Sunday, December 13, 2009

Evaluating Websites

Was surprised when I opened LibraryThing to find that I was already signed in, particularly as I hadn’t logged in to either Google or Yahoo during that session. Then realised I must have closed LibraryThing without signing out a couple of days ago which meant Library Thing was continuing to track activity on the computer, regardless of who was using it - a situation I will be more aware of in future and one that could have impact at the library where patrons and staff may be signing in to LibraryThing regularly.

Under Help and Frequently Asked Questions (link available at bottom of each page) there is plenty of information about connecting, sharing and linking with others. All this, plus details of their Privacy Policy and Terms of Use, is available before opening an account. The Press Info link under “Who is behind LibraryThing?” gives detailed information about the founder, Tim Spalding, and other staff members. Email addresses are listed under “Contact”, together with their postal address. LibraryThing states it makes book recommendations based on the collective intelligence of the other libraries which gives users a clear understanding that the recommendations have come from other users’ library lists where users tag and rate books.

About LibraryThing advises your account can be made “private” so that no-one else can see what books you have but, if you remain signed in when you close the website, obviously they have the ability to keep tracking activity without your knowledge. Whether they do is not known.

The Book Army was not as free with information about the people operating their website. Staff were listed by first name only under “Who are the Book Army?”. Site Terms and Conditions were clearly set out and it was recommended that their Privacy Policy be reviewed before registering. The Privacy Statement sets out what information they collect, what they do with it and who they share it with. Postal and email addresses are provided.

When suggesting the use of these and other websites to get an idea of what to read next, it should be pointed out to patrons that they have a responsibility to peruse terms and conditions before agreeing to them and that recommendations are made on a collective basis by other users.

My personal choice is It is evident from the title that this is a site where readers can express their own personal opinions and they do … some quite succinctly! It does not make any pretence at being a ‘literary’ site but is simply a forum for telling others whether you loved or hated a book and why. Anyone may access and registration is not required to post a review or comment. There is a link to this site through The Reading Experience tab on our website. I have found some good books here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Author's Perspective

Watched a YouTube video by Alexander McCall Smith about the third book in his series The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Blue Shoes and Happiness. As he talked about specific things he mentions in the book (bush tea, ivory and elephants), short clips were screened from the television series. Apparently, Bush Tea, which was largely unheard of before he mentioned it in his books, is now quite popular! He has a very obvious high regard for Botswana and it was fascinating to hear about and see some of the game reserves, animals and people that have been interwoven into his stories.

I then found an interview with Philippa Gregory promoting her latest book The White Queen. Even though it was a promotional clip, her passion for history was evident by her demeanour and tone of voice. She looked much younger than I had imagined her to be. The short passage she read from the book inspired me to request it but it looks as though I may have a long wait!

Being able to see an author, hear how he speaks and get a feeling for his interest and enthusiasm adds a new dimension to a book. It would be good to demonstrate some of the videos/podcasts available at a Book Chat and show patrons how they can search themselves for interviews with authors.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Readers and Booklovers

Searched Library Thing for books I had recently read and enjoyed and followed the links on their recommended reading so I could check out reviews by other readers. Liked this option and found one or two interesting titles which I will follow up and a sequel to a book I finished recently which I’ve now requested. This was the first time I felt I had got anything useful from Library Thing … hooray!

Tried Revish without success. Book Army gave some interesting recommended reads – only one bore any relation to the book I had first selected. Being able to look at other readers’ comments is very helpful, particularly as many are brief and to the point!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

File Converters

Found uploading a file to Google Docs a very simple exercise. Had done a similar thing by creating an Excel spreadsheet, copying it to Zoho and then sharing it with others, when doing 23 Things. A number of changes occurred when the document emailed to me was uploaded to Google Docs. While the first few lines and graphic remained centred, the margins were obviously wider in Google Docs. This was apparent from the table – it was against the left margin and appeared to be narrower. The lines of the table disappeared but the information remained in columns. The fancy, coloured bullets also changed to plain, black dots and were indented from the left margin. The fonts appeared to remain the same, as did the bold and italics. The default format of Google Docs is very basic.

I then uploaded a document of my own and noticed the formatting changed slightly, but feel that would be a minor inconvenience if it meant being able to access a file stored in a previously incompatible format. Having seen patrons experience this type of problem on a few occasions, it will be very rewarding being able to now help them resolve it.

Specialist Search Engines

Using the search terms ‘orcas AND whale AND NOT island’ turned up 8,000 videos on Blinx and 4,850 on YouTube. I liked the rating system on YouTube and the fact that I could see when it was uploaded, how long it was and how many times it had been viewed. In contrast, Blinx only advised length and when uploaded. It is useful to have all this extra information about searching for video clips, even though I’m not sure how often I will use it … what I really need now is a patron to ask the right question!

Was unable to find Time magazine – could only locate Time books but did search the magazine Better Nutrition for ‘apples’. I was very impressed by being able to select a magazine and read it online. I had a look at an article ‘Sharing Heirlooms with Children’ in Ancestry magazine, Mar-Apr 2004. From a library point of view, this is an excellent way of sourcing articles of specific interest for patrons. It is also a great way to preview a magazine prior to purchase.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Google Web Searches

I just love Google’s Wonder Wheel … it is so simple to use and gives a variety of like subjects to search under … really great for looking at a topic from different angles and building a series of sub-headings for report/project.

I searched using Orcas as a keyword with mixed results. Apparently there is an Orcas Island off the coast of Washington. Businesses and tourist sites on the island featured heavily in every search; however, by refining to ‘orca whale’ (or ‘orca killer whale’), sites relating to orcas (the mammals) became more prevalent. Other than Google, Bing probably gave the best results with good, relevant related search options. Interestingly, all sites returned using Exalead related to commercial ventures – none appeared to be about whales. The first ten or so results from Dogpile and Metacrawler looked to be the same and not as full a list as using Google, Bing or Yahoo separately.

Various other searches using different keywords produced similar results. My first choice after Google would be Bing, closely followed by Yahoo. I like the related searches option in Bing and think the search pad on Yahoo an interesting feature – I’m sure it will be very useful once I figure out how to use it!! I still like Google best … perhaps because I’m more familiar with it … and have already shown a friend’s teenage son how to use Wonder Wheel and Timeline.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Google Alerts

I don’t go to the movies often but when I do I like to go to The Bridgeway in Northcote. As there is no RSS Feed on their website, I set my first Google Alert for ‘Now Playing at the Bridgeway’, which will hopefully send an email whenever the webpage is updated.

Following on from my ProQuest search, I searched Google for ‘orcas “south pacific” pictures’ and received about 21,500 hits. Many of the sites were South American so refined search by replacing ‘south pacific’ with ‘new zealand’. Interestingly the number of hits swelled to 275,000 – obviously there are lots of orcas sighted around New Zealand. Refined further by adding ‘2009’. Have set alert and will wait for results.

Goodness, the orca alerts have started coming in already … might have to refine further or delete if too many are received!

This seems to be a very good service and one which I would recommend to patrons who are interested in reading about particular authors (not just latest book reviews) as it would give alerts about interviews, books signings, etc. For example, Alexander McCall Smith visited New Zealand earlier this year and was interviewed in the press, on television and on radio.

I will certainly keep the alert for the Bridgeway as it will be handy to know when new films are being shown.