Fairy Tales for Christmas Holidays

As a young girl growing up in Indonesia, I remember that Christmas was one of my most favorite times of the year. My parents bought us a small Christmas tree that my siblings and I decorated. Every evening, during the month of December, my mother would read to us fairy tales from the story books that we borrowed from our school and local libraries. After sunset, we would light small candles in our living room and turn on the Christmas lights on the decorated tree to set a magical ambience for the fairy tales. Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm were among the authors whose works we read the most.

If you feel like taking a trip down memory lane and revisiting some fairy tales from your childhood, this is a great time to do it! A quick subject heading search in our library catalog displays several fairy tales from different countries such as AfricaDenmark, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and Norway. Or if you prefer to read only Christmas stories, they are available too. You can also search for works by Hans Christian Andersen, Jacob Grimm, and Wilhelm Grimm using our library catalog.

Interested in seeing some rare editions of the fairy tales? You can visit both the John Work Garrett Library and the George Peabody Library.  You can do subject keyword searches for “fairy tales” limiting each to the Garrett holdings and the Peabody holdings.

As always for your viewing pleasure, several cartoons of the famous fairy tales such as Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid are available. Recently, when I was searching for the Sing Sweet Nightingale song from the famous Cinderella cartoon, I was pleasantly surprised to find it several languages – Italian, Russian, Norwegian, Greek, Dutch, Arabic, Swedish, and many more.

Apart from rare books in our libraries’ collection, there are also several freely available online resources. For example, the University of Florida’s Baldwin Library of Children’s Literature has a good collection of fairy tales and Christmas stories. Another academic library that has a good digital collection of fairy tales is the University of Southern Mississippi Libraries. If you would like to know about other resources, take a look at the SurLaLune Fairy Tales, the Project Gutenberg, and the Children’s Books Online.

Last but not least, you may also be interested in viewing images from Vintage Fairy Tale and Fairy Illustration Before 1970 group uploaded by Flickr members. This set has an excellent collection of illustrations. Now, that you are in the mood to read some fairy tales, I recommend that you also check out the Best Christmas Of All, and Joy to the World from Disney’s Very Merry Christmas songs.

Wishing You Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year!

Season’s Readings, Guilty Pleasures (and Gift Ideas)

Why do I love these lists so much? Every December, I look forward to the various year-end lists of best books put out by newspapers and other periodicals. True, they are a great place to find something to read, and to get gift ideas for that difficult person on your list. But there's something else that makes them irresistible to me. Maybe it's just that I love checking off items on a list, and seeing books I've read over the past year appear on the lists makes me feel like a schoolgirl again, getting invisible brownie points from an invisible teacher.

Here's an unusual twist: the New York Times this year asked writers what was the best book they read, and it could be from ANY time period. Much harder though to check off books from this list!

Peruse all these lists to see what you might want to read, now that all those papers are (almost?) finished, and what you might buy for your Mom or brother, your roommate or best friend, for Christmas or Hannukah or whatever end-of-the-year festival you celebrate. Festivus anyone?

Okay, I can't resist with such a captive audience. The best book I read in 2014? (Not FROM 2014 mind you). Has to be Strunk and White's (and Kalman's) Elements of Style. Read, or re-read, this one and you'll find yourself reading everything else in a new light!

Let there be Light!

As our daylight hours dwindle, I am always reminded of Dylan Thomas. Not because he wrote "A Child's Christmas in Wales," but because of his poem "Do not go gentle into that good night." Thomas of course was writing of a much more permanent darkness, not the perennial shrinking of the day's sunlit hours, but still, I always "rage, rage, against the dying of the light" at this time of year.

The Winter Solstice, which occurs on December 21 this year, is the shortest day of the year. The good news is, days will very slowly get longer and longer, until the Summer Solstice in June. But if you can't wait that long to bask in bright light, walk, bike, or drive over to the Hampden neighborhood for one of Baltimore's weirdest traditions: Miracle on 34th Street.

Now in its 64th year, this block-long display of lights, moving figures and sculpture is definitely a one-of-a-kind holiday experience. Some call it "gaudy, ugly", and some call it "awesome, beautiful". Either way, go see it and decide for yourself. It's part of the Hopkins experience!

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, "...watch out where the huskies go and don't you eat that yellow snow."

