TELUS Internet & Smartphone Safety at the Library

wise2Internet and cell phone safety is a big concern for most parents. And with kids getting their own devices and being online from an early age, they need to know some smart facts about what they need to do to protect themselves online.

Kim Schreader, from our local TELUS location, will join us on Tuesday, March 14th from 2-3pm for a fun and informative session about Internet and Smartphone safety for kids. They’ll learn about all kinds of things that they probably aren’t aware are causing them to broadcast their locations, what actually stays online even after a post is deleted, and much more.

This is going to be a popular program, and is aimed at kids in Grades 4-6, so call the library today to sign up. 257-2702

Movies are Taking Over.

According to Time Magazine this week, Netflix accounts for more than 37% of downstream Internet traffic. That means more than a third of the entire internet is being taken up by people watching movies and TV through Netflix. Is the Internet changing?

movie nightAt the library, we are finding parallels. A large portion of our circulation is now movies, as well as eBooks and Audiobook downloads. It doesn’t mean that people aren’t reading, or that they aren’t visiting the library, it just means that they’re doing more from home, and using the library as a source of entertainment, as well as information.

This isn’t bad for libraries, so don’t panic. We aren’t becoming movie stores. It’s just a different way people are accessing things they are interested in, and we’re lucky to be able to provide these items to the public free of charge. If anything, it’s making the library more relevant to our patrons instead of less relevant.

So, what will you be downloading this weekend?

 

Know the Code!

codeacademy-dropshadow-6401

We’re taking a fun course designed to help librarians keep up with technology called “23 Mobile Things“. There are 23 great ideas presented through this self-directed course, and we can take it at our own pace. It’s meant to showcase programs and apps that are currently useful in the library setting, such as Twitter, Instagram and Haiku Decks. We’ve been downloading, trying some of the new technology out, and grumbling over a few things we realize we’re not good at. But this week, they’ve stumped me.

If you have any experience in coding or HTML for websites, this is probably an easy course for you. Codecademy is a BRILLIANT site, which is now being used in school settings throughout North America more and more, to help people learn the art of coding. This is probably especially important for the younger generation coming up. They present the basics of many types of computer languages and how to use them, from baby steps on up.  And the fun thing about it is that it “rewards” you with badges at every step of the way.

I started the basic HTML course this week as part of the requirements for our course…..and found myself staring at the keyboard every time I had to type a simple command. All of the <:/!p> stuff just doesn’t sit in my head, or at least, not yet. I’m hoping that will change.  I’m in awe of programmers who can whip together a sheet of code that looks like someone just sat on a keyboard, and actually make beautiful, responsive websites. Good for them! For now, I’ll keep going in order to earn my basics badge, but I don’t expect anyone will be calling me any time soon to re-design their website!

If you’re interested in learning anything about computer languages (and they say you can design a gorgeous site by the end of the final courses), then you might want to give this site a try. It’s free, and you can work at your own pace, and trust me…there is LOTS of help! Give it a try. We’d love to hear what you think of it!

Oh, that Dial-Up!

This past weekend, I was having a discussion with a couple of our high school aged pages.  They were talking about a movie that was released several years back, and how there was questionable content in it. One of the girls mentioned that when she asked her mother about it, her mom made up some “gentle” story to explain it, as she felt her daughter wasn’t quite ready for the full truth at that time (yes, it was about sexuality).

“I could have just Googled it,”  she said. “I don’t know why my Mom didn’t think of that.”

To which the other page replied, “I couldn’t have done that. We only had dial-up internet then!”

The girls both rolled their eyes and commiserated over how awful that old dial-up was.

I turned to them and said,  “When I was your age, if I wanted to know about something, I would have had to come down to the library, get a librarian to help me find a book on it, and then read that book. If there happened to be one.”

*cue the sound of crickets here and blank stares*

Ahhh….before the internet.

Where’s the internet?

I came across an article today about the lack of technology in modern literature, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.  Have you noticed that the new books you read very rarely involve characters who use the internet?  More and more YA novels explore the idea somewhat, but even they just usually have vague references to Googling something or sending texts.

