Johns Hopkins Magazine - April 1994 Issue

On Campuses

News: Doing the Hopkins waddle, etc.

Winter was hard

During the worst winter in recent memory, weather closed the Homewood campus not once, not twice, but three times early this year. Hopkins goes to great lengths not to cancel classes, but as one campus observer noted, "Sometimes Mother Nature just hits the 'off' switch."

Snow and ice first closed the university on January 18, and again the following day. Faculty and staff who ventured onto campus anyway found parking lots turned into hockey rinks; Lot P by Wyman Park Drive bore a sheet of ice so flawless it appeared to have been finished by a Zamboni machine. The ice made steps and brick walkways especially treacherous. Pedestrians mastered an odd sort of Hopkins waddle that allowed them to walk without actually lifting their feet more than an inch from the surface; it looked funny and it wasn't fast, but it got you there.

Heavy snow closed Homewood down again on February 11. The ice had never really left, and by mid-February, several of the larger lots were beginning to glaciate. There were rumors of wolves near the athletic fields. People were bartering heirlooms for precious bags of road salt.

In the nick of time, temperatures climbed into the 50s near the end of the month and the Big Thaw was on. As the ice fractured and became slush, San Martin Drive revealed itself to be cratered like the dark side of the moon, with puddles deep enough to float ducks.

At press time, March had arrived and people had begun to think about lacrosse season and Spring Fair and students sunning on the Beach. And outside? It was snowing, with sleet promised for afternoon. --DK

Book preservation efforts crumble

A Dutch chemical company recently dealt the Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Library a blow in the latter's effort to preserve its crumbling books. The company, AKZO, had been treating books from the library to neutralize the destructive acids ruining their pages. But it notified Hopkins that as of April 1, it is getting out of the book de-acidifying business because it has been losing too much money. The company built a facility in Texas under a U.S. Department of Commerce license but never attracted enough business from American libraries.

"AKZO is not the villain," says Scott Bennett, MSE director. "They made a substantial investment, but not enough folks were buying into the process."

AKZO had treated about 12,000 books from Hopkins during the last three years--a mere fraction of the nearly 2 million books that are at risk over the next 100 years, Bennett says. The company used a system, developed by the Library of Congress, that bathed books in di-ethyl zinc gas at a cost to Hopkins of about $10 per book. The process works, but Bennett says about 7 percent of the treated books came back to the MSE with some sort of damage, such as to the covers or the binding adhesives. This kind of damage, though minor, caused other librarians to hesitate, says Bennett: "Librarians were having difficulty coming to terms with a process that was satisfactory but not perfect. They wanted to wait for the perfect process to come along." AKZO, the only commercial supplier of this process, couldn't wait for their business.

Bennett says he hopes someone will bring the di-ethyl zinc process back and attract enough customers to stay in business. Until then, he says, the MSE will protect its most at-risk volumes with special cardboard cases that help prevent unnecessary wear. "We buy time," he says. --DK

Hopkins joins effort to revitalize East Baltimore

The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions (JHMI) have joined an effort to revitalize 180 square blocks of East Baltimore. JHMI contributed $150,000 to help create The Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition, which is intended to improve housing, foster business development, and improve social services in neighborhoods around the medical campus.

"It's important that we work with the community to enhance the environment in which we work," says James A. Block, president and CEO of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System. "We are an integral part of this community."

The city and state each matched JHMI's grant to create the coalition, which wants to attract millions of dollars in development money to the neighborhoods, where 43 percent of the 47,524 residents live below the poverty line. Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke says the effort will help Baltimore compete with other cities for designation as a federal empowerment zone. The federal government intends to create nine such zones, and Schmoke has estimated the city will receive $100 million in federal funds if it succeeds in being so designated. --DK

Legendary library director retires

Nina Woo Matheson, director of the William H. Welch medical library since 1984, retired in December after a career that has reshaped the profession of medical librarian. In the 1982 "Matheson report," it was she who first spelled out the concept of medical libraries not as institutions that preserve books and journals, but as institutions that manage and integrate information by means of advanced technology. The guiding principle is that information must be available where the need is, rather than making the user come to the library.

