Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Time Magazine Best 50 Websites of 2008

Time, a noted magazine of our time, has produced an entertaining and useful listing of its views of the best of the online world. These websites fall into categories Time describes as Advice & Facts, Info & Gossip, Handy Tools, Fun & Games, and Hobbies & Interests.

Below are a few of the sites I've checked out & recommend.
http://www.iliketotallyloveit.com/: According to the site's publisher, this site " allows users to publish and share products with the broader public which they find cool, innovative, exceptionally beautiful, or just weird. Included with every item is a link to an online shop where it can be purchased." According to me, this site is a good stop for ideas for gifts for the upcoming gift season. I found a few good ideas rather quickly here by clicking on the Toys link.

http://www.omiru.com/: Omiru is "a style and shopping guide dedicated to real style for real people. We cover figure flattery, fashion trends, and an assortment of articles aimed at making style accessible to all." The site has an exhaustive Archives section dating back to March 2005 as well as links to dozens of online sites for buying items or researching fashion trends.
http://psychcentral.com/: Psych Central is an incredibly useful website for gaining more information about diagnosis, treatment, and helpful resources for a host of mental health issues for adults & children.http://www.geni.com/: Geni is an interactive online site where a person can create a family tree. The site allows for other members of the family to join a tree for discussion, adding photos & videos, and reminders of birthdays & other anniversaries. Best of all, the site restricts viewing & editing of a tree to those authorized by a tree's creator.
http://www.searchme.com/: This site offers an intriguing alternative to the Yahoo! & Google search engines. Searchme "lets you see what you’re searching for. As you start typing, categories appear that relate to your query. Choose a category, and you’ll see pictures of web pages that answer your search." Pun intended, this one has to be seen to be believed.http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/index.php: The Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project created by the University of California, Santa Barbara, Department of Special Collections is a collection of "cylinder recordings, the first commercially produced sound recordings" which provide "a snapshot of musical and popular culture in the decades around the turn of the 20th century." Browse the collection to hear recordings from as early as 1893 about the first cars & airplanes, about World War I or the Civil War, or songs highlighting individual instruments like a zither or a cimbalom (which evidently is complex zither played especially in Hungary). The recordings of speeches found here may be of particular interest to history buffs or history teachers as they feature historical figures such as Teddy Roosevelt & William H. Taft.
http://www.lookybook.com/index.php: LookyBook, according to its site, "allows you to look at picture books in their entirety—from cover to cover, at your own pace. We know that nothing will replace the magic of reading a book with your child at bedtime, but we aim to replace the overwhelming and frustrating process of finding the right books for parents and their kids." The site is a useful tool for libraries, book sellers or individual readers hoping to preview books before purchase. This site allows searching by specific author or illustrator, by subject or genre, or by keyword. If searching by keyword, though, I would suggest trying, for example, both rabbit and rabbits if you are looking for a book about this animal in the family Leporidae. Using "rabbit" finds six books, but using "rabbits" finds only three.
http://digitalvaults.org/: A creation of the National Archives, this site contains digitized views of 1,200 documents in the National Archives collection. The content of this site is impressive on its own, but the interactivity of the site is what makes it special. I feel silly trying to explain this, actually -- give the site a look to see what I'm talking about.

The entire list can be found here: http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/0,28757,1809858,00.html. The list is particularly enlightening & useful in that it often offers other suggestions of websites similar in scope to those selected as the best.

Let me know if you have any other suggestions or questions.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Value of Libraries

A recent Bangor Daily News articles highlights the economic, cultural, & educational value of libraries. The article can be linked to here: http://bangordailynews.com/detail/90917.html.

The most telling part of the article to me is the dollar value of the services at the library used by the author, Rosemary Herbert, during a recent visit to her library in Rockport. In that one visit to her library, Ms. Herbert determined the services provided & materials borrowed to have a value of $233. Without putting too much thought into whether this a tremendous bargain or not, I'm just going to assume that this is a tremendous bargain.

But ... I think I'll also put much thought into this as well.

The most recent annual report for the Bangor Public Library lists the average amount of tax revenue per Bangor resident toward the operating cost of the library at $48.42 per taxpayer.

Here are some figures & observations to mull over:

* A fair estimate for the cost of a home Internet connection through Time Warner, a leading Internet service provider in the area, is around $40 per month. $48.42 is roughly the cost of five to six weeks of a home Internet connection.

*An estimate of the average price for a new hardcover book is between $18 and $30, an average price for a new paperback is between $6 and $15. If you only read books you could buy, $48.42 would limit you only to two or three (new) books per year.

*Most magazine subscriptions for individuals run between $15 to $30 per year, with some specialized magazines costing much more. $48.42 would most likely limit a person to only two subscriptions per year, meaning you'd have to choose between Time or Newsweek (or The Economist or The New York Review of Books) if you also already subscribe to Down East Magazine.

*Most books on CD & cassette cost $30 or more each, while the Playaways offered at the library cost $40 to $60 each. $48.42 might not even be enough to buy one of these, depending on what & where you're buying.

*The databases available on Marvel!, Maine's Virtual Library, utilized by college students, business professionals, health care professionals, and the regular citizen cost the state about seven million dollars per year. This averages out to between four & five dollars per taxpayer, a fair sum considering that many scientific, technical, and medical journals could charge an individual upwards of $40 for a single journal article download. Believe me, I've seen it -- though, fortunately, there are legal ways around being charged that amount whenever the situation has arisen.

