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.

All of the July’s*

It's July.

How many "July" things do the JHU libraries have in their catalog? Let's find out.

On the library home page, you can search for things. But we kindly allow you to choose to put in a few words just to see what comes up, OR whether you want to specify that your words should be in a title or a series of books or the name of a publisher or something else. When you click in the box, the advanced search screen appears:

July 2015 blog

Using this screen helps you to focus your search, and saves you a lot of time. How does it save you time? Let's say that you're looking for authors named July, or publishers named July, or things with the word "July" in the title. When you put "july" (no capitalizing is needed) into the single search box, you get 115,583 results. That's a lot.

What happens if you put "july" into individual categories? Here's the answer, in order of most to fewest:

  • Title – 34,169
  • Subject – 2,209
  • Author – 1,310
  • Series Title – 225
  • Publisher – 80
  • Numbers – 62 [really??]
  • Call Number – 62
  • Publication Year – 0 [not a surprise]

The first page of title results includes a book of poetry (online), a saxophone quartet, a novel about a class reunion, and a book by a Nobel prize winner. Cool.

Ah, over 2,000 "subjects" makes sense now that I see them; most things with "july" in the subject are about Independence Day, and the subjects are "Fourth of July celebrations" or "Fourth of July orations" (but not all of them). And who knew there were so many authors named "July"? There's Miranda July, Serge July, Robert William July... oh wait; some of the author "fields" in the record have the word "July" in them. That pumps up the number, of course.

Series title is pretty obvious, just like title was, right? No, it's not -- it turns out that a lot of the titles of book or journal "series" have the month in the record, like this song about fleas. Same thing with "publisher"; look at the top of this record, under the big title and the author.

"Numbers"? How is the word "july" in any numbers? Ah, I understand now -- those 62 records are all for JHU dissertations or essays, and the year is part of the call number. That makes it count as a "number." That also explains why there are 62 "call numbers" with "july" in them -- it's the same group.

Happy July, everyone!

*Yes, some writing styles say that when it would be confusing to make something plural by only adding an "s," you may add an apostrophe to make sure it's clear. This is very sensible.

Take me out to the Ball Game…or the Library

Baseball is one of those sports with lots of myths, legends, and superheroes from days past. As America's national pastime, there are countless books about the sport, its players, and even its fans. Playing and watching baseball are two things you can't really do in the library, but you can read about baseball and check out some baseball feature films.

baseball dictionaryWant to learn more about baseball in your state? Take a peek at Baseball State by State. More interested in statistics? We have a book on that too. The National Archives even holds historical materials related to baseball. If you really want to keep up to date with Baseball Digest, we have access to the latest electronic version, going back all the way to 1998.

Of course, I have my own copy of Field of Dreams that I can pop in my DVD player whenever I want, but the Libraries have a ton of other baseball movies should I want to expand my horizons a bit. If you're more into zombies than baseball, we even have the film, Battlefield Baseball, for scenes of "baseball carnage" and "blue-faced zombies" all together in one film.

So when your favorite team has a rained out game, spend the time watching a nostalgic baseball movie, reading about your favorite home-run hitter, or learning about the people behind the mysterious announcer voices. With all the baseball materials in the Sheridan Libraries, you'll never strike out.

M Level Current Periodicals Has it All!

As journals, magazines, and newspapers moved online, MSEL decreased our print subscriptions. This happened most quickly in the science and engineering fields. Back in 2008 we started decreasing shelf space on C Level for print journal issues. At this point, our print subscriptions in the social sciences and humanities have also decreased. Now it makes sense to put them all in one space.

Current Periodicals, M Level of MSEL

All the newest print periodicals are now on M Level, in the Current Periodicals section, near the light court. We moved the science journals we still get in print up to this area; they are no longer on C Level. And, the newspapers are still on M Level, along the back wall of the Current Periodicals.

Just the very newest issues are on M Level. For the titles that we keep in print, we periodically gather up the issues and bind them. Then they're shelved on a lower floor of MSEL or in the Library Services Center, our off-site shelving facility. Below you can see how Catalyst tells you where particular issues and volumes are located.


Summer Reading: Experiment!

In a recent blog post, I made some suggestions for good summer reads that offer a relaxing break from the academic routine—a way to shift your mind into summertime gear. But of course, what counts as a break depends on what you want a break from. For some readers, summer is a great time to try out something new, odd, arduous, or just different from established patterns. Here, then, are some candidates for experimentation.

