Of Ephemeral Cats, Popish Plots, and the Baltimore Occult

Think Special Collections is only composed of fancy materials like Shakespeare folios or exquisite medieval books of hours? Well, think again! Students enrolled in the Intersession course “Cheap and (Not Too) Tawdry: An Exploration of Ephemera” had hands-on access to materials people do not always associate with the Special Collections, such as cheaply produced collections of bawdy jokes and other materials that luminaries like Samuel Pepys referred to as mere "bum-fodder" (aka, toilet paper).

In addition to exploring examples of, um, "bum-fodder" in our collection, students learned quite a lot about the history of street literature, souvenirs, and personal mementos. For their final project, they each had to come up with a display based on a theme of their choosing, and there truly is something for everyone! Love cats? Then “Ephemeral Cats” will have you meowing for hours! Enjoy conversing with the spirit world? Then our display on the occult will have you seeking auras throughout the Brody Learning Commons! Dig advertising, popish conspiracies, silly “erotic” cards, or cranky babies? Then what are you waiting for? Head to the Special Collections Reading Room posthaste! The display will be on view through February 6, 2015.

New year, new look for Research Guides

If you're a frequent user of our Research Guides, you probably noticed that this week we changed over to a whole new look. If you've never used our guides before, now is the time to check them out! As before, you can still access guides from the library homepage by scrolling through the box in the lower right corner. You can access our guides directly at guides.library.jhu.edu to quickly scan all guides, or browse the guides by subject.

Browsing guides by subject is a great way to explore if you're not sure what guide you need, or you want to make sure you're finding all the best resources in a particular area. You can look in the Writing, Citing, and Publishing category to see all our guides related to writing, citing, and publishing. Some of our top guides in this category are Writing, eBooks, and RefWorks - explore them now to learn about library resources that can get you started off on the right foot this semester.

One of the biggest changes in the new system is the new menu feature - no more tabs at the top! Underneath the menus the expert librarian is featured so you know who to contact if you have a question about the information in the guide, or need help conducting research in that topic. All guides also have a chat box underneath the librarian's profile, so you can ask a question to an available librarian and get an immediate response. Try it out now!

The new layout features a left side menu, and a quick way to email an expert librarian.

The new layout features a left side menu, and a quick way to email an expert librarian.

As you get your syllabi for your classes this semester, look through the guides and find one or two that may be helpful later. Bookmark the page so you can get back to the information quickly. Before you get started, watch the video below for a quick tour of our new platform. Happy researching!

 

Can't see the video? Watch it here.

We’ve missed you!

Welcome back! We hope you had a restful, fun-filled, wonderful break! Or, if you took an intersession class, we hope you got an A!

Ready or not, the Spring 2015 semester begins this week. Remember, you're not in this alone - MSEL is here for you. Here's some stuff you should know as you venture forth:

Come on in! The BLC is open 24/7 for Hopkins folks and people from other academic institutions (academic ID required); MSEL is open almost 24/7 - 7:30am to 3am. Need more detail? Here ya go.

Don't forget to seek help when you need it! Check out the general library website, our subject research guides, and our Ask-a-Librarian page to see when a research librarian is available in-person or online.

You'll need to check out lots of books, of course. Here's information about what's available to you as faculty, grad students, undergrads, alumni, and guests.

But, wait, there are other things you can check out of the library, too! All sorts of gadgets (including laptop locks, chargers, and cables) for loan at the Circulation Desk; lockers available to store your treasures, and DVDs for your film class (or for a study break...we won't tell!), to name a few.

Hmmm... does that about cover it? If not, just ask us! And, there will be a constant stream of breaking news from us via Twitter and Facebook.

Cheers to a great semester!

Print on Demand Springer Books

The JHU Libraries purchase new books from Springer, a large STEM publisher, as ebooks. We've been doing this for about 4 years now, so there are thousands of them in Catalyst. If you'd like to purchase hard copy of one of these titles for your personal collection, that is now an option.

springerbooksThe Details

  • Costs $24.99, includes shipping.
  • Must be a Springer ebook listed in Catalyst.
  • English language book.
  • Less than 1200 pages.
  • Single volumes only (can't be part of a series).
  • Cover is color; all else is black & white.
  • If extra material was added online, that will not be part of your book.11-20-2014 3-34-43 PM

The books are good quality; I bought one last year because it was the textbook for one of my daughter's classes. When you're at the Springer site, look for the 'mycopy' image below the book cover; that will let you order the book.

