A Conversation About Awe

Group photo of speakers
Mridini Vijay, Dacher Keltner, Yuria Celidwen, and Wesley Lu in a conversation about awe in the Morrison Library on February 27, 2023.

In his new book Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How it Can Transform Your Life, Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley professor of psychology, defines awe as “the emotion we experience when we encounter vast mysteries that we don’t understand.” In his recent book talk, he introduced a receptive crowd to this concept, and how it is distinct from bliss, ecstasy, or gratitude. It is an emotion of mystery, of goosebumps. Keltner has even served as an “awe consultant,” guiding Pixar films on how to incorporate awe in the films Inside Out, and Soul.

When ProfBook Coveressor Keltner was joined in conversation with three colleagues and an audience of a hundred in the Morrison Library on February 27, the discussion touched on many aspects of this emotion. Yuria Celidwen, a senior fellow at the Othering & Belonging Institute, spoke about transcendent experiences as conceptualized in indigenous cultures and how the elders in her Chiapas, Mexico community teach about a sense of reverence for nature or “ecological belonging.” Wesley Lu, a fourth year undergraduate and a student mental health advocate, spoke about collective effervescence — when a life force creates a collective self whether in a classroom, during a religious ceremony or among sports fans.

And no conversation about awe, especially in Berkeley, is complete without a discussion of plant medicine; third year undergraduate Mridini Vijay, also a campus mental health advocate, asked Celidwen to discuss her research on the topic that is commonly, though incorrectly, referred to as psychedelics. In Ethical Indigenous Medicine to Guide Western Psychedelic Research and Practice (The Lancet Regional Health – Americas (February 2023)), which Keltner described as “one of the most important papers on psychedelics ever published,” Celidwen and colleagues discuss concerns by Indigenous Nations over the cultural appropriation and exclusionary practices of psychedelic use in the West and the false notion that plant medicine is somehow the “one key pill to human enlightenment.” In fact, there is evidence that a daily practice incorporating “understanding, kindness, gratitude and reverence” may be as good as or better than psychedelics. In the end, there is so much more to learn about awe, and how we may experience it in our daily lives. Keltner’s book is a wonderful starting point for that journey.

Undergraduate Research Advocates Program

Artist Gaila Patrice Turner with her portrait of James Baldwin. With scholars Tatiana Butte and Amber Griffin-Royal.

The Social Sciences Division’s Undergraduate Research Advocates Program was initiated in spring 2022 by division head Susan Edwards and librarian David Eifler. This small pilot program worked with students from NavCal, the fellowship that assists incoming nontraditional students navigate the Berkeley campus. The pilot provided three NavCal fellows with small research stipends to explore new ways to provide library services to first generation and historically underrepresented students. It was designed to be a collaboration in which student research advocates educate librarians about ways to improve outreach; librarians, in turn, taught in-depth research methods to the students who then became trusted emissaries doing library outreach to communities to which they belong or identify.

Our first cohort — Tatiana Butte, Crystal Swan and Amber Griffin-Royal — was selected from students expressing interest in the internship and with guidance from NavCal Director Dean Tanioka. The cohort met weekly with Environmental Design Librarian David Eifler to improve their research skills and develop ways the Environmental Design Library could be more welcoming to historically underserved communities. As with any pilot, there were failures and successes – hosting a film about Oakland gentrification on a busy night failed to attract anyone. However, acquiring more welcoming art for the Library and incorporating informative posters about women and underrepresented architects and landscape architects has been successful. Perhaps most exciting was Amber and Tatiana’s presentation to NavCal students highlighting key library resources and demonstrating Zotero citation software.

The student research advocates and the librarians learned a great deal in the process: opening new lines of communication, re-exploring the role of the library and the librarian in undergraduate education, making physical improvements to the Environmental Design Library, and establishing new friendships. Perhaps most important, bonds of trust, understanding, and empathy were created that extend to today.

Amber Griffin-Royal and Tatiana Butte provide library instruction to NavCal cohort.

Zotero Day – January 26 and February 1

Do you … ?

  • … save random URLs in a Word or Google Doc?
  • … save article PDFs on your desktop and as email attachments?
  • … have a pile of article printouts sitting on your desk?
  • … write down citations on sticky notes and post them to your monitor?
  • … stay up late the night before a paper is due reconstructing your citations?

If you answered yes to any of the above … the answer is YES,  you need Zotero (or some other citation management system).* Come to Zotero Day and learn more about this powerful tool for organizing your citations and creating bibliographies. Jennifer Dorner and David Eifler have been tag-team teaching Zotero classes which were very successful last semester, with one attracting over 150 attendees!

