Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thing 64 : One-Hit Wonders

Librarian helping boy use computer
This discovery exercise has us exploring several websites that are good at one thing--but that one thing is really useful. I will certainly use the tools that will make blog posting easier such as, and PicApp. Now I can post correct spelling of names and locations and use quality creative commons stock photos.

If I was still in college I could certainly see the use of the KuKuClock. Who wouldn't want to sneak in a nap between classes but not run back to their dorm or apartment? There are many students now who use the clock on their cell phone instead of a watch.

I would certainly use Stormpulse if a student needs hurricane tracking information but as for myself--I feel as if I'm knocked over the head with hurricane data every hurricane season. In this information soaked world, I only want to know about the hurricanes that would be a direct threat to my immediate area. (Now when hurricanes turn into news stories that is a different matter.)

Being a gamer, I have always enjoyed name generators. I could also see the usefulness if you are writer too. Got writers block for that new character? How about generating a new character with the FakeNameGenerator? Also great for biographies to protect the names of the innocent. had a couple of generators that I enjoyed: The Creepy Elf Name Generator (I got Amold Flashbackbright--don't let this guy near any matches), The Super Hero Generator (I got The Fabulous Typhoid Stranger---Here I come to save the dayyy!-Or is that a Super Villian?), and of course The Character Name Generator (I got Gayle Defranco, moody fortune teller from Huntsville--I forsee lots of fun in this!)

And last but not least--the Twitter Status Generator--when life isn't all that interesting! (I got "Spellbindingly curious and fed up with tastiness."--Snack break anyone?)

Other things I discovered while using Regator were:

Lookybook - Children's Librarian's might enjoy Lookybook. Similar to LibrayThing but exclusively for Childrens' Picturebooks. Search by subject, author, or genre. Honored by Time Magazine as one of the top 50 websites of 2008.

Mathway - Step by Step Math Problem Solver. Great for students in need of a math tutor. Over 4,305,881 problems solved!

MEDTING - Have a student who has to have an image of a disease or condition and it is no where to be found? Give MEDTING at try. Only physicians can upload and share these medical images and videos.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thing 63: PDF Form-Filler Freeware

This discovery exercise has us looking at the Foxit Reader, a freeware alternative to the Adobe Reader. Why would you consider Foxit over Adobe? Because it allows you to fill out non-editable PDF files. Now you can have a professional looking application in no time. It's small enough to fit on a flash drive, Version 3.0's Installer: .exe, 3.69 MB, so you can take it with you anywhere. One negative, it will require you to install a toolbar on your web browser to download it. But you can hide it if you aren't going to use it. Also it likes Internet Explorer over Firefox.

But what caught my eye while I was using it is that it has a "Convert to PDF" option. I have Powerpoint presentations that I would like to convert to .pdf because .pdf makes the images more clear. You will need to install the PDF Creator portion of the Foxit Reader in order to use it. I wanted to see if my Powerpoint presentations would save horizontally instead of vertically like they did when I attempted to convert them using Zamzar. When I upload a .pdf file to Slideshare I can't rotate the layout to be landscape so all the slides looked like they were on their side. The Foxit Creator will add a red notice saying "Generated by Foxit PDF Creator. For evaluation only." mark at the top of each slide when you convert. When I uploaded it to Slideshare it did load horizontally but it changed my bullets to the letter "n" and my emotes to the letter "J". Also the hyperlinks associated with the presentation were lost. So after all of that I can't use Foxit Reader to convert my Powerpoint presentations to .pdf either.

If I know that a library patron has a flash drive or comes in with a laptop and needs to fill out a non-editable PDF file I will certainly recommend the Foxit Reader. Otherwise I'll recommend PDFescape if they do not. I will still recommend Zamzar for conversions to .pdf, just as long as you like the way it turns out! Thanks Foxit--this will be a lifesaver to many people at our branch!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Thing 62: Web-Based PDF Editors & Form Fillers

This discovery exercise has us looking at two web-based PDF editors--PDFEscape and PDFFiller. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to fill out a form due to the document creator making it a non-editable PDF form. Most of the time these are for important applications such as for jobs or colleges and nothing could look less professional than having the form filled in by hand. PDFescape and PDFfiller both come to the rescue. Both just require you to create an account using your email and creating a password. Both make filling out forms a snap. You can upload forms from your computer or from a URL. But depending on how often you would use a service like this will determine which is best for you.

PDFescape - If you want to avoid having the logo and link printed on the form you would have to pay for one premium credit. When you register you get 2 free premium credits. Premium credits are sold on the website at $4.99 for 5 credits; $8.99 for 10 credits; $16.99 for 20 credits; $29.99 for 50 credits; and $49.99 for 100 credits.

PDFfiller - For Fax, Email, Printing or saving to computer the fees are: $9.99 unlimited use, unlimited forms for 30 days. $69.99 unlimited use, unlimited forms for 365 days. $12.99 unlimited use, unlimited forms for 1 day.

For library patrons I would recommend using PDFescape since if the patron registers they will get 2 premium credits to print without the logo and web link. They may only need to use a PDF editor one time. This would allow them to use the service without a long term commitment. This service will certainly be used at our branch!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thing 61: Facebook and Libraries

This discovery exercise has us exploring Facebook for library related things. I'm amazed by how many people I know that are on Facebook. A few have found me that I haven't heard from in years! I must admit that I didn't start using it until one of my coworkers showed me what she used it for (a little application called Dogbook) and I knew that I had to try it. I thought--well at least I'll know one person. Little did I know how that one person turned into many!

I will say that I see more from the people participating in the Learning 2.1 project on Facebook than on Ning! I think because it can be used keep up with a variety of things, not just one topic, it keeps people coming back to it vs. going to several sites to do the same thing. It is similar in its consolidating ability to the likes of start pages and feed readers.

