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Madeleines and Marcel Proust: 100 Years

IMG_0012To recognize the 100th anniversary of Marcel Proust’s voluminous tome, In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past (or in French, À la recherche du temps perdu), we are presenting you with a “snapshot” of the novel in the style of a modern food blog.

Why a food blog? Because Proust tells a story of small tea cakes known as “les madeleines” in his novel, a story that popularized them for all eternity (okay, for the last 100 years). We’re not sure if that is truly how this cake became famous. Nobody can seem to agree, including the Larousse Gastronomique, which offers two explanations.

Combray, the fictional village that serves as the setting for the madeleine story, is sometimes used in the name of the tea cake, Les Madeleines de Combray. While one source attributes the name to a woman named Madeleine who served the cakes to Proust, another claims they were named for Madeleine Paulmier, a pastry cook who baked them for Louis XV.

Take note that even the most expert historians have a different memory of the cake and its origins. Proust was very interested in memory, and used his novel to explore memory, both voluntary and involuntary. For instance, the story of the madeleine, excerpted at the end of this article, was used to illustrate Proust’s theory of involuntary memory.

mad ingredientsBefore I forget, here is a list of the ingredients, in case you decide to experiment with memories on your own.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Tune Pandora to French Cafe Radio.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened (not melted)

½ cup sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. orange or lemon zest (I used Meyer lemons and added a few drops of juice)

2 large eggs (preferably room temperature)

1 cup flour

mad batterBlend the softened butter and sugar until creamy, about 1-2 minutes on high with an electric mixer. Next add the vanilla, baking powder, one egg and citrus zest (and juice, if desired). Blend for another minute on low. Add the last egg and blend for another minute on low. Use a whisk to slowly add in the flour until smooth. (Don’t overdo it – the batter will get too sticky.)

Butter a madeleine tray and lightly flour. If using a non-stick tray, butter the tray. Fill each mold until level. (Don’t worry, the signature “bump” will appear no matter what you do.) Bake for 8-10 minutes for small madeleines, 12-14 minutes for large. My oven runs hot so 8-10 minutes was sufficient.

They should be golden at the edges and a buttery color on top when you remove them from the oven. (Try not to drift off into a reverie when you smell the delicious aroma.) Let them rest a few minutes before slipping them onto a cooling rack. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.mad golden

The moment of truth, according to Proust, will come when you have dipped the madeleine into a cup of tea and tasted the first morsel of cake. He described the revelation as one prompted by a physical sensation and as a completely involuntary recall of an earlier time.


mad dipping










“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.” (Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, 1913)

Luisa Cywinski is the editorial coordinator on the Communication and Service Promotion Team and the team leader of the Access Services team.


Who Is Your Most Unforgettable Literary Father?

atticus_blogFor Mother’s Day, this blog featured an article about memorable literary mothers. Now it’s the fathers’ turn. From Bob Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, literary fathers have made an impression on and even influenced us.

The King in Shakespeare’s King Lear easily springs to mind. Lear appears to have treated Goneril, Regan and Cordelia more like subjects than daughters. The older two’s responses to their father-king seem to reinforce this notion. King Lear also features the Earl of Gloucester, whose extraordinary physical suffering is eclipsed by his psycho- logical suffering when his relationships with sons Edgar and Edmund undergo crises.

Ancient mythology provides such examples as Odysseus of Homer’s The Odyssey, whose ten-year trek compels his son, Telemachus, to embark on his own journey: a father quest. Also Daedalus, the master craftsman from Greek mythology is famous for fashioning wings so that he and his son, Icarus, could escape their imprisonment.

The father is not physically present in some stories but still influences his family, as with Big Walter Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Mr. Wingfield in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. Some stories, readers may believe, might be happier if the father were not present: Dwight, for instance, the abusive stepfather in Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life.

In the Bible, Jacob, father of twelve sons and one daughter, showed such partiality to his eleventh son, Joseph, that his blatant favoritism caused unintended consequences for Joseph. A different Joseph, Jesus’ self-effacing earthly father, is only mentioned in the Bible during chapters about his son’s childhood. Bonus question: Do you know the reason paintings and statues often show St. Joseph holding a lily?

Has a father from literature influenced you? Do you find any literary fathers particularly memorable? Please contribute your suggestions in our “comments” section.

Gerald Dierkes is an information services specialist for the Information and Research Assistance team, senior copyeditor for the Communication and Publications team, and a liaison to the Department of Theater.


Student Employee(s) of the Month: Falvey has “Triplets!”

This month saw a three-way tie for student employee of the month: Robert (Bobby) Bertini, Sabrina Clerssaint and Melissa Schroeder, all seniors.

