Grow with Google

Are you (or your library's patrons) thinking about making New Year's Resolutions to take training or learn new skills?

GrowWithGoogle
Grow with Google

Google has a "Grow with Google" program with free training, tools, and events to help people grow their skills, career or business. Google and the American Library Association are also launching the Libraries Ready to Code website, an online resource for libraries to teach coding and computational thinking to youth.

You can read about these and other ALA activities on this ALA District Dispatch blog: "Grow with Google is coming to a library near you."

If you're interested in more details about some of the many Google initiatives associated with Grow with Google, take a look at this Google blog post: "Opportunity for everyone."

Looks like there are some good free learning opportunities for 2019!

Tip: How to add background color to an image

Screen shot of database icons showing LINKcat, OverDrive, and Tutor.com with white backgrounds, but no white background on Ancestry.comA library director and I agreed the Ancestry.com logo would look better in a group of database links (pictured at right) if the background colors matched... but the Ancestry.com image didn't come with a white background. How can we add background color to an image that has none?

The Ancestry.com image in this example is in .png format, which can have transparent areas that allow the color of a web page to peek through (light gray, in the screen shot). To make the Ancestry.com image "match" the others, the transparent areas need to be filled in white.

For images that only need a white background, the trick is to open and re-save them in Microsoft Paint. Paint auto-fills transparent pixels with white when it saves an image.

Screen shot of saving ancestry-library.png to add a white background

For a different background color, Paint has a "Fill with color" (bucket) tool. In this image, a different color reveals some shadowed areas that look jagged, and it would take some effort to paint or fill in the jagged edges. More fully-featured graphic programs like Photoshop Elements, GIMP, or Paint.net provide layers and a "magic wand" tool to make that kind of cleanup easier.

Screen shot of jagged edges around the Ancestry.com image when a dark background is added.

Good thing we just wanted it to have a white background! Screen shot of the database icons all using matching white backgrounds

New and Innovative Library: Helsinki Central Library Oodi

I was recently perusing social media and came across an article that spoke about a new library that was opening in the capital of Finland, Helsinki. What really grabbed my attention was that the Central Library Oodi project cost about 98 million euros to complete. I thought to myself, “Okay, I have to see what they are doing in this library!” I then began to read the article and I was not disappointed.

Oodi is broken down into three distinct floors each with their own intention. The third floor serves as the classic library. The library boasts 100,000 books in their collection and have reading areas called “oases”. The second floor is all about creativity. They have many rooms here that include art studios, media rooms, music rooms, makerspace areas, sewing machines, etc. The first floor is more of an interactive or public space and has a restaurant, a café, and even a theatre.

Oodi also has another room that I thought was neat. They label the room simply the “Cube”. It is a room with smart walls, which sound like they are very large touch screen displays that line the entire space, with the intention of creating a sort of virtual reality experience. The article notes that artists are already planning to use the Cube for ultra-immersive art exhibits.

The final interesting tidbit I would like to share is Oodi’s approach to book logistics. The article mentions that when patrons return their books, the system will scan it, and then a self-guided vehicle transports the book back to the library and onto the correct bookcase and then a librarian will properly reshelf. It sounds like a very cool idea but the article does not go into this aspect much.

If anything about the Oodi library interests you, you should check out some pictures as the architecture is also impressive.

You can find the article that I read here

Browse and search historic newspapers via the Library of Congress

Wood County Reporter, December 23, 1920Recently I heard about a resource for historic newspapers, called Chronicling America. Chronicling America is part of a Library of Congress/National Endowment for the Humanities program to digitize historic newspapers, called the National Digital Newspaper Program. Newspapers dating from 1789-1963 have been digitized and made available at the Chronicling America web site.

The program has been around for quite some time and there are 14 million+ pages (from 2,600+ newspapers) that are available on the web site, from most of the states, including Wisconsin (via the Wisconsin Historical Society). In addition to searching and viewing digitized pages, you can search the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information on American newspapers from 1690 to the present. 

