Tuesday, December 31, 2013

First floor recarpetting

Over the next couple of weeks, our first floor is getting some new carpet!

What does this mean for you?
  • Much of the first floor beyond the lobby will be inaccessible for the next 10-14 days. We'll post an update when we're done.
  • Computers are not available on the 1st floor. You can use the computers in the 3rd floor classroom except when there are scheduled sessions (see below for details - there are only a couple.)
  • If you need a specific item (like a reference book) that's in the closed space, the library staff would be glad to fetch it for you. 
The 3rd floor computer lab is booked on Wednesday, January 8th and Wednesday, January 15th from 10am to noon. (With snow dates on the 10th and 17th if needed). It is also booked from 1pm to 4:30 pm on Thursday, January 16th.

Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thing 6: Smartphones and mobile devices

Flying Cars
Cartoon from xkcd.com :"Flying Car"
Today's Thing is about smartphones and other mobile devices. This is obviously a huge topic, but I wanted to take the time to highlight a few resources and topics.

What's a mobile device?

I often refer to my smartphone as "The computer in my pocket that, oh, yeah, can also make phone calls." I use it all the time for various tasks, and very rarely for phone calls. But that's only one way of using a smartphone or mobile device.

The basic definition of a mobile device is that it's handheld, and typically has a touch screen or small keyboard, and weighs less than 2 pounds. There are all sorts of devices, running a variety of different operating systems, but iOS (Apple) and Android devices are probably the best known right now. There are also other devices that allow you to do some tasks easily, but are limited in others, and things like ereaders, designed to let you read books (or sometimes consume other media) but that are harder to create new material on.

What can you do with one? 

First, there are lot of tools you can use for academic research. We have an entire guide devoted to mobile device tools that will help you with classes and more.  The resource list has some other great pointers, too.

Here's some things I do regularly with my mobile devices:
  • Take a picture of a computer error message so I can look it up more easily later.
  • Keep track of progress towards goals.
  • Use my phone as a pedometer (it tracks how far I've walked each day)
  • Track health information to share with my doctor (there's even an app that will test your pulse rate using the camera's phone.)
  • Read ebooks (many people prefer a larger device, but I do most of my reading on my phone.)
  • Travel with my tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard. 
  • Keep track of things I need to do. 
  • Listen to music.
  • Track my budget. 
  • Look at stars (there are some fabulous stargazing apps out there, where you can point the device at what you're looking at, and it'll tell you what you're seeing.)
  • Track my knitting projects (both row/stitch counters and an app that lets me upload photos to Ravelry, a knitting social media site)
  • Manage my grocery shopping list
  • Keep notes on various things (like books to read) 
  • Use my phone as a metronome when practicing music.
  • And of course, occasionally play games. 

Things to do:

1) Do you have a smartphone or mobile device? Do a little searching for an app that will help you with a current goal or interest. Try it out.

2) Are you curious about mobile devices? If you're a student, staff member, or faculty member at UMF, you can check out a device from our Petting Zoo to try out in the library.  

3) Share an app or device you find especially useful (and how you use it) in the comments.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thing 5: Collaboration

xkcd cartoon: "Far Away"

We're getting to the time of the academic year where collaboration - and asking questions - is getting to be more and more relevant. So today's Thing is about collaborating online (and also some times when it might not be the greatest solution)



There's a couple of different things going on here. One is that sometimes we want to be able to access a document from multiple places easily. (Google Drive, which will be the focus of an upcoming Thing, is a great tool here). Sometimes we want to be able to write a document but share it easily with other people - for example a handout or presentation notes. And sometimes we want to work with other people on something, whether that's a paper, a presentation, or a project.

And at other times, we may just have a quick question for someone (a professor, someone else in our class, a librarian, a friend.) 

Fortunately, the Internet can help!



If you use UMF's email (or Gmail on your own), you've got a way to collaborate built in. Several of them, in fact. The most basic is Instant Messaging, where you can have a text conversation with one or more people, and sort things out. You can also share documents through Google Drive (and you can have a chat on the document's page with other collaborators.)

I use IM all the time at home to collaborate on a project that involves a dozen people across four time zones - we use both IM and email for quick questions and also for more social conversations.

If you're not familiar with instant messaging, here's a few tips: 
  • Set yourself to "Available" and then find the person you'd like to chat to - some help from Google can get you started. You can also get help on group chats.
  • People can set their own availability (or status notes).
  • If you're focused on a particular conversation (like working on a specific assignment), it's polite to let people know if you need to step away for a minute or two.
  • If it's a casual conversation with friends, things are usually less formal (people may drift away, wander to the kitchen to make dinner, whatever.)
  • There are chat apps for smart phones, and many people use shorthand or brief responses, but you don't need to. Like conversations, chats will find their own flow.
  • You'll sometimes see people indicating emotions with emoticons, emoji, or by indicating an action like *hug* or :hug:
  • You can also format text - if you put *asterisks* around something Google Chat, it will make that word or words bold. If you do _this_, it'll put it in italics, and if you do -this- it'll strike it through.
Did you know the library has a chat feature? 
During a number of hours each day, you can reach one of the librarians on duty through the chat widget on our homepage. When the little yellow light bulb is lit, there's someone on the other end ready to help you with your library questions.

We can help point you to a resource, give you more information about library tools and options, and answer a lot of questions without you ever leaving your home.

Collaborative documents:
Google Drive also gives you access to shared documents. We'll come back to other features of Google Drive in the near future, but you can create a document, share it with other people, and all make changes at once. (Each person will have a different color icon.) You can see exactly what people changed.

Google has more help on collaborating on documents, of course. Besides editing, you can leave comments, or you can share a document without giving people editing permission. It is an incredible tool for working with other people.

