Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Children and the Internet

Just today I have read two articles concerning the safety of children and the web. While every librarian knows we cannot guarantee that children will not see pornography, violence or fall prey in a chat room, we can offer tools to help parents in providing safer choices for their children.

One very visible way to assist parents is by providing child friendly website links on your library's webpage. If you do not have a webpage, you might create a simple bookmark with child friendly webpage addresses listed.


From the kids.us site:
What is the kids.us domain?
The kids.us domain provides a trusted online forum for children 13 and under. It's the first and only "youth-friendly" Web space to be established by the United States government, and it features advanced technical, policy and operational mechanisms that keep young people informed, entertained and protected online. The "Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act" enables NTIA and NeuStar to collaborate in the operation of the kids.us domain. It establishes basic parameters for content geared toward children under 13.

Others to consider:



Monday, January 30, 2006


Mashups are websites that have built on the foundation of larger, more robust web services. For example, if you wanted to sell books online, you could build a website that would tie into Amazon's immense data through its Application Programming Interface(API). In recent months, these Mashups have grown tremendously and often serve very useful functions. ProgrammableWeb is a directory of Mashups. I recommend you take a moment or two to look around the site. It has some jewels that might be very useful to your patrons.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Playaway Audio Books

Yesterday was the System Assembly Meeting and one of the library directors mentioned she has purchased four Playaway Audio Books for her library.

Playaway books are audio books that come with everything necessary to listen to the audio book, there are no downloads or MP3 players necessary. The Playaway comes with the necessary player, headset and batteries.

My first thought was why spend funds on Playaways when it is already difficult to find enough funds to keep a library's audio CD book collection updated? Also, as many of our patrons become sophisticated using technology, is this really necessary?

Then, a thought popped into my mind. Playaways are another equalizer between the haves and have nots. While MP3 players, ipods, PDAs, cell phones that will access online books, etc., are great for the listening "reader", many do not own these gadgets. I myself find it difficult to keep up with all of this gee whiz gizmos on my budget.

While formats to access books will remain a changing business, libraries need to be creative in seeking current formats on the ever shrinking acquisition's budgets. Playaways might be one of those creative solutions. I guess time will tell as more and more libraries make these available.

For more information concerning Playaways, go to http://www.playawaydigital.com/index_flash.aspx

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Create Office and PDF Documents Online for Free

Office Thinkfree Online is a wonderful website for libraries looking to provide office functionality on their Public Access Computers. In essence, Thinkfree provides three office applications online at no charge: Word, Excel and Powerpoint. You can even save your documents as PDF files, a feature that won't be available in the Microsoft Office Suite until Office 12. All the work is done through a web browser.

Adam Beatty and I signed up for an account to test it out. It is a simple registration process so five minutes later we were using the applications. The service will give you 30 MB of free space to store your documents online, but you can also save to your harddrive, floppy or USB drive. We created a .doc, ppt, pdf and xls files with no issues. We even printed directly to our local printer without doing any special configuration.

The service is provided through java applets that have to be reloaded every time you log into page so if you are limited by bandwidth be forewarned that it might be slow. Otherwise, we found the product to be very good and recommend it to libraries who need an alternative way to provide office functionality to their patrons.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

2006 Children's Awards announced at ALA mid-winter

The 2006 award books have been announced at ALA mid-winter in San Antonio. Many were expected to win, but there are a few surprises. Highlights of the awards:

The 2006 Newbery Medal winner is Criss Cross written by Lynne Rae Perkins, Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

The 2006 Caldecott Medal winner is The Hello, Goodbye Window illustrated by Chris Raschka and written by Norton Juster (Michael di Capua Books, an imprint of Hyperion Books for Children)

John Green has won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award for his extraordinary first novel “Looking for Alaska,” published by Dutton Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

2006 Pura Belpré Award Winners

For narrative:
Viola Canales. The Tequila Worm. (Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Random House).

For illustration:
Raul Colón. Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart. Written by Pat Mora. (Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House).

For a complete listing of all awards and honor books, go to http://news.ala.org/releases/announce.html

Yahoo Answers - Reference by the Masses

I read an interesting review on Yahoo Answers yesterday. For those who do not know, Yahoo Answers gives Yahoo users an opportunity to ask any question which is then answered by other Yahoo users. The Yahoo user asking the question can then select the best answer. However, the other answers are supposed to supplement the best answer so you receive a rich, robust reply to your inquiry. In essence, it is reference by the masses instead of the one where the wisdom of crowds outweigh the wisdom of the one.

At least, that is the theory.....

I tested it out. I posed the following question: Did they have paper airplanes before 1900? I was pleasantly surprised when the Yahoo Answers team emailed me to inform me that my question had been selected as a featured question. It now appears at the top of the main page. I have to say that the majority of the answers to my questions have been ineffective (one was even insulting), but there have been two credible replies.

Is it as effective as a good reference librarian? I think not. For one, I could never verify the answers I received. Only one answer gave me a source to follow and this source was unfamiliar website with no way to prove its credibility. I know with a good reference librarian I would receive the answer along with material to support it.

Yahoo Answers is an interesting social experiment so I recommend you check it out just to get a taste, but I would not close the reference desk quite yet. If this page is any indication, it will be awhile before we have to do this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Welcome to the NTRLS Blog!

Welcome to the North Texas Regional Library System Blog. This blog will be another way for member libraries to discover what is happening in NTRLS. We also hope to make it a vehicle to convey advice on a wide range of subjects. Please check back daily for our latest blog posting.