*All libraries are heated in the winter & cooled in the summer, an expense not to be sneezed at with the current cost of energy resources. Plus, you know, libraries now have electricity for things like computers & lights & stuff. $48.42 is probably a good estimate for the dollar total of all the electricity currently being pumped into the room for the 29 computers in use right now in the room I'm sitting in.

*Bangor Public Library employs around forty full-time employees who work 37.5 hours per week, totaling around 1500 hours worked per week & around 78,000 hours worked per year. Your $48.42 provides perhaps a dollar a day for one day to each of the employees here. Another way to look at this is that $48.42 is less than minimum wage for one employee working 7.5 hours in one day.

*The library is open 60 hours a week from September to May, 48 hours per week June to August, with the library being open about 300 days &, bear with me, over 2900 hours per year. $48.42 equals about 15 cents per day the library is open for each taxpayer. If you a huge math fanatic, try dividing $48.42 into 2900 hours & you'll get 1.6 cents per hour.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have "ball park" figured some of the math here (including, occasionally for comic -- at least, intended on my part -- effect). And, in truth, local tax dollars do not account for all the revenue sources for the library. State tax dollars provide 5-10% of Bangor Public Library's revenue stream. Also, the library is very fortunate to have well-funded endowments & regular financial donations from many folks with generous spirits which almost exclusively fund our book collection.

For my money (ha + ha!), I'd say $48.42 per year is an incredible bargain. I worked part-time in the Albany, New York, public library system prior to coming to Bangor. In Albany, I believe the average tax burden for the library was just over $100 per taxpayer. And, that total has increased since voters agreed last year to fund renovation & new construction projects.

Of course, not every citizen of Bangor uses the library on a regular or irregular basis. Ten years after the construction of the new addition to the building, I occasionally help someone who notes with neither malice nor presumption that he/she "hasn't been in since the new part was added." At least ten years between visits to the library may beg that $48.42 is too much to pay.

But, I'll argue, the point is that we are here when anyone does need us. Last week, the library held a public forum to meet & hear the candidates for city council & the school committee speak. For many, this was the first & best & possibly only chance they had to better inform themselves about the upcoming local election. This very well attended forum may well have been the only time many folks visited us this year, but it highlights that at any given time our citizenry may call upon us to provide a valuable service or opportunity for them.

We are here & the graciousness of taxpayers & donors makes what we do possible. Your contributions, financial or otherwise, are a trust we hope to continue to honor whether you visit the library hundreds of times a year or not once. $48.42 is just a dollar figure; the real value of libraries isn't in what you pay but in what you & others can get from experiences & resources at the library.

Back in April, I visited the aquarium in Boston. I can't remember how much I paid for tickets for my wife, son & I. But I do remember how cool my son thought the penguins were & how scary he thought the octopus was. Okay, I'll be honest, it was me that found the octopus a little creepy.

My point is, that while, of course, there is certainly a dollar & cents reality to the library's operation, any true determination of a library's value can only exist in the minds of those who visit us. I would like to hope that more often than not that what we provide at Bangor Public Library is invaluable.

Let me know what you think.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Political & Social Cartoons

A few years back, I discovered a book called Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists, edited by Ted Rall. Rall is himself a rather noted political & social cartoonist, whose cartoons regularly appear in over 150 U.S. newspapers. He also is the author or editor of about a dozen books available on the URSUS & MaineCat catalogs, including two updated editions of Attitude.

Attitude features works by cartoon artists not commonly found in the majority of American newspapers. These cartoons are found predominantly in the alternative weeklies of the U.S.'s largest cities. The reason these artists are not regularly featured in most newspapers is that their perspectives typically go well beyond the Peanuts, Cathy, Family Circus, & Ziggy brand of drawing & social commentary. With all respect to the comics featured in most local papers, the typical Family Circus or Ziggy strip seems like it could have been (or was!) written back in 1971, with only an occasional reference to modern culture like American Idol or George Bush to let you know they weren't written in 1971.

Admittedly, the world views of the artists featured in Attitude & its follow-ups are left-leaning on the political & social-consciousness spectrum. Without blatantly giving away or advocating my own political beliefs, let's just say that I don't always agree or disagree with everything I hear on the O'Reilly Factor or on The Daily Show.

Because we live in a seemingly strongly politically & culturally divided country, I think that often fear of offending keeps many people from saying anything (other than discussing American Idol or other trivialities, though we all know Simon Cowell is more Republican than Paula Abdul; note: this is an unsubstantiated generalization -- & probably a pretty bad & way too complicated "joke"). Well, I say, say something at least. Even disagreement with someone is progress -- silence stagnates & insulates democracy.

With that in mind, I'd like to recommend a few links to the online works of a few of the cartoonists featured in Attitude & Attitude 2. [I have not looked at Attitude 3 yet because Bangor Public Library's copy has been checked out since it came in new].

I do advise, though, that some of these may feature words, opinions, or images you may find objectionable. I offer the same warning if you plan to watch an episode of Two & a Half Men, Law & Order, Hannity & Colmes, &/or The Colbert Report. Or, if you read an editorial from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Bangor Daily News. Or, if you give a look to any of the dozen or so "how the Bush Administration got it right" or "how the Bush Administration got it wrong" books available for checkout at your local library.

Ted Rall: http://www.rall.com/index.html

Andy Singer: http://www.andysinger.com/

Tom Tomorrow: http://www.thismodernworld.com/

Jen Sorensen: http://www.slowpokecomics.com

Ruben Bolling: http://gocomics.typepad.com/tomthedancingbugblog/. Here's a link to a typical Bolling perspective, this one about public libraries: http://archive.salon.com/comics/boll/2000/08/24/boll/index.html.

