12 strange facts about mistletoe

The staff at Brompton Library have been very busy looking through our reference resources, both in the library and online for some festive facts.

First up –  12 strange facts about mistletoe:

  1. Mistletoe is a parasite that grows on around the tops of broad leave trees, mainly hawthorn, blackthorn, willow, oak and rowan.
  2. You can hardly ever find it on oak trees. It’s so rare to find it on oak trees that ancient druids thought that mistletoe on oak was sacred.
  3. Mistletoe bushes can grow up to 1m wide when they can look like baskets and are sometimes called Witches’ Brooms.
  4. Birds eat the leaves and berries but don’t eat them yourself because they are poisonous to humans.
  5. In Norse times, after Loki killed Baldur with a mistletoe spear, it became a symbol of love and friendship and anyone passing under the mistletoe would exchange a kiss.
  6. Other names for mistletoe are birdlime, all-heal, golden bough and devil’s fuge.
  7. The Greek word for mistletoe is “Phoradendron” which means “thief of the tree” because it feeds on trees and can kill them.
  8. During the Medieval times, mistletoe was used during the to ward off evil spirits and protect from the devil. It was then burnt when Christmas was over.
  9. The name “mistletoe” comes from the Anglo-Saxon words “mistle” and “tan” which mean “dung twig”. This is because mistletoe spreads its seeds via bird droppings! Birds eat the seeds and spread them when they do droppings in other places.
  10. Mistletoe was used for leprosy, hypertension, pain and intestinal worms in the past.
  11. Mistletoe is now being researched as a cure for colon cancer.
  12. Kissing under the mistletoe started again in Victorian times when servants played a game where any girl caught standing under the mistletoe was allowed to be kissed.
  13. In modern times people still like to kiss under this mistletoe, but nowadays we ask before we kiss!

We hope you enjoyed this; do look out for more festive posts coming soon.

Staff at Brompton Library

Happy National Libraries Day!

Today, 7 February is National Libraries Day – are you coming to the library today? We’d love to see you.

National Libraries DayIf you haven’t been to the library for a while, pick your nearest one and come and find out what we have to offer.

Just come in and have a look at our wide range of books for both adults and children, use the library computers, ask a question, borrow a DVD or CD, find out about local history at the Local Studies Collection, or use the study space we offer.

On Saturdays in Kensington and Chelsea Libraries you can find a range of story times for children and IT help sessions. There are regular events every day that we’re open, with a brilliant programme of special events throughout the year.

If you can’t get to the library today, have a look at our brilliant online resources – you can download e-books and e-audiobooks for free, and use the Times newspaper archives and Berg Fashion Library (and more) from home too.

There are loads of reasons to love libraries this National Libraries Day. Come and find out why!

Come on in, the door’s open

Nicky Smith, Enquiry  Librarian, Triborough Reference Service, writes: 

‘Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications’. There’s a snazzy title for a document that I’m sure all of you have pored over. Or maybe you know it better as the Finch Report. Or maybe you don’t know it at all?a2r1

To be honest, it doesn’t matter – all any of us need to know is that it’s a Jolly Good Thing because it recommended that publicly funded research should be available to the people who paid for it: the public. Us, in fact. So Proquest (who some of you may know as the publishers of Ancestry, the fantastic online genealogical resource) were signed up to provide the ‘Access to Research’ front-end, which is about as user-friendly as it’s possible to be, and various publishers were brought on board. The current “offer” is impressive – 8,000 journals, many with long back files, containing 4 million freely-available articles. And these are from top academic publishers, 17 of them and counting, including big names like Oxford University Press and Wiley.

The range of subjects is extraordinary – some of the topics are obscure (Journal of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, anyone?) but there is plenty of more mainstream stuff (Journal of popular film and television for example). The point is that if you need access to research, esoteric or otherwise, and don’t belong to an academic library or have an awful lot of money at your disposal, you now have it.

