Wednesday, March 5, 2014

20, 23 Badges

23. Evaluate 23 Mobile Things

Wow! I finished! Took just over a month. I was shooting for around a month because I tend to procrastinate with these types of learning tools, so I am glad I was able to finish it close to my original goal.

I definitely like using my device more to help patrons now than before starting this project. Before I kind of felt that they probably thought I was ignoring them, but I simply explain that I am trying find the material they are asking for. If the bookmobile gods are happy, I can even find it on the shelf sometimes!

Now if only SirsiDynix could fix the BookMyne app I could find items quicker for patrons with my phone. Just tried it again now, and it still does not work. I'm told the problems may be fixed when they release version 4.0. But I'm not sure when that will be coming out.

My favorite thing was number 21. The free for all. I liked sharing some of my favorite apps with library workers in our region. Now that my blog is done I can look at other blogs and find out what other people are up to with their mobile device.

Not really sure what could be done to improve upon this. I just hope more people in our region will take these types of "classes". If we stop wanting to learn new things, we are probably in the wrong profession. I would absolutely take another 23 Things program in the future.

I would describe my learning experience to be "Trouble Free". Even with my cheap phone I did not have one bit of trouble with any of the apps you talked about, or with any of the ones I stumbled upon while picking my own apps to review. I was worried that since my phone is not run through one of the major carriers that I would have problems, but this was not the case.

22. Discovering Apps

I picked the Droid of the Day app for this Thing. I kind of like having a new app waiting for me each day. Almost like the joke, video, or picture of the day email listserves that were so popular when the Internet and email first came about. Even if you aren't able to enjoy a app everyday, you can go back and look at previous days ones to find one that would like to use.

I found the Tao Mix app, a soothing sounds type of program. Great for relaxing and meditating if you enjoy that type of thing. You can even create your own combination of birds, ocean noises, blowing wind, etc. Great for those who want to lower their stress level.

Also found a game called Hungry Beagles. A dog puzzle game. A move the dog to the goal game where you must collect bones, and move blocks out of the way to get your dog to their doghouse. Fun for animal lovers!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

21. Free-for-all

Craigslist, TVGuide, eBay, CleanMaster, Instant Heart Rate. These are all apps I have been using for awhile. Just a disclaimer, these are ones I use on my Android phone. Not sure if all of them are available for Apple.

I love Craigslist, but I wish they would expand and have more areas like the Iron Range. I often  browse the Pets and Free sections of this app just to see what is out there in the community. eBay is your standard app. Lets you monitor your auctions, place bids, sell items, search for things, etc. Pretty basic but it gets to the point.

TVGuide is pretty handy. You can just open up the app, find the right day and time, and find out if there is a new episode of the Big Bang Theory on tonight. Much better than dragging out the laptop and searching around for information. It also gives you a synopsis of the episode and tells how long movies are as well as cast members. Also handy for sporting events to see when and who the MN Wild are playing that particular evening.

CleanMaster is good to clean up the cache and other files your system has produced. I try and clean my phone up one a week or so. There is also the option to clean up your memory. So if you are having trouble running apps try the CleanMaster program. But if that doesn't solve it go ahead and reboot your phone.

Instant Heart Rate is one that well, checks your pulse. Just press your finger up to your camera lens and within 10 seconds it will have your heartbeat. You can even store your information and compare to previous times and days. This would be a good app for people who enjoy exercising.

20. Games

For this one I have already been hooked on Candy Crush Saga. I also enjoy Farm Heroes Saga by the same company. Candy Crush Saga becomes insanely difficult with each passing stage while Farm Heroes Saga stays pretty evenly challenged when you get past the first few introductory levels.

I tried Temple Run and found it to be horribly frustrating. I kept dying within a matter of minutes, and never got very far at all in the game. I just don't have the quick reflexes to keep up with the constant moving, and directional aspects of the game.