BobbyBobby Bertini, an economics major from West Hartford, Conn., has worked in Falvey’s Resource Management for four years. Roberta (Robbie) Rosci, Resource Management specialist, says, “[Bobby] is a great kid. He has been a faithful worker for all of his four years at Villanova. He’s very versatile and does any task … with a smile. He keeps our weekly book orders moving, from opening the boxes to labeling the books.” Bobby is the current director of fundraising for Rays of Sunshine. He plays ultimate Frisbee and indoor soccer and is an avid follower of the Italian soccer club, Juventus. He is “also a big tennis fan.” Bobby says, “[I] had a great four years working in Falvey!”

SabrinaSabrina Clerssaint, a biology major, has worked in Access Services since her sophomore year. She has done shelving, inter library loan and shipping. Rebecca (Becky) Whidden, Access Services specialist, says, “[Sabrina] is always willing to cover other students’ shifts and put in overtime. She graciously does any task set before her. Sabrina always has a smile on her face and a joyful attitude. We will miss her tremendously.” A native of Maywood, N.J., Sabrina is a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta (pre-medical honor society) , the vice president of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and one of the secretaries of the Villanova Gospel Choir. She also received a 2011 Blue White Club scholarship. Her hobbies include reading, relaxing with friends and exploring the city with friends and family.

MelissaMelissa Schroeder, an accounting major from Washington Township, N.J., has worked for Falvey since her first year at Villanova. She works in circulation and also does shelving, reporting to Phylis Wright, manager of access desk services. Melissa is a Villanova cheerleader . After receiving her bachelor’s degree in accounting and management information systems, Melissa will work for Deloitte & Touche in Philadelphia. Philip Mairs, a library assistant who works with Melissa says, “[She] is a very good worker and relates very well to both students and staff.”

The University Staff Council (USC) of Falvey, led by Linda Hauck, business librarian, selects a student employee of the month based upon nominations from the department supervisors of student employees.

Joanne Quinn, graphic designer, will create a sketch of each of the student employees of the month. The sketches will be displayed on the pillar behind the circulation desk and then will be given to the students.

Alice Bampton is an digital image specialist and senior writer on the Communication and Publications Team.


Have You Found the Easter Eggs in our Website?

The Easter season is upon us. As such, it’s a good time to point out a few Easter eggs, little-known yet valuable features, waiting to be discovered in the library’s website.

Favorites—Want to keep track of an item? Save it to your personal Favorites list right from within the catalog. Simply click the “Add to Favorites” link and enter your Villanova account credentials: you’ve saved your item. To access Favorites, click “My Account” on the library’s homepage and log in using your Villanova credentials; your favorites will appear under the Favorites section of the “My Account” page. Since the catalog uses your Villanova credentials to establish your account automatically, everything is ready and waiting for you to use.

back to search easter blog

Your favorite item’s catalog record features options for saving and tracking.

Save Your Search—Sometimes, though, you want to save a whole search-results list. You have two options: first, the catalog keeps track of your searches from the current session. To access these search histories, log on to “My Account” and click “Your Saved Searches.” Save a recent search by clicking its “Save” link, which adds the search to “Your Saved Searches.” Option two: save a search directly from the search results page by clicking the “Save Search” link at the bottom of your results list.

your saved searches easter blog



User-friendly Website Design: Observing Student Navigation Patterns

By Jutta Seibert

The library website is not just a pretty face; it is an essential research tool for Villanova University faculty and students. It is the main access point to online journals and databases, the library catalog, patron accounts, subject librarians, library events and much more. The library website had over 400,000 visitors in 2011. Available usage statistics already tell us a lot about how the site is used: the number of unique users, their geographic location, the devices and browsers they use to access the site and the time of the day or night when site traffic peaks.

They also tell us which library functions are most heavily used: the online library catalog is at the top of the list with over 120,000 hits followed by the Databases A-Z list with over 100,000 hits. What usage statistics cannot tell us is whether students ultimately find the information they seek. For this reason the library’s Web team planned and executed a series of usability tests.






What is usability testing?

Usability testing is a technique used to test the functionality of website design through the close observation of novice users who are asked to perform a number of pre-defined tasks. Jakob Nielsen’s Usability 101: Introduction to Usability is a good source for detailed information about usability. Usability testing does not require much investment of time and resources although specialized usability labs use heat maps as well as eye and navigation tracking and recording software. Some labs have one-way mirrors installed to ensure unobtrusive observation of research subjects.

Falvey’s Web team determined that a test administrator, a test recorder and software that tracked the test subject’s navigation paths while recording the thoughts of the subjects would suffice. How do you record the thoughts of a test subject? We asked all test subjects to think out loud while they performed the assigned tasks on the library website.








Why do usability testing?

