Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday book post: Feed

I've been holding off raving about this book, because our copy has been in processing. But it's the weekend before Hallowe'en, and the book has zombies.

(The book is entirely tangential to Hallowe'en: these are science zombies, not magic zombies. But still. Zombies.)

In 2014, two scientific breakthroughs combined to create an infection that - once triggered - causes people to rise from the dead. The Rising, as it's called, changed the face of the world forever.

This book, by Mira Grant (also known as Seanan McGuire, author of the excellent Toby Daye urban fantasy series, musician, and author of other upcoming awesome stuff), is about what happens 20 years after the Rising.

It's about growing up in a world where any contact with possibly infected mammals - people, wildlife, anything larger than a smallish golden retriever - means blood tests, and a wide variety of security precautions. About a world where news - going out into the world - is complicated, and a vast network of bloggers combine to create connections and keep the largely housebound population entertained and informed. You have Irwins who poke zombies with sticks to give everyone a thrill, Newsies who write factual objective journalism, and Fictionals who deal with the scary spaces of the world through stories and poetry. And it's about three young adults getting the gig to travel with a major political campaign.

This book, the first in the trilogy, is about the politics of that political campaign, about family, about principle. And about surviving. (The second book, Deadline is out, and the final book in the trilogy will come out next year. Deadline ends with a serious cliff-hanger, so if you don't like that sort of thing, read Feed now, and wait for the last one to hit print.)

Grant sums it up this way: "The Newsflesh Trilogy is a story about blogging, politics, medical science, espionage, betrayal, the ties that bind, the ties that don't, how George Romero accidentally saved the world, and, of course, zombies. It's thoughtful horror, and horrific science fiction, and I'm very fond of it."

I am not usually a huge zombie fan - but the story and the characters drew me in immediately. (It helps that while there's violence of the 'fighting for survival' kind, it's mostly not immensely gory, and only when it actually advances the story.)

As soon as it's processed, you'll be able to find it on our Discoveries shelf, in the Browsing Room.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

When is a bookcase like Willy Wonka's elevator?

When it's designed by Chrome for Google Books, that's when - a bookcase that moves up, down, and sideways with just a click and a flick.

The designers at Chrome were presented with a challenge: what would a bookcase designed to hold a vast collection of ebooks look like? How could they make it both functional and fun?

The answer is a virtual spinning tower of bookshelves, a seemingly infinite helix containing 3D models of over 10,000 (and growing) titles. Set up more for browsing than searching, books are divided into 28 subjects. Click on the box at the top of the shelf to browse subjects, and when you choose, the shelves swoop to that section. Click on the shelves to spin them, or move up and down the tower of shelves. When you click on a title to select it, the book jumps off the shelf. click again, and the book opens to reveal a synopsis and a "Get this book" button, which takes you to the Google Books interface . (There is a category for free books, if that's what you're looking for, but all others are for sale.)

The developers say this WebGL bookcase works best with the Chrome browser (which I use) and a fast computer, so I had no trouble playing with it. Give it a try here. Here's a little intro video that shows how it works:

Happy browsing!

Thoughts about ebooks

Ebooks really are the topic of the year: more and more thought about both the immediate practical issues and the larger issues are coming up in the blogosphere.

One of the major conferences for libraries and technology (Internet Librarian) just finished, and one of the attendees, Bobbi Newman, just posted a great round-up of links that came up in discussion. You can check them all out at her blog.

I'm really glad to see an increasing depth in the conversation, not just "More ebooks, yay!". I'm particularly glad that more and more people are digging into issues of ...
  • licensing
  • privacy
  • digital rights management (how you can share books, both with others, and simply within your own household)
  • and the implications for people who, for whatever reason, cannot or do not wish to buy.
A special shout-out here to author Seanan McGuire's post "Across the digital divide: let's talk about poverty" from last month, which is a powerful call to the benefit of physical, tradeable, shareable books (something that is currently true only in very limited ways with ebooks, if you want to read anything written at all recently.) It's got some fascinating bits in comments, too.

It's not that ebooks are bad - they're not.  I (like most people who read) am in general favor of more ways to read more awesome stuff.  (And I do read a number of titles in ebook version these days, rather than print.)

But they're not perfect, either.

