Internet Librarian 2011: Best Betas for Learning & Navigating

Gary Price

Gary’s entire presentation is available at:

Snap Bird ( a Twitter archive tool.  Search for someone’s specific timeline, keywords, favorites, search all the people you follow and their Tweets, Tweets mentioning you, DMs sent and received, etc.  Gary’s found Tweets back into April for some of the searches he’s ran.

Microsoft Academic ( 36 million publications from 18 million authors.  You can search by author, organization, DOI, conference title, publication title, etc.  Brand new from Microsoft…

BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine from Europe) ( 31 million documents from over 250,000 content providers, for academic scholarly research.

Quixley (http://quixley/): App discovery for all the different platforms.  Search for keywords and see what’s on which platform (Sarah’s note: This would be a good tool in helping people pick what device/platform to purchase based on which apps they care most about).

Primadesk ( Aggregates all of your cloud services like, Dropbox, Flickr, Google Docs, Facebook, etc.

Otixo (

Greplin (

Muse (  Runs locally, java app, once you download it it analyzes any email box you have and shows you visualizations of your communication patterns.

Leafsnap ( Image recognition for iOS from Columbia University, Smithsonian, and University of Maryland.  Electronic field app that lets you snap photos of leaves on the East Coast and get them identified.

Mealsnap ( Snap photo of your meal and it quantifies what you’re eating and returns a calorie count.


TinEye (  20 billion images.  Upload your own image and see how people are remixing and manipulating similar images.

Zotero ( Was only available if you were using Firefox, but the 3.0 Beta 1 is now available for Mac, Windows, and Linux and mobile versions too.  Zotero is good for local archiving, personal digital archiving, and is pretty freaking cool (says Sarah…Gary doesn’t say “freaking” :P).

WorldCat Identities and Visualize Relationships ( Identities for content creators.  The “visualize relationships” data is useful to all sorts of organizations. An exciting discovery tool with a visual edge (mind mapping, sort of…kind of like Aquabrowser’s word cloud).

C-SPAN Video Library ( Almost anything C-SPAN ever aired.  It’s more than just the senate and house hearings.  All the author talks are in here, political rallies, etc.  Can just embed specific seconds or minutes or video.  So many learning application opportunities here.

Watch, Know, Learn ( free educational videos.

New National Archives search ( New search with a ton of different advanced search limit options.

Bitcasa ( They store the data.  The metadata and connections are stored on your computer.  If the FBI wants to know who has what, they have the 1s and 0s, but that’s it…not the connections (NICE!!!)

Programmable Web (  Info on over 41 million APIs.

NeedleBase ( integrating and cleaning data.

DuckDuckGo (  One-man web search operation with a no-tracking privacy policy.

SiloBreaker ( gives you visualization, pulls in different sources, comprehensive coverage of different sources you might not find elsewhere like in Google News.

GlueJar ( Eric Hellman (go Eric!). “the social commissioning of eBooks.”  Kind of a kickstarter for authors…  Awesome.

Internet Librarian 2011: Next Big Trends: Near Field Communication & Interactive Picture Books

Gretchen Caserotti, Kristen Yarmey, and Sheli McHugh

Gretchen Caserotti talked about interactive digital picture books.  Just as with print books, with digital books picture books get checked out in huge “stacks” while other books may get checked out one or two at a time.  The pricing for interactive picture books is very competitive – $1.99 for an app.  There are millions of these out there…  Gretchen tried to demonstrate Overdrive’s eBooks but it wouldn’t appear on the screen (!!!).  Hmmm…  What makes a good app?  Are there customizable features?  Can you turn music on and off, resize it?  The Cat in the Hat app offers read it to me, auto-play, or read it myself.  Anything on the screen lets you click on it and get audio and text descriptions—a great way to learn to read, says Gretchen.  Freight Train is great.  The Moo, Baa, La La, La is one of the best preschool apps out there.  You can touch and interact with everything on the screen – and it is an exact representation of the printed book as well,  And when you turn the pages, it looks exactly like turning real pages.  It gives you feedback too – day, and night, are two different colors.  Everything on the page gives you feedback, but it’s an appropriate level of interaction for preschoolers.  Other picture book apps of note: The Monster at the End of the Book, Spot the Dot, and Pat the Bunny.  The book (in print) is a touch interaction book, and has a mirror on one page.  The iPad app uses the camera in the device to simulate the mirror experience.  It’s also non-linear.  Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes is another noteworthy book too.  Nurse Rhyme Storytime is a good app – lets you interact using the device’s gyroscope to shake to expose words hidden under illustrations.  The Three Little Pigs story lets you interact with the story by blowing into the microphone to act as the wolf to blow the piggy’s house down.  Awesome!  While there are no industry standards, there are important features that we could agree on – is the story itself good, is it usable, what is the level of vocabulary, etc.  Looking for kids’ app reviews online: Best Kids Apps, Children’s Technology Review, Common Sense Media, Digital Storytime, Lunchbox Reviews, Moms with Apps, and School Library Journal.