Web designers generally conduct usability testing to identify design flaws. Why does the Web team need students, rather than library employees, to detect potential design flaws? The majority of library employees use the library website on a daily basis, which makes them expert users. Expert users navigate a website efficiently because they have been trained by their daily interaction with a website’s functionality and organization. As a consequence they are no longer able to see the site through the eyes of a novice user.

Library employees also know from personal observation that students often cannot find library resources as readily as they should. Students may be confused by library lingo or by a content hierarchy that only makes sense to a librarian. For this reason the library’s Web team administers usability tests before and/or after it updates the website’s user interfaces. The ultimate goal of these tests is to design a website that is functional, intuitive and accessible to novice users and experts alike.













What did we learn?

Some of the results of the latest rounds of usability testing were expected based on informal observations; others were a surprise. Student feedback was unanimous in regard to text-heavy Web pages. They told us that certain library Web pages are too text heavy and make their “eyes glaze over,” which interfered with their ability to find what they were looking for. (more…)


Falvey Launches Mobile Website

By David Uspal

We are proud to announce that as of Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, the mobile version of the Falvey Memorial Library website is officially live.

The goal of this project is to provide information in a more readily accessible form for mobile users than is provided through the main library website. As such, the mobile site allows users convenient access to the most frequently used services on the main library website, including catalog search capabilities, library hours, building maps, news and events, and interactive research assistance.


Falvey Library Mobile Website

Falvey's mobile website homepage, as seen from a mobile device.

Falvey Library Main Website

The library's main website homepage, as seen from a mobile device.











When you access Falvey through a mobile device, the library homepage should detect your device and automatically send you to the mobile version of the website. Users who prefer the main website over the mobile site can still access the main site by clicking on the “Full Website” icon at the bottom of the homepage. If you’d rather access the mobile site directly, http://m.library.villanova.edu will take you directly to the mobile content.

The mobile website also showcases the capabilities of the VuFind open-source, library-search-engine software (developed here at Falvey Memorial Library, Villanova University). The mobile website was, in fact, developed on top of the VuFind software and uses the built-in mobile version of its catalog-searching capabilities.

As Falvey recognizes that mobile devices are becoming an ever greater percentage of its user base, the Library is dedicated to providing the best service possible to this market. As such, the Library will continue to develop applications and services for the mobile community, and work towards improving the mobile user experience.

For more information, or to offer comments or suggestions, please feel free to contact the library technical team at libtech@villanova.edu.


E-Books at Falvey: A Survey of Students and Faculty

By Linda Hauck and Merrill Stein

E-Book Survey at Falvey, Spring 2012

Anyone with even a passing interest in reading books, book publishing, libraries or gadgets has noticed that e-books have finally reached that long predicted tipping point to become mainstream. They’re not just for geeky gadget lovers anymore. To glean a clearer picture of how they’d like to see the library collection evolve, we took a closer look at how students and faculty are using our e-books.

History of e-Books at Falvey

E-books (not just digital encyclopedias) have been a part of Falvey Memorial Library’s collection mix since well before the tipping point. In the 1990s Falvey joined a library consortium to purchase a collection of individual titles via NetLibrary, an academic e-book pioneer that has since been acquired by EBSCO Publishing.

Our very first e-books weren’t online at all. In the mid 1990’s the Library purchased CDs with the text of Past Masters and the Library of Latin Texts , both of which were not online. We subscribed to our first online e-book collection, Patrologia Latina, in 1997.

In 2008, the reference librarians undertook a major initiative to shift our reference book collection from print to online. In that year we significantly expanded access to digital encyclopedias, directories, compendia and handbooks. Since we started tracking e-book purchases as a distinct “book” material type, spending on e-books vs. print books has grown from 9.9% in 2007/8 to a plateau of 12.6% in 2008/9 and 12.4% in 2009/10 with a jump to 22.6% in 2010/11.

Falvey’s absolute spending on e-books is much closer to the average spent on e-books in 2011 by graduate and professional libraries than undergraduate libraries, according to a 2011 Library Journal article. However, at 2.9% it is well below the median for graduate/professional libraries (4.5%), undergraduate libraries (3.4%) and also $1million-acquisitions-budget libraries (4.4%).

Our Survey

Until now our understanding of e-book usage patterns by Falvey Memorial Library patrons has been viewed through the prism of usage statistics and unstructured conversations with students and faculty. To view e-book usage from another angle, an online survey was made available, via a link on our website banner, to self-selected respondents during four weeks in the spring of 2012. Six questions looked at the use of Falvey e-books, purpose for use, device used for access, perceived usability and discovery modes. To encourage participation, respondents were entered into a random drawing for one of three $20.00 gift cards.