If you don't want a print book, don't worry! Springer is great about their ebooks! You can download the entire book with one click. They also let you download a chapter at a time.

Virtual Reality, Virtual Worlds

What's going on in the world of virtual worlds?

Snow Crash (1992) -- Okay, follow this: Facebook recently bought Occulus VR -- the Federal Trade Commission said OK -- because of course we all want to live in the Occulus Rift. OVR's CEO even mentioned the Metaverse, which is where things get done in Neal Stephenson's amazing book, Snow Crash.  

Snow Crash is credited by some to be the model for Second Life, introduced in 2003, where users' avatars can create their own islands or buildings or whatever else, and interact with everything and everybody. (There are plenty of other virtual worlds, too, and yes, there's a journal about them).

Reamde (2011) -- Neal Stephenson again. I'm only about 200 pages in (it's 900+), but the world of T'Rain seems to have an infrastructure that's far more solid and detailed than most others. I can't wait to get back to it. Yes, we have it, so dive in.

Disclosure (1994) -- Written by Michael Crichton of Jurassic Park fame, this story of corporate back-stabbing describes a pretty cool virtual world for its time. And the movie (Michael Douglas, Demi Moore) is incredibly fun.  Get the book through our new Borrow Direct service.

Ready Player One (2011) -- Our world is a broken-down, overpopulated mess, but if you have a computer, you can go to OASIS, a fantastic virtual existence. Now the genius billionaire who created OASIS is dead, and if you can solve the puzzles that he left, it can all be yours. Warning!! This is going to become a movie so read it as soon as you can! Get the book through our new Borrow Direct service.)

If you put the phrase “virtual worlds” into the catalog as a TITLE, you get more than 200 results. But you can explore the topic more precisely by choosing any of the interesting related subject headings:

Which virtual world (in any medium) would you choose to move into and become a citizen?

Mythbusters II: Librarians & Holiday Breaks

readingonbeachWe’ve already dispelled the myth about Gilman’s will dictating the height of campus buildings and the one about the library sinking under the weight of all our books. Time to dash another popular belief: that librarians get the same breaks as our students…not so! Sure, we receive the standard holidays, but otherwise some might argue that winter is even busier than the academic year as we scramble to tie up loose ends and prepare for the spring semester.

Here is just a smattering of the projects your librarians are working on this January:

  • Teaching classes – Our librarians lead instructional workshops throughout the spring and fall semesters, and Intersession is no different. Jennifer Darragh, is currently teaching “Baltimore by the Numbers,” Yunshan Ye is heading "Library Research and Research/Grant Proposal Writing" and Heidi Herr is leading a class on Special Collections materials called "Cheap and Not too Tawdry." We're already thinking ahead to spring semester as well, reaching out to faculty to plan library instruction sessions and tailored research help at point-of-need.
  • Updating online information – Our popular LibGuides platform, which delivers subject-specific resources and guidance on everything from Africana Studies to the Zotero citation management tool, is due for a system upgrade. Liaisons are busy working behind-the-scenes to update content and deliver the information you need when we launch version 2.0 later this month. Same great service, shiny new interface!
  • Making decisions on books – Librarians purchase books on behalf of their students and faculty all year ‘round. We also spend a great deal of time curating the collections housed in the building to ensure you have the resources you need in the places you expect. Sometimes we have to shift things around to make room for new acquisitions. For example, our Reference Wall on M-level is a collection of our most popular general reference books, and we’re currently bursting at the seams. We’ll spend this break flagging some of the older or underutilized materials and move those to make room for those volumes you need at your fingertips.
  • Planning spring semester services – Say that three times fast! The Information Desk on M-level of the Eisenhower Library is staffed by graduate students 70 hours per week. Librarians too are at your beck and call, both at the Reference Office and through our virtual Ask a Librarian portal. As you can imagine, keeping all of these services running smoothly requires advanced planning and coordination!
  • And yes, even spring cleaning – Let me dispel one other myth: our jobs aren’t all glitz and glamour! Every January, library staff volunteer to spend a day deep-cleaning the illustrious Peabody Library so that you can enjoy the space dust-free. If you’ve never been, listen to the JHU Class of 2013 and add it to your bucket list! It’s easy to catch the JHMI shuttle to the historic Mt. Vernon neighborhood.