Video chat
If you like actually seeing who you're talking to (and have access to a computer with a webcam, microphone, enough network speed, and enough quiet) you can also do video chats. Google Hangouts are one option, but so are tools like Skype. Video chats are just what they sound like: a chance to see and hear the person (or people) you're talking to.

Which is best?

Honestly, there isn't one best. It can be very hard to get tone of voice by chat or email (jokes and especially sarcasm or irony can come across very oddly). On the other hand, a chat or email chain gives you a written reminder of what was said, which can be very useful in some projects.

Some people also have different preferences: I do a lot of my conversations in email, some in IM, and very very few by video or phone for personal projects (because I'm often watching something on Netflix, knitting, cooking, or otherwise multitasking, and they don't mix as well with video/phone.) I know people who are the total opposite, though - they have video chat on all the time. 

Of course, there are also some times when face to face works best. The usual advice is to have face to face conversations for things where there's a lot of emotion involved (if you're upset about something, or frustrated, or need to figure out a better way to work, that's a good time.) And like the comic says above, sometimes *hug* just isn't enough.

Things to try:

  1. Try a method of communication you haven't tried before - or haven't used recently. You don't need to use it for a big project, you can check in with a friend.
  2. Try creating a document and sharing it with someone else (give them editing rights.) Maybe swap interesting recipes for the holidays. 
  3. Talk to the people you collaborate or work with regularly to find out their preferred communication method. (If you have an online contact book, you can use the notes field to remind you.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

14 Things: Links for November 7th, 2013

I was having lunch in the snack bar yesterday when I saw the table signs talking about seasonal affective disorder, and that made me think of a couple of things worth sharing here.

1) Did you know the library has a sun lamp? 
 It lives in the Browsing Room, just opposite to Access Services on the first floor, and there's a binder with instructions in it. (Please do read the information before using.)

2) Do you find working in front of a computer at night keeps you awake? 
There's actually a reason for that - computers generally use a cooler light that's like daylight during the day, but that helps keep us awake at night.

There's a free application (for Windows, Mac, and Linux) that automatically adjusts the quality of light at night so that it's less disruptive to our bodies, making it warmer in color when the sun goes down. The app's called f.lux, and you can download it and get more information about the research behind it on their website.

3) One useful tool: 
A week or two ago, I was helping someone with scanning text, and for various reasons went looking for some OCR (Optical Character Recognition) resources - basically, that's the term for "takes the text in the image and makes it into text you can edit again".

Now, GoogleDrive will do its best to OCR the text if you upload a scanned image of text, and so do some tools like Evernote that we're going to be discussing in one of the upcoming Things, but sometimes you need something focused on that one task. If you do, here is a great round-up.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thing 4: Wikipedia

xkcd.com comic: "Misconceptions"
Wikipedia is an incredibly complicated topic. Some teachers forbid anyone to use it at all in their research. Other people (quite accurately) talk about some of the issues in Wikipedia culture and current process that are making it less useful than it could be. (And while I've picked an xkcd comic here that highlights what Wikipedia can be great for, there are others that highlight some of the issues, including this one about the danger of the citation ecosystem and this one about the dangers of trusting apparent citations.)

However, there are times when I find it an incredibly useful starting place (never my only source for research), and today Thing 4 is going to give you a quick overview, talk about some ways to use Wikipedia, and then give some screenshots to show you parts of the site you might not have clicked on.

A quick overview: 

What's a wiki? Wiki is a term for a particular kind of online tool that allows people to collaborate on information. It uses some specific markup language to create links to other pages on the wiki and to other sources, and you can also format information in different ways. Pages can be grouped together by categories, and there are also ways to make tables, include images or other documents, and search for a specific topic or term.

Some wikis are huge (Wikipedia has over four million pages in English), but many people use wiki software for smaller projects like coordinating within a department, documenting how things work, or keeping track of different kinds of information.

First tip: Many of the possible issues with the information in Wikipedia are an issue in other kinds of sources too - they're just less obvious. Just like there are great books out there and lousy books, or excellent peer-reviewed articles and quick fluff news pieces, you need to evaluate the actual content before you use it in your research.

What's Wikipedia? Wikipedia has been running since 2001. It is a volunteer project with over 77,000 active contributors. Like any really huge project (that's about 10 times the population of Farmington!) it has rules and policies to help things run smoothly. You can learn more about that on the About page for the English Wikipedia.

Of course, with that many people working, there are sometimes differences of opinion, and sometimes a rule or policy gets put into place that works really well for some topics but not for others. Plus, because it's done by volunteers, some entries have really amazing information, and others have almost nothing. Some topics also lend themselves to having a verifiable reliable source than others, too.

Second tip: You don't need to understand all the specific policies and guidelines to use Wikipedia as a resource, but it's good to remember there are some, and that they may lead to decisions that don't make much sense to the casual reader or user.


How can it support research? 

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia - and you should never use an encyclopedia as your only source for academic research. However, you can use it to get a better sense of a topic and help your research process. I use Wikipedia all the time to:
  • Get context for a historical event (when and where it occurred, who the major figures are.) 
  • Find the terms used within a specific field for a particular topic, so I can do better searches in other research tools. (As a reference librarian, I often get asked about subjects where I don't know the jargon of the field well.)
  • Look at the references for an article to find relevant primary and secondary sources on the topic so I can read them and make my own decisions about what they say.
  • Learn more about an area or region (population, major features, more than just where it is.)
  • Check the spelling of a name. 
  • Figure out what the next book in a series is. 
  • And of course, to find out about random topics that come up in conversation. 
I also find some tools, like the "On this day" and "In the news" sections featured on Wikipedia's front page to be a good way to brush up on current topics of interest or historical trivia. 


