Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's Banned Book Week

"Censorship is telling a man he can't have steak just because a baby can't chew it." - Mark Twain

Go forth and read something shocking.
(image via Libraryland)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Resource Wednesday: borrow for your Kindle

The big news of late last week was the announcement from Overdrive (the company who handles ebook lending for most libraries who offer it, including Mantor Library and Farmington Public) that they'd launched the ability to borrow books in Kindle format.

So, if you have a Kindle - or a Kindle reader app for your other devices - you just got access to a bunch more great things to read. (And there are reader apps for pretty much every major device out there.)

How does it work? 
1) Go to the Maine InfoNet Download Library page. (You can also browse there from our databases page.)

2) Find a book you'd like to read. You can search for a particular title, browse by genre or subject (using the lists in the left sidebar). You can also browse from the entire list of subjects. And you can limit just to Kindle titles by clicking the "Now Available: Library eBooks for Kindle" image in the left sidebar.

If you'd like a book right now, once you select a genre, you can limit to books currently available (as opposed to those where you'd have to wait) by checking the box right under the search box that says "only show titles with copies available", and click the search button again.

3) When you've found your Kindle ebook you'd like to read, click on the add to cart link. You'll get taken to a page where you see a list of any books you've selected and information about the loan period. (You have 45 minutes to complete the checkout process: after that, the book is automatically returned to be available for other people.)

4) Check out the book by entering your barcode.

5) Click the Get for Kindle button. This will open the Amazon website (you may need to log in if you aren't already).

6) Select your Kindle device or reading app, click the Get library book button. Then sync your device or app, and the book should appear on your reader.

Important details! 
1) You can only get books using Wi-Fi or USB connections - Kindle for Libraries does not work over the Kindle 3G network. If your Kindle doesn't have Wi-Fi, or you're not near a Wi-Fi connection, read Amazon's instruction transferring by USB

2) At the end of the loan period, the title will be automatically returned, and you'll need to go through the checkout process again.

3) If you can't find the title, check your archived items area.

4) Just as with physical books, books that are checked out won't be available for an immediate loan - this is part of the licensing process. You can place a hold, and you'll get an email when the book is available.

5) The loan period is set by the library consortium we're a part of - we don't have individual control over the length of the loan. 

(Got other questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments, and we'll be glad to help find the answers.)

Want more help?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Facebook's Vision of the Future

Unless you've been hiding under a rock (or you're not on Facebook, which some people think is tantamount to the same thing), you've noticed that Facebook has changed in the past week. It's made some fairly radical changes (and even more are in store), moving from a fairly static page that updated when you told it to into a free flowing page that seems to update at will (and randomly).

I personally love the new direction, but abhor the lack of organization. (Maybe that's the librarian in me coming out.) To me, it would be fairly straightforward to fix: let the users determine who they want to have the most updates from and how. And bring some method to the madness. Before, I could know with a fair amount of certainty that I was seeing all the updates from my friends that I wanted to see, since I could view all the updates in chronological order. But Facebook has now taken that chronological order and removed the "logical" part of it. Updates are scattered over the page in four different areas: recent stories, top stories, other recent stories, and the latest updates. To make things even more confusing, it's now showing me practically all the activities of all of my friends.

Now, I'm not one of the people heading for the pitchforks and torches. I'm willing to give Facebook some time to iron this out, and in their defense, it's gotten a bit better over the past few days. It's hard to get such a big change right all at once. (And since I don't pay anything for Facebook, I can't very well demand better service. What's the alternative? Google+? Please. That place is still snoresville every time I remember that I really ought to poke my nose in to see if anyone's actually using it yet.)

One of the reasons Twitter's interface works so well is that as a user I have control and knowledge over what exactly I'm looking at. I get a chronological feed of Tweets from the people I follow, and Twitter lets me know when I have new Tweets waiting. I click a button, and it's clear what's new and what's not. Easy. Simple. Nice. If I want to have smaller groups of friends I follow, I can easily set up lists to corral similar friends into categories of my choosing, and then the updates of those lists work the same way as the rest of the site. So it's really customizable, but also simple.

So why isn't Facebook like that?

Well, some of it might be due to the vision that Facebook has of the future. I think they've been doing a crappy job of explaining it, so allow me to give it a whirl. Picture a world where you can hang out with your friends regardless of where you live. If I want to sit in my living room in Maine and play board games with my buddies in Utah while listening to the same music or watching a TV show together, I can. I can go online and see someone's there waiting for me, and I can be chatting with them, and channel surfing at the same time, each of us making snarky remarks on what we're watching--together. At the same time.

