New features in our catalog

– Posted by Emily 

We’ve added some features to our catalog recently—please join us for a tour of what you can do with your library online.

Fonts and languages

We’ve increased the size and clarity of the fonts to make it easier on everyone’s eyes. We’ve also added a menu on the upper left that allows you to choose a different language when you use the catalog—Chinese (Simplified), Spanish, or Russian.

 blog fonts and languages


You now have a profile page that you can choose to populate with information about yourself, like your website, interests, and a brief introduction. The profile will also show what’s on your In Progress shelf (if public) and public lists that you’ve made.

blog profiles

You can get to your own profile from the top menu of the catalog. To view other people’s profiles, click their username (for example, next to a review they’ve written).

blog my profile

Alternate Formats

There’s now a button that makes it easy to find other formats of the same item, like the e-book or large print format of a novel. This is helpful if you’re looking at, say, a list of award-winners and want to find one in your preferred format.

blog alternate formats

List “liking”

List liking provides a way to acknowledge a useful list and find lists that others have also liked.

There’s a Like button at the top of every list you can use when you find a list that’s particularly informative or entertaining. Clicking the heart turns it red and changes the text to Liked.

blog like al ist

At the bottom of the list, there’s a counter of how many people liked the list. Click the likes button to see who liked the list. Each username is linked to that user’s profile page.

blog likes

When you see a list in search results, the number of people who liked it is shown under the description.

blog number of likes

 Award links

For books that have won an award, the award name now appears on the page, below the description, and it links to the Explore section of the catalog. This is a great way to find books that are comparable to reads you’ve already enjoyed!

ancillary justice in catalog

Easier movement of items between shelves

If a title appeared in search results that you had on a shelf, a link to that shelf was displayed next to the title information. That link has been expanded to a menu that enables you to move the title to a different shelf, remove it from the shelf, or go to the shelf containing it. The same menu also appears next to items on a list, and on your Checked Out page.

blog move between shelves

Some of these features started with patron suggestions, so remember to stay in touch and let us know what you think!

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The Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Military SF part III

By Richard C.

It’s Military SF part III! And for those of you following along at home, I know what you’re thinking — how did it take two whole posts to get to Joe W. Haldeman and Orson Scott Card? Just who does this Richard C. guy think he is, anyway?

Well, here we go!

Starship TroopersForever WarMecha Rogue








Of all the Military SF out there, my personal favorite is Haldeman’s The Forever War. The emotional strain of military life before, during, and after deep space battle is more than enough to make you sympathize with William Mandella, newly conscripted soldier and former physics student. But then add the impact of time dilation on his relationships and you get a fun, engaging, complex read to savor and recommend (Hugo, Locus, and Nebula award winner). Then there’s Starship Troopers. The boot-camp and battle scene narratives are so compelling that the U.S. Navy itself officially recommends it. Some say it’s Heinlein’s best, though my personal favorite will always be The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Either way, Heinlein writes a mean Military SF.


Ender’s GameOrphanage

All You Need Is Kill

Ender’s Game is as classic as it is well known. So read it if you haven’t, but also try MindwarEmpire, or Mecha Rogue. All are exciting/sad portrayals of futuristic military establishments, youth under pressure, punishing battle suits (think Iron Man ) and stunning virtual reality for you true technophiles out there.

Along the same lines are Orphanage and All You Need Is Kill. The latter is the basis for the movie Edge of Tomorrow, but, as usual, I appreciated the Japanese setting and the more nuanced psychology of the book more than what Doug Liman and Tom Cruise had to offer. You can even try it as a manga!

The Best Military Science Fiction of the 20th Century

Many say Old Man’s War reminded them of The Forever War – even Joe Scalzi himself, I think. All the characters are over 80 years old in the beginning, so it may be a slow start for some. But once the body rejuvenation gets going and you get used to Scalzi’s (rather Heinlein-like) narrative, the unique identities and humor of those newly young senior citizens lead the way to a great Military SF series.

Somehow I didn’t find the book Armor while reading The Best Military Science Fiction of the 20th Century. Nevertheless, try it out for the armored battle suit theme, the crushing solider experience, the nightmare insectile armor-john-steakley       enemies, and the obstinate military bureaucracy.