One interesting aspect of the Chronicling America web site is the slide show featuring newspaper pages from 100 years ago today. While most of the newspapers are English language, there are newspapers in Polish, Romanian, German, Lithuanian, as well as other languages.

If you are interested in historic newspapers, Chronicling America is an interesting resource. Also, don't forget we have access to the Archive of Wisconsin Newspapers, which not only provides access to digitized Wisconsin newspapers from the 19th and early 20th centuries, but is also a searchable database of Wisconsin newspapers from 2005 to 90 days ago.

Consumer Reports Buying Guide - via Badgerlink

With the holiday season upon us, I was not thrilled when I had to change my focus from buying tech toys to researching washing machines. My very old washing machine died right before Thanksgiving. The dryer has also been making gremlin noises for months, so replacing them both made the most sense. 

I wanted to make a decision quickly to take advantage of Black Friday sales (and get back to baking cookies), but I also wanted a good value product that meets our family’s needs. After spending way too much time reading online – often biased - reviews, I turned to the Consumer Report Buying Guide which is freely available to all Wisconsin residents via Badgerlink databases. 

Here is the search technique I used to access it:

1. Go to https://badgerlink.dpi.wi.gov and select All Resources. If needed, LoginThe site looks at your internet connection to see if you are in Wisconsin, but you can always login with your library card if it doesn’t recognize you.

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2. Select Academic Search Premier. Consumer Reports Buying Guide is indexed in Academic Search Premier, but is also indexed in other Badgerlink databases including MasterFILE complete.  I picked Academic Search Premier only because it is listed first.

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3. Select Publications. This shows you all the publications included in this database along with what years are included.

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4. Enter “consumer reports buying guide” in the browsing publications section, select browse, and click on the title

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5. Select 2019 to limit to the most current buying guide.

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6. Scroll down or add a product name to the search terms.  In my case, I added AND wash* so that it looked for washer or washing. I took note, however, to look at the Fitness Trackers buying guide before I go shopping for my Dad's gift.

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7. Select the PDF's of interest. The quick guide ranks models by overall performance, includes test results for key features, and recommends models.  

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I used this information to find deals for some of the highly rated washers & dryers and ordered online to avoid the Black Friday fury. 

Some libraries have paid subscriptions to the Consumer Reports database, which has similar information.  I still like the compact and easy to print Consumer Reports Buying Guide, and you can’t beat the price – free from Badgerlink.

Happy Shopping!

Instagram Shopping Collection Feature…just in time for the holidays!

Instagram-icon
You’ve probably noticed a lot more advertisements appearing on your Instagram feed as the holiday season is rapidly approaching.  In November, Instagram released some new features for users to interact with these posts.  The most notable of these features is the ability to “save” products to a personal “Shopping Collection.”

When users click on a product tag in stories or on their feed, they will now see an option to save the product to a separate list.  Users can now create a wishlist on Instagram that takes them right to a product when they are ready to purchase it. 

You can add an item to your Shopping Collection by clicking on the icon:

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You can access your Shopping Collection by going to your profile and selecting it from the Saved Collections on your profile.

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Unfortunately, there is currently no way to share your Shopping Collection with another IG User or export the information.  After doing some research, it seems users are asking for this ability already.  Hopefully, IG will work on making this feature even better!   

Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!

Who's listening? Who has access?

IoTThe shopping season is underway! The ACLU's article "The Privacy Threat From Always-On Microphones Like the Amazon Echo" about the privacy implications of “always-on” recording devices came across my path yesterday, and it got me thinking and looking for a good video or two that would highlight some of the current concerns about "smart," internet-connected devices. I found these two, which I think are definitely worth a view.

(9 min) "What your smart devices know (and share) about you"Once your smart devices can talk to you, who else are they talking to? Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu wanted to find out -- so they outfitted Hill's apartment with 18 different internet-connected devices and built a special router to track how often they contacted their servers and see what they were reporting back. The results were surprising -- and more than a little bit creepy. Learn more about what the data from your smart devices reveals about your sleep schedule, TV binges and even your tooth-brushing habits -- and how tech companies could use it to target and profile you. (This talk contains mature language.)

