People who need people: Explore our biographical resources

Biography Reference CenterWe like to watch other people. We like to hear about other people. There are entire industries based around writing and photographing people who we will never need to meet. It is all probably based on an evolutionary need to distinguish friend from foe but it continues to this day in our everyday habits and the media we watch.

If your needs are for research – or pure evolutionary based interest – then we have the online resources for you in the form of:

Biography Reference Center: (new) What do Angelina Jolie, Confucius, Alexander Fleming and Roger Federer all have in common? They are all here in the Biography Reference Center along with 450,000 others.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: includes the ‘great and the good’ and the ‘bad and unusual’ people who are now dead having left their mark on the British empire.

Biography in Context: information about more than one million people ranging from George Clooney to Boudicca. There are stories of courage, malice and romance! Sort of an academic Mills and Boons.

All you need to quench your curiosity about people of note  you will find in these electronic resources accessible 24/7 from home or in libraries. All you need is your library card number and password/PIN. People watch and search away…

Happy gawking.

People-watching online

Cover of Oxford Dictionary of National BiographyI was six when my Grandmother handed me a cut out picture of Lady Diana Spencer from the Southland Times that announced her engagement to Prince Charles. She told me to keep a hold of this as the lady in the picture was going to be a Queen. I can remember the picture was in color which was rare for newspapers at that point. Lady Diana was wearing a red dress and I remember thinking how sophisticated she was. I have no idea of what happened to that photo but I do know that there was to be no happy ending for the lady in red.

We consciously and unconsciously “people watch” all the time. It was probably based on an evolutionary need to establish friend from foe but it continues to this day in our everyday habits and the media we watch. As a library we are here to cater for even your evolutionary requirements! If your needs are for research or pure evolutionary based interest then we have the online resources for you in the form of:

There are stories of courage, malice and romance capturing the diversity of human conduct. All you need to examine the lives of people from nuclear physicists to royal mistresses is a library card number and password/PIN.

Happy gawking.

Confessions of an Oxford Dictionary of National Biography addict

I’m a huge fan of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB). It is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to know about the lives of well-known and not so well-known historic British and British-related figures and can be accessed via the Source either in our libraries or from home with your library card number and pin.

I first encountered the DNB when working at the National Army Museum in 2004 when the newly revised printed edition was published and I catalogued all 60 volumes. (The original Victorian edition was edited by Virginia Woolf‘s father, Sir Leslie Stephen.) The print volumes were beautifully produced, wonderful to flick through, took up a lot of shelf space – and came with a free one year subscription to the online version, which was fantastic to explore.

The DNB truly comes alive online (which is slightly ironic as you have to dead to be considered for inclusion) – there are updates every few months, links to related people of interest, theme pages and lists, and a Lives of the Week feature which highlights a different life every day – these can even be sent direct to your inbox. This last week we’ve had the chance to discover botanist and geologist Sir Albert Seward, shorthand specialist Marie Beauclerc and Polish Battle of Britain pilot Josef František amongst others. I wonder who’s going to be there when you’re reading this?

This is the place to find out about the mysterious Spring-Heeled Jackclaimants to the English and Scottish thronesJohn Lennon (and John Lennon), Presidents of the Royal SocietyMary SeacoleHDangry young men and merry men, and many, many more. Indeed, this blog is taking a while to write as I keep getting sidetracked.

Looking at this resource from a New Zealand angle, many governors, governors-general, premiers and prime ministers are included and can be found on this list, the Canterbury Association has its own theme page, and a simple full text search on ‘New Zealand’ brings up plenty of hits.

New Zealand’s own Dictionary of Biography is part of the Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Who have you discovered? Do you have an online resource you keep returning to?

Get some culture

Culture Galore 2010It’s time to immerse yourself in some culture at Culture Galore! Part of the Garden City Summer Times it’s held at Ray Blank Park, Maidstone Road, Ilam on Saturday 10 March 12 – 4pm. Come celebrate all the many cultures within our garden city. Enjoy performances of native dancing with beautiful costumes and savour the delicious flavours of exotic countries.

Christchurch City Libraries will have a stall as will other informative groups. So come along and say Hi!

It’s a great day out for the whole family with entertainment to keep kids happy.

And if you want more culture, think Library. If you read Chinese, we have resources in Chinese language and you can read 17 Chinese newspapers for free with your library card and PIN number through Press Display. Find out about our World Languages collection or search our BiblioCommons catalogue for items in other languages.

We are all heroes

Over the last week, amidst so much tragedy, I am sure we have all been witness to tiny miracles of incredible importance, small acts of great courage and kindness, and immense love – in all its forms – generously given without hesitation.

Many, like myself, are asking “What can I do to help?”. For those of us who have evacuated the city, and others around New Zealand (and the rest of the world, for that matter) who were not there to feel the ground shake but still grieve with us, we may watch the news and wonder what we could possibly give that could match the heroic efforts of those lifting bricks, shoveling silt, tending to wounds.

Everything we do for each other counts. Nothing is too small or too insignificant. So with that in mind, here are some suggestions of how you can help:

  • Offer your arms, and wrap them tightly around anyone who accepts your embrace.
  • Offer your ears. People need to tell their story, to share how they are feeling, to be heard again and again and again.
  • Offer your voice. Make phone calls on behalf of those overwhelmed or mute with shock. Be their personal assistant, their advocate. Help them to organise the details of their life, so they experience as little stress as possible.
  • Offer your heart. Serve out love like food and water. Stay patient with those of us who behave like bratty, tantrum-throwing toddlers or sulky, monosyllabic teenagers. We just need lots of reassurance, lots of compassion. We need to know we are loved.

And finally, remember to keep giving these things every day for as long as you can give them. Those affected by the Christchurch quake will need you for weeks, months and years to come.

Thank you for being our heroes.

More information:

Sir Edmund Hillary 1919-2008

Edmund HillaryNew Zealand has lost one its most beloved sons with the death today of Sir Edmund Hillary. He died in Auckland today aged 88.

Sir Edmund made international headlines in 1953 when he became the first man to scale Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. He famously said when breaking the news of the feat: “We knocked the bastard off”.

Christchurch City Libraries has many resources on Sir Edmund Hillary, one of New Zealand’s greatest adventurers and explorers and one of our most highly decorated citizens. See:

Sir Edmund devoted much of his life to helping the Sherpas of Nepal’s Khumbu region. He was made an honorary Nepalese citizen in 2003.

Edmund HillaryHillary’s adventuring continued with expeditions by Massey Ferguson tractor to the South Pole, searching for the yeti in the Himalayas and jetboating up the Ganges to its source. His work in Nepal building schools and medical clinics for the Sherpas also involved strenuous expeditions.

In later years he became a highly successful High Commissioner to India and continued to advocate for the Sherpa people. He also had forthright comments about the state of climbing on Everest and the environmental damage caused by climbing expeditions.

See the Library backgrounder for more books and information on Edmund Hillary.