Kristen Yarmey and Sheli McHugh talked about near field communication (NFC).  What is NFC?  A way for devices to transmit and receive information wirelessly at close range.  2-10 cm usually.  How does it work?  It’s an evolved, specific form of RFID.  You need an initiator which can emit a radio frequency field and a target that can respond to that field (e.g. a smart phone and a tagged smart poster).  When you get close enough to the target with your initiator, the target responds and establishes a communication pattern so the two devices can exchange data.  They don’t have to be powered—they power themselves off of the radio frequency field the other device is putting out.  They can be read-only or read-write.  They do store significantly more data than QR codes, up to 1mb of data.  They can exchange data too, not just give a one-shot burst of data like QR codes do.  So why does this matter?  Why do we need NFC when we have QR Codes, WiFi, and BlueTooth?  NFC is a much faster connection. There’s a Nokia speaker that lets you just tap your phone to the speaker and the NFC connection then allows the rest of the communication and data to be exchanged via BlueTooth.  To sync your documents, just tap your phone to your computer, etc.  NFC is already being used for mobile payments.  Your phone essentially works as your credit card.  Some of the players here: Google Wallet, and ISIS (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) and Visa Wallet are coming.  Yale Locks will be putting out NFC locks on the market soon (KEyLink smart car keys do this too).  Mobile Marketing with NFC: Proxama, Google Media.  Social Media: FourSquare at Google I/O, Google+, and NFriendConnector is in prototype.  NFC is really usful for gaming too – Angry Birds has been using NFC with what they’re calling Magic Places (go someplace physical and tap your phone to get levels unlocked).  Fruit Ninja gives you access to new blades too.  We’re starting to see this in public transportation, parking, health care, tickets, grocery stores, and more.    Rosetta Stone will embed a computer chip into your gravestone and people visiting your grave can hear all about your life story. (!!!!!!!!!)  In 5 or so years, we expect NFC on all of our phones.  PayPal, Square, and eBay are more naysayers about the NFC technology…  Who to watch?  ISIS and Apple.  What does this mean for libraries?  A mobile collection—NFC tags on books or media resources w/ reviews, bib info, author biographies, using it for self-check-out, social interactions.  Bibliotecha has a prototype app for off-the-shelf self-checkout with NFC & smart phones.  WOW!  It provides a speedy portal between our patrons and our collections.  We need to keep security and privacy in mind as we move forward with NFC as it has proven hackable, and we’re all about patron privacy…so yeah.  Let’s be smart.

Internet Librarian 2011

Understanding Users and Improving Your Website with Google Analytics

SuHui Ho and Jeff Wisniewski

SuHui Ho

Why use web metrics?  The basic hit count is extremely misleading (we’ve known this for a long time).  Looking deeper is essential.  Some of the reports Google Analytics offers that are useful for us are the Top Content Report and the Traffic Source Report.

Top Content Report: The content on your website is a living being.  So you have to keep it updated.  We always have more content we can update.  We have more rooms to clean on our websites than we have people to clean them.  If you know which content is used most, you can prioritize those.  Look at what the top tasks are too – what do people come to your website to do?  Which pages from the homepage are clicked on most often?

Traffic Source Report: How much of your homepage traffic comes from the homepage settings on your in-library computers?  SuHui says “don’t be so proud of your total hit count” because much of that direct traffic is from your own computers.  J  Referring sites are really useful to look at as well…  And look at search engine traffic too – how much of your traffic comes from a search engine query result?  Really pay attention to search engine optimization – make sure that your website appears on the top of the search results you want.  Reviewing the keyword referrals from search engines is useful – you might see a lot of mentions of the word “hours” with variations of different phrases.

Jeff Wisniewski

Jeff talked about the Goals and Funnels feature in Google Analytics.  A Goal is the page a visitor reaches once (s)he has completed a task or an action…an end point of sorts.  A Funnel is the optimized steps that the person should go through to get to that page.  Looking at both of these in conjunction you can see where people get tripped up.

An example: the goal to register for a class on RefWorks.  There may be several steps in your Funnel (e.g. look at calendar, click on class time you like, click on register, etc.).  Per profile, you get to have up to 20 goals.  Jeff says this is a reasonable limit.  Name your goal something intuitive, because this is what shows up in the analytics reports.  You can set the goal’s position, and pick a goal type (URL destination, time on site, pages/visit).  For us, the URL destination is the most relevant to our type of web business.  Be careful about leading or trailing slashes or spaces because Google Analytics will not match up the URL correctly.  Once you set a goal, you get asked to create a Funnel.  Then you set up the different steps—a Funnel can have an unlimited number of steps.

And then you wait to give Google Analytics time to collect data.  Now that they’ve rolled out real time analytics, that’s awesome.  You used to have to wait at least 24 hours, you can now see some data within minutes.  With Jeff’s example, we see that we started with 886 people.  43 people didn’t get past the first step of the process, and it tells you where they went instead.  The next step lost another 36 people, and then the 3rd step (checkout confirmation) resulted in a significant loss of 317 people.  Whoa.  That’s not good.  But it shows you where you need to make changes and improvements, and in that way it’s super awesome useful!  Whoopah!  Jeff recommends looking at trend data over time instead of hanging your hat on a particular number at one specific time.  Good advice!

