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Cat in the Stax: Behind the Lines of Angela’s Ashes

By Jenna Newman

hand holding Angela's Ashes book

Now that we’ve read through Angela’s Ashes (1996) as part of the Read with the Other Jenna book club, it’s time to go deeper into the McCourt family, the writing of Angela’s Ashes, what happened after, and where to find more resources. Frank McCourt shared with the readers his childhood, starting in New York and then moving to Limerick, Ireland. We learned the heartbreaking details of his father’s descent into alcoholism until he was no longer present and the poverty that struck the McCourt family.

Three out of Frank’s six siblings died in early childhood, yet four of the McCourt brothers survived against all odds. At the end of the memoir, Frank gets off the boat from Ireland, back into New York, ready to start a new life.

But now, we are left with the question: what happens next?

Frank struggles to gain a foothold in New York at first, which he writes about in his second memoir ‘Tis (1999). However, eventually he becomes a city school teacher where he taught for 30 years after getting a degree in English Education from New York University and a master’s in English from Brooklyn College. Frank talks about his experiences as a teacher in his third and final memoir Teacher Man (2005). In 1994, Frank married Ellen Frey McCourt, who he was married to until he passed away in 2009 from metastatic melanoma at age 78. Frank is survived by his wife, Ellen, his brothers, Malachy, Alphie, and Mike, his daughter, Maggie McCourt, and three grandchildren.

Although Frank took on the voice of his childhood self while writing Angela’s Ashes, he did not write the memoir until he was in his 60s. He struggled with the writing process until writing a small anecdotal section, where he took on the voice of himself as a child, and ultimately found the voice we see throughout the entire memoir. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 and was made into a movie by British director Alan Parker in 1999. 

The eldest son, Frank McCourt, however, was not the only McCourt to take his hand at memoir writing. Malachy McCourt, the second eldest son, wrote two memoirs about his life after traveling to America. The first, A Monk Swimming (1999) about traveling through America and then the second, Singing my Him Song (2001) about his journey from being a drunk to a sober, loving father and grandfather. The four living McCourt brothers also became the topic of two documentaries, shot by Malachy’s son Conor McCourt. The first focused on their time in Ireland, The McCourts of Limerick, while the second focused on New York, The McCourts of New York.

If you’re interested in learning more about Irish culture, history, or the McCourt family, I’ve linked to a variety of different resources. 

  • McCourt Family Memoirs
  • Irish Studies Librarian, Jutta Seibert, can be reached by email here or schedule an appointment with her here. More information about the Irish studies collection can be located here.
  • Falvey’s special collections also hold two distinctive collections focused on Irish history and culture.
    • The McGarrity Collection consists of around 3,000 monographs focusing on Irish history, literature, folklore, description and travel, music, and Irish-American history. This collection also includes a complete run of the Irish Press.
    • The Limited Editions collection holds almost an entire collection of limited edition books and broadsides printed by the Cuala Press, an Irish press in Dublin operating in the first half of the twentieth century. 

Make sure to tune in tomorrow on Instagram and Facebook Live as I continue to dig deeper into the questions and themes posed in Angela’s Ashes.

Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. Current mood: Adding all the other McCourt memoirs into my Amazon cart.






Global Smackdown: Sudan

“This is part of a larger resorting in the Middle East and the emergence of Iran and Saudi Arabia as these regional powers.”

This week’s Global Smackdown adds to the larger conflict going on in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Dr. Tim Horner looks at the recent developments in a normalization deal between Sudan and Israel and then breaks down the underlying Sudanese political tension, the United State’s stakes, and how the deal plays into the bigger regional picture. 

The whole Global Smackdown from Monday, Oct. 26, is available via Zoom here.

Where in the world are we?

map showing the location of Sudan


Foto Friday: The Songbirds are Singing

Photo courtesy of Joanne Quinn

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

A Golden-crowned Kinglet stopped to sing a song at Falvey Library.

Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library.



Service Update: ILLiad is Back!

Falvey Memorial Library is thrilled announce that ILLiad service has been restored. So go right ahead with your burning requests for books, CDs, DVDs, and other physical materials available from other libraries!

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Cat in the Stax: Books to the Big Screen

By Jenna Newman

With the weather getting cooler and damper, that means more time inside and more time reading books and watching movies. A constraint refrain heard from book lovers when a film adaptation is announced is, “The book is always better.” That being said, there are a handful of incredible books that have been made into just as incredible films or TV series. Below is a list of four books that have since hit the screen and had success there, too! 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The novel was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Last year, 150 years after the second volume was published, Greta Gerwig directed the most recent adaptation of Alcott’s classic story. Although this is not the first film adaptation, I would argue that it is the best. Gerwig perfectly captures Jo’s determination, Meg’s responsible and kind nature, Amy’s artistic talent and practicality, and Beth’s quiet and loving personality. Alcott made the March sister’s stories come to life and 150 years later, Gerwig brings them to the big screen with her own 21st century twist.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This novel was published in 2017 and explores themes of race and motherhood, taking place in author Celeste Ng’s childhood town, Shaker, Ohio. Ng opens with the main tragedy and conflict and then backtracks as the reader slowly tries to figure out who set little fires everywhere. This past March, right as the world began shutting down, Hulu released their TV series based on the novel starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Despite the show showing an entirely different ending than the novel, it was done with Ng’s blessing. Although there are no definitive plans for season two, there are many people asking for it, so who knows what will happen!

