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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Android and Smartphones

I have to admit I'm a bit behind on the smartphone revolution. I don't own one and haven't used one myself but I got to thinking about the role that smartphones like Android and the iPhone can play in libraries.

For example, one of the many applications available on the Android model is Overdrive Media Console. Many libraries, including where I work, provide the Overdrive downloadable audiobooks service. Nowdays, the Android can also serve as an eBook reader. There is even an application for scanning barcodes. Once the barcode is scanned, it will look up prices and reviews, and any other available associated information.

I have gotten questions from patrons regarding smartphones and I expect the number of questions to increase in the future as they become more commonplace. So its good to be aware of what this up-and-coming technology can do.

Monday, September 27, 2010

National History Day Contest

Is your library prepared for the National History Day contest? Every year, over half a million students from elementary to high school participate. Students can submit a project in one of five categories: a paper, an exbhit, a website, a documentary, or a performance on a historical topic of their choice in relation to the year's theme. The theme for 2011 will be Debate and Diplomacy in History. Regardless of what option students choose, they are required to submit an annotated bibliography of sources used for the project, including both primary and secondary sources. All categories except for the paper can be done individually or in groups. Papers must be done by individuals only.

There are different levels of competition, beginning with the classroom. Winners at the classroom advance to the regional competition, then to the state level, and finally to the national level. Typically the classroom competitions take place in February, and the regional competitions take place in March. The state of Minnesota will have their event held on May 1, 2011 at the University of Minnesota. The National competition will be held at the University of Maryland, College Park from June 12-16, 2011. Students are judged on historical quality (60%), relationship to the year's theme (20%), and clarity of presentation (20%). Students do receive feedback on work from the judges.

Since such a large number of students participate each year, librarians should be prepared to handle questions regarding history day projects. One of the most common questions is "What is the difference between a primary source and a secondary source?" Primary sources are written or produced in the time period of the event that students are investigating. Examples of primary sources include news articles, autobiographies, pictures, memoirs, letters, and interviews with participants or witnesses. Secondary sources are created by those who are not witnesses or participants in the events of the time period being researched. Examples of secondary sources include textbooks, bibliographies, and interviews with experts (unless the expert actually witnessed the event).

The next questions, you'll likely be asked as a librarian is, "Where do I start collecting information?" For Minnesota students, this video serves as a good starting point. Also check out, MnKnows, a suite of free resources available to all Minnesota residents with a library card. The University of Minnesota Libraries has a page devoted to history day. The Minnesota Historical Society website is also worth checking out.

For residents outside of Minnesota, many libraries will subscribe to the following databases, which are good for historical research:

*Academic Search Premier (Includes images)
*American Periodicals Series Online (A primary source containing digitized images)
*Biography in Context (Includes images)
*Discovering Collection (Includes information from primary sources and images)
*Encyclopedia Britannica (Includes information from primary sources and images)
*General Reference Center Gold (Includes images)
*Historical New York Times (A primary source with searchable full text from the first issue. Includes digitized images of the newspaper pages themselves.)
*Junior Reference Collection (Includes information from primary sources and images)
*MAS Ultra- School Edition (Includes information from primary sources and images)
*MasterFILE Premier (Includes information from primary sources and images)
*Student Research Center (Includes information from primary sources and images)
*Student Resources in Context (Includes information from primary sources and images)
*U.S. History in Context (Includes over 1,000 primary source documents and also contains images)
*World History in Context (Includes information from primary sources and images)

These sources provided by the Library of Congress are available for free online:
*American Memory (A primary source including digitized documents, images, audio recordings, motion pictures, sheet music, posters, and maps.)

*Chronicling America (A primary source including pages from U.S. Newspapers from 1880-1922.)

*American Folklife Center (A primary source that illustrates daily life from various cultures in American history. Includes images and audio.)

*Prints, Photographs Reading Room (A primary source with over 4 million images)

Government documents may also be helpful in conducting research. Some possible resources, include:
*Lexis Nexis (A subscription-based electronic resource, which indexes U.S. Congressional publications from 1789 to the present.)

*Google Uncle Sam (Using the Google search algorithm, it limits results to websites containing .gov or .mil domains.)

*Catalog of U.S. Government Pulications (Contains electronic documents from 1976 to the present)