A Paper Database Part 1: Understanding Relational Databases

Part of a monthly series of posts highlighting uncovered items of note, and the archival process brought to bear on these items, as we preserve, arrange, and describe the Roland Park Company Archives.

We all know the word “database.” We definitely, definitely know the word database. We know (and often rely on the fact) that our information is in databases: our credit card information, our consumer information, medical records, social security number, phone number, email address(es), driving records, insurance information, purchases, everything. When you call customer service anywhere to do anything, they are usually pulling you up in their database. When you log into a site that stores information on you, like Amazon or your cell phone provider (or every login website ever), the web interface is pulling its data from a database.

So databases are everywhere, and our digital world is one hundred percent reliant on them and the information they store for us. They’re pretty awesome, when they aren’t pretty scary. So why am I mentioning it?

Well, because I want to talk about how they work. One very important part of databases is that most are relational. That means that information stored in two different places (often called tables, within the database) can relate. To relate, they need a key. So hold on, I’ll explain.

If you have a bank account and a credit card with the same bank, you know that when you call you can ask the customer service person about either one. But how, exactly, does the database know that the two accounts are linked? This may seem obvious, but give it a thought. It’s because there’s a piece of information in common between the two, like the fact that you gave your social security number to open both accounts. Your SS# is the unique key that the database uses to know that the Holmes, Sherlock that opened the credit card is the same Holmes, Sherlock that has a bank account. The key (SS#) links them, thus the bank’s database is relational.

The image below is a partial screenshot from a real Access database displaying how the database understands the relationship I just described:

So what does this have to do with the Roland Park Company Records? It has a lot to do with them, and if you think you will ever be interested in using the records, then you most definitely need to read "A Paper Database Part 2: Decoding the Key to the Roland Park Records."

But I’ll leave you with one thought: what if the link in the above graphic disappeared? What happens when there is no key?

Hopkins Retrospective

click to enlarge

Did you know there is a Tumblr site devoted to promoting Hopkins history? Leading up to Alumni Weekend on April 11-13, we will be posting photographs with captions commemorating earlier classes, particularly the Classes of 1954, 1959, 1964, 1969, 1974, 1979, 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999, 2004 and 2009. These photos will come from the yearbooks and from the Archives’ photograph collection. But, prior to that, we wanted to give you a taste of our history from earlier years, including our original campus downtown. We will continue using this site after Alumni Weekend to promote our unique history. Take a look, enjoy, and let me know if you have any questions.

Journal Article Impact III: Altmetrics

Now you know how to figure out how often your journal article has been cited. Other nagging questions include: How many people read the article but didn't cite it? And what if your article isn't pure research? What if it's more important to educators, policy makers, clinicians, or other practitioners? They would also read your article but not necessarily cite it. What if your article is picked up by the news media? Or there's a discussion on a blog about it? None of these 'impacts' are included in the scholarly citation count. How can this kind of use be measured or captured?

This is where altmetrics comes in. Altmetrics (alternative bibliometrics, get it?) focuses on social and news media, rather than the scholarly literature. The different services and publishers will cover slightly different mixes of blogs, Twitter accounts, news media, and sharing sites like Mendeley, figshare, and GitHub. A good overview of altmetrics is provided by Robin Chin Roemer and Rachel Borchardt. There are several services that will provide some of these numbers for you; a few are listed below.

  • Altmetric offers several commercial products that let you monitor and display how frequently an article has been mentioned in social media or the news. Publishers that use the Altmetric service include Elsevier, BioMed Central, and Nature Publishing Group.
  • ImpactStory is a nonprofit that lets you build a public profile based on your publications. Their data is open source.
  • PLoS is an example of a publisher that provides their own article level metrics. They provide article views, HTML page views, as well as PDF and XML download numbers for each article. Mentions on Wikipedia, Google+, blogs, and Twitter are included, as are links to services which provide the more traditional citation numbers.

And that's the end of this short series on journal article impact. We covered rules of thumb, citations, and altmetrics. If you're interested, there's a Scholarly Metrics guide with more information about other metrics. As always, your librarians are happy to discuss these topics with you.

NEW! Research Clinics!

Have you ever gotten stuck with zero results trying to find articles on a topic on which you know articles exist? Or, stuck with too many articles that are completely unrelated to what you need? Have you felt your brain frying as you search all over the web to find one simple statistic? Ever felt uneasy about a few citations you added? Worse, have you had these or other research related questions way too close to the deadline to feel comfortable asking your professor? Could you use an ear and a little push in order to get started? Would you like a blueprint to follow to the finish?

