I gave up my smartphone contract the other day and I'm only too glad I did. Wait, this is the library blog - what am I doing writing an opinion piece about cellphone carriers here? Library patrons come to me on a weekly, sometimes daily basis with questions about their smartphones. These little devices we carry around in our pockets and purses like so much loose change represent some of the greatest advancements in computing, telecommunications, and miniaturization technologies ever.
The Internet is the largest repository of information ever conceived of. It is not, however, the best organized repository of quality information ever conceived of. For those of us who like to use the Internet as a source of continuing education, finding the quality chunks of information and learning can be daunting. Here are a few of the places I like to visit when I'm in the mood to learn something new.
In the spirit of our Cultivating Community effort for this year, I thought I would share with you some of the computing resources that the library and the community both have to offer. There’s more help available to you than you think!
First off let me start by telling you about the Fredericksburg PC Users Group. Their website is http://fpcug.org/. They can also be found on Facebook and Meetup.com. The FPCUG provides a variety of meetings and speakers for beginners and veterans alike. If you want to learn more about your new PC or are having difficulties with it, there’s a good chance somebody at the FPCUG can help!
I know a lot of us are still getting used to Windows 7, having only recently upgraded or purchased a new computer with it preinstalled. But guess what? Windows “8” is right around the corner, and you can try it for yourself today by visiting http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/consumer-preview. Microsoft has released a free preview version of Windows 8 to the public that, on the whole, will be largely the same as the full release, minus some bugs that will be ironed out between
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.
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.
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.