The Many Ways to Get Library Help

There are many ways to ask for help. Some folks prefer help in a face-to-face setting. Others are more comfortable on the phone, in a chat room, querying a database, or Googling around the Internet.

Knowing we're all so different, librarians offer different kinds of help for these different kinds of behavior. Here's hoping you find your preferred method on the list below!

 

Face-to-Face
If you're in MSEL, stop by our Information Desk and Research Consultation Office. (See our service hours.) You can also set up an appointment to meet with your librarian.

Phone, Chat, Tweet, Text, or Email
You can send us tweets, or emails. Text us at (410) 692-8874. We are also available via chat or telephone.

Query a Database
Frequent questions and answers are available 24/7 in our Ask a Librarian service.

Google
The Ask a Librarian service is indexed by Google. Make sure you add JHU to your search terms to find us, rather than the library at Harvard or Yale.

This way to the beach

11863399_10102981987544878_4502392832089887490_nAs summer winds down, you have a few final fleeting weeks to get to the beach. I grew up near Lake Erie, where going to the beach for the afternoon wasn't really a popular thing. But after experiencing many beaches on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, I became a little more interested in this whole idea of going to the beach. It turns out, there is more to the beach than just lying in the sand all day. Beaches have a long history related to tourism, sport, the economy, the environment, humans interaction with nature.

Boardwalks puzzle me, but as I discovered at Ocean City this summer, plenty of people love them, and there are plenty of them around. If you're on a mission to visit all the best American boardwalks, start with America's Boardwalks: From Coney Island to Californiato start making your list.  Boardwalks are full of people, arcade games, dropped french fries (and seagulls swooping after them), and my personal favorite, frozen custard - all of which contribute to the bustling boardwalk atmosphere.

For a little exploration beyond Maryland, try the ebooks on The World's Beaches, Australian Beach Culturesor closer to home, Beaches of the Delaware Estuary.

Changes at MSEL

If you're a returning student (or staff or faculty), there are a few changes around MSEL you should know about.

Elevators - The MSEL public elevators (near the central staircase) are in the midst of a renovation. We don't expect them to be operational again until Sept. 15 (or thereabouts). In the meantime:

  • Use the BLC elevators to move between Q and C Levels
  • Ask at the Guard's Desk to take the elevator down to D Level if you can't manage the stairs from C to D; they'll escort you down via the staff elevator
  • To come back up from D Level: if you can manage the stairs from D to C, just go up to C and take the BLC elevator the rest of the way, or if you need the elevator the entire way, use the courtesy phone around the corner from the staff elevator (near the north staircase) to call the M Level Guard's Desk (6-4814) to have the elevator brought down to you

newcarrels2Changing C Level

  • We've added 14 new carrels to the north end of C Level, near the staff elevator. More quiet study seating!
  • The sole printer/copier/scanner on C level is right next to the central stairwell.

New journal issues are all on M Level - The newest print issues of newspapers, journals, and magazines are all in one spot now: the M Level Current Periodicals section.

AV Changes on A Level - The large AV viewing room now accommodates streaming technology. Both viewing rooms have been upgraded and painted. The microform equipment has been moved into the AV office to provide researchers a quieter environment, accessible with a key they receive with their microform materials at the M Level Service Desk. A future blog post will provide more details about the AV changes. Stay tuned!

Coeducation at Johns Hopkins, pt. 1

The history of coeducation at Johns Hopkins is a long and – by today’s standards – a not entirely complimentary story.

When our founding president, Daniel Coit Gilman, and the original trustees were planning this university in 1875 and 1876, the question of admitting women was discussed. Presidents of two other universities – Charles Eliot of Harvard and James Angell of Michigan – offered their opinions on coeducation. Eliot was firmly against it, giving reasons that today sound ludicrous. He said coeducation was a “thoroughly wrong idea which is rapidly disappearing.” Coeducation might result in “unequal marriages,” he said, and might “threaten a woman’s good health.” And, he maintained that, while educating women was generally a good idea, they should be prepared for “a life fundamentally different from that of any man.”

Angell defended coeducation, but with little enthusiasm. As president of the University of Michigan, he was required to admit women. But his explanation for how it worked sounds paternalistic: “There has been no practical embarrassment arising out of the system. Our girls for the most part are matured, and the greatest care is taken by myself and others in their general welfare...The young men have, so far as I know, borne themselves with the greatest courtesy and prudence towards the ladies. The girls go to and from the College undisturbed. When the boys are hustling about the streets, they fall back and let the ladies pass by.”

President Gilman himself seemed predisposed against coeducation. In his Inaugural Address, delivered February 22, 1876, he expressed his reluctance to expose women “to the rougher influences which I am sorry to confess are still to be found in colleges and universities where young men resort.” While not opposed to educating women, he preferred that it be done in a same-gender setting. Given these ideas, and the faint praise expressed by Angell, it is little wonder that, when Hopkins opened in October 1876, the student body was composed of all men, undergraduate and graduate alike.

