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Thursday, January 22, 2015

El Yunque

Sometimes referred to as the Caribbean National Forest, the El Yunque National Rainforest, or simply El Yunque, this lush expanse is the only tropical forest in the U.S. National Forest System. It features 28,000 acres of lush, tropical vegetation and it is the rainiest of all the National Forests, raining on average of four times a day. Annually, the park can receive more than 200 inches of rainfall per year, especially at the highest elevations of the Luquillo Mountains. Dominating the landscape here, these beautiful peaks soar above the forest canopy to more than 3,500 feet above sea level.


The Caribbean National Forest, or El Yunque, was set aside as a reserve by the Spanish in 1876 making it one of the oldest protected forests in the northern hemisphere. The forest became part of the USDA system in 1903, and it remains the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. The forest reserve contains more than 23 miles of well-maintained trails.


The rainforest features over 225 tree species, innumerable fern, epiphyte, and vine species, at least 16 amphibian species, 20 known reptile species, 11 native mammal species, 5 introduced (exotic) mammal species, and a combination of approximately 80 endemic, native, winter and summer migrant avian species.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Puerto Rico

With endless sand, swashbuckling history and wildly diverse tropical terrain, locals call this sun-washed medley of Spanish and American influences the 'Island of Enchantment.' To us people of the contiguous United States, we call it the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The island of Puerto Rico is 108 miles long and 40 miles wide. The islands of Puerto Rico also include the sub-continental lands of Vieques, Culebra and Mona.
On May 12, 1898 a squadron of 12 U.S. ships bombarded the island of San Juan. Thereafter, 16,000 American troops came ashore and met with Spanish resistance. The Treaty of Paris (Dec. 10, 1898), which ended the Spanish-American War and Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States. It wasn't until 1917 the Jones Act stipulated that Puerto Rico was a U.S. territory whose inhabitants were entitled to U.S. citizenship.

Bronze sculpture of the Plazuela de La Rogativa

 The English also tried to take control of Puerto Rico. In April 30, 1797 the townswomen formed a religious procession (Rogativa) to march through the streets with their Bishop, praying for the deliverance of the city. Outside the walls the British invaders mistook the torchlight movement (the torches appeared to be swords in the shadows) for the arrival of Spanish troops to defend the city, and in the morning the British army had fled the Bay.



When visiting Puerto Rico, one can't miss visiting El Morro. San Juan was the pit stop for military ships coming from Spain to the Americas. Because San Juan was such a rich port, it was subject to foreign attacks, which led to the building of Fort San Felipe del Morro, or El Morro. Construction of this masterpiece of military spender started in 1540 and it took 250 years to take its present form of six levels, reaching a height of 140 feet and equipped walls up to 20 feet thick.

 






Sentry Box









Old San Juan is located in the east end of Puerto Rico and is united to the mainland of Puerto Rico by three bridges. This is the oldest settlement in Puerto Rico and the historic colonial section of San Juan. It is estimated that there are at least 400 structures of historic value in Old San Juan, including some of the finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture in the New World. Old San Juan was Spain's major center of commerce and military power in the West Indies for nearly four centuries. Narrow winding cobblestone streets and the pastel-colored, tile-roofed buildings with ornate balconies and heavy wooden doors that open onto inner courtyards in the style of Andalusia in southern Spain. 


Spain ordered that the city be protected by sandstone walls and massive fortresses, since the island was the first port of call for galleons entering the West Indies and the last safe harbor for ships, laden with treasures, making the return trip to Cadíz or Seville.
 



Thursday, January 1, 2015

Newspapers

I searched the Minnesota Newspapers database for "Pohlad" and "Polaroid" and saw that an article was listed in the Star Tribune (December 27, 2014), covering  the purchase of  Polaroid for $70M. It appears from the search that Star Tribune was the only newspaper to cover this story. I see that it is better to search the Minnesota Newspapers database as a starting place, because if I searched Saint Paul Pioneer Press first, I would have found nothing.

I searched Halloween of this year in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press and found an article that mentioned that chocolate prices would be higher this season. I was somewhat surprised that when pulling up the article that no photos were included. Printing was easy, which could done as PDF or as laid out on the browser. The article could also be emailed which was pretty easy.

I searched the Historical New York Times through ProQuest for my birthday (November 5th) and basically found numerous articles about election results. One interesting article listed was that milk driver unions in New York were threatening to strike (oh how times have changed).