We’re happy to entertain other myths, rumors and word-on-the-streets, so send them our way. And if you’re on break, enjoy the time off. We have one heck of a spring semester planned for you! Happy 2015!

Sci Fi News – New Books and Movies

It's so important to keep up on the science fiction news, especially when you've made it to Winter Break.

William Gibson, the author of Pattern Recognition and The Difference Engine, has a new book out entitled The Peripheral. It involves time travel, and rented bodies called "peripherals." Um, it's sort of hard to describe (no surprise when discussing Gibson); here is author Cory Doctorow's review on BoingBoing. We have quite a few of Gibson’s books; please help yourself.

In other science fiction news:

  • Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel), written this year and short-listed for the 2014 National Book Award, is a dystopia set after a pandemic. Twenty years after the Georgian Flu wipes out most of humanity, a troupe of actors and musicians travels what remains of America, giving shows and surviving.
  • And speaking of pandemics, you may already have heard that Stephen King’s The Stand, written in 1978, will be divided into four movies. The book has about 823 pages, which comes to about 205 pages per movie -- this is a risk, but certainly better than stretching the 317-page The Hobbit into three (not very good, IMHO) movies, at 105 pages per movie.

Okay, this has nothing to do with science fiction but it does involve libraries and how awesome they are: treat yourself to the hilarious video of the Nashville Public Library staff singing to All About That Bass.

Library Tourism

At some point, we all travel and explore new places. While you're globe-trotting, don't forget to visit libraries! Seriously, some libraries are tourist attractions and well-worth a visit. Even the New York Times has recognized this insider's tip!

You could start close to home, in Washington DC, at the Library of Congress. The Jefferson Building, near the Capitol, is considered by many to be the most beautiful building in the city. See the Gutenberg Bible! See Thomas Jefferson's library! they always have a featured collection on display. And it has a great gift shop!

Further afield, the Morgan Library and Museum in New York has a fabulous exhibit space, beautiful architecture, J.P. Morgan's private library, and a great gift shop. This library/museum also always features exhibits from its treasures.

Going west? The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA has art collections and botanical gardens in addition to the library. It's known for a splendid collection of the history of science, among other things. It also hosts exhibits, and has a great gift shop.

Going abroad? The Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris is a fabulous space to visit, with exhibits, great collections, a spectacular view, and - a gift shop! The British Library in London is in relatively new digs. And the national library in Florence, Italy - Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze - awaits you too. In Madrid, the Biblioteca Nacional is a destination. You could even visit the National Library of China in Beijing, Russia in St. Petersburg!

Sure, all these libraries have great websites, and their catalogs are online. But it's not just about the books (although they have fantastic collections). Experience the space, the architecture, the exhibits, and, well, the great gift shops!

A Celebration of New Year’s Celebrations

When the crowds gather at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on the evening of December 31, and the live music begins playing, and the fireworks bring the night sky to vivid life, we’ll be participating in one of the most longstanding rituals that mankind has yet devised: celebrating the arrival of another new year. In observing that most nations follow the Gregorian calendar, Wikipedia calls the New Year’s celebration “the closest thing to being the world's only truly global public holiday.” Yet that assumption of unity is belied by the rich variety of ways in which the New Year is celebrated around the world.

Many cultural and religious traditions, relying on the lunisolar calendar instead of the Gregorian variety, choose to celebrate their new year on other dates and in other waysChinese New Year is perhaps the best known of these alternative folkways, due to its colorful public celebrations infused with an aura of ancient ritual and belief. And there’s no better way to immerse yourself in this fifteen-day-long holiday than to view the video First Moon, a rich, lively illustration of how the new year is celebrated by the world’s most populous nation. It’s available in VHS format from the Sheridan Libraries; but if you don’t have a VCR, why not view First Moon on the spot in the MSEL AV Center on A-level?

