Hands holding jellybeans

Pretend that these are your hands, and the jellybeans are all the good things you can share with your community by volunteering. Just try it. (photo courtesy of Andrew Gray)

Even with all your summer class homework, and with all the movies that Netflix and the UGL Media Collection can provide you with, you may still find yourself with extra time on your hands this summer. Instead of watching reruns of Portlandia for the second day straight, why not give that extra time to someone in need by becoming a volunteer?

Volunteering has many benefits, not only for the person or organization you give your time to, but for you yourself. It can connect you with people you might have never met otherwise, teach you new skills (or new ways to apply skills you already have), and can help buff up that resume you’ve been working on with help from the Career Center (who are open for regular hours this summer, by the way!). The downtime that summer provides may be a good window in which to seek out a new volunteer opportunity, but don’t treat it as just a summer fling – your help is needed all year long, and the best volunteer experiences come when you really invest your time and effort. Consider picking a project or location where you can continue to lend your aid when the school year starts again.

Once you’ve decided you want to volunteer, where should you go to actually start? One great place to find a lot of different opportunities is the CU Volunteer page. Many different organizations in the Champaign-Urbana area use this site to list their volunteer opportunities, and you can sign up to help through the site as well. You can see a list of current opportunities, or you can browse by organization to see if a specific group has volunteer opportunities.

For campus-specific volunteering, you can visit the Office of Volunteer Programs inside the Illini Union. If you have a specific area of interest that you’d like to volunteer in, you can also search around for websites of organizations in that area that might need help – for instance, for those interested in sustainability and agriculture, the Sustainable Student Farm has need of student volunteers all year round. The University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System also has volunteer opportunities for those wanting to become more familiar with hospital settings.

Give your time and energy, and in return get new experiences, new contacts, and the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from helping someone out.
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Soak up the summer

Summer and vacation go together like librarians and books. After all, in the summer, the weather’s nicer (sometimes) and people have more free time (maybe). Vacations don’t necessarily require you to travel far away, either. Sometimes it’s nice to take a “staycation” and find fun, new things to do close to home.

A suitcase covered in stickers implies much fulfilling travel.

The library has a lot of resources you can peruse if you’re planning a trip. There are library guides for popular destinations, like Italy and Costa Rica. You can also search for travel guides in the library’s catalog. They’re pretty easy to find once you know how to search for them.

First you want to start in the library catalog. When you search by keyword, don’t just put in your destination, which will net you too many results to sift through. Instead, tacking things like “guidebook” or “travel guide” on to the end of your search will help ensure you’re getting the types of books you want. For example, if you were traveling to New Mexico, a search for “new mexico – travel guide” will yield some great results. (You don’t have to use the quotation marks, either.)

Can you search for things closer to home this way, too? Of course! Like above, you just substitute “illinois” (so you’re searching for “Illinois – travel guide”) and you’ll see over 300 books waiting to tell you all the cool places to visit in the Prairie State. If you’re looking for something even closer to home, check out the calendar for the Champaign County Arts Council for fun events happening all summer, or the suggestions from the Champaign County Conventions and Visitors Bureau.

Safe and happy travels, #ClubUGL.

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Good Times

There’s a time and place for everything, and summer on campus is the time for (among other things) relaxing with some movies from the UGL media collection. If you find yourself with time to kill between your summer classes, why not try watching a film on the theme of time travel? Here are a few we’ve picked out – let us know if we missed any good ones!

DVD cover: some men have built an ominous box

This movie focuses on the consequences of time travel and how difficult it might be to navigate the ethics of time travel. It’s written, produced, and directed by Shane Carruth, who also plays one of the main characters, and who also was formerly an engineer, so I think we can trust his technological insights. The movie won big time at the 2004 Sundance film festival.




DVD cover: Jean Claude Van Damme has a futuristic gun
For those that prefer their time travel to be heavy on the action, this 1980s flick might hit the spot. Set in the distant future year of 2004, it follows a government agent tasked with combating time crime. He races back and forth through time periods, unraveling political intrigue and avoiding the schemes of the perpetrators. It might have some plot holes, but it could still be worth your time if you’re looking for pure entertainment.