I checked out the Chronicling America newspaper database, produced by Library of Congress and found it remarkable. I was able to see pages from our history right before my eyes, as this database brought the past alive! I could view newspapers from most states, going as far back as the 1690's and digitized newspapers back to 1836. 

I thought it would be interesting to see the coverage (headlines) about the Titanic sinking in the many newspapers that this database covers. For example, The Washington Herald included the headlines, "Ships scouting for possible survivors, while The San Francisco Call reports, "Hundreds lose lives when floating palace sinks." Totally a remarkable tool for peering into the past. I will recommend this database to patrons interested in history and especially to students with history projects.

I tried out the Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub from Minnesota Historical Society, clicked on the Browse by Counties and saw a listing for 29 Minnesota counties. I narrowed my search to Hennepin County and retrieved 18 results. A wide selection of titles ranging  from The Minnesota Farmer, The Mississippi Valley Lumberman, The Afro-American Advance and many other titles were retrieved. I looked at an issue from the Minnesota Farmer (December 1, 1878) and saw that it could be viewed and printed by PDF.

The Map Search feature offered a map of the state with major cities listed. I selected Duluth for the city and two results (The World and The Labor World) were displayed. This newspaper dated back to the 1890's up to 1922. The only drawback that I could see was the scanned images took some time to load. Nevertheless, this is an excellent resource to view our past history. 

It was great to see that MN Clean Water Act (Legacy Funds) were used for producing this search tool for future generations.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wikipedia

Wikipedia can work as an information source for basic informational needs, but it must not be relied on for absolute knowledge on a particular subject or topic. Entries on Wikipedia, in some cases, may be added by novices who may know little or nothing about the topic or subject. As always, the reader should question the source by asking himself or herself who is the person writing the article and is this person an expert on the topic or subject? Yes, encyclopedia articles have been checked for facts, but not every entry has been signed by a professional in the field. With that said, I have not ran across an incorrect encyclopedia article or have seen an errata correction sent out, but it would probably be amended in the next edition anyways. At best, Wikipedia articles are great for simple facts and dates. For example, if one is interested in Superbowl trivia, such as who won the 1980 game, what was the score and where did they play, then Wikipedia comes through and delivers. 

I just finished reading a non-fiction book on Area 51 and thought it would be interesting to check out what was listed on Wikipedia about this topic. The information was similar in respect, listing most detailed subject matter that I read about in the book on this controversial topic. The Talk Pages listed information such as: military history, paranormal, Las Vegas, Nevada and aviation/airports. It was great to see links listed to other information (news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR). Another surprise on the Talk Pages was a recently added image to trespassers (warning sign) on the road to Groom Lake. I liked that the View History allows readers to see changes that were made to the document (article) and it can be viewed as a work in progress, allowing for changes that come about with this controversial, ever-changing topic.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Pinterest

I have heard about Pinterest but I have never tried it and I was surprised how easy it is to use. Yes, this has appeal for libraries. Since this is a social bookmarking site for visual images, it would be an excellent venue for displaying book covers. Just think how much fun it would be to group books by genre (mystery, cookery, thrillers etc.), take a snapshot of the book covers and then post. I would like to go one step further by purchasing one of those digital picture frames, have it a locked display case and have random pins move across the screen.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/440156563556414317/

Online Productivity Tools

I tried out the Zoho Docs, selected Document and noticed that it was similar to MS Word in many aspects. It has a great range of editing features (fonts, headings, colors etc.) needed to prepare a document. One can save your document in many popular file formats, such as: .doc, .docx, .odt, .rtf, .html, .htm and .txt, which makes it convenient to transfer files. The only drawback that I can see is you need an Internet connection to use Zoho Docs and I did not see a work offline feature.

I remember trying Google Docs years back and remember losing a document because the computer locked up; I see the problem has been resolved with a time saving feature.





Online Education

This is the first time I had heard about Coursera & Khan Academy. It is hard to believe that there really are free services like these available to people. I am interested in Computer Science and did some checking with Coursera and Khan Academy and it appears that these courses are taught by reputable institutions. For example, Coursera offers an eight week course on Software Security and instruction is provided by University of Maryland. I also noticed that Khan Academy offers a Computer Programming course, titled  HTML/CSS: Making webpages, but I don't see an instructor listed.

