(Late) Summer Reading

Editor note: I first received this article from Mary Jackson near the end of July, but I was unable to publish it to the blog until now. Apologies Mary! The content is still relevant, however, and we are very excited about providing a Bestsellers Bookshelf for our users. It’s a bit later now. But there’s still enough summer left to get some official summer reading done.

How was your summer? Many people will be asking that in a few short weeks. But summer is still here and for many of you that includes summer reading. Meredith Sommers announced in a May 25th blog post, that the library is now purchasing a small rotating collection of bestsellers. I have read four of these bestsellers and hope a brief review might encourage you to read them.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand—From the author of Seabiscuit, an amazing, uplifting, spiritual, and true story of Louis Zamperini. In places his real life is so unbelievable that it reads like fiction. Hillenbrand, who has an interesting life story herself, writes a compelling tale with extensive research and interviews with many of the participants.

Bossypants by Tina Fey—Funny books are hard to write, but this book made me laugh out loud. Fey is a comedy writer first and foremost; it shows in her writing. The final 1/3 is the weakest part of the book, but the first 1/3 more than makes up for the weakness in the ending. I knew of her, but certainly do not consider myself a huge Tina Fey fan and I still enjoyed this book.

Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid into College by Andrew Ferguson—A funny and engaging account of a writer dad’s efforts at getting his reasonably smart, but overwhelmed, son into college. An excellent read for the Milligan community showing the admissions process from the other side. In describing his son’s experience, he touches on many current topics in higher education.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain—A well written novelization of the real life first marriage of Ernest Hemingway to Hadley Richardson, written from her perspective. The story is interesting, but one I found sad and with very few sympathetic characters outside the protagonist. It might be interesting to read in conjunction with Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, which details the same period in his life.

Come by the library and check out these or any of the Milligan bestsellers. They are located on the first floor near the back stairwell.

Summer fun with Google

Summer time is almost here (and many of our blog readers are already on summer break), so this post is devoted to some lighter fare from our friends at Google.

Google Recipes—This spring Google launched a new feature, Google Recipes. I stumbled across it when I was craving lemon meringue pie. I did a regular Google search for lemon meringue pie, then realized while scanning the recipes that I didn’t have a required ingredient, cream of tartar. I went back to revise my search and what did I see:

I could now filter my results: by ingredients that I did (or did not) have, by cook time and by calories. WOW! I quickly clicked the NO box next to cream of tartar and instantly I had a new list of recipes that did not require me to make a trip to the store. The best part is you don’t have to do anything. If you type search terms into the regular Google search box and it yields results including recipes, the recipe features automatically pops up on the left hand side of the results. I love it! And the lemon meringue pie made without cream of tartar? Delicious.

Google Doodles—I think most Google users are aware that occasionally the folks at Google play around with their logo. Google has named these Google doodles. The first Google doodle appeared in 1998, the year that Google was founded. But doodles were few and far between in the early years.

They are now appearing with much more regularity and are far more complex, and even interactive. Yet I think fewer people see them, because they use the Google toolbar which takes them directly to the requested webpage without a stop at the Google homepage. This is too bad. Some of the Google Doodles are country or region specific. To see all the doodles, including international ones, go to http://www.google.com/logos/. There are also links to the all previous doodles and a brief history of doodles.

My recent favorites are: Martha Graham’s birthday, Jules Verne’s birthday, 160th Anniversary of the first World’s Fair and Robert Bunsen’s birthday. My only complaint about the Google doodle website, is that the interactive doodles are NO LONGER interactive on the site. If you want to see the doodles in action, search YouTube for (as an example): Martha Graham Google Doodle. Enjoy!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dlj-n0ouPFo&w=560&h=349]

Coming attractions: Ebook improvements!

Everyone who works in the Milligan College Library has had the following experience. A student asks for help finding a book, we go over with them to the catalog to search their subject. When scanning the results list, the student finds an item they like. We mention that it is an electronic book. The student sighs and asks if we have a “real” version of the book. By “real” they mean, “Do we have the book in print?” We sigh and try to explain the strong points of an electronic book. But we know in our hearts why students are reluctant to use our collection of electronic books (which now exceeds 73,000 titles–approaching 50% of our entire book collection in all formats!). The interfaces are clunky, require too much clicking, and on-screen readability is poor.

Libraries have been purchasing electronic versions of books for over a decade. While many librarians were aware of user reluctance to use them, libraries continued to buy ebooks because of convenience and other advantages, including attractive pricing. And because libraries continued to purchase ebooks, vendors often felt little pressure to improve their products. NetLibrary, the largest source of ebooks in the Milligan Library collection, has done little to improve their interface in the past 10 years.

The original Kindle ereader from Amazon.com

In 2007 Amazon.com released the Kindle for $399, and the ereader/ebook world as we knew it began to change. This was not the first attempt at an ereader. I remember seeing some Sony products at a library conference over 10 years ago. But they were too expensive, had too few book choices, and were unwieldy. They never caught on. It seems Amazon did their homework and figured out what features people really wanted in an ereader, and the types of books people wanted to read. They had the ability to deliver on both by leveraging their well-developed online book distribution system and massive purchasing power to negotiate Kindle-compatible editions with publishers. Kindles have also continued to drop in price. Amazon just released an ad-supported Kindle for $114, a price that will likely fall to under $100 by Christmas. Amazon has also extended its reach by providing Kindle book reading software applications that work on various computer, smartphone, and tablet devices. I’m not necessarily promoting the Kindle. Its proprietary (closed) file format is especially problematic for use in a library context. But Amazon has probably been the most successful to date in raising the profile of ebooks to the general public by releasing a viable, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive reading device into its hugely popular online marketplace.