So how does it work? You simply visit your local library – access is available in Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, and Hammersmith & Fulham libraries, as well as many other participating library services across the UK. Log onto a library computer and, in Kensington & Chelsea, go to our Online Databases page (the Access to Resource link is available at the bottom of the page). The interface couldn’t be simpler. Just enter your search terms (as with Google, you can use inverted commas around the term if you want to search for an exact phrase, so “joan crawford” will return 102 results and joan crawford 1494). You will be asked to accept the Terms and Conditions (don’t worry – you only have to do this once each session). Do have a look at them – the most important condition is that users can’t save documents electronically although they can print out one copy of each article. Accept the T&Cs and then look at the results.

When you click on an article, it will open up in a new tab so your results list remains open. You can read most of the articles as HTML format (like a straightforward webpage) or as a PDF (probably better if you intend to print it out ).

You don’t have to do a keyword search – you can Browse All Journals, using a drop-down menu to choose a subject. Or if you choose Advanced Search you can search by Author and narrow down your results by date.

Don’t forget to return to the original search screen to make each new search. The search results pop up on the websites of the various publishers, but if you stay there and use their own search boxes, you may find that you reach areas which are not part of the scheme, and get asked to pay unnecessarily.

This is all material that has previously not been available to The Public, only to those attached to academic institutions. So we should certainly make the most of it. Happy researching!

From A-line to Zwinglian

There are many fascinating volumes in the reference library but a firm favourite for many is Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable.

It’s brilliant for the cruciverbalist, writer, journalist, student, and quiz-setter alike, but most of all for the casual reader: once you’ve started browsing, you just can’t stop. Every page reveals hidden gems; you are compelled to cross-reference, cross-cross-reference, double-check, turn back, and before you know it you’ve read the thing from cover to cover (no mean feat: the latest edition is 1,460 pages).

photo 1

It’s a triumph of informative, witty, insightful, brief,  intelligent and fascinating writing, rewarding the reader with many “so –that’s-what-that-means” moments. Open it at random and your eye is caught by:

Grey hen, A. a stone bottle for holding liquor. Large and small pewter pots mixed together are called hens and chickens.

Joe Sixpack: A Us term for the ordinary beer-drinking working man (a sixpack contains six cans of beer)

Baker’s cyst: a firm, fluid-filled lump the size of a walnut behind the knee…

There are lists galore:

Nouns: A murder of crows. A business of ferrets. A charm of finches.  A clowder of cats. A murmuration of starlings. An exaltation of larks (plus many more!)

Organ stops: Bourdon, low and booming. Clarabella, bright and fluting. Cor de nuit, lowish and metallic. Dulciana, soft and string-like. Unda maris, soft and tremulous.

Pasta: Bucatini, (“little holes”) small thin hollow tubes. Linguini, (“little tongues”). Ravioli, (“little turnips”) small square envelopes stuffed with filling. Ziti, (“bridegrooms”) medium-sized tubes…

Modern expressions too, are listed and give pause for thought: the phrase “Extraordinary Rendition” is dissected as  “a masterpiece of the euphemizer’s art, cloaking the unpalatable in the polysyllabic obscurity of words used with pompous literalness”: a definition that writer Phillip Pullman, the author of the 18th edition foreword, called “a little gem of scorn”.

So if you want to find out who Walter Plinge is, how to make Red Biddy, or where you can visit Blackstable, Knype or Thrums, ask for Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable from your reference library and settle down for a good read…

 

Who’s Who and Who was Who: Online resource of the month

Sandeep Dhaliwal, Tri-borough Reference Librarian, writes:

Who’s Who is a very popular resource both locally and nationally at public libraries. It is free for library members and what sets it apart from its competitors is that each entry is provided by the biographee which essentially makes it autobiographical. It has been published annually since 1849 and is the first biographical work of its kind with approximately 1,000 entries added every year.

  • Inclusion has always been by prominence in public life or professional achievement. Inclusion therefore carries a considerable level of prestige.
  • Once someone is included in Who’s Who, he or she remains in it for life, so for example MPs are not removed when they leave Parliament.
  • When someone dies, their biography is transferred to Who Was Who, where they are usually printed as they appeared in the last Who’s Who, appended with their date of death.
  • Accessibility: Free to use and available 24/7!

