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Minnesota, United States

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Sources MUST Include Books

As a reference librarian, I frequently get requests for assistance from students who need to do a research paper and at least some of their sources must be books. Sometimes the type of information they seek is best found in an article or the books they need are checked out and are not due back until the assignment is due. What's a librarian to do? Many electronic databases such as Lit Finder, Gale Virtual Reference, and Biography Resource Center obtain much of their information from books. Although the information is presented in an electronic format, the source of that information is from a book. So don't forget that databases may still be okay in such circumstances as long as the student cites the book that the information originally came from.

Temporary Email Accounts

Ever run into the situation where you want to do something online, say fill out a form or register for a service and they ask you for your email but you are reluctant to give it away? Temporary email services may be the solution. With a temporary email account, you can give the website a temporary email, which expires in a short time so that you can do what you want to do online while your normal email account doesn't run the risk of getting extra spam. Pretty cool, huh?

Guerilla Mail is one example of a temporary email provider. Accounts expire 15 minutes after creation.

Thing 29- Google Tools Part 2

Some more of the Google Tools I explored:

GOOGLE CALENDAR. I probably won't be using this that much. I still stick to the old fashioned ways of memos and post-it notes which works for me. I do like the email reminder feature. I set up email reminders for paying the rent for my apartment.

GOOGLE SITES. I took the video tour but won't be using this for myself. My blog is my website and serves my purpose well. Libraries could use Google Sites as a staff intranet. Library employees can use it to post their resumes or portfolios.

1-800-GOOG-411. Call this number to connect to local businesses for free.

GOOGLE SCHOLAR. Provides a search of scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources, including theses, books, abstracts and articles. I have used this in assisting patrons in finding information related to their research.

GOOGLE BOOKS. Another site I have frequently used when assisting patrons and also for my personal use.

Thing 29- Google Tools Part 1

I already use several Google tools, so I explored some of the ones I already use more deeply. I also discovered several new tools along the way and tried out some tools I haven't used before.

GOOGLE ALERTS. I set up some Google search alerts on topics of interest to me. Libraries can use this feature to keep abreast on topics. Google Alerts is even used to detect copyright violations and plagiarism.

GOOGLE NEWS. I explored the features in Google News and I liked the fact that you can search news back to the 1800's and you can personalize it to your interests. I probably won't be using this though, as I already get all the news I need via RSS feeds.

GOOGLE SEARCH WIKI. I watched a video and read some articles on this. The concept is neat but I don't see a need to use it myself.

WEB HISTORY. When you log into your Google account, you can access the history of all the searches you have ever done since you started having a Google account. Sounds scary to me- Google has my search data since 2006. Web history can be useful for those who want to find information they remember seeing a while ago but can't remember the URL. I don't think I'll be using the feature, I'm too concerned about my privacy. And my interests and needs change with time, so I would rarely need to revisit my searches. Fortunately, I was able to clear my history and pause my history so that subsequent searches don't get added. You can also delete certain searches and keep others if you wish.

I do have to admit to being curious about my own search trends. According to Google, I search the most on Tuesdays and the least on Sundays and search the most in the afternoon.

GMAIL. I've had GMail since 2006 and I like it. I really like the ability to tag your emails, add stars to high priority emails, and the conversation grouping where all the responses appear together. The only thing I dislike is there is not an option to create email folders (at least not that I know of). I'm a folder person. But the ability to create tags for email messages makes up for this.

I explored the new GMail features under "Labs". I've enabled two of these features: Forgotten attachment reminder and superstars. I use the superstars feature to better organize my messages. Messages to reply to gets a yellow star. Informational messages gets the information icon. Messages to read later gets a blue star, etc.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sad news

I just found out that the College of St. Catherine failed to get accredited for its MLIS program. There is a petition for accreditation here. I can't for the life of me understand why. I took all of my library science classes at the College of St. Catherine and the quality of the courses and faculty was top-notch. Lucky for me, this was back in the day when the MLIS program at the College of St. Catherine was run under Dominican University, which is ALA accredited. So my degree came from Dominican University even though I never actually set foot on that campus.