Clueless about Chemistry? Me, too…

Doing research in Chemistry and have no idea where to begin? Please, come to the library’s Information Desk and ask to speak with the librarian on duty! But, here’s a secret: you can get a head-start by trying the sources on the Chemistry Research Guide. Just between you and me, it’s what I (a humanities librarian) use to answer Chem questions!

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes the databases on these guides are just plain tricky to use – and librarians can help you use them most efficiently. But, give it a go on your own first and see what you discover. You’ll likely get a good start.

What type of info might you need?

If you have a full citation to a particular journal article you need – go to the Find Articles section.

If you need to identify articles on a subject - use the Online Resources part of the guide.

If you need to know the properties of a particular chemical compound – check out Chemical Properties.

If you have a Chem Lab assignment – chances are, the answer lies in one of these sources.

So, when you’re in a research jam and don’t have time to meet with a librarian, explore the wonders of our research guides, for Chemistry or any field of study!

Got Term Papers?

Just a reminder to all you stressed students out there - the library can help! There is a reference librarian on duty on M Level of MSEL in the Research Consultation Office from 10am-8pm Monday through Thursday, 10am-5pm on Friday, 1-5pm on Saturday, and 4-8pm on Sunday. Stop by or make an appointment - we are trained to help with ALL kinds of research questions and can get you started with resources, help you track down difficult sources, and find additional resources if you need them.

In addition, there are subject librarians available for individual consultation. Each has specific expertise in online and print resources in nearly every field of study.

Like to do-it-yourself? Try our lists of databases by subject. You will most likely find some very relevant sources there.

And last but not least, we have made research guides for many of the disciplines, departments, and programs. Find an appropriate guide in the box on the libray homepage under GUIDES by TOPIC. These can help you in beginning, and even advanced, research.

So take heart! And take advantage of your library's services.

The First Thanksgiving

Please note that MSEL and the BLC will be closed Thursday, November 27 for the holiday. We will close at midnight Wednesday and reopen Friday at 7:30am.

When we think of Thanksgiving, what comes to mind? Turkey, parades, football, shopping and food. Truthfully almost none of those things were at the first Thanksgiving with the exception of food. There was no turkey or shopping. The first Thanksgiving was not even in November. It also was not a once a year event for the original Pilgrims either. Days of Thanks were a fairly regular occurrence for the Pilgrims. They would have them for surviving the winter or a storm or receiving a plentiful harvest to thank God for his gifts. As far as we can tell, the first "Thanksgiving" was actually in the spring. They ate items like fish and water fowl. And had vegetables like leeks and cabbage.

Thanksgiving Day became a national holiday in 1863 as declared by President Lincoln. Until 1941, Thanksgiving Day was declared by the President of the United States every year. In 1941, a resolution was passed by Congress to have Thanksgiving Day every year on the fourth Thursday of November.

Since 1621, Thanksgiving Day has changed a lot. There are always new recipes to try and parades to watch. However if you are ever interested in discussing days of thanks with Pilgrims, just head to Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Pilgrims will be happy to discuss it with you.

Of course, now you want to know even more about the holiday, don't you? Check out these books in the library and search America: History & Life for articles on the history of this truly American event!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Calling All Bibliophiles: The Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest is Open!

2015 Logo

The Betty and Edgar Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest recognizes the love of books and the delight in shaping a thoughtful and focused book collection. All undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a degree program at Johns Hopkins are eligible to enter, and all entries are welcome except past winning collections.

The annual competition is sponsored by the Friends of the Libraries and was endowed in 2007 by Betty and Edgar Sweren, longtime supporters of the Sheridan Libraries.

Did we mention prizes? The competition includes a graduate and undergraduate division, and winners in each division are awarded:

• $1,000 First Place
• $500 Second Place
• $250 Honorable Mention

In addition to cash prizes, selected titles from the winning collections will be exhibited in the Brody Learning Commons. Winners will also receive a one-year honorary membership in the Friends of the Johns Hopkins Libraries.

Awards will be presented to the winners in the spring of 2015. Each entry will be judged on the extent to which the items in the collection form a coherent pattern of inquiry and/or represent a well-defined field of interest. Additionally, consideration will be given to how well the collection reflects the student’s stated goals and interests.


