A division of Libraries and Academic Innovation

Gelman Hours for GWorld Holders
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GELMAN: 24 hours
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All GW Libraries

Also at the George Washington University:

Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library

Jacob Burns Law Library

Attend a workshop onlineYour first stop to learn a new skill, improve your research, or manage and visualize your data is the GW Libraries and Academic Innovation workshop series. Many library workshops are being offered in real time via WebEx and you can participate fully in these sessions from your home, office, or anywhere you have a computer and internet access. Online or in-person, library workshops are free for GW students, faculty, and staff. Below is a list of upcoming workshops set up for remote attendance:

Research Data

Using the Open Science Framework for Digital Humanities | THU 9·21 | 12:30-1:30pm

Visualizing Data with Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Finding GIS Data and Resources | TUE 10·24 | 6-8pm
GIS Interface Basics | TUE 11·7 | 6-8pm
Completing a Map & Cartographic Skills | THU 11·9 | 6-8pm
Spatial Analysis with QGIS | TUE 11·15 | 6-8pm

Build Your Skills

Google Drive: File Management & Beyond | TUE 10·10 | 1-2:30pm 

Lit Review How To Bootcamp

Monday, October 9

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I've been asked "why do you write software?" a lot in my career, and particularly in my position here as Director of Scholarly Technology at GW Libraries, where we do write a lot of software. For me, the answer is simple, and it's the same answer I've always given, since I first went to library school: it is the work of a librarian to write software. This has always seemed natural and clear to me, but I understand that it's not obvious to everyone, especially in a broader organizational context.

So why is it important to have staff at a research library with appropriate skills and experience tasked with writing software?

First, navigating through the many information resources we provide -- both online and on our shelves -- isn't easy.  GW Libraries, like many research libraries, provides access to hundreds of online databases, thousands of online journals, and millions of physical items. To help people find what they need quickly, we have to offer the clearest possible paths for everyone to navigate for themselves.  Recently we wrote a software application that provides a new quick search box on our site at http://library.gwu.edu/ that searches a wide range of sources at once, and more importantly, it searches a range of types of sources at once.  This helps anyone searching our site to make two quick choices: what kind of resource they're looking for, and where to go within that category of resources to dig deeper.  This isn't a new idea - many of our peer institutions offer similar services, and we credit NCSU Libraries with pioneering this concept. But all of our libraries subscribe to different sources, and to put them all together in a way that made the most sense for GWU, we wrote our own software.  Over time, the sources themselves will change, but now we have the ability to adapt our application to new content over time without having to sacrifice the now-improved experience of finding information through GW Libraries.

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Lord of Rings Triplogy imageThe Special Collections Research Center’s rare and specialized books collections contain many treasures. The SCRC is excited to share some of their unique print materials in anticipation of the release of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” this week: a set of first edition printings of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy! Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings in three volumes over the course of a year from 1954 to 1955, as a sequel to his children's fantasy novel The Hobbit, published in 1937. All three books are bound in red cloth with gold stamping on the spines, and grey dust jackets printed in red, black and gold. Each volume contains a foldout map of Tolkien’s rendition of Middle Earth. Part one, The Fellowship of the Rings, also contains a handwritten note from Tolkien to E. Rasdall, Esq., dated March 21, 1956, tucked into the dust jacket! It reads:

“I am so sorry! Your parcel arrived safely, but it arrived at a crowded time, and I was also unwell. In fact, I had to go away to recuperate, and only returned yesterday. It was on my conscience that I had gone off without either returning your books or letting you know. I will send them off, I hope on Friday. Why not at once? Well, because tomorrow my wife and I celebrate our 40th or ruby wedding anniversary, and are preparing for the gathering of our children and children-in-law, which has not occurred complete for many years. I fear it will be a ceremony by Shire standards ‘brief, moderate, simple, and jejune’ but there may be a speech!
Yours truly,
J. R. R. Tolkien
P.S. I have just had a letter from a real Sam Gamgee (of Tooting)!”

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Reservations fill up quickly for this popular service. Reservations may be placed online by logging on to the library’s Room Reservation System. Students may reserve two hours of study room time per day, placing reservations up to two weeks in advance. 

Image:Reservations by create date Chart As you would expect, peak use occurs around mid-term and final exam periods. I generated a few detailed reports from the online reservation system. The reports show that:

  • Approximately 250,000 reservations have been made using the online reservation system
  • Rooms are as likely to be reserved between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am as between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm.
  • New reservations are sometimes created at the rate of over 1,000 per day. (Figure at right)  
  • All of the 33 group study rooms are booked most of the hours the Gelman Library is open.


Technical Summary

Our room reservation system is a customized version of a free, open source product.

  • Product: phpScheduleit

  • Operating system: Linux server

  • Database: MySQL

  • Web Server: Apache 2

  • Programming Language: PHP

The Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC) and GW Registrar’s Office provide support for this popular service.


  • hosts the service in a stable environment capable of handling spikes for demand

  • maintains a current database of students -- regularly updated by the GW Registrar

  • provides an authentication service enabling students to login with their name and GWID

The Library Scholarly Technology Group

The Room Reservation System is maintained by members of the library Scholarly Technology Group. We are involved with developing new technology and supporting library services including:

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Image: Martin Luther Kind addressing crowdThe Library has recently acquired The Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century, a database comprised of numerous collections of primary source materials, now digitized and made available through a single interface.  With this resource, researchers may study both well-known and unheralded events of a major American social movement from the perspectives of those who participated in them.  The database is organized into two modules:  “Federal Government Records” and “Organizational Records and Personal Papers, Part 1.”

The Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century may be found in the “History” and “Africana Studies” subject groups of databases within the Library’s website.


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