I want that future.

Facebook wants it, too. Of course, I want it because it's cool, and Facebook wants it because it would  make a lot of money off the process. That's a key difference, and it has to be noted. But still, if I can get that future, and it comes via Facebook, I'm okay with that.

But how do we get from here to there?

Facebook's approach right now is to jam it down our throats, whether we want it or not. It's the brute force method. It has almost a billion members, and Zuckerberg's decided to go all in on that vision, with Facebook leading the way on a road paved with the gold earned from data mining its user base. Listen to a song on Spotify? Your friends will know. Watch a movie on Netflix? Your friends will know. Check out a story on CNN? Your friends will know.

Um . . . can we say "creepy"? Maybe I don't want you all knowing that I watched 15 episodes of Strawberry Shortcake yesterday. Or that I have a penchant for listening to Eminem when I think no one's watching. Or that I habitually read ever news article about goat cheese. (Only one of those statements is true, by the way.) Why doesn't Facebook just let me post updates when I . . . you know . . . actually want people to read those updates? (You can stop Facebook from tracking your every internet step, BTW. Here's how.)

I think it's because Facebook's worried it'll be sort of like Google+  It's an excellent idea, but until people start actually using it, then what's the point? In my vision of the future, it all falls apart if every time I go to hang out with my friends, no one's there. Not because none of us are there, but because none of us are actively sharing and saying "I'm here!"

Catch-22. Chicken and the egg. Whatever you want to call it, it's a problem, but it's only a problem getting there. If we're in a spot where we all know that everyone can share whatever he or she wants whenever he or she wants, then we get to a point where enough people are using that service (online, ready to hang) that when YOU are ready to hang, you can go and find some of your friends who want to hang, too.

Make sense?

And this is ignoring other nasty little roadblocks between me and my vision of the future. Roadblocks like copyright law that's dated and a legal system that can't keep up with how it pays itself, let alone how to handle the ever shifting realm of technology.

And have you heard about Facebook's next step in its plan: the timeline? Picture a profile page that represents all your actions, from birth to death. Needless to say, there are some concerns about this change, too. I've already signed up for the beta. Hopefully my profile page gets it soon, and I can evaluate it.

Because like it or not, the future is here. The rate of change is increasing all the time. Gone are the days when you can lean back and feel comfortable that you're On Top of Things for the next decade or so. Life as we know it will be different a year from now, and drastically different in five years, and unimaginable in a decade. I really believe this, and I think history backs me up.

This makes me excited, even though I also understand why it scares some people (or even terrifies them). What do you think? Chime in!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mantor Monday I am, just sitting around the old Facebook Page, waiting for people to come along and help us rack up some miles on our Virtual Appalachian Trail. You know about our trail, don't you? No? Let me fill you in: we're reading a book about the Appalachian Trail for On Our Minds this year. We thought it would be fun if we all, as a campus and as a Facebook community, logged all the miles we walk every day, and see if we could get anywhere close to the 2181 miles of the actual Maine to Georgia trail.
So far?
We've barely crept across campus.
Maybe part of the problem is, you just don't know how far you walk every day. I can help with that, and it won't even involve buying a pricey pedometer. I'm going to teach you how use the Google Distance Measuring Tool, for FREE.

Go to Google Maps. Click the little gear image up in the upper right corner. Choose map labs. Then enable the Distance Measurement Tool. (Don't forget to click the "save changes" button.)
Next, do a Google Maps search for the area you'll be walking in. There will be a little blue ruler icon in the very bottom left corner of the map. Click on it, then double click on the starting point of your walk. Drag your "path" along the map, double clicking wherever you need to change directions.

That's it, that's all there is to it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Oh, and then you take that distance measurement right on over to Facebook, and tell us how far you walked. And we will say "Yay, you." I promise.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Finding your way (Resource Wednesday)

One of the most common comments we've heard in the past few weeks is how confusing the building is. Just to complicate things, we've been moving items around, so some items are in different places than they were last spring. (But we think the new locations will make things a lot easier.)

Why is it like this? Well, the library's made up of two different buildings that were connected. One side has the book basement, first floor, and second floor. The other side has the first floor, mezzanine, and third floor (and a tiny bit of second floor that's mostly library staff space). And then there are six staircases.

To help you out, we've updated our website. If you take a look at our How To Find Your Way Around page, you'll see links to current maps of each floor, information about what you can find in each location, and much more.