Research Clinics to the rescue! The library will hold Research Clinics, a sort of triage unit for papers and projects, on Sunday evenings at 7pm throughout the spring semester. This is a no pressure environment for students to work and get help when they need it. No question is too big or too small. Students are encouraged to just show up with what you're working on and what you need help with, and we'll take if from there. Fellow students who have been specially trained in research skills will be on hand to help, along with a librarian or two. There is no formal instruction, only one on one research guidance. We can help you narrow your topic to something do-able and findable. We can point you in the right direction to find statistics, data, and citation information. Even better, we can help you navigate the library website and databases to get to the right place to find better information. Students are encouraged to stay and work or simply drop in and out with questions.

Research Clinics will be held on the following Sundays at 7pm in Eisenhower in the Electronic Resource Center (ERC)

  • March 9
  • March 23
  • April 6
  • April 20
  • April 27

Web of Science Has Changed

One tool that will tell you how many times an article has been cited, or who cited a particular article, is Web of Science. It has a new platform, so here are a few helpful tips.

You land on the Basic Search page:

WoS search box 2014

  • You can add more rows by clicking "Add Another Field."
  • Use the drop-down boxes on the right to specify what you're searching for -- choose title words, author, etc.

WoS cited ref search 2014

Go to the Cited Reference Search page by clicking the drop-down arrow next to Basic Search.

WoS top right tools 2014

More tools for you on the top right of the screen:

  1. Sign In -- Register so that you can save searches or export citations to EndNote
  2. Help -- How to save your settings and create alerts
  3. Languages -- Click the word "English" to change language
  4. My Tools -- Choose EndNote, ResearcherID, or Saved Searches and Alerts
  5. Search History -- See what searches you have done during this session
  6. Marked List -- This shows you how many citations are in your "marked list"

Here is a quick-reference page. And here are tutorials about cited reference searching, exporting records, and other topics.

Finally, big news: Google Scholar search results link directly to Web of Science citations, and Web of Science citations link directly to corresponding full text in Google Scholar:   

Wos in Scholar 2014

Google Scholar linking to Web of Science

Scholar in WoS 2014

Web of Science linking to Google Scholar

Ask your librarian if you have more questions.

A Student Exhibition at Homewood

lynne1First, there was the field trip to Clifton. Then, there was the classwork. And finally by the end of Fall 2013, the students of Ms. Authur’s Museums and Society class had researched and prepared the material for their exhibition entitled "A Tale of Two Houses: Homewood, Clifton & Historic Preservation." They then installed maps, photos, and objects – many from Special Collections -- and gave an opening gallery talk about their work and findings. Now is the time to visit the Homewood House and view the results of their labors.


The Thompsons

The exhibition introduces visitors to the Carrolls who owned Homewood House, the Thompsons who built Clifton which finally became the summer home of Johns Hopkins.

Where are the homes located? Students chose maps from the Sheridan Libraries’ collections to put the story of the two houses in context. The visitor can see how the city grew and eventually surrounded the houses.

The Carrolls

lynne5In the back entry way, there are objects such as an old chair, a silver chocolate pot, and a copy of The American Register with a rare signature of Charles Carroll, Jr.

An exciting section of the exhibition displays the power of paint analysis. The original analysis of paint colors during the 1980s restoration showed that the color of the decorative trim was green. With the paint analysis that was finished in the fall, the outcome was very different. The current lynne6analysis shows that the colors were Naples Yellow with Prussian Blue trim.


Come, enjoy and learn about the Thompsons, the Carrolls, and Mr. Johns Hopkins and their summer villas. The exhibition will be open until May 25, 2014.

ArcGIS Workshops Resume!

GIS Blog IMG2The Sheridan Libraries GIS and Data Services Department is resuming its popular series of workshops, "Getting Acquainted With ArcGIS." We welcome all to attend: the curious, the besieged, the beset, frequent GIS users, and novices, too!

The workshops are being held on Tuesdays from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. in on A Level of MSE Library. The series begins with "Introduction to ArcGIS" and progresses to more powerful aspects of the Esri software.

You can now download the free software from our department’s “Maps and GIS” Library Guide, and access data there, too.

Our “Data and Statistics” LibGuide has further help with data (“data” and “statistics” are not necessarily the same!) and its sources, file formats, citations, and other resources.

Free workshops? Got ‘em. Free software? Got it. Free individual consultation and one-on-one help? We got that, too! For GIS and maps inquiries, contact Bonni Wittstadt. For help with datasets, contact Jen Darragh. You can always shoot us an email, at GISandData@jhu.edu. Or, stop by and visit!

