Part of my job at the library is helping individuals with computers through our free Training on Demand program. I help patrons learn how to use their computers, how to surf the Web, how to use Microsoft Office, and even help them optimize their computers. In the six years I’ve been doing this, I’ve noticed that there is a lot of misinformation regarding computers floating around. Here are just a few of the misconceptions I’ve encountered:
My computer is running slowly; it must have a virus.
That is a possibility, especially if you’re not running any Internet security software or you haven’t updated it in a long time. If this is the case, you need to fix the situation as soon as possible! However, it is just as likely that you’ve got too many background programs running at once. Computer manufacturers and retailers like to treat new computers as advertising space for software that you don’t need; all that excess is probably clogging up your system.
Senior citizens, their families, and caregivers looking for accurate healthcare information on the Internet will probably tell you it’s a mess. There are a tangle of sites for the various federal, state, and local government healthcare agencies, not to mention sites for hospitals, private care facilities, medical information sites like WebMD, and a quagmire of others floating around out there. Each site has its own navigation scheme and design that will make even the savviest of the web-savvy shake a fist skyward in frustration when trying to figure them out. SeniorNavigator.org seeks to make the information gathering experience for senior citizens easy and anxiety-free. At the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, we want to help you use this tool to find the best information and advice to make your lives easier.
You may have noticed that eBooks and eReaders are catching on with people. With reports of ridiculously large sales numbers around the holidays, such as the one million Kindles sold each week of the 2011 holiday season, one gets the feeling that these gadgets might just have some staying power.
At the Central Rappahannock Regional Library we have been delighted to offer the public free eBooks to check out through services like EBSCOhost and OverDrive.
Overall, the public seems to be equally delighted with the service as our circulation statistics for eBooks continues to climb.
EBooks from the library have a number of advantages:
- No late fees, period!
Now, we have heard from numerous patrons that eBooks they check out will, through one technical hiccup or another, remain on their devices past the check-out period and concerns have been raised that overdue fees will be assessed because of this. Have no fear: if you’ve experienced this difficulty, it does not change the fact that your eBook is indeed available for other patrons to check out, and you will not be fined one cent.
- 24-hour service: our digital offerings are available for you to check out any time, any day, regardless of whether the library is open. You want to read a Sookie Stackhouse book at 2 AM on a Sunday morning? You can do that on OverDrive! Or, maybe you’re working at the last minute on a big paper for school and you need some serious non-fiction to help your research, but the library is closed. Well, head over to EBSCOhost; with book titles as diverse as “Higher Education and Democracy: Essays on Service-learning and Civic Engagement” and “Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War,” I’m pretty sure EBSCOhost has your back when it comes to research.
(Photo of eReaders by The Daring Librarian)
- There are practically no limits on your checkouts.
Now, I do say practically. Technically, OverDrive limits you to seven checkouts at a time, but you can return your books quite easily to free up space in your checkout queue for another title. This can be done through the Amazon.com if you checked the book out on a Kindle, through Adobe Digital Editions if you’re reading it on a Nook or Sony, or through the OverDrive Media Console app if you’re using a tablet computer. And while EBSCOhost does not yet allow books to be returned early, you can have up to fifty titles checked out at once; we hope that will be enough.
I don't want to brag, but our library has some fantastic databases that you need to examine if you haven't already at librarypoint.org/articles_databases. One of the most useful of these databases is the Testing and Education Reference Center, the ultimate resource for standardized test preparation and career advancement. Whether you're a high school student going to college, a college student advancing to graduate school, or preparing for a professional exam in careers such as firefighting, nursing, or law enforcement, chances are you'll find what you need at the Testing and Education Reference Center.
The safety of my collection has been one of my largest concerns as music has made the digital transition. With CDs and vinyl, you may damage or lose one or more albums and unless your entire collection is stolen, it's unlikely that you'll lose access to all of it at once. Digital music is a different matter, however. Unless you've backed up all of your songs to a secondary storage device, one bad electrical storm could separate you from your tunes forever (and remember, backing up means having two copies of each file, not just storing your music on a single portable hard drive by itself). With the push toward cloud (or distributed) computing and storage, new services are cropping up to help us not only back up our music offsite, but which allow us to take our music with us wherever we go.
One service that I've been using for years is mp3tunes.com, to which I pay a monthly subscription fee and in turn receive space online to backup all my music to and the ability to stream it to any computer. New contenders include Google Music (currently in beta testing), iCloud from Apple (coming this fall with their iOS 5 update for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch), and Amazon Cloud Drive, which is available now.
My first thought upon reading the description of Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse was "Terminator rip-off." But I kept thinking, "Robots and the apocalypse, two of my favorite things to read about in fiction." I'm not making that up. And really, anything after Terminator 2 in the franchise doesn't, in my mind, count. I've always wanted a lot more detail about how the robot uprising occurs and how people struggle in the coming war, especially people who are not John Connor. After reading Robopocalypse, I want to assure you that it is as far removed from Terminator lore as anything "robot apocalypse" could possibly be. If you're someone who likes to be frightened and enjoys books where the mundane is made decidedly strange, then you might enjoy Robopocalypse.
Media ownership in the 21st century is a trickier concept than ever before. In light of the growing percentage of our books, music, movies, and software that is purely digital, that is to say, downloaded directly from the Internet, how is ownership defined? When music came on CDs and other physical formats, it was pretty easy to say, “This is my CD. I bought it. I do with it as I please.” Of course, the recording industry would disagree, to the extent that while you might have purchased the medium, you only licensed the media. Now that the medium is largely ephemeral, so too is ownership. Add onto that digital rights management (DRM) that locks down and controls what you do with your “licensed” goods and ownership becomes a ghost of its former self. But do we really care?
A public-service tech announcement to online CRRL patrons: both Microsoft and Mozilla have released updates to their web browsers, which I recommend you install if possible. These can be downloaded from the links below.
- Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/internet-explorer/downloads/ie)
- Mozilla Firefox 4 (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/fx/)
An observation worth noting: I have recently been approached by a growing number of people wanting to build a web site for their business. This would have been a much more daunting process even a few years ago. However the Web has evolved to meet these needs more easily. There now exist many online storefronts through which small businesses can be run. Though I am unable to recommend one service over another, either through direct experience or secondary knowledge, here are a few of the more popular selections that can help anyone get started.
For science fiction aficionados, the premise of WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer initially sounds, well, perhaps a bit contrived (even beyond the normal contrivances of science fiction). But keep reading: the protagonist, Caitlin Dector, is a young blind millennial who has never known a world without the Internet, a world she can navigate with ease through the use of assistive technologies. Caitlin becomes the subject of an experimental procedure to restore sight. However, when her vision is "switched on" she does not see the physical world, but an abstract representation of the World Wide Web. While exploring her strange new ability, she discovers a growing intelligence emerging from within the Web . . . see what I mean? My first thought after hearing this description was, "That sounds like the plot of a bad 90s Outer Limits episode." After cracking the book open however, I found WWW: Wake tells a fascinating story, blending the best of both science fiction and hard science as well as cyberculture, blind culture, information theory, epidemiology, world politics, family dynamics, pedagogical theory, teenage culture, and probably a few other things I'm not thinking of. All of that in one book. And it's really, really good.