For most of us, the internet and cell phones (along with other electronic gadgets) are part of our everyday lives, so much so that we’d be hard-pressed to do without them. I couldn’t write this blog without the internet, for instance, and yet, we rarely even read about television in books, let alone the internet! Contemporary authors in most genres seem reluctant to portray our lives the way they really are, instead, having characters go about whatever plotline they’ve dreamed up without encountering much technology along the way. It seems that in books, people don’t need computers or cell phones.  So, why do we?

One suggestion Laura Miller raised in her article, was that authors don’t want to “date”  their books.  Without the internet, their books become timeless. Just as we might laugh when watching an old movie that has a very outdated soundtrack or hairstyles, placing the internet in books puts them in a very specific time and place in history. While it might be accurate, it isn’t always necessary.


Recently, I read a book called Feed by M. T. Anderson that came  close to mentioning how we use technology in our lives.  In it, a future society is dependent on some sort of implant that feeds them information constantly, from entertainment, to education to commerce (they buy things through suggestions on similar items they’ve asked about).  When a virus of sorts causes the feed to go down in several of the main characters, they must live without it for a short time. Needless to say, they don’t adapt well.  But it got me thinking about the idea of technology in books (aside from straight up science fiction).

So, it brings me back to the question of why we really need technology in our lives when characters in books get along just fine without it in a thoroughly modern world.  Are our lives so boring that it would take a “plot” to get us to stop using the internet? Do we need more excitement?  Probably.  The other fact might be that we rely on technology to make our lives interesting….like they couldn’t possibly be fun without YouTube or movies or iTunes etc.  Everyday, people lead fascinating lives without many of these things, and they don’t even think twice.  They go to museums or enjoy nature, or….read.

Do you think authors are doing the right thing by trying to remain timeless?


Wireless access helps the homeless

Since we began offering wireless internet access in the library, we’ve seen a HUGE increase in the amount of people who use the library for internet purposes.  Most of them use laptops, although we ave a few regulars who use their blackberries or other hand-held devices to access the internet.  It is a bit of new ground for us here and we’ve had a few rough areas that still need to be worked out ( people wanting to use Skype in the library, people having trouble keeping a connection etc.), but it is a learning experience for all of us.  So far, I don’t think we’ve come across this in our community, but it seems that the homeless are now relying on free internet access to continue leading productive, “normal” lives.

An article on Boing Boing featured a whole homeless community that uses email and the internet to stay connected to the world.  It argues that soon, the internet will be seen as “essential” to our lives, a basic human right, and that all homeless people should have access to that right just as much as anyone else.   Just what do the homeless use the internet for?  Essentially, all the same things everyone else does : social interaction, civic engagement with politicians, job hunting and even entrepreneurial pursuits. Since most homeless people only have access to shelters for brief periods and essentially remain without a solid home address, having an email address is essential to staying in contact with the world.  It costs nothing to have an email address whereas a mailbox can cost money each month so more and more people are using email as a way to stay in touch with their families, government and, essentially, the world.

Many homeless are using the internet to blog about their lives, to shed light on what it is like in this economy for more and more people who suddenly find themselves jobless and unable to afford accommodation.  They are also creating online, having their own essentials, such as a camera to document their lives in order to earn a few dollars through their photography on sites like Flickr and Shutterstock.

We often think of homeless people as not wanting to work, not wanting to help themselves out of a bad situation and often, we think that these people have nothing to offer to society.  These days, our mind frame should shift when thinking about the homeless.  Often, people who were once very vital and contributing members of society are now finding themselves in a horrible situation due to no fault of their own.  They WANT to find a way back to the lives they once lived, and they are doing so through the internet.  Creative people are setting up their own online businesses with skills that they once used, such as website design, photography and even music.  If they can stay connected, they just might find a way out. You can read another article about one such person right here.

If nothing else, the internet is a way for homeless people to access resources that might once have been only given out by social workers, police and shelter administration. One such site is the San Francisco Homeless Resource, but I’m sure each big city has their own such site.  They now have a voice, a way to complain about poor conditions in shelters or find out where they might get a free hot meal.  I’d never really thought of the internet as a way to maintain a lifestyle that seems undesirable to most, but it really is necessary to those who have no other voice or way to get a hold on the world. I’ll think of this type of internet user the next time I plug in our wireless connection at the library.  I really don’t know who might need to use it today.