Despite seemingly monolithic opposition, several women attempted to gain admission, and some were successful. Just a year after Hopkins opened, Martha Carey Thomas and Emily Nunn tried to enter a degree program. Thomas was successful in gaining admission but left in frustration after a year, while Nunn was denied access to the biological laboratory.

Two other women persevered to complete their studies at Hopkins. Christine Ladd-Franklin (left) entered in 1878 and completed her PhD program in 1882. Despite having Professor of Mathematics James J. Sylvester as her “champion,” the Hopkins trustees refused to confer the degree she had earned. In 1926, Ladd-Franklin finally received her PhD, 44 years overdue. In the meantime, another remarkable woman not only completed a degree program, but actually received her degree. Florence Bascom (above) entered Hopkins in 1891, studying geology. In 1893, she was awarded the PhD, the first woman to receive a Hopkins degree of any kind. In Bascom’s case, Edward H. Griffin, Dean of the College Faculty, helped to shepherd her past obstacles.

As these examples show, women seeking admission to Hopkins in the 19th century found the path smoother with someone in a position of authority to plead their case. Change eventually came through Mary Elizabeth Garrett, daughter of trustee John Work Garrett. In 1892, she contributed $306,977 to allow the School of Medicine to open. One of the conditions on her gift was that women be admitted to the School of Medicine on the same basis as men. The trustees reluctantly accepted this, then, in 1907, they voted to allow qualified women to enter any division of Hopkins as graduate students. From that point, while still treated with condescension in many quarters, women at least had a defined path to graduate study. For women wishing to enter the full-time undergraduate program, however, the wait extended until 1970 (that story to follow later this month).

Can you get 0 results in the catalog?

Uno ZerosThere used to be a game called Googlewhack where the goal was to get only 1 result in a Google results list using only 2 real words in your search.

While our catalog isn't as huge as the Internet (or the parts of the Internet that Google searches), I wondered if there are individual words that yield 0 results when you do a keyword search in our catalog, Catalyst.

This was way more difficult than I thought!

First I tried a few words I thought just wouldn't end up in the catalog of a university library, but I found these results:

All our books, films, music, book chapters, and subject headings cover a LOT of ground. So I turned to new words, using the Oxford Dictionaries' Recent Updates page. New scientific terms had plenty of hits: bioprinting (6) and optogenetics (22) were added to the Oxford Dictionary in February 2015. I turned to gaming and current slang terms for 0 results:

Can you think of words that aren't in our catalog without resorting to the dictionary?

 

 

Chocolate — At What Price?

Cocoa pods

Cocoa pods

Chocolate. Just typing the word makes me happy (and hungry). We want to eat chocolate. We're supposed to eat it.

But the world's cocoa supply is in danger. One reason is that every year about a third of the cocoa crop is destroyed by disease or pests or natural disaster. Who can save the cocoa?

Meet the International Cocoa Quarantine Center in Reading, UK. This center is part of the International Cocoa Germplasm Database (ICGD), which began in 1988 for the purpose of collecting information about all of the cocoa germplasm found in the wild. All cocoa plants being shipped from anywhere must visit the quarantine center to make sure that they are free of disease. This is good news.

However, a recent headline in the Cocoa Barometer reported a more important reason that cocoa is in danger: the number of cocoa farmers is dropping. When you read the story, you'll see why: the job is hard and low-paying; the current generation of farmers is getting older, and younger people don't want to do it.

But those aren't the only reasons. Cocoa-producing countries such as the Ivory Coast engage in human rights violations, including child labor, to maintain the supply of this lucrative commodity. (Most of the workers have never even tasted the final product of what their labor produces; watch these farmers tasting chocolate for the first time.)

Bitter Chocolate: anatomy of an industry, written last year by Carol Off, tells the social history of cocoa farming and exposes the misery caused by working conditions, war, and big business. (This is an e-book; you can look at it right now.) And read about the brutal history of cocoa in Chocolate Islands: cocoa, slavery, and colonial Africa (2012; also an e-book) and Chocolate on Trial: slavery, politics, and the ethics of business.

Noteworthy are the actions of the Cadbury family in the early 1900s, as recounted in Chocolate Islands:

"Cadbury Brothers, the world-renowned chocolatiers, imported more than 50 percent of their chocolate from the Portuguese West African colony São Tomé and Príncipe... at the beginning of the 20th century. When rumors reached William Cadbury in England that these islands were using slave labor to harvest the cocoa, Cadbury sent Joseph Burtt to investigate the labor practices there and then travel onward to Angola, Mozambique, and Transvaal in South Africa from 1905 to 1907. ...Burtt concluded that the workers on São Tomé and Príncipe were indeed slaves, and from 1908 to 1909, he and Cadbury traveled to Príncipe, São Tomé, and Angola so Cadbury could observe the situation firsthand. Upon their return, Cadbury and the other British chocolatiers boycotted all further imports."