  • Looking for an weird, unsettling or Gothic counterpoint to the sunshine? If you’ve already had your fill of Edgar Allan Poe, try Angela Carter, H. P. Lovecraft, Flannery O’Connor, Tim O’Brien—or, of course, one of the Brontës.
  • Summer can be the best time to savor a giant modernist novel, like The Magic Mountain, The Man Without Qualities or Ulysses. Each of these doorstops can take months to read, giving the entire season one very specific, very strange flavor. Yummy.
  • Perhaps you’d prefer something utterly contemporary. A great place to start is with the Writing Seminars fiction-writing faculty, past and present: John Barth, Glenn Blake, Tristan Davies, Stephen Dixon, Matthew Klam, Brad Leithauser, Alice McDermott, Jean McGarry, and Robert Roper.
  • If your reading time (or your tolerance for novelty) is limited, check out the new super-brief variety of short story, the “short short” also known as “sudden fiction.” Each tiny narrative, like a slice of chile, will generate some big heat.
  • If fiction is your usual fare, maybe now is a good time to test-drive a book about science? Because of Hopkins' science writing program, we make it a point to collect science books for non-specialists. Get a sense of what we have by searching for "science popular works" (no quotation marks) as a subject in Catalyst's "advanced search"; this will capture a big slice of “how” and “why” books  in astronomy, biology, chemistry, etc. If you’d prefer a good science story, like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks or The Disappearing Spoon, investigate options by starting with an anthology or a book in the annual Best American Science Writing series.
  • If you’re already a tried-and-true non-fiction reader, now it’s your turn: I challenge you to take on a whole book of poetry. What about some humor or goofy nonsense verse? E.g., Edward Lear, Ogden Nash, Lewis Carroll (not just the author of Alice in Wonderland but a talented mathematician, logician, and rhymster) or T. S. Eliot’s Book of Practical Cats (yes, it is the basis for the musical Cats).
  • Or, investigate poets whose work evokes a specific, tantalizing summertime mood: poets like Kay Ryan (short, cool, sharp poems like little icicles), W. S. Merwin (a bit wistful and mystical and saturated with the warm, humid atmosphere of Hawai’i), Mark Doty (perfect for romantic, melancholy summer evenings) and Lucille Clifton (perfect for hot city stoops and kitchens).
  • Go on a small press hunt. Small presses—little, independent publishing companies—are the safe havens of experimental writing; they often focus on the very work that mainstream presses, in search of broad commercial appeal, want to avoid. Hallelujah for the small press! But it’s not like we can punch “small press” into Catalyst and come up with a list of everything these guys have published. For one thing, for obvious financial reasons, small presses are always going in and out of business; for another, Catalyst doesn’t know what counts as a small press, stupid robot. With your big human brain, however, you can hunt ’em down. Start with the Poets & Writers Database of Small Presses, locate a press that sounds intriguing, then search for the press name in Catalyst’s “advanced search” as a publisher.

There are so many routes to explore...and so many ways to find new books to try. We'd love to know: how do you scout out reading options, and what do you read when you're eager to experiment?

Hidden Hopkins: The “Apocalypse” Mural in Levering Hall


“Apocalypse,” undated, University Archives Photograph Collection, item #14200

Most of us have paid a visit to Levering Hall in our time at Hopkins, whether it’s to grab a cup of coffee, see a play in Arellano Theater, or attend an event or meeting in the Glass Pavilion. Fewer, though, have ventured up to Levering’s second floor. It’s there that you’ll find the offices of the Johns Hopkins Tutorial Project and one of the more unusual art installations on campus—a swirling, psychedelic mural covering the walls and stairwell.

The mural, titled “Apocalypse,” is the work of artist Bob Hieronimus, who was hired to paint it in 1968 by University Chaplain Chester Wickwire. Wickwire’s office managed a coffee shop and music venue on Levering’s second floor called Chester’s Place, and Wickwire wanted a mural to decorate the space.  The mural explores the cyclical nature of history through a dense network of symbols drawn from many world cultures.

Commissioning this bold piece of artwork was not at all out of character for Wickwire. His work went far beyond administering to the spiritual needs of Hopkins students. He was the social conscience of Hopkins for three decades, creating the tutorial project, organizing the first integrated concert in Baltimore, inviting civil rights leaders such as Bayard Rustin to speak on campus, and working tirelessly for equality and justice in Baltimore.

Happily, the “Apocalypse” mural is currently being restored by a team led by Hieronimus himself. Stop by Levering Hall this summer to take a peek at the restoration progress, and perhaps you’ll get the chance to talk to the artist himself about his work and what Hopkins was like in 1968.
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The Road That Shriver Built, and a Surprise

Have you ever been reading or researching something and found a fact that relates to you personally? This happened to me just last week!

Down on A Level, a book title caught my eye: The Decisive Blow Is Struck turned out to be the very dramatic title of a reprint of the Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1776 and the First Maryland Constitution (read the story behind the Maryland Constitutional Convention of 1776 online).

Shriver Hall at Johns Hopkins University

Inside was the list of men who wrote Maryland's first state constitution. One of them was David Shriver. Was he related to our Shriver Hall? I looked in the library catalog and got five results, which I sorted by date. (Oh look, they're all online!)

David Shriver was the Superintendent of the Cumberland Road, which went from Cumberland, MD to Wheeling, WV. Be glad that you didn't have this job -- Shriver went to take a look at it and found it "in a ruinous condition" (page 7). Bad news, especially since the road was 130 miles long.

In his report to President Monroe, Shriver also commented about the lack of money that Congress had given to this project (sound familiar?). We can do at least a superficial job, he said, but there really should be more money so that we can do a good job and make the road last longer. Good for David!

