Thursday, December 29, 2011

If you're ever in Prague...

check out this giant sculpture by Matej Kren in the entrance of the Prague Municipal Library. Constructed with mirrors to create the illusion of an infinite vortex of books, this is one rabbit hole I wouldn't mind tumbling down.

photos via My Modern Met

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mantor Monday

Library hours this week:

Monday through Friday - 8:00am to 4:30
Saturday and Sunday - closed.
Closed Monday, Jan 2nd.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Are you a book nerd?

Writer Jason Pinter wants to know. He's created the Twitter hashtag #booknerd, and he's getting some pretty funny responses. I've grabbed screenshots of some of my favorites. I feel you, fellow booknerds. I feel you.

final two tweets from Huffington Post.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Amazon and Cut Throat Prices

I'm usually a big fan of technology. I love being able to do as much as I can online or with techie things. But this past weekend (I think it was this past weekend), Amazon concocted a new approach to stabbing brick and mortar retail in the back--including book stores. If people went in to stores and used its new price matching app, then Amazon would give them up to $5 off on the items they scanned. (In the price matching app, you scan the barcode of an item with your smart phone. Amazon brings up the info for it on Amazon, so you can compare prices and then order it from Amazon right there.)

This strikes me as unfair, and over the top. Amazon has cheaper prices than bookstores. That's almost always a given these days. Why? Because Amazon can afford to. They're able to slash prices on some items (books), because they can make back the money on all the other stuff people buy through them. And I think everyone kind of gets that. If you want to save money--and money is all that's important to you, not local business or anything--then you shop Amazon.

But this latest stunt? That just seems to be Amazon trying to take a lead pipe to local  brick and mortar stores' collective kneecap. It would be like Walmart hiring someone to go around after you and tell you how much money you could be saving if you were shopping at Walmart.

What's worse is that Amazon is basically using every other store's inventory as a sort of Amazon Floorspace. The big weakness Amazon has always had is that some people prefer to see things before they buy them. They want to handle the thing. Kick the tires. Look under the hood, so to speak. And Amazon hasn't been able to match that. It's the great equalizer.

But now, you can go to the store, see the thing hands on, then order it on Amazon and have it delivered to your house in two days, for free.


Sooner or later, this will all come back to bite the consumer in the proverbial rear end. If Amazon's allowed to drive all other stores out of business, then something tells me that won't be a good thing for the consumer.

Time will tell, but sometimes, just because you *can* do something with technology, doesn't mean you should . . .

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mantor Monday

Library hours during finals week:

Monday - Wednesday, 7:45 am to 11:00pm

Thursday - 7:45 am to 7:00 pm (Unless bad weather during the week requires finals to be held on Friday. In this case, the library will remain open until 11:00 pm.)

Friday - 7:45 to 4:30

In other library news, the projector in the enhanced study room on the second floor has been such an overwhelming hit, at student request we have decided to take reservations.
If you'd like to reserve the projector room, please call or stop by the Access Services desk.

Good luck on your exams, and have a wonderful break!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Best. Flowchart. Ever.

Do you read science fiction or fantasy? You're going to love this. You know what? Scratch that question. Even if you don't like wizards, warlocks, dragons, pirates, dystopian worlds or post-apocalyptic cannibals, you'll still enjoy this flowchart. It's that fun.
The smart people at SF Signal took the NPR's list of reader-ranked top 100 books in these two genres, and turned it into a flow chart with 100 endpoints and 325 decision points. There is a printable version available here. (warning, huge download.) Not in the mood to follow arrows? There's an interactive online version here.
But for pure, colorful, joyful exploration of a cornucopia of best-loved books, take a few minutes to wander around this chart. Just keep an eye out for dragons.

(Click here to enjoy larger version.)

Quick notes about Gmail

For those of you who use UMF email accounts, you may have noticed a window popping up asking you if you want to change to the new Gmail format.

