Virtual Shelf Browse Feature in Catalyst

There's nothing quite like serendipitous discovery. I love going into the stacks to look for one book, and coming back with an armful of others that pique my interest. Don't have time to head to the library? You can Virtual Shelf Browse Buttonget that same feeling by using the Virtual Browse feature in Catalyst, and then request the books for later pick-up.

To access Virtual Shelf Browse, first find a book or other item on a topic of interest to you in Catalyst and click on the item's title to get to the detail page for that book.

If the book does appear in the Virtual Shelf Browse, it will have a button in the right-hand sidebar to view that book in the virtual stacks along with other books placed nearby.


Catalyst-VirtualBrowse1There are some things an online shelf browse can do that aren't possible in-person:

• You can use Virtual Shelf Browse from home or anywhere you have an Internet-connected device.

• Virtual Shelf Browse includes books from separate shelving locations in one single virtual stack: various locations within MSEL, as well as our off-site facility (Library Service Center), and other Hopkins library locations such as Welch, SAIS, and Friedheim.

• Books that are currently checked out by another patron can still appear in Virtual Shelf Browse. Even some (but not all) e-books from our extensive online ebook collection appear.

• Although a single book can only be in one place on a physical shelf, it can appear in several places on a Virtual Shelf. There’s always more than one way you could classify or characterize a work. The Virtual Shelf Browse allows the book to be grouped in multiple places when our records have the data for that.

The books in the Virtual Shelf Browse are arranged according to the Library of Congress Classification, just like on most of our physical shelves. Not every book appears in the Virtual Shelf Browse because we don't have a recorded Library of Congress Classification number for every book. While the Virtual Shelf Browse includes more of our collection than any single physical shelving location would, you can't assume that you're seeing everything in our collection -- just as when you're looking at physical shelves too.

The user interface component we used for this feature was originally developed by the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, and shared with other interested parties like us under an open source license.  Many thanks to Harvard for sharing their software.

So if you like to browse, we hope the Virtual Shelf Browse feature provides another way to find material from the Johns Hopkins Libraries collections that meet your needs. Please let us know what you think!

Images: Art and Beyond

Hip Hop Party poster, Shared Shelf Commons: Cornell. Hip Hop Party and Event Flyers.

Looking for images for the fall semester? The JHU Visual Resources Collection is accessible from the ARTstor Digital Library for all JHU faculty, students, and staff. The ARTstor interface allows for consolidated searching across the JHU Visual Resources Collection of 160,000 digital images and the ARTstor collections of more than 1.9 million images.

While historically focused on the history of art with strengths in ancient art, medieval art, Renaissance art, manuscripts and printed books, 19th and 20th century art, and Contemporary Asian art, the Visual Resources Collection is constantly evolving to support other areas of research throughout the arts and sciences such as the histories of science, technology, and medicine.

And not only is the Visual Resources Collection interdisciplinary, a close look at ARTstor’s collections reveals that there’s a lot more to ARTstor than art! Just for starters, explore the American Museum of Natural History collection,  Condé Nast collection (read: 25,000 New Yorker Cartoons and more), the Schlesinger History of Women in America Collection, the Vesalius Anatomical Illustrations collection, and the World War I and II Posters and Postcards collection.

Meanwhile, ARTstor’s Shared Shelf Commons is a free, open-access library of images contributed by institutions all over the globe. Shared Shelf Commons collections are available separately on the open web, but also appear within ARTstor, side by side with ARTstor collections images and the Visual Resources Collection images. Check out Shared Shelf Commons for the Cornell: Hip Hop Party and Event Flyers collection, the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project, and the Wellesley College: "Serve the People!" Images of Daily Life in China during the Cultural Revolution collection.

Need help accessing or using the JHU Visual Resources Collection in ARTstor? Want a one-on-one training session or a group training session? Contact the VRC at, and 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." Need images not available in any of these collections? Click here to access our interactive pdf order form.

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

Maryland’s Favorite Crustacean

You can’t have Maryland without the Blue Crab! They go together like peanut butter and jelly, milk and cereal, JHU and lacrosse… You get the picture.