Spend an hour with Jennifer and David and learn to use this robust citation manager with Firefox and Chrome. These zoom workshop covers importing citations, exporting bibliographies into Word and Google Docs and sharing resources among groups. Three 1-hour sessions each day.  (If you have a chance, download the program and browser connector at www.zotero.org before the workshop.)

Tuesday, January 26 (all classes are Pacific Standard Time)

  • 10AM – 11AM
  • Noon – 1PM
  • 5PM – 6PM

Monday, February 1

  • 9AM – 10AM
  • 2PM – 3PM
  • 4PM – 5PM

Please register to get the Zoom link – https://berkeley.libcal.com/calendar/workshops

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Can’t make it to these workshops? Try a self-paced tutorial? This tutorial includes 24 slides and 18 embedded screencasts  (totalling approximately 18 minutes of viewing). Do the tutorial at your own pace and skip or fast-forward through the screencasts. In total, the tutorial can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. Check it out at: Zotero Basics

Zotero Basics

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* adapted from Why use a citation management tool?, Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington.

COVID Chronicles: ICYMI edition

International Newspaper Display at Moffitt Library

It started with a tweet, back in July, by Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson (UCB 2018) describing the international newspaper display outside of Moffitt Library.

Robinson’s tweet got picked up by Berkeleyside, the online news source for all things Berkeley. The Berkeleyside story provided background on the international newspaper display in the plaza outside  Moffitt Library and the Free Speech Movement Cafe and spoke with our Social Sciences Division colleague, Glenn Gillespie, Reference/Government Information Specialist.

Berkeleyside article about newspapers at Moffitt

Just to play up the whole time warp/time capsule theme, it has been four months since this story appeared. And, at the time, it had been five months since the newspapers had been updated. Where exactly did 2020 go? Has it been the longest year on record? Or the shortest?


WFH edition (plus cats)

In the almost six months that we’ve been working at home we have tried to maintain a sense of community through meetings and retreats (via Zoom, of course), collaborative projects, and virtual coffee dates. However, beyond a few peeks on Zoom, we didn’t know what our colleagues’ work environments looked like, so we put out a call to our co-workers in the Social Sciences Division, asking them to share pictures of their home offices. We now present to you the range of ways we are continuing to stay connected to the Library and our work!

But first– a few words from colleague Natalia Estrada, who best sums up the challenge of working from home — even for those of us who were able to bring home our beloved dual monitors from our campus offices:

I live in a one bedroom apartment in a noisy part of town with a ton of construction. My spouse is also in academia, so we both are handling various Zoom meetings (sometimes at the same time!) and other large projects. You can imagine that working from home has been a challenge, bordering into impossible at times. The spouse and I have taken on many habits to try to make work-from-home in a small space work for us. We ended up rearranging our living room to create a better work station, using furniture we’ve acquired second hand (Urban Ore is a great place for this), plus taking certain needs into consideration. The work station, shared between the both of us, includes:

  • a whiteboard used for teaching
  • headphones, so I can block out distractions while I listen to a delightfully informative podcast (or the new Phoebe Bridgers album)
  • two of our thickest cookbooks to use as laptop stands for presentations
  • a desktop usually for processing large data sets, but also useful for touch ups before all those video meetings
  • one of our many much needed mugs (this one comes from Valois in Chicago)
  • a “work station” for our cat/office manager, so she can hang out while we work (she is a very good cat, but a bad office manager)
  • artwork! Because artwork works great as a background (better than a laundry rack, at least for us). We like both the block print from Suzhou, China, and the concert poster from when Japanese metal band Boris played at Amoeba.

We’ve still faced various hurdles that make it hard for us to work at 100 percent, especially when one has the desk and the other has to Choose-Your-Own-Adventure a second work spot (the couch? the bed? the kitchen? the choice is yours!). But, hey, my cat digs all the attention she gets on Zoom!




“A bit surreal” – a return to campus

Dispatch and photos by Peter Basmarjian, Social Sciences Division Student Supervisor

Being back on campus after almost four months has been a bit surreal. Last week a handful of staff began the work of sorting and checking in all of the accumulated books that have been returned since March.

Recently returned items are quarantined separately for a week. Then books are checked in and sorted by division.


Here are a few more scenes from around the Library. The janitorial staff did an incredible job cleaning the library from top to bottom and the plants in the AIDS Memorial Courtyard have been recently watered and are doing well.












California State Resources for COVID-19


Everyone seems to have a something to say about COVID-19:

  • Dippin’ Dots wants you to know that “in these challenging times, Dippin’ Dots is committed to doing our part to navigate through this unprecedented situation.”
  • Hollywood celebrities have gotten into the act too. Many of the social media links in this article on the Top-10 Tone Deaf Celebrity Coronavirus Messages are Cringy AF (via Listverse) have since been taken down for, well, being cringy AF, we’re guessing.
  • And then there was the incongruous yet insightful tweet from Steak-umm, a frozen steak company, stating that “anecdotes are not data. (good) data is carefully measured and collected information based on a range of subject-dependent factors, including, but not limited to, controlled variables, meta-analysis, and randomization.”