Now that an increasing number of library users have experienced the wonders of ereaders, they are even more frustrated by the limitations of ebooks available from academic libraries. They want user-friendly interfaces that work on their ereaders and other mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablet computers). In short, they want the “Kindle experience” when accessing ebooks from the library.

That experience may be getting closer to reality. About a year ago, NetLibrary was purchased by EBSCO. You may already be familiar with this company through the use of its popular library-provided EBSCOhost journal databases—ATLAS, CINAHL, Education Research Complete, Humanities International Complete, PsycINFO, and others. When Milligan librarians learned that NetLibrary was purchased by EBSCO we were hopeful that they would work to make the product more attractive for our users.

Last summer EBSCO began surveying all NetLibrary libraries asking for feedback on ways to improve the interface. Based on the questions EBSCO was asking, the library staff was cautiously optimistic that NetLibrary would finally be getting a much-needed makeover in the right way. We were not disappointed. A new NetLibrary interface will be rolled out over the summer utilizing the EBSCOhost database platform. We have seen previews and demos. While not absolutely perfect, the interface is much improved and easier to navigate. There is built-in note taking, dictionary look-up, citation creation and export, and enhanced printing.

Most exciting, we have learned that EBSCO is developing an app for iPhone/iPad and Android mobile devices that will, via a personal Adobe Digital Editions account, enable NetLibrary ebooks to be downloaded (essentially “checked out”) on to your device for a specified period of time! To accompany these changes, EBSCO is retiring the NetLibrary moniker, and is simply calling the service eBooks on EBSCOhost.

Watch this blog for further updates as this story continues to unfold!

Database Searching 101

Ever since Google introduced its single search box on an uncluttered screen, database vendors (and other search engines) have struggled to keep up. In the years since, databases have moved more and more to a Google-like interface. The problem is that these interfaces LOOK more like Google, but they don’t SEARCH like Google. Users are frequently frustrated by very poor results when they try a Google-like search in a database.

I will give some suggestions on how to improve database searches. But first, a little discussion about how people typically search in Google. One common Google technique is to just type in what you want as a natural language search: How has Facebook changed college students’ attitudes about privacy? This yields 254,000 results. Natural language searches will yield zero results in almost every database to which Milligan or any other library subscribes. Probably the most common search technique (and the one I use in Google) is the string of keywords technique: Facebook college students’ privacy. 40 million results. Yet this search in most databases will, again, yield zero or very low results.

Some of you may be thinking: Why should I even bother with databases, since Google already has so much information on this topic? The long answer warrants a separate blog post. The short answer is that many Google results would not be considered academic sources, and would not meet the criteria of most college research papers. Academic databases contain academic resources that are needed to write academic papers. While there are academic sources in Google, it is often difficult to identify them among all the other results in a typical Google search.

While database searching can be very sophisticated and complex, it doesn’t have to be. A few simple techniques can vastly improve almost all searches.

Search Tip #1 Add the word AND in between all your search concepts. AND is a Boolean operator, a special command to the computer. It tells the computer to find results with all of your search terms. Facebook AND college students AND privacy in a database will give you much better results than a natural language or phrase search. Note that I put the AND between concepts, not between each word. Since I want the concept of “college students”, I did not put the AND between college and students. You really don’t need to understand the why of it to use it, but if you are interested in knowing more, check out:

Search Tip #2 If your search results are low and you think you have good search terms and you would like to get more results, try truncation. Truncation is shortening a word to its stem, so that the computer will find all possible endings for the word. The standard symbol for truncation is an *, which works in almost all Milligan databases. If I change my search to Facebook AND college students AND priva*, the computer will now find results with both private and privacy. The second link above has an excellent tutorial on truncation.

If you would like to learn more about searching in databases or need help finding what you want in a database, talk to me, Mary Jackson, as I’m the most excited about this topic. But any member of the library staff would be happy to help you.

APA and MLA Workshops

Mary Jackson, Reference and Instruction Librarian, will be offering several citation workshops in the next few weeks.

  • ABCs of APA citation style

An overview of how to do citations according to the APA style. You are welcome to bring your lunch to this workshop.

Monday, September 14           11:45-12:15

Tuesday, September 22           12:00-12:30

Sunday, September 27             7:30-8:00 p.m.

  • APA—What’s new in the 6th edition

A workshop discussing the changes to APA citations based on the new edition of the style manual.   It is expected that attendees will have a basic understanding of APA 5th edition.

Sunday, September 20             7:30-8:00 p.m.

  • MLA—What’s new in the 7th edition

A workshop discussing the changes to MLA citation based on the new edition of the handbook.

Sunday, September 20             8:00-8:30 p.m.

All workshops will meet in the Hopwood Room in the Library basement.  For more information, please contact Mary Jackson at mjackson@milligan.edu.