I have never taken an online course before and think it would be fun to try. I am still a bit skeptic about getting something for nothing and wonder just how much assistance/feedback you would receive from the instructor if needed. Also, I wonder if course takers can communicate with others enrolled in the same course. I realize that most colleges/schools have been offering more and more courses online these days, but it makes me wonder if students are getting knowledge out of these fast-paced courses. Yes, it is true that most courses can be taken at anytime, which allows the student to focus on his or her primary needs first and then boot up the computer to learn.

Online Presentations

For the Online Presentation exercise I chose Slideshare and included a few pictures of my past trip to Milford Sound, New Zealand. Converting the pictures from JPEG format to PowerPoint was easy and I was able to upload the PowerPoint slide show into Slideshare without any difficulty. I had the pictures saved on a flash drive and first tried to import each of the JPEG images separately but an error message popped up, indicating that format was not allowed. 

I noticed a few of the slide show samples in Slideshare had text embedded in some of the photos and I would have liked to done that of a few of my slides. Perhaps the text was done on the slide prior to uploading to Slideshare. It also would have more user friendly to include some editing tools, such as cropping, picture enhancements and  transitions like PowerPoint includes as the software program seemed rather primitive. 

I would probably use Slideshare for sharing pictures with my family and friends or writing up some easy-to-do instructions. Another benefit for the software program would be for those who don't have PowerPoint installed on their own computers, and I see it used widely on mobile devices.

Friday, December 26, 2014

HistoryPin

I checked HistoryPin for my place of birth (Minneapolis) and the Website did not reveal anything out of the ordinary except for a bunch of old photos. The one photo that grabbed my attention was a picture of an old Maternity Hospital, located on 300 Queen Avenue North. Interesting to note, this hospital was founded by Dr. Martha Ripely, one of the few female physicians in the late nineteenth century who  saw a need in reducing womens' high mortality rates in childbirth. This hospital was staffed entirely by women, with a mission of serving poor, unwed mothers.

I would like to visit the beautiful state of Alaska. HistoryPin pointed out a few places of interest that looked worthy of exploring. Mendenhall Glacier, located in Juneau and another stop not to miss would be Denali National Park. I was surprised to see that there are not many listings for buildings on HistoryPin for Alaska, just landmarks and photos of people.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Learning Express Library

Learning Express Library has many benefits to users. First of all, this is a free service from the library that allows test-takers and learners the opportunity to study and brush-up on many different careers and skills, ranging from and from nursing, teaching, U.S. citizenship, GED, GRE and many many more. Second, you learn at your own pace and on your own schedule; if you want to fire up the laptop at 1:00 a.m. in the morning while you are in your pj's, that is up to you. Also, if you are pressed for time, you may save your work and come back to your learning exercise. Lastly, at the end of each exam or lesson, you are given the opportunity to review your answers. 

There are a few drawbacks in using the Learning Express Library. First, you don't have the opportunity for peer discussion as you would in a classroom setting and for some individuals that is important. Second, there is no teacher available that you can consult with if you have a question. Yes, you may take the exam over again, but you may not understand why you got that particular question wrong on the test. Lastly, these types of questions may or may not be on the actual test or examination that you take, as this is only a tool to help prepare you.

I would definitely recommend Learning Express Library to anyone who needs help with preparation for an exam, a career or skills; however, if that particular individual does not like to learn new tasks one-on-one, then this database may not work for them. Also, if the learner does not know how to use computers or has a fear of of them, then this may not be a good tool.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Statistical Abstract of the United States

I was curious on what consumption and importation figures were for coffee beans to United States and consulted Statical Abstract of the United States via. ProQuest. Table 235: Beverage Per Capita Consumption By Commodity: 1980 To 2011 (see table below) provided a comparison of various beverages per capita. It was interesting to see that U.S. consumption of milk (flavored & whole) has gone down from the year 1995 while intake of coffee and tea has risen.

Finding data on importation of coffee beans was tricky at first, as I had to try a few keywords in the search box and had little success, but I revised my search and managed to find a table that lists importation numbers. Table 1319: U.S. Exports and General Imports by Selected Commodity Groups: 2011 to 2013 (see table below) explains import/export of various commodities. The table indicates that since 2011, importation on coffee, tea, cocoa and spices has been declining since 2011. Could it be that we are receiving more coffee beans from Puerto Rico?

 I also noticed a little blue box above the table heading which said: Source document PDF. I clicked on it and more information appeared through a PDF. I was able to see that Minnesota ranks #20 in exports in 2013 as compared to the other states. It is also interesting to note that data indicates that the Duluth, Minnesota port imports more goods then it exports (please see Table 1315) and that is not a very busy port as compared to other U.S. ports.