Here's a few more highlights:

No staircase goes to all floors - but the elevator does. So, if you get totally lost, the elevator can be a really good solution. (The one place the elevator didn't go, the former periodicals basement, is now staff space.)

We've condensed our shelving so it's easier to find things:
  • The Book Basement has books with call numbers beginning P to Z
  • The First floor has the Access Services desk, computers, reference, and periodicals (both current and older copies).
  • The Mezzanine has our media collection.
  • The Second floor has books with call numbers A to N and some staff space.
  • The Third floor has the Juvenile and Young Adult collection, the Peter Mills Electronic Classroom, and another set of staff offices.
Again, the How to Find Your Way Around page has a lot more information, like what kinds of study spaces, computers, and other resources you can find where.

We have motion-sensitive lights like a lot of the rest of the campus: If you're working (especially in the book basement) and the lights go out, wave your arms or move a step or two. (Down there, we have sensors at the end of each row, to help with this.)

When all else fails: Come ask at the main desk (Access Services) that's on the right as you first enter the library. The friendly people there can point you in the right direction. The Library Information Services staff (on the third floor) are also glad to help if you're upstairs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dear Netflix

Netflix. That wonderful little service with the red envelopes and the online streaming. That poster child of pop culture distribution goodness.

My how you've fallen.

Back in July, you were riding high. Your stocks were selling for $300/share. You were the shining beacon of how a company should operate. You kept coming up with new ways to please your customers and keep them happy. You had a tremendous reputation for Bang for Your Buck quality. Streaming. DVDs. Blurays. All in one. And for a while, you could do no wrong.

Then you decided to double your rates, offering nothing more for that price increase than a generalized "there'll be more good offerings coming later." Customers were furious, and rightfully so. (Granted, I understand why you hiked the prices, and I understand why it was necessary. But as far as a price increase goes, you're now the poster child for how *not* to roll one out--especially how not to roll such a large one out.) There were threats of canceled subscriptions. You said it would all be okay. You'd taken that into account.

Then 1 million more people canceled than you were anticipating.

Clearly the writing was on the wall. People were unhappy, and you'd do something to fix that. You did something all right. You went and split up DVD by mail and streaming offerings. And you said that you were doing that in order to rectify the previous mistake? How does this help? Your stocks are down to $130/share as of this instant. You've sunk 57% in two months. Way to go.

So . . . where do you go from here?

First, some background for your (former) customers. Streaming is the future. I get that. More and more people are going to be moving away from DVDs as their delivery choice for media. I know I stream much more than I watch on DVD or Bluray. It's more convenient. And as more people stream, the cost for those precious streaming licenses goes up. So you need to get money to get those licenses. It's a Catch-22. I'm sympathetic.

But remember this: your competitors (Apple, Google, etc.) have wallets. Deep wallets. Wallets so big, they boggle the mind. You can't compete with those wallets. If streaming rights go to the highest bidder, and those companies feel like bidding, you lose. The end.

But what am I saying? You have to be aware of this. Maybe that's why you're doing what you're doing. The best scenario I can see for consumers right now is that you're prettying yourself for an acquisition by Google or Apple. They swoop in and get your great (or formerly great) brand, and you get their big wallets. We the movie watchers get better streaming deals, and everyone is happy. Those are the rumors, at least.

I hope they're right. I really want to like you, Netflix. You've been good to me in the past. Help me help you. :-)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mantor Monday

We're kicking off a new season of programming for our 2011-12 "On Our Minds" reading program this week. On Wednesday, Sept. 21, Associate Professor of Geology Doug Reusch will be giving a talk and slideshow entitled "A Voyage Through the Rocks: Discovering the Iapetus Ocean in the Appalachians." If you're interested in learning how New England got it's rocky spine, come hear Doug talk about the birth of the Appalachians in Room C-123, Olsen Student Center, at 11:45.

Multiple copies of the 2011-12 On Our Minds book selection, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering American on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson, are available in the Mantor Library lobby.

(Image of Katahdin via

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Review : Shadow Divers

What do you get when you combine dangerous exploration, a historical mystery, and a lot of research? One really fascinating book.

The full title is: Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II, and it's by Robert Kurson.

What it's about is a little more complicated.

In 1991, two deep-sea divers found a mysterious wreck 230 feet below the surface (right around the limits of technical deep-sea diving at the time.)

The mystery comes in trying to figure out what the wreck is - and more importantly, what it's doing there. Identifying it in general terms was pretty easy - it's a World War II U-Boat. But there's a catch: so far as the existing records said, no U-Boat should have sunk in that location.