Words With Friends is one I have played off and on for over a year. I play with a few people from work. This one really helps to build vocabulary and also challenges you to make the most of double word, triple word, double letter, and triple letter scoring areas. If you don't, and you are playing a good opponent, it will be hard to win. I enjoy playing defense most in this game. If I only get a dozen points on a triple word score, who care. My opponent could have gotten 30 or 40 points, and I have just limited what they are able to play.

Frogger Free and Bubble Mania are some I will check out in the future.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

19. Hobbies

If you know me you know that I love sports. Baseball and hockey are my favorites. So I do really enjoy the ESPN ScoreCenter app. When I got "free" cable at my last apartment ESPN was one of the channels. I think I pretty much watched Sports Center and nothing else for the first few weeks of my first real cable TV experience. With the Wild being just above average this year, and the Twins having multiple disappointing seasons I sometimes wonder if Minnesota will have a world champion in my lifetime.

I also enjoy birds. I love hawks, falcons, and eagles, but don't know much about them really. So the Sibley eGuide to Birds of North America LITE app is pretty fun to play around with. I am kind of hesitant to pay $20 to download the full version, so I will try out the trial birds in great detail to see if I really want to sink that much money into an app. I think the most I have ever spend on an app before was a couple bucks to remove those annoying ads from Words with Friends. Best money I had spent in some time!

18. Education

That sucks the Bill Nye app is not available on the Android platform. I remember him fondly from my childhood. The days when I only got the French-Canadian channel and PBS. I may have to borrow a friend's Apple product, or use the iPad on the bookmobile to check this app out.

But for now Advanced English Dictionary & Thesaurus app is good enough. I used dictionaries and thesauruses a lot in college but not as much anymore. They are still handy to use especially if you can't think of a synonymy to something you already know, but want to change things up a bit. This reminds me of yet another childhood show...

The B-Rhymes one would be great for writing poetry. I was never very good at rhyming things so this would have definitely come in handy. The iTranslate would have been great for high school Spanish. I always thought that the subject was pretty easy, but lets face it, when learning a new language it can be pretty challenging until you get the hang of it. It makes me wonder where my English to Spanish dictionary is...

The Google Earth one was just in its infancy when I was in landscape architecture school. When designing for a site we would blow up the aerial view of the place in question and go from there. It sure made figuring out the size and shape of the area we were working on that much easier.

17. Connecting to Community

I have followed the MN 511 website for close to 10 years now. In the winter it seems like I drive just as much as I do in the summer, mainly visiting family, so it was always a good way to check the safety of the roads. Overall I feel the Sheriff department does a good job of reporting the conditions of the roads as they drive along. So I was a happy camper when I found out there was an MN 511 app for my phone. Besides road conditions you can also check traffic congestion, handy if you are going down to the Twin Cities.

I like that City of Mankato 311 app. Boy would that be nice to have around the Iron Range. Potholes, broken traffic lights, we have those in spades around here.

The MN State Fair and MPR apps are also ones I plan on using in the future. The MPR Classical station as well as the normal one does not come in to well in the Gilbert area so this would be great to listen on my phone.

16. Audio

I like this SoundCloud one the most, mainly because I have found sound clips on it before. So I was already familiar with the website, but not the app. I think this would be a great idea for a program. Get patrons to come in and make their own radio programs complete with voice overs, hand created sound effects, etc.

Granted this would take several hours to complete something, and probably more realistically several programs to get something into the final stages. However, it would be a pretty rewarding.

Or you could even record yourself reading a book for story time. I remember that when I was a kid I would dial into the one that the International Falls library did. Or even read a book, and send it to your grandkids who live on the other side of the country. The wonders of the spoken word!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

5, 10, 15 Badges

Whoops! I got so carried away with doing all of the Things that I did not notice the badges at the start. Here they are for up to 15:



Sunday, February 16, 2014

15. Infographics

I looked at Infographics Hub for this fifteenth Thing. I really like how you can search for them. There are probably millions of them out there, but this lets you search by category so that is good too. I like this infographic I found. I'm sure most of can relate to how much email we all get. I only have a few minutes each day to look at my Inbox, so I'm glad that I don't get very much email anymore. A simple program but nice to use nonetheless.

