored to a specific subject, and offers suggestions on where to start your research, from books to journals to databases. Plus, the research guides are continuously updated by the subject librarians, so you know you’re always getting the best and newest recommendations.

You can also search the database list by subject! Not only will you find databases in the specific field, but the results will also show you which databases are labeled the “Best Bets” by their librarian liaison and which are most “Popular” among Pratt users--and even which ones are brand new to the online collection. Filtering by subjects will also show you which librarian is the liaison for that subject.

Example results of filtering databases by subject
An example of what filtering the databases by subject (here, Architecture) looks like.

P.S.--What are subject librarians? 
Subject librarians are one of the library’s best resources! That may sound obvious, but people don’t often realize that each of our librarians have subject specialties. If you ever want their advice on where to start your research, you can reach out to them by email-- their contact will be on the subject guide. If you’re having trouble finding it, feel free to hop on the Ask A Librarian chat and we’ll help you get in touch.

We have a great Special Collections department, but seeing its collections usually requires an appointment at the library. Are there special collections we can access online?
Absolutely! We can’t quite replicate the smell of old books or the experience of handling a complex artist book, but we’ve got the next best thing: digital tours of the collections. For artists’ books, videos and images of works that replicate the experience of interacting with an artist book in person and allow you to see inside the books themselves can now be found on our Artists’ Books Collection guide.

You can also experience our Special Collections through digitized image collections on Artstor. My personal favorite are the bookplates, but our Special Collections and Archives team has also digitized our collections of fashion plates, Pratt Institute campus architectural plans, mid-century photograph negatives, the work of couture photographer Virginia Thoren, and more.

Not only does having these collections in a database allow all the information about each image to be right in one place, easily accessible and at your digital fingertips, but these digitization projects also allowed us to research these items in further detail and we ended up learning even more about them than we did when they were first acquired by the library. All that new information is included in the databases.

A book plate with a skeleton playing a cello, labeled Ex Libris Benes     A fashion plate of a woman wearing a matching, bright-orange dress and coat set
Bookplate of Benes (1909) & A Palm Beach, Tailleur, de Worth, Planche 40 (1921)

To find more information about the digitized image collections, check out the Special Collections Images & Image Collections guide, the Pratt Institute Archives Digital Collections, or search “Pratt Artstor” in the library’s database list.

What are some of the most unique and unexpected digital resources the library offers? Along with ebooks of academic texts, we also have a lot of ebooks of popular novels, short story collections, and poetry collections. One of the best things about our ebook collection is that, unlike other libraries, most of our ebooks do not have check-out limits, meaning that you don’t have to wait until someone is done with their copy in order to read it yourself. Library Stack is maybe my favorite database for unexpected resources; not only is the fiction they offer truly absurdist, but they also host an array of podcasts and downloadable fonts, which can keep me engaged for hours.


A collection of Latinx social justice poemsA sign language typeface

Left: Poetry of Resistance: Voice for Social Justice (2016) by Francisco X. Alarcón (Editor); Odilia Galván Rodríguez (Editor); Juan Felipe Herrera (Foreword by) ISBN: 9780816533879. Right: the Martin Wong typeface by Nat Pyper, 2018.

One of my favorite finds among the ebooks are the graphic novels. Who knew that the medium could translate so well to e-reading? I highly recommend the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred.

Kindred graphic novel book cover

Kindred (2017) by Octavia E. Butler; John Jennings (Illustrator); Damian Duffy (Adapted by). ISBN: 9781613128626

The library has always had an enviable collection of zines, and this extends to the digital realm, too. We have access to three wide-ranging online collections of zines, which can be found here. If you’d like to know more about accessing digital books, check out our guide to ebooks.

I know we can stream videos, but I assumed those were mostly academic videos for classroom use. Do we have access to more popular, mainstream movies?

Short answer: Yes! 

Long(er) answer: The library offers access to a variety of streaming services for all Pratt students, staff, and faculty. Some of our longtime favorites include Kanopy, which offers a wide field of popular movies, and Alexander Street Press, which specializes in documentaries and academic films.

Our newest addition to the streaming family is Swank Digital Campus, which has an array of Hollywood movies that would make any DVD collection jealous. Swank offers popular and era-defining movies from across the last 90 years; from The Jazz Singer, which was the first feature-length “talkie”, to mid-century musts like Vertigo and West Side Story, to recent award-winners like Moonlight and Lady Bird. And if you’re looking for that perfect virtual movie night pick, Swank has A Knight’s Tale, Mean Girls, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and many, many more popcorn classics.

My current queue includes Elizabeth Taylor’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Pan’s Labyrinth, Sorry to Bother You, and Thelma & Louise. I definitely don’t have any homework to do… 

      Movie poster for Vertigo.      Movie poster for Raiders of the Lost Ark
An example of the range of movies available on Swank! (Sorry to Bother You, 2018; Vertigo, 1958; Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981)

For more information on our streaming services, how to search them, and even how to suggest titles you’d like to see added to the collection, check out this page.

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