And the things that are problematic about them (privacy, licensing, and access issues in particular) are going to continue to be complicated until readers, authors, and publishers can push through and sort some of those issues out, in a way that makes them truly accessible and effective for everyone. Until then, being informed about the issues is a great place to start - and those links on Bobbi's page are some of the best explanations out there on what you should know, and why you might care.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Review of Facebook Timeline

I just enabled Timeline on my Facebook profile. (How did I get the invite? My web-fu paid off once again, and because I care about my readers, I'll share my trick with you: click here. NOTE: It took longer for the invite to come on my profile than described in the linked article. Days longer. Just be patient. Also note that this just gets you in on the developer release. The general public won't be able to view your timeline until it's available to everyone. For now, just other developers can see it. But if you become a developer by following that link, then you can view other people's timelines. Get it?)

So what is Timeline? It's Facebook's new approach to personal profiles, aiming to present the whole of a person, from birth on. It presents all your activity in an easily accessed chronological format, ranging from events to status updates to pictures to . . . everything else. It lets you retroactively put in events--I tried entering where I moved when, and it all worked flawlessly. You can associate pictures with events, too.

Some people have said this is all too creepy and invasive, and I suppose I can see that--although it doesn't bother me. Only you have access to all the information on your timeline, and you can hide anything you want hidden. Actually, it's a good reminder that what you put on Facebook stops really being yours the moment you put it there. Facebook keeps a copy, and it's got a long memory. The moral of the story (in my opinion) isn't to start getting torches and pitchforks and coming after Facebook--it's to be careful about what you post there in the first place.

So what do I think of Timeline?

I love it. I could easily see myself spending a lot of time putting up pictures and labeling them with the approximate date and place. It takes the concept of a family photo album and brings it to the modern day. When I think about how kids born post-Facebook will basically have all this information already available to them--how they can create it as they live their lives . . . that's sort of mind blowing.

Also mind blowing? The fact that I just joined Facebook on July 30, 2007. In just a little over 4 years, Facebook has ingrained itself into popular culture and consciousness to the point that it feels like it's always been here.

I really like the ability to see all my status updates and postings and friend adds that I've ever done. It's easy as all get out to see what I was doing three years ago today. Very interesting (and this feature is private--it's only available to each user on an individual basis--people can't go to my Facebook page and use it. Only I can. Supposedly.)

In the end, it's a great way to organize what was up to now just a running list of events in a person's life. I think it's exciting, and I hope it gets more widely adopted. I'd love to be able to browse through my friends' lives more easily--or at least through the events they don't mind me browsing.

What say you?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

All Hallow's Read

Neil Gaiman, prolific blogger, Tweeter, and author of a whole bunch of really good books, had a great idea. Hey, he said - just tossing this great idea out there to his readers -how about if we all gave people scary books this year for Halloween? We could call it All Hallow's Read. And then, like a shambling zombie on a search for braaaaaaaiiiiiiiins, Neil's idea sort of took on a life of it's own as people re-Tweeted it and blog-posted it, and generally agreed that this was a fine idea indeed.

Now, simmer down, Neil is not advocating the total replacement of candy with books. Would All Hallow's Read have become instantly popular enough to have it's very own website, if it meant abstaining from candy corn? I think not. And it's a nice little website, too, with free downloads of bookmarks and book tags, and suggested scary books for all ages. It even has a printable version of Poe's The Raven that folds into a mini-book, perfect for spooky gifting.

And if you're in the mood for more spooky fun, visit our good friends over at Devaney, Doak and Garret Booksellers (193 Broadway, Farmington, Maine) on Friday, October 28th. They are hosting the 19th annual Late Afternoon of Terror.
Bring your favorite spine-shivery tale to read aloud or perform - or just come to watch and listen...if you dare. The fun starts at 6:00pm.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Resource Wednesday: Mobile EBSCO

A quick question: Today's resource is a mobile app for the EBSCO database products.

We're looking at how much interest there is in other kinds of mobile apps, including whether it's worth investigating, say, a mobile catalog interface for our catalog. Our current stats show that most people don't use mobile devices to look at our catalog or webpages. If you'd be interested in something like this, drop us a note (in the comments or on our Facebook wall) letting us know what kind of device(s) you use, and what you'd find especially useful.

Let's set the scene: So, you're walking down the street, and you get an urge to look up that article for your research paper. You pull out your smart phone (or your iPad, or whatever other portable device) and head straight to the EBSCO databases, and settle down to read.