The book tells the story of both the diving investigation (along with the risks of doing very deep dives and figuring out what combination of gases in the dive tanks worked reliably) and of the research once they'd found identifying information on the wreck, which culminates in them identifying some of the German sailors lost on the wreck and speaking with their surviving families. It's a great example, for this reason, of how the research and learning we do connects with real people and their hopes, dreams, and tragedies.

The book has come under some criticism for depiction of various events, but despite that remains an interesting read, with some fascinating side trips into related topics. Well worth a read by anyone interested in high-risk sports, the ocean, WWII history, or the joys of research.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mysterious Book Art

If you've been following the Browsing Room for a while, you already know that I love book art. (Here and here.) I also love a good mystery.
When you combine beautiful, whimsical book art, an anonymous artist, and the fact that these works are being mysteriously found in libraries across Scotland? Sounds like a no-brainer for a Thursday post to me.
The artist is using his/her pieces to voice appreciation and support for libraries, which are experiencing brutal budget cuts and closures all across the U.K.
Enjoy the story and gorgeous photos here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CourseGuides show the way

photo by Nancy Phillips (NKPhillips)
shared under Creative Commons
Feeling a little lost?

If you've been in a library session with one of your classes this semester, you already know about one of the awesome tools the library offers - CourseGuides.

If you've looked at the library website (and I hope you have!) you already know that there's a lot of information on it. Sometimes, it feel overwhelming - there's so much there that it's hard to tell where to start, or which part of the site has what  you need.

That's where CourseGuides come in.

Using a tool the library subscribes to, we can create different guides for all sorts of specific needs. Sometimes, we create them for common needs or questions, like finding books, finding articles, evaluating or citing your sources, or how to find a scholarly source. Sometimes they help with larger issues, like copyright or ebooks.

We also create guides for both general subject areas (computers and technology, for example) and for specific classes.  As an example, most of the First Year Seminar classes have a guide designed just for them to help with particular projects or needed resources. (Lots of other classes do, too.) We can easily build in links to other guides, so it's a one-click trip if you need help with citing your source, finding an article, or evaluating something you found.

And finally, we include guides about major campus events - both our own On Our Minds program, and events like the Native American Film and Performance University Forum this fall.

Here's a few more useful tips about the course guides:
  • We have a lot of guides. If you're looking for a specific topic, we suggest browsing down the left sidebar on the main index page and clicking on your subject area, then looking for the specific class or topic.
  • Each guide includes a sidebar with information about the librarian who created it, and how to contact them. Feel free to use this if you have a question about that guide or a particular resource.
  • You can see how recently a guide was updated by looking at the summary information on the index pages. (Most of ours are checked at least every semester.) 
Enjoy exploring the guides! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Amazon, Netflix and Libraries

There have been rumblings this week that Amazon is considering starting a book rental service similar to Netflix (except with books, not movies--obviously). They would use the Kindle as a delivery device, and people (perhaps Amazon Prime subscribers) could get a number of books delivered each month to their Kindle at no extra cost.

On the surface, I suppose this sounds like a cool idea. Books delivered to you at home for a low cost. But the more I think about it . . .

Isn't this what libraries kind of do already? Except charging money for it instead of doing it for free?

I'm all for technological progress, but to me, having a company step in to start doing what's already being done very well--for free--seems a bit much.

Of course, the reason this is all muddied so much is that eBooks are changing the way we approach books. Libraries have been lending movies for a long time, and I didn't get my hackles up when Netflix started doing the same--that seemed to me an extension of video stores, not an encroachment on libraries. So what's the difference?

The difference is that books aren't movies, for one thing. The way licenses work is very different. When an author writes a book, she sells certain rights to that book to a publisher. North American rights, movie rights, eBook rights--whatever rights are involved in the deal. If the author was smart (or had a good agent), she retained all other rights for herself. In other words, if it ain't sold specifically in the contract, those rights are still hers.

The right to rent books? Um . . . I'm guessing that's not really in any contract.

But, you say, where was the right for libraries to lend print books for free?

Here's where things get messy. Library books have been governed by the right of first sale for a really long time, meaning that once an item is bought, the purchaser of that item is allowed to do whatever the heck he wants with it. Resell it, lend it to a friend, etc. However, on the digital side of things, software isn't usually sold. It's licensed, and the copyright laws for licensed products are a whole other kettle of pickles. eBooks are sort of kind of books and sort of kind of software. They're in a no man's land that's really murky right now. (Note: I'm not a lawyer. I might be getting some of the finer points of this wrong, but the general gist is there.)