In total, 88 participants responded, including nearly even numbers undergraduate (45.6%) and graduate students (43.3%). Of the remaining respondents, seven (7.8%) were faculty members and six (6.6%) were staff members or other. The low response rate by faculty makes any conclusions about e-book behavior and preferences for these community members tenuous. (more…)


Breaking News! Falvey Receives 2013 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award

We are proud to repost from ACRL Insider:

“The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2013 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award – Walla Walla Community College Library, Walla Walla, Wash.; Rollins College Olin Library, Winter Park, Fla. and Villanova University Falvey Memorial Library, Villanova, Pa. Sponsored by ACRL and YBP Library Services, the award recognizes the staff of a college, university and community college library for programs that deliver exemplary services and resources to further the educational mission of the institution.

…Falvey Memorial Library at Villanova University, winner in the university category, was selected for its continuous innovation in serving the university’s mission through an organizational structure built around teams and work groups and collaborative philosophy.

‘Through true collaboration across all levels of the organization, Falvey Memorial Library has leveraged expertise and enthusiasm to engage itself in serving all aspects of Villanova University’s mission,’ said Lisa Hinchliffe. ‘The Learning Commons furthers this philosophy by integrating library services and resources with other campus educational centers in support of student learning and the additional event spaces create a true public forum for the intellectual life. The library’s work in digital initiatives, particularly the partnerships with other Catholic universities and the creation of VuFind, demonstrates the commitment to working collaboratively with the broader library profession. VuFind is a quintessential example of local work having global impact.’

‘We are thrilled to receive this recognition for the achievements of Falvey Memorial Library,’ said Joseph Lucia, university librarian at Villanova University. ‘The ACRL Excellence Award represents for us the highest level of peer endorsement of our efforts to create an innovative ‘commons-centered’ model for academic library service and success in the digital era. There are many extraordinary academic libraries doing many creative things at this time so it is difficult to stand out from the pack.  We are truly honored to have been selected.’

Each winning library will receive $3,000 and a plaque, to be presented at an award ceremony held on each recipient’s campus.

Additional information on the award, along with a list of past winners, is available on the ACRL website.”

Lisa Hinchliffe is chair of the 2013 Excellence in Academic Libraries Committee and professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Where in the world are the books in Falvey West?

We had big “boots” to fill in Falvey West, and fill them we did. After we moved the journals in 2010, we had the shelving space thoroughly scrubbed and freshly painted. Still, some folks had trouble finding their way to Falvey West, so we mounted large signs on the Falvey first floor. As you enter the Library, head north (straight); then turn left (west) before you reach the Griffin room.

Falvey West (ground – 2nd floor) contains main stacks books with call numbers A – D. All other main stacks books are on the 3rd and 4th floors of the main library building.

Directional signs have been posted on each floor of Falvey West to help pioneering patrons get around. We’ve also added a computer to each floor for searching the catalog or trying our interactive map. Still have questions? Mosey on over to the front desk!

Graphic design by Joanne Quinn


A View from Falvey: The Grotto – Past, Present, Future

Our Mother of Good Counsel

By Alice Bampton

The meeting space just across the road from Falvey’s main entrance is called The Grotto, yet a grotto is understood to be a cave or “an artificial recess or structure made to represent a natural cave.” One might ask why this area is called The Grotto when it really is a Shrine to Our Mother of Good Counsel.

For the answer, one can look to the University history. Originally there was a true grotto, built between 1906 and 1907. It was a small structure “at the point where the walk from the railroad station entered the campus (near the present Falvey Hall)”(1) and was probably on the road between Falvey and Alumni Hall.

The Grotto was an ivy-covered, rounded mound with a door leading inside. On top were two statues of white Carrara marble, St. Nicholas of Tolentine on the left and St. Rita of Cascia on the right, both Augustinian saints. Inside was another statue, probably an image of the Virgin Mary as Our Mother of Good Counsel, to whom Augustinians promote devotion.

St. Rita of Cascia

The three statues for the original Grotto were purchased from the Daprato Statuary Company in Chicago, Ill., for $900. Giovanni Tonsoni was Daprato’s main sculptor, working there from 1879 until 1910 and he is likely the sculptor of the three statues. Tonsoni was a native of Carrara, Italy, the site of famous marble quarries, and he probably received his artistic training there before coming to the United States.(2)  Carrara marble has been a favorite stone for sculptors throughout history, especially during the Renaissance. Michelangelo carved his “David” from Carrara marble.

The statue of St.Rita is now in one of the courtyards of the Saint Augustine Center for the Liberal Arts, but the location of the others is not known.

The original Grotto was demolished in 1949 during a campus expansion. (more…)


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Last Modified: June 6, 2012