I'm deeply concerned for all of the students currently enrolled in the College of St. Catherine's MLIS program. Graduation from a non-accredited school will surely limit one's career options. So many of the job postings require an MLIS from an ALA accredited school. I know many students who are currently enrolled in the MLIS program at the College of St. Catherine, some close to graduating.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thing 28- Customized Home Pages

I previously used iGoogle as my customized home page but decided to switch to Netvibes since so many users were raving about it. Netvibes appeals to me for its speed and its large selection of themes and widgets, and its navigation tabs (e.g. One for news, one for fun stuff, etc.).

Widgets I added included:

*Weather for my area
*Various news feeds
*To do list
*Quick access to my various accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Bloglines, Gmail (both of my accounts), Yahoo Mail, Delicious, Bloglines
*Search Wikipedia
*Flickr interesting photos
*You Tube viewer

These are some of the tools I use frequently and its nice to have them all on one page.

There were some frustrating things about using Netvibes though. It took me awhile to get the feeling of creating and moving the widgets to where I wanted them. Sometimes I had trouble getting the widgets to be the right size.

I decided to import all of my RSS feed subscriptions from Bloglines into Netvibes so I didn't have to log into Bloglines separately. The importing worked fine, but I did not like the layout of the RSS feeds. For one thing, it put them under several different tabs, when I just wanted all of my feeds under one tab. (I think it did this because I have multiple folders in Bloglines and a tab was automatically created for each folder). It was frustrating trying to position and size the feeds to my satisfaction. I think I will just stick with Bloglines as my RSS reader.

I looked for a widget that would allow me shortcut access to my Bloglines account, but couldn't find one on Netvibes. I ended up getting it from a different website.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Reading series in order (or not)

I frequently encounter patrons who wish to start reading a new series. Sometimes a later book in the series will currently be available in the library but not the first one. Or sometimes the patron places holds on several books in a series, but they don't necessarily arrive in series order. In these situations, patrons will often ask how important it is that a certain series be read in order. How do you answer that question when its a series you have no familiarity with?

I posed this question on FICTION-L which is a listserv for those interested in all aspects of reader's advisory. I've found the listserv extremely helpful and strongly recommend subscribing to it if you do any amount of reader's advisory in your work. Despite the title, nonfiction reader's advisory is also discussed here.

From the replies, I concluded that:

*Much of it is a matter of personal preference. If you're the type that doesn't like spoilers, you may be best off reading the series in order.

*With some series, reading in sequential order is more "essential" than others. I think most people who have read the entire Harry Potter series would agree that they need to be read in order for the best reading experience. Starting with, a latter book where a key character dies and then reading an earlier book where the character is still alive would spoil the experience for many. Also, the Harry Potter books have a lot of jargon that is explained in an earlier book, but in a later book, the terms are not explained because it is assumed you have read them in order. On the other hand, the children's series, Choose Your Own Adventure can be read in any order. The premises, settings, and plotlines are completely separate from each other. Many series are somewhere between these two extremes. My experience has been that science fiction and fantasy series tend to be more sequential in nature; mystery series less so, but of course there are exceptions.

*The author's website (if there is one) will often answer this question on the FAQ page

*Amazon.com often has lists submitted by readers who are fans of the series and they will sometimes say how important reading the series in order is

Enhancing your YouTube experience

Here are some ways to enhance your YouTube viewing experience:

InfiniTube After entering some keywords, you will get a constant stream of uninterrupted YouTube videos related to them.

Splicd.com Select a point in a YouTube video, say starting at 53 seconds, and this site will build a link to that point so you can share it with others

TubeStop Prevents YouTube videos from automatically playing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Is that website REALLY down or is it just my imagination?

From the LIBREF listserv, I discovered a really cool website, Down for Everyone or Just Me? that allows you to see if a website is REALLY down (or if it's just your imagination). I know I'll be using this one alot in the library when patrons tell me they can't access a certain website.