Keith Knight: http://www.kchronicles.com/

Mikhaela B. Reid: http://www.mikhaela.net/. Reid provides a quote in Attitude 2 which explains the clarity & directness political & social cartoons can have. She says, "As much as I love to read long editorials & articles ... they really never had the same effect on me [as cartoons] ... I appreciated the articles & editorials on an intellectual level ... but they didn't make me care on the same level [as with political or social cartoons]." I agree. Very often, for me, a one panel comic provides more depth to a perspective than a thousand word George Will or David Brooks editorial.

The above are just seven of the 42 artists profiled in the first two books. Contact me if you'd like to know who the others in these books are or if you'd like links to their web sites. And, once again, each of these books are available for checkout either the URSUS or MaineCat.

Because ultimately what I'm getting at here is that a picture can be worth a thousand words, it might seem odd that I haven't included any of the comics of any of the Attitude artists. I have not included any so as to avoid any potential copyright infringement & just to be fair to artist's whose work I respect.

The cartoon below is by an unpublished artist, my son. He made this on Microsoft Paint when he was four years old. To date, he hasn't published this, so I suppose I'm pretty safe in sharing it with you. I'm not sure what his political or social stance here is. Maybe it's a commentary on multiculturalism, about how people of all colors should just accept our differences & stand together through dark times. But, I may be reading more into than need be. I still think it's pretty neat though. Better than I could do.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Lengths Librarians Will Go To...

In an effort to get children to sign up for his library's summer reading program, Mill Creek, Washington librarian Mickey Gallagher ate 18 worms (like the ones pictured here). I commend him on his devotion to his work but I have to wonder what he'll have to eat next year to get them to sign up? Many thanks to LISNews for seeing this one.

Jim Riordan jriordan@bpl.lib.me.us

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Literary Map of Maine Published August 31

The Portland Press Herald published over last weekend the Literary Map of Maine. The map can be linked to by clicking here: http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/news/literarymap/map.html#map. A printed version of the map is/was available in last Sunday's edition of the paper.

The map offers an engaging look at dozens of authors in Maine's past as well as presents prominent books featuring Maine locations. The lists is a good source for brushing up on some of your favorites of the past or of becoming aware of lesser known works or authors.

Possibly the best feature of the online version of the map is its ability to be added to by reader suggestions, so the usefulness of the map is & will continue to be a work in progress of the reading community.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Few Useful Web Tools & Sites


Zamzar is an online file conversion site. I have turned to this very useful site several times over the past year in aiding patrons of the library. The site hasn't failed a file conversion yet that I've tried. And, it's free.

One of the common reasons I've used
Zamzar is for library patrons who bring in a disc with a WPS file on it. WPS files are documents created using Microsoft Works Word Processor which occasionally cannot be open or are opened in hieroglyphic-like text using updated versions of Microsoft Word or Office. Another common problem with opening patrons' files at the library is a docx document; these are documents produced on a newer version of Word than what is on our computers. So, the conversion problem exists for systems above & below the level of Word we own.

To convert a file, in the first step on the site, you'll need to have a document saved on the computer or available through a disc & upload the file to the site. The next step is to select the file type you wish to convert to. Next, enter an email address at which you will receive a url link to an updated version of the document. Last, click the "convert" button. The time needed to convert the file & send an email to you is usually under two hours. For faster service, you can register & may need to pay a small subscribing fee for a subscription. So, if you are in urgent or at-no-charge need of a file conversion, Zamzar may not be for you. There are other file-conversion sites (such as Free File Converter), but I am not familiar with their success rate or what costs may be associated.

In addition to text files, Zamzar can also convert audio, image, & video files. I haven't yet used Zamzar for either of these types of conversions, but I would imagine their success rate is as good as the text conversion rate of success I've had.

Another option for converting files is to download Microsoft Works 6-9 Converter.

FastStone Capture

One of my favorite web tools is another free download called
FastStone Capture. This tool is, according to FastStone's website, "a powerful, lightweight, yet full-featured screen capture tool that allows you to easily capture and annotate anything on the screen including windows, objects, menus, full screen, rectangular/freehand regions and even scrolling windows/web pages." [Note: I'm not exactly sure where FS gets their concept of the capture tool being "lightweight" as it is not an actual object. Perhaps they mean it's light on the amount of memory needed to store it? Or maybe they're just being funny].

FS Capture allows you to create image documents of portions of a computer screen. These images can be stored as jpegs or as other image types.

FS Capture is a particularly useful tool. I have used it for almost all blog posts I've done. Here is a link to a past blog entry I made that relied heavily on FS Capture: http://bangorpubliclibrary.blogspot.com/2007/11/identity-theft-what-it-is-how-to-avoid.html.

Another cool way to use
FS Capture is to freeze an online video such as one on YouTube to create your own pictures. Here's one I did from a very popular music video from the 1980s: To download FS Capture, click this link: http://www.faststone.org/download.htm.

Any Other Useful Tools?

If you know of any useful tools or websites, feel welcome to share them here on this blog.

Let me know if you have any questions.
Patrick Layne: playne@bpl.lib.me.us

Thursday, July 31, 2008


For those of you who aren't total NPR geeks like me, last week there was a peace on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network on libraries in Maine. It included our very own Barbara McDade as well as Linda Lord the deputy state librarian. The gist of the piece is that while the declining economy is shrinking funding sources for libraries that same decline is increasing the public's need for libraries. Have a listen.