Until our lovely judicial system works out what exactly an eBook is and how it should be dealt with, there's going to continue to be a lot of confusion in this arena. And that judicial system isn't going to be able to wrangle with the problem until there are some law suits. (Don't you love the way our country operates sometimes?) Maybe Congress would address the problem before then, but something tells me they're too busy yelling at each other to get much done in the copyright arena right now.

Which is really too bad. eBooks are the wave of the future, and it would be nice to have some clarity. But for now, we'll continue to have a variety of readers, with a variety of formats, with a variety of approaches to making money, with a whole lot of confusion. What's a lowly library to do? Press forward the best it can, and yell loudly when boneheads like Amazon try to poach our territory.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Mantor Monday - Ready to Scan!

The good news: if you have a UMF log-in, our awesome new microfilm/fiche reader and scanner is ready for action! The Scanpro is ridiculously easy to use: turn on the computer and the scanner, find the Scanpro software in the computer's list of programs, and open it. Then, select the type of film you'll be viewing (by clicking on one of the nice, big pictures of film or fiche), pull the film carriage forward, and voila! An animated graphic pops up on the screen, showing you how to load the film. From there, you're off and running. Controls to rotate, edit, clarify, zoom and magnify are right there on the sidebar. Want to scan an image? It's only a click away, and you can save your image to a portable drive or email it to yourself. Feedback from users has been terrific: it's fast, easy, and fun.
If you're used to old-school readers and feel a little intimidated by the Scanpro, not to worry. A library staff person can get you up to speed in just a few minutes. There is one ironclad, no-foolin', You Must Obey Or Else rule with this machine:


Seriously. Otherwise, the glass plate could crack, and the guy who trained staff on the Scanpro said that that little repair would set us back about one jillion dollars. Okay, it wasn't that much. But it was a lot. A whole lot. Enough to make me yell at you in all caps, and I'm not a yeller, generally.
Now for the bad news: we haven't figured out a way to make the Scanpro accessible with community patron log-ins yet. We're working on it, and we'll let you know if we crack that nut.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Review Friday: Little Brother

There are many reasons I love this book.

1) It does a great job building some complex information about technology, privacy issues, and real vs. presumed security into a compelling story.

2) It doesn't duck the hard questions about those topics.

3) It's a great example of leveraging new  technology - Cory Doctorow, the author, makes all of his books available for free online. We own a print copy, but you can check out the ebook version, in lots of formats, on his website.

So, what's the book about? Basically, Marcus is a high school student who gets caught up in the midst of a terrorist attack in San Francisco. As he's trying to figure out what actually happened - and what happened to his best friend - he gets caught up in a much larger story, and a much larger set of questions about how we share information, what we do with it, and what can go wrong when we don't question some assumptions. And in between, he builds some great friendships, and other connections, and you get a glimpse into lots of different technology areas and issues.

If you like this, I also recommend Doctorow's For The Win (that link will take you to the download info for that...) which does the same sort of story+lots of great info to think about, only this time using a combination of Massive Multiplayer Online Games, global economics, and union organising.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Here we go again...

Well, that didn't take long. I finally broke down and bought an ereader, and for one brief, shining moment I was on top of the digital reading technology world. And then - wham - today I am knocked rudely off my Queen-of-the-Mountain sand pile by a new kid on the electronic playground: Booktrack. Have you heard of this? This technology, which currently works with Apple devices, Android, and PCs, but not all ereaders, provides a soundtrack for ebooks. Music and sound effects, to "enhance" the reading experience, and all magically synched to your reading pace.
Go ahead, watch this. I'll wait.

What do you think of this idea? Me, I think I'd find it more of a distraction than an enhancement. Having been gifted with what some might consider an overactive imagination to begin with, I don't feel the need to have my reading material turned into a multi-media infotainment extravaganza. But if you're the type who enjoys listening to music or watching tv while reading, Booktrack might just float your boat. Here's what the Booktrack version of a Sherlock Holmes tale would sound like:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Resource Wednesday: Where's that book?

A student question yesterday reminded me that our catalog can be a bit confusing - so today's Resource Wednesday is here to help you figure out exactly where those items you're looking for might be.

