Catalog This!

Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes to make library materials accessible to the public (that’s you!)? After books are selected and ordered, Cataloging staff work their magic to let you know what we've got. The word cataloging itself conjures images of card catalogs, book carts, and Dewey Decimal numbers, and while both of those are still in use to some extent, the majority of what cataloging means these days involves creating electronic access to metadata that describes both physical materials as well as digitized and born-digital materials that a library either leases or owns.

Phew, that was a mouthful! What does all that actually mean, you ask? Cataloging, at its core, is about creating machine readable catalog records (known as MARC records), according to a set of rules; for many years these rules were the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (2nd edition). However, a new set of rules has just recently been implemented....more on this below! These records describe books, movies, sound recordings, journals, manuscripts, and archival collections. A MARC record contains a lot of information that you would assume should be there (things like title, author, publication information, how many pages/volumes are present, subject, etc.) MARC records form the backbone of our public interface, Catalyst. Catalyst pulls the information from the MARC records in our database and displays that information to the public in a way that allows the public to search and discover the materials that they need.

Where do those MARC records come from, you ask? Well, cataloging can be broken down into two main divisions: copy cataloging and original cataloging. OCLC, the Online Computer Library Center, maintains the largest database of MARC records in the world. These records have been created by librarians from decades ago up through today (librarians have always been great at sharing!). When we acquire a new book, OCLC’s database is searched to discover if a record for that book has already been created. If so, then we use that record. That’s known as copy cataloging (cataloging from copy that already exists). If a record does not exist, then we create one within OCLC’s database so that any other OCLC member library can use that record, and then download the record into our local database. This is known as original cataloging.

Now, all this sounds like a manual, labor intensive process, and while cataloging is complex, thanks to the monumental efforts of our Technical Services department, the vast majority of this process has been automated. With the assistance of a number of different services we are able to import bulk records for the materials that we acquire.

What does the future hold for cataloging? Right now is one of the most exciting times to be a cataloging librarian. The rules we currently use to catalog were originally created in 1967, with the second edition published in 1978. While these rules have been updated throughout the years, no significant changes have taken place. That is until now. Starting in April 2013, the US national libraries and the Sheridan Libraries, along with many other libraries throughout the country (and around the world) switched to a new cataloging code, known as RDA (Resource Description and Access). This new code has been crafted to be more flexible, more adaptable to changing data architecture, and more user-friendly (gone are the Latin abbreviations!). Stay tuned for more as the cataloging world turns...

Google Scholar: Where Does it Fit?

If you've ever lookegooglescholard for articles on a topic, or for a specific article, you've probably tried Google Scholar. If you've attended a library instruction session, you've probably been dazzled by the number of article databases available: everything from ABI/Inform Complete to Zoological Record.

And now Google Scholar appears on the updated Sheridan Libraries' homepage! Why would we do that? We placed Google Scholar there because we know a lot of you use it to find articles. Below are some facts and tips about Google Scholar that should help you make the best use of it.

Google Scholar indexes the full text of articles when the publishers make it available. Read this if you want all the details. The short story is that Google Scholar crawls and indexes the full text articles of most scholarly journal publishers. Library databases generally index the abstracts, author-supplied keywords, and maybe some subject headings. Understanding this distinction will help you craft your search for the tool you're using.

So when should I use a library database? When you get too many results from Google Scholar, switch to a library database. The subject headings/thesauri offered by databases like PsycINFO, Compendex, or ERIC can really help you focus your research. Some databases specialize in a narrow field, and they'll pick up articles that Google Scholar won't. Examples of these include: Index to 19th Century American Art Periodicals, Environment & Energy Publishing, and the Handbook of Latin American Studies.

"Cited by" tells you which articles have cited the article you're reading about. This is a good way to find more literature on your topic.

The Cite link gives you the article reference in three citation styles: APA, MLA, and Chicago. This is useful for building your bibliography or just tracking what you've read.

What about off-campus access to the articles? If you're off-campus and start with the Google Scholar search on the library home page, you'll see the JHU FindIt links that take you to the full text of the article. If you're off-campus and start at Google Scholar, you'll need to set up your computer to display the FindIt links. This video shows you how to do that.

What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive

Spirit of Shakespeare 2The guest blogger for this post, Neil Weijer, is a Denis Curatorial Fellow at the Sheridan Libraries and a doctoral candidate in the Department of History. Weijer co-curated the Fakes, Lies, & Forgeries exhibition, which opens October 5 at the George Peabody Library and runs through February 1, 2015.

As a species, we’ve had quite a lot of practice with deception. For proof of this, look no further than the Fakes, Lies, & Forgeries exhibition, which contains just some of the highlights of the Arthur and Janet Freeman Bibliotheca Fictiva Collection, itself a gathering of more than 1700 spurious works. (A tangled web indeed!) With little exaggeration, it is perhaps the greatest record of mankind’s long history of exaggeration, falsification, and outright forgery that has ever been assembled.

