Friday, March 30, 2007

Cool things I think you should try

I went to this librarian symposia a few weeks ago, you may recall. The general theme was about how libraries have to be cool enough to draw in patrons, who have the choice to go to bookstores or stay home with the internet. The speaker pointed out several sites we might be interested in. Now, I'd heard of these things, I used to work at a university, and I live in a sort of technically minded area, but I hadn't really explored them. But if you like books, and if you like sorting things into categories and labelling them (and I really do!) check out the following sites.
  • Library Elf -- Good for library users. If your local library is on the list (and quite a few of them are) you can give them your library card number and your pin, and Library Elf will send you emails when your books are due or when you have something to pick up. You can customize the alerts so they come at a specified time (I get mine 3 days before they are due) to whatever device you like (mine go to my email, but if I were more of a geek I could get them on my phone.) AND, here's the part I really love, if you use multiple libraries (I use about three different library systems) you get all of the info in one spot. You can see a calendar that tells you what's due each day. It's fantastic, and heck, it's FREE! (I want to start pointing patrons to this service at my library, so if you all would help me test it, I'd be obliged.) PLEASE NOTE: be sure to read the FAQ about privacy. You are giving out your library card number and your PIN to use this service. If the thought of that makes you queasy, this probably isn't the service for you.
  • Library Thing -- I've looked at every site like Library Thing that I could find, as part of my quest to put my reading list on my blog. (See right.) After extensive comparisons, I declare Library Thing the winner. So here's what you do. You set up an account (it's free for the first 200 books) and then you enter the books you have in your collection (or the books you're reading, or whatever books you want to play with.) Then you can sort them all sorts of ways, you can tag them however you like "kids," "jenn owns," "books I've been meaning to read," whatever. That's cool in and of itself. But then, you can see who else is reading what you've read, and what else they are reading. You can join chatrooms (I follow "Librarians Who Library Thing" and one called "The Green Dragon" pretty regularly. There are groups for EVERYTHING. Library Thing gives you a zillion stats, a zillion different ways. You can spend a lot of time thinking about things to read on this site. Lots of fun.
  • -- Have you tried this site already? It's not new, but it's new to me, and whoo! is it fun. On one level, it's like putting your "bookmark" list from your web browser on the web, so you can get to it from any computer. (I move between about five different computers in a day, so that alone is cool for me.) Then you can sort them and tag them however you like. Then, this is where you can lose a lot of time, you can see who else has saved the page you've saved, and what else they have tagged. So, say you've saved "Girl Hacker's Random Web Log" (which I have -- you have to say that in your head as though it followed the words "unless the enemy has a-studied his Aggripa - one g, to p's? Jim?) I see that one other enlightened individual has done the same. Then I can see what other interesting things like Girl Hacker "dunc" has tagged. The number of sites I've found this way is staggering.
  • xkcd -- (The next two are not sites that I learned about at the library symposium, I just think they are cool. )Okay there's nothing to do at this site but giggle. Nathan got me on to this one. The tagline is "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." What's not to love. Here's a taste.
  • Picasa -- If you need something to organize your digital photos, you know, for free, check out Picasa. I'm biased, of course, I love a good Google product. This one is intuitive and snazzy. You can make web albums now, so sharing your photos with people like me will be a breeze.

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