First, if you are so overwhelmed with everything else right now (it being the last week of classes, of course), you can temporarily put off dealing with this. Just click the button that says you want to. (How long is 'temporary'? Not forever, but Google hasn't told us, either.)

Why the new look? 
Google has been rolling this out for a variety of reasons - some have to do with function, some have to do with appearance. The major changes are:
  • a cleaner looking interface - more modern, more streamlined. 
  • some new themes to customize how your Gmail looks (more in a moment)
  • improvements to the conversation view that keeps messages on a topic together. 
  • more ways to customize appearance (more in a moment again.) 
  • simpler ways to search and filter in Gmail
  • easier switching between mail, contacts, and tasks.
  • a new toolbar that only shows you buttons when you need them. 
Common questions:
The two big questions I've heard so far today are about contrast between text and the background, and about the spacing of items in the sidebar/inbox. Gmail gives you options on how to handle both of these.

The items in the sidebar (like Inbox, Important, Sent Mail, etc.) have a certain spacing. You can decide to make that roomy and spacious, or you can make it very compact, so it takes up less space.

If you look at the top of your mail inbox, you'll see a little gear symbol. When you click on it, you'll see the following drop-down menu. Adjust the "Display density" until the spacing suits you. You can also use this menu to revert to the old look temporarily, or to easily get to settings or themes.

Themes are a way to personalize your Gmail. Here's a view of your choices. Some of them have better contrast than others, or may be more pleasing to your eye.

The classic themes came over from the older look of Gmail, and a couple of them look more washed out in the new version, which is why I've been hearing questions about how to make the contrast better. This is definitely a "play around and see what works for you" thing.

One nifty trick is that some themes change based on the weather, the time of day, or have rotating images. If you look at the themes below, the little sun symbol in the bottom right means it changes based on weather. If it's got a clock, it changes based on time of day. And if it's got the three little squares, it has multiple rotating images.

Conversation view:
One thing that can confuse people (though it's not new to Gmail's new look) is that Gmail by default groups conversations (series of emails) together.

If you'd rather not do this, use the settings menu (the gear I talked about above) to go to settings, then on the General tab, look for the "Conversation View" option, about half-way down. You can select "Conversation view off" and you'll see each email individually.

Want to do more? 
Finally, if you're now curious about all that Gmail can do, let me point you at an awesome feature, the Gmail Labs tab. (Found in the same Settings window we just talked about...)

Labs are features that are not part of Gmail's default settings. Often, that's because they're still in development, or because they're things some people want, but not everyone. I plan a future post about some of my favorites, but in the meantime, LifeHacker had some great tips earlier this year in a top-ten list, and then ten more experimental features to check out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More about social bookmarking

Last Wednesday, I talked about social bookmarking in general - this week, I want to take a closer look at a couple of different options. (Two of which I use regularly, and then talk about a few other choices.)

One of the big names in social bookmarking is Delicious ( It's had some ups and downs recently (it started as an independent start-up, got bought by Yahoo, Yahoo decided to stop supporting it, and it has now been bought and is getting updated by an entirely different company. Yeah, it was confusing at the time, too.)

Here's what you see if you look at my professional Delicious account. (You may want to click on the image to see it a bit better.)

On the left, you can see when I added each link, and you can see what tags I gave it. On the right sidebar, you can see some basic info about me, and then a list of all the tags I've ever assigned anywhere.

 So, how do I add to my links? Most of the social bookmarking sites have a little link you put in your bookmark toolbar. Here's mine - off to the right, you can see a link to delicious, and then to "my delicious". The first one is what I click to add a link. The second takes me to my account and shows me all the links I've saved previously.

 When you click on the "add a link" bookmark, a little window will pop up. Most of the time, I just add tags, and don't comment, but commenting is handy if you're creating links that will be shared with other people. (You can share a note about why you like it, what to pay attention to, etc.) As you can see in the bottom left, you can add this to a larger group of links (a stack - more on that below) or make it private (so only you can see it.)