    Let's take a tour: 

    November 7th happens to be the anniversary of the day that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were probably killed in Bolivia in 1905, and the entry allows me to show off many of the interesting tools of Wikipedia. There'll be lots of images in this part, so click on the 'more' to get the images. If you're already familiar with the basics of Wikipedia, you can skip down to the Interesting Tools for the parts many people don't know about

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    14 things : Links for October 31st, 2013

    Another entry in "Fascinating uses of technology", here is a semester-long project in which students in the UK recreated a section of London around Pudding Lane as it would have been before the Great Fire using a gaming engine. Their project blog goes into a lot more detail about their choices, how they did their research, and the technical and design implications, but the end result is a great way to get a view into history.

    Curating the best tech skill resource sites: 
    Want to learn something techie? There are lots of places to learn - so many it can be overwhelming. Bento exists to pull together some of the best resources for different computer programming languages and other skills, as well as telling you a little bit about what they do. Start by clicking on the HTML box, and it'll show you what languages and skills build on that box.

    That's it for this week! Join us next week for Thing 4 in our series.

    Thursday, October 24, 2013

    Thing 3: All those things to do

    "The General Problem" from xkcd.com - click through to see the strip and mouseover commentary.
    We all have a lot to do, and a lot to keep track of - and technology can definitely help us out. Today's Thing is going to talk about a couple of different approaches, and touch on some of the many tools you can use to help you.


    Calendar-based: Some people work best by blocking out time for different tasks - for example, you might schedule out some times when you are in class, some for dealing with homework, some for replying to email, and so on.
    • Pros: Ability to plan ahead. Able to see how you're spending your time and adjust.
    • Cons: Not very flexible, especially if you work with or rely on the work of others. Can require lots of rearranging if something takes more or less time than you expected. 
    • Tools: Calendar programs - Google Calendar, iCal, etc.
    To-Do list: Another common approach is to put things on a to-do list and check each item off as you do it.
    • Pros: Simple, there are lots of tools to help you out.
    • Cons: Big tasks (write a paper, prepare a project) end up mingled with small tasks (reply to a simple email, get gas for the car.) It can be hard to sort out which ones you can do when or which are most urgent. 
    • Tools: Pen and paper, index cards, a number of software tools including Remember The Milk and Wunderlist. For those using GoogleApps (like UMaine folks do), there's also the Tasks tool.
    Getting Things Done: Developed by David Allen, this started out widely popular in the business world, but it works great for academia, too. This system starts by getting things you're worrying over out of your head and onto paper (or the screen) so you can deal with them. After that, it focuses on contexts.

    You group things by type of activity (like email, returning a phone call, errands, writing tasks, etc.) If you have 10 minutes, you look at your list of short items, and pick one. When you have longer focused time, you go to that list. There's more to the system than that, but the links below will get you started.
    • Pros: Deals well with different kinds of tasks, and different priorities. Lots of people talking about how they use it makes it easier to find adjustments that work for you.
    • Cons: Takes some time to learn, need regular reviews to keep it working well. As some of the links below point out, it was designed for a time when we didn't always have most tools readily available.
    • Tools: All sorts - check out the links below for some ideas. Basically, you want something that will handle calendar items (meetings) and something that will handle lists, preferably with tagging or another way to identify contexts.


    Choosing tools:

    There are tons of different tools out there - partly because people want different things. I've found that I need a tool that lets me move items around within a list easily, and one that lets me add an email to my task list. You might need something different!

    If you're not sure, try out a couple of free tools, and see what you like and don't like. You might also think about whether you want a task management tool that syncs to your phone or another mobile device, or whether you'll always use it on a particular computer.

    Besides the tools linked above, a lot of people use Evernote as a task management tool - we'll be talking about Evernote in a future Thing. If you're fond of lists, you might really like Workflowy.


    Further reading


    Things to try

    1) Spend a few minutes thinking about what you'd like to make easier in your task management life - do you have trouble keeping ahead of appointments? Coming back to email? Tracking projects with many stages?

    2) Try out at least one new tool - even if it doesn't do everything for you, it may help with a specific project or part of your life.

    3) Leave a comment here talking about which tip in the links you found useful, or a tool you liked exploring.

    Thursday, October 17, 2013

    14 things: Links for October 17th, 2013

    Welcome to today's roundup of a few interesting links. 

    Digital privacy: 
    We're going to cover some digital privacy issues in more depth later in our 14 Things project, but
    Facebook recently rolled out a few more changes in their settings, and that lead to several sites updating their comments on Facebook and privacy.

    I like ReadWriteWeb's overview, which explains how a number of settings work, and TechCrunch has an interesting piece about what we should be thinking about in regard to privacy settings.

    Useful tools: Lifehacker does a number of roundups, but their overviews of the recommended extensions for Chrome and Firefox might come in handy. (As always, not all of these fit the way I use these web browsers, but I usually find one or two new tricks in any roundup like this.)

    Why libraries? Neil Gaiman (a fabulous author) gave a speech recently on why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming. It's a fascinating look at why fiction matters, why imagination matters, and why developing the skills to think about not just what is, but what might be, make a difference to society.

    Coming next week, Thing 3!

    Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    Thing 2 : managing your email

    xkcd comic: stick figure discussion communication methods. Follow the link for full transcript.
    "Preferred chat system" from xkcd.com. Click through to see the whole comic.
    Email. We all get it. Sometimes a lot of it. And keeping control of it can be complicated. So, today's Thing is going to look at some different tools and approaches to managing your email. (My links are going to focus on GoogleApps, which is what UMF uses, but of the basics can be applied to other tools. Note that the campus system looks a little different than Gmail for individual use.)


    How do you use it? 