So was David Shriver, member of the Maryland Constitutional Convention and manager of the Cumberland Road, related to our Shriver Hall? Yes, he was! Men of Mark in Maryland: Biographies of Leading Men of the State will tell you about David and about his descendent -- the Shriver who gave the money to build Shriver Hall -- Alfred Jenkins Shriver. (Read this book online through the Internet Archive, or look at one of our print copies with the beautiful illustrations.)

What, exactly, was the relationship between David (1735-1826, who had nine children) and Alfred Jenkins Shriver (1867-1939)? Google pointed me to an ancestry site that included the surname "Shriver." Continued clicks on the fathers' names led me back four generations, from AJ himself to his dad -- also named Albert -- to grandfather William, great grandfather Andreas, and finally to great-great grandfather David.

How does this relate to me personally? I wondered what ever happened to the Cumberland Road and whether it still exists. Putting "Cumberland Road" in the catalog gives over 200 results, dating from 1805 to 2011. That 2011 book, The National Road and the Difficult Path to Sustainable National Development, is online; it's a

"...comprehensive history of the first federally financed interstate highway, an approximately 600-mile span that joined Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois in the nineteenth century. This book covers the road's contribution to the cultural, economic, and administrative history of the United States, ... and its revival in the twentieth century in the form of U.S. Route 40."

Wait a minute: I live on Route 40!

Did I just find a book with an interesting title, which mentioned someone with the same name as one of our campus buildings, who I looked up in the catalog, to learn that:

  1. I live on one of the most famous roads in America, and
  2. the guy who helped to maintain it is the ancestor of Shriver Hall??

You never know where research is going to lead you!

Shriver docs

Shriver Hall murals

By the way, have you been inside Shriver Hall lately? The research guide to Special Collections and Archives has a link to university records finding aids, and the word "shriver" is found in the link to Buildings and Grounds -- Shriver Hall Murals records. When Alfred Jenkins Shriver died in 1939, he left money to the university to build a building, but only if some murals were painted and hung in the building. The Board of Trustees agreed. You should go over and look at the murals; they're just beautiful.

Summer Reading: Relax!

Summertime and the livin' is easy, according to Porgy and Bess. Sometimes, at the end of a tough semester, what you really need to unwind is a nice big stack of sentimental romance novels, heart-rending memoirs, and thrillers calculated to trigger exactly the same neurons as a Steven Seagal action flick.

For me, the most agreeable indulgence at any time of year is detective fiction set during World War II (like the St. Cyr-Kohler series by J. Robert Janes, but I’m always looking for new titles) or a Cold War spy novel like those by John Le Carre. If I’m really living the high life, I’ll seek out a hybrid of these sub-genres, like the Arkady Renko novels by Martin Cruz Smith.

Twentieth-century military exploits do not play a big role in my workaday life so I’m not sure why they are so pervasively distributed throughout my paperback library. But there you go—summer reading often sanctions a departure from routine pursuits. If you are on an academic calendar, you might actually have more free time; if not, it might just be the increased daylight that makes it seem like you do. Either way, summer can make you feel relaxed enough to dig in to comfortable old interests that aren’t usually a part of your 9 to 5.

Our collection is oriented towards academic materials, so we are not going to have all the latest, greatest YA fantasy novels or best-selling mass-market fiction titles. But you can definitely extract some satisfying--and deeply relaxing!--summertime reads from the stacks.

You don’t have to trust my recommendations: get a look at the big picture of what we have to offer by searching for relevant terms in the subject field of Catalyst.

Independence Day

In a letter to his wife Abigail, founding father John Adams declared that the Fourth of July “ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Accordingly, the library will be closed this Saturday, July 4, as we celebrate the country’s 239th birthday. Stop by soon to score some fantastic finds for The Fourth:

The library will reopen Sunday, July 5 at noon.

JHU Visual Resources Collection now in ARTstor!

monalisamontage3After many years of service, the platform that housed the JHU Visual Resources Collection's Digital Image Database (DID@JHU or MDID) is being retired. The JHU Visual Resources Collection is now available within the ARTstor Digital Library via Shared Shelf. Shared Shelf is a tool that allows the Visual Resources Collection (VRC) to publish our image collection to ARTstor for JHU faculty, students, and staff.

Why are we moving to ARTstor? Having the VRC's images in ARTstor has many advantages:

  • “One Stop Shopping:” The VRC's images now appear alongside images throughout ARTstor’s collections
  • ARTstor’s filtering tools are now available for the VRC's images (filter your search by date, modern country, or type of object)
  • More cataloging data is now visible for the VRC's images making searching easier
  • Names, places, and other related terminology used in VRC image data are now linked to the Getty Vocabularies creating better search results for search terms with alternate names and spellings. (Example: Searching “Syrien” will bring up results for “Syria”)



Click to enlarge

Need help accessing or using the JHU Visual Resources Collection in ARTstor? Contact the VRC at with any questions or problems, or if you would like a one-on-one training session or a group training session. Visit the Visual Resources Collection guide for more information and to download our two page guide "Searching for JHU Visual Resources Collection Images in ARTstor."

For more ways to find images, see the Images page on the library's Art History guide and see the Finding Images guide.