I did add the Explore...Discover...Play! app to my Facebook page but it was not the most intuitive to find. I tried searching for it on Facebook but it did not turn up that way nor was is linked on the Learning 2.1 blog. It was however, linked on the main page of Ning so that is how I got it added to my Facebook page. I also added the WorldCat and My LibraryThing apps as well.

I also did a search for PLCMC and they have Facebook page now. The profile shows the library logo, address (including a linked map for directions), phone number, and website. It also includes feeds for upcoming programs and events. It also gives a place for fans to leave comments and feedback.

Searching for the word 'library' brought up about 500 hits. Everything from library staff to associations, interest groups and events were represented. Limiting the search to "pages" showed libraries as public buildings but also included some commercial entities like Library Thing. "Groups" brings up your library associations and interest groups. Events look like pages created for events taking place at libraries. Not all of these were library sponsored. I saw many library catalogs available by limiting it to the "Apps" tab. The WorldCat app would do a similar service. I added several groups to my Facebook page including: SecondLife Librarians, FacebookApps For Libraries, Internet Librarian, Libraries Using Facebook Pages, and Web 2.0 Tips and Hints. Now I'll have way to much to keep up with but at least I'll be able to see what others are doing and come up with ideas for Facebook pages for my library clubs. Thanks Facebook!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thing 60: Facebook

This discovery exercise has us looking at the famous social networking site Facebook. Joining is easy and you can decide how much or how little to add to your profile. I also like that you can hide your birth year. I don't mind if folks know my b-day but you should never ask a lady for her age! ;) It's the main reason I do not have a Myspace account. That and Myspace just feels rather strange to me. It doesn't have that clean organized look like Facebook. Profile pages seem haphazard and cluttered. Others have such strange fonts that they are just plain hard to read!

While searching and adding friends to Facebook, I became a fan of NPR, added Last.FM, Twitter, and some fun games to my profile. I also enjoy using Virutal Bookshelf for keeping track of things that I have read and sharing them. Since I also use Meebo, I was thrilled when they added Facebook to their site so that you can IM with your Facebook friends as well anyone else on the major IM networks. Its nice that you can decide how much of your Facebook profile you want friends to see. If they are acquaintances you might want to use your limited profile, for friends you could show you full profile.

I know that I'll be adding a Facebook page for book club. It's on my "to do" list for the new year. For my gaming clubs I'll add them to Facebook too and possibly to Myspace. The usefulness of social networking sites for library PR is wonderful!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thing 59: AuthorsOnTheWeb

This discovery exercise has us looking at AuthorsOnTheWeb and its related sites published by

I started my tour with the AuthorsOnTheWeb site itself. It is a website design and and Internet marketing service for authors and publishers. It shows featured, current and just launched websites and blogs of authors and Internet marketing campaigns. It even shows authors on tour and news articles featuring their books and authors.

AuthorYellowPages lets you browse authors alphabetically or by genre. It even lists the top ten authors searched for on the site.

The BookReportNetwork site lists all the separate sites that they publish on the network. These include: BookReporter, ReadingGroupGuides, GraphicNovelReporter, FaithfulReader, Teenreads, Kidsreads, AuthorsOnTheWeb, and AuthorYellowPages. I especially enjoyed discovering the GraphicNovelReporter. It has separate review areas for adult fiction, adult non-fiction, teens and kids. It also lists its Best Of Lists, Books into Movies, Coming Soon, Bestseller Lists, and Awards. Now I'll have a nice place to browse adult graphic novels that might be of intrest to our branch book club.

I have seen ReadingGroupGuides before. It is geared more to the mainstream bookclub fiction reader so I don't normally pull my reading guides and discussion questions from it. For the science fiction and fantasy titles our club reads, I normally go directly to the author or publisher website first, then I'll browse discussion boards geared towards the genre next. ReadingGroupGuides have guides grouped by everything imaginable--from Title, Author, and Genre, to Best of Favorites, Most Requested and Themed Reads. It does give tips for discussion questions when there is no guide available. But I like the Typical Discussion Questions by Canadian Book Clubs better for the genre we're reading. You can register your book club and the site gives you tips on starting and running your own book club. You can even get a book club makeover if your group has hit a rut. is the site that I think Sandra really wanted us to take a look at instead of AuthorsOnTheWeb. AuthorsOnTheWeb looks like it is more of a business to author/publisher site, not a business to reader website. BookReporter includes Reviews, Features (including a Fantasy Author Spotlight that I will certainly use), Author Profiles and Bibliographies, Books Into Movies, Awards, Coming Soon (which lists upcoming hardcover titles), Bestsellers, and New In Paperback. I am sure that I will read the Coming Soon, Bestsellers, and New In Paperback sections quite often for readers advisory and to keep up with the latest for our patrons.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thing 58 : Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Meets Web 2.0

This discovery exercise has us exploring the Going Green Matters for green ideas. After adding the RSS Feed to my Bloglines reader, I browsed the site. There are news sections on everything from Carbon Footprint to Wind Power.

Since it is the holidays I took a look at Practical Tips for 'Going Green' This Holiday Season by Keep America Beautiful.

Some of my own favorite green holiday tips are:
1-Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper. That way they can be reused several times before they wear out. Then when they do wear out recycle them.

2-Send e-cards as much as possible. Not everyone on my list uses email but for those who do I can certainly save quite a bit of paper.

3-Clean out your home of unused items and electronics to donate to charities like Salvation Army, Goodwill, and your local food bank. Not only will you have room for your presents, your donated items will be used by those who need them most. Be sure request a written list of what you have donated for a deduction on your taxes.

4-Buy a small fir tree the size of a potted plant and keep year round for a permanent Christmas tree. When it starts to get too big, do a bonsai method and trim off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the root ball. Repot in the same pot or one slightly bigger if you want it to fill out. Now you have a permanent tree that you can always keep. When branches dry out or fall off you can grind them up to use as mulch. I still have the same tree that I purchased over 10 years ago.