    • Lots or less? 100 messages a day takes different tools than 10.
    • Who sends it to you? Mostly the same people, or lots of different people? 
    • What kinds of email? Is it a discussion, general information, part of planning a project? 
    • What do you need to do with it? Emails you need to do something for (tasks) are different than those sent as a quick informational reminder.
    • What do you need later? Gmail has great search options, but if you look at particular messages (from a specific person, about a project) you might want a way to find them quickly.
    • How critical is email to your work? In some jobs, having email up all the time is important - it's how you get information about what's needed. In others (being a student, teaching), you might find scheduled checks work better for you.



    Managing email - like a lot of technology questions - is one part choosing how you want to handle it, and one part picking the right tools.

    Scheduled checks: If you feel like you never get anything done because you're always answering email, try checking it 3 or 4 set times each day. Reply to anything you need to, create tasks if you need to, and then close your email until the next scheduled time. Some people find they're much more productive if they don't check email first thing in the morning, but wait until they've already done another task or two first. (This doesn't work with my job, but it might with yours.)

    Inbox Zero: In 2006, Merlin Mann explained his method of dealing with email overload, Inbox Zero. (His posts about it, and an hour long video talk about it can be found on his website.) In this method, you clear out your email each time you review it, create tasks (in a task management program - see upcoming Things for more) for each task related item, and then archive the email. This makes it much easier to see exactly what you need to deal with.

    Filtering: As an approach (how to use them is below), you may find it easier to keep track of email if you filter some of them into separate folders. For example, I filter business offers, and only check them when I'm planning to buy something, and I create filters for searches or groupings of email I want to find often.



    Keyboard controls: From your email inbox, type a ? to bring up the keyboard controls. These let you sort through email very quickly. I use k (advance to the next message), e (archive) and # (delete) all the time, but there are plenty of others.

    Filters automatically sort your email into folders or labels based on how you set them up. You can filter based on an email address, a word in the subject line (like an email list name), a word in the contents, whether something has an attachment, and much more. You can create them by trying a test search, then creating a filter when you get it right, and you manage filters from the settings menu.

    Labs has some additional features you can add to your email - you can turn them on by going to the settings icon (the gear), then to settings, then clicking on 'Labs'. I use Auto-advance, canned responses, quick links, and right-side chat. (Quick links is a great way to find specific email threads you refer to all the time.) Note that many of these are experimental and may change or disappear over time.

    Extensions and apps: There are tons of extensions and apps to help you manage your email - way too many to go into here, though some of the resources below mention them.

    Other needs - also too many to go into here, but we'll be talking about phishing and email security in a future Thing, and also about how to track tasks and to-do items.


    Further reading: 

    (Some of these posts are several years old, and the specific instructions or features may have changed - you can still use them for inspiration or ideas.)


    Give it a try:

    1) Read some of the linked reading, and pick at least one new tip to learn. (Try a keyboard command: they're quick and easy to learn.) If it works for you, try another one next week.

    2) Keep an eye on your email for a week or two. Are there automated emails you never read and could unsubscribe from? The easiest way to keep on top of your email is to reduce the number you get.

    3) Pay attention to the places you find email most frustrating. Try some of the tips above, and if that doesn't work, leave a comment here, and we can help you with some other resources.

    4) Have you tried getting to Inbox Zero? Does it work for you? Tell us how you did it or why it helps.

    Thursday, October 3, 2013

    14 things: links for October 3rd, 2013

    Welcome to our roundup of topic links about digital literacy, technology, and related resources, as part of our 14 Things project.

    Where'd that resource go?
    The shutdown of the US government probably isn't news to you at this point, but you might not have realized that it affects a number of online resources, including census data (from census.gov), the Library of Congress websites and catalog, or the ERIC database (articles are still searchable on EBSCO, but links to the eric.ed.gov site won't work.)

    Some further details:
    If you need help finding data from a government site, and can't find it, check in with us here at Mantor Library - we'd be glad to look at some alternate sources for you.

    In other news: (a few interesting links of the week)
    (Got a great link? You can leave a comment here, and we'll see it.)

    Thursday, September 26, 2013

    Thing 1: Learning things and sharing what you know

    Online Communities 2010 map

    It's a big world out there, and a big Internet. (The map is from xkcd, showing the approximate size and variety of online communities in 2010. It's even more complicated now.)  

    Technology and resources change all the time, and it's hard to keep up with what's new, what you need to worry about, what would solve a problem for you if you only knew about it, or just what's usefully cool. One way to solve this is by building some low-effort ways to come across interesting new stuff into your life.

    People sometimes refer to this as a personal learning network (or PLN). Personal, because yours won't look exactly like anyone else's. Learning, because you want to look for the people who want to share information. And a network because you'll be connected to the people you read, then to the people they read and learn from, and so on.

    The best PLNs are about people being themselves. One of my favorite personal examples comes from a former job, where I was trying to help a high school senior find a reputable source to support a particular argument she wanted to make. I posted something to my personal blog, and half an hour later, I had an answer from someone who's an expert in that field, pointing me at a specific book we had in our library. I know that person from a totally different area of interest - she just had time that day to point me at the perfect thing.

    Most importantly, a PLN isn't about solving an immediate need - it's about keeping you aware of other things in the world, that you might find useful next month or next semester, or next year, or next time you're considering a research project. Over time, you'll learn that some sources are great for sorting out one kind of problem, or remember than this person probably has something in their archives that will help you out.

    Not everyone you know will share this kind of content. And of the people who do, some will do brand new content (like an explanation), some will share lists of links, some will share links with additional comment. Many people do more than one. Chances are, some of this will work better for you (or for a particular topic) than others. Try some different approaches and keep doing the ones that work for you.

    How do you build a personal learning network? 

    1) Pay attention and keep track of interesting things (blogs, sites, books, resources, authors, speakers, podcasts, and more) you come across. We'll be talking about some tech tools to do this in an upcoming Thing in this series but a notebook or some sticky notes or a plain text file or computer bookmarks can work fine. Look for things on the edge of what you already know.