But like the Bibliotheca Fictiva, the exhibition is more than just a trophy gallery of hoaxes found out and pilloried in the public square. Perhaps the most interesting and amazing things about these items are the lives they took on after their initial creation, or “discovery." Some gained staunch defenders along with fierce critics. Others re-shaped the course of history (or the naming of this country). Still more remain mysterious to this day—their authors, and even their aims, unknown.

Deciding what to put on display was difficult, since these fictions and forgeries come in all shapes and sizes. There is almost no limit to the range of people, places, and things caught up in their stories. Some items that made the cut were a late copy of what may have been the first “chain letter,” originally sent (it claims) by Jesus from heaven and still going strong over a millennium later; charters and law codes bearing the names of medieval kings; falsely attributed poems and plays; faked inscriptions and signatures; and even the concocted account of a local Baltimorean, Joseph Howard Lee, who in the early twentieth century toured America as LoBagola, a “savage” prince-in-exile from deepest Africa.

In the end, we chose to highlight the tangled web between truth and falsehood that is the true domain of forgery. For any deception to work, its audience needs not only to find it plausible but also to want to believe it. These items all play off of each other and off of us, their observers, exploiting gaps in our knowledge, as well as errors in our “common knowledge.” Sir Walter Scott would doubtless be irritated that his couplet makes an apt title for this blog post, not just for its content but because it is commonly attributed to Shakespeare (shown above—in ghostly guise—defending his good name from an eighteenth-century impostor, William Henry Ireland).

We hope you enjoy our guided tour through the dark corridors of deception. We promise you’ll have fun. Trust us.

Something Old, Something New: Archaeology & GIS

Toss away your preconceived notions of the stereotypical archaeologist – today’s artifact sleuths are harnessing a cutting-edge geospatial technologyGeographic Information Systems (GIS) – to identify, document, and better understand ancient cultures from around the world. Objects from thousands of years ago, buried in the dirt, are now being discovered and examined in new ways with the help of a technology most often associated with modern highways and byways!

It’s the perfect marriage of research and technology – something old and something new. Humans exist in space and over time, so what’s better to locate remnants of ancient cultures than GIS technologies?

As you know from our many blog posts on GIS, the library does a lot to support this evolving technology in service to many fields of study. If you’re interested, pay them a visit.

Scholars in Near Eastern Studies, Classics, and the University’s Archaeological Museum are among a growing number of Hopkins’ researchers across many disciplines who use GIS for their work.

If you want to learn more, check out books on GIS applications in archaeology and books on methodologies in archaeology, in general. We also have a great GIS & Maps library guide - and while you're in the vicinity, try other research guides like Anthropology, Classics, and Near Eastern Studies.

What the {em#&quo}?

Ever since the dawn of the Internet, computers have had a hard time dealing with words with diacritics, or accents. Even today, you may see text online with odd characters like # or {} or &em or ?@ in the space where an accented letter should appear. Catalogs, indexes, programs of all kinds, handle accents in different ways, or sometimes not at all.

Now for most of us perhaps, this is no big deal. We read and write in English, right? But words from other languages have crept into English. Think coup d'état or soufflé from French. And we encounter names of authors that include diacritical marks. The chair of the Hopkins German Department several years ago was named Rüdiger Campe. His name could really give you fits if you were looking for books he had written, depending on whether or not you tried to resolve the umlaut into "ue".

One blogger has amusingly written that the Internet hates her name. This isn't really far from the truth. But perhaps the problem with accented letters really just stems from the fact that the accents change pronunciation, that is spoken language, and aren't really all that important for simple writing and reading. You can make sense of a text in French that contains no accents whatsoever. But speaking would be severely impaired.

The basic rule in searching online is to ignore accents. That is, don't even try to type them in. Ignore them. When searching our own libraries' catalog for example, you can ignore accents. So for books or articles by Rüdiger Campe, just type in his name without the umlaut over the "u". For books or articles about Gabriel García Márquez, you can also ignore the accents in his name.

But when you write, you should use the correct accented letters. There are several systems for adding diacritics to digital and online texts like email, Word documents, and Web pages. I keep one pinned to my bulletin board, based on the ASCII codes, and have memorized many of the codes I use every day. Here is the Windows system based on ANSI standards. If you are coding in HTML (anyone still do that?), use these codes. Here's a handy chart I found that has all 3 systems.

We have a ways to go before the Internet speaks a truly universal language. The problem with accents is but one small stumbling block that is slowly being corrected.

JH Libraries Open Access Promotion Fund – Our Third Year

OAPFslide2Back in October, 2012, during Open Access Week, the Scholarly Communications Group announced an initiative to help JHU authors publish their articles in Open Access journals.