Another great ecology minded resource that wasn't mentioned in this exercise but that I enjoy is The Nature Conservancy. My grandmother belonged to it and I have always admired and respected their cause. Founded in 1951, it is "the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people". Includes a handy carbon footprint calculator. Going green is easy anytime of year with these environmentally friendly web sites.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thing 57: Tastespotting - Foodies Rejoice!

This discovery exercise has us visiting Tastespotting, the website that allows users to browse by pictures instead of by keywords for their favorite food items. Each food item has been submitted buy the users themselves but are reviewed by the team at Tastespotting to be sure it falls within the submission guidelines.

I created a free account and set to discovering what Tastespotting had to offer. It was certainly easy to discern what you might like trying, or avoiding, simply by browsing the pictures. Bookmarking your favorites for future reference is easy, just click on the star in the bottom right hand corner of each picture. Soon I had a page full of favorites. From poached pears to stir fried bok choy there was plenty that caught my attention.

I then tried the search feature to see what was available. I typed in tea, tea party, and tea sandwich and got some very intresting selections. Since it was December and I was on the tea theme, I thought I would see if there were any references to Russian tea. The only thing that kept coming up were entries referring to Russian tea cookies, but not the tea itself. So I thought, this would be a good candidate to add to Tastespotting!

I finally found a site called Crazy for Tea that gave a good overview of Russian Tea, recipies for it--both traditional and instant, the ceremony, the Samovar, as well as a Russian Tea Cake/Cookie recipe. Then I just clicked on "Submit New" and added an image of the Samovar from Crazy for Tea (images must be 250x250 pixels). Then I cropped the image to the most interesting parts. I included the link for the site, and added a description. Then Tastespotting let me choose from categories that best fit my item and I checked to be notified when they added my entry. It may take up to 24 hours before it appears on their site because they review each entry.

Now I'm just waiting to see if it will be added. When it is, I'll feel that Tastespotting will be ready for the holidays. Now I'm inspired to make some Russian tea and watch The Nutcracker! This is a great website for Foodies everywhere. Mmm-mmm-yummy!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thing 55 : Slideshare - Making Presentations Available Online

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Web 2.0
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: internet 2.o)

This discovery exercise has us exploring Slideshare, the online community and service for sharing presentations. Setting up an account is easy, the usual email address and password is all that is needed. You can add more in your profile if you like. I searched for Learning 2.0 and Web 2.0 presentations and Slideshare gives you several sorting options for your search such as by relevance, latest, views, or downloads. Not only can you search slideshows, you can also search users or groups/events. It is very easy to post a presentation to your favorite social networking tools. Just click on the icon of the tool you want to use and copy and paste the code or go through the menu to log in and add. I added the above presentation that way. I also installed the Slideshare blog sidebar widget to show my presentations and also added it to Facebook.

For usefulness, I immediately thought of my science fiction and fantasy book club, Outside the Inner Limits. I do a quiz show as an icebreaker and do the discussion questions at the end. So I used my first quiz show as my Slideshare test. My best experince with uploading was by using the Upload tab and then choosing single upload. I tried uploading both a .ppt version and a .pdf version. I had to convert my file to .pdf using Zamzar because we do not have the full version of Adobe Acrobat for me to save the file. When I uploaded the file converted by Zamzar, it appeared in portrait view and I could not find how to change it to landscape view. So I deleted it. The images were much clearer in the .pdf version though. Now if someone missed book club they will still be able to see the quiz show and discussion questions on the blog.

I can also see using Slideshare to promote events at the library and post on a blog or website or to use when away at conferences, especially if you need to take an airplane and are limited by what you can take with you. You could even record the audio for technology workshops and add it to the presentation so that staff or patrons can take the workshop online anytime. Thanks Slideshare for giving easy portability to presentations.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thing 54 : Bookjetty vs. LibraryThing

This discovery exercise explores Book Jetty and other social book tools, primarily LibraryThing which we covered in Thing 11. It was simple to create a free account on Bookjetty, just make up a user name, password and have an email account. My local library was not included in BookJetty's supported libraries so I sent them an email requesting that it be added. They responded the same day and said that they would add it within about a week if the library's catalog had a z39.50 gateway. The closest libraries to me that were available were all academic libraries, not too good if I wanted to get the latest sci-fi or fantasy NYT Bestseller for book club. It does have that sparse minimalistic interface like Google and Facebook. That's good so that the site doesn't look too busy, but sometimes it's too sparse. You have to figure out how things weave together on the site yourself. Both BookJetty and LibraryThing give you tours but LibraryThing goes into more detail on what is on their site and gives descriptions. BookJetty's tour is only screenshots that you have to figure out yourself. With LibraryThing you can catalog with Amazon, Library of Congress or 690 World Libraries. With BookJetty you catalog only using Amazon. BookJetty has 300 libraries in their library listings. They are mostly academic libraries. Both are adding libraries and bookstores all the time but LibraryThing is certainly in the lead.

BookJetty's claim to fame is that it will immediately let you know the status of books in your collection at the libraries you have selected in your preferred list. But what if your library is not available to add to the preferred list? You would have to email BookJetty to get all of the individual libraries that you wanted added to BookJetty and that is only if they have a z39.50 gateway. LibraryThing will also let you know what libraries have the book available and instead of adding libraries individually to a preferred list they use Worldcat instead. Worldcat, a union catalog of materials held in libraries world-wide, will let you see what libraries have it and you can link to their catalog to see if it's available for checkout.

LibraryThing has become so popular, 470,000 users, that it now needs to charge for accounts that have over 200 books. I assume this is to be able to provide the server space. After 200 books you can either pay $10 a year for unlimited uploads or $25 for a lifetime membership. I did not see a book limit on BookJetty although it did mention that if you upload more than 100 books that starting with 101 they will be put in a queue.