The former version of Delicious had a way to bundle tags into larger groups (so I'd have one for library.profession,, teaching.and.learning, and so on, that would gather smaller tags into one group.) The new version of Delicious has "stacks" where you can pick and choose specific links to include (though they make it easy to select whole groups at a time. Below, you can see what a stack looks like when I've added some items.

Finally, it's also possible to follow someone else on Delicious - that means that every time they save a public bookmark, you get to see what they saved. In practice, while I think this is a sort of neat idea (and it can be a very cool collaborative tool for some kinds of projects), I've never used it extensively.

Pinboard: an alternative:
When the future of Delicious was looking pretty uncertain, people spent a lot of time exploring some other options. One popular choice that rose to the top turned out to be a site called Pinboard ( They describe themselves as " a bookmarking website for introverted people in a hurry."

Unlike Delicious (which is free), there's a one-time fee (which goes up very slightly with each account created - currently, it's about $9.55.) but it is in fact very quick, simple, and the creator and admins are very responsive to concerns. You can see what it looks like here. (I've got an account for some professional uses, but I use it more heavily on my personal account.)

And here's what adding a new link looks like.
What are some other options? 
Twitter has become a great way for some people to share links of interest - the problem is finding them later when you need them. (So a lot of people will save a link to something like their browser, a 'read later' application like Instapaper, or to a social bookmarking site.)

There are a variety of other social bookmarking sites - I've only scratched the surface here. Popular sites include Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon, though all three have much more of a social factor than the two I've discussed above. (Great if you're working with popular topics, but sometimes a little weird if your interests are less common.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Making Sense of HDTV Mumbo Jumbo

Lifehacker has a great guide up today all about how to understand what all the numbers and letters surrounding HDTVs mean. 720p vs 1080i? LCD vs Plasma? What the heck is a contrast ratio? If you need guidance in the purchase of a new TV, this is a great place to start your research.

Check it out!

I will say that it's remarkable to me how easy the internet has made it to learn about subjects you never had a clue about before. Just over Thanksgiving, I set up my parents' surround sound system, upgrading them from technology that was over 15 years old. I did it all without really having to check anything online--I'd taught myself how to do it all when I installed my own system a couple of years ago.

Through the internet, I've become reasonably proficient at understanding how television antennas work, how to network just about anything, how to set up advanced remote control systems, how to bake anything you can think of--it's all right there, usually spelled out in so much detail that even a complete novice can get it all down pat, if he or she just takes the time to learn.

There's times when I'm just really happy to live in a day and place where things like this are possible.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sidewalk Canvas

If you've spent any time in the library lately, you may have noticed these golden eyes gazing down at you from the Discoveries shelf in the Browsing room. This handsome Leo's face on the cover of Sidewalk Canvas jumped out at me as I was reading the New Books List that came out today, so I went and checked it out and spent my lunch break marveling at the works inside. As well as featuring absolutely mind-blowingly talented street artists, Sidewalk Canvas is also a how-to book. I, personally, am self-aware enough to realize that I do not have what it takes to create masterpieces like these. But you might. And one of the things I love about this campus is the proliferation of public art - installations left like gifts to surprise and delight the rest of us. So, maybe, one day, one of these chalk paintings will grace the sidewalk in front of the library. (Hint, hint, artists on campus...)
I've checked the book back in, so it's available if you'd like to come in for it. In the meantime, enjoy these photo essays on this incredible art form:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Resource Wednesday: Social bookmarking 101

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how Google Reader is a great way to keep on top of interesting topics.

But that raises the question: When you find interesting posts, or interesting webpages, how do you keep track of them? That's where my next topic comes in: social bookmarking sites.

What's a social bookmarking site? 
Basically, it's a site where you can save your bookmarks. Depending on the site you use, and your settings, you can set them private (only you can see them when you're logged in) or public.

Some sites have ways to make it easy to share other people's bookmarks and see what they've found useful, usually through tagging.

You can take a look at the collection I keep for professional topics at, one of the best-known social bookmarking sites. (I'll talk a little more about some of what you see in future Wednesday posts.)