This is the third year of the fund. We've been so successful that we've run out of money before the end of each fiscal year. Unfortunately that will probably happen this year as well. We've made some changes to try to make our money last a little longer.

  • Applicants must be JHU students, faculty, or staff and listed in JHED.
  • Applicants should not be tenured. (We're assuming tenured faculty have built Open Access author fees into their grant applications.)
  • The maximum amount reimbursed per article is $1500.
  • An author will be reimbursed a maximum of $1500 within the current fiscal year.
  • The journal must be listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.
  • You must submit a receipt when you complete the form. We can reimburse authors listed in JHED or a JHU account that was used to pay the article processing fee.

The application form is at the bottom of this page. Please read the entire page before submitting.

Life on Mars?

The first color image of the Martian surface was taken by Viking Lander 1 after it touched down in July 1976.  Credit: NASA/JPL

The first color image of the Martian surface was taken by Viking Lander 1 after it touched down in July 1976. Credit: NASA/JPL

Visit C-level of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library to see a new installation about the search for life on the Red Planet. This permanent exhibit, curated by Emily Carambelas (A&S ’11), features instruments and soil samples donated to Johns Hopkins by Whiting School alumnus and Trustee Emeritus Gilbert V. Levin (BA’47, MA’48, PhD’63).

Levin, a sanitary engineer, developed a method known as radiorespirometry to rapidly detect bacteria in water suspected of being contaminated. The method is fairly simple: a sample of the water is placed in a test tube, to which is added a nutrient broth designed to culture bacteria. Any bacteria present will metabolize the nutrients, releasing gas. Gas bubbles then rise to the top of the test tube, signifying the presence of bacteria in the water. By adding radioactive carbon-14 to the nutrient broth, Levin took the method a step further, as the carbon-14 is metabolized and expelled just like the nutrients, but the resulting gases are radioactive and thus discernable by radiation detectors. This method provides measurable results and is not limited to water but can also be performed on soils (on this planet and elsewhere).

In 1976, NASA launched three experiments to investigate the possibility of life on Mars as part of the Viking Mission. The exhibit, Detecting Life on the Red Planet, tells the story of the experiment that was developed by Dr. Levin and his team. Originally called “Gulliver,” after Jonathan Swift’s character, the experiment was renamed the “Labeled Release (LR)” experiment by NASA in reference to its methodology – using radiorespirometry to detect the carbon dioxide released by microorganisms as a result of their metabolic activity. The LR experiment tested the soil of Mars nine times at two different landing sites under different temperature regimes and environmental conditions.

Dr. Levin has long believed that the results from the LR experiment indicate that there are living microorganisms on Mars, and he published a paper in 1997 drawing on more recent research as well as evidence from Viking. There is not yet consensus on his claim, but his extensive research has re-charted the debate on extraterrestrial life. The exhibit provides a glimpse of some of the physical objects that have contributed to our evolving understanding of this nearby and intriguing planet.

We will host an opening ceremony for the exhibit on Friday, September 19 at 11 am, with remarks from Dr. Levin. All are welcome.

Henry Augustus Rowland

When Daniel Coit Gilman was named president of The Johns Hopkins University in 1875, the trustees left the matter of recruiting faculty in his hands. With an eye to the future, Gilman sought to fill the ranks with “young scholars of promise,” likely to become important figures in their fields. Gilman solicited recommendations far and wide. In physics, one name often repeated was Henry Augustus Rowland.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1848 and trained as a civil engineer, Rowland was isolated at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute when he came to Gilman’s attention. Gilman realized that Rowland, who had abandoned engineering for physics and electricity, was “a young man of rare intellectual powers and of uncommon aptitude for experimental science.” Gilman offered Rowland the position of professor of physics, at a beginning salary of $1,600. Since the university at that time existed only on paper, it was a gamble for Rowland as well as for Gilman. Accepting Gilman’s offer, he wrote, “I have gone there on faith, and will do my best to make the institution a success.” Rowland, at the age of 28, became the first faculty member hired for the new university.

With nearly a year between his hiring and the opening of classes in October 1876, Rowland spent his time in Europe (part of it traveling with Gilman), gathering the components of a laboratory and pondering the questions on which he would focus his research and instruction. He became interested in the study of light and achieved his most durable success when he perfected a device to divide the visible spectrum into constant and reproducible components. His “Ruling Engine,” as it was known, was so well designed that, decades later, it could not be improved significantly.

Rowland was interested in pure science rather than in patentable discoveries, and he expected his students to share his enthusiasm for learning. A legend exists concerning his students that, when asked by a colleague what he would do with them, Rowland allegedly replied, “Do with them? I shall neglect them, of course!” Many of his students, however, reported a more benevolent relationship.