Opera should be seen and heard!

opera_singerAre you an opera fan? Do you want to see some great performances of your favorite chestnuts? Or, are you interested in exploring new music you’ve never seen or heard before? Opera in Video might be a great source for you!

This library database is an essential tool for students at the Peabody Institute, providing access to some of the most important and innovative opera performances from around the world. The database allows users to make links to entire operas, selected arias (such as a favorite from Carmen), or other portions of a work (such as the dramatic Ride of the Valkyries).

In addition to video and audio, Opera in Video provides production notes, performer biographies, interviews, editorials, and some musical scores. Not quite as much information as another library resource, Grove Music Online, but still a nice added feature!

This resource joins the ranks of other related materials on the Audio & Video portion of the Eisenhower Library’s Music Research Guide. The Classical Music Library and the Naxos Music Library, for example, are particularly good for audio clips.

Also keep in mind that the Friedheim Library is an important resource for musicians and music enthusiasts, housing musical scores, recordings, and essential scholarship in the field. Friedheim is located on the Peabody’s Mt Vernon campus.

Privacy Rights: What We Click Away

Recently I had to give up my personal Facebook archive. It’s a long and boring story, but something I never expected to be asked to do and it felt wrong…maybe a tiny bit icky. It got me thinking more about privacy and the places we store information online. While you might not realize it, librarians tend to think about privacy a lot and even have a Library Bill of Rights. What you might not know, is that since the Patriot Act was enacted and expanded, there have been librarians under gag orders who could not publicly speak out about their experiences related to the FBI demanding that patron data be handed over.

The National Security Letter delivered to the Library Connection in 2005.

In July 2005, two FBI agents visited the Library Connection in Connecticut. The Library Connection is non-profit cooperative of library databases that arranges record-sharing between 27 different libraries and tracks book rental and other services. The agents handed The Library Connection’s executive director a document that demanded that he produce any and all “subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person or entity” that had used library computers for 45 minutes on February 15, 2005 in any of the 27 libraries whose computer systems were managed by the Library Connection. The FBI wanted the private data on library patrons to protect against international terrorism.

A National Security Letter (NSL) is a written directive to produce records that the FBI issues to third parties, such as telephone companies, Internet Service Providers, banks, consumer credit reporting agencies, and libraries. The legal framework for NSLs was established by Section 505 of the USA Patriot Act in 2001. Recipients of an NSL are typically under a perpetual gag order and are not permitted to disclose it. A library can be required to hand over books, documents, computer files, and hard drives for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities. Such letters existed before the Patriot Act, but were greatly expanded by the law.

Library warrant canary relying on active removal, designed by Jessamyn West.

If you worked for the library and received one of these letters, you could not speak of it ever. Librarians protested the renewal of the Patriot Act, but lost in a tie. What would library staff do if they couldn’t talk about it? Ever? They started to get creative and post canary signs, which read something like “The FBI has not been here today, but watch closely for this sign to be removed.” The Connecticut librarian was under a perpetual gag order, unable to speak out or testify about it during a debate over the Patriot Acts’ renewal. Eventually the gag order was lifted and a group of librarians, known as the Connecticut Four in library circles, began to speak out publicly.

Many libraries gather the minimum amount of patron information needed for library operations, and if you’re curious, you can see exactly what type of data is collected by the JHU Libraries. The American Library Association recommends that if a library collects data about patrons for planning, library staff should do so in a way that protects the identity of the patron. As long as records exist, however, librarians cannot ensure confidentiality, because agencies will seek this information and can do so more easily under the Patriot Act. If a library or library vendor is going to store patron data then the librarian should ask for the patron’s permission and tell them about the risks.

Many librarians feel privacy is a basic right and strongly support a First Amendment right to receive information from a publicly funded library. Courts have upheld privacy rights based on the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. Ultimately, however, the biggest threat to privacy is not an NSL, but it is you. It’s me. It’s the choices we make in how much information we self-publish through Facebook, Twitter, or give away to third party services who may store data far longer than a library. It's the privacy rights we give over to vendors and other companies in exchange for services we like, such as recommending related books or personalizing our accounts to our liking. How many times have you quickly scrolled or clicked through service agreements without really reading them deeply? I know I have in the past, but from now on, I plan to think more intentionally about my online presence.

I thought I had nothing to hide in that Facebook archive, and actually, I didn’t…but it didn’t make it feel any better to hand it over and worse still that others were sifting through and reading it. Once I realized what it felt like to turn over that personal data myself, on a much smaller and humbler scale than an NSL, it was too late to stop others from seeing it. For our much larger online footprint, we owe it to ourselves to think about what we are putting out there about ourselves, how we feel about it overall, and start to think about it.