When are they useful?
  • If you want to share links with other people. 
  • If you're collaborating with other people.
  • If you like sharing things you find interesting. 
  • If you use lots of different computers, and want to be able to find articles, pages, or sites you use frequently without syncing your bookmarks between different computers. \
Some people save bookmarks on their own computer and on a social bookmarking site - including me. I bookmark sites I use regularly on the computers I use them on (my work computer, my home computer) and use Delicious and other sites for more general collections of links.

So how do you keep track?
Many social bookmarking sites have a way to group links in some way. Probably the most common is by tagging, assigning a term (that you choose) to a link, so you can group them in ways that make sense to you. Many sites will suggest some tags (including those other people have chosen.) Some sites allow tags to have spaces, others don't. (I can never remember which site does which, so my tags are either one word, or have a . in the middle to join phrases - for example academic.libraries)

What to know before you start using a social bookmarking site:
Basically, be aware of the normal standard privacy issues. If your bookmarks are public, people can see them. They can see what you choose for a tag (so, if you call it really.idiotic.stuff, the person whose site you tagged with that might find out...) 

Second, it's always a good idea when using a site to have a way to get your data back out again - sites do get bought and sold or go out of business. It's good to be in the habit of saving a backup every few months (at least, more often if you absolutely must be able to find material again.)

Finally, be aware if you're behind an access-protected area. For example, if you do a search in our databases and find an article you like, you could bookmark it and access it on campus, perhaps without any problems (it depends on the database). But from off campus, you'd have to demonstrate that you should have access to the site (usually by logging in), and sometimes it's very hard to get back to the original article afterwards.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The History of Search

I just got back from my vacation, and I'm bravely mucking through backlog of email and blog posts. However, I took some time out to watch this video that just came out from Google, detailing the history of Google search from its beginnings to today, and I thought you might be interested in seeing it.

It's really interesting to take a step back and remind ourselves where search has come in the past fifteen years or so, and to wonder where it might be fifteen years from now. Google isn't my favorite tool in the world for every search, but it does a great job at what it's designed to do, and I'm glad there are so many brilliant minds focused on making internet searches even more robust.

What say you?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mantor Monday

Need to study?
Come on in! We have group and private study areas, plenty of computers, and two Project Zones.
We're open until 11:00 tonight, 7:00 on Tuesday night, and 4:30 on Wednesday.

And then....

Happy Thanksgiving Break!!! (Enjoy!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review Friday: Keep your hands busy!

It's probably no secret that a fair number of the library staff knit. (So do a lot of people we talk to).

So, as we aim at a long holiday weekend (with maybe some spare time for knitting and crocheting, and all sorts of other fun hobbies), and a lot of people are aiming at making quick presents for the winter holidays, I thought it might be nice to highlight a few recent knitting and related items in our collection.

One great title for quick projects is the One-Skein Wonders series. We just got the Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders (by Judith Durant) in. Sock yarn comes in a great range of colors, is often (reasonably) inexpensive, and as shown here, can be used to make a wide range of items, not just socks. This book has bags, fingerless mitts, children's items, hats, small shawls, and more. Many projects are designed to be relatively quick, simple, and portable - great if you're going to be travelling for Thanksgiving.

Another recent addition is Stitch and Bitch Superstar Knitting: Go Beyond the Basics by Debbie Stollet. This is a sequel to her first book, and it covers cables, bobbles, lace, intarsia, and even designing things yourself. While it's not for the absolute beginner (you'll be a lot happier if you already know how to knit, purl, cast on, and cast off), the charts and pictures make this book a great one to learn from.

Both of these books are currently on the Discoveries shelf in the Browsing Room.

Want more? You can take a look at some of the knitting books we own in our catalog. (And try searches on other terms, too!) If you're new to knitting, the Knitting for Dummies works great for some people, and we have several other titles aimed at absolute beginners.