Halo: The Fall Of Reach and Mass Effect: Revelation are video game crossovers that fit nicely in the Military SF theme. And I certainly can’t finish without a Star Trek reference. The Romulan War and its sequel To Brave the Storm take you back to when the Federation and its technology were young and looking vulnerable to the Vulcan’s more violent brothers and sisters.

Well that brings this Military SF Check List to a close. As an encore try Breath of War by Aliette de Bodard. It’s up for Best Short Story from the Nebula Awards.


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The Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Military SF Part II

By Richard C.

It’s Military SF part II, and important questions remain. Like what about the role of women here, both as authors and characters? If you made it to Seattle’s February Potlatch convention – a small, literary speculative fiction event – you might have seen a session called Women Ruin War – The Gendering of Military Science Fiction. Their question? “What do women bring to telling stories of war and soldiering?”

Their answer and mine? A lot.

Valor's ChoiceTrading in DangerOn Basilisk Station

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The Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Military SF Part I

By Richard C.

This week let’s mobilize your imagination for the military themes in Science Fiction. In fact, I have so much to say about it that we’re starting early with the first of three installments. Diverse opinions on the issue of war notwithstanding, Military SF can launch a reading experience altogether exhilarating, touching, educational, and dangerous — one of near and far-reaching futures where the technology and experience of military training may change, but the pressure on soldiers, veterans, and civilians does not. Military SF is more than merely action and explosions. If we agree with astronaut Mae Jemison, that…

“Science fiction helps us think about possibilities, to speculate – it helps us look at our society from a different perspective…”

… then Military SF, too, can challenge and entertain us, can help us to look at possible science and military futures in different ways. So let’s check this checklist out!

Earth StrikeIn the Balancethe lost fleet





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Hearing History

~posted by Jenny C.

I’m a fan of history – reading books based in historical times (yes, sometimes even the romances), enjoying biographies of interesting people, delighting in extensive footnotes, and recreating historical activities, like folk dancing and fencing. What I like even better is experiencing original materials – all the weird and wonderful vocabulary when people tell their own stories, and all the wavering scratchy backgrounds when they sing their own songs.

Detail of Robin Hood and Shepherd from the English Broadside Ballad Archive. EBBA 20737 Magdalene College – Pepys 2.115

Lately I feel like every time I turn around, someone is talking about folk songs with me, so let me just add to that conversation. One of my favorite online resources for discovering historic vocal music is the English Broadside Ballad Archive. I love it for its brilliant combination of image and music from the 1600s. Take, for instance, this song about Robin Hood and the Shepherd. You get to see what the original broadside looked like, woodcuts and all. Then you can see a version with legible text, a transcript version for easy singing along, and frequently a recording with their best guess of a how the song might have been sung. Continue reading

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Movie Mondays: Western Film Series at the University Branch!

westerns title

~posted by Mike

Saddle up your steed and ride over to the University Branch Monday nights for our spring program showcasing some of the greatest Western films ever made. This six shooter series covers nearly every important era of the Western, from the genre definers starring John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich to the auteurist appropriations of Robert Altman and Jim Jarmusch. These free shows start weekly at 6:00pm. (Please note: there will be no show on Monday, April 20. All are welcome to attend our monthly book club instead!) Continue reading

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Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Dying Earth

~posted by Carrie M.

There is something both chilling and oddly beautiful about the concept of a dying earth. This literary genre places the reader on the precipice of humanity’s destruction and forces us to come to terms with the fragility of life and the evils of society that are nearly always the cause of our inevitable destruction, yet it can inspire a sense of calm finality, unity, and faith in humanity.

Find Tales of The Dying Earth in the SPL catalog

The Dying Earth Genre has roots in literary history as early as the 1800s, right after the Romantic Period. However, the actual name for these works comes from Jack Vance’s classic collection of short stories titled, (you guessed it) The Dying Earth (1950). In Vance’s collection of vaguely connected stories, the reader is transported to earth in the very distant future where the sun is dying. Overall, humanity has had a long and lustrous romp through the channels of time, and what is left of us gather in the ruins of cities built long ago by science and industry that no one remembers anymore.  The characters of these stories take a decidedly Nihilistic approach to life given that the sun is not much more than a dying cinder on the horizon, and they live a catch-as-catch-can life on the eve of their doom. Continue reading

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