or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Salem Press Launches The Library Grants Center

   November 17th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Solving the budget puzzleEarlier this week I received the message below from Salem Press. I don't know what kind of distribution their programs get, but I thought this was worth sharing:

THE LIBRARY GRANTS CENTER
A free, no-registration resource for librarians.

Librarians need help finding help. So we scoured the web in search of grants and awards for libraries. We discovered the options extend far beyond free money from national and state sources.

Hundreds of grants are available to libraries of all types from local foundations, family trusts, small and large corporations, professional organizations, and the publishing community. You owe it to your library to find out more about the financial aid available.

http://salempress.com/Store/grants/grants.htm

Basically it's a listing of available funding sources for libraries, with information on national grants, state grants, and a how-to section for the application process.

Just about any potential funding source is a good one when you're in need, so I thought this might be a very useful site for libraries. Thanks to Salem Press for putting it together.



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New York Times x2

   December 11th, 2008 Brian Herzog

New York Times front page from July 29th, 1974Yesterday must have been National New York Times day - I learned two news ways to access articles from the NYT, completely coincidentally.

The first way was the arrival of a book I ordered for our Reference Collection, The New York Times: The Complete Front Pages: 1851-2008. The oversized book itself is 300+ front pages from significant days since 1851, and it also comes with every front page contained on a set of DVDs.

Of course, the first thing we did was look up our birthdays, and so far no one was born on a significant day. But we found them in the very easy-to-use, PDF-based, DVDs. No special programs need to be installed, everything worked first time, etc.

Which makes me more comfortable having this book in the Reference Collection - people don't need to take it home if the DVDs work flawlessly on our computers, and the PDFs are ready-formatted to print on 8.5"x11" paper. Reading them is easier electronically when you can zoom in, but the book also comes complete with magnifying lens.

The second way was through Google News search. Not that I was surprised, but I had just never noticed before that Google News added "Archives" links to the left side of the search results page. Clicking into the 1800's, the matches were for-pay links into the Washington Post, but also free full-text links into the NYT. I knew the NYT had made their archive available, but having their articles show up in a context search like this is very useful. Plus, when you click through into the story, there is a link for a PDF version of the original newsprint, which I think qualifies as a primary source.

So, a good day for historical research using the New York Times.



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On Open Source

   February 18th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Site Made With Recycled Code logoI meant to post this last week, but better late than never, I guess.

I read on Slashdot that Saturday, Feb. 9th was the 10-year anniversary of open source. The hows and whys of are explained well by Bruce Perens in his State of Open Source Message: A New Decade For Open Source.

But when it comes to open source, I'm more interested in the end result, the applications other people built that I can use; I just take for granted that Open Source is alive and well and will continue to be (I know this is a dangerous assumption, which is why I try to contribute in any meager way I can).

Which brings us to another post I saw last week, this time on iLibrarian, highlighting 50 open source alternatives to propriety software. It's amazing when you look at them all together, but there seems to be an open source option for pretty much any computer-based task. The category list is:

  • Basics
  • Office Suites
  • Office Tools
  • Productivity
  • Graphic Programs
  • Web Editors
  • Publishing
  • Communications
  • Media
  • Utilities
  • Security
  • Financial

Using open source isn't just about using free software; it's about being able to build on and customize software according to how people work, and about sharing with people instead of profiting off them.

Without open source software, you wouldn't be reading my blog right now. As my little icon above says, this is a site made with recycled code. Thank you, open source developers.

update: And to bring this all back around to libraries, Tame The Web just linked to LibLime's Open Sesame blog, devoted to using open source software in libraries.

update 2: This has appeared in a few places, but I thought it fit in with this post, too - Open Minds, Open Books, Open Source describes library using (actually, embracing) open source tools.



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Free Online Historical Newspapers

   January 10th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Access NewspaperARCHIVE logoA few months ago I got an email about a website called Access NewspaperARCHIVE, saying that libraries could signup for free access to historical newspapers, dating back to the 1700s.

Sweet. I'm always looking for good primary source resources, especially online ones (and especially-especially free ones), so I thought I'd check this out. The signup process was a bit odd, having to download and then fax in their signup form [pdf, 418 kb]. I didn't hear anything back from them for months, so one day I just tried their url again (from within the library) and it IP-authenticated me.

So, I took that as us being signed up, and I started playing. The database is neat, as all the newspapers in there are saved as PDF files (see the 7/29/1895 Sandusky Register). And some are older than I could find in our other available resources, so those are two great things in its favor. However, I did see some drawbacks:

  • In-Library use only. And right on the authenticated homepage (the one patrons would see by logging in at the library) is a link to "Sign up for a home account." Which isn't expensive, but it's not free. It's just a little bit underhanded to give libraries a free account and then use that as a vehicle to sell to our patrons. So, I bypass this page and go right to the Browse page
  • No keyword searching. You can only browse by location, date, or newspaper title. Which will be fine for the "what happened on my birthday" questions, or if you were just looking up anything old in your area, but eliminates searching for a topic. And, the browse tool and the results listing are kind of clunky
  • No Massachusetts Newspapers. Which is a pain, since I mainly serve Massachusetts patrons. So, I guess no local historical information for me
  • Front pages only? For the papers I viewed, it wasn't the entire paper but just the front page. That's a pain
  • Not high-quality scans. The newspapers are legible, both on screen and printed, but they are just a little bit too bitmapped. And they are images, rather than text-based, which means no copy/pasting

So, my overall verdict is this: it's an amazing resource for primary source newspapers, and it's free, so it's better than nothing. There are some drawbacks, but I am rarely completely satisfied anyway.

Something else I did like was they had a "Questions? Ask a Librarian" link. This is an email link to whatever email address you supplied on the signup form. Which is good, since my patrons using this will be able to write to me, instead of this company.

Anyway, this is available, so I'm going to give it a try. If anyone has experience with this company or database, please comment below and let us know what you think. Thanks.

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