Monday, November 14, 2011

Technology Boot Camp Week 6: RSS and Conclusion

Welcome to the final week of LFPL’s Technology Boot Camp. This week, we’re going to talk about RSS and show you how it makes following your favorite websites easy.
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What is RSS?

Depending on whom you ask, RSS stands for different things, but most commonly Really Simple Syndication. RSS makes it easy for people to receive regularly updated content (such as posts on blogs and news sites) without having to visit the same website over and over again. Here is a helpful video.

As the video explains, you need two things to take advantage of RSS technology. You need a home for reading all the new content. For this purpose, we will use The Old Reader, which can be accessed using your Google account. And then we need to connect The Old Reader to your favorite websites by subscribing to them.

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The Old Reader and LFPL’s RSS feeds

So let’s start by taking a look at the RSS feeds offered by the library.

1. Head to the library catalog.

2. Toward the left side of the screen, there’s a box titled “New Titles” with an orange button labeled RSS. Click on the RSS button.

3. On this new page, there are four different URLs in the middle of the page. Each one corresponds to a “new items” feed for a different material type. Select whichever feed interests you the most and copy the shortcut.

4. Go to The Old Reader. There is an option to login with your Google account to the upper right. You will be asked to connect your Google account with The Old Reader by clicking Allow Access. Once you’ve logged in, click on the button to Add a Subscription toward the top left. Paste in the URL that you copied from the page in the library catalog.

5. You are now subscribed to that feed. The name of the feed appears on the left as a Subscription. The content of the feed appears on the right half of the screen. The Old Reader will check the feed URL periodically and, when it finds new items, it will store them in The Old Reader for you to peruse at your convenience.

Give it a try!

Now that you have a basic understanding of how to subscribe to an RSS feed, it’s time to explore the internet and find some more RSS feeds to subscribe to. Your task is to find two additional RSS feeds from different sources and subscribe to them. Find sites that you are interested in.

Perhaps you already have a group of sites that you visit regularly, perhaps daily. It is very likely that those sites are available for subscription with RSS. Just remember to look for the icon, which typically looks like this:
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If you need some inspiration, there’s no shortage of places to find interesting feeds. Here are a few examples:

New York Times
NASA
MTV
Rolling Stone

On your blog, tell us what feeds you subscribed to. What do you think of the experience of using The Old Reader versus going to the individual sites?

congrats

Congratulations!

You have now completed LFPL’s Technology Boot Camp! We hope that what you’ve learned will help you get the most out of the internet’s resources. To help us plan future programs of this nature, please take a moment to complete this very brief survey about your experience with Technology Boot Camp. Thanks for participating!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Technology Boot Camp Week 5: Online Library Resources

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LFPL.org

This week we are going to focus on the resources available right here on the LFPL website. The website allows you to access many of the library’s services from the convenience of wherever you have internet access.

We recommend taking some time to look around the web page and explore some of these offerings. After you’re done, come back to this post to learn all about our Research Tools page.

Research Tools

Databases are also an important feature of LFPL’s website. The databases offered by the library bring together information and services typically not available for free on the internet. Many of our databases include current and back issues of journals, magazines and various other publications. Some of these are popular materials, like the Wall Street Journal or Newsweek; others are scholarly journals or industry-specific publications, such as The Harvard Law Review. Certain databases specialize in collecting and organizing data, such as financial information or auto repair guides. Let’s explore some of LFPL’s databases and get started on this week’s activity.

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The library’s databases are located on the website, www.lfpl.org, under Research Tools, the fourth option down on the left-hand side of the page. Follow the steps below to find your way around the library’s various databases.

1) Start on the Research Tools page.

2) On this page the databases are organized by subject, in case you don’t know exactly which database you need. If you do know which database you need, look to the right-hand side of the page and select “A-Z Listing of Research Tools” for an alphabetical listing of all of LFPL’s databases. If you are working on a computer outside of the library, you will need to log in. When you click on the database you want to use, you will be prompted to enter your library card number and password.

