Category Archives: Online

Why bother with botanical Latin?

The Marylebone Gardener ponders…

Like many gardeners I am frequently irritated and bamboozled by plants’ botanical Latin names. Often difficult to pronounce and a nightmare for those of us with poor spelling skills, eg: Zygopyllum prismatothecum… Why are we stuck with botanical Latin? The simple answer is that the Latin botanical name is universally recognised and identifiable. Sticking to common names can cause confusion. Recently a library colleague asked me what a certain purple flowering plant was in the staff garden. On replying, “It’s a (hardy) geranium”, they said, “I thought they had red flowers” – referring to the pelargonium family.

Geranium pratense (Meadow Cranesbill) at Camley Street Natural Park, Kings Cross

Geranium pratense (Meadow Cranesbill) at Camley Street Natural Park, Kings Cross

Pig amongst the Pelargoniums (Marylebone Library staff garden)

Pig amongst the Pelargoniums (Marylebone Library staff garden)

Likewise there is common confusion over the name bluebell. Referred to in the Scottish folk song:

“Oh where, tell me where
Did your Highland laddie dwell?
He dwelt in bonnie Scotland,
Where blooms the sweet blue bell”

This refers to Campanula rotundifolia, commonly known as the harebell, rather than the ‘English’ bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta.

Flora Britannica, by Richard MabeyHere the plant’s common name is restricted to two, but other plants within Britain have many more local names. Sixteen names have been recorded for the dandelion, including lion’s-tooth, puffball, fairy clock and pissabed! When you consider that many plants can be found growing across continents, the use of local names just doesn’t work for identification purposes. It’s fascinating from a cultural / historical viewpoint though, and Richard Mabey’s extraordinary Flora Britannica is a mine of curious information.

Latin names are often long due to the fact that they are frequently portmanteau words made up of descriptive elements within it. So returning to the hare bell the Latin name Campanula = bell-like (flower) and rotundifolia = round foliage. These descriptive elements occur in many botanical names and so are useful clues to the plant’s appearance such as colour, leaf shape or growing habit.

You may be aware of the name Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778) the Swedish botanist who brought order to previous attempts to classify plants by dividing 7,700 species into 109 genera each one having an unique botanical name. In spite of being born and dying in Sweden, Linnaeus spent a significant part of his active life in England so warrants an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. His entry can be consulted either online using the Westminster Libraries 24/7 electronic resources or in the printed version held within the Marylebone Information Service or Westminster Reference Library collections.

An entertaining history of Linnaeus and his predecessors attempts to bring order to the plant world can be read in Anna Pavord’s book The Naming of Names.  Westminster Libraries also stock several lending and reference guides to botanical Latin to aid the puzzled gardener:

The Naming of Names, by Anna Pavord   The Names of Plants, by D Gledhill   RHS Latin for Gardeners

We also stock Geoffrey Grigson’s Dictionary of English Plant Names, and Some Products of Plants. Please note that this reference book is currently held in a library store so it must be ordered in advance from Marylebone Information Service – but we’d be very pleased to bring it out into the light of day!

[Francis]

 

Welcome to your new library catalogue!

Regular users of the library catalogue will have noticed a big change today:

Westminster library catalogue, June 2014

We’re pleased to announce that the upgrade to the catalogue is live and working – give it a try! For those who are used to the previous version, don’t worry – here’s what you need to know:

  • To renew your items, check what you have out etc., just go to My Account at the top of the page. Logging in is the same as before – you need your library card number and pin. If you have forgotten your pin, please contact libraries@westminster.gov.uk.
  • To search, use the search box toward the top of the page. You will notice that you can now search all of the triborough libraries: Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, and Hammersmith & Fulham. You can also reserve items across the three boroughs. Once you have done a search, you can narrow it down in many more ways than before – by library, language, material type (eg: DVD) and so on. All the options are down the left hand side of the search results.

There are many more new features available on the new catalogue, which we’ll be highlighting in future posts. Do click on the picture or link above and have a look around.

[Edited to add: One of the downsides of moving to the new catalogue is that links to books in previous blog posts will no longer work. We will edit the more recent ones to fix them, but older posts will have to stay as they are.]