Happy Birthday, Arthur Schopenhauer!

Happy, happy!

The great German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, was born this day in 1788 in Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), the son of a wealthy merchant, Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer. Young Arthur was unhappily destined to follow his father into a career in commerce, when in fact he wanted nothing more than to study at the university and become a scholar. Upon the untimely death of his father, thought by some to have been a suicide, Schopenhauer, his mother Johanna, and his sister Adele, were left with funds sufficient, if managed prudently, to support them. And Schopenhauer was thus free to pursue his dream of study, which he did, variously studying medicine and philosophy at Göttingen, then Berlin, and ultimately earning his doctoral degree in philosophy in 1813 from the University of Jena.

While still in his twenties, Schopenhauer wrote the first edition of his masterwork, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, frequently translated as The World as Will and Representation. Schopenhauer took as his starting point our experience of our own selves and bodies. I experience my body in two different ways, what might be called an objective perspective and a subjective experience. I can look at my arm, for example, and view it as an object inhabiting a world along with other objects. But I also experience that arm right there as being my arm. (We know this experience occurs not only because it's immediately obvious, but because there are cases where humans have lost this sense of bodily ownership, what the neurologists call "proprioception." See the strange and terrifying case study of this in Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat.) So I experience the world in two different ways, an outer, objective way, and an inner, subjective way. My objective experience is governed by the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, logic, etc., boiled down to what Schopenhauer and others before him called "the principle of sufficient reason." The subjective experience, however, is more elusive, it is not governed by this rational principle and is oftentimes downright irrational or more accurately, arational. My motivations, desires, strivings for survival, and swirling inner experiences Schopenhauer calls "Will," a notion that seems anachronistic, but in terminology only when considered in light of some of the tenets of contemporary cognitive science and contemporary sociobiology and evolutionary psychology.  (The philosopher and Schopenhauer scholar, Julian Young, went so far as to state that Schopenhauer "deserves to be regarded as the father, or at least the grandfather, of both disciplines.")

Schopenhauer's work was not recognized for some time, and his professorial career was a wreck. He once purposely scheduled his own lectures to coincide with those of his rival, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Students flocked to Hegel's lectures, and Schopenhauer's star sunk.

His private life was no better, filled with conflict and strife, fueled no doubt by Schopenhauer's curmudgeonly personality and misogynist manner. His relationship with his mother Johanna, who had become a sparkling socialite and famous popular novelist, was fraught. And he once, in a violent fit, threw a woman to the floor for talking too loudly outside the door of his apartment. He was ordered to pay her a monthly sum for the rest of her life. Upon learning years later of her death, he wrote on the death notice, "obit anus abit onus" -- "the old woman has died; the burden has lifted."

Despite his difficult personality, the ethical side of his philosophy, a side derived from his metaphysics of the world as Will, can be called an ethics of compassion. If I am experiencing my own inner striving, sufferings, and turmoil, then upon pain of solipsism, I must assume that you are too. We're all experiencing this! One of Schopenhauer's favorite adages was from the Hindu Sanskrit: "tat tvam asi" -- "this thou art." Differentiation follows from the principle of sufficient reason, our Will is not governed by that principle, so our Will is not differentiated. If our Will is not differentiated, then we are one. If we are one, then compassion for our fellows, a recognition of our oneness, becomes the highest ethical value.

In later years, Schopenhauer began to be recognized and appreciated, which he enjoyed immensely. His more technical philosophical work was supplemented by essayistic examinations of the human condition. These were eventually collected in his Parerga und Paralipomena, a work that is frequently mined for gems and republished in various collections of Schopenhauer's essays and aphorisms, most of them accessible, readable, enjoyable, and wise.

The stamp of Schopenhauer's thought can be found in the works of Nietzsche, Freud, and Wittgenstein.

The stamp of Schopenhauer's thought can be found on the works of Nietzsche, Freud, and Wittgenstein.

Until the past few decades, Schopenhauer's influence was not really appreciated in the Anglo-American scholarly world. His influence on such figures as Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and the early Ludwig Wittgenstein was known, but not appreciated. Recent years, however, have witnessed an increased interest in Schopenhauer. In 2007, a new English translation of the first volume of The World as Will and Representation appeared, translated by University of Tennessee philosopher, Richard Aquila; volume two appeared in 2010.  Likewise, another translation, by Judith Norman, Alistair Welchman, Christopher Janaway, appeared in 2010. Last year, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater philosopher and renowned Schopenhauer scholar, David E. Cartwright, published Schopenhauer: A Biography, "the first comprehensive biography of Schopenhauer written in English" and a solid example of a superlative intellectual biography.


