August 28, 2008

The Best Things In Life Are Free

With prices rising everywhere (not to mention $4.00/gallon gas), it is good to know that, yes, some things are free. recently published their Fabulous Freebies 2008 list highlighting goods and services that don't cost money. One of the services they mentioned for free books, music, and movies is your local public library!

"The public library is still one of our all-time favorite places
for a free diversion. If you haven't been lately, dust off your card. It's
your ticket to mounds of free books, magazines, CDs and movies. Many libraries also offer free lectures, book readings, children story hours and community clubs to residents."

Not only does the Troy Public Library offer all of those things, we also offer many electronic services that don't even require a physical vist to the library, including language learning, videos on demand, and downloadable ebooks and audiobooks.

For more great things that are free, check out the article here.

August 26, 2008

Remove the Annoying Mini Toolbar in Microsoft Office 2007

Bad mini toolbar!

Have you been typing in Microsoft Word 2007, only to see a miniature toolbar randomly pop up and obstruct your viewing and typing?

That mini toolbar is a new feature in Office 2007. Many people, including myself, find it to be quite a nuisance.

To get rid of that toolbar, and free yourself from its ghost-like appearances, click on the Office button in the top left of your Word screen, go to Word Options, and un-check the Show Mini Toolbar on Selection option located under the Popular tab. Then click Ok and you're set -- no more annoying mini toolbar!

And, if you later decide you miss the toolbar you can always bring it back by rechecking the box.

Note: The mini toolbar will show up in all Microsoft Office 2007 programs: Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, etc. You will have to disable it through the same method above in each program, under Options located at the bottom of the Microsoft Button menu.

August 25, 2008


I love this cartoon: Libraries and Wikipedia.

Thanks to Jessamyn West at for this!

August 21, 2008

More Computer Users are Using Social Sites; What Does this Mean for Libraries?

According to a recent study by Universal McCann, a media communications agency, half of U.S. adults use social media technologies, defined by the study as text messaging, blogging, and social networking.

Many bloggers have been critical of the study -- in particular the way it defines social media and counts its users. Nevertheless, it points to a real trend: Where a short time ago, such Web 2.0 technologies were used mostly by those under 18 years old, today, more and more adults are using such technologies for communication.

The impact on libraries? Here in Troy, the fact that increasing numbers of our users are experimenting with and growing more comfortable with new technologies means that we will use more of these ways to deliver information via our website. So, as Technology Librarian Lauren Henderson writes in this post, we will be incorporating blogging, text messaging, user comments, flickr, RSS, and other Web 2.0 technologies into our soon-to-be-revised site.

If you use social media and have ideas on how the Library could better employ these technologies, let us know.

For a copy of the McCann study, go to Media in Mind (80 page pdf).

And thanks to Stephen Ambram for calling our attention to this study, on his great blog, Stephen's Lighthouse. Stephen is the Vice President of Innovation for SIRSI/Dynix, a developer of library system software. His site is a must for any one who wants to keep up on new technologies and their use in libraries.

TPL Gets a New Website - Soon!

Over the last several months, the Library's Technology Department has been working away at a lofty but much-needed goal: Create a new website for the Troy Public Library.

But not just a new website -- a cleaner, more usable website. Our goal is to finally move to Web 2.0 with a dynamic site that promotes patron involvement and interaction.

The meetings, training, and research are finally starting to pay off. I am proud to say our new website is really starting to come together. We've decided to use
Drupal, an open source content management software that allows us to create the best possible library website for our patrons. Though we are still adding content and working out the finer details of the theme (the look and feel of the site) we know it will feature the following applications:
  • Patron interaction through comments -- You have thoughts, feelings and opinions, and we want you to voice them!
  • Regularly updated content -- The major difference between our old "static" website and our new "dynamic" website will be the regular content updates. In the "old days," all website updates were sent to one staff member who acted as our "webmaster". Now all the staff will have the ability to easily add content -- be it promoting a new program, featuring a new database, or sharing pictures from a recent event.
  • Easier searching - more convenient ways to search both our site and our catalog.
These are just some of the basics. We are also exploring several other new Web 2.0 technologies. For instance would our patrons use Virtual Reference Chat? Virtual Reference Chat would let you ask questions via instant messaging to a reference staff member. This would be done using software right on our home page,

Our website will continue grow to include new features over time. With the help of Cherry Hill consulting and our diligent Technology Department, we hope to have the new site up and running in the coming months.

Have thoughts or suggestions for the new website? Leave us a comment!