Thing 27- Twitter

I joined Twitter and set up an account. I don't think I'll be using it that much but its fun to see what Twitter can be used for.

The advantage of Twitter is the brevity of the posts- limit of 140 characters. The posts are short and to the point. Someone who wants just the facts quickly will appreciate this. Libraries are taking advantage of this by using Twitter to post dates of conferences/events, promote library services, and tell others what's going on in the library. Such Twitter posts can also be made available via RSS feeds.

The 140 character limit is also Twitter's biggest downfall. Some ideas are difficult to express in 140 characters or less. The posts can end up sounding rather blunt and impersonal. The posts may end up sounding less professional due to the number of abbreviations used to get it down to 140 or less characters.

The other advantage of Twitter is you can Tweet (post to Twitter) by sending text messages via your cell phone. You can also receive Tweets on your cell phone as well. Sounds cool but I didn't try this because I have to pay for texting with my cell phone plan.

Of the web 2.0 tools, this tool seems to be the most polarizing. Many love it; many hate it. I'm rather ambivalent. I see the value of microblogging at times, but personally prefer regular blogging. Some of the responses to "What are you doing right now?" are rather trivial and boring. I'm not interested in what you're eating or watching on TV right now. On the other hand, I like the way in which libraries are using Twitter, the information is quick and useful.

I find it a challenge to keep posts to the 140 character limit. I'm too wordy at times.

I explored various Twitter tools and experimented with different colors and themes for my Twitter page. I decided to follow the mnmorethings Twitter group. I also used TwitPic to post a photo to Twitter. I tried out this site to find Twitters with similar interests. I also added a Twitter badge to the side of my blog. I probably won't use Twitter that much so I don't know how long I'll keep it.

The Twitterverse uses its own set of jargon, this helpful website defines the terms.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why I Love Google Docs

Google Docs is a word processing application accessible online. All you need to do is to create an account, and then you can create, upload, store, and share documents online. I think Google Docs is a great alternative to Microsoft Word for the following reasons:

1)It's free.

2) Most of the everyday word processing tasks that can be accomplished in MS Word, can also be accomplished in Google Docs.

Some of the libraries I substitute in have Word Pad and not MS Word. Word Pad only provides the very basic word processing functions. Google Docs is a good alternative to MS Word. I recommend this to my patrons, only caveat is you need an email address in order to create an account.

3) Your documents are confidential (you need username and password to log in)

4) Documents can be accessed from any computer with Internet access, anywhere. I particularly like this. I don't have to haul my flash drive around everywhere- I'm afraid I'll lose the thing.

5) It's a good way to back up your documents. If your flash drive, CD, floppy disc, or computer goes bad, you still have your files in Google Docs.

6) You can create folders and subfolders to manage your files. You can also "star" the important documents. (Similar to the "star" feature in gmail.)

7) You can upload files from your computer directly into Google Docs. Acceptable file formats include:

*Documents (up to 500KB)
--HTML files and plain text (.txt).
--Microsoft Word (.doc), Rich Text (.rtf), OpenDocument Text (.odt) and StarOffice (.sxw).

*Presentations (up to 10MB from your computer, 2MB from the web, 500KB via email)
--Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt, .pps).

*Spreadsheets (up to 1MB)
--Comma Separated Value (.csv).
--Microsoft Excel (.xls) files and OpenDocument Spreadsheet (.ods).

*PDF Files (up to 10MB from your computer, 2MB from the web)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Thing 26- Join the Ning

I joined the 23 Things on a Stick Ning in Round 2 of the program last summer. It was alot of fun to revisit the group. I updated my profile.
I browsed through the member profiles and found several people I know that are participating. Some of them were fellow classmates from library school. I posted on the discussion forum, added photos and videos, and started a group for Washington County librarians working on the things. I also added the 23 Things on a Stick badge to my blog and joined another Ning group: Library 2.0

I never got that much into social networks online, but I think now I'm hooked!

