All sorts of endings

zombiesIt's the end of the year (or maybe the end of the world?) and since I'm writing this on a gray afternoon, my mind is focused on the end of all things. Since I'm a librarian, I can't help but search our catalog for books about different kinds of endings. Here's what I found.

Judgment Day - A bit old-fashioned, but lots of books, several in languages other than English.

End of the Universe  - This list is for the cosmologists. (Sorry to say we have some of Douglas Adams' books, but not Restaurant at the End of the Universe.)

World's End - A popular title. But my favorite is the movie with Simon Pegg.

Apocalypse - I had no idea there were lots of kinds of apocalypses: Apocalypse of Mary, of Daniel, of James, and more. There's the classic movie Apocalypse Now. Zombie Apocalypse is the current apocalypse of choice, which includes the Walking Dead.

I hope you celebrate the end of this year and the start of the new one in a happy way!

Holiday Treats!


Are you eagerly anticipating traditional holiday foods? Or, perhaps you are interested in baking some cakes and cookies? Celebrate the spirit of the season with some cool recipes from our library and other collections that are available online for free. If you are in the mood to try out pudding, check out Plum Pudding: of Divers Ingredients, Discreetly Blended & Seasoned.

Apart from our library holdings, there are good online recipe collections. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has great historical menus in their digital collections. There are also some delicious recipes from the Feeding America Cookbook Project which includes Christmas Cookies, New Year’s Cake, Ginger Cake, Plum Pudding, Egg Nog, and many more! As you are working on preparing the feast, enjoy watching the strange traditions clip from the History Channel.

By the way, if you're in Baltimore and coming to the library, be sure to check the hours we're open.

Have a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!

Not Just Christmas!

Certainly, Christmas is one of the most well known holidays taking place in December. However, it is by no means the only one! December has been a time for celebration throughout history, as far back as the origins of Buddhism and the ancient Roman Empire.

Bodhi Day, traditionally celebrated on December 8th, celebrates the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama, the originator of Buddhism. Celebrations vary but can include additional meditation and performing kind acts for others. Saturnalia, celebrated between December 17th and 23rd, is an ancient Roman holiday honoring the god Saturn. Celebrations would include elaborate feasts where slaves would be treated as masters, and gifts would be exchanged (in a manner not unlike modern Christmas celebrations).

Many celebrations around the world mark the winter solstice. Yalda in Iran celebrates the longest night of the year with family gatherings and sharing of food, especially the last of the summer fruits including pomegranates, watermelons and a variety of dried fruits and nuts. In China, the Dongzhi Festival commemorates the beginning of longer days with, among other traditions, family parties featuring glutenous rice balls or dumplings.

A bit darker, merry old England had a celebration known as Modraniht, taking place on what is now Christmas Eve. This was a ceremony evidenced by Bede at which Anglo-Saxon pagans would offer up a human sacrifice. To brighten up the end of the year, why not celebrate Hogmanay, the Scottish new year's festival, taking place from New Year's Eve through to the following evening or even January 2nd by singing Auld Lang Syne and swinging a fireball!

No matter how you celebrate December, enjoy it safely with those you care for, eat, drink, and be merry!

Library Holiday hours

Snowflakes keep falling on my head…

While I know those are not quite the lyrics for that song, I can't help but want to twist the words around slightly this time of year, particularly when the sky is gray and hats, gloves, and wooly socks are necessary. Even with the rigor of the semester ending, it is hard not to be on the lookout for that first, exciting snowflake of the season. However, that simple, beautiful, delicate little snowflake is actually quite a spectacular bit of science.

Snowflakes have fascinated scientists for a long time. In 1611, Johannes Kepler wrote, "Now Socrates has to say how far a flea can jump. Our question is, why snowflakes in their first falling, before they are entangled in larger plumes, always fall with six corners and with six rods, tufted like feathers." To read more of Kepler's pondering on snowflakes check out his Vom sechseckigen Schnee: Strena seu de Nive sexangula, or, if your German is not up to par, you might enjoy the very short but page turning 1966 English translation.

Snowflakes start as supercooled cloud droplets. Those droplets freeze and as they move through different humidity and temperatures they develop their unique shapes. Most snowflakes exhibit a six-fold radial symmetry, with each arm of the crystal structure growing separately. Most snowflakes are not perfectly symmetrical because of the number of variables that change as they make their way through the atmosphere.

Probably one of the most well-known snowflake researchers in the U.S. was Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley. Bentley photographed thousands of individual snowflakes and was the man to declare that no two snowflakes were the same. Check out the beautiful pictures of snowflakes in the classic book Snow Crystals. To read more about Bentley, his biography by Duncan Blancard provides insight into Bentley's singular passion for snowflakes.