Jim Riordan


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dailylit.com & Two Video Sites


Dailylit.com is a website which originates from the idea than many people today face greater demands in their time & quite often the most regular reading people do is on a computer screen.

Dailylit.com's creators, thought, "A-ha! Why not allow people to sign-up for a service to receive small portions of books to their email addresses & have them incorporate the reading of books into the same type routine as checking their email."

The site allows a user to choose a book -- there are over 750 books currently available -- or books to receive on a regular basis (each user can set up a personalized installment schedule) to an email account. The site claims most installments can be read by an average reader in about 2 to 3 minutes, with 5 minutes being the maximum.

Most of the books offered by Dailylit.com are free, having entered into public domain or simply offered for free by the copyright holder. There also are a number of books available for a small fee, which is usually under $5. These title range from books such as The Prince & the Pauper by Mark Twain for free & Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski for $6.75.

Dailylit.com admittedly is dominated by romance novels among its newer titles. So, the site may be exactly what you're looking for or exactly not what you're into. I think that the newness of this idea has made it relatively limited in its initial scope, but, I believe that this idea will catch on & that the consumer will ultimately help shape it into a greater, more varied version of what it currently is.

I do think, though, the site is quite successful in that it presents a few hundred or so of the classics. The site actually seems perfectly suited for book discussion groups, allowing all participants to get the same installments emailed to them at the same pace-- and all without having to find at the library or at a bookstore enough copies for everyone in the discussion group.

For TV & movies junkies, just about the best site around is hulu.com. This site, launched just a few months ago, is a more sophisticated version of what youtube.com is. Whereas youtube.com has hundreds of thousands amatuer videos (which run the spectrum to the truly inspired & genius to the utterly depressing & unnecessary), hulu.com has hundreds of professional quality clips, episodes, & even entire movies available. And, it's all for FREE.

Better, the video available for free is top-quality stuff. A sampling of the movies available are: Master and Commander (starring Russell Crowe), Sideways (starring Paul Giamatti), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (starring the never-better Jim Carrey), & the cult favorite, The Big Lebowski (starring Jeff Bridges).

The best part about hulu.com, though, is the amount & diversity of older TV shows available. Got a hankering to see every episode of the first two seasons of The A-Team? hulu.com's got it. Want to see the entire series of the critically-acclaimed, but cancelled-anyway Arrested Development? hulu.com has that too. If you are a Steve Carrell or Stephen Colbert fan, you can check each out on The Office or The Colbert Report on hulu.com, or, for their earlier work, take a look at them on The Dana Carvey Show, which aired a total of seven episodes back in 1996.

The only drawback to hulu.com? Ads will pop-up on the screen & you have to "x" them to make them go away. This was particularly annoying recently when I was watching a report on George Carlin's death & had a Chili's ad appear at the bottom of the screen.

Otherwise, hulu.com has quite a bit to offer & I think you'll find something worthwhile if you give it a try.


Another high-quality video website is freedocumentaries.org. The site offers hundreds of videos on a wide array of categories such as environmentalism, animal activism, human rights, health issues & American history.

The titles on this site range from the high-profile movies of Michael Moore & the 2004 Academy Award winning The Fog of War by Errol Morris to the much lower profile, but still expertly done, movies such as The Yes Men & The Invisible Children. The site features many videos produced by & previously aired on PBS, HBO & CBC.

So, if you're more a 60 Minutes type than a sitcom watcher, I'd recommend freedocumentaries.org over hulu.com. With either one, though, you've have plenty of variety & quality to choose from.

Patrick Layne


Monday, June 30, 2008

BPL Mobile Web

In the past few years there has been a rapid expansion in the number of internet enabled "smart phones." Like all libraries, Bangor Public does its best to keep up with the technology being used by its patrons. To that end, we have created a mobile version of our website designed to be viewed on devices like iphones or blackberries. Its called BPL Mobile and can be found at this link or on our home page.

What's Different?

Almost all of the content available on our main web site is also available on the mobile web site. You can order a library card, find out when we are open, access the Ask a Librarian page, and much more all on the go. The biggest difference is that it has been scaled down for viewing on a smaller screen. We've done our best to keep our web sites original look. You will see a smaller version of the Bangor Public Library banner as well as the green and blue color scheme. At the same time we have tried minimizing things that will slow download times. A lot of the images have been eliminated and the content from several pages has been incorporated together. Because there is no standard screen size for mobile devices we have also set the text to automatically collapse or expand to fit whatever screen it is being viewed on. That's why if you look at the site in a regular web browser the text streams off to the edge of the screen. Several web pages, like the blog and the events calender, could not be reformatted for mobile use since we do not have the authority to change their coding.

Talk to us .... please

A small confession: I don't own an iphone, blackberry or any other mobile device. Since I completed the prototype of the mobile web, I have been going around hitting up people I know who own these things so I could look at it. (I think some of them were a little annoyed when they found out I didn't want to talk to them I just wanted to play with their toy) As a result, I have not spent a lot of time testing the site on mobile devices. So I would really like to hear what everyone thinks of it and what needs to be changed. I'd especially like to hear from those of you with iphones. All of my friends seem to be crackberry addicts. You can post your comments to the blog or email me at
jriordan@bpl.lib.me.us Thanks.

