Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Soapbox Rant

Sorry it has been awhile since I last posted. The holidays and everything. I am also teaching an undergraduate research strategies. It is great fun teaching, but also takes time. But I'll try to do better with my blog.

A question to ponder: What can we do to help public libraries during a difficult economy? Municipal budgets get slashed and library funding is almost always the first to be on chopping block. Conversely, libraries become more valuable during a difficult economy because of the resources available to people who would rather borrow than buy. More people need to use the library as libraries close and staff is cut. From the brief searching I did on the internet, it looks like any federal stimulus money was going to go to libraries to give them faster broadband service. Nearly all of the articles I looked at were nearly a year old. I don't know if any of that money was ever distributed, but if it was, it didn't help libraries or the economy one bit.

Actually, I know the answer. Cut taxes. Cut taxes on businesses, individuals, corporations. Rather than raise taxes to give our money to the federal government who don't know our needs (or what they are doing for that matter), let people keep their money so they can buy stuff. People get jobs when other people buy their stuff. Let businesses reinvest and hire new workers. Workers pay taxes. Tax revenues go up when you have more people paying smaller amounts of taxes rather than a small number paying huge taxes. Those taxes help fund not only libraries, but all the other municipal needs as well.

See, it really isn't that hard. And thus ends of my soapbox rant.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Web Books Publishing

I ran across an interesting site today, Web Books Publishing. According to the website, they specialize in EPUB and WEB books. EPUB books is a format of book can be read on desktops, laptops, the Sony Reader, Stanza (for iPhones) and FBReaders (Google's Android). In other words, the books you want to read from this site can be read on any of the above platforms.

From their site, "Our 'WEB books' are enhanced online books which let you highlight text and add notes. It is a great way for readers to share comments and for authors to get reader's feedback."

If you are dying to be a published author, the site will allow you to convert your book in Microsoft Word into an EPUB book. If you want to try to sell your book, they will publish it for you. Apparently it is free to publish, they take 25% of any sales.

The thing that I find particularly interesting on this site though is the number of classics that it has available. Even if you don't care about ever publishing, it does have over 1200 classic books you can read for free.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I was just re-reading my post about the demise of Grokker. I failed to mention that there is another search engine that clusters its results. It is called It doesn't have the visual maps that Grokker had, but it still can be helpful to have the search results grouped together.

Also, as an update, I think I have at least 2 students signed up to take my research strategies class at Rivendell College Spring semester. I'm so glad there will be at least 2 students who will learn to evaluate sources, develop good research topics/questions and how to find sources in many different formats. I'm looking forward to teaching and I hope my students learn some lifetime skills.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Goodbye Grokker

'Tis a sad day. I just found out is no more. I was hoping that the fact I couldn't get to it was just a server problem, but I found out today it is gone. Ironically, I had to use Google to find out about it. Anyway, sounds like they ran out of money. Too bad. It was a great resource. Hopefully it will come back again someday.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All Praise to the Google!

I will be teaching a research strategies class next semester. I plan on teaching my students all kinds of cool ways to search for sources of information other than using Google. I'm hoping students actually sign up for my class, because the following strip encapsulates student thought on research:

Pearls Before Swine

Yes. This is what I'm up against.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Z" for Zotero

It's that time of year. The leaves are changing color and falling gently to the ground. There is a nip in our Colorado air. We are about half-way through the semester, which means it is time to start that research paper! Its not easy keeping track of all those books, articles and website you find for your papers. Yellow stickie notes flutter around you like those falling leaves. And you don't have access to RefWorks or EndNotes. What do you do?

Thanks to William B. Badke and his book, Research Strategies: Finding your Way Through the Information Fog, I learned about a FREE bibliographic organizer and citation generator called Zotero. It is an extension of Firefox. It allows you to keep track of your sources as you perform your research. If you find a web page that you want remember, it will allow you to link it, and it gives you all of the bibliographic information you need to cite it.

For instance, I have been reading a wonderful book called, Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley. I wanted to put this book in my Zotero library, so I went to Google books and found it. An icon of a book appeared in the box that shows the URL. I simply clicked on that icon, and all of the bibliographic information downloaded into my library. Since I am reading the paper edition of the book, I added to the record the library I borrowed the book from and its call number. It also has the ability for you to add notes, tags and relate documents to each other. If you can't find the book information online, you can always enter it by filling in the fields available for the different kinds of materials: books, journal articles, websites, etc.

You can always access your Zotero library by clicking on the "Zotero" icon that is always present in the lower right hand corner of your Firefox window.

The great thing about that is that I can then choose which citation style I need to use (I use Turabian) and print out a bibliography. It also has add-ons for Microsoft Word and OpenOffice so you can use Zotero to footnote or endnote your paper. And again, it can generate a bibliography for you.

Of course you should always double check the citations that Zotero prints out to make sure they are correct. But it is a great way to get started.

You will need to download the software. I did and I haven't had any problems. There are two versions, 1.0.10 and 2.0b7.4 beta. I decided to download the 1.0.10 since I didn't know if I really needed some of the collaborative things the beta version has. The more I use Zotero, however, I might decide to try the beta version.

The only downside to Zotero is that you have to be online to use it. If you are regularly someplace where you do not have internet access, this won't work. But if you needs something to help you keep track of all those sources, give Zotero a try.

UPDATE: I have been made aware that you can use Zotero offline. You can manage your sources, print bibliographies and add sources to your library manually. You just can't add via the internet. The good thing about that is you can use it to add citations, footnotes, etc. while you are offline. Cool!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bing, Fast Flip and Espresso

I am amazed at the constantly changing landscape of information retrieval and access. In one article today there were 2 different new tools available from search engines. As I was checking them out, I found out about something that affects public domain books. Its hard to keep up.

The two new things I tried out were Bing's visual search and Google's Fast Flip.

Putting aside the "ick factor" of visual searching (do we even need to read anymore?) I thought I would give the visual search a try. It clearly is not to be used for academic research (not that there's anything wrong with that). If you just want fluffy pop culture, there you go. Again, pushing aside my bias, I clicked on "dog breeds." A lovely box came up saying I need to install some Microsoft software to run this program. At this point, I had it and clicked "cancel." I really don't want to download more software I will never use. So, if you want, go ahead and try it and let me know what you think.

Next I tried Google's Fast Flip. At least I didn't have to download any new software. It is in beta, so I don't know if it will be around forever. I kind of like it. It allows you to scan the articles they post from 39 publications. You can browse by publication, topic, most viewed, magazine section (e.g., Health, Travel, World News), etc.

As I scanned the "Recent" section, I ran across an article in the Christian Science Monitor about a partnership between Google and On Demand Books to instantly publish public domain books using the Espresso Book Machine. I've read about these book machines being used in large universities to print out textbooks, but now these books are beginning to find their way into the mainstream.

I find a strange juxtaposition in this. You can access these books for free online through Google Books. You can get most of these books from a bunch of different web sources. We've been told that ebooks are catching on, Kindle is becoming huge and print books will some day be no more. And yet, Google makes a relationship with a company that prints books. I don't know how it will all end up, but I don't think the print book will go down without a fight.