Since I did not really have much to say about Infographics Hub, i Visual Info Touch was one I wanted to try as it appeared to be a broken program according to our Thing information. iVi Touch Free was the one I found so I think the developers may have went back and retooled it so that it would actually work. This latest version opened fine and I was able to mess around with it for a bit. It seemed pretty slow to respond to commands, but at least users can open it and use it now for the most part.

I have a couple infographics up in the bookmobile, but we don't have a lot of space to display long or wide items like these. One day I might start taping some up on the interior roof in the back and see how many patrons I can get to notice them.

14. Videos

I picked the Vine program for this Thing, as it was yet another program I had heard about but had never tried before. I like how it only gives you 6 seconds of time for your video. Challenging yet rewarding at the same time. What a great idea for libraries.

Give a short spiel about new materials every week. This week we have some new romances, the new Tom Clancy, the newest Sports Illustrated magazine with Olympic coverage, etc. I also like the idea of introducing patrons to the staff so they are viewed as being more approachable. Just a quick video for all staff if you are in a smaller library. If you have a large amount of staff on board, then you could take a video for each department. Another great idea I found on one of the links is highlighting programs or events that just took place. This would be good to show off what fun patrons were having in the hopes that you could entice new patrons to come to the next program. This would probably help the most with kids and teens, as they always seem to be the most challenging to get to come into the library.

With this one we could give a tour of the entire bookmobile, inside and out, and be well within our 6 second time limit!

13. Presentations

I worked with Deck Slideshow Presentations for this project. It is a nice little program but I guess when doing any sort of presentation I would like to have more control over it and use either Excel itself or something similar.

You basically give it just a small amount of info and it will write a bare bones slideshow for you. Giving it more information will create a more detailed slideshow. There are themes as well but not very many. Apparently the paid version of the app includes more. While this seems like a cop out I guess I need to realize they are out to make money just as anyone of us would be if we put time and energy into making an app.

You can also save and export your file to work on later. But this brings me to sort of an off topic rant. How come a floppy disc is STILL the icon used to save your work? I know what they are since I grew up using them as a kid. But kids today must wonder just what the heck that icon is for.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

12. Books, Books, & More Books

I picked the Audiobooks app for this Thing. Very interesting idea. I am not one for audiobooks, but I might be now after it is so easy to use on your phone. Even has a "Netflix" feature, as if you exit the program and want to come back to it later it will pick up right where you left off. No having to write down whatever minutes and seconds you were at for later. Streaming is how it is done for the free version, but if you want to download them you can pay for a little better version of the app. I had no problems with my streaming connection, but this could vary depending if you are in a remote area or not.

This is another problem the bookmobile faces. 99% of our stops we have good, quality connections to a 3G signal. For those few we don't we would need a work around to be able to run any sort of circulation program.

The Free Books app I just looked at very briefly. This would be great to show patrons on the bookmobile some of the "classics" that are available to view. From time to time we do get patrons asking if we have a classic section, but due to the small size of the truck we typically only carry books published in the last few years. While it is sad that we aren't able to carry more things, we primarily circulate newer and popular items. You must know your clientele.

11. Library & Reference

The bookmobile does not have its own app, heck we don't even have computers on board so... But anyway, I did try out the ALS BookMyne app for my android phone and it does not work. However, I am told we are working with SirsiDynix to troubleshoot the problems. While we have an iPad on board, it would be much more convenient for me to be able to use my phone as some days we don't get any reference questions and we would have to wait for the iPad to turn on. My phone is always on and ready to go.

This would be so convenient to have to see what a call number is for a non-fiction book. I could quickly check the truck before the patron left to see if we had the book they were looking for. Usually later on in the day, after I have had a chance to check the iPad, and find the call number, do I find out if we have the item on board that day or not. Several times over the past few months the book was sitting right there. How frustrating to know I could have given the patron the book right away when they asked for it. Frankly, my mind can only remember so much, and it would be great to be able to use technology to help me.