Perhaps due to his early interest in electricity, that subject became part of physics in the 1880s, well before a School of Engineering was established. The Proficiency in Applied Electricity certificate (PAE) was granted to those who completed a program in what eventually became electrical engineering. One notable recipient of the PAE was John Boswell Whitehead, who went on to earn his PhD at Hopkins and become our first Dean of Engineering.

Rowland might have continued his pursuit of pure science indefinitely, but fate intervened. He was diagnosed with diabetes, at that time an untreatable disease. Realizing his life would be cut short, he shifted his research to areas that would bring financial benefits. He devoted the last five years of his life to perfecting a new telegraph apparatus. This, along with consultancies on hydroelectric power plants and other inventions, left his family in comfortable circumstances when he died on April 16, 1901, at the age of 53.

In 1929, the University constructed a physics building on the Homewood Campus and named it to honor Hopkins’ first professor of physics. In 1991, when the Department of Physics moved to the new Bloomberg Center, Rowland Hall was renamed for Zanvyl Krieger. Although his name is no longer found on a building, Rowland’s contributions greatly enriched the study of physics and left a legacy to be carried forward by his successors.

How’s the New Home?

According to a 2012 Gallup World Poll, about 13% of the world's adults – hundreds of millions of people – say they would like to leave their country permanently. At Hopkins, many of our students, as well as staff and faculty, are part of the globe-trotting movement. For instance, according to the Johns Hopkins University Fact Book:

  • More than 3,000 international graduate and undergraduate students from 121 different countries study at Johns Hopkins. (International students -check out the great support services JHU offers!)
  • Over 10,000 alumni currently live in 162 countries.
  • Each year, more than 400 undergraduate students study abroad in nearly 30 countries.

What pulls us to a new place and what keeps us there? Some instantly fall in love with the land, culture, or a career. Others, however, might feel disconnected from their new home, longing for their previous life instead. Watch out! The tendency to romanticize the unattainable is certainly one way to sabotage gratitude for what’s right in front of you. Homesickness can be a powerful disincentive to acclimate, so much so that nostalgia was once considered a medical malady.

No one enjoys feeling out of place, but as humans we are superbly adaptable. And, there are plenty of good resources available to help you understand and combat homesickness. One strategy to integrate yourself into a new community is simply to keep experimenting with new activities until you’ve found the group, location, or recreation that moves you. The more time you spend seeking out things to love about a place, whether it’s a particular venue, a landscape, or even meeting one amazing person - the less time you’ll spend dwelling on what it’s missing. And yes, even “Smalltimore” offers plenty of opportunities for delight and surprise. Hope that all of those who are new to Hopkins are settling in, and finding the weird and wonderful elements that make your own community unique and worthy of loving.

GIS Workshops For Fall

Plan of the City of Baltimore, compiled from actual survey, 1845The Sheridan Libraries GIS and Data Services Department is resuming its popular series of workshops, "Getting Acquainted With ArcGIS"!

From introductory classes, through design, sharing, data selection, and georeferencing, students learn and share ideas about how to present data in visual form.

All classes will be held from 4-5:30 pm on A-level. Our weekly workshops schedule is as follows:

Introduction to GIS
September 16
Get started with ArcGIS, the most popular and widely available GIS software. In this first session you’ll navigate and become acquainted with the ArcMap interface, geospatial data, key software features and functions, and how to get started creating maps.

Map Design in GIS
September 23
This workshop will focus on visualizing data on the map. You’ll learn how to use symbols, colors, and data classification to portray data and convey your message via a meaningful map.

GIS Outputs
September 30 
Learn to use map layouts, create map templates, and add graphs, charts, and animation to your map. You’ll practice outputting your creation as map images or as a package of geospatial data with full attribute content that you can use and share with others.

Introduction to ArcGIS Online
October 7
Explore with us one of the newest ArcGIS resources for identification and downloading GIS data. Learn about some of the time series data that the library created, as well as ready-to-go data available as part of our ArcGIS license.

Overview of Geospatial Data Sources
October 14 
Learn about the vast array of geospatial subscription data available via some of our most popular library databases. Understand the tips and tricks for reformatting subscription database information for inclusion in your ArcGIS projects.

Joining and Geocoding
October 21
Learn the steps required for successful joining of data and geocoding along with tips and suggestions for preparing data for use with ArcGIS. Common file formats will be discussed, (e.g. Excel, dBase, Access), along with text files and data with x, y coordinates. We'll explore street files available from the library along with optional interfaces for the geocoding process.

October 28
Scanned maps and aerial photos can offer historical enhancement to your ArcMap projects. Georeferencing is the process of accurately aligning a scanned image with vector data found in ArcGIS. In this session you’ll learn about the various techniques for making that alignment using scanned images from the library’s collection.