We also get - through a bundle with a bunch of other databases from the state, access to the Hobbies and Crafts database, which includes a number of crafting magazines (with patterns!) This can be a fun way to browse for ideas or inspiration. (The link will only work if you're on campus or have a UMF library card - but check with your local library to see if you can get access if you're reading this from somewhere else.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

iTunes Match Launches

After weeks of delays, iTunes Match has finally launched. What does this mean? It's Apple's answer to music on the cloud. You take your MP3 collection, Apple scans through it, and then it grants you access to all those songs, wherever you go. Plus, it does it with a minimum of uploading. (In other words, instead of taking your collection and sending it to the internet song by song (like Amazon and Google do right now), it grants you access to the song directly on its servers.) (Note that Google Music is doing an event today, and their offerings might change soon based on what they announce.) iTunes Match isn't free: it costs $25/year.

I have a lot of music on my computer. Enough that I had to start picking and choosing what I wanted stored on my iPad, so that I had room for other stuff on it. So it made sense to me to subscribe to Match and give it a shot. Installation was easy--you just upgrade to the latest version of iTunes, and then click the appropriate button on the left hand menu. And since you pay for it with your iTunes useraccount, paying was a cinch, too.

It took about an hour for the service to scan through the 3,000 some odd songs I have on my hard drive. Once that was done, it only needed to upload something like 500 of them to the cloud. Because I'm at a university with fast internet, that didn't take long at all--though if you're at home, I imagine it could take quite a long time, indeed.

Switching it on in my iPad was also easy--just go to settings > music and turn on the labeled switch. It ditches whatever music you have on your iPad and replaces it with the ability to stream music from your library, or download individual songs. So far, it's been very easy to use. As long as I have internet, I have all my music--and none of it has to take up any space on my iPad.

I do wish there was a way to make playlists on the fly, and I'd also like to be able to rate music directly from my iPad. To be fair, I haven't had the chance to fully play around with the program, and it's possible that it can do both of these things--but if it can, they haven't made it overly apparent.

All told, it's a service I'm very happy to take advantage of. How about you? Tried it? Thinking about it? Any questions for me? Ask away!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mantor Monday

Phone calls are already coming in to inquire about library hours for the Thanksgiving holiday week, so I thought I'd post them early:

Monday - regular hours (7:45 am - 11:00 pm)
Tuesday - 7:45 am - 7:00 pm
Wednesday - 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Thursday, Friday, Saturday - Closed
Sunday - regular hours (11:00 am - 11:00 pm)

Friday, November 11, 2011


Veteran's Day is a great day to highlight another of the new titles in our Discoveries collection.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilence, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (who also wrote the bestselling Seabiscuit) is the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete, World War II pilot, and survivor of Japanese prison camps.

Hillenbrand begins at the beginning, looking at what drove Zamperini to funnel his energies into track and field (he competed in the 1936 Olympics in Munich), and then into the war effort.

When his plane went down, he and his crew survived starvation, shark attacks, and forty-seven days at sea in the Pacific before they made landfall and were found by a Japanese boat. They then endured years in prison camps, and then the years after his release, dealing with the aftermath of his experiences.

What's stunning about the story, though, is something Hillenbrand makes very clear: that while this is one story, powerful and moving, there are thousands of other stories out there, of veterans doing amazing things to survive in the darkest times. As she says, in the article quoted below, "Louis is definitely a hero," she says. "What he did for this country is something that really moves me. I don't, though, want to separate him from all the other men around him who did the same thing. They're all extraordinary. I want him to be representative of all of them, rather than somebody who stands apart from them."

You can hear an hour-long interview with the author via Minnesota Public Radio. (That link also has additional background.) There's more information at the author's website.

And you can find the book in our Browsing Room on the Discoveries section.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Name that Book

So. Here we are, on a gloomy, rainy afternoon. You know what would be fun? A game. A game of "Name that book", sponsored by the website Better Book Titles. I'll show you a picture of a book that has obviously been tampered with, and you have to guess the real title of the book. Ready? Let's go! (And no fair skipping down to the bottom of the post, where the answers are!)