    2) If you're already using social media (Facebook, Twitter, RSS readers, etc.) you can do a lot by just adding a couple of resources on the topics you're interested in. Add a couple at a time, and take a look every few months to see if you need to rebalance.

    3) Be a 'real' person. Don't look at people just as resources - in my own networks, the people I like most are the people who are passionate about sharing what they love (and sometimes that's library stuff, and sometimes that's a great book on some other topic.) Think about sharing what you love, too - it's a great way to connect with others, and encourage them to share neat and useful things with you.

    4) Don't forget about hobbies or interests. Exploring something that's not for our job can feel a lot easier and more fun. (And we may find it easier to try something outside our comfort zone.) Plus, you might run into people who share both your hobby and your academic interests.

    The Year to Improved Productivity blog has a great post that talks about more resources and research on building a learning network. 

    Give it a try:  

    1) Find at least 3 social media accounts, blogs, or regularly updated resources. Try for one that talks about an area of interest, one that talks about tools or resources, and one that talks about a hobby.

    2) Explore at least one site that gives you brief (2-20 minute) overviews of something new. Some options include AtomicLearning (UMF subscribes, access through the MyCampus launchpad), TEDTalks (many topics), or CommonCraft (which explains technology in simple videos).

    3) Set yourself a low-key goal to find a new source for your learning. Maybe that's reading a general book about a topic you don't know much about by the end of the semester. Maybe it's finding a couple more resources for your list, and checking them regularly. Maybe it's asking someone you respect (a professor, a colleague, a student, a librarian) what they've learned recently outside the classroom and how they learned it.
    If you'd like some examples, you can check out some of the resources I find handy at my own blog

    Thursday, September 19, 2013

    14 things: 3 unexpected presentations of research.

    As promised in last week's intro to 14 things, we're doing a handful of links highlighting interesting things in the world of technology. Today's list is a tour of three videos, showing off how people are using technology to research or to describe their research in ways you may not have anticipated.
    Big Data + Old History is an explanation of how advances in technology help us refine masses of data to find out fascinating things. It's part of the PhD Comics series of videos of people talking about their research. (Captioned video, 2 minutes).

    The Fingerprint of Stars : A longer animation from PhD Comics, this time talking about stars, astronomy, the perception of the colors of the stars. It's a great example of integrating animation, voiceover, and use of color and design to convey complex information. (Not fully captioned, but most content is captioned in the animation. About 8 minutes.) 

    Bohemian Gravity: Check out Tim Blaise singing his Master's thesis on physics (or the basics of his thesis, anyway) to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. (Music video, lyrics below if you click through to YouTube. Also about 8 minutes.)

    Check in next week for our first 14 Things topic!

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    14 things, coming soon

    from john.schultz @ flickr : used under Creative Commons license
    Have you seen the new changes in Gmail? Heard about Getting Things Done? Wondered what the fuss is about TEDtalks? Thought about Facebook's privacy settings and what they mean for you? Wanted to know about managing your email or your online notes better?

    Starting next Thursday (9/19/13), we'll be hosting regular posts on these topics and many more. Every other week during the academic year, we'll have a post highlighting a particular topic or issue. Our exact list of topics and dates is flexible, because we want to be able to respond if some great new resource or some new issue comes up, but some of the posts we're planning on include:
    • Managing your email better - everything from theories of how to do it to tools to help you keep track of the emails you need to come back to. 
    • Using Google Drive for collaboration - sharing, chatting, and revision tools. 
    • Conquering your to-do list: systems for task management, and tools to help you keep track. 
    • Passwords: what's secure, why, and some ways to choose good ones. 
    • How to learn new things: developing a network of resources, plus finding help when you need it. 
    • Making better presentations: sources for great images and ways to make more effective slides. 
    • Smartphones: what the computer in your pocket can do for you. 
    • Keeping track of references and notes: Great for academic research, but also for your home life. 
    • Your digital footprint: what can other people find about you online - and what you should know about that.
    • And more! 
    On the weeks we don't have a focused post, we'll be sharing a handful of interesting links on related topics. Please feel free to share more - or your own thoughts and tips - in the comments of any of these posts. You can find all our posts under the 14 Things tag.

    Monday, September 9, 2013

    New: featured materials displays in Mantor Library!

    Remember how, in the days before Netflix, you used to go to a video store to rent movies? And the stores would sometimes have "staff picks" shelves that made you want to hang out with certain employees because their picks were quirky and smart and funny? (And some picks made you want check various crime databases, in case you were ever alone in the store with the guy who loved all the creeper movies...but I digress.)
    This year, we're trying something along those lines. Every month, a display in the browsing room will feature specially selected materials. Sometimes the materials will be inspired by a special theme. For instance, this month's display honors Banned Books Week, and offers banned and challenged books from the 1950s to the very latest in controversial fiction.

    So come on in, and join the forces of good by fighting censorship - check out and read a banned book.  For even more radical good times, take a selfie holding your book, and post it to the library Facebook page with the comment: "Caught Reading Banned Books", or "I'm with the Banned."  We'll see who the real Freadom Fighters are around campus!

    Next month, scary movie buff Bryce will be offering up an Octoberfest of gore galore. In February, we'll be playing the dating game (as several of you have suggested) and offering up Blind Dates with Books. Those are just a couple of the features we have planned. And hey, don't be afraid to let us know what you think of our themes and choices - we love hearing from you!

    Monday, June 17, 2013

    Mantor Monday - Welcome, Summer Experience!