Since I have an active science fiction and fantasy book club I am always looking for discussion question ideas for the books we are reading. I have had very good success on the discussion forums in LibraryThing. I compared the discussions on titles we have read on BookJetty and there simply aren't as many discussions on the titles I like to read. Here are some examples: Storm Front (BookJetty), Storm Front (LibraryThing); Guilty Pleasures (BookJetty), Guilty Pleasures (LibraryThing); Dead Until Dark (BookJetty), Dead Until Dark (LibraryThing), Anathem (BookJetty), Anathem (LibraryThing), Neverwhere (BookJetty), Neverwhere (LibraryThing).

So far as sharing books with my social network, I tend to use the Facebook app - Visual Bookshelf but for bookclub purposes I like to use LibraryThing. BookJetty has some innovative ideas and if they add some other cataloging sources and boost their user base they will do fine. I think that both BookJetty and LibraryThing will appeal to bibliophiles everywhere. They just offer different styles to appeal to different users.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thing 53 : LitLovers - Book Club Ideas

This discovery exercise explores LitLovers, a site for book club ideas. The site is divided into four areas: LitClub, LitCourse, LitBlog, and LitFun. Since I coordinate a science fiction and fantasy bookclub at my library I wanted to see if there were resources we could use.

LitClub - The "Reading Guides," "Most Popular Books," and "Books We Recommend," were geared towards mainstream bookclub titles such as--The Kite Runner, Running with Sissors, and Water for Elephants. I did not see many science fiction or fantasy titles and when I did, they were classic titles like-Dracula, Fahrenheit 451, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Mists of Avalon, and 1984 not the contemporary titles that my club likes to read with the exception of The Time Traveler's Wife, Wicked, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy and that is probably only because it's an Oprah Book Club selection. You could browse by title or author that was available but it didn't give you a search box to just search for a title or author. It does give useful tips for those starting out a book club--Questions for Fiction, Questions for Non-Fiction, Icebreakers, and How to Start and Run a Bookclub. I took a look at Wicked by Gregory Maguire to see what resources were available for the title. The readers guide give a brief overview of the book, a biography about the author, extras from an interview with the author, book reviews, and book discussion questions.

LitCourse - There are 10 courses you can take in the catalog that cover topics such as Literature Matters: Why We Read, How To Read : Finding Meaning, and How To Read : Theme. Each course takes about 15 minutes to complete--just long enough to enjoy while having a snack! There are 5 steps to each course--the lecture (15 slides), reading suggestions, a study guide and a quiz to test yourself. You can get a certificate at the end of the quiz for completing it and scoring yourself. I found this section to be the most useful for my bookclub. I think our group would get a lot out of these courses and appreciate the novels they are reading even more.

LitBlog - Is a discussion of the thoughts of the website authors and the current pulse of many bookclubs and the direction they seem to be taking.

LitFun - Covers tie-in ideas for suggested titles. Top books adapted for film, LitFood with recipes from around the world, and even book clubs for kids.

I would certainly use the LitCourse section the most for my book club but I can certainly recommend it for other book clubs or to patrons who want to get more enjoyment and understanding out of the books they are reading.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thing 52 : Snip it with Clipmarks

This discovery exercise explores Clipmarks, the free online service that allows you to clip the portions of articles on websites and save or share in a variety of ways. The account is free and simple to create. If you have an email address and can make up a password, you're in. First off I added Polyxena as my guide to see what kind of articles she was posting. Then I clicked on the "Help" button to learn how to clip articles. It certainly walked you through step-by-step how to do a clipcast. I added five articles to my clips.

You must be at a computer where you can install web browser toolbars. So this would not be something you could use on a public computer. It would have to be your own. Clipmarks installs an icon on your web browser. Click on the icon and then select the items you want to clip. It includes the website you got it from so you don't have to worry about referencing your source. I made one of them private to test out if it would show up on my clipmarks widget on my blog and in Facebook. It did, so I can assume that marking a clip private just means it won't show up on Clipmarks. It will still be shared on your blog or other places you have installed your feed for it.

I can certainly use it to keep track of news that I might not otherwise bookmark. It is also nice for going back and referenceing exactly what I have read. I'll certainly use Clipmarks for remembering what I have read whereas I'll just keep up with the news streams on Bloglines and Furl to see what's new. I'm sure if I want to remember something from my news feeds I'll have a handy way of doing that now. Thanks Clipmarks!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Thing 51: The State of Library 2.0 - Social Networking Comes of Age

Libraries have been using Myspace and Facebook to market programming to teens and adults for a while now. Since we are on our patrons' friends lists they can know about programming they are interested in instantly. Handing out flyers that include these URLs to these sites begins the PR but then it becomes word of mouth as patrons browse each others pages. Ning and Facebook in particular seem to keep librarians in touch with each other and conferences and continuing education.

There have been blogs created for all sorts of things to reach out to patrons and library staff and get their feedback. Everyone uses them--library directors, bookclubs, children's programs, brainstorming resources, you name it. Meebo along with Questionpoint has really put reference librarians right where the students are. When they try it the first time they are overwhelmed with the ease of use. The library in Secondlife is pushing this envelope further with bringing the community to the patron where ever they are.

Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube have been used to good effect for library PR and presence on the web. Wikis have been used as archives and repositories of information that is difficult to find by conventional means. has made library bookmarks of useful sites transportable no matter the computer upgrade and LibraryThing has been used by bookclubs and librarians alike to promote and archive books with a theme.

I've used image generators and wayback machines for student assignments. I've referred patrons to use web based productivity tools as an alternate to software the library didn't have--GoogleDocs, Zoho, Zamzar, and Letterpop to name a few. Since everybody knows me as the gamer librarian for adults, teens think I'm cool enough to ask for help with their Myspace page. If anything, discovering social networking tools have helped me up my credibility with library patrons. And if that happens then they'll come to ask for help about other things--like research papers. ;)

For myself, I wondered if there was a Web 2.0 gizmo that would help something that I've been frustrated over. And I found it--GMeta's recipe card generator. This generator will let you add a recipe to either a 3x5 or 4x6 recipe card--front and back. It will save the file as an adobe document and you can save it either on site or download to your computer. If I print out a recipe from the computer on a regular 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper--I will not use it. So this will certainly keep my recipe box happy.