Did you know that the Blue Crab is the official crustacean of the State of Maryland?

Blue Crab, courtesy of Andrey Papko, FlickRDid you know that the Maryland Blue Crab’s Latin name (Callinectes sapidus) translates to “beautiful swimmer that is savory?”

Did you know that the blue crab launched many of the environmental protections in place today to save the Chesapeake Bay? Check out one of the first hearings on the blue crab shortages in the 1968. Here is the most current assessment of the population.

If you would like something a little more tangible, check out this book in the Eisenhower Library: Chesapeake Bay Blues: Science, Politics, and the Struggle to Save the Bay.

Check out some of the other cool resources the library has to offer by searching our databases and Catalyst. You may find something that inspires the topic for your next assignment, whether it's crab related or not! But seriously, what's not to love about Maryland's favorite crustacean?

The Many Ways to Get Library Help

There are many ways to ask for help. Some folks prefer help in a face-to-face setting. Others are more comfortable on the phone, in a chat room, querying a database, or Googling around the Internet.

Knowing we're all so different, librarians offer different kinds of help for these different kinds of behavior. Here's hoping you find your preferred method on the list below!

If you're in MSEL, stop by our Information Desk and Research Consultation Office. (See our service hours.) You can also set up an appointment to meet with your librarian.

Phone, Chat, Tweet, Text, or Email
You can send us tweets, or emails. Text us at (410) 692-8874. We are also available via chat (use the Get Help tab) or telephone.

Query a Database
Frequent questions and answers are available 24/7 in our Ask a Librarian service.

The Ask a Librarian service is indexed by Google. Make sure you add JHU to your search terms to find us, rather than the library at Harvard or Yale.

The Weather

A "hot" topic of recent conversations has been the weather. Unusually high temperatures have been hard on us all. Storms that have uprooted trees and knocked out the power for thousands of people across the country. And it seems everyone has learned the Spanish weather term -- derecho. While parts of the country are experiencing forest fires, folks right nearby have had extreme flooding.

Humans have always been interested in the weather, and gathering and comparing weather data is not new. Thomas Jefferson from 1776 to the end of his life kept consistent weather records. He recorded temperatures that he took twice a day, precipitation, snow, hail, and more. He used these records in a chapter of his only book, Notes on the State of Virginia. Today Monticello is a weather station of the National Weather Service.

The library has lots of material on the weather. For those who want to track storms there is the Comprehensive Glossary of Weather Terms for Storm Spotters. Weather: How it Works and Why it Matters is one of many books that explain the workings of the weather. For those who are interested in meteorology there is the monthly magazine, Weather. Too hot to read? Then a Frontline/Nova film, What's up with the Weather might be a cool alternative.

A Busy Campus and a Busy Library

Welcome (or welcome back) to campus! The empty sidewalks of summer are quickly filling up again with students, making the Homewood campus feel like Richard Scarry's Busytown. New and returning students and faculty are always curious about library services and resources. We will soon be busy ourselves, answering those questions.

When is the library open? The Brody Learning Commons (BLC) will be open 24/7 during the academic year. The Eisenhower Library (MSEL) will be open 7:30 am - 3 am during that time. Changes for holidays, reading period, and finals are noted on our hours page.

Do I need a library card? Your JCard is your library card. Use it at our Service Desk and self-checkout stations. Add money to your JCard and turn it into a copycard to use with our printer/copier/scanner multifunctional devices.

I need some help! We offer some general online library help for faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students. We have guides on many different topics. You can also ask a librarian a question or contact the liaison librarian who works with your department.

Does the library have my textbooks? This is a frequent question, so there's already a blog post about it. (The answer boils down to 'not usually'.) But profs do put many readings and textbooks on reserve. We have both e-reserves and print reserves. Your syllabus will indicate if your class has items on reserve at the library.

Can I access online library material from off-campus? Yes! You will be asked for your JHED ID and password. More information is here. You can also access your library account using your JHED credentials.