Resources from the State of California related to COVID-19: But much of the messaging we’re receiving these days —  from county public health officials to utility companies to our streaming services — is both important, highly relevant and reassuring. Add to the list of important information regarding COVID-10 this UC Berkeley Library Guide:

California Resources: COVID-19

Created by Political Science and Public Policy Librarian Natalia Estrada, this guide lists resources produced by the state of California related to COVID-19. The guide links to data on COVID-19 at the national,state and county level; there are also links to COVID-related information from the state as it relates to areas of public health and healthcare, the economy, education, and housing.  This is an evolving guide and Natalia will update it and add additional resources as they become available.

In the meantime, although the Library’s doors are closed, many of our services remain available.

Stay safe!


Twelve things to know about Natalia Estrada

We are pleased to welcome the newest librarian in the social sciences division, Natalia Estrada. She is the Political Science & Public Policy Librarian, and is responsible for reference, instruction and collection development for the department of political science, the Goldman School of Public Policy, and legal studies. She is also the specialist for California government documents.

In a vague mash-up of the Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire, the New York Times Book Review’s By the Book column, and Us Weekly’s 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me feature, here are twelve things about Natalia:

  1. I was born and raised in Downey, CA, spent a good number of years in Chicago, and have lived in the Bay Area since 2011.
  2. Before UC Berkeley, my library and cultural center work experience has included UC Hastings, the Center for Research Libraries, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
  3. I’m very much a puzzle solving/trivia answering sort of a person. I used to participate in the UChicago Scav Hunt during my undergrad years, I’m still searching for a good bar trivia spot, and I used to complete Sporcle quizzes for fun.
  4. I actually don’t spend a lot of my free time reading, so I’m pretty selective about the books I’ll read. Usually I go with horror, maybe some sci-fi, and non-fiction.
  5. Most of my reading gets done either during my lunch break, or when I’m on a flight. Nothing makes a better reading environment than being stuck on a plane.
  6. The last book I finished was Severance by Ling Ma, I’m a quarter through House of Leaves by Mark Danielwski, and I’m hoping to read In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado.
  7. My favorite book is We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. My older sister introduced me to Jackson via The Haunting of Hill House and “The Lottery” when I was in middle school, and I got hooked.
  8. The last great trilogy that I read was the Remembrance of Earth trilogy (aka Three Body Problem) by Cixin Liu.
  9. I have a small but mighty cookbook and food writing collection at home. It has your more popular cookbooks (Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat, Bar Tartine by Nicolaus Balla and Courtney Burns), but it also has some special finds, like the 1964 edition of the Joy of Cooking.
  10. I cringe whenever someone ties librarianship with a “love of books.” I’m focused on helping you find the right resources for your research. Books are just a part of that, not the whole thing!
  11. I listen to a lot of podcasts, especially when I need to do large chunks of work, chores, or working out. Many are news based (Morning Edition, The Daily), subject deep dives (Throughline, Science Vs., The Dream), and yes, true crime (the second season of You Must Remember This, with its focus on the Manson Family Murders and Hollywood, is one of my favorites).
  12. My favorite movie is Tampopo, but the movie I’ll always watch is Jurassic Park.

It takes a village to answer a reference question

Answering reference questions is the bread and butter of what many of us do as librarians. But rarely do we in the Social Sciences Division get the kinds of questions that Emilio Estevez portrayed in his 2018 film The Public. *

In fact, we believe that there are no “dumb” questions and will gladly help our patrons with any of their information needs. More often than not, our patrons have deep and complex research needs that challenge our expertise (and make our jobs fun) and require the collective knowledge and experience of our colleagues.

Take, for example, this query that came in:

“What is the cost of the social safety net in the US?”

To effectively answer this query we engaged in a dialogue with the researcher (what’s known as the “reference interview” in library-speak). In a case like this we want to: determine what kind of data they are hoping to find; determine specific geographic and time constraints; and clarify what, exactly, they mean by social safety net. Are they talking about public/government spending? What about private and philanthropic spending on the social safety net? Do they mean support for low-income people specifically, or all of society?

Jim Church, Librarian for Economics, Political Economy, and International Government Information, suggested OECD Stats which contains statistics by country from the multinational Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. OECD Stats has a section for Social Protection and Well Being including, among other things, pensions, sick leave, disability, unemployment, housing assistance, etc. Users can go to Social Expenditure – Detailed Data: United States.