Internet Librarian 2011:

Opening Keynote (John Seely Brown)

The entrepreneurial learner—people constantly wanting to learn new things in a world full of constant change.  How do we cultivate that kind of spirit in today’s kids and perhaps even ourselves.

Up until the last 5-15 years, the infrastructures we’ve experienced—steam, electrification, etc.—have all had an S curve of development.  Quick innovation and then long periods of stability, which is when we reinvent the new social practices of how to operate.  The digital universe, however, doesn’t follow the S curve pattern…It’s a continuously increasing upswing, with no time of stability to settle down.

We’re experiencing a very strange phenomenon—the half-life of a given skill has shrunk to about 5 years.  Most of us grew up in a time when our skills would be relevant for 20 or more years.  Going back to school is not the solution.  You have to find new ways of constantly picking up new skills.

We know how to deal with stocks (protecting and delivering authoritative knowledge assets).  But we’re moving into flows, from codified knowledge to tacit knowledge, where cultivation is more important than ever.  We have not had time to build institutional warrants.  A new kind of critical reason is important to thought.

And contrary to what people say, librarians are more important than ever.  Are we preparing our students for this new world?

This requires more than just the skill of learning how to learn.  It requires new dispositions.  And dispositions cannot be taught.  But they can be cultivated in the right settings…like libraries.

We have to be able to afford curiosity in a networked age.  Mobile devices are amplifiers – amplifying curiosity.

Dispositions of an Entrepreneurial Learner

  • Curiosity – pulling information on demand
  • Questing – seeking, uncovering, probing
  • Connecting – listening to others, engaging

Perhaps we need new approaches to learning, new practices, and new approaches to thinking and acting.  Maybe we need a new tool set.

Many of us grew up with a Cartesian view of learning – I think and therefore I am.  Pedagogy was viewed as knowledge transfer.  What worked well for the last century is not up to today’s challenges.  We need a social view of learning – we participate and therefore we are.  Understanding is socially constructed.  We see this in study groups.

What is the single best indicator of success at college today?  Is it SAT scores? No.  GPAs? No.  Wealth of your parents? No.  It is your ability to join or form your own study groups—pull people like you together, talk through material.  This idea works digitally too – it doesn’t have to be face to face.  A lot of students do joint problem solving through SMS, Facebook, chat, etc.  So they are building in the virtual world an amazing study room to help them through their learning processes.

Authority vs. timeliness in a rapidly evolving world – good example is Britannica vs. Wikipedia.  Wikipedia has given us the ability to see the back room – the arguments, the disagreements, the kind of knowledge and scholarship that is contested and argued.  For the first time students can see this and be participants and contributors to these discussions.  We as librarians know how to peel back and see what is still being contested – we can help our students cultivate this kind of inquisitiveness and help them make sense of the arguments.

We used to focus on content, assuming context was relatively stable.  But in the world of social media and networked knowledge context is much more fluid.  Blogging and remixing mucks with the content and the context.  Blogging can be joint context creation.

“The blogger is—more than any writer of the past—a node among other nodes, connected but unfinished without the links and the comments and the track-backs that make the blogosphere , at its best, a conversation, rather than a production.” – Andrew Sullivan.  Sullivan compares blogging to jazz—improvisational, intimate, and individual, and collective – and the audience talks over both.

From David Weinberger’s Too Big to Know: “We used to know how to know.  We got our answers from books or experts.  We’d nail down the facts and move on.  We even had Canons. But in the Internet age, knowledge has moved into networks.  There’s more knowledge than ever, but it’s different.  Topics have no boundaries, and nobody agrees on anything.

Collectives—folks who share participation over belonging, they make no demands on users, yet learning happens all the time.  They have almost unlimited scale (unlike social networks) and at their core rest on peer and master mentoring.

How do we bring knowing and making together?  Content and context both.  Given that meaning emerges as much from context as content, new dimensions to the creation of meaning are opened.  This is the essence of remix.

In a world of constant change entrepreneurial learners must be willing to regrind the conceptual lenses with which they make sense of the world.  And for this an essential thing is PLAY.  Play is imagination, poetry.  Play is freedom to fail, and then get it right.  Play leads to epiphanies—everything suddenly falling in place.  Learning leads to a reframing or a re-registering of the world.

We are always faced with riddles that require us to create new lenses to reframe the challenges.  Keep in mind three epistemologies—knowing (homo sapiens), making (homo faber), and playing (homo ludens).  We need to tinker – to embrace change.    We focus too much on knowing in our schools right now – and not enough on playing and making.

We also need to acknowledge the shifts of:

  • Knowing what à Knowing what and where
  • Making things à Making things and context
  • Playing for sense-making à Playing for reframing

This notion of networks of imagination – that turns on emergent collective action.  People don’t just read Harry Potter or play World of Warcraft, then experience it and contribute to it.  Networks of practice and communities of interest come together to create this collective imagination.


I’m headed into Monterey this weekend to attend the Internet Librarian 2011 conference!  I’ll be there Sunday-Wednesday, and have five presentations scheduled (yes, five).

