Coding in Libraries

Have you ever found yourself thinking about coding in libraries and wondering,

  • "What role does the public library have in learning and use of computational thinking?"
  • "What resources are available to libraries?"
  • "Are there nearby community organizations and/or schools that are doing similar projects or have resources libraries can use through partnerships?"

If so, take a peek at this post from WI Libraries: "Coding Initiative in Wisconsin Public Libraries - Update."

The official roll out of the Coding Initiative in Wisconsin Public Libraries will begin fall 2016, and will kick off with a screening of the documentary film CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap at 20 public libraries around the state.

The initiative is a DPI-managed project using LSTA funds. You can find out more about it in the blog post and on the webpage where they will be posting updates and information in the next couple of months.

Hands On with Virtual Reality

IMG_20160621_133617865

The Oculus Rift has finally reached the market and I had the luck of getting my hands on a set and showing it to the office. Getting to wear one is truly an amazing experience. Imagine being able to stand toe-to-toe with an alien, face-to-face with a T-Rex, or towering over a miniature cityscape, in each case feeling like you'd be able to just reach out your hand and touch them.

This is what it takes to get one:

  • The Oculus Rift, itself, is $599
  • A computer that's able to support it is $999.99

I understand that that's a pretty steep cost for most people and most libraries, but if you could swing it I bet you'd be able to garner the attention of quite a few teens and young adults.

There are cheaper, less robust, options out there as well; namely Google Cardboard. Google Cardboard is most simply a mount with lenses that can turn most any smartphone into a pair of VR goggles. The base "cardboard" set is only $15, and there's many other more structural options as well for various prices. Phones are not included, however.

There are some libraries already using Google Cardboard in some programming events. Some articles can be found here, here, here, and here.

Very similar to Cardboard, but a little more cleaned up and more expensive, is the Samsung Gear VR. The headset is $99 and requires a Samsung Galaxy S6, S7, or Note 5 to use it.

Pokémon GO: Rising to the Challenge

Aspen Report

IMG_2913As I have been playing Pokémon GO with my family, I have continued to think about how it makes sense for libraries to reach out to patrons playing the game. I think this is because for the past year, we have been talking about the Aspen Institute Report "Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries (AKA Aspen Report)." In discussions lead by Jean Anderson and Shawn Brommer (summary), SCLS member library directors have identified what libraries are already doing with "Library as People, Place, and Platform" and they have generated a list of "Strategies for Success." I encourage you to re-read the reports and lists and identify how you think reaching out to patrons through Pokémon GO might help your library rise to the challenge. Below are some of the things I have been thinking about for libraries this past week in relation to the "Aspen Report" and some resources that might be helpful to you.

Rising to the Challenge

PokéStop 
IMG_2889As I mentioned in my blog post last week, if your library is a PokéStop you have a unique opportunity to be of use to patrons. PokéStops are used by players to collect some of the tools required to play the game. PokéStops are also used to set up lures for 30 minute periods. Lures attract Pokémon and they will attract players. You WILL have people hanging around the library at all hours of the day when they know a lure has been set or to replenish their supplies. Some libraries are placing signs in a window or on their lawn to welcome Pokémon players. Really cool libraries will schedule "Lure Launches" and announce them via social media. Aspen Report: Libraries are seen as trusted and neutral spaces--great for playing Pokémon GO. Welcoming gamers may reach new library patrons and will show that you are paying attention and anticipating needs.

Wi-Fi
IMG_2909While Pokémon does not use a huge amount of data, any time a player can use Wi-Fi they benefit. In some communities, cellular data may not be very good and this makes it difficult for people to play the game. Players may be able to use the library Wi-Fi to catch Pokémon by using Incense and also to do some of the maintenance required with the game. If your library is a Gym, players will be able to battle each other at the library. You can also reach out to rural patrons who may have little, if any, opportunity for playing the game. Aspen Report: Wi-Fi is an element of "Place."

Other needs
PokémonGO is a huge drain on device batteries. Perhaps your library could provide places for players to charge their phones--this could be as simple as a power strip. Libraries also provide air-conditioned spaces and water (important on hot days) and bathrooms. Aspen Report: providing a comfortable space and even bathrooms are elements of "Place."

Multi-generational opportunities
The majority of players are Millenials, but IMG_2887people of all ages are playing the game. I have found this to be true as I wander around searching for Pokémon. The best thing is that strangers talk to each other and learn from each other. I have learned everything I know by talking to other players. Libraries are providing Meetups and other activities which will naturally encourage multi-generational attendance. People will be eager to share tips and experiences with each other. Aspen Report: Encouraging multi-generational activity is an element of "People."