Hopkins and the Great War: Exhibit Opening, September 14th

SATC photo 05706

Student Army Training Corps cadets at Hopkins, October 1918. Ferdinand Hamburger University Archives.

Student soldiers living in Gilman Hall. Professors recruited to do research in chemical warfare. Wartime propaganda posters visible all over Baltimore. If you were a part of the Johns Hopkins community during the First World War, all these things and more were a part of your daily existence.

World War I (1914-1918) had a deep impact on Johns Hopkins University and its surrounding community. Students and faculty enlisted as soldiers, intelligence officers, and medical personnel. The university’s female patrons, faculty, and students traveled abroad to participate in nursing and war relief. Before, during, and after America’s entry into the conflict, World War I challenged Hopkins intellectuals’ ideas about the international world order, the problem of war, and the role of the university and hospital in wartime.

In September 2016, we begin a multi-campus exploration of World War I's effect on the early 20th century Johns Hopkins community. Here in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, the Hopkins and the Great War exhibit explores the wartime experience on the Homewood campus. Visit the exhibit galleries on Q-Level and M-Level to learn more about how the war left an indelible imprint on the lives of students, faculty, and staff. On the East Baltimore campus, the Welch Medical Library and the Anne M. Pinkard School of Nursing building feature exhibits on the contributions of Hopkins medical and nursing faculty, staff, and alumni. Hopkins and the Great War is on exhibit until January 2017.

Join us for an exhibit opening talk and reception Wednesday, September 14 at 4:30 PM in room 4040 of the Brody Learning Commons. Dr. Alice Kelly, a Women in the Humanities Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, will discuss the graphic and controversial memoir of Hopkins nurse Ellen La Motte titled The Backwash of War, and its place in the broader context of First World War literature and the wartime avant-garde.

Visit the Hopkins Retrospective website for more information on Hopkins and the Great War events, exhibition dates and locations, and other updates.

Omeka for Instruction

omekalogoThe following post describes Omeka, a Web-based exhibition software application, and the how it was selected, installed on a local server, and is currently used at Johns Hopkins. Outside of Johns Hopkins these processes may serve as models. Alternatives to local hosting of Omeka are also outlined.

Omeka for Instruction

Years ago, our Dean, Winston Tabb, here in The Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University requested we perform a survey and evaluation of open source Web-based exhibition software, the kind of software that might be a useful adjunct to our brick-and-mortar exhibitions. This genre of software was, at the time, in a nascent stage. Nevertheless, our survey and evaluation included now-mature software applications such as: Collective Access; Omeka; Open Exhibits; and Pachyderm. Each package was downloaded, installed, configured, and evaluated with respect to ease of installation, overall functionality, and prospect of sustainability. In the end, Omeka was our exhibition software package of choice.

What is Omeka?

Omeka is a Web-based exhibition software package written by historians for historians. A product of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, Omeka was created so that those with exhibit-worthy content -- most notably, historians -- could click their way to a visually pleasing Web-based exhibition without the need to learn HTML, Javascript, or CSS coding. Omeka is more than just a Webpage with some images and text, though. It is a multi-user, Web-based tool that includes facility for user account management, for installing and configuring a host of freely-available plugins, for activating and altering themes, for adding and cataloging content items, and for taking those items and creating structured exhibitions with them.

Our Services

Shortly after settling on Omeka as our software package of choice, we decided to install it with two different uses in mind. First, we would install a central Omeka instance for use by the Exhibitions Committee of The Sheridan Libraries and University Museums. This instance would enable librarians and curators to use Omeka as either an online addition to a regular brick-and-mortar exhibition or as the venue for fully online exhibitions. As of this writing, this instance of Omeka was used in fall 2015 to host an online exhibition of materials related to the John Barth Exhibition held at the George Peabody LibraryJohnBarthExhibition. Also as of this writing, it is the intent of the Exhibitions Committee to likewise use Omeka to supplement a forthcoming exhibition on Edgar Allan Poe, again to be hosted at the Peabody Library.