In her nine years at Welch,Matheson developed a system in which items like genetic databases or journal articles, from the Welch and othersites, are fully available online. The new Welch Laboratory for Applied Research continues to explore ways for libraries to be of use. In 1993, Matheson received the Marcia C. Noyes Award of the Medical Library Association, the profession's highest distinction.

David Kingsbury, director of the Welch Laboratory, has been named acting director of the library. --EH

A world of information with JHUniverse

Need directions to the Homewood campus? Want to skim the School of Continuing Studies' summer course offerings? Curious about the holdings of Hopkins's many libraries?

If you're a personal computer user equipped with a modem, you need only dial 410/516-6666 to tap into a whole world of Hopkins information, thanks to the advent of JHUniverse, Hopkins's new university-wide information system.

System manager Laura O'Callaghan describes JHUniverse, which came online in February and is free to all users, as one small "entrance ramp" to the much-heralded information superhighway. "This will connect you to all of Hopkins's resources, and also allow you to ' drive' right through Hopkins to the rest of the world," she says. Computer users can use the system to gain access to Internet and a whole host of research databases. (For users who already have access to Internet, JHUniverse can be accessed at, using Telnet or Gopher software.)

"We're planning to provide information to alumni this way," says alumni relations director Jerry Schnydman--"everything from the phone numbers of our regional chapter presidents, to calendar listings of alumni events, to minutes of Alumni Council meetings."

JHUniverse's menu will continue to grow throughout the spring and summer. Already, computer users can call up articles from the student weekly newspaper, the News-Letter . As for the Johns Hopkins Magazine? Stay tuned:er, online. --SD

For bright students: Imagine

The Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) has launched Imagine, a newsletter meant to help precocious junior and senior high school kids take charge of their own learning. The publication has attracted 3,000 subscribers since its debut last September.

The editors encourage and publish submissions by their young readers. For instance, each issue of Imagine includes a review of an American university, compiled from surveys of former CTY students now attending there. One recent issue looks at Johns Hopkins. The students surveyed praise the faculty, complain about the social life, and reveal mixed emotions about whether they'd do it all again. Asked to describe the person who would be most compatible with the academic and social atmosphere of Hopkins, one student replied, "Being a born prodigy would help."

"We're aiming at a national audience of people who want the best pre-college education you can get," says Linda Brody, director of CTY's Study of Exceptional Talent and editor of Imagine. The fundamental idea of the newsletter, she says, is to help gifted students find their own accelerated programs, secure the individualized attention they need, and break out of the boundaries too often imposed by schools that either can't or don't know how to handle the brightest and most motivated kids.

Subscriptions to Imagine are $30 for five issues. Write to Journals Publishing Division, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2715 North Charles St., Baltimore, MD, 21218-4319. --DK

In brief

Hopkins undergraduate tuition will increase by $900 next fall to $18,800. Including room and board ($6,740) and books and personal costs ($1,500)the total price tag for 1994-95 will be $27,040.

Irene Davis Corwin, the woman who served for 44 years as registrar, counselor, and "Mother Confessor" to thousands of Hopkins students, died on February 4 at her home. She was 92.

"It is almost impossible to convey the breadth of influence that she had on the university community, especially at Homewood," says Ross Jones, vice president and secretary. "She admitted students, often betting on their potential rather than their records. She guided them through their course selections. She interceded for them when their grades slipped beyond an acceptable level, encouraging the faculty to give them a second chance. And she did all of this as a woman in what was entirely a man's environment."

Corwin, who retired from Hopkins in 1968, was the wife of Alsoph H. Corwin, professor emeritus of chemistry, whom she married in 1938.

For those of you keeping score at home, the first official sighting of a Hopkins student in shorts occurred on February 16. The subject, who was male, appeared to be an undergraduate. He was spotted on the Lower Quad at about 11 a.m. in baggy khaki shorts. And no, it wasn't warm enough.

Written by Sue De Pasquale, Elise Hancock, and Dale Keiger.

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