March 26, 2010

Fun Friday: 2009 Diagram Prize

The winner of the 2009 Bookseller/Diagram prize has been announced. This award is presented annually to the book that has the oddest title of the year. This year the winner is Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Dr. Daina Taimina. While the Troy Public Library does not have a copy, several universities in Michigan do have copies.

Click here for more information about this year's winner, other nominees, and to see the award-winning author's reaction. For more info about hyperbolic crochet, visit Dr. Taimina's blog Hyperbolic Crochet. For more about last year's Diagram prize winner, go here.

March 25, 2010

One-Third of Americans Use Library Computers

The Associated Press has reported that one third of Americans 14 and older (about 77 million people) use public library computers to look for jobs, connect with friends, do their homework and improve their lives, according to a new study released March 25. The study, conducted by the University of Washington and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that library use by the general public is widespread and that one in four Americans use public library computers while traveling.

The researchers were intrigued to find that people across all age and ethnic groups used library computers, said Michael Crandall, one of the principal authors of the study and chairman of the Master of Science in Information Management at the University of Washington Information School.

Some of the findings were surprising, Crandall said. "In the health area, over 80% of the users said they made a change in their diet after using library computers," he reported. The most unexpected finding is that two out of three people who use library computers said they are using the computers to help friends or family, such as scanning job databases or looking up information for others. "In terms of library services, we're deeply undercounting," he said, referring to the others benefiting from library computer searches conducted on their behalf.

Troy Public Library patrons were among the 45,000 able to participate in the
on-line survey last May through the library's website.

March 24, 2010

Operation ABLE Job Fair Today

Job Seekers -- mark your calendars for this free event. Today only, March 24, Southfield-based Operation ABLE of Michigan is hosting a unique recruiting opportunity aimed at mid-career and older job seekers and those who are thinking about a career change and need to update their computer and other office skills.

March 22, 2010

Kill A Watt Monitors Available Now

Kill A Watt electricity usage monitors are now available for checkout at the Troy Public Library. These handy devices allow you to evaluate the efficiency of your electrical appliances. Simply plug one into an outlet and your appliance into the Kill A Watt monitor. A full instruction sheet comes with each kit.

The Kill A Watt monitors may be checked out for three weeks. They are not renewable, but you may place a hold on them. Search Kill A Watt (remember to include the spaces) in the Library Catalog to see if any are currently available, or to place a hold if all are checked out.

To check out a Kill A Watt, ask at the Circulation Desk. Find out just how efficient your appliances really are!

March 18, 2010

Genealogy Resources Available at the Library

Genealogy has recently been in the media spotlight through two television shows: Who Do You Think You Are? and Faces of America. Both shows delve into the family histories of celebrities and famous Americans.

In NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, viewers are invited to take an up-close and personal look inside the family history of some of today's most beloved and iconic celebrities. Featured in the new series are Matthew Broderick, Lisa Kudrow, Spike Lee, Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields and Emmitt Smith. In a recent episode, Sarah Jessica Parker learned that one of her ancestors was accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials! The show airs on Friday nights at 8 pm.

The eresource is NBC's official partner on the series, and is available for free in the Troy Library. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has also been featured on the show. The society’s New England Ancestors database is also available for free in the Library.

In PBS’s Faces of America, Henry Louis Gates, Jr asks, “What made America?” The Harvard scholar turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 12 renowned Americans including chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, actress Eva Longoria, musician Yo-Yo Ma, director Mike Nichols, Her Majesty Queen Noor, television host/heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, actress Meryl Streep, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi. Meryl Streep was shocked to discovered that her ancestors were among the first purchasers of land in Pennsylvania along with William Penn! The show airs on Wednesday nights at 8 pm.

In addition to the resources listed above, the Library also offers the Biography and Genealogy Master Index, the Biography Resource Center, Heritage Quest Online, American’s Obituary & Death Notices and Michigan County Histories and Atlases. These eResources are available from home through the library’s website. All you need is a library card to explore your own fascinating family history!

March 13, 2010

Read an E-Book Week Wrap-Up

Thank you for following us during Read an E-Book Week. Hopefully you have found some new Library resources that you can use.

For more about Read an E-Book Week, click here to read an interview with Rita Toews, the creator of Read an E-Book Week.

In addition to ebooks provided by the Troy Public Library, you can find many sources of ebooks on the web, including several that provide free ebooks. Some examples include:

This commercial ebook store sells ebooks that can be downloaded and viewed on your computer. Many of these books can be transferred to eReaders. While you have to pay for the majority of ebooks from Kobo, you can find a list of free ebooks they offer here.

Project Gutenberg
Declaring itself as "the first producer of free electronic books", Project Gutenberg has existed since 1971. All ebooks from Project Gutenberg are in the public domain. They are all free, and can be read online. Additionally, the can be downloaded in a wide array of formats, including EPUB, TXT, PDF, and HTML.

Google Books
Google has been conducting an ongoing project to digitize books held in many different libraries. The result of this is Google Books. Google Books provides a variety of titles, both old and new. Many old titles that are in the public domain can be viewed in their entirety. More current titles only have a limited preview available: if you want to read the entire contents, you would have to find the book in a library or purchase it. Google Books also contains digitized scans of many different magazines. For more information, click here.

Have fun reading ebooks, and continue to follow The Tech Desk. We will continue post information about new ebook sources available from the Library and highlight developments in ebooks and ebook technology.

March 12, 2010

Read an E-Book Week: World Book Online Reference Center

World Book Online Reference Center

Today, we finish our profiles of Troy Public Library ebook providers by taking a look at the World Book Online Reference Center.

