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

On the Subject of Cities

What is a city? The common characteristic of all cities is being "a reasonably large and permanent concentration of people within a limited territory," according to the Social Science Encyclopedia. The U. S. Census Bureau can even give you a number: a city is either urban -- "any incorporated place with [at least] 2,500 people living within its boundaries" -- or, as of 1950, an "urbanized area," which has more than 50,000 people.

But the concept of “city” continues to draw attention, in many fields of study. JHU professors have offered classes about very different aspects of cities:

There is even the Johns Hopkins Institute for the American City.

In JHU's library catalog, a TITLE search for city OR cities gets more than 40,000 results. These have 18 different FORMATS – they include the usual things such as books, journals, and DVDs, but there are also more than 400 musical recordings and 1 Blu-ray (the Charlie Chaplin film, City Lights).

More amazing is that those items span 480 years, from 1535 to 2015. What is that one from 1535, anyway? Ah, not a surprise; it’s about London: "A proclamation concernynge payement of tythes and oblations, as well within the citie of London, as elles where within the realme." It’s online in Early English Books Online, a database with scans of "virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and British North America" from 1473-1700.

What are these "city" books about? The 5 most numerous subject headings are:

  1. History 
  2. Great Britain
  3. Politics and government
  4. United States
  5. Cities and towns

All of these are pretty clear except “cities and towns” – what does that mean? The Library of Congress says that this subject heading is used for materials about “Global cities; Municipalities; Towns; Urban areas; Urban systems.”

That's still pretty broad -- what are some narrower terms that will be more concrete (no pun intended)? Oh, wow, some of these are great! One is "extinct cities," which includes cities that have been abandoned, buried, deserted, ruined, or sunken; do we have any books with that subject heading? What? Over 4,000?? (How many extinct cities can you name?)

Constantino Brumidi: A Capitol Fellow!

“I have no BrumidiCorridorlonger any desire for fame or fortune. My one ambition and my daily prayer is that I may live long enough to make beau
tiful the Capitol of the one country on earth in which there is liberty.”

- Excerpt, To Make Beautiful the Capitol (p. vi)

The man who wrote these words, Constantino Brumidi, worked for twenty-five years to achieve his dream. He created fresco murals in the Capitol that decorate important Senate rooms, the famous Brumidi Corridors, and the Apotheosis of Washington, which occupies the ceiling of the Capitol Rotunda. The artist, having studied at the Academia di San Lucia and worked at the Vatican Palace, arrived in New York City in 1852. In 1854 Montgomery C. Meigs hired him to decorate the walls of rooms and corridors of the two new wings of the Capitol. In February 1880, while finishing the work on the Apotheosis of Washington in the Rotunda, he fell from the scaffolding and died shortly thereafter.

The U.SConstantino_brumidi. Senate Commission of Fine Arts has produced a book that not only discusses the art work of Brumidi, but also the restoration of the frescoes that have been going on for 20 years. To Make Beautiful the Capitol: Rediscovering the Art of Constantino Brumidi, provides insight into the artist, the country’s capitol, and the process of modern restoration. The book is full of illustrations that
demonstrate the magic of the fresco restoration process.

In 2012 Brumidi received the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his artistic contribution to the United States and its Capitol. Now that your interest has been piqued, check out the book, and then visit the Capitol to take a special tour of the Brumidi Corridors.