I see libraries and social networking becoming more and more intermeshed. If the community feels they can communicate directly with the library and have a stake in its development then they will feel more invested in it and feel it is a vital resource.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thing 50: Cookout

This discovery exercise has us looking at It's like a YouTube for cooks. Since it was fall I thought I would take a look for Russian tea or apple cider but they were not posted. So I thought, "How about pumpkins?" So I took a look and sure enough--tons of recipes for pumpkins. Some of the more interesting ones were: Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Hummus, Roasted Winter Vegetables (including pumpkin) and my favorite--Pumpkin Brulee. Mmm. Now I'll be ready for the Great Pumpkin to arrive.

I'll certainly consider it if I come across a stumper recipe or student assignment that needs an international dish. Getting the "how-to" as well as the recipe is great for beginning cooks.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thing 49: Soundbites

This discovery exercise explores Snoundsnap. It has a vast array of sound effects and snippets that are available. Since Halloween is coming up I thought I would search for some scary sounds. Scary Movie eat your heart out! Some of my favorites were: a witch's cackle, creepy organ music, scary background noises, squeeky door, wolf howl, and cat hiss. It was simple enough to download the MP3 to my PC. Sound clips can be used for slideshows, attention grabbers during storytimes, presentations, on a welcome kiosk--or library haunted house? Muh-wah-ha-ha! Where was this when I started my book club quiz show? Well the nice thing is that I know about it now. Thanks Soundsnap!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thing 48: Free Music Downloads

This learning exercise featured C|Net's It is very easy to use for free music downloads. Don't expect to find that "one song" that you've been looking for but you can probably find other songs by the same artist or songs that sound similar on the site for download. It's nice that you don't have to create an account for this service. At the time of this blog post there are 111,052 songs for free download. There are many ways to sort the songs--song name, artist name, average rating, total listens, total listens last week, date added and date updated.

At the bottom of the page is a search box. I limited the search to "Artists" and looked for Tiesto. When you click on the "see all free tracks" link you will see if there are songs available for download or not. If there are it will say "Download Free MP3" in the Playlist. I downloaded a song from Tiesto's Elements of Life CD called "Global Harmony". This is certainly not one of the headliner songs on the CD but it was available for free download! Downloading was simple and it gave you options for what file you wanted to save it in on your PC. If you want to upload to your MP3 player just follow it's directions.

I'll certainly keep in mind for patrons who would like music downloads for their MP3s. But since patrons are using public PCs, downloads are a hit or miss thing. If their portable device requires a software download to interface with the website, they may be out of luck.

One of the commentors to this learning exercise mentioned Red Ferrett. Red Ferret is a directory listing of other free music download sites. It boast's "One Million Free and Legal Music Tracks." The more time you have the more this listing may be useful. As with many free sites, some are better organized than others.

Don't forget the music downloads that are available on the library's downloadable content service called Overdrive. You'll need to download the Overdrive Media Console to your PC at home first but then you can transfer those songs to your MP3 player. Overdrive music downloads are not available inside the library unless you have a wireless device to access the Internet. Otherwise you'll want to download from home.

If you want some creative commons MP3s check out Jamendo and Freesound. They allow you to download anything on their sites. Many budding musicians will post here to get exposure. These are great for programming, slideshows, and background music before presentations.

Many artists will offer podcasts of their music for download. If you go to their website or Myspace page they will mention if that is something they do. The artist that I did a search on for this exersise, Tiesto, has a weekly podcast that I download and listen to. I keep track of it in my Bloglines feed reader.

I have so many hours of music downloaded to my Ipod from my CD collection that I'll be in retirement before I go through the entire rotation. With many smart phones/PDAs having Internet capability, now you can go to sites like Last FM, Pandora, and Seeqpod and have the songs streaming into your headphones without having to download them. I've found that I can get many more major label artists this way since I'm not actually downloading the content. This is more like a radio service but without commercial interruptions.

Seeqpod even lets you arrange a playlist which is great for programming in a pinch. Say you need a song for a storytime activity and all the copies are checked out from your library collection. Go to Seeqpod and search for the songs you need and 95% of the time they are there. Create an account so you can save your list and save it on the website. Then if you have a smartphone/PDA/laptop with Internet capability you can go to the site and play the song list that you created. It's certainly a backup. I wouldn't use it all the time because depending on the latency of your internet connection it may come to a grinding halt in your program. But its a great backup.

These sorts of sites will certainly keep expanding. I'm sure that we'll have an update to this exercise in the future.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thing 47: Rock On with Jam Studio

I easily created an account with Jamstudio. All that was needed was an email account and password. If I was musically inclined I'm sure that I would have played around with it more because there are infinate possiblites. Everything is available for preview so you can get your sound just right. Select your chords, choose your instruments, select your tempo, 4/4 or 3/4 time, and the sounds you want for each of your instruments. It even lets you play your pages in what ever order you choose for a long composition. I just created a very simple A A B A style pop song. Major cords in the A line, Minor cords in the B line. I called it "Trial and Error". You can share your song with others via email, including yourself.
This could be used to introduce students to the basic concepts of music and draw them in. Now they can be their own mix masters and not feel intimidated by the virtuoso composer in music theory class. I could also see the songs being used for what ever project you are working on--slideshows, programming, etc. because you certainly wouldn't have to worry about copyright since they are your own creations. Rock on JamStudio!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thing 46: Updates, Part 2

Unfortunately the links in the Zoho Notebook that was used to explore Part 1 and Part 2 of the updates to the Original 23 Things do not directly work. You have to rest your mouse over the hyperlink and right click and open the link in another tab or window. It took me a bit to figure that out.