Below is an example of a typical entry which includes options to print, email and cite references as well as the first time the individual appeared in Who’s Who;

Who's Who sccreenshot
Who’s Who sccreenshot

A full list of online resources which the library service currently offers is available here: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/leisureandlibraries/libraries/onlinedatabases.aspx

For a demonstration of a particular resource at Kensington Reference Library please e-mail
information@rbkc.gov.uk. A member of staff will be delighted to help and set you off on your own journey of discovery.

Next online resource featured will be The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB).

Hot Off the Press – from the Titanic to Picasso

This is the final blog post in a series of four from Nina Risoli, one of our Tri-Borough Reference Librarians about two of our online reference databases:

You can catch up with last three posts, an introduction to both databases, more about  UK Newsstand and the Times Digital Archive.

This week Nina demonstrates how two very different subjects – the Titanic and Pablo Picasso –  can be researched on the Times Digital Archive and UK Newsstand.

Sinking the Unsinkable

Titanic
The Titanic

You can experience the drama of events such as the sinking of the Titanic, for example, and follow the awful event as it was reported as the news trickled in.

Boarding Pass for the Titanic
Boarding Pass for the Titanic

This is a string of some of the results you get when you search the database inserting a single search term: Titanic.

  • Launch Of The Titanic. Vessel Successfully Takes The Water. (News) from our special correspondent
    The Times Thursday, Jun 01, 1911
  • The Largest Vessel Afloat. Maiden Voyage Of The Titanic. (News)
    The Times Thursday, Apr 11, 1912
  • The Titanic Disaster. (Editorials/Leaders)
    The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
  • Titanic Sunk. Terrible Loss Of Life Feared., Collision With An Iceberg., Official Messages. (News) (FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.).The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
  • Position Of The Titanic At The Time Of The Disaster. (Picture Gallery)
    The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
  • The Marine Insurance Market. The Disaster To The Titanic. (Shipping News)
    The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
  • The Titanic Disaster. A Death Roll Of 1,328., List Of Survivors., World-Wide Expressions Of Sympathy. (News)
    The Times Wednesday, Apr 17, 1912
  • New York Stock Exchange. Dull On The Loss Of The Titanic. (Stock Exchange Tables)
    The Times Wednesday, Apr 17, 1912
  • Help For Titanic Victims. A Mansion House Fund., Donations From The King And Queen. (Letters to the Editor) THOS. BOOR CROSBY, Lord Mayor
    The Times Thursday, Apr 18, 1912
  • The Titanic. Number Of Survivors Still Doubtful., The Supply Of Boats., Relief Fund Opened In London. (News) (FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
    The Times Thursday, Apr 18, 1912
Dinner Menu on the Titanic
Dinner Menu on the Titanic

The string of newspapers headlines eloquently illustrates how the ‘unsinkable’ ship went from this:

Titanic at Night
Titanic at Night

To this in one short week:

Sunken Titanic
Sunken Titanic

 

Fall and Rise of Picasso

Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso

In another example, the first article published in The Times about the artist, Pablo Picasso is dated 12 April1912 following the exhibition of his drawings in Stafford Gallery in Duke Street in London. It defends the artist from the accusations of being the ‘incompetent charlatan’ and discusses how the advent of photography ‘spooked’ artists like Picasso into exploring the abstract and moving away from representing form in the conventional way.

  

Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso

268 further results reveal the bewilderment of the established critics at the developments of this new way of artistic expression. They chart the artist’s rise through countless exhibitions, record-breaking sales, stolen works, attempts at forgery of his paintings, right through to the platitudes piled on him on the occasion of his 75th birthday, on 25th October 1956, in the article which declares him ‘among the greatest draughtsman to have appeared in the history of European art.’

…and finally his death at 91 on Monday, 9th April 1973, with The Times depicting him as the ‘greatest painter of modern times’ and a national treasure of several countries. Henry Moore calls him ‘probably the most naturally gifted artist since Raphael’ and the director of Tate hails him as ‘beyond comparison and the most original genius of the century.’

 “When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”

It is interesting to note how the emphasis of the whole body of writing on the subject of Picasso on the Times Digital Archive is overwhelmingly his art, despite the fact that he had a very colourful private life. Out of 268 articles only a handful refer to his private life, briefly and respectfully.