Monday: 20 Steps to Creating Web-Based Library Services

Tuesday: Ebooks: Putting the Issues on the Table (panel discussion with Dick Kaser, Bobbi Newman, Amy Affeft, and Faith Ward)

Wednesday: Talk About: Publishers, Distributors, and Terms of Use (panel discussion); Getting Things Done: Tips & Tricks (with Niccole Westbrook and Colleen Harris); and Digital Content Frustration: Copyright, Licensing, & DRM

I expect that the digital content frustration talk on Wednesday will be, err, let’s just say there will be some pretty radical ranting. *wink*  Come on…you know you want to stay for my talk.  Stick around!

If you are at the conference too, please stop by and say hello!  And pick up one of my new business cards (warning, may be NSFW).

Attendees and distant observers alike can follow the conference through the Twitter hashtag #il2011.  I will be live-blogging the whole conference (well, the sessions I’m not speaking at), so watch for a flurry of posts next week!

Reflections on ageism

September 27, 2011 | Comments (37)

I remember when I was in my early 20s how old, experienced, smart, and amazing I felt.  I could take on the world.  I knew my stuff and was going to show everybody.

Recently I had occasion to meet a 21 year old who seemed, to me, like he was still in grade school.  He’s a smart guy with a world of experiences I’ve never had, but oh…my…gosh.  He seemed so, so young to my mid-30s mind.  Just looking at him I felt like I was looking at a kid I would babysit, not hang with.  And when he said he was born in 1990 I just about spit out my drink.  Sweet baby Jesus, I was in high school in 1990.  And I’m sure many of you were already through grad school or working in 1990.  Scary stuff, the passage of time.

Here’s the good thing that came out of that experience.  I now kind of (just kind of though) understand why all of my colleagues treated me like a child when I got my first librarian job at 24.  I must have looked to them like this person looked to me–too young to work, too young to be good at what I did.  It doesn’t excuse the abhorrent behavior I was subjected to on many occasions (the whole “Why don’t you leave and let the grown-ups talk, Sarah” comment at my first librarian job comes to mind), but it does make a little bit more sense to me now.

Now…twenty-somethings are smart.  I would argue they might actually be smarter than we are, because they’re so much closer to all of that wonderful intensive intellectual exploration we call school.  Most of us have let the learning slip out of our heads and haven’t put a whole lot back in.  We’ve gotten lazy, and probably less smart in the traditional sense.  We have built-up knowledge and experience, which is also profoundly helpful, but I would give credit where credit is due to the super smarts of our young friends.  We need to look past the baby fat on their still smooth faces and actually listen to them.

But we still do look at our young counterparts differently…and for the first time I understand why that happened to me.  It’s a gut instinct, an unconscious reaction to another being so much younger than you that you feel protective instead of on equal footing.  I don’t accept it in myself, and I hereby pledge that I won’t do it ever again to anyone else.  But I understand it now.  And that’s the learning I take with me today in my old codgerly brain.

And I swear, if anyone leaves some “but you’re only 34, you’re still a baby yourself” comments I will throttle you.  Seriously…I’m a librarian.  I can find out where you live.

Selfish Weekend Redux

September 14, 2011 | Comments (7)

If you follow me on the social networks, you might have seen that I decided to dub this past weekend “Crazy, Selfish, Indulgent Weekend.”  I chronicled my activities this weekend on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  I got a lot of questions in all these media about the origin of the weekend, why I was choosing to be public about what I was doing, etc.  I even got an email from a journalist asking me if I was trying to start a meme.

I wasn’t, but that being said, I think everyone needs a “Crazy, Selfish, Indulgent Weekend” every now and again.  So here’s the skinny: I was feeling spent.  I have been giving a lot of myself to others lately, sacrificing a great deal to make others happy, putting myself in a position where I know I’m going to not be happy.  And one can only do that for so long…  I think many of us in public service tend to be like this — give, give, give…until it damages us.

To rectify that, on Friday night I spontaneously planned my weekend to include as many of my favorite things as possible.  There were 13 parts to my two days of awesomeness (and no, I didn’t plan for 13 to be all goth-y and stuff; it just happened).  I decided to be public about it for a number of reasons, chief of which was to encourage others to be selfish too…even if only for a little while.

Here is a chronicle of my self-indulgence, copied from my Google+ posts. Judge me if you will, but you know what?  It was probably the best weekend I’ve ever had in my life.  Feel free to copy and remix! 🙂

#SelfishWeekend Part 1: This is what a blissed out post-massage-with-hot-guy Sarah looks like. That’s right…I picked the hot guy on purpose. It is #SelfishWeekend, after all.

#SelfishWeekend Part 2: Walking straight past a library branch & not going in to look around.

#SelfishWeekend Part 3: Favorite meal #1 (@ Cha-Ya) – fresh handmade udon noodles w/ vegetable tempura & genmai cha tea.

#SelfishWeekend Part 4: Walking thru the Castro looking at all the beautiful gay boys.

#SelfishWeekend Part 5: Favorite meal #2 (Lilah Belle’s) – organic roasted veggies & hummus (best I’ve ever had).

#SelfishWeekend Part 6: Favorite meal #3 (Herbivore) – soy chicken shawarma.

#SelfishWeekend Part 7: kitten loooooooove

#SelfishWeekend Part 8: Dancing at the Cat Club in SF. Getting my 80s groove on.