3) If you are looking for a specific publication and you’re not sure which database carries it, select “Journal/Magazine/Newspaper Search” (just below “A-Z Listing of Research Tools”) . Once you search for the name of the publication, you will see a list of databases that carry that publication.

Give it a try!

This week we offer seven activities, so you have an opportunity to explore all that you can do with the library’s databases. Try all seven or just pick a few that match your interests.


A) From the Research Tools page, pull up the alphabetical listing of databases (See step 2 above.) and select Academic Search Premier. In the search field, enter a topic of interest to you. As an example, we use ‘constitution’. Above the search field, uncheck the box next to ‘Suggest Subject Terms’. This allows you to do a keyword search, rather than browse by subject listings. Below the search field, under ‘Limit your results’, check the box for ‘Full Text’. This will restrict your search to only those articles which the database can give you full access (otherwise it will include citations for articles relevant to your search, but only the citation, not the actual article). Then click Search.

When you find an article, click on either ‘PDF Full Text’ or ‘HTML Full Text’. We select the second article that comes up for constitution. Once you’ve opened your selected article, notice on the right-hand side the different options you are given. You can download the article directly to your computer or flash drive. You can also email the article to your email account. If you’ve ever had to write a research paper and hated having to put your citations in the correct format, note the option to select a citation format to go with the emailed article. You can copy and paste this directly into your bibliography.

B) Back issues of The Courier-Journal on microfilm are one of the more popular resources at the Main Library downtown. But did you know you can search the Courier-Journal, both current and past issues, from your home with our ProQuest newspaper database? From the Research Tools page, click on Newspapers and then Courier-Journal. Here you can search articles, op-ed pieces, obituaries and more.

C) Try finding some specific journals. (See step 3 above.) Can you find the December 2010 issue of Consumer Reports?


D) Morningstar Investment Research Center is a great database for investors, whether you are a professional money manager or just monitoring your retirement investments. Morningstar provides in-depth and up-to-date data, charts and reports, on stocks, mutual funds, financial service providers, industries and more. Also, it provides an excellent glossary for those trying to make sense of financial jargon. On the Research Tools page click on Business and Money and scroll down to find Morningstar. When you open up the database, across the top you will see a row of tabs. Towards the end of the row is Help & Education, which can assist you with both finding your way around the database and understanding finance and investing. In the field under the Home tab that says Enter a ticker or name try Vanguard Target Retirement 2020. Take a minute to look over the profile of this mutual fund.

E) Business Reference USA is an excellent database for researching business demographics. You can search for franchises, business types (e.g., dry cleaners), or even a whole industry, and pull up everything from sales reports to management directories. Even better, you can narrow your search by geography, business size, yearly sales and more. From the Research Tools page, select Business and Money, then Business Reference USA. Once the database opens, move your mouse over where it says U.S. Businesses and click on the search option that pops up. On the following search page, there are two tabs. The first, Quick Search, allows you to search for an individual business. The second tab, Custom Search, allows you to do the more detailed searches described above.

F) Are you or someone you know preparing to take a test, such as the GED, SAT or ACT, GRE, MCAT? Studying for a certification exam to become a law enforcement officer, real estate agent, or electrician? Does your elementary school student need to strengthen his or her math or spelling skills? The Learning Express Library database provides study guides; timed, scored and corrected practice exams; and test-taking tips. You will find this database under the Test Preparation heading on the Research Tools page. When you open the database, look to the left side to find the different test categories. Once you find your practice test, you will be asked to create an account. This allows the database to track your performance, provide corrections to incorrect answers and suggest areas for improvement. Learning Express Library is an excellent resource for any test taker, whether a student or professional.


G) If you take care of your own car repairs, you definitely want to look over Auto Repair Reference Center. Auto Repair Reference Center provides detailed, step-by-step diagrams for various repairs, from electrical wiring to transmission, as well as recall notices and a labor calculator. Try finding your car in the database. Once you open up Auto Reference Repair Center, simply select the correct option as it is presented to you: year, make, model and submodel. Then you can choose your repair topic.

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