    Are you ready for the Mantor Maze?
    Incoming First Year  students will be joining us this afternoon for an introduction to Mantor Library. Learning how to navigate the library's multiple (and seemingly random) staircases, levels, and stacks can be a challenge,  and our orienteering activity for Summer Experience pits students against the Maze. Using library resources to decipher clues, students race around Mantor, filling in a Library of Congress call number on their answer sheets. The call number will lead them to a book, and inside the book, they will learn the name of the staff person who is waiting to reward them with their prize. It's a great way for new students to learn about library resources, explore our building, and  meet library staff.
     Fun. Prizes. Candy.
    Sounds like a good time to me!

    Tuesday, June 11, 2013

    Wireless Printing Is Here!

    Wireless printing in the library is something that we have all wanted for a long time, so we're very happy to announce that this service is now available. However, there are some limitations:
    • Because the printing queue is accessed through MyCampus, wireless printing is ONLY available to patrons with a UMF log-in.
    • Only PDF's can be printed wirelessly.  Word documents and other formats will have to be saved as a PDF file before printing.
    How to use wireless printing:

    Log into MyCampus. On the lefthand menu, go to UMF Tools >Web Print. Select "Web Print", then "Submit a job".  Locate the PDF file you want to print, then select your preferred printer. (Library printer choices are Reference Area B+W and color, Peter Mills Electronic Classroom, and KCMC.) The charges applied to your printing account will be the same as they would be for non-wireless printing.

    And speaking of your printing account, did you know you can add money to your account online? You can!  You must have a credit card to put money on your account electronically. While logged in to MyCampus, under the Student Services section, choose "Technology Services".  On the right side of the screen, choose "Add to your UMF printer balance online." It's that easy.

    If you have any questions about wireless printing in the library, or experience any glitches in the process, feel free to ask a library staff person for assistance. We're here to help!

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    Summer hours

    We're now in summer hours - they're posted on the library doors, but we wanted to share them online as well.

    May 20 through August 2, 2013: 
    • Monday through Thursday: 8a.m. to 6p.m.
    • Friday: 8a.m. to 4:30p.m.
    August 5 through August 30, 2013:
    • Monday through Friday : 8a.m. to 4:30p.m.
    We will be closed Saturday and Sunday from May 18 through September 1st. We are also closed:
    • Monday, May 27
    • Thursday, July 4
    • Monday, September 2 
    Just as a reminder, we lock the doors 15 minutes before closing time to facilitate closing.

    Kalikow Curriculum Materials Center hours:

    May Term: (May 20 - June 10)
    • Mondays: noon - 6pm
    • Tuesday-Friday: 10am to 3pm 
    Summer: (after June 10)
    • Monday - Friday : 10am to 3pm 
    The KCMC is closed Saturdays and Sundays, as well as May 27, June 21, June 24, July 4, and September 2.

    Tuesday, May 7, 2013

    We're here for you

    Just a reminder that the library is open until midnight from May 6th (that'd be yesterday) through May 12th (that'd be Sunday).

    We're open our usual hours (7:45am to 11pm) on Monday, May 13th through Wednesday, May 15th. On Thursday the 16th, we close at 7pm.

    After that, we switch over to our summer hours (closed weekends). We're closed Memorial Day (Monday, May 26th), and we'll update with the other summer closings in the near future.

    Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    Debating Blogs in a Facebook and Twitter World

    This blog has been going on for a couple of years now. Since June of 2010, to be exact. And it's been an interesting experiment. It's morphed a few times in its existence, but on the whole, it's been quite fun. However, I'm getting to a point where I'm starting to wonder whether its continued existence is justified or not. Participation--comments, views--has been down, and for much of what we use the blog, Facebook just seems like a better fit these days. In the beginning, we started the blog to make sure we had something to put on our Facebook page. To make it seem more "alive." These days, that can be very easily done with posts and links directly on Facebook.

    So I thought I'd throw this out to you, our readers. What do you think about the blog? Do you read it regularly, and just lurk? Would you miss it if it went away? What would you like to see from it?

    Do realize that no response here definitely has implications for the future. :-) And thanks for reading, in any case!

    Monday, February 25, 2013

    Mantor Monday

    Are you a PC person? Do you wonder what it's like over on the Mac side of the fence? If you've ever wanted to play with an iPad, come on in and check out ours for an hour or two. The iPad, and all of the other devices in our Technology Petting Zoo are all charged up and ready to go!

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    Mantor Monday (Tuesday edition)

    Happy break week!
    For those of us who are not heading to a sunny beach, library hours for break will be:

    Tuesday - Friday 8:00am to 4:30 (Outside doors locked at 4:15 to facilitate closing)
    Saturday - Closed
    Sunday - 11:00 am to 11:00 pm.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    What's with that website?

    We had a few questions this week from people having trouble accessing Films on Demand, one of our databases, and it seemed like a good reason to talk about why you might have trouble accessing a website (and what you can do about it.)

    Cause 1: Something is affecting your connection to the Internet 

    To see if this is the case, try loading a couple of other different sites (I usually try the Mantor Library page, Google, and something else - sites run in three different places). If these don't work, check to make sure you're connected to the Internet.

    (And a little humor: Have you checked your input/output badger?) 

    Cause 2: Something is affecting that specific site

    Sometimes a specific site goes down. Large sites generally run on computers in 'datacenters' that have redundant connections to the Internet. That way, if a single connection fails, the others stay up and running, and you can still reach the site.

    However, it's possible that all the connections can fail at one (which is rare but does happen, usually because someone with a backhoe dug in the wrong place and broke a lot of cables.) Or the datacenter is somewhere where there's been an extensive natural disaster.

    One of the other ways a site can go down is because of a Denial of Service (DDOS) attack - this is what happened with Films on Demand. Basically it means that someone is trying to interfere with a given site and make it inaccessible. The most common way is to set up lots of computers to connect with the site they've targeted with over and over again, bringing everything to a grinding halt, but there are other methods. 