Library 2.0 - I think it has went from it's introduction phase to staff to implementation with patrons. We're comforable enough with its resources and terminology now to start thinking of how it can be implemented to facilitate the needs of patrons. From workshops to new communication tools, libraries are reaching patrons where they are to offer services.

Wikis - Wikis are wonderful for collaboration to pool information knowledge quickly as soon as its found out. People as a whole have more knowledge together than a singe person. I've seen wikis created for games and books so that players and readers can have a quick list of references. I have a wiki that is a humble work in progress that will be an archive of PLCMC gaming programming. I have everything stored in ready for linking, I've just got to design a nifty homepage to draw readers attention. *Sigh* So many projects, so little time.

Web Based Apps/Productivity - Zoho and Google are still king of the hill in the web based app world, but it will certainly be useful to let patrons know about other up and comers as options if needed such as Adobe Buzzword and Microsoft Office Live. It is simple phenominal how many web based apps that Zoho has created since 2006. Google Docs and Spreadsheets combined with all the other features that Google offers is another great package.

Web 2.0 Awards - I love Seomoz's Web 2.0 Awards so I was tickled to find The Crunchies - another set of Web 2.0 awards to compare them with. Crunchies is more for innovators in the field as a whole whereas the Seomoz awards have winners for each cateory of Web 2.0.

Video - YouTube and more. I am simply amazed at what is available online now. Now there's Joost, legally offering 20,000 TV shows a day, requires a software download; Myspace videos, and the major networks CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox now offer their shows but include commercials. PBS Videos are availabe via the library's NCLive subscription and some are available on Snagfilms. Snagfilms is a way for documentary creators to distribute their work. You'll see PBS, National Geographic and Indie documentaries that you would see featured at Sundance. If you have Netflix just download the player and view films online.

Podcasts - Most websites will have podcasts available in audio or video format. Just add to your feed reader. I've really enjoyed seeing things that I might otherwise forget to watch or listen to if not for my podcast feeds. This will be a natural extension of library programming with the advent of easy to film and upload devices such as the Flip. What a great outreach tool for patrons that are homebound or homeschooled!

Netlibrary and Overdrive - Our library's downloadable content is changing. NCLive is dropping Netlibrary so unless our library picks up the subscription on their own we will lose some great resources such as the Pimsleur Language Learning series. Overdrive's big claim to fame is that it is compatible with Ipods now but doesn't feature bestsellers yet or have a comprehensive foreign language collection. I do not like the overdrive media console. I liked that on Netlibrary you could at least view the ebook text inside the browser window without having to download or checkout. Now with Overdrive you do. I also used Netlibrary to supplement our print resources for adult learners taking online classes. Their college library is miles away and not everything is accessible through the college library's website. Overdrive's ebook collection is mostly entertainment. I don't see as much nonfiction. I hope this will be remedied by collection development so it will be a useful resource. Otherwise it will not be used.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thing 46: Updates on the Original 23 Things

Blogger - I was fortunate that when I created my account on Blogger in 2006 I was one of the lucky that were selected to use the New Blogger when it was in beta. So I got to learn Blogger in it's new format. I also use Facebook and browse Myspace but have been hesitant to create an account on it. Facebook seems more civilized than Myspace. Myspace makes me feel like I would be exposed more than I would be comfortable with.

Flickr - Flickr Uploadr and Picnik have made Flickr an even more valuable tool. I haven't heard about Flickr Places so this was a welcome find. It uses geotagged photos and gives you a listing of groups and featured photographers that focus on that place. I can't believe all the new Flickr mashups available. Wow! I was intrigued by the All of Ibiza from one Google Map.

Bloglines - I was considering Google reader but when Bloglines updated its features in it's Beta I decided to stay with it. For finding feeds I still like Technorati but I also like Google Blog search. I've come across single topic image generators that I've bookmarked, but none have come close to the archival depth of the Generator Blog, keep up the good work guys!

LibraryThing- I still like to use LibraryThing, but I also add books to my Facebook accout using Visual Bookshelf. I also like to use the LibraryThing widget for my bookclub blog to list what we have read.

Rollyo - Rollyo is still king of the self made federated search of websites you trust. Keep on rolling!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thing 45: Flow Charts and Mind Maps

I chose Gliffy to explore as a web-based flow chart utility and MindMeister as my web-based mind map/brainstorming utility. Setting up accounts on both was simple. Gliffy let you create your flow chart directly after making an account but needed email confirmation before you could make it public. MindMeister needed email confirmation before letting you use the tool but it showed up in my email in no time. Since I am on vacation at this point, I thought I would use it to toss around some ideas for how to spend my time. "What to do on vacation?" is what I called my flowchart diagram and mind map. I know that my flowchart is not technically correct since I did not link anything. But I got my thoughts down to see them.

I liked that MindMeister gave you a video tutorial immediately after logging in. Their help files were very nice too. Gliffy's layout was very intuitive and labeled very well. I had a flow chart of vacation ideas in no time. I would probably use flowcharts for conveying ideas to a group and mind maps for personal brainstorming and exploration. It's nice to have a tool that lets you visualize your ideas and their connections to decisions that you make.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thing 44: Jott this down

I've always wanted my own personal transcriptionist. I remember seeing old movies and TV shows where a person, usually a secretary, would transcribe something for some important "pooh-bah". They would have to know some superhuman shorthand. Now I get to be the special "pooh-bah" with Jott! Jott, would you please take this down? I could get used this. ;)

Setting up an account was very easy. I called in a reminder to myself to check out the Learning 2.1 blog next Monday. The "How To" links on the Learning 2.1 blog post were dead but they were simple enough to find on Jott's site. With the Basic Account, it shows you how to create a Jott Note, Set a Reminder, Post a Jott Link, Listen to a Jott Feed, and Add an Item to a List. There are even downloadable apps for your favorite gadgets like: desktop widgets, iPhone, iGoogle gadget, Outlook and Blackberry. It even gives you tips on improving your transcriptions.