Another lunisolar new year’s celebration with an age-old lineage is the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah (literally, “head of the year”). A central aspect of this holiday is the re-rolling of the Torah scroll (the first five books of the Old Testament) back to its beginning to recommence a year-long reading of its contents. If you'd like to see some of the library's old and rare copies of the Old Testament in the Hebrew language, pay a visit to our Special Collections Department. A shofar, or traditional ram’s horn trumpet, is also blown during the celebration. Unlike the more public Chinese New Year celebration, the Jewish New Year is focused on the place of worship and the home, where festive holiday meals often play a central role.

In Islam, the New Year is also part of that religion’s lunar-based liturgical calendar. The Islamic calendar, or Hijri, dates from the year in which the prophet Mohammed made his famous journey from Mecca to Medina. In contrast to many other new year’s celebrations, Muslims are likely to observe the new year of the Muslim calendar in quiet contemplation and remembrance. If you’d like to become more familiar with the life of the prophet, use Catalyst to put a request on the library’s copy of the DVD “The Message (Al-Risalah).”

These are just a few examples of the celebratory genius of the human spirit on display as one year ends and another begins. Indeed, one website dedicated to New Year’s traditions provides informative summaries of 62 different national, ethnic, and religious versions of the event.

So why do we make such a big deal about this arbitrarily-defined day? It’s because the New Year—wherever, whenever, and however its arrival is observed--infuses us with a sense of new possibilities and new beginnings, the chance to start over with a clean slate. It reminds us that we live in a universe of repeating cycles and continual renewal, that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Janus-like, it fills us with a deeply-felt admixture of nostalgia and hope.

Have a happy and hopeful New Year!

Christmas Celebrations

Every December, the Homewood Museum is decorated by the Homeland Garden Club “in the spirit of” Christmas at the turn of the 19th century. Arrangements of magnolia leaves, evergreen boughs, and holly decorate tables, window sills, and fireplace mantles. People would decorate their window panes with boxwood sprigs; and mistletoe was hung around the house. The phrase “in the spirit of” is used for two reasons. First, colorful flowers such as roses and carnations as used by the garden club would not have been available, and poinsettias were not introduced into the country until 1828. Secondly Homewood, a summer house, was shuttered up every winter, and owners Charles Carroll Jr. and Harriet Chew Carroll would be in their Baltimore townhome. In all likelihood they would have celebrated Christmas in an English/Southern fashion, attending parties and dances, though little is known as to how the family actually celebrated the holiday.

During the Federal Period (1789 -1830), Christmas was not universally kept. In the book Christmas in America, Penne Restad quotes Elizabeth Drinker who divided Philadelphians into three categories. “There were Quakers, who make no more account of it than another day, those who were religious, and the rest who spend it in riot and dissipation." In many places, especially large cities, Christmas was a rowdy affair complete with wassailers and mummers who would visit and enter the homes of the wealthy to extract drink and money. Other activities included card playing, horse racing, nine-pins, and cock fighting. There was little gift giving, and when it was done it was for the children who were given Christmas boxes that would hold small gifts. If adults did exchange presents, it was often a potted plant or perhaps a gift book.

In the South, from Baltimore to Georgia, Christmas celebrations were more similar than they were in the Northern states. On Christmas Day, stores, and banks were closed. The harvests were in, animals were slaughtered for meat, and the beer and wine was ready to drink. There would be a yule log burning and lots of special foods to eat. Throughout the South, the shooting of guns at dawn announced Christmas Day. Some owners allowed their slaves to fire guns or use explosives to announce the day. At plantations and in Southern cities, there were parties, dinners, and dances to celebrate the season.

In addition, the celebration of Twelfth Night was popular most often in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. The Carrolls observed the day; in 1812 Louisa Carroll wrote in her copy book that the family had attended a Twelfth Night party. For many couples, it was the opportune time to marry, one famous couple being George and Martha Washington.

Slave owners varied in how they allowed their slaves to celebrate Christmas -- from no celebration to the giving of wine, food, and time to prepare and enjoy their own festivities which included music and dancing. Gifts to slaves varied from small items to money. At Hampton Mansion, the Ridgleys gave slave children Christmas gifts which Eliza Ridgley recorded from 1832 -1850. To see the names of slave children and their gifts, scroll to page eleven of this PDF.

As times changed so did Christmas celebrations, but that is material for another blog post.