Sound unlikely? Actually, it's quite easy. EBSCO, one of the big database providers (and from whom we get a wide range of databases) has a nicely designed mobile app that does just that. Once you set it up and authenticate your account, you can do searches in most of the databases EBSCO provides to UMF wherever you are.

[Here's a secret: part of me thinks that looking stuff up in databases from my phone is sort of silly, even though I love my phone for all sorts of other information seeking geekiness. But part of me thinks it's incredibly awesome to be living in the future.]

What does it look like? Let me show you some shots from the iPhone version. (Since I only have the iPhone, I haven't had a chance to look at other versions, but this should give you an idea. If anyone with other devices - Android smartphones, or whatever, feel free to let me know, and I'd be glad to post a followup.)

initial screen: EBSCO mobile iPhone app
Once you install the application (more about that below), this is the first screen you'll see. From here, you can see recent searches, access saved searches or articles, and get help.

The settings tool will let you select specific databases to search (that's up above what you can see in this image), and adjust some other preferences, like searching for full text articles, peer reviewed articles, or limiting the publication date. You don't have as many choices as you do using a web browser, but you have quite a few.

Try a search: Here, I've tried a search on "mountain lion". You can see there's a number of different results (over 3,000!), and I can sort by relevance or date.

 See that Refine button in the top left? If I touch that, I'll get a bunch of options to refine my search. I can limit it to specific subject headings (as shown below) or journals. Touch Ok and I've got a limited set of results.

Reading: If I click into a particular article, I'll either see whatever information is available about it. If that's an abstract, I'll see the abstract and a button to see if full text is available. If a PDF is available, I have a few more options - I can view the text of the article, download the PDF, or email the abstract (or PDF, if I've already loaded it) to myself.

So, how do you get this tool? First of all, you need to have a device it'll work on. Supported devices include
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • iPod touch
  • BlackBerry
  • Android Smartphones
  • Windows Smartphones
  • Dell Axim
  • Palm
  • Pocket PC
Wander over to the EBSCO mobile access page, and click on the button for your device.

It will bring up a window on screen giving you additional information. For non-Apple products, it will direct you to a FAQ page with instructions. 

For iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches, it will direct you to click the link at the bottom of any of the EBSCO database pages. If you click that link, you'll be prompted for an email address. EBSCO will then send an email with a link (for Apple products) to the app store, followed by an authentication link. Copy and paste that into the browser on your device, and it'll set you up with all the same access you'd have had from a computer on campus. Pretty slick! 

Try it out, and let us know how it goes! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Library Technology: Integrated Library Systems

It's a sad fact that when it comes to the tech realm, library software often lags behind the rest of technology land. This isn't because librarians are resistant to technology (some are), but for a couple of other less-fixable ones. Today's case in point? Integrated Library Systems.

What in the world is that, you ask? In a nutshell, it's the software program libraries use to keep track of books in the library. After all, you can't just get a book and stick it on a bookshelf. You need to know where that book is. You need to keep records for when it was ordered and from whom. Is it cataloged? Processed? On the shelf? Which shelf? Checked out to someone? Who? Overdue? The list goes on and on. An ILS corrals all that information into one place, where multiple librarians can access it at the same time. An ILS also provides the interface for users to access all that information: you know it as the library catalog.

Ideally, it would be easy to use, capitalizing on all of the trends of information technology and design in the past few years. In practice, this breaks down. The first big obstacle is this little thing called a budget. Libraries aren't exactly exploding with offers of funding these days, you know. So they have to choose where to spend those precious budget dollars. Which is better--to have a great ILS program that lets you find and keep track of books easily (but not have any books to find, since you couldn't afford to buy any after you got your shiny new ILS program), or have plenty of great books (but have a beast of a time keeping track of them, because your ILS program is old and clunky)?

The bottom line for most libraries is that the good quality materials have to come first. I'm not saying we ignore the good software, but buying a new ILS isn't as cheap as going to the store and getting a copy of Microsoft Office. We're talking potentially six figures--maybe more. So once a library has invested in a particular ILS, it's going to have to do for quite sometime. Upgrades are expensive, too. (Not to mention potential problems in the upgrade.)

Even if libraries could afford it, let's be honest--the companies creating the various ILS programs also have their share of budget woes. Libraries are getting closed down, which means fewer potential customers, which means less profits, which means it's more difficult to make a shiny new ILS, which means library tech falls behind the times, which means people think librarians aren't "with it," from a tech standpoint. And the cycle continues.