#SelfishWeekend Part 9: Snuggling in a warm blanket w/ my kitties, eating a vegan hot fudge brownie sundae for brunch, & watching Mad Men.

#SelfishWeekend Part 10: Driving Highway 1 along the West Marin coast, listening to Bon Iver.

#SelfishWeekend Part 11: Hiking in the redwoods of Mt. Tamalpais.

#SelfishWeekend Part 12: Wading in the icy tidepools of Muir Beach.

#SelfishWeekend Part 13: Attending the Marin Shakespeare Company’s steampunk production of The Tempest.

So yes…that’s what I did.  And I’d do it again.  I might, perhaps, do all the hiking and other physical activity first, before staying out until 3am dancing 😉  I think the decadent food day would have made more sense post-drinking-dancing night.  Seriously, though…I think we could all use some more self-love and inward focus.  Nurture yourself so you can nurture others.  Take some time for yourself.  You’ve earned it.

This is the third post in my new Sarah’s Gadget Showcase series. #1 (Audio Gadgets) and #2 (Cooking & Food Gadgets) are also available.


I started reading at the age of three and haven’t stopped since.  I find power in words, solace in them, pain, despair, joy, inspiration, but most importantly, I find life in words.

I am, believe it or not, traditionally a bookish sort.  I started library school wanting to be a rare books librarian, actually, which is kind of funny when you think about what I do now (high tech and futurist trends are pretty much the polar opposite of old, decaying, dusty books).  Of course, my focus in rare books librarianship was on digitization of the materials for open and free dissemination on this relatively new thing they had back then called “the internet.”  So I guess even then the techie bug had bitten me.  But it was, and is, all about the information not the technology that carries it.

There is a weight to a physical book, and I don’t mean a physical heft.  Books have a meaning, a significance in our culture.  They hold untold promises and infinite possibilities. Books are objects of art.  Carrying or owning books implies that you’re intelligent.  Books = good things.

And for all of the years that I’ve been talking about digital libraries, using technology to improve yourself and your community, and even about eBooks specifically…I privately hated eBooks.  I hated the technology that locked them down, I hated how they worked (or rather didn’t), I hated the thought of reading on a screen, just…hated…them.  I clung to my printed books.  I did not advertise this little love-hate relationship with the eBook; only a few people close to me ever knew.

And then (as is wont to happen) the technology got better and I had to eat my own words.  The consumer-level experience of finding and obtaining an eBook got better (sadly, the library eBook experience is still pretty crap).  E Ink was invented and revolutionized the eReading experience entirely. E Ink is the screen technology that makes the Kindle and other devices work–ultra low power consumption, high resolution, and not back-lit. I don’t know about you, but after reading a lit computer screen all day, I honestly do not think my eyes can stand staring at another one for pleasure.

There is a lot that is still jacked up about the digital reading experience. Don’t get me started on digital rights management or we’ll be here all day and you’ll leave with bleeding ears.  But there are some things that work just fine, at least for me.  Most of these aren’t hardware gadgets per se, but apps/software/services.  So how do I read digitally? Let me count the ways…

The Kindle (& its bouquet of assorted hacks)

Yes, I own a Kindle. And I love it. Hate me later library purists; listen to me now.  The E Ink display is fabulous. The reading interface is good, annotating works, sharing passages is nice, battery life is remarkable…it’s all good.  And you can hack it.  Read on.

To me, the Kindle is like a seductive box of dark chocolates: a tasty, wonderful, yet guilty pleasure that I know I shouldn’t indulge in but want so badly.  I am confident there is something amazing in there to be had; I just have to find a gentle and creative way around existing obstacles (in the case of chocolates, my guilt at eating an entire box in one sitting).  And just as with those very few guilty pleasures that I have desired and couldn’t have right away, I’ve been pretty persistent in trying to get what I want with the Kindle.  I am patient and I try to figure out a way to make things work for me even if at first blush it doesn’t look promising.  My instincts are generally good and I usually end up being right and getting what I want.  Just ask my Kindle.

As you may know, the Kindle is a closed ecosystem and you only “license” books from Amazon–you don’t own them as you would with a printed book (same w/ other eBook vendors too).  Rejecting these principles as complete and utter bullshit, I hacked my Kindle.  I absolutely hate that the Kindle is a locked down system, a completely isolated bubble of content and delivery mechanism (just like the iPad and iPhone ecosystems, which I shun on principle b/c I can’t hack them…yet).  Locking down information goes against everything I stand for as a librarian.  Let me be clear: I do not do anything illegal on my Kindle, other than the hacking itself (which is a grey area, imho, even if you adhere to the DMCA to the letter).  I’m not stealing books or giving away books.  I hacked my Kindle so I could do with my device what I want with the books I paid to “license,” when I want, and in what format I want.  And that is the right of every reader, dammit.

“Hack the Kindle?” you ask.  “Do tell!”  All righty then.  Without getting myself into any more legal difficulties, here are some fabulous resources to get you started on hacking your Kindle into the dirt.  Share these with your co-workers, family members, and (if you’re braver than I am) with your library users.

And for the nerds, a detailed series of posts from an anonymous hacker on the ins and outs of some of the hacks.