Susan Edwards, Social Welfare Librarian and Head of the Social Sciences Division, suggested that for US data on the federal side, the Green Book provides statistical data of the major entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, etc.) overseen by the Committee on Ways and Means. If, however, the researcher is looking into private and philanthropic spending on the social safety net, they can consult GuideStar and the Foundation Directory which provide information about the budgets of a wide range of nonprofit organizations and public charities.

Ann Glusker, Sociology, Demography, & Quantitative Research Librarian, suggested that the researcher remember to consider “grey literature”, which may not appear in peer-reviewed journals or formal publications, but which comes from reputable and reliable sources and which can add a lot to the published literature. In this case, the researcher may want to consult offerings and also staff in Berkeley’s Center for Comparative Family Welfare and Poverty Research, or Stanford’s Center on Poverty & Inequality, which has a page devoted to Safety Net Use.

Monica Singh, Business Librarian, suggested the researcher look at a couple of very helpful guides created by Jesse Silva, Scholarly Resources Strategy and Federal Government Information Librarian; Getting Started with the US Census has a tab on Social/Economic Census Sources.

A happy ending? We never saw the end result of the person’s research. We often send researchers on their way and don’t know how they use the information we’ve provided. But, considering we receive many return visits we must be doing something right.


SSD staff
some Social Sciences Division staff at the nearby theater to see The Public.

* Note: members of the Social Sciences Division went on a field trip to see The Public when it was playing in the theaters. While we gave Emilio Estevez an “A” for good intentions, some of us wish we’d been able to make suggestions about the dialogue and plot!


Research Round-Up

Staff in the Social Sciences Division conduct professional research as a way to contribute to the library profession and as a way to engage with library peers beyond Berkeley. Here is a round-up of some recent research output (articles, presentations, etc.) by our colleagues in the division.

Church, James and Josh Quan. 2018. “Patron Driven Data Acquisitions: Prizes, Perils, and Pitfalls.” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. This presentation at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis conference, “Beyond the Numbers: The Economic Data Ecosystem,” chronicles the successes, failures, and lessons learned from a patron driven data acquisitions program piloted by UC Berkeley Library.

Church, James, Susan Paterson, Amanda Wakaruk, and James R. Jacobs. 2018. “Endangered Government Information: Strategies to Protect Government Collections.”   New Orleans, LA: American Library Association. This presentation at the American Library Association Annual Conference in New Orleans discussed methods and strategies on how to protect endangered government information in Canada and the United States.

Edwards, Susan, Chan Li, Celia Emmelhainz, Adam Clemons, Liladhar Pendse, and Natalia Estrada. 2018. “Collecting Globally, Connecting Locally: 21st Century Libraries.” P. 700 in Library Assessment Conference: Building Effective, Sustainable, Practical Assessment. Houston, TX. Presented at the ARL Library Assessment Conference, Houston, this research project used mixed methods to explore faculty beliefs about, and scholarly usage of, non-U.S./U.K. and non English language sources focusing on four departments with global research focus — Anthropology, History, Political Science and Sociology.

Emmelhainz, Celia and Marilyn R. Pukkila. 2018. “Being There at a Distance: Connecting the Academic Library to Students Who Study Abroad.” College & Research Libraries News 79(7):376. After meeting with study abroad students in orientation then surveying them after their programs, librarians found that while outreach results in limited additional usage of library resources, it significantly increases student awareness of library resources and feelings of being supported while conducting research on the other side of the world.

Glusker, Ann. 2019. “Collaboration and Innovation: NNLM’s Nationwide Online Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon.” This talk at the Online Northwest conference on libraries, technology, and culture, reports on the National Network of Libraries of Medicine’s (NNLM) ongoing Wikipedia edit-a-thon program, how the the unusual format worked, and tips for hosting an online edit-a-thon.

Glusker, Ann and Nina Exner. 2018. “Responding to Change: Reinventing Librarian Identities in the Age of Research Mandates.” Emerald Publishing Limited. This chapter outlines libraries’ (and librarians’) changing identities in the new world of research mandates from funders, institutions, and publishers.

Phillips, Margaret. 2019. “Readers and Authors of Educational Research: A Study of Research Output on K-12 Education Policy.” SAGE Open 9(2). Focusing on journal articles and reports in the field of education, this study examined the public availability of the publications, publication quality as determined by peer review, and authorship.

Schiraldi, Hilary. 2019. “Stepping Up Library Communications at UC Berkeley.” This poster, presented at the Academic Business Library Director’s Annual Meeting, describes the new Communications Department in the UC Berkeley Library and how it pulled together multiple library communications channels under one unit.

Singh, Monica and Celia Emmelhainz. 2019. “Listening to Unaffiliated Users of the Academic Library.” SAGE Open 9(2). In this study the authors interviewed 10 unaffiliated library users to better understand their perceptions of a large academic library and how the library fits into their daily habits.