Posts filed under 'Technology and Tools'
New kids computers!
Have you seen our new AWE Learning Stations? If you’re the parent or caregiver of a preschooler or early elementary child I highly recommend you take a look at them. These computers have a fun, captivating interface that encourage children to explore on their own and they come packed with educational software programs spanning seven curricular areas. The computers are targeted for children from toddlers through the second grade.
We purchased four of them for the Main Library in Martinsville and the Monrovia branch with a Library Services and Technology Act grant, but I just found out that we have a received another grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Indiana State Library for three more units that we’ll install at the Brooklyn and Northeast branches. Kids love these computers because they are made for little ones to explore on their own. They are bright and colorful and make cool sounds too!
Get rid of pesky overdue fines while doing something good for the community
If you’re like most people, you probably have some overdue fines on your account. Don’t worry, it happens to everyone sometime (even librarians!). This December, however, you can do something about it. Food for Fines allows you to take $1 in overdue fines off your account for every canned or non-perishable food item you bring in and then we’ll donate the food to a local food pantry. Please note that Food for Fines will only reduce your overdue fines and doesn’t apply to lost or damaged materials or collection agency fees.
David Ross Retirement Reception
Many of you already know that David is retiring at the end of December. He has been the Library’s Director for sixteen years and has wrought so many positive changes in our library system during his tenure. Please come out to honor him on Sunday, December 7th between 2 and 4 p.m. The Friends of the Library are sponsoring the reception.
December 1st, 2008
Our budget is so tight that we have to weigh every purchase decision very carefully and it’s always agonizing. Just because an item is well reviewed or we feel it will fill a niche doesn’t always mean that our customers will use it or that it lives up to its hype. Fortunately, I have made one purchase recently that I’m really grateful for. Actually, it’s two items but they came bundled together: the Testing and Education Resource Center and Legal Forms Online. What are these wondrous things? Why, online databases, of course! One of which is loaded with practice tests for nearly every exam our patrons want to take as well as college and financial aid information and the other a very comprehensive listing of Indiana legal forms. These two databases join our stable of online resources that include HeritageQuest for genealogy research, Reference USA for business information and NoveList for fiction.
Why am I so excited about these two new ones? First, for years the County Clerk’s office has been sending people to the library for their legal needs and while we sincerely appreciate their vote of confidence, we a) don’t have lawyers on our staff and b) contrary to popular belief we don’t have a magic book of Indiana Legal forms lying around. Until now, that is. I have found more forms on this database than I ever dreamed of: emancipation of minors; name change forms; power of attorney, mechanic’s liens and living wills. The best part? The forms are downloadable in Microsoft Word format so that patrons can modify them to suit their needs. Better still, all you need is a library card and a computer and if you don’t happen to have a computer, we happen to have several that you can use.
Probably the only thing that is requested more often than legal forms are materials to study for the GED and ASVAB. We simply can’t keep enough books on the shelves for these two tests and are constantly re-ordering them. For that reason, I subscribed to the Testing and Education Resource Center because one of its features is a section of over fifty practice tests like the GED, SAT, NCLEX and law enforcement exams. What really blew me away, however, was when I found that there is far, far more to this database than those practice tests. You can download e-books to help you study. You can research colleges, careers, financial aid and scholarships. You can do side by side comparisons of tuition and expected financial aid. This database is such an invaluable tool for students and their families that I just want to shout about it from the rooftops. Again, this database is free for anyone with a library card and library cards are free for residents of Morgan County.
To access either of these databases, go to our home page, morg.lib.in.us and look under the “What’s New at Your Library” section for the database you want. Granted, you may not think they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, but they make my work day so much easier, and they offer incredible convenience to people who can’t make it in to the library. Happy information gathering!
March 12th, 2008
What!? Everything you read on the Internet may not be true? Shocking news, I know, but you would be surprised at the number of people who believe anything they see on the Internet. It used to be that you at least had to have some technical skills to publish a web page, but with the advent of free blog sites (thank you WordPress.com!) and social networking sites just about anyone can publish on the Web - even me. Some sites are very convincing and look very professional but are full of nothing but opinion, conjecture or downright lies. In fact, 94% of Internet sites contain errors. (See how easy it is! I just made that statistic up!) So, how can you tell good information from bad? Here’s a few things the Librarian’s Internet Index suggests you consider:
- Can an author be identified, and is there contact information?
- What is the author’s reputation and qualifications in the subject? How important is the authority for this site?
- Does the author provide sources for information?
- Is the site a “personal” page (often indicated with a tilde before the directory name, as in www.myfunpage.com/~bobsmith)?