    (This is why - besides protecting your own files and data - it's so important to have a virus check and other protective tools on your own computer. Some viruses and malware are designed to allow others to use your computer in a Denial of Service attack.)

    To check if this is the case, you can use a tool like http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ - type in the address of the site you're trying to reach, and it will test and see if the problem is you or the site. However, in a DDOS attack, the site may be up and down for a bit while the people running it sort things out. A lot of sites also use Twitter to update about site outages.

    Cause 3: It's that specific site, but it's all about you

    There are some things that can affect you accessing that site. If you've installed filtering software, turned on parental controls, or installed a concentration tool on your computer, some of them may block your access to a site in a way that's not immediately obvious. If you can generally access other sites, and you've made sure the site you're trying to reach is up, this is the next place to try.

    Solving it is usually a little trickier.  The best thing to do is undo any recent changes (back to before you noticed the problem.) If that doesn't work, try disabling all of the extensions in your browser (and any filtering software or parental control software) and then re-enabling them one at a time until you figure out which one is causing the problem.

    Cause 4: It's that site, but it's partly you

    Sometimes part of the site will load, but parts won't. If you haven't used the site for a while, there's a chance that your computer or browser needs an update. Check out the help information for the site and try clearing the cache, and see if that helps. This is especially common with sites relying on Flash to play videos or provide graphics.

    (If you need help with this, try putting "clear cache" and the name of the browser you are using into your favorite search engine. Searching on "not loading" and the name of the site sometimes helps too.) 
    Other tips:
    - Make quick notes of what you've already tried. If you need to ask someone else for help, it'll help them figure out what's going on more quickly if you tell them what you've already done.

    - If you're having problems with one of our databases, we'd love to know, and we'll do our best to help you figure out what's going on. The best way to reach someone immediately is via Access Services (ext 7210, or stop by) or at our Reference desk (stop by, or if someone is available on chat through our home page, try that.)

    -  In many cases, a site that is down briefly will be up again - especially if it's a smaller, independently hosted site. Come back in 5-10 minutes, and many brief glitches will have resolved.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    Office of the Future

    Here's a great video with Walter Cronkite, talking about how the office of the future might look. What's most surprising to me is that they got so much of it right. Their biggest mistake seems (to me) to be that they didn't realize all those different gadgets would be able to share the same screen. True, they got the size of them all a bit off, but you can't really blame them for that, either. At the time, computers took up entire rooms. They did assume they'd get smaller. They just couldn't imagine by how much.


    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Mantor Monday - Welcome to the Zoo

    That's right, the Mantor Library now has a Petting Zoo.
    (And if I just opened childhood wounds involving camel spit or Shetland ponies nursing a deep hatred for all mankind, I apologize. Relax: this is NOT that kind of  petting zoo.)

    The Technology Petting Zoo is a collection of five of the most popular personal technology devices on the market today: tablet  computers and electronic readers. We realize that comparison shopping among the different devices can be confusing. Learning to use them, for some, seems a little intimidating.  They all have different functions and features, and just as importantly, they all feel differently in your hands. If you're in the market for new technology, how do you know which one you'll like best? Get it wrong, and you've just made a very expensive mistake.

    That's where we come in.  The Petting Zoo consists of an iPad, a Kindle Fire Tablet, a Nook Tablet, and Kindle and Nook eReaders.

    UMF students, faculty, and staff can check out our devices at the Access Services desk, and use them in the library. All of the devices have been pre-loaded with content: books, audio books, games, apps, etc. A user's guide has been downloaded to each - and just to make it extra user-friendly, we've also included print user's guides. You can use all of the devices to compare feel and features - we've made it worry free. And if you have questions about any of our Zoo critters, we've put together a Libguide with more information and resources. You'll find it here.

    So please, be our guest at the Technology Petting Zoo. We're here to prove that technology doesn't bite.

    Friday, February 8, 2013

    Video Friday: Polar Life

    So I'm sitting here, and I'm looking out my office window, and there are a bunch of snowflakes coming down, and I went searching for a video that related to the snow. Today's video is about Paul Nicklen, a photographer who has been specialising in photographing the polar regions since 1995.

    Here, he shares a number of gorgeous photos, but also talks about the power and necessity of the ice and the related ecosystem. (A few of the photos are disturbing - the cycle of life and climate change is not always pretty.)

    Also, a really wonderful story about a leopard seal. (Totally worth watching and amazingly funny: it starts about 13 minutes in.)

    Thursday, February 7, 2013

    Printable Fashion? Call me "Maybe".

    It should come as no surprise that a library environment nurtures creative and - yes - geeky people like a petri dish nurtures bacteria, and this library is no exception. So when things like maker spaces and 3D printers come up in conversation around here, eyes gleam and hearts pound. But I, being a fully fledged Captain-Planet-Green-Crusader, have so far been on the "meh" side of the 3D printer fence. The way I see it, the technology as it exists right now, in a format that most private individuals or maker spaces can afford, is only good for making plastic models. Is it cool? Yes. Does the world really need more plastic models? No.
    But yesterday I saw a pretty fabulous argument for 3D printing:

    The Little Black 3D Printed Dress.
    I'm not sure if, from an environmental standpoint, printed textiles make more sense than conventional textiles. But from a design standpoint?  Something with this much creative potential just might sway me from "meh" to "maybe".

    Check out Ecouterre for the full story on Iris Von Herpen's 3D printed couture.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    The Wonders of Browser Add-Ons

    I just wanted to take a second to expound on the virtues of browser add-ons. You know what those are, right? They're little programs you can install on your computer that will let your internet browser do all sorts of cool things. Just the other day, for example, I was bemoaning how hard it was to look up the IMDB ratings of movies I find on Netflix. While I enjoy Netflix's tailor-made recommendations, I often find them to be a bit lacking, especially in determining if a movie is going to be good or just so so. (Three stars or four stars--there's a big difference there. Sometimes I'm willing to put up with a 3 star movie. Sometimes I want to be sure it's going to be good before I get into it. I find IMDB's 10 star system better at judging that, especially since the users there often tend to be better at evaluating films. No offense, Netflix.)