There's no real solution to this problem. (Aside from hoping an anonymous donor sends you bags of cash in the near future.) I just wanted to give you an idea of the problems libraries face from a tech standpoint, and why some of the technology in a library may seem to lag behind the rest of the world at times. (Hint: we know it does. We wish we could fix it, too.)

Any questions?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Goodbye, Garden.

Like many gardeners in Maine, we said goodbye to our vegetable garden last weekend. Frost had blackened the tomato vines and the basil, and the kale had been harvested down to skinny purple spines. It's a bittersweet thing for gardeners: this autumn goodbye. The plants are tired, the gardeners are tired, it's time to put the garden to bed. Or, in this case, it's time to remove the summer annuals, and plant the tulip bulbs for a vibrant spring show.

It helps to know that the garden was a big success, and that the campus community really seemed to appreciate it - we had so many positive comments all summer long. In fact, so many people have asked us to plant another next year, we've decided to do a veggie garden encore next spring.

In late May, when the tulips have faded, they'll make way for the flowers and veggies of summer. It's the way of things.
Goodbye, garden. For now.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: Devil in the White City

Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson is a fascinating book. It's one part true crime, one part architecture, two parts biography, and one part cultural history.

(I should note here that UMF doesn't own a physical copy - though we'd be glad to get one for you through request from MaineCat - but we do have access to an ebook version - click on the Ebrary Subscription link on that page.)

The events of Devil in the White City take place before and during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, a massive undertaking by the city (and the country) to display the best of American ingenuity, creative thought, and all sorts of other things. Well-known architect, Danial Burnham was working on plans to display Chicago's space for the Fair to its full advantage.

At the same time, a serial murderer was setting up in the city. H. H. Holmes (as he was known) acquired property in Chicago, designing and building a hotel that was both business and deathtrap. Over the course of the Fair, he killed a large number of people, finally to be caught 

What makes this book fascinating is the interweaving of the two stories: creation and imagination on one hand, death and misery on the other. Larson does an amazing job wrapping the two together, and putting them in the larger context of 1890s Chicago. Larson is also thoughtful about the more graphic details he includes, given the subject matter.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Walk tall and carry a big stick. (A walking stick, that is)

I thought I'd use today's blog post to feature the Grand Prize that will be raffled off to participants in this year's On Our Minds programming.
So here, without further ado, is What's In It For You:

A hand-carved cedar walking stick, generously donated by Warren Bryant, of Take a Hike Walking Sticks.

An avid outdoorsman, Warren harvests his White Cedar in the Maine woods. Each stick is hand peeled and sanded, then charmingly carved and hand-painted with whimsical deer, moose, and bears. Animal tracks and bees are other motifs often used in Warren's carvings. Smooth as silk and incredibly light - yet strong - the sticks all come with a leather wrist thong. Custom sticks can be embellished with teeth, claws, or feathers.

You can see our Grand Prize walking stick in the Mantor Library lobby - it's being featured in the Virtual Appalachian Trail display.

How can you win this wonderful piece of functional folk art? Glad you asked. You can:

- Like us on Facebook. (If you haven't already, what are you waiting for??)

- Post how many miles you have walked on our Facebook page Virtual Appalachian Trail. You can post daily, or give us weekly or monthly cumulative totals. For your initial post, and every 10 miles you log after that, your name is entered in the drawing.

- Come to one of our On Our Minds events. Notices of upcoming events are always posted in the library and around campus, as well as in regular Mantor Monday blog posts here, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter. They are also listed here.

So come on, play along; you could be the lucky winner!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Resource Wednesday: Literary Resource Center

Looking for literary information? One of the recent additions to our database list is the source for you! The Literary Reference Center (access on-site or through UMF library card login)

The Literary Reference Center has a wide range of information about thousands of authors and their works, with full-text articles from reference books, other titles, and literary journals. You can find plot summaries, overviews, literary criticism, author biographies, book reviews, poems, short stories, author interviews, and classic texts!

It also includes access to
  • Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature
  • Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature
  • Continuum Encyclopedia of British Literature
  • Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature
  • The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
  • Beacham's Research Guide to Biography and Criticism (six volumes)
  • The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature
  • The Columbia Companion to the 20th Century American Short Story
  • all of MagillOnLiterature Plus™ 
  • and much more.
As with other EBSCO databases, you can limit your searches in a variety of ways, using the sidebar at the left. As you can see here, one of the ways you can limit is by the type of source - so you can look just for plot summaries, or reviews, or whatever else.