Finding data on my topic was rather easy and effortless; I find that one has to keep the search terms broad in order to locate relevant data. The help box was utilized, but it offered little or no assistance. I searched the catalog and the Rondo Library does not have a print index for the Statistical Abstract of the United States, but I remember using an older print index (Historical statistics of the United States, colonial times to 1970) at the Central Library. While I was working Telephone Reference, a library customer wanted to know how much glassware did the newly developed U.S. import during colonial times?

I think the online edition of Statistical Abstract may be a little more difficult to use because with the paper guide, one can utilize an index to look up subjects/topics and it is just easier to browse. The online product may have the benefit of displaying quicker results through keyword searches and by allowing users to download PDF's, so that he or she may print and take on-the-go.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

History Day

History Day can be described as engaging students in discovering of historical, cultural and social experiences of the past. It is anticipated that these "hidden gems" or nuggets that students discover about the past will invoke excitement through hands-on experience, later demonstrating their findings (research) through presentation. The theme for History Day 2015 is Leadership & Legacy in History. With this theme in mind, it is anticipated that students will view history not as mere facts and dates, but will examine the historical data in greater detail, allowing for historical content to develop a perspective and understanding. 

 Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) suggests that students select a topic from the below list:

Some of the topics include: American Indians, Crime & Punishment, Environment, Famous Minnesotans, politics, etc. 

The first place for students to begin work on their projects is at the library. I have reserved two days (December 11 & February 12) at the Rondo Library that staff from MHS and the University of Minnesota will meet with students to help assist with their topics. If more information is needed (depending on topics), students may be directed to MHS, George Latimer Central Library and/or the collections at the University of Minnesota libraries.

This activity has better prepared me to help assist students with History Day projects. I am now aware of what are good topics/subjects for students to begin with. I also have a better idea of where to look for informational resources and where to refer students for his or her research.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Search Engines Beyond Google

No, I don't really have a favorite search engine and switch between Yahoo and Google. At home, I use Yahoo a lot, but that is just because I have my home page set to Yahoo! Mail. I have tried Bing and like the easy to use site; I like that before you type in a search, suggestions appear off to the right. There also is not a lot of clutter on the page to distract viewers...oh yeah, and the desktop picture that change frequently are very cool. I dislike all the stories about celebrities and famous people at the bottom of the screen and wondering is that what Bing searchers want or is that what Bing management thinks people want to read? 
 
If I have a task or job around the house that I am trying to accomplish, such as, repairing a leaky Moen faucet in the house, then I will use a natural language search engine like Ask.com (formerly Ask Jeeves). I like that below the search results one can broaden your search by clicking below the heading: Explore Answers About. Off to the right side of the page are You Tube videos that may help assist with a visual explanation of something. 

In comparing Yahoo with Ask.com when searching how to repair a leaky Moen faucet, I really did not see any major differences, but it was interesting that the first result was a link to a Ask.com article. There might be one or two more clicks to go through before he or she finds what they are seeking, but it could perhaps be how the search is phrased with keyword terms.
 
 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Transparent Language

I signed up, selected Norwegian language and got started using the Transparent Language database. I found that Quick Start, Part 1 started out very easy, as I am a new learner and like to take things nice and slow. Language learning started with basic greetings and phrases, as I dove in, learning how to say hello, goodbye and other common short phrases. I liked that one can click on the turtle icon and the word or phrase is pronounced much slower than natural conversation. 

Learning a language with Transparent Language has pros & cons vs. traditional classroom setting and learning from a C/D. With Transparent Language learning, one can take your learning to any place you wish, just along that a connection to the Internet is present; if you are at the cabin and want to brush up your speaking skills, that is another story. It is also easier to review language parts, building on vocabulary/comprehension online then learning from a C/D: one does not have to wait and recall certain positions (time frames) on your C/D and/or DVD players which is time-consuming. 