Here are some ideas for Ning groups for librarians:
*Library branch or library system specific groups
*Book groups- different Ning groups for different reading interests
*Different groups for different specialties (e.g. Youth services, reference, cataloging, etc.)
*Different groups for different types of libraries (e.g. public, academic, school media centers, special libraries)

Libraries could also develop a program for teaching people about Ning, similar to the many MySpace or Facebook programs implemented.

Thing 25- Bloggers' Toolkit

I enjoyed this thing way too much. I don't know exactly how long I spend on it, but 8-10 hours seems like a reasonable estimate. I'm not kidding. It was time very well spent.

There were numerous tools and widgets I explored and I chose to add the following to my blog:

Odiogo automatic podcast generation. I liked this because more and more people are listening to podcasts. It also makes the content more accessible to the visually impaired.

ClickComments I think this tool will generate more feedback for my blog posts. I like the little icons (cool, fell asleep, etc.). The thing I don't like is there is nowhere to comment as to why you think the post is cool, insightful, etc. The comment toolbar is also a little larger in size than I'd like. Eventually, I might replace it with a different comment tool.

Sitemeter I chose this because I am curious to see how many people are visiting my blog. Right now I'm not getting many visitors because I haven't been promoting my blog like I should. I did sign up for BlogCatalog, which indexes my blog, hoping more people will find it. It was challenging to figure out which category to place my blog under. There is no "Library" category, so I ended up choosing "Technology."

Vizu I registered for this poll making service. I think polls add interactivity and make the blog more interesting.

Contact form I chose this one because my real email address remains anonymous and it reduces spam.

Bookmarking tool I chose this one because of its small size and slick design. I liked the way it integrates many bookmarking services without having to have a separate button for each one.

There were lots of neat tools that I would like to have on my blog. I was careful not to pick too many, otherwise my blog will look too busy. I don't want to turn off visitors.

I explored several photo tools but didn't add any because I don't have many photos to share. In the future when I have more photos, I may add one of these tools. I didn't add any of the slideshow tools for the same reason.

I also didn't bother with any of the chat or social networking tools. I don't use them much online anyway.

One tool I thought was neat but have not added yet is Bitty Browser, where you can enable navigable windows directly within the blog. I didn't add it yet because I'm not sure where I'd place it.

I explored getting a unique favicon for my blog but the instructions seemed too complicated. Maybe one of these days when I have some more time on my hands I'll try it.

I found the 20 Usability Tips For Your Blog article extremely helpful. Tip 16, says to provide an index. I now add labels to each of my blog posts so readers can more easily find posts of interest. Some of the things in the article I would like to try in the future:

*Add a top posts and top commenters sections
*Archive by date not by topic
*Have my blogs URL match my blogs title (not sure how to do this without getting a whole new blog).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thing 24 - Refresh Your Blog

I had lot of fun doing this thing. Changes I made to my blog include:

*Changed the blog name
*Updated my profile
*Changed my avatar
*Changed the color scheme in the template. I experimented with other templates but decided I liked the one I originally had the best. I tried uploading templates from various third party sites but was unable to get it to work.
*Added RSS feeds. I was puzzled before on how to do this. Now I know how!
*Added a list of other blogs I read
*Added a widget that allows me to track followers of my blog
*Changed the ordering of links on the right hand side

I really enjoyed the 25 Basic Styles of Blogging slide show. I haven't blogged much since completing 23 Things on a Stick, so I'm not sure which blogging style(s) fit me best. Maybe Link blogger or List blogger as I like to make lists and share links with others. According to the slide show, insight blogging is one of the more challenging but desirable styles to use. I think I already do some of this (e.g. suggesting ways that web 2.0 tools can be used in libraries). The slide show also gave me suggestions of things I could try experimenting with more in my blog such as blogging about events or live blogging.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why can't I just talk to a human?

Well, you can but you need to know the right phone number or which buttons to press on the menu. Get Human takes the guesswork out and lists phone numbers and/or the sequence of buttons to press to reach a human being for hundreds of companies and organizations.


I just discovered a cool search engine, Search Me which shows previews of the webpages themselves. Try it out!