First of all, I'm sure you all know by now that URSUS is our online catalog - the place you go to look for books and other materials (like DVDs, sound recordings, and more) in our library. But did you know that we share that catalog with a number of other libraries? In fact, URSUS will show you materials in all of the University of Maine system libraries, the Bangor Public Library, the Maine State Library, the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library, and the Maine State Archives. Whew! That's a lot of materials.

The two things you need to know are pretty simple: you can request books from any library in the system (assuming they're available). However, it'll take them a little time to get here. (3-5 business days). If you're a commuting student, and you live closer to another library in the system, you can have the books sent there, instead.

The image below shows you a sample search. (Click on it to see a larger version.) If you look by the red arrow on the left side, you'll see a list of locations. Books that are on our campus start with FAR.. The call number tells you where in the library it'd be located, and the status tells you whether the book is available or not. (This is the record for the hardcover version of the book: if you search the catalog, you'll see we have a bunch of paperback copies for our On Our Minds program too.)

If the book isn't available on our campus, you can request a copy by clicking on the Request icon (see below, and follow the arrow: it's the circle with a checkmark through it.) You'll be asked to enter your name and barcode. You can also enter a date to automatically cancel the request (but choose a date at least 7-10 days away, or the request might get cancelled before you get it.)

You'll get an email when the book arrives. If you had it sent here, you can pick it up at the Access Services desk. (As always, you'll need your ID to check it out).

What happens if you need a resource right now? You can limit your searches just to items in our library by selecting the library you want to search on the initial search screen. (You can do the same thing for any library in the system.)You can also limit to some parts of our collection, like the Kalikow Center, our Juvenile and Young Adult collection, or our Archives.

And finally, if you're not finding what you're looking for in the URSUS catalog, you can search MaineCat, a larger database of materials throughout the state including many more libraries, or use Interlibrary Loan, which can help you get materials from other states. (These options both take longer...)

You can learn a lot more about these options (and get some additional help with URSUS) by reading our online guide to Finding Books. And of course, the library staff would love to help you - stop by, or use our online chat option to ask for help.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Virtual Hike (as Opposed to Virtually Hiking)

For today's Technology Tuesday, I've decided to switch things up a tad and announce something slightly tech-related, but definitely Facebook-focused. As some of you may be aware, Mantor Library does a yearly "On Our Minds" book program, where we choose a book each year and sponsor a variety of programs focused on that book. Up this year? A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson. You can read more about our On Our Minds program here.

What does any of this have to do with technology? Allow me to explain. In the book, Bill Bryson focuses on the Appalachian Trail: 2,181 miles of continuous hiking trail through the Appalachian Mountains. It ends in Maine--hence, a local connection. As we were discussing different programming options, I thought it might be fun to try and virtually hike all 2,181 miles of the trail as a campus and community. People could go online and post on our Facebook page to say how far they'd hiked (whether it was around town or off in the hinterlands), and we'd keep track of the total number of miles.

For example, last week I hiked Tumbledown, a mountain not too far away from campus (about a half hour drive). It's five miles, round trip. So I'm going to go to Mantor's Facebook page and post that. After my 5 miles, we'll only have 2,176 miles to go. Clearly I won't be able to do this alone.

So come on by our Facebook page and post whatever you can, in half mile increments. Go jogging each morning for a mile? Super! Run a marathon? That counts! I suppose we might do so well that we end up doing a round trip on the trail--who knows. Or maybe we get stranded somewhere half way there. It's the effort that counts. :-)

We'll try and keep you up to date about how far we've come on the trail as the weeks go by. The goal is to be finished by the end of spring semester. Think we can do it? Start hiking!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Review Friday: At Home

Have you checked out our On Our Minds book of the year, Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods? Do you want more with his blend of humor, information, and ideas to get you wanting to learn a lot more about a great many things?

Check out one of the new additions in our Discoveries collection, Bryson's latest book, At Home.

Bryson is best known for his wide-ranging travel books (everything from exploring Australia to hiking the Appalachian Trail), but here, he stays home, exploring the history and culture whose results can be seen in his home, a former Victorian parsonage.

Along the way, we get to take in the great engineering feats of the Victorian era (like the Crystal Palace), a social history of domestic service, the spice trade, the history of sanitation, and a whole range of everyday items ranging from ice to furniture to fashion to cookbooks. There's a little bit of something for every possible interest in here, all told with Bryson's flair for amusing anecdotes.

If you're interested in hearing a more conversational approach of the book, there's a great hour-long public radio interview with Bryson from Minnesota Public Radio from last fall - you can listen on their website or download the podcast.

Thursday, September 1, 2011