Too easy? Let's try another:

How about this one:

(Seems like an obvious concept, doesn't it, yet one we humans haven't grasped.) And on to the next two:

Getting them so far? How about this one:

Alright, that one was a gimme. Last one, just because I love the real thing so much:

How'd you do?
Here's the answers, in order of appearance:

A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
What to Expect When You're Expecting, Heidi Murkoff
127 Hours, Aron Ralston
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst

Want more? Head on over to Better Book Titles. Easily offended people, be warned: many are NSFW (Especially Not Safe For Work blogs. Though many had me snorting like a rogue rhino, I wasn't able to post them here.)
Thanks for playing, see you next time!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Review of iOS 5

Now that I've been using it for a while, I thought I might get on here to report back on my impressions of iOS 5. Overall, I'd say I'm very happy with it. (Once I finally got all my apps reinstalled. That part wasn't too fun.) There's automatic syncing with iCloud, an enhanced Gamecenter, better integration with Twitter, a cool split keyboard option (which makes typing with thumbs a whole lot easier), tabbed browsing in Safari, better calendar integration, the newsstand feature (which lets you have all your digital magazine subscriptions in one spot), iMessage, syncing without a computer--no one update that changes the whole game, but a lot of small updates that really add up.

Of course, it ain't all peaches and cream. Besides the obvious (the pain and agony it took to get to OS5), there are some other hiccups. Completely anecdotal, but my battery life seems shorter now than it was before. I think some of this is due to the fact that I can't turn off notifications now. I can have no notifications sent to the notifications center, but actually just not getting them at all isn't an option. In other words, I'm always told right away when I have a new move for Words with Friends or the like. In OS4, I could just go in when I felt like it and be updated about that on demand. I think my iPad is using some juice to constantly stay up to date on things like that. (Am I wrong about that--anyone know?) Me no likey.

Another quibble is the fact that iTunes Match has yet to surface. I'm really looking forward to being able to use the service to have all my music stored on the cloud (for $25/month), but it was supposed to launch by the end of October, and here I am . . . still waiting. I don't like the lack of updates from Apple about what's causing the delay, either.

How about you--anyone else out there using the update? How's it working for you? Pleased? Disappointed? Please share!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mantor Monday

Join us Tuesday, Nov. 8th, at 3:00 p.m. for a lively book discussion in the Mantor Library Browsing Room. We'll be talking about
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.
If you haven't read our On Our Minds selection yet, we have plenty of copies available for check out in the lobby. And while you're picking up a copy, don't forget to take a look at our Facebook Virtual Hike Map in the lobby display case. We've had readers regularly posting how many miles they've walked, ran, and hiked: we are charging up the Virtual Appalachian Trail. Keep posting - we just might make it a round trip!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Post about Posts

Okay, how gorgeous are these?

These posts are the work of visual artist Gordon Young. Young focuses on public art that relates to it's surroundings - such as these typographic solid oak posts, designed for a library. This "visual forest" contains information gathered from users of the library about their favorite books, places and memories. The posts cover 14 literary subject areas, and are placed accordingly around the library.

You can see more of Young's work at his website.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Resource Wednesday: Google Reader

(Do you have a resource you'd like to see me post about? Or even a "Hey, what resources are out there that do this thing well?" sort of question? Feel free to comment here, or on our Facebook page. Comments are awesome!)

We'll be continuing to touch on UMF library resources as they come up, but we're also branching out into other tools and resources that make life better, easier, or more fun as we try to make sense of all the amazing information resources out there today.

Reading along: 
Today's installment is about Google Reader, a quick and easy way to keep up with blogs.

Blogs, of course, are a way to share content online that includes date-based entries, with the most recent material on top. While short-form approaches (microblogging!) like Facebook and Twitter have caught on, there are still lots of topics that work better with a bit more space.