August 19, 2008

Excel Tip: Auto-Fit Columns

Here's a quick tip for all you Excel fans.

One of the more tedious things to do in Excel is to correctly set the width of the columns to fit to the text that you are typing. For example:
We need to fit the columns to the text so that all of the text can be seen. To do this quickly, hover over the right edge of the column header until your mouse turns into a doublesided left-right arrow. Then double click to have the column Auto-Fit quickly to the text.

If you have multiple columns that need to be Auto-Fit, select all of the columns you need to Auto-Fit and then follow the same procedure by double clicking on any of the selected columns' dividers. Just like that, your columns are all auto-fitted!

(Note: this works in both Excel 2003 and Excel 2007.)

August 17, 2008

Watch Videos on Your Computer with MyLibraryDV

Is the high cost of movie rentals keeping you out of Blockbusters? Are you bored with reruns on TV? Well, first-rate entertainment is as close as your computer screen with MyLibraryDV!

MyLibraryDV is a unique video-on-demand service, available to you with your Troy Public Library card. You can download from a collection of over 1,000 movies, TV shows and lifestyle programs, 24/7, anywhere you have a broadband internet connection.

You have to first install the download manager, which is a one-time process. Once the manager is installed, you launch the video player by clicking on the MyLibraryDV icon on your desktop. Then it’s just a matter of choosing the video in which you are interested. Movies from Tootsie to The Count of Monte Cristo are just a mouse click away!

To get started, visit the Troy Public Library homepage and click on the MyLibraryDV icon.

August 12, 2008

Consumer Reports Available Online at Home from the Troy Public Library

Thinking about buying a new appliance for your home? How about the latest MP3 player or laptop? Trading in your automobile for a new model?

Often when people are planning big purchases, buying something new about which they know little, or deciding between competing models, they turn to Consumer Reports. CR has been evaluating and grading consumer products since 1933. Since that time, CR has been a staple in public libraries across the country.

Now you can find the information you need from Consumer Reports right from the comfort of your home -- as long as you have an internet connection and a Troy Public Library card.

That's right. Just go to the Library's website and click on the Information on Demand -- All Day, Every Day link in the middle of the page. That will take you to our Databases and Electronic Resources list.

From there, click on the Alphabetical Listing of Databases link, and go to the letter G. CR is in a database called General OneFile. Click on General OneFile and enter your 14-digit Library card number, when prompted.

There you will find a search box. Enter your search term, and enter Consumer Reports, where it says Limit results by publication title. You will be able to search all CRs from 1999 to the present.

August 11, 2008

Portable Storage: The Showdown

Today we are going to look into a question that is important to many computer users:

What is the best portable storage to use to save my files?

This is a surprisingly loaded question considering that the answer may vary depending on what you are doing. So we are going to cover the pros and cons of different types of portable storage that can be used at the Library.

Floppy Disks, CD-R and CD-RWs, E-mail, and USB Drives are what I’ll be discussing today.

Note: We are only describing forms of storage that can be used at the Library. This means that burnable DVDs will be excluded. Also, we will not discuss online backup, as that could be a post in and of it.

Floppy Disks
This once dominating means of saving your work is fading fast as better and more efficient forms of memory now exist.

• Cheap

• Very small amount of save space. (1.44 MB)
• Unreliable in quality (easily broken)


There are much better ways to save your work, and all are more reliable. They are cheap in value, but in this case, you definitely get what you pay for.

CD-Rs and CD-RWs
CD-Rs are a compact disc that one can save to and read, but one cannot erase what is on the disc once it has been written upon. This is different then a CD-RW which allows the user to both save and erase the data that is stored on the disc.

• Not as cheap as floppy discs, but still relatively inexpensive.
• More reliable then floppy discs.
• Larger amount of memory (700 MB avg.). That's roughly 500 times larger then the typical floppy disc!
• Great for burning copies of music CDs to listen to at home or in the car.

• Easily scratched.
• Bulky compared to floppy discs.
• CD-Rs cannot be erased. Once the disc is full, you will have to purchase another one.
• Reliability is still an issue, especially compared to the next two ways to save.

Verdict: Ok method of saving files, though better ways to store are available.

CD-Rs and CD-RWs are both significant upgrades from floppy discs, though they can still be frustrating at times. The requirement to burn everything to the disc and the fact that can easily be scratched are two strikes against this means of storage. Though overall, they are still a decent way to save your files.