    Well, today I came across this article. There's now an add on for Chrome that will automatically bring up IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes ratings when you're looking at a movie on Netflix's site. How awesome is that? I installed it immediately. While it still has some bugs, it works quite well for the most part--and it's free!

    Add-ons will do all sorts of other nifty things. You can find out more about them here. They're generally very easy to install. (Though sometimes *too* easy. Internet Explorer users are notorious for having a slew of add-ons on their browsers. I've opened IE sometimes and had the whole computer just lock up as it tried to load them all at once. A little can go a long way. Only install the add-ons you actually are going to use.)

    Monday, February 4, 2013

    Mantor Monday

    Oh the fines, they are a-changin'. 
    Or, to be more precise, it's not library fines that are changing - just when you can pay them. Due to some changes in the way the library will be staffed on weekends, we will no longer be accepting payment for fines or replacement charges on Saturdays and Sundays.
    New hours for payment of fines are:
    Monday - Thursday 8am - 6pm.
    Friday  8am - 4:30 pm.
    We accept cash and personal checks. Sorry, we can not accept credit cards or first born children.
    Any fines or charges from the Kalikow Center may be paid at Mantor Library.

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

    Trolling the Trollers

    I came across this story a while ago, and it's been on my "To Share" list for quite some time. It's an article about a guy who was contacted by a scammer, and he knew it was a scammer. He decided to turn the tables on the bad guy, and hilarity ensued.

    The basics were simple. The scammer's goal is to get the scammee to download software that will let the scammer take control of his computer. To do this, the scammer argues that the computer is full of viruses, and it needs to be cleaned remotely. The sad news is that this works an awful lot of the time. So many people really don't understand how their computer functions, and they can be suckered into turning the keys to it over to the Wrong Sort of People.

    Of course, in this case, the scammee was a techie, and he managed to keep the scammer on the phone for two hours, with lines like "I have to connect to CompuServ" and by playing modem sounds into the phone. I found this incredibly amusing, although I don't think I'd have the patience to stick with something like that for two hours.

    The bottom line is that if you have something go wrong with your computer, you call someone to fix it. People don't call you. If anyone ever calls you saying they know your computer is infected or broken, they're either psychic or lying. (Or they're from your work's IT department, I suppose. This doesn't mean their not psychic of lying, of course.) Be very cautious of situations like that.

    But that all goes without saying, right?

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013

    When Will Virtual Reality Take Over?

    I was sitting here at the reference desk today, and a thought popped into my head: "Second Life." Does everybody remember Second Life? It was all the rage a few years ago. An online virtual world where people could buy property, create merchandise--live their lives. Virtually. In library circles, it was THE THING for a while. Libraries were all heading on to Second Life in droves, creating virtual libraries for their patrons. It was supposed to be this new age of wonder, ushering in exciting new directions for librarians.

    You don't hear about it much these days.

    In fact, it seems to have fallen on some hard times, at least from a cursory glance through their home page. I mean, when the big feature on the home page is a girl dressed in a "Mrs. Claus with Loose Morals" outfit, you have to wonder just how seriously the product expects to be taken.

    Part of me really wonders why Second Life didn't take off. Sci fi novels are filled with people living in virtual reality worlds, after all. And those worlds look pretty darn appealing. You can meet up with people anywhere in the world, you can hang out, play games, chat, go anywhere. There are a ton of perks, right?

    Then again, part of me knows why it's fizzled. It wasn't much fun, to tell the truth. I tried it some, and the controls were frustrating, the people were less than social, and there wasn't much to do. Yes, I could theoretically live a Second Life, but the life I already was living took a ton of attention. I had no time to be living two lives at the same time.

    Which leads me to think that for virtual reality to really take off, it's going to need to be based around some sort of a game first. Something that makes people want to go in and play. Steps are being made in that direction. You've got World of Warcraft, and more recently Minecraft. You've got the social structure emerging through Facebook. The games Facebook has you play right now are irritating and pretty rinky dink, but I could easily see this social structure blossoming when matched with the right sort of game.

    I personally believe there will come a game that will hit critical mass. Where there are enough  people playing it, that it starts to make sense to join up, just so that you're not left behind. I think this game would be free to play, with addons costing money. People would sign up for the social aspect of it alone. Instead of walls, you could have entire houses people could visit, filled with whatever you want to put there. Second Life has the structure for this, but it never had the gaming side down--which is what I think you need in place to attract that critical mass first.

    I could see something like this happening in the next decade. I could be wrong, but that's where my money would be.

    Any of you have any thoughts or predictions?

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Facebook's Improving Search

    Facebook made an announcement today. Ahead of time, people were speculating it was going to be about anything from a new page design to a new mobile interface. The truth? They're expanding their search capability. This doesn't sound too exciting at first--and it might not end up being absolutely thrilling--but it should make some things easier to do on Facebook. For example, if you wanted to search for friends of a friend you know, it used to be convoluted--go to that friend's page, click on her "friends" link, and then start looking through all the results. With this new interface, you could search for "Friend of ________" and "Lives in ________".

    I think it has some potential, but I'll have to see it in action before I really make a judgement. Facebook was being very careful to keep repeating that this has no affect on current privacy settings. We'll also see about that. (Sometimes when someone proclaims something a bit too loudly, you start to wonder . . .)

    Facebook's also partnering up with Bing to incorporate some web results into these Facebook results. Because, search.

    It's a small beta launch right now. To find out more information, go here, where you can also sign up for the beta--assuming they open the doors a bit wider soon.