Kindle app on Android
The Kindle app for Android is great.  As long as you have wi-fi enabled on your actual Kindle device, your bookmarked spot is synced up automatically.  I prefer not to read on the small, back-lit screen of my phone (an HTC Thunderbolt), but there are cases when it comes in handy.  Case in point #1: Standing in line at the grocery store.  Instead of being angry and wanting to stab the person in front of me, I whip out my phone and start reading my book.  Case in point #2: In a darkened airplane cabin where turning on the light above you to read might result in you getting stabbed by your seat mate.  You get the idea.  Small screen reading prevents homicides.


Google Reader
I do a lot of my reading online still–usually on my laptop at home, or my desktop at work.  I’m generally reading blogs, newspapers, magazines, etc. that I find through Google Reader, an RSS aggregator that has stood the test of time and continues to work.  I love the folder system, the interface, the speed, and the app for Android is great.


Book Sharing
I use both LibraryThing and GoodReads.  I am a member of a science fiction book club on GoodReads, which has me going back there more than to LibraryThing.  I wish I actually remembered to update one or both sites with all the books I’ve been reading.  Anyone have a good trick for that?  Or is it just sheer willpower that I lack?

Book Discovery

Scout’s honor, I actually do use NoveList to find new books if I’m looking for something in a particular genre.  NoveList is an online resource that many public libraries subscribe to, and I’m glad mine does.  It is a-w-e-s-o-m-e.  From the first time I tried NoveList years ago, it has always made me happy and gives me good recommendations.  Tell it what authors you like, or a book you like, or just keywords you want to read about.  Boom!  Book recommendations.  And I love using it with family members, non-library-world friends, or library users and showing them how to browse around.   You can get lost in there for hours following thread after thread and finding more and more books to put on your “to read” list.  The K-8 version is great for kids too.  I actually found a long-lost-childhood-favorite-book using NoveList after every other method had failed–describing the book to long-time children’s librarians, searching by keywords on search engines and other book sites, no dice.  Love it.
What do you use?

What do you use to read, to share, to transport, to revel in your bookish nerdiness?  Share with us!

This is the second post in my new Sarah’s Gadget Showcase series. Post 1 (Audio Gadgets) is also available.

Disclaimer: The following has nothing to do with libraries, unless you’re holding cooking programs 🙂


Like many people, I love to cook.  I tend to stick to the basics.  I am definitely not a kitchen appliance purchaser.  I do not own a bread machine–if I make bread, I’m going to knead it by hand like nature intended.  I’m old-fashioned that way.  That being said, I do have nifty tools that I love.

Sarah’s Love of Foooooooood

Let me start by explaining why I love to cook.  Cooking is love.  There is nothing in the world like creating a wonderful dish and seeing someone you care about enjoy it.  Seeing the person smile and make that scrunched-forehead-while-chewing “OMG this is amazing” face…  Seeing a hand reach for more…  Sharing your techniques…  Beautiful.  You’ve created something that not only pleases the palate, but sustains the body. Magic.

I was taught as a child by a cast of amazing women in my family.  I learned to make cookies and a killer pie crust from my great-grandmother when I was so small I still needed a step stool to reach the counter.  My dad’s mother taught me how to make salad that didn’t include iceberg lettuce and how to cook vegetables properly (read: not over-cooked, gray, mushy Midwestern vegetables like I was served growing up).  My mom’s mother taught me how to make fudge, chocolate sauce, apple butter, and to can peaches and tomatoes.  And my own dear mother taught me everything else I learned as a kid–lasagna, casseroles, cakes and frosting, cacciatore, potatoes a thousand different ways, on and on.

I became vegetarian in my teens and vegan a few years ago. With those changes, I learned to cook differently.  I learned to cook dishes I had never heard of growing up, much less eaten — quick pickled cucumbers, pesto, scones, risotto, beer-battered mushrooms, potato tempeh sausages, congee, baby bok choy in garlic sauce, haupia pie, tempura, curries, even (*gasp*) how to properly cook white rice that did not come out of an Uncle Ben’s box.

I love my diverse diet, and I love cooking for myself.  Last night? Pesto and gnocchi, both made from scratch.  A few nights before that? Black bean and pumpkin tamales made from scratch with homemade salsa and guacamole. Oh yeah.

And with all this cooking, I need tools that make the job easier or better.  Here are my favorites.

The Gadgets

American Innovative quad timer ($29.95): You can set four separate concurrent timers that can all be adjusted, paused, or reset independently.  The large LCD display shows up to two of the timers at once.  Easy to control click wheel and buttons makes the timer priceless when your hands are covered in flour or oven mitts. Because I cook multiple things at once quite frequently, this is a lifesaver.  I used to time one thing on the microwave, one thing on my phone, one thing on the oven, etc.  Ridiculous. This is perfect.  Just imagine how much easier Thanksgiving will be!  Well, the dinner cooking part. I can’t help with the family drama.  That’s all part of the traditional celebration, no?

OCD Chef Cutting Board ($24.99): Speaking of family drama, yes–there is an OCD Chef Cutting Board. I mean no disrespect to people with OCD (trust me) but it is what the device is called.  A 9″ by 12″ beechwood board with measurements down to the millimeter, including various angles of cuts as well. Super, super precise and it makes me feel like an engineer while I’m chopping veggies.



