Once a month, we bring you an update from a few Hackers on things we’ve been reading, enjoying, and learning that month, whether that’s fiction, non-fiction, an interesting article, or a series of social media posts. We hope you’ll join along with us and share your most interesting reads in the comments!
The term “Home Economics” probably brings to mind memories of sewing pillows or cooking lumpy biscuits, to varying degrees of cringe. Homemaking skills are usually looked down on as something archaic left over from when women were expected to spend their lives as housewives and mothers. Even though I’m not interested in being either of those things, I’ve always liked domestic work like cooking and organizing, and there’s a lot of value in them. What I really liked about The Secret History of Home Economics is that how many of the founders of the field were extremely well-educated, such as Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman to attend MIT, and who realized that chemistry had applications to everyday problems like testing wallpaper for arsenic. Women trained in home economics defined the federal poverty line, set nutritional standards, and even created astronaut food. “In its purest form, home economics was about changing the world through the household.” I came away from this book with a whole new appreciation for how female scientists have been quietly affecting the things that structure our everyday lives for the past century and a half.
The Accidental Taxonomist (Book and Blog) by Heather Hedden
If you love organizing information, thinking about the syntax of words, and how words and terms fit together, you might want to think about a career path in knowledge organization or taxonomy! I am currently taking the Construction of Indexing Languages course at the UW’s Information School and am really enjoying the material. One of our main textbooks is Hedden’s The Accidental Taxonomist which gives a detailed and easy to understand overview of this oftentimes “accidental” profession and why it is so unique and interesting in the field of LIS. If you are not able to take a thesaurus construction or taxonomy class as part of your MLIS degree but are thinking of exploring a nontraditional career path, I recommend adding this book to your probably already high stack of “to read” books.
If you’ve ever wondered why so many small town Chinese-Canadian and Chinese-American restaurants are so similar, Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants, which started off with some family history research is a fascinating exploration of how information travelled between families and caused the propagation of chop suey across the most northern country in North America. Part investigative report, part memoir, part travelogue, part good history work, the core of this book might not seem to be about information behaviors, However, information behaviors are present throughout this work. When I first read the book earlier in 2021, as a selection for both the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and the Reading Women Challenge, I didn’t make any direct connections to LIS, but after a lecture on the everyday life information seeking behaviours of rural communities in my Human Information Interaction course the connections snapped into place. These restaurants tended and tend to be family businesses so the line is blurred between work-related information and the home and family context in the lives of the people who own and run these restaurants, it’s a really interesting piece of history and a novel way to think about information behavior that you don’t see come up too often.