The second use of Omeka would be in the classroom. For this, we set up a separate server and began offering each instructor interested in using Omeka his or her very own Omeka instance on a per course section basis. In this way, each section of each course using Omeka gets its own, dedicated instance, and students from each course section are sandboxed with their fellows, free and able to work together with this remarkable software package.

Typically the way this has worked is that a professor contacts technologist and librarian Mark Cyzyk in The Sheridan Libraries or staff in the Center for Educational Resources to request the use of Omeka. Cyzyk then sets up an instance, generates student accounts, and comes to class at least once during the semester to train the students. He sometimes is accompanied by a subject librarian or curator who addresses subject-specific topics such as where to find appropriate images/video/audio for use in exhibits, copyright and fair use issues, proper citation practice, etc.

Courses Using Omeka

Over the past five years, the following courses have used Omeka for instruction here at Johns Hopkins:

Spring 2012. "Literary Archive." AS.389.359 (01) Gabrielle Dean
Spring 2012. "Seeing Baltimore History: Race & Community." AS.362.306 (01) Moira Hinderer
Fall 2012. "Modernity on Display: Technology and Ideology in the Era of World War II." AS.140.320 (01) Robert Kargon
Spring 2013. "American Literature on Display." AS.389.360 (01) Gabrielle Dean
Spring 2014. "Gender in Latin American History." AS.100.232 (01) Norah Andrews
Spring 2014. "Guillaume de Machaut: Exploring Medieval Authorship in the Digital Age." AS.212.678 (01) Tamsyn Rose-Steel
Spring 2015. "Modernism in Baltimore: A Literary Archive." AS.389.359 (01) Gabrielle Dean
Spring 2015. "History of Modern Medicine." AS.140.106 (01) Jeremy Green
Spring 2016. "Art and Science in the Middle Ages." AS.010.403 (01) Chris Lakey
Spring 2016. "#Digital Blackness." AS.362.332 (01) Kim Gallon
Spring 2016. "The Virtual Museum." AS.389.302 (01) Jennifer Kingsley
Spring 2016. "History of Public Health in East Asia." AS.140.146 (01) Marta Hanson

Alternatives for Using Omeka

If you are not at Johns Hopkins, but are interested in using Omeka, you have two choices: First, you can get your local IT shop to install it. It is a PHP application that runs on the Apache Web server with the MySQL database on the backend, and it is fairly easy and straightforward to install and configure. Second, the Omeka community offers both paid and free hosting services via the Website. The free plan includes a single site, 500 MB of server space, 15 plugins, and 5 themes: Plenty of functionality to get you started!

If you are at Johns Hopkins and are interested in using Omeka in one of your classes, please contact Mark Cyzyk,, in The Sheridan Libraries.


Mark Cyzyk, Scholarly Communication Architect
Sheridan Libraries and Museums

Image sources: Omeka Logo from; Lost in the Funhouse image © Sheridan Libraries and Museums


Pokémon Student Art: From Digital to Dry-Erase Canvas

cropped- pokemon-1

JHU Biomedical Engineering students Rohith Bhethanabotla and Conan Chen

The JHU campus is teeming with Pokémon GO players. Recently, the Milton S. Eisenhower Library (MSEL) staff stumbled upon two students, Rohith Bhethanabotla and Conan Chen, who were freehand drawing Pokémon characters in one of the Brody Learning Commons (BLC) study rooms.

I sat down with these two to find out what inspired them to fill the whiteboards with Pokémon characters. Rohith and Conan are both Biomedical Engineering juniors from San Jose, CA and North Brunswick, NJ respectively. For the sake of this interview, and with their permission, I asked it if was okay if I called them “RoCo.” They seemed to like the nickname and gave the go ahead.

So, how did you guys get started on this?

“We were studying for the MCAT all day and wanted to take a break. We were by ourselves in the room, so we decided to draw Pokémon. It’s the biggest craze now, and it’s inspired by the first generation Pokémon that we grew up with. So, every one we drew is a first generation [character].”

How did you draw the figures? Traced, freehand?

“We Googled them and then used the images we found as a point of reference.”

How hard was that?