Looking back to D-Day

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, and activities commemorating the events of early June 1944 are taking place in France, England and around the world.

omahaReading Anne Frank’s diary I realised that it was not just the British who were awaiting the invasion of occupied Europe but also those living under the tyranny of the Nazi regime and occupation. There were feelings that the Allies’ invasion was long overdue, especially considering the fall of Mussolini’s Italy in July 1943. At the same time, the Russians were annoyed at what they saw as too much being put on their shoulders.

The invasion was planned for earlier but bad weather had postponed it until Tuesday 6 June. The landings began overnight with gliders and parachutists landing in Northern France; leaflets were dropped warning the French people of what was to come.

Unsurprisingly when the news came forth the newspapers sprang on it with a great many headlines – this from The Times:

“GREAT ASSAULT GOING WELL

For most of us, D-Day is not a memory but a piece of history. Reading newspapers from the time can be a good way to see how events unfolded and how they were reported in the press. The Times and other papers and magazines can be read via our online archives, just go to the Online Resources page, choose a newspaper and log in with your library card number.

You could begin by browsing through the newspapers of 7 June 1944: The TimesThe Mirror (via UK Press Online), The Guardian and even the FT feature relevant stories from the day.

Then if you want to explore further, try illustrated stories from Picture Post (24 June) and Illustrated London News (10 and 17 June).

[Owen]

 

“It worked online – at home!”

This was what someone had to say about Library Press Display, one of our amazing online resources, available to all members of Westminster Libraries. Last week I showed him how it was possible to get different magazines and newspapers using our website and that you don’t even need to be in the library to use them – they can be accessed at home as well.

Online newspapers for members of Westminster LibrariesLibrary Press Display has to be one of my favourites. It allows you to read the papers as they look that very day – the current copy. Not just one or two newspapers either, but papers and some magazines from around the world in a huge variety of languages – also on the day they are published!
I loved it from the moment I saw it but didn’t believe that we could have access to anything that amazing; would they really allow our library members to access all this? Yes, they would and yes, they do.

Of course as the visit by this particular customer proves, using this or any other online resource doesn’t have to mean the end to all your visits to your local library so do continue to drop by.

Library Press Display is one of several online newspaper resources useful for anything from finding recent articles and looking at today’s stories to historical research. Just go to: www.westminster.gov.uk/online-resources-by-subject.

[Owen]

Find Your Past with findmypast

Hugely popular database Find My Past has recently made fundamental changes to its search interface. To make the most of this amazing resource, free from your Westminster Library, read on…

Auntie Nora? Family history resourcesThere are increasing numbers of datasets available to users. One set close to home is that from the City of Westminster Archives Centre. These are in what is referred to as The Westminster Collection and are absolutely invaluable if you want to find out about any relatives who perhaps lived, worked or had a major life event in Westminster; maybe they got married here!

Accessing Find My Past in Westminster Libraries

Find My Past can be accessed from the computers in any Westminster Library. Furthermore, access is now automatic but you must follow these instructions:

  • From the start page, go to Online Resources > Family History and follow the link to Ancestry and Find My Past.
  • This will take you to the Online resources page where there are links to both Ancestry (which can also be used in any Tri-Borough Library) and Find My Past.
  • When you follow the link to Find My Past (you can also enter the web address: www.findmypast.co.uk) you will then be able to perform a search straight away, either from the main page or from one of the options referred to later on.
  • When you see a result that interests you, you can see more (for instance the original image) by clicking on the link. You will be taken to a page with a few options. The one you must choose to make sure you remain logged in is: “Continue as a guest”.
  • You may then continue using Find My Past without having to choose this option again.

Recommended ways of searching the new Find My Past

You may find that searching from the first page is not ideal as you may end up with too many results to sift through. What we recommend you do if this is the case (don’t be afraid to try all sorts of methods, by the way) is to go to the Search records menu and either choose to search within one of the general areas, for example Census, land & surveys, and fill in the more complex search form where you can add more criteria. Here you can also choose specific datasets such as the 1911 Census – but this isn’t the only way to search specific Censuses etc.