Pixel oven mitts ($16.99): *tee hee*  Fairly good oven mitts, and they make you look nerdy. With that extra boost they become really good oven mitts.





Oster automatic wine opener ($19.99): One-push of a button and your bottle of wine is opened up, cork drawn up into the opener. Push another button and it ejects the cork. Rechargable, works every single time, and is easy on the hands and wrists (which is why I bought it).




JA Henckels International knives ($varies): They start sharp and they stay sharp. They don’t rust, bend, or loosen from the handle.  They have a lovely weight, a perfect balance.  I love how these knives feel in my hand.



Kapoosh knife block ($39.99): And to put my lovely blades in, Kapoosh! I’d seen these on gadget blogs and blown them off, but then I tried one in a store and literally said “Ooooooh!” aloud to no one in particular.  It’s a whole bunch of little teeny tiny rods (think very small dowels). Slide the knife in wherever you want in the block, and poof! It sticks. Better for the blades too — less wear and tear than in a traditional knife block.



Air Bake cookie sheets ($15-$20): Best cookie sheet on the planet. End of story.  Stuff cooks evenly and doesn’t burn on the bottom. I will never go back to a normal cookie sheet again. Ever! You can pry this one from my cold, dead hands.  Then I’ll probably reach up at least once, B-horror-movie style, and grab it back.



Circulon cookware ($varies): Circulon evenly heats things and doesn’t burn them. Simple as that.  I notice this particularly with the larger pans and pots, cooking chili or sauces.  Evenly distributed heat is key when you’re someone who may from time to time forget to “continuously stir.”




Wonder Plunger measuring cup ($5.99): Suction-based, plunge the cup down to the exact measurement you need, pour liquid in, plunge the liquid out.  Nothing wasted, no need to scrape the sides of a measuring cup with a finger (ahem, spatula, of course).  This is a huge effort saver when it comes to viscous liquids like molasses, brown rice syrup, oils, etc.  Best $6 I’ve spent of late.





Zojirushi Mr. Bento Stainless Steel Lunch Jar ($42.88): Bento! In a canister! In a little shoulder bag with cutlery! Cute, dishwasher safe, and perfectly sized.  Downside?  I wish I remembered to use it more.  Laziness rules sometimes, and I just grab something portable and throw it into a container. This requires a modicum of forethought. It does make you look cool though.






Butter Boy butter (or vegan margarine) holder ($9.05): I <3 corn on the cob. I do not <3 putting margarine/butter on the aforementioned corn.  Except when I use Butter Boy. Jam some margarine down into his neck, then push the plunger underneath him to push out exactly what you need.  Curved perfectly for corn, no need to have messy hands ever again. Thank you Butter Boy!






Grandma Witmer’s Old Fashioned Peanut Buter Mixer ($9.95): Yes, I eat natural peanut butter. Go ahead and crack the left-coast-vegan-Californian stuff now.  It is yummier and better for you. So there. But it’s a bitch to mix up the first time. This mixer screws on top of the jar in place of the lid, and then you just turn the handle. I’m excited now to crack open a new jar of peanut butter whereas before it induced cold night sweats hallucinating about spilling oil all over the floor and being too weak to stir a fork in the hard-as-rock peanut part. When I bought mine, there was just the one model. Now they have tons of choices with better ergonomics and for various jar sizes. Nice!


What do I still want to buy?

Breville Juice Extractor  ($200-$500) – I like juicing. Veg, fruit, all mushed up…all good.  But I hate pulp like the plague and the nasty airy chalky frothy junk you get on top of a lot of fresh juices makes me kinda nauseous. Voila! The Breville Juice Extractor even has a “foam separator attachment.” Nice! At the cost though, this one’s going to have to wait a while.

And…a good espresso machine – I was also recently exposed to a most excellent low-profile table-top espresso machine that I now want. Must…get…make…and…model.  The problem is–home or office?  Or both?  Decisions, decisions.

Update: The espresso machine is an illy Francis Francis Y1 iperEspresso Machine.  $295. Definitely want. Low profile, pretty, and *gasp* it comes in black!

Time to talk back! What are your favorite kitchen gadgets?  What do you recommend to friends and family?  What would you never give up?  Pray tell.  I have about negative $1,000 budgeted for kitchen gadgets for the rest of the year, and that debt ain’t gonna spend itself. So bring it!

I get asked a lot what technology I actually use, as opposed to all the cool stuff I show people or talk about.  So I started looking around and thinking about it.  What do I use? What do I have? Do I like it or love it?  And I decided to start posting about it by subject area of gadget (insert nerdy librarian joke here).  I thought we could start with audio–how I create and consume audio (music, podcasts, webinars, etc.).  Other areas I’ve thought about are video, cooking/food, reading, internet/data, and the ever popular “random miscellany.”  If there are other categories you’re curious about, let me know and I’ll see what I have lying around.

So we begin with audio!

–First off: What do I consume?–

I listen to music a lot.  At home, in the car, at work, on the go.  I also listen to a lot of podcasts.  No audiobooks (I think the reader’s voice changes my interpretation of the words, and puts a spin on images or characters in my head).  I also create audio content for live webinars and I’m just starting to create a podcast series which may or may not have video.