- Scope and Audience
- Why does the site exist? What is its purpose–to instruct, inform, amuse, or persuade? Is its purpose clearly stated or easily inferred, or does there appear to be a hidden agenda or ulterior motive to the presentation of the content?
- Who are the audiences for this site? Is the site appropriate for the intended audiences?
- How does the site compare with other sites on the same subject?
- How thoroughly does the site cover its content areas? For example, a site describing dachshund breeds should list all known breeds.
- If the site provides opinion, rather than facts, are these opinions clearly identifiable as such?
- Does the site provide illustrations you would expect to find? (For example, a resource describing knot-tying would be expected to have illustrations of knots in various stages of execution.)
How important is good information? Well, it depends on what your situation is. If you want information about health, the law or how to re-wire your house, I’d say it’s very important. If you’re looking for a good cookie recipe, or instructions on reupholstering your chair, it’s a little less important, though bad information could still be costly. If it’s simply entertainment, then it’s relatively unimportant.
By now, you are probably hoping for some short cuts to good Internet information and I have some answers for you. First, the Librarian’s Internet Index is an excellent resource - they pre-screen the websites for you, using the guidelines listed above, plus a few more.
Another excellent resource is INSPIRE, Indiana’s Online Research Library. INSPIRE is a collection of electronic databases that culls information from thousands of academic journals and hundreds newspapers & magazines. There is a special section for kids and another for older students which is an outstanding resource for research papers. It is free to residents of Indiana, though it does require registration.
Finally, if those two are a little too intimidating, you can always come to the library. We employ highly skilled reference librarians who have taken graduate level courses that focus on nothing but ferreting out good information from bad. We’d love to help you!
December 4th, 2007
PC Cop installation Update
As with all things computer, the installation of the new PC management software is not going exactly according to schedule. The main problem is getting the printer to work, but I hope we’ll get through that soon. Of course, if you’re reading this blog right now, you probably have your own computer and you don’t rely on ours and the new software is not an issue.
Keeping track of what you’ve read
Do you have trouble remembering what you have already read? Would you like to inventory your book collection? Would you like to keep a list of things you would like to read? If you answered yes to any of these questions, there are some nifty online tools available to you. I have found four of them, and there may be more out there.
First is LibraryThing (www.librarything.com), which is what I use. It allows you to catalog 200 books for free, then there is a small charge after that. It is simple to use - you enter the book’s title, author or ISBN number and it inputs most of the information for you. After that you can personalize the entry with ratings, comments, reviews, dates read and descriptive tags. From a librarian’s standpoint, the thing I love most about LibraryThing are the descriptive tags and the Library Suggester, both of which are great tools for when I’m looking for something good to read and don’t have anything specific in mind. You can get book recommendations based on a specific book, your entire library, or one tag of a book - for example books about Afghanistan.
I’m slightly hesitant to do this, but here’s a link to my library which is a list of everything I’ve read in the past year or so. Please don’t gasp in horror when you see what I’ve been reading - I’m an omnivore when it comes to books.
Other book cataloging tools are:
Shelfari (www.shelfari.com) - Completely free, more graphics and less words. Very easy to navigate More socially oriented with the ability to have ‘friends’ much like a FaceBook for book lovers. (They are affiliated with FaceBook.)
Reader2(reader2.com) - Also completely free & socially oriented but a bit hard to navigate.
GuruLib (www.gurulib.com) - Also completely free & easy to navigate. Not much for sharing, but good organization tools that allow you to create wishlists and separate “shelves” to help organize your books..
November 8th, 2007
OK, now that Billy has made a few enhancements, it’s time to get this blog rolling!
Today we are installing new software to help manage the public computers and I’m excited about it because I hope it will make things easier for both patrons and staff.
It used to be that you had to come to the desk in order to check out a computer, wait in line, hand over your library card or ID and then you were handed a cardboard placard indicating which computer you are assigned to. If we had a waiting list, you signed your name on a piece of paper, the staff would monitor when someone’s time was up and inform the patron they had to get off the computer. (Believe me when I tell you that kicking people off the computer was not something that anyone enjoyed.) Once the person vacated, the staff would hunt through the library looking for the person who had signed the waiting list.
With PC Cop, you can walk up to an unused computer, enter your library card number and PIN and begin using it. You’ll initially have a one-hour session, but if there are enough empty computers, you can extend your session. If all of the computers are in use, you’ll enter your library card number in the self-service kiosk. The first available computer will be assigned to you and only you can log on to it. You will have five minutes to claim your computer - if you don’t, it will be reassigned to the next person in line.
It looks like we will have this new system up and running by mid-day on Thursday, so stop in and let us know what you think of it!
November 7th, 2007