Summer Reading: On the Go!

It’s summer and you’re heading out of town—or maybe you’re planning a trip to the far reaches of your very own backyard for an imaginary afternoon getaway. Either way, you’re going to want something to read. Traveling is so much more enjoyable when you’ve got a trusty book to share the journey with.

But what to bring? The night before your departure, as you’re packing your suitcase, it’s hard to come up with good reading ideas. So plan ahead with these suggestions tailored to the delights and perils of travel.

  • Long nineteenth-century novels, believe it or not, are ideal for road trips, long flights, visits with distant relatives…any situation where extended periods of luxurious literary immersion are likely to be punctuated by interruptions. That’s because many of these novels were first published in periodicals in monthly installments. Publishers were looking for ways to encourage readers to buy the next issue, but you can benefit from the resulting narrative structure: there will be a cliff-hanger every chapter or two—and a helpful recap at the beginning of the next. Masterpieces of serialization include Uncle Tom’s Cabin and just about everything by Charles Dickens; the stop-start construction is not quite so obvious in the serialized works of Tolstoy, Flaubert, George Eliot and Henry James.
  • Or maybe you like the idea of a one-day read, which can make you feel like you’ve packed an entire vacation into 24 hours. Some of my favorite short stories are by writers best known as novelists or playwrights or poets—Edith Wharton, Anton Chekhov, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Langston Hughes, Kurt Vonnegut, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
  • Travel is always about adventure, essentially, and a love affair with the melancholy-wry adventure stories of Ernest Hemingway is practically a rite of passage for travelers to certain corners of the globe. If you’ve been there done that but still long to recapture the adventurous spirit of the early 1900s, what about Joseph Conrad, Franz Kafka, Katherine Mansfield, or Zora Neale Hurston?
  • Graphic novels/comics/manga—yes. Ideal, IMHO, for camping, hiking and other outdoorsy pursuits that are likely to leave you tuckered out at the end of the day, aching for a good book but not up for dense lines of print. Select “advanced search” in Catalyst for subject terms “graphic novel OR comic book OR cartoonists” (no quotation marks) and you’ll get a long and tantalizing list. Too many options? Follow these expert recommendations if you prefer.
  • Fiction by authors from outside the U.S. can connect you to the people and history of an unfamiliar place. “Contemporary world fiction,” so called, is a booming business now, and much of it is written in English or has been translated. The Commonwealth Foundation awards annual prizes for first books and short stories by writers from the fifty-four nations of the Commonwealth (most are former British colonies or dependencies); search for past winners on their website to find authors whose work you’d like to read, then search for those authors in Catalyst. The Commonwealth website also provides information about other international awards you can investigate in like manner.
  • Driving and looking at a page or screen are incompatible activities, it turns out. But audio-books are eyes-free reading! If you’re an avid iTunes user or podcast junkie, you don’t need me to tell you that listening to books is an awesome way to road trip. The library’s collection of audio-books, which we used to call “books on tape” back in olden times, is mostly, um, books on tape.  (Tape was this magnetized strip of plastic that … oh, never mind.) You can see what we have by searching in Catalyst’s “advanced search” for relevant keywords—“literature” for example (no quotation marks)—and limiting format to “non-musical sound recordings.”  But for the love of Mike, sort your search by “year” (as opposed to “relevance”) to see holdings that are on cd rather than vinyl or tape. We have mostly concentrated our audio-books collecting in recent years on academic materials, because you folks have so many options now for downloading and listening to audio files. Lots of literary recordings in the public domain are now available for free at sites like librivox, booksshouldbefree, and audiobooks.

If these suggestions don’t float your boat, fly your plane or drive your train, no worries—check out our posts from earlier in the summer with ideas for relaxing and experimental reads. Bon voyage!

Libraries and Happy Discoveries

Julia Weist, a Brooklyn-based artist, has posted a 17th Century Word on a large billboard and she wants to be the only one on the Internet using it. If you search for her, lots of posts seem to honor that request. If you want to check out the word, check out her website, which she posted it on as a part of her project called Reach.

Julia said she found the word, which means "coming together through the binding of two ropes," at the Rare Book Division of the New York Public Library (NYPL) in a 1627 publication about vocabulary related to sailors and their trade.

With online books and journal articles, browsing the stacks physically has been on the decline because sometimes technology does not support that function. Preserving the value of serendipitous discovery may be nearly as essential as preserving the material itself.

Academic librarians can collaborate with faculty to engineer serendipitous discovery into research assignments. For example, instead of providing links to specific articles, students can be supplied with librarian-constructed search strategies that lead them to relevant sets of literature requiring student-driven browsing, evaluation, and selection.

We need to explore the possibilities so that others, like Julia, can continue to make happy and ingenious discoveries.