Friday Favourites Post

What are some of the blogs/websites we use on a regular basis at the library? Here are just a few #fridayfaves:

Goodreads 

Goodreads is a great site for a lot of different reasons. You can start an account, set up a reading list of the things you’re already reading, make a TBR list, and then rate and review each of the books once you’re done. It’s a fun way of keeping track of all of the books you read in a year, but it’s also a great place to find new books. Pick a genre, pick an author, and you’ll be off on a rabbit hole of book selections. Once a year, readers get to vote on their favourite books. It’s a big deal!

Fantastic Fiction

This site doesn’t have the best look to it (it’s got a real 90’s feel), but if you can see past the navy blue against black, it’s got amazing content for readers. If you need to know every book in a series, including some written as novellas or eBooks, this is the place to look. The search area is simple, and you can print out a list of books and take it with you to the library the next time you’re looking for a book in your favourite series.

Canva

We use Canva for everything! This is a great design tool for anyone, even if you only need to make a poster for a bake sale or an invitation for a birthday party. It has free, beautiful templates, or you can start from scratch and make your own. If you do any kind of social media, this is also a wonderful site to make special content for it. You can pay for more specialized items on the site, but we use it for free to do all sorts of things at the library, and rarely run into the problem of needing a paid item.

Better World Books

We use Better World Books for a very important service. When we weed our collection, instead of throwing all of those books out, we send (most of) them to Better World Books!  They arrange for shipping, having someone pick up the boxes of books, and then process them to sell from their end, or send to libraries in needy countries. It’s a win-win situation. Plus…we get a little bit of money for each book they sell! But you don’t have to be a library to use the site. You can browse their selections and purchase your own books, often at a greatly reduced price. It’s worth taking a look.

 

Do you have any sites that you love to use?

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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!

Where are the ads?

Have you noticed? There really aren’t advertisements for books anymore. Maybe you’ll see an add for an upcoming book in the back of the odd woman’s magazine or in a featured article in the newspaper, but other than that, we rarely see book ads. And yet, they used to be quite common, with detailed information about the books as well as quotes from reviewers.  Very similar to new movies, in fact.  So why don’t we see them anymore and how do we hear about new books?

New York Times book critic Dwight Garner put together a compilation of  advertisements in his book Read Me : A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements.

The ads are fun to look at, sometimes lengthy, and often don’t make the book look as appealing as it should, but they certainly got people reading.  You can see a few of the ads at the Brain Pickings website right here

So where are book ads now? Do magazines and newspapers just not have the space to carry them anymore?  Or is the web a better source of advertisement for authors? With so many authors establishing their own websites, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages etc., it’s easy for people to find out about new books coming out. Similarly, for anyone who likes to read, there are plenty of websites out there that cater to whatever genre you might read. Maybe there’s no need for expensive advertising anymore.

That brings me to another reason.  Gone are the days publishing companies spent big bucks to help promote an author’s book. They just don’t have the funds anymore to carry that out.  If you read any up and coming author’s websites, you’ll hear the same story–that they’re stuck doing a lot of the promotion themselves, and sometimes at a significant cost to themselves.  If the book happens to get a bit of good press for a hot topic, for example, it might come easier.  But for most authors, there is limited funding available from the publishing house for advertisement. That’s why authors are encouraged to get out there and promote, promote, promote, to establish a following BEFORE a book is published and to really have a good online presence throughout the whole process. Difficult, but possible these days.

If there were more ads for books, either in mags, newspapers or online, would you find yourself reading more?  I’m not so sure.  It’s not that books have become passe, it’s just that the method of exposure has changed.

How do YOU find out about new books?

 

Don’t fear the internet

I love blogging.  It’s a challenge to come up with interesting things to write each day, and I enjoy keeping everyone up to date with what’s going on at the library. I’ve been blogging for the library now for almost four years, and while I didn’t know what I was going to post about when I first got started, I think it has all evolved into a kind of library/book/world mash-up. I may not be the best to keep up with Twitter or Facebook (although I’m challenging myself to do that this summer), I will continue to blog for the foreseeable future.  In fact, we’re coming up to our 1000 post soon, and I’m pretty surprised by that number. Who knew?

I don’t have a personal blog even though I’ve tried on occasion several times, but one thing I’ve been noticing more of lately is that more and more people (and businesses) are using blogs in place of websites.  They do everything from promote their creative endeavors (photography, writing, artwork etc.) to selling products online….all without having to spend a great deal of time and money designing a website, or paying someone to do it for them.  The problem with having someone else design a website is that you’ll need to keep them in the loop if you need to make changes or updates and it can become a hassle.  Will it get done? How much extra will it cost? Using a blog as a website eliminates all of those hassles AND you can now even have your own domain name so that it looks and feels just like a regular website. (Yes, you will pay a bit for that, but it’s much easier overall.)

And now…there’s help for those of us who don’t know a thing about designing websites or HTML or CSS code (what???).  The great people at Don’t Fear the Internet have put together several videos that go step by step through creating your own website, even if you have no programming skills. I went through the first one and thought it seemed reasonable (although a word to the wise…. this is NOT FOR CHILDREN.  Some explicit language! Why?  I have no idea, since everything seems so professional, otherwise.) I might even give it a try when I have time to sit and work on it. Each video goes through a different aspect and allows you to create from scratch, or finally, dissect a WordPress blog (which is what the library uses), and create a site through one of its templates.