DVD cover: young Keanu Reeves and friends in a telephone booth
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Two high schoolers travel back in time in a phone booth and meet famous historical figures in an effort to pass a history class. Should they fail the class, their fates will be altered and the future Utopian society based on their leadership will never happen. This is why you should spend your time wisely, and study.




The Time Machine DVD cover: a scientist looks distraught as a monster assaults a person
The Time Machine
H.G. Wells’ novel The Time Machine is the origin of the popular term…”time machine.” It’s a classic of science fiction that has stood the test of time and inspired countless derivative works and sequels. This film version is from 1960, and won an Academy Award for Visual Effects for its time-lapse photography.






The Time Traveler's Wife DVD cover: people are snuggling sideways
The Time Travelers’ Wife
Most movie time travelers make use of technology or magic to move through time, but the protagonist of this story travels due to an unexplained genetic condition. He is unable to control when and where he ends up, his love life suffers many unpredictable consequences. The film is based on the novel of the same title by Audrey Niffenegger, which you can also check out.



The Fountain DVD cover: figures perched on sci-fi landscape
The Fountain
The characters in this film may not actually travel through time themselves, but the viewer is transported to many different time periods, connected by a narrative thread: a couple in love try to cope with the reality of death. Heavy stuff, but it’s worth reflecting on how to cope when your time is up.





That’s all we have time for right now – pick these up from the UGL if they interest you, or let us know in the comments what time travel movies you prefer!

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Summer Survival

Ah, summer. The time of year when temperatures rise, and nature simultaneously asserts itself as a source of enjoyment (Sunshine! Flowers!) and a force to be reckoned with (Sunburn! Bug bites!).

If battling the heat and summer classes have got you down, take a break and enjoy something from this reading list inspired by the age-old theme of People Versus Nature. Some of them are very suspenseful, and some are not – you can choose according to how adventurous you’re feeling. And all of them, of course, are enjoyable from within the air-conditioned luxury of the library. Stop in and pick one up!
Gilligan's Island Season 2 tv show in library catalog

The characters in Gilligan’s Island may be shipwrecked, but they really don’t have it that bad. It seems there is no problem they can’t solve using bamboo and coconuts. Enjoy all three seasons of their exploits, and if their craftiness inspires you, check out  this book on Eco-Crafts; maybe you, too, can make something useful or fun from the things in your environment.

Robinson Crusoe book in library catalog

 One step up from Gilligan’s Island is the classic adventure story of Robinson Crusoe. The main character still gets clever with his surroundings, but the stakes are higher, since cannibals and wild animals are everywhere. Don’t worry about him too much, though – in the end he gets rescued. For a contemporary spin on the shipwrecked loner theme, try the film Cast Away. It has a sadder ending, but 100% more anthropomorphic volleyballs.

Mud, Sweat and Tears by Bear Grylls

If you’re ready to step away from the confines of fiction, pick up this autobiography of Bear Grylls, TV survival artist extraordinaire. What will this man not do to survive? He has, for instance, ” utilised the corpse of a sheep as a sleeping bag and flotation device.” I expect big things from a person like that. If things go really wrong, however, his support crew is never too far away, so he’ll make it out alright.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed book in library catalogCheryl Strayed might not have ever done anything ingenious with a dead sheep, but she did walk the entirety of the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail, alone, with no previous backpacking experience and no TV crew to help her. The experience helped Strayed cope with the disintegration of her personal life and come out ahead of many personal challenges.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer book in library catalogSometimes those who face the forces of nature don’t come out on top. Into the Wild is the story of an American hitchhiker who disappeared from civilization and attempted to live off the Alaskan wilderness, and who was eventually found dead  in an abandoned bus. His motivations for undertaking such a dangerous expedition, and how basic preparation could have perhaps prevented his demise, have inspired much discussion, and even a movie version.

If reading these tales of humanity versus wilderness leaves you hankering for your own outdoor adventure, make sure you adequately prepare, so you can spend your time enjoying nature instead of struggling to live. Check out a book on outdoor skills, such as Hiking in Illinois or the Wilderness Survival Handbook, and get information about local destinations and regulations via Champaign Park District or the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Your favorite underground library will still be here to offer you shade and comfy chairs when you get back!


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