Jim Riordan

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

JSTOR Access & New Playaways

JSTOR Access

After previously only be available to library card holders from within the Bangor Public Library, access to JSTOR is now available to card holders off-site. You can gain access by following a link on the library's Online Databases page at http://www.bpl.lib.me.us/reference/FindingJournalArticles.htm. By clicking on the bluish-green JSTOR link, you'll be prompted to enter in your last name & your library barcode number.

According to its website, JSTOR offers "a high-quality, interdisciplinary archive to support scholarship and teaching. It includes archives of over one thousand leading academic journals across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, as well as select monographs and other materials valuable for academic work. The entire corpus is full-text searchable, offers search term highlighting, includes high-quality images, and is interlinked by millions of citations and references."

One of the unique features of the JSTOR database is that all of its journal holdings begin with volume 1, issue 1 for every journal it owns. So, if you have a compelling interest in reading Economic Geography from cover to cover since it began in 1925, JSTOR would be able to accommodate you in that pursuit.

The database, however, does not have the most up-to-date issues of the journals it documents; most journals have a three to five year embargo. [Embargoes on electronic access are a publisher's way of maintaining demand for print versions of journals]. For Economic Geography, this embargo would keep reaching your goal of reading the entirety of the journal as 2002 is the current embargoed year for this journal.

JSTOR is relatively scholarly in nature, but that does not mean that its 1,115 current journal holdings are not in demand. In the past year, I have been able to find approximately thirty articles for our patrons on JSTOR that were not available elsewhere. I know that other staff members have used this database quite regularly as well.

We are excited to open up access to this database for our card holders. Let me know if you have questions about JSTOR or have trouble opening it from your home or office computer.


The library has added ten more Playaways. Here are a few of the new titles:

Protect and defend by Vince Flynn
Ten days in the hills by Jane Smiley
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
The house of the scorpion by Nancy Farmer

This audio format for books has been very popular with our library users since we first put these on the shelf last November. Many times that I've checked the shelf, all but one or two of these have been checked out. Right now, there are several available -- maybe because our Playaway fans didn't know we have added a few new ones!

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Literary Map of Maine

Have you ever wondered where exactly in Maine Henry David Thoreau was when he was in "The Maine Woods"? Ever thought you might know where the fictional St. Cloud, Maine, in John Irving's "The Cider House Rules" is meant to be? Do you think you know what towns in Maine, real or imagined, have provided inspiration or the setting for the many works of Stephen King?

The Maine Literary Map Project, a project co-sponsored by the Portland Press Herald & the Maine Regional Library System, aims to create a map, with the public's help, of these literary sites in our oft-celebrated in verse & prose Pine Tree State. The project seeks to have the reading public rediscover or learn of for the first time many great books which celebrate Maine culturally, poetically, & geographically.

The project, when completed, could resemble a 2005 New York Times creation of a literary map of Manhattan. This appealing & thorough map can be seen at this link: http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/books/20050605_BOOKMAP_GRAPHIC/.
There is also a West Virgina literary map (http://www.fairmontstate.edu/wvfolklife/literarymap/index.shtml).

Jeannine Guttman, editor of the Portland Press Herald, announced this idea on May 11th. The full text of her article, which provides more information on how to contribute & the philosophy behind the map's creation, can be seen by linking here: http://proquest.umi.com.prxy1.ursus.maine.edu/pqdweb?index=11&did=1477212071&SrchMode=3&sid=1&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1210685265&clientId=48171&aid=1

Or, if you'd just like to dive into offering your contribution, visit the Portland Press Herald page at www.pressherald.com, then click on the "contribute to our literary map of Maine" link. You can also submit an entry via mail; mail entries can be sent to 390 Congress St., Portland, Maine, 04101, care of Marcia MacVane. Submissions will be accepted until June 8th. A finished map is scheduled to appear in the Portland Press Herald late this summer & a more detailed map is planned for the Press Herald's website.

Take another look at those Robert McCloskey, Linda Greenlaw, & other noted Maine authors' books to see if you can determine where this or that scene occurred. Read the aptly-named, "The Way Life Should Be," by Christina Baker Kline. Visit the fictional Spruce Harbor setting of Richard Hooker's "MASH Goes to Maine." And, while you are at it, help me -- possibly you too -- figure out where the Crabapple Cove of Hooker's imagination is that Hawkeye Pierce is supposed to be from.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Are you having a problem with your Ipod that the instruction manual does not explain how to remedy? Have you lost or just don't want to bother with searching for the manual for your TV? Can't figure out the complicated technical jargon in the manual for your new digital camera?

Fortunately, in our world of ever-increasing gadgets & ever-increasing gadget-created frustration, there is a great one stop source for solutions to many of the technological confusions we face. FixYa is a website that provides free tips on how to repair or troubleshoot hundreds of common problems for devices such as cellphones, MP3 players, printers, refrigerators, video games consoles, turntables (hey, they are making a comeback), & even wine coolers.

FixYa was, according to its website, "founded by an entrepreneur who decided to take advantage of the fact that consumer products manufacturers are not providing adequate support through their web sites. Although these products become more and more technologically advanced, their manufacturers are not allocating the necessary resources that are required in order to provide good technical support." The great hook of FixYa is that its basis is on real consumer's experiences with technological problems & solutions, & not based on the often confusing or incomplete manuals provided by a product's manufacturer.

FixYa has a relatively straight-forward means of searching. The homepage quick-lists links to dozens of major manufacturers. By clicking a manufacturer name, the page will reset to list the categories of products produced by that company. Great, too, is that the site has pictures of the products, so you won't need to know a product number to access the information about it.