Inspired by Bentley, Ukichiro Nakaya, a Japanese physicist and glaciologist called snowflakes "letters sent from heaven." He went on to study snow crystals and produced over 3,000 photomicrographs  by which he established a classification of natural snow crystals. Snowflakes and snow crystal formation continue to be an active field of study. To learn about the latest research do a search in General Science database for full text articles on snowflakes or search the library catalog.

Snowflakes are also a traditional symbol for winter and wintery conditions. I know every winter I always watch White Christmas and sing along with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen as they extoll the virtues of snow. However, as winter wears on keep in mind the words of native Baltimore singer, Frank Zappa, " out where the huskies go and don't you eat that yellow snow."

GIS & Business Locations

BlogRefUSANov2015Identifying and mapping business locations is one of the most frequent activities embarked upon by geographic information system (GIS) users doing location analysis. Where are the food stores, restaurants, cemeteries, gyms, tattoo parlors, or medical marijuana clinics? Does the proximity of certain business type have a negative or positive impact on the surrounding area? What patterns become apparent when mapping businesses locations in combination with consumer expenditures, income, or other demographic data? All of the above is just one visualization away using the power of GIS in combination with the library subscription database ReferenceUSA.

For starters, think of ReferenceUSA as a giant spreadsheet containing over 24 million active business entries. Standard variables on the spreadsheet include company name, address, business type, estimated sales volume, number of employees, and associated industry classification codes (SIC and NAICS).

Extracting just the needed businesses, by type or geographic area, is easy with available search templates, and a variety of output options. GIS users will likely choose the CSV (comma-separated values) download as it provides greater flexibility for mapping using the included latitude/longitude coordinates or via the GIS process called address geocoding.

If tracking the geographic comings and goings of businesses is needed, ReferenceUSA offers a subcomponent titled “U.S. Historical Businesses” with 151 million business location entries extending back to 2003. Also included is the spreadsheet variable indicating the years each business appeared in the active businesses portion of the database.

Looking for help getting started with ReferenceUSA, ArcGIS desktop software or ArcGIS Online for Johns Hopkins? Talk to the folks in GIS and Data Service (A-Level of the Eisenhower Library building), send us an e-mail at or give us a call at 410-516-8360.

Represent JHU on the Global Stage


Bosman & Kramer. 2015. 101 Innovations in Scholarly Communication: The Changing Research Workflow.

Back in October we asked you to take the 101 Innovations in Scholarly Communication survey. We still need graduate students and faculty to take this graphical survey; we'll use the data to help us improve our library services and resources. You have until February 10, 2016, to take this quick survey about the tools you use throughout your research process.

The survey authors provide updates about the results here. I can tell you that fewer than 200 JHU folks have taken the survey; as of October 31 over 5,000 researchers worldwide had participated in the survey.

To make sure the data get back to us, please use the links below to take the survey. We'll share the JHU data with the JHU community and produce a report about the data and how we intend to adapt library services.

Library Hours During Finals Week

Book CatThanksgiving is long gone. Classes end Friday, Dec. 4th. Reading period is Dec. 7 - 8, and finals are Dec. 9 - 18. This means study environments will be at a premium. Whatever your preference, we have a space for you at the Sheridan Libraries.

Looking for quiet? The Reading Room in the BLC, the Hut in Gilman, and the lower levels of MSEL are the places for you.

Need a constant murmur? The BLC Cafe and MSEL's M and A Levels provide background noise.

Do you want to talk without bothering others? Then you'll want the group study rooms in the BLC and MSEL. You'll have to reserve them ahead of time.

Take the library with you! If you prefer to study at home or somewhere off-campus, you can take that library soundscape with you to ensure studying effectiveness. Our catalog, research guides, and databases are also available online, anytime.

The Hut, MSEL, and the BLC will be open 24/7 from Saturday, Dec. 5th, until midnight Friday, December 18.

So that our students can find seats, non-JHU visitor hours will be limited to 7:30 AM to 4 PM during this time.

The Board Is Back!

thumbtacksThere is a Suggestion Board on Eisenhower Library's M Level, across from the elevators. This board used to be a treasure house of good questions/suggestions from you, and witty replies from a department head who tended the board as if it were a beautiful garden. Sadly, after she retired, the M Board gradually became neglected, as sometimes happens.

These days, of course, you can contact the library in many different ways:

But even if suggestion boards aren't needed as much as they used to be, it's still very satisfying to express yourself by writing (or drawing!) on a piece of paper, and seeing your note posted along with the answer. (The notes are anonymous, but YOU know it's yours.)

Please do write down your suggestions and put them in the M or C suggestion box (where we even supply attractive note paper). A suggestion board is one more way of communicating with us so that we can fix the problem, answer your question, or explore your suggestion.