We all hear that traditional class learning is disappearing or fading away with courses being added online. Personally, I have taken classes to learn Spanish in a group setting and find the process enlightening and rewarding; I feel that what I have learned as a cohort through personal stories from others in the group, helped me through association and recalling of terms. I therefore was able to associate faces in the class, remembering vocabulary that has stuck with me ever since, and one can't get that experience by opening a book or popping in a DVD. I would still recommend Transparent Language learning to library patrons because we all learn in different ways and some people are more visual then others.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Catalog Tips and Tricks

The library catalog is a powerful tool that allows one access to all the great resources in the library; I like to view it as the keys to the castle, in which all forms of media (print and non-print) are just keystrokes away. I use the Popular Searches quite a lot when searching for newly released DVDs that were just ordered. I also use many databases everyday and like the feature of the A-Z in which library users can click on a letter of the alphabet and find the name of the database rather then scroll through a long list :-D

Yes, the catalog is indeed perfect, but there are enhancements that could be made. Too bad the library catalog does not include an icon for items that are on order in each record instead of just indicating how many holds are on a particular item (http://alpha.sppl.org/record=b2178763~S16). I noticed when one initiates a Title search for a particular new item, then an ON ORDER note is displayed. Having separate catalogs for the E-books may also be difficult for the user: he or she may come to the conclusion it they don't find it in the main catalog- it is just not available. But I realize that E-books come and go with popularity and it would be a chore for the cataloger/Webmaster to import/export all records involved.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Points of View Reference Center

Points of View is an excellent resource for those who are looking to see the pros and cons from both sides of a controversial topic. For example, one can find out what are the benefits of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or what dangers persist when attempting to extract energy far beneath the ground. This database would best serve the middle school through teenage audience, but it is fine for those who want quick results on a controversial topic or subject. The database would help the researcher frame or gather ideas for his or her paper, offering ideas or suggestions that would help aide for a compare and contrast type paper.

Ways to help market this database to a potential audience might be to make catchy signs and promote in the homework centers. One could also use the training lab, offering hands on instruction to those wanting to see a demonstration of the database.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Novelist Plus

I looked at Mysteries & Thrillers under Recommended Reads and the books by authors David Baldacci, Brad Thor and Jeffery Deaver were intriguing. Under the Search for More heading (Tone), I selected and . Under the Listen-alikes heading on the right side of the webpage listed authors, such as, Michael Connelly, Barry Eisler, Christopher Reich, Robert Ludlum and many others. 

This reader's guidance tool can help library patrons find similar works, introducing new authors with corresponding plots and writing styles. Goodreads, Bookish, Anobii and BookLikes are some of my favorite free Websites to utilize, but Fiction Connection and Booklist (pay Websites) may offer further guidance to readers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

OneClickDigital

OneClickDigital is a great alternative for those that are on the go and don't have time to read. A subdivision of Recorded Books, this database reads the text out loud of many popular authors. Just make sure you have your volume turned on. I did a search for Dean Koontz and was surprised to only see (2) titles included in this database, but I was happy to see the latest from Stephen King- Revival: A Novel.

I would certainly change how one searches for titles in OneClickDigital and found the whole search retrieval system difficult to navigate. A catalog system similar to OverDrive or 3M Cloud that displays titles across the screen, dividing them into categories would be better for the searcher. Another improvement would be to display the time/duration of the book on the first search page, as listeners would want to know when the book will be finished. A rating system would also help searchers if the book is worth listening to. I would only use this service for long driving trips or perhaps sitting by the lake fishing.

Freegal

FREE music downloads that is DRM free...is it really true? Yes, I signed up and downloaded (5) songs from various musical artists to my flash drive and could not believe how easy it was. However, Freegal does seem somewhat limited and does not have music from all musical artists. For example, I did not find any listings for Minnesota native Prince, any for the rock group The who or any entries for the UK punk group The Clash. The advantages to Freegal is that music will be free to those that want it at anytime, just as long as they don't go over the (5) songs per week. Other pay music sites (iTunes & Rhapsody) may be more inclusive, but you will pay for it.

I have helped a few patrons with downloading songs. I found it better to use the browser Firefox, as one can see where the downloads are located, then drag the individual songs to the appropriate devices (mp3 players).

Monday, November 24, 2014

Zinio

Zinio was easy to use and I like the feature that you may get an automatic email once a new magazine is available. I can't believe that the magazine pages on the screen look exactly like the paper magazine itself with all pictures and ads retained. I have had to assist a library customer by phone and can't believe how easy it was for her to download magazines and start reading. The advantages to Zinio vs. print is that one does not have to wait anymore for someone to finish reading a popular magazine: you can now download a and read a magazine in a matter of seconds. The portability of the e-reader at your fingertips allows one to take magazines anywhere which won't clutter up your carry-on bag in the airplane.