What's great about this database though, is the initial search options. The search page gives you the chance to limit by an author's cultural identity (so you can look for African American authors, or Native American ones, Gay and Lesbian authors, and much more.) This option is halfway down on the left.

On the right side, you have a number of further options. You can enter a literary author's name, search for female or male authors, national identity - or authors in a given lifespan.

Tip: If you want to search by national identity, enter the name of the country (France, Wales, Egypt) rather than an adjective describing people from that place (French, Welsh, Egyptian).
Finally, you can also search by a literary character, either by name (try the last name or full name), locale (place name), or by the type of work. 
Enjoy, and have fun with all those amazing literary people, places, and creators!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dropbox: The Online File Storage Site You Should Be Using

Dropbox - Secure backup, sync and sharing made easy.Like many of you, I hadn't made the plunge into online storage. I'd heard about it, of course--that thing where you can sign up with a company and they provide you with some space online for free, letting you store files there. And if you paid them money, they'd let you store even *more* files there. But I have a couple of Gmail accounts, and I get free storage there. If I really needed to store something online, I could just email it to myself, or upload it to Google Docs, and I'd be able to get it when I wanted it.

Why would I want or need anything else?

Well, a friend invited me to Dropbox, and my eyes have been opened. Dropbox is an ideal tool for sharing files between computers (whether with yourself or collaborating on a project with a friend or colleague), as well as for automatically backing up important files.

Allow me to explain.

When you sign up with Dropbox, they give you 2GB of storage space (plus 250MB more if you sign up using the helpful link above--aren't I nice?). You install the Dropbox program on your computer, and then it acts just like a typical folder. You can save files there, copy them there, change them there--it all happens just as if you were saving and altering your files normally. The trick is that when you make those changes, Dropbox keeps a current copy of everything in your Dropbox file--and they stick it online where you can access it from anywhere. So if you write a big long paper on your laptop, but then you want to work on it some more at school (and you don't have your laptop with you), you just log on to Dropbox and are off and running.

What's great is that it does all of this automatically. You don't have to remind yourself to make a backup. Once you have Dropbox working, it runs by itself. Beautiful.

It does wonders if you're collaborating on a project with someone else and want to share files. Yes, you could use Google Docs (which is a great collaboration tool). But what if you want to view a bunch of pictures, or have access to a number of files? You can share a Dropbox folder. Now, anything one person puts in is seen by everyone else who shares the folder. You're even notified when something changes or is added. Super convenient, super easy.

Dropbox even has apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry--so you can work on a document on your computer, then go and access it on your iPad. No need to email it anywhere or save it specially. It just works.

Anyway, I just thought I'd take a moment to let you all know about the wonders of online file storage. The fact that this is all free is mind blowing to me. I've been using it for a good half year or so now, and I haven't been plagued by spam--I haven't had a single speed bump.

What about you? Have you used a program like this before? Any thoughts or suggestions? Speak up!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Review Friday: Stiff

I was enthusing about Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (by Mary Roach) to a co-worker last night, and realised it'd be a great book to talk about here.

First, a little background. Mary Roach's gift as an author is to investigate complicated topics with a combination of humor, thoughtfulness, and curiosity that makes for a wonderfully readable and informative book. Makes sense, when you realise that she's tackled what happens to donated cadaver bodies after death, sexual physiology, the practical complications of spaceflight, and  the question of ghosts, the afterlife, and things like near-death experiences.

What I like most about her books, really, is that sense of curiosity - of being willing to ask questions and explore topics that are so often not talked about in our society. I learn something new from reading her books in every chapter. The other thing I like is how she goes and talks to people, rather than just theorising from her own experience, or synthesising reading. Those things are good, don't get me wrong - but it's even more interesting to see her interactions with passionate ghost hunters, mediums, and scientists.

Stiff is her first book. In it, she explores how plastic surgeons and reconstructive surgeons use cadavers to learn critical skills, a great deal about forensics, crash-testing cars, testing how to survive minefield explosions, and the question of what happens at the moment of death. While that sounds deeply gruesome to many people, she handles the topic with a decided amount of delicacy. Her writing leaves you aware of the people involved in a compassionate way, while also being clear about the science and pragmatic results of the research. It's an unlikely but very readable and informative combination.

