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.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Doom and Gloom about Libraries

Okay. That's it. I've been hearing more and more doomy, gloomy predictions about libraries and books over the past year or so, and I feel like it's gotten to the point that I just have to say my own piece. You might disagree with me. That's okay. I might end up being wrong on this one (I have, actually, been wrong quite a few times in my life), but for better or worse, I need to get this out of me.

Libraries aren't going anywhere. Books aren't going anywhere. End of story.

Note: this isn't to say that libraries and books aren't changing. They are--quite drastically in some respects. But change does not equal disappearance. But I hear people saying things like all books are going to be free, which would make me lose both of my professions. Self-publishing will eradicate the need to pay for books, so why need libraries? Why need paid authors? Free free free!


First point: libraries are more than books. Libraries are information. The casing of that information may change (scrolls, papyrus, books, ereaders, computers), but the information itself is still there. If librarians are information brokers, and the amount of information is increasing, then why in the world should we be worried about our jobs going anywhere?

Well, one reason is because non-librarians inevitably have this Books=Librarians mindset. And so they see a blow to physical copies of books as a blow to librarians as a profession. It could well be that this mindset will strike a significant blow to librarians for a few years. But I have every confidence that such a blow would be short lived. As soon as everybody's trying to find all the information that they've lost track of, they'll come running back to librarians, hat in hand.

But wait--what about Google? It finds you everything you might possibly need.


Google does a great job of finding broad information about something. It's a great phone book and encyclopedia and almanac. But start tracking what you actually use Google for, and how successful or unsuccessful you are with those searches. One of the biggest flaws of Google is that you need to know an information resource exists, or you might well completely miss an important source of information. Let's say you're interested in children's publishing. Allow me to show how such a search might go.

You don't know a lot about the topic, so you start with "Writing books for kids." First off, let me remind you that most searchers don't go beyond the third result in a Google results page. The top three results get 60% of the clicks. The top result gets more than a third, all by its lonesome. So we'll assume you're a typical researcher--not a dedicated pro (like, say . . . a librarian). The top three results Google returns are all ads paid for by their sponsors. Let's hope you're at least with it enough to know to ignore the ads and go down to actual results. Two are for Amazon books, and one is of questionable merit. (Family-based, clunky website).

You ignore the fantastic it's the ninth result. Only 1.8% of searches get down that far in the results page. So, since you came up empty, you change your search (assuming you're really dedicated here). "Writing books for children." is now the fourth result (not counting the three additional ads that popped up first). 7.9% of researchers will click that one. And this is assuming you know what you're doing and can adequately distinguish the difference between a good website and a bogus one. (Speaking as an information professional, it ain't always that easy.)

What I mean to say is that you need to do research to find quality sources--even using Google. But most people don't realize this. They'll spend hours and hours searching for something that a subject specialist would know off the top of their head. Hours and hours they could have been doing something else. That's a distinct need, folks. And where there's a need, there's a job.

Librarian's aren't going anywhere.

What about books? Books are going to become free, right? Anyone can publish one. People will refuse to pay for one. Publishers will go under. Agents will fall. Dogs and cats will start playing in the streets together.

If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you while you're busy writing your free book.

Again--this isn't to say that books aren't going to change. I'm sure they will. But look at the music industry. It was panicked that the entire world would start pirating music. No one would make any money. Mass hysteria! Has that panned out? Not really. In fact, studies show that music pirates actually spend more money on music than non-pirates. Go figure.

People love music. They'll continue paying to support the thing they love.

Books? People love books. They'll do the same.

Yes, right now I could just hit a publish button and have every piece of writing I've ever done online at once. And many people are doing just that. But the more people who publish all the stuff they've written, the harder it is to find the quality stuff you actually want to read. A lot of work and effort goes in to writing and publishing a book. Rounds of edits. Design experience. Bookkeeping. Marketing. Publishers don't just slap a "for sale" sticker on a book and send it out the door. (At least, not reputable publishers.)

It's certainly possible that for a few years, everything will Seem Grim. The sky might look like it's going to fall. But in the end, people will adapt. Change. Authors, publishers, agents--they might not all do the exact same things they do now in the exact same ways, but that's life.

Anyone who tells you differently--who claims that libraries or books are dying--is probably selling you something. Either they're making money working the conference circuits and trying to make a name for themselves, or they're starting their own publishing venture, or they're trying to drum up business for their own pet project.

Don't listen to the doom and gloom. Worrying about Everything Changing is just plain silly, because in the end . . . everything changes anyway. Worrying doesn't do a blessed thing to fix it. Instead, take all that energy you're devoting to worrying and focus it someplace productive. Figure out what you can do to adapt. If you're an author, keep writing books. If you're a librarian, keep up to date on changes in technology. Know the change is coming, and roll with it.

And that's all the soapbox I've got in me today.