I created some "To Do" lists and sent email to individuals that I had imported from my Plaxo account. However, if I wanted to send a group email I would have to upgrade my account. I'll be Jotting this blog post but I wanted to type it out first so that it would sound coherant and include all that I wanted to say. Jott walks you though how to do it on their how-to page. Also, you can name new lists and organize them in what ever order you like.

It looks like "Jott the Vote" is no longer active. You'll no longer be able to contact the candidates to give them your questions, comments and concerns and have your message posted on Jott the Vote. I guess Obama and McCain have other Web 2.0 gizmos to keep them occupied. I also learned how to Jott to Twitter and sent a little verbal update its way. If you want to hear the Questing Librarian blog via your phone, you can now do that via Jott. Check out the "Listen to the site with Jott Feeds" widget in the right sidebar of this blog under Subscribe. Thanks Jott for helping to write down ideas at the moment of inspiration and store for later use. A very useful tool.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thing 43: Getting Musical with MIDIs

I was amazed at how many songs on the Internet had MIDI versions. I'm not a musician, so I won't be using MIDI sequencers for creating songs anytime soon, but it was good to find out what they can do. I didn't want to download any software for this exercise so I used Jamie's online sequencer suggestion from the Learning 2.1 activities forum. For my song, I decided to try Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" from Ragtime Piano MIDI files by Warren Trachtman. There were plenty MIDIs of this song to choose from!

I saved one to my hard drive and then uploaded it to the Online MIDI Editor. I could choose to play the song in Quick Time, Windows Media, or Real Media. The editor let me transpose up or down 1 octave at a time, double the tempo or half the tempo, delete tracks so that I could hear a single part played. In the case of "Maple Leaf Rag" there are the right and left hand piano parts so you could take one of them out to just hear one side. I can really see how a musician would appreciate this so you could hear how your particular part should be played out of the entire composition. You could also show the midi result as text. You could always revert to the origial file at any time. When you created a new MIDI from your original track, it gives you the option to save the altered file.

As for finding sheet music for the song, I tried to download the suggested MidiNotate Player v.1.1.1 but it was no longer available from the Hitsquad Musician Network - Shareware Music Machine. So I did a search for Maple Leaf Rag sheetmusic and came up with one from Guitar Chords were available at Since the song was first published in 1899 I thought it might be available online.

I can certainly see the usefulness of MIDI files for musicians to help them learn the parts of a song and to fill in parts when not all members of the band are present. Their small size makes for easy downloads. As for myself, I'll probably use them mostly to make my slideshows more interesting.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Thing 42: Following Discussions with Usenet News/Google Groups

I've used usenet newsgroups for quite a while and was delighted when Google took over and maintained the Usenet newsgroup archive from DejaNews. I find that I use usenet for very specific things such as the alliancesecondlife and the LibGaming groups. I also like to see if the books I'm offering as selections in our branch book club are being discussed. It's a place to get ideas for book discussion questions.

I browsed and subscribed to it. I don't know that I will use it often but it is good to see what is being posted. Expecially if something about libraries or librarians comes up in the mainstream press and what people are saying about it.

Overall Usenet/Google Groups works best when there is a group of dedicated users that want a place to discuss topics by invitation only. That way you always know that the messages will be on topic. I suspect that special social networking sites like Ning are also eating away at its user base, but Usenet/Google Groups offers the flexability of having discussions posted to your email in what ever format you choose.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thing 41: Going Native with Live Mocha

The hardest part of this exercise for me was deciding on what language I was going to explore. As a student I studied French, but I wanted an all together different experience. I narrowed it down to Japanese and Mandarin Chinese and had a tough time deciding at that point. There are aspects of both cultures that I enjoy but when it comes to purely speaking the language, the tones of Chinese sound like flowing musical notes to me, circular like a Tai Chi form. Japanese seems stacatto and linear. Like a katana strike. So I decided to step out into the unknown wilderness of Mandarin Chinese.

Creating an account on Live Mocha was simple, pick your language and add a little information about what you are looking for in a language buddy. You can post what country you are from if you like. In less than an hour I had four people send me friend requests to want to be a language buddy. There is no pressure to begin speaking with a buddy. You can start when you are ready.

You can really go at your own pace with Live Mocha. You start with learning the pronunciation and Live Mocha shows you a slide and the Pin yin words to start with. There is space below to write what you think it means. Since many others have taken the beginning part of the course, the answers had already been filled in. I'll be repeating things for a while to get used to the tones. For some sounds there is no English equivalent and I feel like I'm speaking from the back of my throat. You then proceed to reading, listening, magnet (match the words to the corresponding box), writing, and speaking. You get points along the way and are shown your progress at all times to keep you motivated. Overall Live Mocha was a fun experience and not intimidating. Take your time and enjoy the exploration. Before you know it you'll start to feel comfortable with your new language adventures. I'm sure that I'll take Japanese as well just to compare the experiences.

For our library this is a great tool to offer as a referral if our foreign language materials are checked out and the patron can't fit a CPCC or Crossroads Cafe language course into their schedule or book a time at the International House. We just lost our subscription to Rosetta Stone and at the first of year, 2009, we'll lose Netlibrary--which means no more Pimsleur Language Learning digital audiobooks either. Our new digital media provider, Overdrive, has some foreign language materials but not extensive. So Live Mocha will fill many language learning needs and fit any schedule.

Xie_Xie/Arigato Live Mocha!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thing 40: Going Retro

I created an account on Retroland and began exploring its version of the wayback machine called "The Retropedia." Browsable by topic or you can search by keyword, Retroland gives you many avenues for exploration. You can browse by TV, Movies, Toys, Music, Fashion, Arcade Games, Food, Places, and School Daze. I guess what surprised me most was how much junk food was popular in every era! No wonder we keep dentists in business. The other thing that surprised me was that many people enjoyed the same things at school, with field trips topping the list.