E-mail is one of my personal favorite ways to save and store my files. The biggest reason that I love using email for saving backups of my files is because of the accessibility of emailed files. Anywhere I have internet access, I have access to the files that I’ve sent to myself. This also leaves nothing to carry, as all the files are saved online.

• Free!
• Digitally stored (no worries about having a scratched CD or broken floppy)
• Amount of memory is only restricted to how much room your email provider gives you. (This ranges depending on your email: Gmail gives 6 gigs and Yahoo Mail has unlimited storage even on free accounts.

• While digitally storing data is not a bad idea by any means, it also is dependent on your email provider. Some providers do not allow much online storage, so frequent deletions may be required in order to keep your inbox at the allowed level.
• Another potential problem is if your web host goes down, preventing you access to your email entirely.
• Finally, the last con would be that you must have internet access to get to your files. This can obviously be a problem for someone who does not have internet access at their home.

Verdict: Recommended, especially for quick online backup.

Digital storage is a great form of quick saves and a solid choice for portable storage. You may still want to have a copy of your files on some form of solid medium such as a hard drive, USB drive, etc., just in case you lose (or don’t have) internet access.

USB Flash Drives
USB Drives (USBs or Flash Drives for short) are one of the fastest growing and most popular ways to store data. They are fast, affordable, and reusable and can hold more then CDs and floppies.

• Cheap (around $10 can get you over a gigabyte of space!)
• Can be easily reused and no burning required
• Deleting files off the USB as simple as deleting files from your hard drive.
• Very portable. Flash drives can be attached to key-chains and are very easy to carry.
• Durable, can’t be scratched like CD-Rs. As long as you keep the USB end of the flash drive protected with a cap then your drive should stay well protected.

• Requires computer to have USB drive, though almost all computers now have these.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

USB Flash drives are a fantastic way to store files quickly, and efficiently delete them if necessary. Flash drives are small and come packed with plenty of memory, and can even be purchased with memory in excess of 16 GB!

Conclusions: Portable storage comes in many shapes and sizes, but the two most recommended means for saving your files would be through a USB flash drive and/or online backup using your email.

Download Library Audiobooks at Home for Your MP3 Player

Attention MP3 owners: Did you know that you can check out audiobooks for your MP3 player from the Troy Public Library? You don't even need to come into the Library*. All you need is a Troy Public Library card.

Just go to our homepage, and click on the Downloadable Ebooks, Audiobooks and Videos link in the left hand frame. From there you can learn how to download audiobooks from two sources: NetLibrary and OverDrive. Most of these audiobooks can be listened to on your MP3 player, and many can be burned to a CD to take on a trip.

(Currently, downloadable audiobooks are only available for MP3 players. The Library will be offering iPod-compatible downloads later this Fall.)

If you're interested in learning more about downloadable audiobooks, check out this Reuters report.

*In order to use netLibrary, you will have to come into the Library once, to create an account.

August 4, 2008

Mango Languages Now At TPL

Do you want to learn a foreign language? We are pleased to announce that the Troy Public Library now offers Mango Languages as one of its electronic resources, both for use in the library and at home.

Mango offers instruction in the following languages: German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, Greek, French, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese, as well as ESL programs for Polish, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese speakers.

Mango uses audio recordings and Flash video to guide you through learning a language. Each lesson consists of a conversation with both audio pronunciations and text showing how the word is written in that language. There are many features, including condensed lessons, vocabulary review, and phrasebook review. One of my favorite features is when you scroll over a word in a different language, a phonetic pronunciation guide pops up!

To access Mango, click on the "Information On-Demand-All Day, Every Day" link in the middle of the TPL homepage ( Click Language Learning from the subject list then click Mango Languages.

Try out Mango Languages and let us know what you think about it!

Create Simple To-Do Lists or Edit Simple Text with

Do you crave simplicity? Do you find yourself needing to keep simple on-line lists but you are not sure where to turn? Are services like Remember the Milk just a little too much for you?

Well then mytextfile may be just what you have been waiting for. Mytextfile is a simple online text file that you can edit and save at your leisure. The service requires a Google account to sign in, but once you're in, you are able to add, delete, or edit your text file however you please.

This is not a website for people who like fancy graphical interfaces and colorful to-do lists. This is a site for straight text, or code snippets that you can save and access anywhere and any time, so long as you have internet access. You have access to one file and one file only. And best of all, this file will autosave as you type every 5 minutes -- or you can choose to save at any moment by clicking the save button.

I've already found it to be a perfect, straightforward way to create to-do lists for my needs. Maybe you can use it too!

You can find this tool at .