There is also a suggestion board on C Level, should it be more convenient for you to write your thoughts there. (The C Board is currently showing a display of Gems from the Past. Over the years, you Hopkins students have demonstrated incredible skills in descriptive writing, creativity, and drawing. Bravo to all of you.)

Where Does Thanksgiving Grow?


Pumpkin Producers

If you’re soon to be headed “over the river and through the woods” one question you’ll likely ponder along the way is where does Thanksgiving come from? No, not the history of the holiday, but rather the source of the food on our holiday dinner table. Geographic information systems (GIS) have become an invaluable tool for mapping authoritative statistics and one of our Sheridan Libraries fall guests recently updated her Thanksgiving food map story.


Top Turkey States

Who would have guessed that Illinois is number one when it comes to pumpkins and that Minnesota is trying hard to beat out North Carolina as the nation’s turkey capital? Counting farms, planted acres, harvested volumes, and farm workers originated back in 1820 with the decennial census.  Over time the statistical gathering of crop and livestock numbers grew into our federal government’s Census of AgricultureNow published every year ending in 2 and 7, the latest Ag Census data is widely accessible for download, and GIS map making, via the Internet.

Keeping statistics up to date is always a challenge. In light of the recent bouts of Avian Flu that struck turkey growers, mappers might need to supplement the Census of Agriculture with survey data issued by the National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS). For agriculture, the survey data doesn’t usually include geographic areas down to the county level. However, it offers more recent numbers for the biggest producing states.

For a full holiday plate, including dessert, check out librarian Linda’s Zellmer’s Thanksgiving Maps & Posters. Johns Hopkins users can work with the Thanksgiving dinner data (see maps above) via their ArcGIS desktop software or ArcGIS Online for Johns Hopkins. Happy Thanksgiving!

Student Book-Collecting Contest 2016

Student Book Collecting Contest 2016

The Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest is Open!

The Betty and Edgar Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest recognizes the love of books and the delight in shaping a thoughtful and focused book collection. All undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a degree program at Johns Hopkins are eligible to enter.

Did we mention prizes?

The competition includes graduate and undergraduate divisions, with the following awards:

• $1,000 First Place • $500 Second Place • $250 Honorable Mention • A display of selected titles from the winning collections in Special Collections in the Brody Learning Commons

• A one-year honorary membership in the Friends of the Johns Hopkins Libraries.

Awards will be presented to the winners in the spring of 2016.


Each entry will be judged on the extent to which the items in the collection form a coherent pattern of inquiry and/or represent a well-defined field of interest. Additionally, consideration will be given to how well the collection reflects the student’s stated goals and interests.


1. Any student, undergraduate or graduate, enrolled in a degree program at the Johns Hopkins University is eligible to enter.

2. All items must be owned and collected by the student who enters the contest.

3. A collection need not consist of, or include, rare or valuable books. Paper-bound books may be included.

4. Although the focus is books, the collection may include other media that supports the collection.

5. Collections can be on any subject. Nonacademic subjects are welcome (past entries include Colonial America, Feminism, Running, Music, and more).

Application Information:

Each contestant must submit:

1.     A cover sheet including the title of your collection.

2.     A 2-3 page essay outlining:  The purpose of the collection, how you started the collection, how the collection was assembled, the items of greatest interest, and ideas for the collection’s future development.

3.     A bibliography of 20 or more items (maximum of 50) in the collection. Each item should be numbered, given a full bibliographic description, and briefly annotated as to its importance to the collection. Please use the Chicago Manual of Style.

4.     A wish list: A second bibliography listing up to 10 items that you would like to add to your collection, with brief annotation stating the reason for adding each item.

5.     Submit as one PDF document including your cover sheet.

*Finalists may be asked to bring a portion of their book collection to the Milton S. Eisenhower Library for final judging. The winning entries will be displayed in the Brody Learning Commons. First place winners of the Sweren contest are also eligible to enter the 2016 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (FABS), and the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

The deadline to enter is Friday, February 19, 2016.

Last Year’s Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest Winning Entries:

1st Place, Undergraduate Category: Gillian Marie Waldo, "Everything You Can Imagine is Real." An introduction to graphic novels

1st Place (tie), Graduate Category: Jean-Olivier Richard, A Jesuit's Tree of Knowledge

1st Place (tie), Graduate Category: Justin Kyle Rivest, "Seeing Home From Abroad: The World along the Detroit River, 1670 to present

2nd Place, Graduate Category: Marina Escolano PovedaThe Library of Babel

2nd Place, Graduate Category: Shannon Alt, Volumes of Wonder: From Fairy Tales to Faraday

Submit all entries to:

Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest Dean’s Office/Milton S. Eisenhower Library Johns Hopkins University 3400 North Charles Street Baltimore, MD  21218 or via e-mail: or by fax: (410) 516-5080

Please direct any questions to Shellie Dolan at 410-516-8992 or