Things that I was reminded of that brought back a smile were The Muppet Show, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, The Empire Strikes Back, The Princess Bride, trips to the beach with my grandparents and playing games like canasta, UNO and Monopoly, PB&J sandwiches, popcorn, and Coke Classic-when it was still made with sugar instead of high-frutose corn syrup. I would make my granddad laugh when I repeated the commercial slogan, "Ahh, Now that's the real thing!" We would keep it in the car on the way to the beach because it would keep me from getting motion sickness. I also enjoyed browsing the Book Worm forum and seeing how many entries were posted for favorite comic books and Dr. Seuss.

Retroland certainly made it easy to navigate popular culture by decade. This will be a useful supplement for students who have been assigned a particular decade and need to find out what was popular during that time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thing 39: Animoto Energizes Your Photos

Here is the short video I created with Animoto.

Video Title "Touring Asian Gardens"
Producer Christie BW - The Questing Librarian
Images/duration 11/0:30
Track Tafubar - The Wicked Thoughts of You (MoShang Asian Space Mix)
Artist MoShang & Various Artists*
Video description - US National Arboretum, Asian Collections and Bonsai and Penjing Museum, Washington DC (1/21/01) during ALA Midwinter.

My experience with Animoto was very straight forward. My only delay was that the photos I wanted to use were still on floppy disks! I recently upgraded my computer and forgot that it does not carry a floppy drive, so off to the library with my photos I went to do the digital transfer. I started by uploading about 17 photos and then narrowed them down to the ones I most wanted in the clip. I ended up with 11 photos and found some nice creative commons music available at Jamendo by Tafubar, who had a guest appearance on MoShang's album. I then uploaded the video to my blog, emailed it to myself, added it to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and anything else I could think of.
I can certainly see some practical applications for promoting and showing the results of library events. These short clips could be used as attention grabbers or filler before programs. Overall a very nice tool. Thanks Animoto for making it easy!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thing 38: Comic Generators


After browsing several comic generators for library related strips, I came across two that I enjoyed. The first was Shelf Check #254 by Poseygalore on After just coming down from the summer reading marathon, I can really appreciate it. The second one I enjoyed was from StripGenerator. It's called "Whoa there, We got ourselves a Reader!" Great fun.

Next I signed up on ToonDoo to create a comic of my own. I called it Wonderland after Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I took four photos and uploaded them to Flickr. Then I took the small size and uploaded it to ToonDoo using the ImaginR feature. The images appeared and you could crop just the part of the picture you wanted. You could also resize it. After you name and save, it's saved in your photo gallery for use. What took me the longest was choosing what background I was going to use that wouldn't clash with the photos. After that it was a snap to add the speech balloons. You can choose from several types and you can resize the balloons and even what direction they are oriented by dragging the mouse in the direction you want it to go.

I have had a few patrons with student assignments asking them to create a comic strip. Now I can offer them something that looks really snappy and it's fun to use. I can also use it to create fun publicity for programming. Another item for the Web 2.0 toolbox.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Thing 37: Music Finders

I tried both suggested music finders, Pandora and Last.FM. I used my current favorite artist, Tiesto. Since trance music is not something regularly heard on local radio stations in my area, I've always surfed the net to find out the latest trends. I enjoyed both music finders and they each featured artists that I had not heard of. I liked that they offered extensive bios and artist cross-references. I could not pick one over the other in terms of better choices but would use both to see what is out there on the trance scene.

There were however a couple of negatives: I did not like that you couldn't hear many of the songs in full on Last.FM, many were just snippets. How do you know if you will like it or not if you can only hear 30 seconds? Pandora only loads one song for you to listen to at a time but at least you get to hear the full song. Overall, I'll use both services in addition to other sources I normally check.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thing 36: Online Photo Editors

For this discovery exercise, instead of taking several photos and testing them on one editor, I took one photo and looked at several editors. I posted the results on Flickr, tagged Cinnamon, since that is the subject of the photo.

Original Photo
Here is the original photo. This is our neighbor's cat, Cinnamon. She is too skittish to hang around if I go outside but I got this shot from the kitchen window.

Registration required. For an inexperienced photo editor like myself I found that Picknik offers the right amout of simplicity and level of detail. It also helps that Picnik is already the photo editor partnered with Flickr and, both of which I use to store my photos. Very nice.

Splashup (Formerly Fauxto)Registration required. If I was a Photoshop user I'm sure that I would have taken to Splashup. But there was no tip sheet and some things I just didn't understand how they could be used. So for this novice, the picture probably didn't turn out as good as it could have.

I appreciated that I did not have to create an account with Pixenate. I could just upload my picture and get to work. It was also nice that Pixenate gave you the ability to upload your edited photos directly to Flickr or save to disk. I was able to get the contrast I wanted on Pixenate but not the level of sharpness.

Registration required. Very limited on what it offers for online photo sharing-except for email. It really pushes you to buy things. It didn't even give me a place to save the images I edited back to my PC. I had to right click and copy and save it myself. I was afraid I wasn't even going to get to do that. Like Pixenate, I was able to get the contrast I wanted but not the level of sharpness.
Another nice site that I did not have to register on. I just uploaded my picture and set to editing. It gave me the ability to save back to my PC. gave me the sharpness that I wanted but not the contrast.

Since I do not have a cell phone camera I did not use CellSea.

ImageEditor would not let me upload my original, untouched photo to edit so I did not use it.

No registration required. Wiredness gives you many places you can upload your photos from and back to. You can integrate with Flickr or Picasa, save as a .jpg, .gif, or .png. You can also bookmark the site directly to Delicious, Stumbleupon or Digg. I wasn't able to get the level of sharpness or contrast that I wanted though. Again this may be due to my lack of photo editing experience.

Overall I choose Picknik for its ease of use and intuitive layout and autocorrect features. At almost every level there is an auto-fix feature which made it so straight forward. I recommend Picknik for online photo editing whether you are a novice or an expert. If you are an expert you may appreciate Splashup more.


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