One of the challenges of blogs has always been that you need to remember to go and read them (or get a reminder some other way, like how our blog auto-posts a "Hey, we have a new post" snippet to our Facebook page.)

Google Reader fixes that. How to get there? should take you to the reader front page. If for some reason that doesn't work, try the instructions at the end of this post.

Adding a blog:
Before you can read a blog through Google Reader, you'll need to add a subscription. This is a very simple process. Click the subscription button at the top left of the page:

subscribe button

You can enter a search term, or you can paste the address of a blog you like to read. For example, if you wanted to subscribe to our blog, that you're reading right now, you could type "Browsing room Mantor" or you could paste in Either way, if there's a blog you can subscribe to, you'll either be subscribed (if there's only one blog that fits that search) or be given blog feeds that match that search.

Many blogs also have the option to subscribe right from the blog. The most widely used RSS icon looks like the orange square with white lines below, but you'll see all sorts of other icons out there (usually they'll say RSS or XML or feed, something like that.)

most common RSS icon

Once you click on the feed, you'll be taken to a page where you should have the option to choose Google, then Google Reader, as  your way to read. (There may be lots of options, which is why using the subscribe button in Google Reader can be a lot simpler!)

Managing your feeds:
Once you get a few feeds, you might want to organise them! You can divide up your blogs into different categories. To do so, you can either use the Feed Settings menu (in the top center) or the Settings tool, found at the top right of the page. (You can also find the help here.)

help and settings menus

To give you an idea what this might look like, here are my folders for my professional blog reading (I have an account for professional reading, and one for personal reading, because I subscribe to a lot of blogs, but read the two sets differently, and at different times.)

Sorting them like this helps me manage my time: I read the UMF folder first, then work my way down. (The humor folder has my subscriptions to a couple of library-related comic strips.)

example organization : my Reader folders
 What it's like to read:
Once you have some new posts to read, your Reader screen will look a little like this, with your blogs and other tools down the sidebar, and posts in the larger right hand side of the screen. As you can see, you can get both text and images, but you don't get all the formatting of the original blog. (In this case, the post is about providing paper handouts for conference sessions, and how he handles that.)

reading in Reader
You can scroll down the blogs page. Sometimes I like to read all the new things, in whatever order they arrived (most recent on the top) so I click on all items in the left sidebar. Usually, though, I prefer to read by topic, so I click on the folder I want, read all the topics in there, and then move to the next one. Whatever works for you is great.

As you read, each item will be marked as read by default, but you can change this in the settings menu we looked at just above. You can also manually mark something as unread, or you can star it, to make it easier to find later. You can also browse in expanded view (where you see the entry) or list view (where you just see the titles of posts.) Lots of choices!

Some blogs will give you the entire text in the reader. Others, you may see a link that says something like "Read more" or "Click here to read more" that takes you to the blog. (People do this for a variety of reasons, but often it's because people are taking their text and using it without permission.) I typically open up the blog posts I want to read in more detail into a tab in my browser, then go through and read them all when I'm done, but there are lots of other ways to do it. Do what works for you.

Other neat tricks:
If you have a smart phone, an iPad, or many other mobile devices, there are apps out there that will allow you to use your Google Reader feed to access content on the go or to format posts in a way you prefer to read. (I use one for my personal blog reading called Reeder which I like a lot, but there are plenty of others.)

There are also tools that let you save webpages or blog posts to be read later on a wide range of devices - I'm currently testing out Instapaper, and expect to write about it here sometime soon (and that works with various of the ereaders, including Kindle).

Got questions? 
Again, please ask! I'd be glad to use future editions of our Wednesday blog space to answer your questions about any of the resources we've talked about here. 

Finding Reader from your email: 
If you've got a UMF email account, you already have access. (And if you don't, you just need a Google account.) In the top menu from your email, go to the More menu (as shown below) and select the Reader option.

This will bring up all of the many and varied Google products - and somewhere on that page, you'll find the option that says "Reader". Click on that, and you'll be on the main Reader page.