From Wikimedia Commons:  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/84/ACJziegfeld_cake.jpgOn a more mundane note, as I ponder Schopenhauer's philosophy and meditate on the nature of Oneness, I can't help but think that my darling step-daughter really should not get upset with me when she returns home from work only to discover that I've eaten the leftover dessert she brought home from The Cheesecake Factory. I mean, if our Wills are undifferentiated, then we are One, and if we are One, then me eating that cake is really just like her eating that cake. "Was it good?" she might ask, miffed. "You tell me!" I'd no doubt reply.

I think you see my reasoning.

I know Schopenhauer would.

Journal Article Impact II: How Many Citations?

Time to answer that question - how do you determine the number of times an article has been cited? Don't forget our rules of thumb from the previous post. Also, a lot of the information below is available here, so you can always find it.

I've chosen the following article for this demonstration:
Adams, M. D., et al. "The genome sequence of Drosophila melanogaster." Science 287, 2185-2195 (2000).

This is an important work and has had almost 14 years to acquire citations. Many databases list the number of times an article has been cited; just look up the article. (List is here.) Below are the counts from a variety of databases, as of 1/30/2014.

*So, what's with the asterisks? BIOSIS is a database on the Web of Science platform. The fine print told me that the 3002 citations BIOSIS lists are included in the 6077 Web of Science count.

No fair! The counts are all different! Since each database covers a slightly different set of journals, they each know part of the picture; an overlapping part of the picture. The very important journals like Science, Nature, and Cell are indexed by all of these databases.

So how many citations has this journal article really received? I don't know and I'm too lazy to do the work. To be sure, you'd have to export the citations from each database into your own database and run some sort of matching algorithm on them. Then you'd have a number that's probably very close to the actual citation count for this article. If you're OK with 'good enough', just average the numbers.

Next up will be altmetrics and how social media fits into this.

The History and Future of Libraries: “The wisdom of our ancestors”

What is a library? Is it a collection of books, a suite of digital resources, a space for studying? Where do our current ideas about libraries come from, and where will our new tools take us? Does the library have a future in our information-saturated digital environment?

These questions are at the heart of a spring 2014 undergraduate class, Library/Laboratory, in the Program for Museums & Society. But we know they have a much broader appeal. So, inspired by our very own Brody Learning Commons—designed in response to current student needs—a series of talks linked to the class will examine the past, present, and possible futures of the library. Each speaker in our series will spend an hour with the class, and then, in keeping with the spirit of a learning commons, we’ll open up the classroom to the community for a lecture and conversation. All talks are in the Macksey Room (M-level in the BLC), hours noted below, and are sponsored by the Sheridan Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center.

Please join us!

Tuesday, February 18, 4:30 pm

We’ll begin with the origins of the national library in the fourteenth-century court of the French king Charles V, who assembled a collection of several thousand texts in French—and yes, this was before the invention of printing with movable type! Many of the manuscripts in the royal library were beautifully illuminated, like this French translation of the Polycraticus of John of Salisbury, an important medieval treatise on politics, with a frontispiece portrait of the king himself immersed in a book.

Stephen Nichols, James M. Beall Professor Emeritus of French and Humanities, Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures: “The Library and Government Policy: Charles V Creates the First State Library.”

Tuesday, March 4, 5:30 pm

Moving forward a couple of centuries, we’ll land squarely in the era of hand-press printing—for a visit with one of its most imaginative patrons, Horace Walpole. Walpole, born into a modern eighteenth-century political family, preferred to investigate the past. With Strawberry Hill, the Gothic Revival mansion he built near London, he created a massive antiquarian monument and filled it with art, books, and ancient objects. He even started a private press in order to publish his own Gothic novel. His is the very model of a private gentleman’s library, a collection that is continuous with the space it inhabits.

Earle Havens, William Kurrelmeyer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of History: “The Antiquary in His Library: Horace Walpole, ‘Gothic Gloomth,’ and the Ambition of the 18th-Century Gentleman Collector.”

Stay tuned for more information about the final two talks in our series:

Tuesday, April 8, 4:30

Shannon Mattern, Associate Professor, School of Media Studies, The New School: “The Library as Emergent Infrastructure.”

Tuesday, April 22, 4:30

Kari Kraus, Associate Professor, College of Information Studies and Department of English, University of Maryland, College Park: “Bibliocircuitry and the Design of the Alien Everyday.”

Oh, and the quote in the title of this post? That comes from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: “Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors. The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species.”