1. Any student, undergraduate or graduate, enrolled in a degree program at Johns Hopkins University is eligible to enter.
2. All items must be owned and collected by the student who enters the contest.
3. A collection need not consist of, or include, rare or valuable books. Paper-bound books may be included.
4. Although the focus is books, the collection may include other media that support the collection.
5. Collections can be on any subject. Past entries include Colonial America, feminism, running, and music. (See below for last year's winners.)

Application Information:

Each contestant must submit:
1. A Cover Sheet including the title of your collection
2. A 2-3 page essay outlining the purpose of the collection, how you started the collection, how the collection was assembled, the items of greatest interest, ideas for the collection’s future development.
3. A bibliography of 20 or more items (maximum of 50) in the collection. Each item should be numbered, given a full bibliographic description, and briefly annotated as to its importance to the collection. Please use the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition.
4. A wish list. Please include a second bibliography listing up to 10 items that you would like to add to your collection, with brief annotation stating the reason for adding each item.
5. Electronic entries should be submitted as one PDF document, including coversheet.

*Finalists may be asked to bring a portion of their book collection to the Milton S. Eisenhower Library for final judging. The winning entries will be displayed in the Brody Learning Commons. Top-prize winners of the Sweren contest are also eligible to enter the 2015 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, and the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

The deadline to enter is Friday, February 20, 2015

Last Year’s Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest Winning Entries:

1st Place, $1,000 cash prize, Undergraduate Category: Kierra Anne Foley: From Egypt to a Baltimorean’s Bookshelf

1st Place, $1,000 cash prize, Graduate Category: Shawn Gude The 20th Century American Left

2nd Place, $500 cash prize, Undergraduate Category: Alexander Mui 100 Years of Narrative Art Through the Major Arcana

2nd Place, $500 cash prize, Graduate Category: Olivia Maj Sabee The Lives of Dancers: Marie Sallé to Gelsey Kirkland

Honorable Mention, $250 cash prize, Graduate Category: Rachael Cohen Representative Paired Archetypes of Rachael’s Fantasy Book Collection

Submit all entries by February 20, 2015 to:

Sweren Student Book Collecting Contest
Dean’s Office/Milton S. Eisenhower Library
Johns Hopkins University
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
or via e-mail: libraryfriends@jhu.edu

Please direct any questions to Shellie Dolan at 410-516-8992 or libraryfriends@jhu.edu

New Collaboration Tool

IMG_0055IMG_0053The BLC now has group study rooms with ClickShare Technology. ClickShare is a very easy way of displaying your laptop screen to the projector. No hassling with webpages or connecting to a different networks. Just simply plug in the ClickShare USB Dongle and run the Windows or Mac Application. Then push the button to display. The person who pushes the button last will get the last laugh.

ClickShare can be found in BLC-4031, BLC-4043, and BLC-2030.

Talk: Conversations in Medicine

Four Doctors

"The Four Doctors": Welch, Halsted, Osler and Kelly; by John Singer Sargent.

Conversations in medicine happen billions of times each day. Everyone within the medical community, including the patients, talks and talks and tries to reach mutual understanding. As studies show, we're trying to get better at this, but we still have a way to go.

What can help these crucial conversations? How about a speaker series entitled Conversations in Medicine? This program, whose theme this year is Consequences of our Medical Culture: Physician and Patient Perspectives, allows the Hopkins community to hear from and talk with physicians about their lives in the medical profession.

CiM is co-sponsored by the JHU chapter of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the national pre-med honor society; the Women’s Pre-Health Leadership Society; and the Post-Baccalaureate Program.

Dr. Danielle Ofri, who spoke most recently, related some of her experiences as a new doctor and what she learned from them. She has written about those years in several books, and is also a columnist for the New England Journal of Medicine. Her most recent book, What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine, is also on the "Recommended Reading List" on the web site of the Pre-professional Advising Office.

The next speaker will be Dr. Albert Wu of the JH School of Public Health. Among many other credentials, Dr. Wu is the director of the Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research; as many of his recent publications show, his areas of research include patient outcomes and quality of care. And in fact, excellent patient care and outcomes have always been the focus of health professions.

Come to meet and talk with Dr. Wu:

  • Wednesday, November 19, 2014
  • 8:00 PM
  • Charles Commons, Ballroom A