Outreach
I have heard that some libraries in SCLS are using the new mobile hot spots to go on Pokémon hunts! If you don't have one at your library, you can borrow one of the mobile circulation kits which include a hot spot. Aspen Report: Outreach outside the building is one of the "Strategies for Success." 

More help and ideas

Helpful library guide and philosophy on the library role http://galaxybookjockey.tumblr.com/post/147240001718/everything-librarians-need-to-know-about-pokemon

There is a FaceBook page for Pokémon in libraries! It has tons of ideas and includes a survey to share what you are doing https://www.facebook.com/groups/pokelibrary/

Techbits article on Ingress, the foundation for Pokémon GO http://scls.typepad.com/techbits/2014/08/your-library-is-a-portal.html

Spheros are here!

Several Spheros Silently Sitting StillThe YA iPad kit will be getting a new addition in two weeks. We’ve purchased seven Sphero 2.0 robots to join the seven iPads. If you are not familiar with Sphero (like me) they are simply robotic balls. However, the more I learn about them the more it’s clear they are not all that simple. Sphero’s make a nice toy and even better learning device. All the iPads in the YA iPad kit will have the SPRK Lightning Lab app installed to allow block based programming, very similar to the Lego MindStorms kits we offer. I loaded this app on my smart phone and played around with it a bit the other day and found it very intuitive. In only a matter of minutes I had created a program and modified it to complete a task of moving the Sphero in a square around my office and back to its original starting point and change colors at every turn. I know it sounds simple, that’s because it is! If you’re not into the whole programming thing you can also use the app to treat the iPad like a remote control for the Sphero and roam around your library with it, that’s fun too!

Is your library a PokéStop in Pokémon GO?

 

What is Pokémon GO?

Pokemon_GoJust in case you made it through the weekend without hearing about it, Pokémon GO was all the craze. The Wikipedia article provides a pretty good explanation of what it is. If you saw people wandering around pointing their IOS or Android Smartphones at things, there is a good chance they were playing the game.

 

Is your library a PokéStop or does it have a Gym?

PokéStops and Gyms are two of the things that people are looking for when playing as they help progress the game. The game integrates with the phone's GPS and you have to physically walk around so your avatar can locate them, and also Pokemon to capture. PokéStops and Gyms are often located near churches, bus stops, public monuments and LIBRARIES! The foundation for this game is Ingress which you can read about in the Tech Bits post "Your Library Is a Portal." Libraries are already capitalizing on this.

  • It is a topic on reddit Wla
  • Someone at the New York Public Library has blogged about playing the game there
  • Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Facebook post
  • American Libraries post

Some suggestions for libraries are:

  • Find out if your library is a PokéStop or has a Gym (by downloading and playing the game)
  • Post on social media and your web site if your library is a PokéStop or Gym
  • Create a Pokémon book and media display
  • Organize Pokémon GO hunting expeditions (it's more fun to play in groups)

At the South Central Library System office, we don't have a PokéStop, but the Wisconsin Library Association does (image above)!

What's great about it?

WarningNot only is this game a great opportunity to promote your library, but it is an oppoKidsrtunity for socializing and bridging generation gaps. I played the game along with some of my young adult children this weekend. I don't know much about Pokémon but they grew up with it. Still, I had a lot of fun playing with them and having them explain it to me. The best thing is that it gets you outside and walking around. Here is a link to the Pokémon GO YouTube video that illustrates this. But make sure you don't follow the example of my stepson and me this weekend--this is what it looks like in real life.

 

Avatar  Gameboard Game



 

 

 

How to view multiple worksheets from the same workbook

I recently attended a class entitled "Advanced Microsoft Excel Techniques".  In this class I learned a lot of things that Excel can do that I never knew it could.  One of these things is the ability to view multiple worksheets, side-by-side, from the same workbook in the same Excel window.  Here's how you do it:

  1. Open the desired workbook
  2. Click the View tab
  3. Click New Window
  4. Click Arrange All on the View tab
  5. Click Vertical or Horizontal
  6. Check the checkbox in front of "Windows of active workbook
  7. Click OK

Voila!  You now have two worksheets open side-by-side.

Ergo-what now? (recap)

In my last post to TechBits I indicated having little luck in finding good, affordable options for a new ergonomic keyboard. Someone's ears must have been burning, because a few weeks later came updates to this article from The Wirecutter.

In it they review a variety of options, some quite affordable. They also summarize many of the criteria to look for when selecting an ergonomic keyboard and why those options are important for different physical needs you may have. Finally, they link to a number of other keyboard review sites and even to the scientific research behind the ergonomics.