The other means of searching is a simple search box much like a Google or Yahoo search box. In this search box, you can enter either a product name & number if you have the "find a product" selection clicked. Or, if you've clicked the "find a solution" button, you can enter, for example, "playstation 2 blank screen" or "heating coil dishwasher whirlpool" to get to series of possible answers to the problem.

So, keep FixYa in mind the next time you have trouble with one of your gadgets. Unless, of course, the gadget you're having difficulty with is your computer. In that case, you might have to dig out that user's manual after all.

Patrick Layne: playne@bpl.lib.me.us

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

April 5th Video Game Tournament @ the Library a Big Success!

April 5th Video Game Tournament

The video game tournament on April 5th proved to be a great success. Around 50 teens competed in either the Dance Dance Revolution or the Guitar Hero III tournament in what turned out to be an all-around fun day. In addition to the competitors, dozens more friends & family members saw the rather mind-boggling skills displayed by the players in each game. The championship rounds for each game had the crowd cheering as loudly as the fans do at Fenway Park -- I'm not exaggerating. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating -- a little.

I was personally impressed by the skills of all the players in these games. Much of my amazement stems from just how inept I was a playing each of these games. I still think of myself as somewhat active & coordinated (even at the "ancient" age of "in my mid-thirties"), but next to the teens' abilities at these games, my ability at each game was the equivalent of trying to start a fire with two wet stones, while the teens had blazing bonfires going. I'm not totally sold on all video games being of value, but I really believe that being good at Dance Dance Revolution & Guitar Hero III (and many other video games) does speak volumes towards a person's organizational skills, coordination, and concentration levels.

The success of the tournament encourages the library & me to plan more such events for the fall. I would like to host a tournament for Madden NFL. Madden NFL is, after all, arguably the most successful gaming franchise of all-time. A Madden tournament would probably take place of the course of several days, given the length of individual Madden games. Of minor note, I am also terrible at this game. The last time I played I threw 4 interceptions with Tom Brady as my quarterback.

Another idea we're working on is getting adults, especially senior citizens, involved in gaming. I've read about the success of games like Wii bowling (you can too at http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1127/p01s05-ussc.html) in engaging older generations in what often is viewed as a younger generation pastime. The idea of getting seniors into libraries for a gaming night strikes us as something we'd love to be a part of.

The slate is truly open for the future of gaming at Bangor Public Library. We would like to hear your thoughts on gaming at the library & any suggestions you might have for a future gaming tournament.

You may send any ideas or comments by responding to this blog post. Or, you can directly email me (Patrick Layne) at playne@bpl.lib.me.us or give me a call at 947-8336 x127.

Pictured below: Dance Dance Revolution competitor Alex in action on April 5th.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Look What's New on the Web Page

The Bangor Public Library web site has gotten a new look so when you have a chance check it out http://www.bpl.lib.me.us We haven't changed the content so you'll still be able to find things where they were. However, Jan has created a really fabulous banner and new buttons. She also put the IM Reference widget on the home page and we've already started getting more questions. So if you are in hurry and need to get in touch with us send an instant message right from our home page. Also check out the teen page its completely new and looks very nice in purple.
Jim Riordan jriordan@bpl.lib.me.us

Friday, March 28, 2008

Oddest Book Title Prize Announced

Yes its that time of year again. TheBookseller.com has announced the winner of its annual Oddest Book Title Prize. Some of you may remember last years winner The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification which the Bangor Public Library owns: 779.092.M7603s. So drum roll please!

The Winners For the 2008 Oddest Book Title Prize Are:

First Place: If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs

Second Place: I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen

Third Place: Cheese Problems Solved

I had personally hoped How to Write a How to Write Book (fourth place) would have done better ... oh well. If you want to see the whole announcement it is here or to see the shortlist of this years contenders click here.

Jim Riordan jriordan@bpl.lib.me.us

Monday, March 24, 2008

Social Networking for the Bibliophile

I keep seeing this article showing up on several library listservs and blogs so I thought I'd pass it on. It's NPR piece from March 20 on reader oriented social networking. These are web sites that let you track the books you read, share titles with others, and find out what they are reading. I didn't particularly like the opening line "Bookish people may not be known for their social skills..." yeah speak for your self Ms. Woodroof. Other than that though its pretty good. The transcript also includes links to sites like LibraryThing, GoodReads, and BookJetty.

I don't know about the others but I have used LibraryThing as an online to-read-list. I'm always seeing books I want to read (working in a library ... who would have thought) but don't have time to. Then when I do have time I can't remember any of them. So I created a list on LibraryThing that I can go back to when I'm in need of a book. I'm only using it in its most limited capacity its also great for finding books others are reading and what titles are currently hot. Read the article give them a try and let us know what you think.

Jim Riordan jriordan@bpl.lib.me.us

Friday, March 14, 2008

April 5th: Game Tournament @ Bangor Public Library!

Calling All Gamers!

Do you love videogames? Do you like competing against your friends & peers? Do you think your gaming skills are good enough to beat out others for prizes & fame?

The Bangor Public Library is happy to announce its first ever game tournament for teens & their families on April 5th in the Lecture Hall, beginning at 10AM.

You will get a chance to pit your skills against all challengers in two of the more popular – and fun – games around, Dance Dance Revolution Supernova & Guitar Hero III.

Top winner in each event will get a gift certificate for $50. Second place receives a $30 gift card & third will win a $20 card. All participants will be entered in a drawing for the $100 grand prize.

We hope this tournament will stir up some great performances by our gamers & be a lot of fun for everyone who attends this unique event.