I briefly checked out the Hennepin and Ramsey County apps. I used to live in the Twin Cities so I guess it brings back a little nostalgia. I liked how each one tells how far a library is away from your current location, what their address is, their hours, etc. Great for those of us that are too shy to call in for hours, and frankly it saves a lot of time too by making a call or looking up their website on your device. Apps are much faster than searching and using things on your devices web browser.

The ELM mobile site was great too. I have used the Ask a Librarian and Find Your Library sections. Very handy to have in the field. It's done so well they don't really need an app!

Friday, February 14, 2014

10. Sharing Photos

Instagram is another program I have heard about and always wondered about. So now that we have the pictures from the previous Thing, or one of the hundreds of others already on our mobile device, now what do we do with them?

Good job to the Gilbert Library on their Instagram page: GPL. As you can see they do movie nights, and what a great way to spread the word about it. Kids and teens are more likely to pay attention to these images on their phone rather than noticing a flyer that was put up at school. We don't get a lot of kids on the bookmobile during the winter, but we do have a fairly active summer reading program.

It would be interesting to add a picture of all 66 bookmobile stops to an Instagram page. Then leave comments about what items were the most popular ones at the stop. Adult fiction books and DVDs are the most popular items overall that are circulated. But some stops have mainly DVDs checked out and few adult fiction books, and vice versa.

9. Taking & Editing Photos

Wow talk about a fun one. I picked the LINE camera app for this Thing. I envision being able to show this to teens during a programming event at the library. Sort of like a mobile Photoshop without all the extra, unnecessary features. Lets face it. If you have used Photoshop before you know that it can take a while to start up if you have a slower computer and you never really end up using all of the functions of it anyway. Fast and to the point is the only way to keep teens interested in things these days.

I remember using a Read Generator Program created by ALA in one of the previous 23 Things programs. While it looks like it is no longer available on the ALA website (if you can find it please respond to my post), here is a sample of what I remember them looking like: Poster Example.

I guess I liked the text feature the most. Creepy fonts for a Halloween picture, fancier fonts for a Valentine's Day picture perhaps? I wonder if there is a Yoda font? Origami Yoda Poster

8. Social Media Management Tools

Oh boy. I don't really care for many of these social media sites, especially Facebook. But the Foursquare one looked interesting so I decided to investigate it.

Overall I liked the tips portion of this the best. Adjusting the recliner in a specific place during a certain time of day for maximum sun exposure! Especially helpful during this rough winter we have had. I think I would like to be reincarnated as a turtle so I could sit on a log all summer long and sun myself...

This also appealed to me on a personal level. Ever since my failed career as a landscape architect I like pointing out what I see as "failed" levels of design of particular buildings or landscapes. Adding info about how they could have done a better job of handling the sidewalks, lighting, or orientation to the sun might be able to spark conservation about particular sites of interest. Life without conversation or debate can be pretty boring, right?

As far as applications for libraries, adding where in your library the most comfortable seat is, or where the best newspapers are is something that could draw potential "on the fence" patrons inside. Those that might not ordinarily want to visit your library could have their interest piqued if somebody wrote an amusing tip on Foursquare.

7. Content Saving & Sharing

I picked Pintrest for this one. Mainly as I have always wanted to try it but never got around to actually using it. It kind of reminds me of a highly arranged and organized scrapbook. Only online of course.

I noticed other libraries have added book recommendations and the like. This could be a good way to keep your patrons informed on new and popular titles in the collection. Hand out the library's Pinterest URL and patrons can see what is available.

Additionally you could bring up items for discussion at your library. Say you wanted to have some sort of program where people could come together to debate certain topics. This would be a good place to start. Check out this banned books site, which is very relevant to those who have ever worked in a public library before: When Banned Books Attack!

This is also a helpful tool for looking for others online who may share your weird hobbies or passions. Here is a person who appears to love Yoda as much as I do! Yoda he is! Talks funny he does!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

6. Creating & Editing Docs

I chose the Quickoffice app. Mainly because items here could be saved right into the Google Drive. Through this I could update patron call lists for when we need to call patrons due to weather or more commonly vehicle break downs. I can also update my patron request lists here too, and download both of these documents onto my computer in the office for printing and backing them up.

