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.


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