Second: How do I consume it?

At home

Sonos system: I have a two-room Sonos system set up in my apartment.  It’s a wireless music system that feeds in whatever collection you have on your local computer as well as multiple streaming services (Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, etc.), plus radio stations.  It’s pretty cool. You can also control it w/ your smartphone so I turn the music on from outside the house so that something nice is playing when I walk in the door. It’s expensive, but totally worth it for music-heads like me.

Android HTC Thunderbolt smartphone: As stated, I control my Sonos subscription with my amazing Android HTC Thunderbolt phone.  I <3 this phone.  I use my phone for audio in other places too, in other ways, which I’ll prattle on about later.

Audio Receiver: I have my entire sound system in my house running through a pretty upscale Samsung audio receiver. I don’t know WTF I’m doing with it, to be honest, but I at least figured out how to get the speakers and various components hooked up. That does mean I need to keep it on at all times if I want to do the “turn on the Sonos from outside” trick.  I’m okay with that. And yes, I cabled everything up myself in my apartment from raw speaker cable. I am proud of that (w00t!), as evidenced by my ‘home audio porn’ shot on Flickr.

The speakers: I have four Bowers and Wilkins bookshelf speakers hooked up–two in the living room, two in the bedroom. These little tiny guys pack a heck of a punch. Awesome sound, great bass, probably enough that my neighbors want to throttle me. The sound in the bedroom is particularly good–probably because it is a somewhat smaller space, less echo-y.

Music collections and services: I use the iTunes library on my MacBook (which I have to have on for the Sonos system to be able to access it, logically), and I also subscribe to Spotify (all streaming music anytime) and Pandora (how to describe Pandora…customized streaming internet radio?), and also use the free Google Music service (which lets you upload your downloaded songs into the cloud and then access them from anywhere).

Podcast service: And I use Google Listen to subscribe to podcasts.  Love it.  Shows up in my Google Reader as a feed, and as an app on my phone.

At work

Heartbeats earbuds (Beats by Dr. Dre): I work in a large room with 4-6 other people, depending on the time of day.  So usually I use these lovely Lady Gaga Heartbeats earbuds to listen to music through Spotify or Google Music or my podcasts through Google Listen.  I like the Beats headphones for the bass, as I am an electronica fan and bass is a must.  I don’t give a crap about who made them, or that Lady Gaga put her personal brand stamp of approval on them.  I really thought they sounded the best out of all the earbuds I tried. I detest over-ear headphones as they end up hurting my head after a while. I don’t know why. I’m weird.

X-Mini Capsule Speaker: OK, this is one of those gadgets that I use in a crowd and people get all excited and go out and buy the next day.  This little X-mini external speaker (a mere $29.99  @ ThinkGeek) has the best sound of any small speaker I’ve ever encountered.  I use it to play music before classes, to play off my phone or laptop when I’m traveling, etc. It’s seriously that good.  You can also buy sets of more than one, and daisy chain them up for stereo or surround sound.  But just one will do you.  I bought a couple for my dad, a true audio nut, and he is in love with them too. That’s all the stamp of approval I need.


In the car

Android HTC Thunderbolt smartphone: I just hook up my phone through my nice little audio cable which goes into my MP3-in port on the car, turn on Spotify, Google Music, or Google Listen, and go. Easy peasy.

On the go

Android HTC Thunderbolt smartphone: I do not own an MP3 player. My phone is my music player. I have multiple audio apps on the phone (Pandora, Spotify, Google Music, Google Listen, Soundcloud, Slacker Radio, Sonos, and until recently Rdio too [before I decided to choose Spotify for sound quality]).  So I can get pretty much any song, podcast, or other audio entertainment when I want it.  The phone is small and lightweight enough for taking it on hikes, for workouts, etc.  Plus, it’s my phone so I already have it with me.

Heartbeats earbuds (Beats by Dr. Dre): Again, love these. Highly recommend.


And third, how do I create audio content?

Yeti microphone: I love this microphone.  It’s big.  It’s heavy.  It’s powerful.  It has easy-to-learn controls. And the sound quality is astonishing. You can hear each and every breath in, whisper, and tonal change.  It also folds down for storage and then pivots up for use (more than slightly phallic).  I love this microphone…after having unsuccessfully tried several others.  I got it a while back during some crazy one-day Amazon sale (for $90 instead of $199 if I recall).  So glad I bought it.

Audacity: Record into Audacity. Edit and mix in Audacity.  And you’re all done.  Whenever I show people how to record and edit audio for the first time, they’re super scared and don’t believe they’ll be able to learn how to do it.  But once you see that it’s really just highlighting, copying, pasting, dragging, deleting, and adding effects (just like in a Word document) all of a sudden they’re audio ninjas!  Ninjas, I say!  If you’re scared of audio or video editing have somebody show you the basics and I promise you that fear will go away.  I was scared.  But I learned, and so can you 🙂  I promise!  Sarah’s personal guarantee, good for your money back (oh wait, all this was free…umm, good for a cup of coffee?).

So what did I forget?  What devices do you use for audio consumption and creation?  What do you love?  What did you buy and later learn to dislike?  Bring it on!  Bring on the gadget wars!