You can also select A-Z of record sets and either flick or search through to find what you wish to look at eg: a census, electoral register. Each one will have a different search form and may be easier or harder to find records. Some, such as the 1901 Census, may even allow you to search for different things such as addresses. But whatever you do, we encourage you to spend as much time as you wish using both Ancestry and Find My Past in conjunction with one another and…

findmypastIf at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again!

[Owen]

All what jazz?

Music on the GatewaySome of you may have used our 24/7 resource Naxos Music Library (log in with your Westminster library card) to listen to classical recordings, but did you know it also boasts an impressive library of jazz legends and contemporary jazz?

Jazz being a bit of a passion of mine, I decided to put it to the test. When asked “Who is your all time favourite jazz artist” I usually answer: “Egberto Gismonti”, which often meets with a blank expression. This quirky Brazilian composer, guitarist and pianist isn’t your run of the mill main stream jazz artist, so I wasn’t expecting to find many – or even any – of his recordings on Naxos… how wrong was I? There are 22 separate albums listed, with all the album information – genre, category, composer, arrangers and artists – given as separate links. So if I wanted to listen to composers featured on Egberto’s albums such as Piazzolla or Villa Lobos, (even though I didn’t know I wanted to at the time) then the links will take me to a new page with a list of all their Naxos recordings, and in the case of an artist or composer, a biography.

I have noticed more and more courses appearing for the study of jazz, it’s frequently part of the school curriculum, and indeed a growing number of our customer enquiries at Westminster Music Library are jazz related. Naxos is a gift if you’re looking to “listen and learn” and don’t know where to start.

Having ploughed through the prescribed jazz text books as a student and saved up for those precious albums, I would have given anything to have access to a resource that not only meant I could listen to thousands of recordings for free without having to dip into my meagre student grant, but also gave me access to information on every category from Dixieland to avant-garde. Throughout each topic there are links to specific music in the main list of suggested listening, and there is also a supplementary list for further listening. Recordings of over 32,000 artists are represented from over 200 labels, and include the catalogue of Blue Note Records, Warner Jazz, EMI, and many more.

Here’s the techy bit. There are three ways you can search: browse the library alphabetically by CD title, keyword search by name of artist, track or disc title, and advanced search by a combination of criteria, plus you can access with iPhone or iPod Touch.

Naxos Music Library - log in with your Westminster library cardAs long as you’re a member of Westminster Libraries and in possession of a valid card, all you need is your membership number to access Naxos, anywhere and anytime.

To quote the late Duke Ellington: “the most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen.”

Happy listening.

[Ruth]

Which? hunt

Which? available in print and online versions at several Westminster LibrariesI love buying new gadgets – who doesn’t?

But how do you make sure you’re getting the best available, and value for money? The trick is to benefit from the experience of other consumers, and that has been the aim of Which? ever since it was conceived back in 1957.

Everybody’s heard about Which? Reports, and savvy consumers have been checking out the experience of their researchers in our libraries for as long as I can remember (you really don’t want to know how long that is…). But the magazine format imposed some fairly obvious restrictions on those reports. Each topic had to fit into no more than half a dozen pages or so, meaning that the variety of models of any given gadget on test was severely limited. The May 2014 magazine reviewed 22 tablet computers and 40 kettles, which seems like a good range. But the Which? website covers 72 tablet computers and 218 kettles. Each report gives every item a percentage score so you can compare with other items, and scores each feature out of 5 in a rigorous test process. Best Buy recommendations are flagged up, as are the more negative Don’t Buy recommendations, and there are detailed specifications for every item on test.

It’s entirely possible that you’re only interested in seeing the Best Buy recommendations, but if you’re interested in a particular feature you may find it useful to have access to the full range of information available for each before making your choice.

The online Which? database is a remarkable development from what was already a really useful service, and it’s free to subscribers at no extra cost. Several of Westminster’s libraries are subscribers, and thanks to a clever piece of software customers are able to make use of the database on the libraries’ computers without having to type in any passwords. Once logged in, you will have full access to the site, and you can use the features which you need.

Libraries where you can access Which? online are: MarylebonePaddington, Pimlico, Queen’s Park, St. John’s Wood, Victoria, and Westminster Reference Library.

[Michael]