While convenient I still do prefer using a keyboard and mouse as I am a lot faster with those than bumbling around the keypad on my phone with my thumbs and fingers.

5. Notetaking

I picked the Remember the Milk app for this project. I can honestly say this is very exciting. Each day on the bookmobile I usually come back to the office with a half dozen or so post it notes. Patron requests, supplies needed from the office, patrons who have returned overdues, etc. This is one place I can store all of that for the day, without worrying about losing a stray post it note due to poor adhesive quality. Don't laugh, it has happened before. The due dates portion will work great for standing orders I have for patrons (westerns, romances, etc), that I don't have to fill until we make that run again. Which is always three weeks later. I can work on other requests and projects in the meantime.

And lets face it this works great for grocery lists too. Half the time I forget my list, but rarely do I forget my phone. My phone appears to have a very basic note taking app, but the ones feature here are more advanced and have more features I will use down the road. Like the text notification feature.

4. Keeping Up

I picked the Zite one. Mainly because it looked like there was a picture of the TV show Walking Dead in the example picture...

I really like the top stories and how they are depicted by pictures rather than just plain text. Makes it much more enjoyable to look at, and perhaps even weed out a story or article you have already read if a certain picture looks familiar. This sort of reminds me of the save search features on websites like eBay. Each day they gather items that are up for sale that have been newly listed. The main point being you don't have to keep searching for them, they are all located in one main place for you.

3. Utilities

I used two different utilities for this post. The first was the QR Scanner. While I had used this on previous phones I had not gotten around to installing this on my new phone. Typically used for promotions and the like this is handy to have for websites and other searches. It allows your phone to detect information stored in the QR code and sends you off to a website. It comes up in a few seconds, rather than waiting to type it into your phones web browser.

The second was the WiFi finder, and was a new tool for me. Since I am out on the bookmobile a few days a week, we can only usually connect to the Internet via 3G. At one of our stops I found that there was a WiFi signal that was coming into the bookmobile. Amazing since we were a ways away from the building, and that we are essentially inside of a metal shell. I found several signals, a couple of which were password protected, but this will be a handy feature to have in the future as WiFi is faster and more stable than 3G.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

2. Mobile Device Tips

I have a phone through the StraightTalk company. Mainly to save money and to text. I love to text, but a year ago I didn't have the service. I have actually texted my coworkers on the bookmobile from time to time to find out some information. Much easier than trying to call.

My phone is a LG Optimus Extreme (not to be confused with the leader of the Autobots). This is the phone I will be using for these tutorials. It runs the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. This is a little dated, but these are the types of phones StraightTalk offers. A bit outdated, but for the price it is hard to complain. I also have a Kindle Fire I might use to change things up a bit.

As far as learning new tricks. The copy feature is really handy because lets face it. I can text about as fast as a snail moves. This is also handy when texting people a website or a long text description of something. Like perhaps sending a patron a description of a book for them to consider?

The re-sizable widgets is another useful tool. Frankly I only use a few different apps, and while that will probably change after this project, for right now if I had a few bigger ones to tap it would be easier to use. Lets just say my coordination is not all that great. This would also be good for people with vision problems.

Lastly I love the voice feature on this phone. I have used it many times since I got this phone, and it has been accurate every time but once. It seems to have more trouble with numbers than actual words. But lets face it, this is a big time saver. I can talk much faster than I can type on this contraption.

1. Blogging & Registering

Okay, time to start this journey! My name is Chris Carlson ( and I work for the Arrowhead Library System as the Bookmobile Assistant. I am doing this project in hopes that one day the bookmobile will be automated and I will be able to show off some of these tips and training ideas to patrons. Personally I carry a smart phone on the truck and we do have an iPad we can use to show patrons some aspects of mobile technology. Other than that we do things old school. Pens, paper, and cards! I have participated in both of the 23 Things programs in the past.