The true fall-out of his manner of life and the fact that he left no will to help the family manage his gigantic legacy can be much better traced using UK Newsstand, reflecting our modern obsession with salacious detail and Picasso himself. Search for “Picasso women” yields staggering 9222 articles in UK Newsstand.

All this is interesting on its own merit, but if you are a student or a researcher or have a special interest in anything that happened or was talked about in this country in the last 200 years – Times Digital Archive can enrich your understanding and widen you research through its particular take on people and events captured in news articles as they unfolded.

If you wish to have a demonstration of the Times Digital Archive or UK Newsstand please contact Kensington Central Reference Library on information@rbkc.gov.uk.  A reference librarian will be delighted to help you get familiar with the databases and set you off on your own journey of discovery. Kensington Central Reference Library has 5 dedicated computers available for researching our online databases.

Nina Risoli
Nina Risoli

Nina Risoli, Tri- Borough Reference Librarian

Kensington Central Reference Library

Hot Off the Press – UK Newsstand

Latest News, newspaper caption
Latest News, newspaper caption

This is the second in a series of four blog posts from Nina Risoli, one of our Tri-Borough Reference Librarians about two of our online reference databases:

You can catch up with last Monday’s post, an introduction to both databases. This week Nina tells us about UK Newsstand.

UK Newsstand lets you access 299 regional and national newspapers and magazines (along with several trade and scholarly journals), from Aberdeen Evening Express to the Yorkshire Post. You can read broadsheets or tabloids, anything from small local newspapers such as Hackney Gazette to the big national newspapers such as The Guardian, The Times, The Independent and The Daily Telegraph, within 24 hours of them being pressed. You can also easily catch up with anything you might have missed.

Assorted newspapers
National newspapers
More assorted newspaper titles
Local newspapers

TIP: to gain access to the database you should always go through either the  Kensington and Chelsea’s reference page selecting the relevant database from the links on the right. Or on the Kensington and Chelsea Digital library newspaper page. Click on “View Title List” on the following page for information on publications included in the database, as well as the length of each archive.

Ed Stein cartoon 'Infrastructure' Photo: Ed STein '08 Rocky Mtn News NEA
Ed Stein cartoon ‘Infrastructure’ Photo: Ed Stein ’08 Rocky Mtn News NEA

At the moment the press itself is under scrutiny. Searching for terms such as ‘Levison’ or ‘press regulation’ using UK Newsstand is far superior than searching via a search engine. Search engines will throw up many relevant sites and articles but they will displayed haphazardly and you’ll need at least five more clicks to get to the information you want on each site (then go back and look for another source and so on). Using UK Newsstand gives you a comprehensive list of chronologically ordered results from all the selected publications. This allows you to have an extensive overview how a certain subject was reported in the press.

For serious researchers there is My Research – a place where you can save, manage, and organise the content and supporting materials you find using the database. You can include texts, articles, searches, tags, shared lists, search alerts, RSS feeds, and more.

TIP: Use quotation marks rather than brackets to obtain exact phrases.

TIP: UK Newsstand can be displayed in over 10 languages – the results will still be in English but it may be easier to navigate around the site in your own language!
UK Newsstand provides millions of documents from thousands of sources, covering research and subject areas like these:

  • The Arts 
  • Business
  • Health & Medicine
  • History
  • Literature & Language
  • Science & Technology
  • Social Sciences

The database offers the full range of searching options. You can use keyword search for the publications you select, you can choose the type of documents you want to view or search Obituaries and death notices to help find ancestors, relatives, and notable figures.

If you wish to have a demonstration of TDA or UK Newsstand please contact Kensington Central Reference Library on information@rbkc.gov.uk. A reference librarian will be delighted to help you get familiar with the databases and set you off on your own journey of discovery. Kensington Central Reference Library has 5 dedicated computers available for researching our online databases.

A young newspaper vendor at work in Fleet Street, 1894. Photo: Mary Evans Pictures Library/ Alamy
A young newspaper vendor at work in Fleet Street, 1894. Photo: Mary Evans Pictures Library/ Alamy

Nina Risoli, Tri- Borough Reference Librarian

Nina Risoli
Nina Risoli

Kensington Central Reference Library

Who Do You Think You Are?