To guarantee your spot in the tournament, we ask that you pre-register for the event or events in which you’d like to compete. You may pre-register by going to www.bplgametournament.blogspot.com, by email Patrick at playne@bpl.lib.me.us, or signing up at the Library.

Teen gamers are the intended audience for this tournament. We will, however, give teens a chance to compete against a parent. Keep in mind, though, that only teens are eligible for any prizes. The Library will have other tournaments in the future designed for pre-teens & adults.

We look forward to seeing all you gamers on April 5th!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gale Reference Center Gold

Many of you are probably aware of the databases available on Minerva, a statewide virtual library. However, the Bangor Public Library has a couple databases that are only available to Bangor Public Library card holders. These are Gale Reference Center Gold and The Biography Resource Center. They can be reached by going to http://infotrac.galegroup.com/itweb/bang45018 If you are accessing the database from home you'll need the password. I'm not allowed to divulge it on line (it would make Gale unhappy) but we can give it out in person or over the phone (947-8336 and ask for reference).

So what do these databases do? Well Gale Reference Center Gold is "a general interest database that integrates a variety of source - newspapers, reference books, magazines, and trade publications." For example if you do a search for "economic stimulus package" you will get 556 results from periodicals like Journal of Commerce and New Orleans City Buisness. You can limit your search to full text articles and to academic journals. You can also search for a specific journal by clicking "publication search" at the top of the page.

Biography Resource Center provides full text articles from various biographical reference sources including Marquis Who's Who. Don't know who you are looking for? Well on the left side of the page is a list of browseable subjects like American Presidents and Notable Women. If you typed in say Harriet Beecher Stowe you will get biographical sketches on Stowe from Encyclopedia of World Biography, Contemporary Authors and Dictionary of American Biography. All the entries have a similar format: a short biographical sketch, list of further reading, how to cite the information in a paper, and (if available) a picture of the person.

Below are some screen shots of the databases. As always if you need any help let us know.

Jim Riordan (jriordan@bpl.lib.me.us)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Wonderful World of Free Software

I am a big fan of the open source movement. For those not already familiar with this it is basically the idea of giving free access to computer software and the source code behind it for constructing new applications. For a more complete definition check out The Open Source Initiative. My reasons for supporting it go beyond getting free software though. As a librarian I support any movement that works to narrow the technology gap in our society. I have also found in many cases open source software is more innovative and adaptable than the commercial equivalent (like firefox).

I was quite happy therefore when I saw the following article in the online version of PC Magazine, "The Best Free Software." It is a review of free software available to the public along with the basic system requirements. There are some things that you have probably already used or heard of like Adobe Reader and Firefox Web Browser. There are a lot of other things as well like OpenOffice.org which is similar to and compatible with Microsoft Office. I use this one on my computer at home and love it. The article also includes web based resources like Google Reader and Zoho which are worth checking out. There were also a bunch I hadn't heard of before and am looking forward to trying. Make sure to read the comments on the article to since they have some other suggestions that weren't included. We'd also love to hear your comments or experiences using any of this software.

Jim Riordan jriordan@bpl.lib.me.us

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Famous Mainers At the Maine State Library

I was reading the Waterboro Public Library's h20boro lib blog (http://www.waterborolibrary.org/blog.htm) and they had a post about a new database from the The Maine State Library. It is called Famous Mainers and Famous People With Maine Connections. On the main page there is an alphabetical list of individuals with some Maine connection, their dates and a category they fit into. For example James Blaine is listed as a Political Figure who lived from 1830 to 1893. If you click on the name of the individual, you will get a brief list of their achievements and some useful books and web sites about them (take a look at the image to the right). The books are ones found in the Maine State Library but if we don't have copies of them here at BPL we can get them for you. There is also a search field on the right side of the page. Its a great place to start if you have to come up with a famous Mainer for a paper. Many thanks to the Waterboro Public Library for noticing this and blogging it.

Jim Riordan jriordan@bpl.lib.me.us

Friday, February 22, 2008

Car Repair Online

I just saw an article in the latest edition of Searcher Magazine (the "magazine for database professionals" yes I know I'm a geek :) evaluating automobile repair websites.

Here's the Citation:
McDermott, Irene E. "Baby You Can Drive My Car (If You Can Get It Started) Auto Repair on the Web" Searcher 16(2) February 2008 pgs 8-12.

This is a topic near if not dear to my heart. A few months ago I bought a used car after going over a year without one so I'm getting back into the habit of spending money on it. The article is pretty comprehensive including repair manuals, web sites to help evaluate whether repair costs have exceeded the a car's value, web sites to help you read the On Board Diagnostic Codes, auto repair in Spanish, and even the Car Talk Guys web site.

The article is available online, however, because of copy right restrictions and firewalls I can't link directly to the article. I can tell you how to get there though. You'll either need to have a Maine library card or be using a computer in a Maine library. First go to Marvel "Maine's Virtual Library." Click on Academic Search Premier (first link in the list). If you are doing this at home you will need to enter your library card number at this point. Now type in the title of the article and it should pull it right up. Or you could just ask your friendly neighborhood reference librarian to print it for you.

Although I can't link you directly to the article I can link you to a list of the automotive websites in the article.

If you have a favorite automotive website not listed in the article please share it. And as always let us know what you think.

Jim Riordan, jriordan@bpl.lib.me.us

Thursday, February 7, 2008


What is Cyberbullying?

A growing concern as more & more of our communications occur online is cyberbullying. Teens & younger children are particularly suspectible to this type of online intimidation.