Highly recommended - and I recommend her other titles, as well, though you'll need to request them from other libraries.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taking It To The Street

"There's something happening here
What it is, ain't exactly clear...."
It may be 44 years old, but Buffalo Springfield's iconic protest song could have been written about the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon. Here's what I find truly amazing: that along with food and rudimentary shelter, one of the first things to be organized in the week of September 17 - the very beginning of Occupied Wall Street - was a library.
A real library, with real books.
Members of the most digitally versed, technologically advanced, media savvy generation in the history of the world came together to make their voices be heard, and they made a library.
It started out in cardboard boxes. Later, donations of plastic bins and tarps better protected the collection from the elements. A call went out for librarians to volunteer their services to the People's Library, as it has been named, and the call was answered.

"Information is liberation. Offering people the opportunity to explore the world themselves through the written word is why I became a librarian. Connecting readers to writers is what I do. Doing that in the heart of what is rapidly growing into the strongest mass social movement since the 1960's is an experience I will always treasure." - Mandy, volunteer librarian.

The library continues to grow, and the collection is being cataloged. Borrowing is free, trading is encouraged, and if a patron would like to keep a book, that's fine: the librarians just ask to be notified so that they can remove the book from the catalog.
The People's Library has it's own website and Facebook page. Today, the Progressive Librarians Guild issued a statement in support of the initiative that reads, in part:

"We applaud the commitment and creativity being shown in providing a space for the articulation of opposition to the whole apparatus of the one-sided class war against workers, unions, the poor, immigrants, minorities, people of color, women, students and other sectors which make up the vast majority of Americans. We applaud the movement’s resistance to the greed,,injustice and inequality which is corroding the fabric of American society and its desire to imagine and help build a better future ,starting right now , for all Americans, by freeing ourselves from the destructive grip of unaccountable elites , insatiable profiteers and ruthless and cynical corporate plunderers.

We note that the Occupy Wall Street community has seen the need to create a “library” as part of its essential infrastructure even under the very difficult conditions under which the occupation has to operate in the streets. We call upon members of the Progressive Librarians Guild and all librarians of conscience to assist the movement with resources and technical aid. Please support the Occupation movement, document its development and report back to the library community to encourage greater understanding and wider support among our colleagues and in our communities."

Stop, hey, what's that sound?
It's the sound of pages turning in Liberty Park.

Donations of reading material for the People's Library can be sent to:
The UPS store
Re: Occupy Wall Street
Attn: The People's Library
118A Fulton St. #205
New York, NY 10038

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Resource Wednesday: Academic Search Complete

Welcome to today's installment of Resource Wednesday, when we're going to look at Academic Search Complete, a great start for general database searches.

Why is it a great place to start?
Academic Search Complete includes more than 8,000 full-text periodicals (7,500 of which are peer-reviewed, great for your academic projects). It also indexes and provides abstracts for more than 13,200 other publications. And it does that while covering many different academic areas - everything from anthropology to humanities to science to zoology.

While you might want to use a more tightly focused database for higher level classes or focused research, Academic Search Complete is a great place to start for more general searches, or while you're trying to get a feeling for a particular topic or area of interest.

Getting there:
You can get to Academic Search Complete in a couple of ways. One of the easiest is to go to the Mantor Library Homepage, click on the Databases tab (shown below) and select Academic Search Complete from the dropbox that says "Select a Commonly Used Database". You can also browse our A to Z listing (the link on the left), or the CourseGuide for your class may include a link. 

Using the database:
Your inital screen will look like this at the top. (If you can't see an image clearly, click on it to load just the image at a larger size.) There are lots of options, so let's look at them group by group.

In the top left, you can enter search terms. Just to the right, you can choose to limit a search term to a particular field - so you could enter the author's last name, and only search on the author field, or a word you know is in the title of the article.

You can also choose how you search. Boolean/phrase means you can either use a combination of AND, OR, or NOT terms, or you can enter a phrase. SmartText searching means you can copy and paste text (up to about 5000 characters). You can learn more about all of these options in the help files.

A final set of options lets you determine what kind of results you get back. You can limit to full text articles, scholarly journals, a particular publication, a particular kind of document (like an article, review, or more.) You can also limit to a particular language, or when the article was published.

Refining your results
Once you run your search, you'll end up with a list of results down the right side, and a left sidebar that has all sorts of useful tools.