Ancestry Logo

Are you a fan of the BBC 1 programme, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ If you’ve felt the urge to trace your family history then why not use Ancestry? Of course to find out more about your family history you can always ask family members and you will find out all sorts. However this isn’t always possible.

There are lots of family history databases online. Some are free to use  but they only contain a small amount of information compared to Ancestry.  You can access Ancestry free of charge from any computer in our libraries.

Ancestry Family Tree
Ancestry Family Tree

So what can you find out with Ancestry?

Well there are some great resources including the Census, records of Tax, Birth, Marriage and Death, immigration, military and travel, Electoral Registers and more. These can provide you with a great breadcrumb trail taking you from records of you and your close family (it’s always a good start to try to find a record of for instance your own birth), to ones from the 19th century when the Census and other record keeping began (you can go back even further if you are lucky; there are records which go all the way back to the 16th century).

If you have managed to follow your ancestors back to 1911 or before you will be in luck as after 100 years the Census records become available. This contains a wonderful amount of information including your ancestor’s address at the time, their age and birth place, occupation, who was living with them and their relationship to them.

Putting your detective cap on you can follow all these clues and create a whole family tree with the help of relatives, including perhaps some you don’t even know yet! Nevertheless, it can be a bit tricky to use. Bear in mind that there are literally millions of entries in there. Furthermore, Ancestry tries to put them in order of relevance but this can have both a positive and negative effect; putting the names which meet your search criteria better higher up the list than those that don’t but at the same time putting American results often higher up than those from outside e.g. English results.

Top tips for your epic searches include:

• Don’t put in too much especially if you have an unusual surname
• Search specific databases e.g. the 1911 census
• Put in information such as year of birth, location

Do be warned tracing your family history does take time! If you need any assistance – pop into your local Kensington and Chelsea library or visit the Local Studies Library at Kensington Central Library.

Looking at plans in the Local Studies Library

The Local Studies Library will be having an Open Day on Saturday 8 December. Staff will be on hand to demonstrate how to use Ancestry as well as showing the other resources they have that can help with tracing your family history.  You will also have a chance to tour the archives.

If you can’t make that date, Marylebone Library in Westminster has a family history group which meets once a month. They share tips and experiences about researching family history. For more information please email: ogrey@westminster.gov.uk

Owen Grey, Reference Librarian

Kensington Central Reference Library and Marylebone Information Service

What is Oxford Reference Online?

Oxford Reference Online
Oxford Reference Online

Did you know that Oxford Reference Online has been improved? It’s changed from a more traditional Oxford blue to a more modern looking green design. Had you visited it before? If not you must give it a go whether it is to answer questions for others or yourself, writing an essay or for personal interest. Did you know that if you didn’t have a London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea or City of Westminster library card you would have to pay more than £100 per year? If you do have one of those cards you can use it in the library and from home for free! Just follow the link from one of the Online Reference pages (listed below).

  • Revamped – looks more snazzy now
  • Held by all 3 boroughs
  • Made up of a wide variety of reference books published by Oxford
  • Covers a number of subjects
  • Say what you can find out on it and why it is so good

 So that’s over 200 reference books you could have at home – almost like having your own personal reference library!

Oxford Reference Online
Oxford Reference Online

“But” I can hear you say: “surely I can get that for free online anyway can’t I?” Well not quite as there is a very important difference. All this material is written by academics and published by the world renowned Oxford University Press! In an essay it could be the difference between getting an A and a U, in life it could be the difference between what you read in that book in the library and what someone said down the pub!

So which questions could it answer? Well it could…

  • Translate a word (with its bilingual dictionaries)
  • Help you remember who wrote East of Eden (and tell you a bit about them)
  • Tell you what all those strange abbreviations mean
  • Give you a great number of the wonderful quotations made by famous people such as Mahatma Gandhi e.g.“Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.”

Or Nelson Mandela e.g.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

 But why not just see what’s so great about it? Have a look today by following the link from one of these pages:

And using your Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster or Hammersmith and Fulham library card to log in.

Owen Grey, Reference Librarian

Kensington Central Reference Library and Marylebone Information Service