(17 min) "Internet of Things Security"Ken Munro shows us how insecure Internet of Things products are and how easy it is to hack them. The big question is: how can we use these products in a safe way?

The takeaway for me from the videos was not that IoT devices = BAD, but that users of these devices should be aware of the privacy and security implications. If you are considering purchasing devices that connect to the internet (and there are a lot of them these days!), make sure you know what you're getting into and weigh the potential loss of privacy (and security risks) with the benefit these devices will bring to your home.

And if you opt for smart devices, here are some of the security recommendations from the second video:

  • use long, STRONG passwords
  • use PINs that are longer than 4 digits on smart phones 
  • apply patches and updates to your devices
  • don't buy products for which you're not sure about the privacy or security

I'm still looking for some good articles about IoT devices and their uses in libraries. So far I've found a couple that talk about the potential (people counting, program attendance, etc), but none that really weigh in on what patron privacy concerns there may be. (If you have any recommendations, please let me know!)

What internet-connected smart devices have you added to your home? Your library? What do you love or hate about them?

Handling PDFs on Public Computers

The Help Desk has been asked a few times about opening PDF files on public computers.  If you click on a PDF file while browsing, the PDF will open within the browser by default.  If you want to open the PDF with Acrobat Reader and have a few extra features, follow these instructions.

Chrome

  1. After the PDF displays within the browser, click the Download button at upper-right
    Chrome - Download

  2. Save to (My) Documents or your USB flash drive if you have one
  3. At the bottom left of the Chrome Browser, click the up arrow next to the file you just downloaded
    Chrome - Downloaded
  4. Click Always Open in Adobe Reader

Internet Explorer

  1. After the PDF loads within the browser, click the Save button at the upper-left
    IE - Save

  2. Save to (My) Documents or your USB flash drive if you have one
  3. Minimize the browser
  4. From the Desktop, open the (My) Documents folder or Computer >>> then double-click your flash drive
  5. Double-click the PDF file you downloaded
  6. It should Open in Acrobat Reader

A Grammarly Update

GrammarlyLast year I posted an article about using Grammarly with your internet browser and Windows. Will liked it so much he wrote about it too! So far, I’ve been pretty happy with the free version and have no plans of upgrading to the premium package. However, right about the one year mark from installing Grammarly it stopped working and gave me a message that it needed to be updated. I still don’t know what caused the error, could it be my browser was updated and wasn’t compatible with Grammarly anymore or was it a timeout feature on Grammarly’s part? Anyway, I followed the instructions to update Grammarly in my web browser of choice and it still wouldn’t work, I kept getting the same message. After some trial and error, I discovered I needed to completely uninstall Grammarly from my browser add-ons and re-install it in order for it to start working again. You could also upgrade to the premium version since we wrote about it last year they have added a plagiarism detection feature, which sounds cool, right Will?

 

According to the free Grammarly, this article is near perfect, only two mistakes that need to be corrected. I'll consider this a win.



Screen Time

As part of the newest IOS update for my iPhone, Apple has included a new feature called 'Screen Time'.  This feature allows you to track how much you use your phone, pick it up, and how many notifications you receive.  This is a great, and also scary, way to see how much you are actually on your phone.

The feature even breaks it down so you can see exactly how much time and when you spend it on certain apps throughout the day.  If this data scares you afterwords, they have some cool IMG_E4120 IMG_E4120settings to help.  You can pick and choose a schedule to use your phone or time limits for certain apps per day.

The pick ups data is interesting because you don't realize how much you check your phone throughout the day.  The same goes for notifications.  You can check out my weekly stats in the pictures provided.

This feature was also rolled out to iPads, so if you don't have an iPhone you can still use this with those too.  Check it out sometime, the results will shock you.