Whether you're looking for a little more information or a lot, this is a good place to start.

 

Report from ALA: Tech in the Streets

AC16Pod-LookBackAt the ALA conference earlier this week, I had the privilege of hearing how two librarians enhance outreach by using new technologies outside the library. The presenters were Erin Berman, a recent Library Journal Mover and Shaker, and her colleague Amelia Vander Heide, both from the San Jose Public Library. The program was called Tech in the Streets. This program was very timely due to the recently deployed SCLS mobile hot spots and the soon-to-be deployed mobile circulation kits. Having live access to the ILS can be very beneficial to mobile outreach projects. Below are my "takeaways" from the presentation.

The presenters provided a common-sense approach to identifying and planning programs using technology that you can do outside of the library.

  • First, ask Why. One of their "whys" was to reach patrons where they are, especially in under-served areas.
  • Second, ask How. They suggest doing a community assessment. What do people want? Then do an internal assessment. Do you have the hardware, staff, time and resources to do the program. Are there grant or sponsorship opportunities? Do you need anything special, like permits to use the location? SCLS provides maker kits and other equipment that could help you meet some of your internal needs.
  • Finally, identify the Where. You can pick more traditional places, like farmer's markets or street fairs. But they point out that un-traditional spaces equal new opportunities (for example a skate park). Fs-cat-ereader._CB325814377_

Their projects have ranged from very simple like taking a tablet to show people e-content or very complex like their new "Makerspaceship" which is a $400,000 plus bus. On the simple side, they described their experience with going to a senior center to show people how to download e-books on various devices. One of the things they had to do was to help people re-set their passwords. SCLS has two e-reader kits that can be reserved for a program like this.

Europe!!1 241A more complex event involved taking GoPros and a mobile maker kit with laptops and movie editing software to a skate park. They provided harnesses for the GoPros. Quite a few kids tried out the GoPros. I thought this was pretty nifty as they reached out to a group of kids who may not otherwise experience library services even if in the end, only a few kids tried the video-editing software. SCLS has a stop motion animation kit that includes video editing software which could assist with a program like this.

I hope that my summary of this awesome presentation inspires you to "take tech to the streets."

 

Litsy

BookRiotLast summer, I told you about book podcasts that I listen to and one of them is All the Books by Bookriot. The podcast is just over a year old and still going strong and I'm still listening to it every week. One of the hosts, Liberty Hardy, has been talking about Litsy for a while and I've resisted checking it out.

Then, I came across this tweet from Bookriot today and clicked on the link to get the coloring sheet (yes, I've joined the adult coloring book phenomenon) and saw a reference to Litsy and decided to check it out. That tweet and post led me to this one: 10 Wonderful People to Follow on Litsy by Liberty and decided to give it a try.

For all the details on how Litsy works, read this post by Brenna - another Bookriot writer. While signing up for an account was easy, I wasn't sure of how Litsy worked exactly or why I'd be interested and this article helped immensely.

LitsyI signed up today and set up my profile and am starting it from where I am right now in my reading life. My next TechBits post will be at the end of July so here's the plan. I'll play around with and use Litsy to capture all the books I read in the next few weeks and report back to you.

If you're already using Litsy, let me know in the comments or find me on Litsy and share your experiences.

P.S. I'll still keep up my LibraryThing account - I've had that account for almost 10 years!

 

 

 

Create a shortcut to a website

I recently helped someone who wasn't very comfortable with computers. One of the things she wanted to do was have an easy way to navigate to her 2 or 3 favorite websites.

As with many things in Windows, there a couple ways to solve this.
(Click on images to view them full-size)

Make a desktop shortcut DesktopShortcut

  1. Open your browser and navigate to the desired website
  2. Resize your browser window so it isn't full screen (you need to be able to see a portion of your desktop)
  3. Click and drag the icon next to the URL in the address bar to your desktop

The next time you want to visit the website, you'll just need to double-click on your desktop shortcut!

Create a bookmark Bookmark

  1. Open your browser and navigate to the desired website
  2. Press Ctrl-D to bookmark the page  (did you know this keyboard shortcut?  It works in Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer!)
  3. Edit the information about the bookmark as needed and save it to your desired bookmarks folder

The next time you want to visit the website, you'll just need to select it from your list of bookmarks. 

I use some of each -- bookmarks for things I'll come back to again and again, and desktop shortcuts for interesting articles I want to read later but really only need once (then it's easy to delete the shortcut). For the person I was helping, desktop shortcuts proved to be the perfect solution for her small list of favorite sites.

What's your favorite way to navigate to your favorite sites?