Says Rohith, “Well, I’d say Conan is better at drawing confident smooth edges. I like to sketch so my edges were jagged at first, but what we found more challenging was drawing the shadows on the figures.” RoCo drew the various Pokémon on the six whiteboards in study rooms BLC 5015/5017. It took them roughly an hour and a half to finish all the drawings.


“We got better as we went along.” They then began to describe each drawing. (Shown here beginning at top). “The Pikachu took a while; that’s the one where we’re both in the picture. The second through fourth images (Charmander, Bulbasaur, Squirtle) are first generation starters and were easy to draw as well. The fifth one was challenging, because we basically “muscularized” Magikarp. The last one, Psyduck, is always confused, so we drew it upside down and,” says Conan, “because Rohith speaks Spanish we added the ‘Que’ along with question marks.”  Laughed Rohith, “Well...I don’t actually speak Spanish.” Nevertheless, this was an artistic inspiration they added to Psyduck.

So, why did you do this? How did this come about?

“At Hopkins, we rarely get the opportunity to just draw, so this was a fun way to de-stress.” I asked RoCo how long they think Pokémon GO will be the hottest game. Their response was unanimous.

“Pokémon is unique in that it has a lot of characters (at least 6-7 generations), so the current Pokémon GO game is the first of 150 of them, and because everyone has this perfectionist mentality, people will keep playing to catch ‘em all. If Niantic, Inc. keeps releasing generations, the popularity will keep going. There are legendary Pokémon that haven’t been released to the public yet, so it seems what they’re trying to do is get a lot of hype for it and then release them.

pokemon-6pokemon-5That’s been the timelessness of the game in general so far: release one generation (i.e. game series) at a time. What would be cool is if they make new additions that would allow you to have Pokémon battles amongst your friends. If they make the game like that, then the demand could last for quite a long time.“

It was fun chatting with RoCo, and I think it’d be cool to see The Pokémon Company create a character named specifically after them: RoCo. I wonder what that would look like. Think you could draw a RoCo character? If so, share your sketches and drawings on our Instagram and Twitter (#RoCo), and Snapchat.


Hard-boiled and Noir Fiction and Film

Travelling through fetid alleyways in the pouring rain, through thronging cities like beating hearts, and darkened rooms echoing gunshots and last breaths, the fiction and film of the hard-boiled and noir genres bring readers and viewers along for vivid, engrossing, sensual experiences that earlier mysteries neglected in favor of purely intellectual exercises.

Often used interchangeably, the terms noir and hard-boiled actually refer to different kinds of works. While hard-boiled stories tend to deal with detectives confronting violence and organized crime, detectives who all the while comment on both the events transpiring as well as their own experiencing of those events (think Dashiell Hammet’s Maltese Falcon or Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep), noir tends to deal with more atmospheric adventures wherein the protagonist is more often a victim or a criminal (think James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, or the works of David Goodis, upon whose stories the films The Fugitive and Tirez Sur le Pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player) are based). Although noir finds its origins variously in French and American sources, the heart of the hard-boiled story is purely American.

The heyday of American examples of the genres was undoubtedly the 30s, 40s and 50s; nevertheless, modern adaptations both in fiction and film abound. The films of the Coen brothers often draw heavily on the tradition of both noir and hard-boiled stories from America’s past. Perhaps one of the most interesting adaptations of the genres, however, comes not from the US, but rather from the north of Europe in the form of Scandinavian noir.

Scandinavian noir owes much to the traditions discussed above. However, as prime examples of the genre show, there are subtle differences; the writing is often sparse, sharp, simple and realistic and the plots often carry heavy moralistic undertones. Progenitors of the genre include Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, whose Martin Beck series of novels depict a tumultuous Sweden of the 1960s, bent on revolution and social upheaval. Perhaps more well known examples include Henning Mankell's Wallender series, and Stieg Larsson's internationally best-selling Millenium series, the first of which, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been adapted for the big screen twice in the course of just two years. Clearly the fascination with unsolved murder and illicit dealings is alive, well, and spreading around the globe!