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

If you’ve been reading my Cat in the Staxs for a while now, you may have realized that I love a good non-fiction, based-on-a-true-story novel, and this is no different. The story brings to light the under-told story of three Black pioneers, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who served as NASA’s “human computers,” sending many space heroes safely to space. Following the film’s release it was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won Best Movie at the BET Awards, Outstanding Motion Pictures at the NAACP Image Awards, Best Action or Adventure Film at the Saturn Awards, along with many other accolades.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

This installment is the first and most widely known novel in the “Chronicles of Narnia” series. Despite being for children, the book has a depth engages the reader in at any age. In the same way, while I would argue that other film adaptations for books in the series did not fully live up to C.S. Lewis’s novels, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe did. Although director Adam Adamson changed the storyline slightly, the magic of Narnia is brought to the big screen. From the cold ways of the White Witch to the kind, sacrificial ways of Aslan, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the perfect story to read through in a weekend or watch huddled under blankets with hot chocolate. 

I will always be someone that claims books are better than films, but that’s not to say books can’t also be turned into great films and TV series. What’s your go-to on a cool, damp day? A book or a movie? Let us know in the comments below!

Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. Current mood: Watching Greta Gerwig’s Little Women for the one millionth time.







Global Smackdown: Nigeria

  • Posted by: Jenna Newman
  • Posted Date: October 20, 2020
  • Filed Under: Library News

“This is massively huge not only for Nigeria, but the way that we think about police and the relationship in communities about Africa. This is going to have all sorts of implications for them and perhaps for us as well.”

After a week off, Dr. Tim Horner is back with another Global Smackdown. This week we’re in Nigeria and looking at the #EndSarsNow movement, which is gaining momentum both within Nigeria and internationally. The video breaks down the police brutality movement in Nigeria, how it is evolving, and the demographic factors at play.

The full Smackdown is available to watch here.

Where in the world are we?


Communication Professor Partners with Falvey to Launch “Kensington Remembers” Digital Project

By Shawn Proctor

Philadelphia is a haunted city. Not by ghosts, necessarily, but by unresolved tragedies echoing through the culture, haunting the people who must live on.

In the Kensington neighborhood of the city, Gordon Coonfield, PhD, Professor of Communication and Media Studies, happened upon vernacular memorials, created by ordinary Philadelphians to remember people who died, often violently. Flowers. Candles. Graffiti. A cardboard sign scrawled in marker. Each element is an important (if temporary) gesture to make a tribute that says to anyone who sees it: this person lived and died here.

Vernacular memorials have appeared in many places around the world. But they have a special meaning in Philadelphia, the city that originated graffiti art.

“This is home for people in a city with a very, very long history. And these memorials are a part of that history,” he says. “There is a desire to express loss that is not being met in current society.”

Dr. Coonfield, who lives in the area, began photographing and making notes about each memorial, including its location. As his entries grew, his digital scholarship project “Kensington Remembers” took shape. With the expertise of Erica Hayes, Falvey Memorial Library’s Digital Scholarship Librarian, and Professor James Parente, MFA, Communication and Media, these ever-changing, temporary memorials will be preserved, placed on an interactive digital map, and studied.

In fall 2019, Dr. Coonfield discussed with Hayes his vision for the website and, together, they reviewed and selected the website platform and Geographic Information System (GIS) best suited to his project. They continued to meet and refine the project over the next several months–memorial by memorial–with Parente contributing to the project’s web design and the custom logo.

“This digital scholarship project examines these public memorials created throughout a historic neighborhood in northern Philadelphia. Mapping technology connects these disparate locations, making them easy to navigate and understand, thanks to Dr. Coonfield’s photographs and textual explanations,” Hayes says.

“The Library staff has been enormously helpful, and are a great resource for faculty with projects like this. The Digital Scholarship Program at Falvey and the Library Technology Development department, including David Uspal, are experts in the ethics and methods of digital preservation. And Erica provided insight about the technology as well as an understanding of how best to develop this project. Without her, ‘Kensington Remembers’ would not exist,” Dr. Coonfield says.

In the future, Dr. Coonfield plans to continue expanding the project, publish articles in communication studies journals, and present on his findings at academic conferences.

If you have an idea for a digital scholarship project and would like to collaborate with Falvey Memorial Library, contact Erica Hayes or visit the new Digital Scholarship Lab online, which is scheduled to  open in Fall 2021.

Shawn ProctorShawn Proctor, MFA, is a Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.



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Announcing the 2020 Digital Seeds Lecture Featuring Whitney Trettien, PhD

2020 Digital Seeds poster


By Regina Duffy

The Villanova Community is cordially invited to the 2020 Digital Seeds Lecture featuring Whitney Trettien, PhD, Assistant Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania. Trettien’s talk, “Experimental Publishing, Then and Now,” will take place virtually on Thursday, November 5 from 4:00-5:00 pm via Zoom.