The top of the sidebar (shown here on the left) tells you how many results you have. You can then refine your results by clicking the boxes to limit to full text, or scholarly journals, or articles with references.

I really like the sliding bar that lets you limit the date range (and see very clearly how old the oldest articles in your search are. And of course, you can limit to a particular type of source.
Below that, you have another neat feature. Often, when we're new to a subject, we're not sure what the best terms are. The Thesaurus Term and Subject areas of the sidebar help you figure that out. (If they're not visible, click the little arrow to the left of the header.)

Once you get sort of close to the right topic, you can use these headings to narrow things down, or to take your search in a more focused direction.

 Either way, once you find an article you're interested in, click on the title of the article to go to the page with details about it.  

 Working with an article:
 Now that you've found your article, you can do all sorts of things with it.

The left sidebar will have a link to the full text version if there is one. You can click on it to read the article. (If there isn't a full text version, you can find out more in steps 5 and 6 of our Finding Articles CourseGuide - and I'll talk more about that next week, too.) 

You can also click on any of the subject headings to search on that heading. And on the right sidebar, there are all sorts of tools to help you save the article. You can send it to your email, save it, export it to RefWorks, and much more. (You can find more about exporting in our RefWorks CourseGuide - follow the directions for EBSCO for the Academic Search Complete database.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fresh Off the Press: Apple Announcement

Apple had a big To Do over in California today to announce a heap of different things. As Apple is wont to do, it went on for quite a long time, and while some significant new pieces of hardware and info were introduced, the proceedings were much like an American Idol results show: lots of hype for 5 minutes of actual information. But I followed it so that you don't have to. Aren't I nice?

The highlights?
  • iOS 5 will be released a week from today. This lets enhances iPads and iPhones will all sorts of features, including the ability to sync your device without hooking it up to a computer. (Nice.) There are also camera enhancements, message tweaks, Twitter integrations--just a lot of nice extras. And it's free--always a plus.
  • iCloud--Apple's free(!) online storage space for iOS users. Your photos, documents, apps, music--all available anywhere you have an internet connection. For an additional small fee, you can access all your music, not just the stuff you downloaded from Apple. ($25/year--available by the end of October in the US.) This has the potential to be a real game changer. 5GB free, more for extra fee.
  • Find My Friends--A new feature that lets you broadcast your location out to people you've approved to be able to view it. Now all your stalkers can find you that much more easily. Thanks, Apple!
  • A new iPod Nano--Complete with updates and new features, like the ability to track steps and fitness right out of the box. Available today.
  • New iPod Touch--Now available in white. (Seriously--what's up with the obsession with white?)
  • iPhone 4S--Up to seven times as fast, longer battery life, iOS 5 and iCloud compatible. GSM and CDMA (meaning you can use it internationally, as well). Better phone (8MP, better light sensor). 1080p video recording. $200 for a 16GB phone. Launches in 10 days.
  • Siri--The ability on an iPhone to use voice recognition with natural language. Seems like it could be pretty cool, though I'll have to see it in action before I decide for sure. Voice recognition has been spotty in the past. I'll admit this looks like it has a lot of potential, however. Set up appointments, reply to messages, look up information--all hands free. But demos can look awesome and fizzle in practice. Just sayin' . . . Full voice dictation also available with this.
  • Vanilla iPhone 4 is now $100. iPhone 3GS is now free (with contract).
The impact of all this? Apple continues its domination in the world of mobile computing. More and more, whatever Apple does or doesn't do makes a huge impact on what the world does or doesn't do. I don't mean to overstate my case here, but when you look at sheer numbers and trends in technology, much of what goes on these days really comes back to Apple, whether as a response to Apple or a move by Apple itself. That's a lot of influence for one company to have.

Then again, in today's world of technology, the company that's on top of the pack one moment quickly finds itself slipping down. But for now, at least, Apple seems to be doing what it needs to to stay at the top.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Mantor Monday

On Our Minds "The Great Outdoors" Event

Wednesday October 5, 7:00 pm

Mantor Library Browsing Room:

"Pheobe & Hackmatack's Excellent Adventure"

Wonder what it would be like to hike the Appalachian Trail? Join us for an informal chat with Amy Graham and Bill Haslam, local residents and Appalachian Trail thru-hikers. Pheobe and Hackmatack (trail names adopted for the trip) will be sharing their experiences and answering questions about hiking the trail. Chocolate chip cookies will be provided!