So, if you’ve ever been curious as to how websites are designed and you’d like to give it a try, drop by the site to see what they have to offer. And get creative!

It’s Friday!

Yes, it’s Friday once again and today, the Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver! (I was only mildly offended by a blogger who posted on this blog that our display version of one of the Olympic mascots was very orange.  Maybe we meant to make him that way! Huh!)

So for my Frivolous Friday post, a brand new  idea is starting to bring the world into your living room (or your bedroom, or office…or wherever you keep your computer). ChatRoulette claims to link people in a new way….through your webcam.  Of course, this isn’t new, but the fact that this is promoted as a game, it has a new feel   Just log onto the site and if you have a webcam, you’ll be automatically connected once you hit “play”.  Then, it will randomly connect you to another person anywhere in the world who is logged onto the site. It started out with only 300 users in November, but by the beginning of this month, had grown to 10 000 users.  It seems people can’t stay away!

Now, the downside to this site is that it is not for the faint of heart (there are no rules as to what you might see someone doing on the other end), and that if you aren’t supremely confident, the fact that people might constantly click “next” once they see you on the other end could be a devastating blow to the ego.  You can read more about one person’s experience here.

But, it might be a fun experiment, if you have the nerve.  And you never know who you might meet.  There have been some interesting connections that have occurred as a result of Chat Roulette.  Maybe you’ll find someone with a common interest in your beanie baby collection, or talk to someone who knew your long-lost great aunt.  You never know.  And don’t be shocked if you see your own face staring back at you.  It’s been known to happen.  But of course, you can just click next……..

So, will this be a part of your Friday night?

Let’s talk about author websites

This morning, I was updating the blog with recent award winners in the children’s and young adult categories and what I came across surprised me.  These days, everyone has a website, or so it seems, but the more popular the writer, the more elaborate the website.  We often have people come into the library and ask about books in a series, and the best way to see what’s next or what they might have missed is to check out an author’s website.  And our patrons are often surprised at how much you can learn about the books and the author themselves, just by typing someone’s name into Google.

L.K. Madigan, Flash Burnout

So today, when I started the award list, I decided to provide links to each of the authors websites and found something interesting.  Out of the six books that I listed, five of the authors had websites which were interesting, fun to look at and easy to maneuver. The fifth author didn’t even have a website (because it was a non-fiction book?), which in my opinion, really leaves her out in the cold.  People want to know about their favourite authors.  They want to connect with them, and websites are a great way to do so.  Plus, many of these authors not only provide information about themselves and their books, they often have great links to other sites and many times, they provide useful information to new authors who might not know how to sell that fabulous book they’ve just written.

Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me

These are just examples of great sites that I visited this morning, but you might want to try your hand at any of your favourite authors.  Just type the name into Google and look for a link near the top of the list that includes the author’s name.  That’s often the one written by the author themselves.  And sometimes, even though they have a website, they might also have a blog, where you can read updates almost daily into their lives.  Try it!  You might learn something great!

Libba Bray, Going Bovine

Doing stuff

I came across an interesting thought at a website by David Lee King recently about “doing things on your website”.  We have been thinking about getting our own website for the Carleton Place Public Library recently and this article brought into focus a few important questions for me.  First of all, why have a website for our library?  We have an online catalog where patrons can search for books in our library, place holds, see what they already have out and renew their books online.  The catalog is growing with new options all the time.  We recently added a link to Google Books for each book.  Now, patrons have access to a bit more information regarding the book they are looking at.  And we are seriously considering the option of allowing patrons to be able to do book reviews and rate the books they have read.  A lot of options just from the catalog, I think.

Secondly, we have a library blog (with a few branches coming off of it for kids and for our local history, soon).  Calendars, photos of events, updates for programs, book lists, book reviews and great search engine ideas are all a part of this blog, as well as daily informative articles on the world of books, libraries, language and anything related to our interests.  Our blog is a way for us to connect with our patrons on a different level and allow them to communicate with us as well, along with encouraging interest from readers wherever they might live.

King’s post was interesting in that it asks what your library website  actually does.  Can you do all of the things on your website that you could physically do in your library building?  If not, what’s missing? He cites the idea of online businesses as compared to their physical sites and which experience is better (for example, visiting Chapters online vs. actually going to the store).  He goes on to ask the question regarding your usage of the library and how your experience online could be better.  Can you communicate with your librarians through instant messaging?  Can you read a book online?  Can you take notes and do research from home through your library website alone?  For most of these questions right now, our answers would be “no”.  But these are good questions to consider when designing a website.  You have to think about much more than just providing more of the information that you already have on another site in a new format.  You need to actually have a PURPOSE for your website and I think we’d do well to consider why we want a website before creating one.  Do we even want to be able to answer instant messages or allow patrons to reserve internet time online?  We’d do well to answer these questions honestly first and go from there.

So what do you want from a library website?