Five (Library) New Year’s Resolutions You CAN Keep

New Year's resolutions are notoriously hard to keep. Here are 5 we can help you with!

  • Find out who your liaison librarian is. Whether you're a grad student and need to meet the librarian for your department, or an undergrad writing a paper on a particular subject, there is a librarian who is assigned to you.
  • Set up your Interlibrary Loan account. Find a book we don't own, or an article in a journal we don't have? You can request nearly anything from our Interlibrary Loan department. And all you need to do is click on the Request Form and register.
  • Configure your laptop to use in the library, for research and for printing.
  • Start to follow MSEL on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Start using RefWorks to organize your research.

Now you'll have time for those exercise classes and cooking all those healthy meals!

Sidney Mintz & Claude Levi-Strauss: Remembering when one titan of Anthropology encountered another

SidneyMintzI was saddened to learn about the recent death of Professor Sidney Mintz. Professor Mintz’s towering stature in the field of anthropology was equally matched by his humility, as I learned first-hand when I worked with Professor Mintz to finalize the transfer of his archives to the Sheridan Libraries in 2011. Professor Mintz charmed me with his modesty as he marveled that a research institution the stature of Hopkins would want to document his career—not fully understanding that collections like Professor Mintz’s are exactly what make Hopkins great! For more reminiscing about Professor Mintz’s singular contributions to the anthropology field and the deep personal relationships he forged along the way, I’ll direct you to social media, where heartfelt tributes to Mintz continue to stream in as more of his colleagues, friends, and admirers learn of his passing.

In the course of processing Professor Mintz’s archives in 2012, our student assistant (a PhD student in Anthropology) uncovered many a gem, not least of which was a file Professor Mintz kept of his correspondence with Claude Levi-Strauss, the heralded anthropologist whom Mintz invited to campus to a give a Commemoration Day talk in 1978. I’m reproducing selections of this file here (including a draft bearing Levi-Strauss’s handwritten edits and annotations) to provide a window into Mintz’s efforts to make this historic event come to fruition.

The archival finding aid for the Sidney W. Mintz papers is located here, or you can search our catalog to find other resources related to one of JHU’s most celebrated faculty members.

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.)