Please REGISTER HERE. Once registered, you will be sent a link to the Zoom meeting.

When we consider the role of the (digital) humanities today, we do so from within a fragmented field where the center no longer holds. This moment of creative destruction presents an opportunity to shift into a new register — one defined not by minute clefts between theories or methods but by a renewed commitment to how we compose and share our work. Specifically, how we publish — how we use media to make public the stories we spin about texts and their past lives. Drawing on her own experiments in creative/critical publishing (including most recently with the Manifold platform), as well as the deep history of writing with scissors and paste, Trettien will chart the politics, praxis, and urgency of digital publishing today.

To learn more about Whitney Trettien’s research, please visit her website at:

This talk is part of Falvey Memorial Library’s Digital Seeds series. For more information about Falvey Library’s support of Digital Scholarship, please contact Erica Hayes, Digital Scholarship Librarian at Please also visit Falvey Memorial Library’s Digital Scholarship Program webpage to learn how the Library supports faculty, students, and staff interested in applying digital methods and tools to their research and teaching.

This ACS approved event, which is sponsored by Falvey Memorial Library, is free and open to the public.


headshot picture of regina duffy  Regina Duffy is a Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library. 



Fun Friday: The Wicked Jack ‘O Lantern of the West Stacks

It’s almost that time of year again: Falvey-ween!

And, at this time of year the Wicked Jack ‘O Lantern of the West Stacks likes to come out and renew his love of reading. This year, he picked up selections that would be sure to delight, surprise, and scare; including those by Stephen King, Samuel Delaney, and Mira Grant.

While it might appear from this time lapse that the rumors about hauntings in the West Stacks are true, these are actually energy efficient motion sensing lights that shut off when no one passes by. On second thought…I didn’t see anyone in the video that made them turn on, did you?







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At Your (Virtual and In-Person) Service: A Look Inside Falvey’s Successful Fall Reopening

By Shawn Proctor

When the campus closed in the spring, Falvey Memorial Library quickly adapted to virtual services and resources in order to meet the needs of students and faculty. And as the campus planned for reopening this fall, Falvey leadership and staff worked together to reimagine the Library so that it could offer in-person and virtual services and spaces while maintaining the campus community’s Caritas Commitment to safety.

“The Library is a fundamental educational resource, providing instruction, study space, services, tools, and materials that support the goals of teachers and learners. We are creating the safest possible physical environment for Library staff and patrons, and ensuring services and resources, both physical and virtual, are available,” says Luisa Cywinski, Director of Access Services.

The first floor of the Library has been dramatically changed. Speakers’ Corner has been reorganized as a socially distanced study space. Gone is the closely grouped furniture. In its place patrons will find carefully spaced queues for contactless pickup, printing, the UNIT TechZone, and the new virtual service desk. The latter substitutes for in-person interaction at the front deskvisitors with questions can converse with a staff member via an ongoing virtual connection.

“Many people seem hesitant when first approaching the service station, but quickly warm up to the experience,” says Abigail Cengel, Access and Collections Service Desk Coordinator. “This allows students to interact with Library staff ‘face-to-face’ in the safest possible way. Some visitors have commented that the setup is really neat!”

It enables staff to be located in their individual work areas, even while providing a friendly face for patrons.

Michael Sgier, Access and Collections Coordinator, adds, “This is a different Library environment–not quite as populous or lively–but we are still here to help support the academic endeavors of the community. We want to make sure that they feel safe when seeking help.”

Adaptable, Safe, and Human-Powered
Sgier and Cengel were integral to conceiving the new contactless pickup procedure. Villanova students, faculty, and staff can place holds on books, DVDs, and other circulating items from the Library’s online catalog. Library staff locate the items, place them in a bag on a shelf, and send an email when the requested items are ready for pickup. This avoids multiple people handling books, potentially transmitting the virus via surface contact. The process has required additional staff resources, but has proven a smooth operation over the first weeks of the semester.

“It’s a service that I’m very proud to have been a part of in crafting for the Library,” Sgier says. “Simply put, it takes a little longer to provide each of these Library services. A little longer to circulate materials, a little longer to respond to questions and problems, just because everything is dependent on humans to complete.”

For the same safety reasons, course reserves are not being circulated. Staff scan and send the digital pages to each patron upon request.

Patrons can also use the ILLiad and EZBorrow services to request electronic and physical copies of books, CDs, and DVDs from other library collections. They may also request e-books, but availability is not guaranteed. If the requested e-book is unavailable, the staff may be able to provide specific chapters instead.

When any physical item is returned to the Library, staff place it in quarantine. Gerald Dierkes, Access and Collections Coordinator, explained that this ensures no surface-to-surface transmission of the virus. “We researched the topic and, based on the findings, implemented a three-day quarantine,” he says.

Have you tried the new services at the Library? Like them? Love them? We want to hear about it! Email

Shawn Proctor Shawn Proctor is a Communication and Marketing Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.



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Last Modified: October 15, 2020