Cyberbullying is, according to the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, "sending or posting harmful or cruel text or images using the Internet or other digital communication devices." Cyber bullying may occur directly, such as when a hateful message is sent to a target, or indirectly, as when a message, website, or photograph is sent to others and results in later bullying behavior toward the target (source: http://www.unicel.com/standup/adults_intro.html).

As the excellent Unicel site on the subject suggests, "when it comes to broadcasting negative information, the cyber world has become the new bathroom wall." Cyberbullying is occurring across many of our newer technologies: instant messaging services, camera phones, chat rooms, e-mail, Web logs, social networking sites and cell phone text messaging.

The nameless, faceless nature of much of digital communication seems to be empowering folks to say hurtful things or transmit threatening images to others that they would never think to say in a face-to-face situation. Many people are, like the guy in the Brad Paisley song are "so much cooler online." The dark reality is, though, that many people are also decidedly "so much crueler online."

While the damage caused by cyberbullying usually ends at hurt feelings, the consequences can become much more dire, as a recent case in Missouri attests. This case may be an extreme example, but it is an eye-opener as to the bearing the threats or abuse can have on young people lives.

While some states (Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Washington) have laws specifically addressing cyberstalking, many states are struggling with ways to place the same legal penalties verbal threats & physical threats carry to cyber threats. What Can I Do to Protect Myself or My Child?

The National Crime Prevention Council suggests the following guidelines:

*Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages
*Tell friends to stop cyberbullying
*Block communication with cyberbullies
*Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult
*Blocking communication with the cyberbully
*Deleting messages without reading them
*Talking to a friend about the bullying
*Reporting the problem to an Internet service provider or website moderator

You can also help prevent cyberbullying by

*Speaking with other students, as well as teachers and school administrators, to develop rules against cyberbullying
*Raising awareness of the cyberbullying problem in your community by holding an assembly and creating fliers to give to younger kids or parents
*Sharing NCPC’s anti-cyberbullying message with friends

The most critical of the NCPC's recommendations are below:

*Never post or share your personal information online (this includes your full name, address, telephone number, school name, parents’ names, credit card number, or social security number) or your friends’ personal information.
*Never share your Internet passwords with anyone, except your parents.
*Never meet anyone face-to-face whom you only know online.
*Talk to your parents about what you do online.

Web Resources for Cyberbullying

Or, checkout the information provided on the Unicel site at http://www.unicel.com/standup/index.html. The Get Involved section is particularly worth checking out.

A series of short information videos about Internet safety produced by the South Carolina Association for Educational Technology for what it calls the "cyber generation" can be found at http://www.scaet.org/csafety/video/wbsc_video.htm.

One last recommended site is http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/.

If you have questions or suggestions, respond to this blog or email me at playne@bpl.lib.me.us.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Presidential Election of 2008

Without getting too personally politically, let's just say that I am pro-voting. So, what follows isn't my harangue on why I'm voting for whom or why this other candidate would equal unequivocal doom for the United States. Instead, what lies beneath are means of locating more about the political or otherwise background of the current Presidential candidates.

Want to know how the current presidential candidates voted in Congress? Take a look at this website: http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/. This site provides an easy to navigate means of getting to how Obama, Edwards, Clinton, McCain, not to mention all other Representatives or Senators, voted in Congress. A good feature of this site is that it readily makes available whether the Congress person voted strictly along party lines, even offering a percentage of times someone voted with his/her party.

If you'd like more detailed information about each Congress person (or want to double-check a voting record elsewhere besides the Washington Post -- because you find it too far to the right or too far to the left; pundits evidently are currently debating that it is both), you can get the same information at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/rollcallvotes.html. This site is particularly good for quickly totaling up the yeas & nays (click on the highlighted Vote or Roll #) by individual name & briefly explaining what exactly each vote is about (click on the highlighted issue # i.e. H R 6).

You can link to official web pages about the current candidates who are serving in the Senate at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm. This site offers video of speeches on the Senate floor, synopsis of each Senator's political stance on a variety of issues, links to voting records, brief biographical information, the committees the Senator serves on, contact information for each Senator, & more.

If you are truly aching for a wealth of information about the federal government's legislative body, http://thomas.loc.gov/ will keep you busy for quite a while.
If you are pro-elephant, at least in the Republican Party sense, you will find a sizable amount of in-house party rhetoric & news at http://www.gop.com/.

If you choose a party for whatever reason represented by a donkey (actually, I looked this up; click here for the reason), view the official Democratic Party at http://www.democrats.org/.

[Particularly amusing to me is that each of the major parties' sites feature a "bash a member of the other party currently running for President" type feature on their home page. I guess this is par for the course in 2008: let's blame the other party rather than focus on our party's strengths].

Because there are more than two political parties -- yes, it's true! -- you might also want to check out the ideas offered by a few of the so-called third party candidates. There are links to dozens of official third party sites such as the Green Party, Libertarian Party, the United States Pacifist Party, & others at this link: http://www.politics1.com/parties.htm. This site offers a relatively unbiased synopsis of politics in general in the United States. I would recommend this site actually over both of the major parties own sites if you are truly looking to tone down any in-house rhetoric.
With luck, you'll find this information helpful whether you are a pessimist like the late rocker Jerry Garcia who said "Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil" or a optimist like long ago President John Q. Adams who said "Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost."

Patrick Layne

Bangor Public Library

Bangor Public Library
Bangor Public Library,
145 Harlow Street,
Bangor ME 04401