In a way, the World Book Online Reference Center itself is a gigantic ebook. This eResource contains the complete text of the print edition of the World Book Encyclopedia. You can easily search for encyclopedia articles by entering terms in the main search box.

One of the additional components that World Book Online Reference Center offers is a separate collection of ebooks. To access these ebooks, click on the “E-Book Center” link that is displayed on introductory World Book screen. World Book’s ebook collection consists of thousands of titles, covering both fiction and non-fiction. You can search by title and author, or click on the genre links to help find the ebook you want to read.

The majority of the ebooks in World Book Online Reference Center are in the public domain. Because of this, you will obviously not find any recent bestsellers. You will find classics such as Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

World Book Online Reference Center ebooks are displayed in the HTML format. Sections of them can be emailed and printed. They are always available online. Additionally, they can be downloaded to be viewed later on your computer.

To access World Book Online Reference Center, you can click the image at the top of this post. You will need a valid Troy Library card. To access it through the Library's website, go to, click on eResources and then click on Encyclopedias and Reference. From the list that is displayed, select World Book Online Reference Center.

The Return of Fun Friday: Typrx

It has been some time (October 30, 2009 to be exact) since we have published a Fun Friday post. To get back into the spirit and to help brighten the day, here is a fun website to check out.

Have you ever wondered how fast you typed? If you are curious, click here to go to typrx. Typrx is a game where you can practice your typing to see how many words per minute you can type. You can also challenge others to races to see who types the fastest.

Additionally, typerx is the official application used for the Ultimate Typing Championship, whose finals will be held March 14 at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. To find out more about the Championship, check out their website here.

Give typrx a try and let us know how fast you can type! I’m sure you can beat my 50 words per minute.

March 11, 2010

Read an E-Book Week: Gale Virtual Reference Library

One of the great sources of research ebooks that the Troy Library provides is the Gale Virtual Reference Library. This collection contains titles that cover many different areas, including business, literature, and social science. Some key titles include all 16 volumes of the Business Plans Handbook, Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, and multiple volumes of both Children’s Literature Review and Something About the Author. The content is displayed in HTML format, with an option to view the original page as a PDF. All of the content found in Gale Virtual Reference Library ebooks is the exact same content as found in printed editions.

Articles in Gale Virtual Reference Library ebooks can be printed. They can be emailed. There is also an option to listen to the article, or to download the article as an MP3 so that you can listen to it later.

If you want to try out Gale Virtual Reference Library, just enter a search term in the box at the top of this article. You will need a valid Troy Library card. To access it from our website head to, click on eResources, and then click on Encyclopedias and Reference. Finally, select Gale Virtual Reference Library from the list.

March 10, 2010

Read an E-Book Week: Learning Express Library

While NetLibrary and OverDrive are the major providers of ebooks to the Troy Public Library, several of the eResources we subscribe to also have ebooks. For the rest of the week, we will take a look at some of these less obvious places to find ebooks.

Learning Express Library is an eResource that provides practice tests for several different academic subjects, standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, and careers. It also includes courses that cover a variety of topics such as math and reading skills improvement, job searching, interviewing, and more.

While mainly focused on practice tests for various exams, Learning Express Library also features a sizable ebook collection. All ebooks from Learning Express Library are in the Adobe PDF format. They can be viewed inside your browser with Adobe Reader. They can also be easily saved to your computer for access anytime.

Learning Express Library ebooks reflect topics that are covered by the practice tests and courses they provide. You will find ebooks on such topics as academic test preparation, math skills, and job searching skills. While the initial Learning Express Library ebook page displays all of the ebooks that are available, there is some limited search capability to help you find what you are looking for. You can search by subject, title, or author. There is no advanced search.

To access Learning Express Library, you will need a valid Troy Library card. To get started, go to, and then click on the eResources link. Select Education, and then click on Learning Express Library. Create an account
to fully use all of the features of Learning Express Library. To learn more, click here. If you wish to just access the ebooks available from Learning Express Library, click here.

Cisco Claims to Forever Change the Internet

Cisco announced today that their next generation router will have tremendous download speed. This would allow the entire printed collection of the Library of Congress to be downloaded in just over one second. Curious to know more?

Yahoo Finances]

March 9, 2010

Read an E-Book Week: OverDrive

Today we continue celebrating Read an E-Book Week by profiling OverDrive, a vendor that supplies ebooks to the Troy Public Library.

Like NetLibrary, OverDrive features a variety of ebooks that cover many different subjects. It includes many recent bestsellers such as Fantasy in Death by J.D. Robb, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and Game Change by John Heilemann. OverDrive offers ebooks in EPUB, Adobe PDF, and Mobipocket format. Ebooks in OverDrive are not always available. Instead, they function like physical books in a library. If someone already has an ebook checked out that you wish to view, you must place that ebook on hold. When it is available, you will get an email notifying you that it is ready to be checked out.

Additionally, OverDrive ebooks are not viewable directly within your browser. In order to view them, they must be checked out and downloaded to your computer. After checking out an OverDrive ebook, be sure to download and install the appropriate software so that you can view the ebook. This software is free, and a download link is provided when you check out an ebook. When you have the correct software installed, you can then download and read the ebook on your computer.

An advantage of OverDrive ebooks is that many of them can be transferred to eReaders such as the Barnes and Noble nook and Sony Readers. While this process is relatively straightforward, each device does have different software requirements. If you are having problems, OverDrive does have an extensive help menu to answer questions you may have.

When searching for an ebook in OverDrive, the basic search allows you to search by title or creator. If you want to search by a specific ebook format, you will need to use the advanced search feature. Advanced search also lets you search by language, publisher, subject, and more. It also features a check box that lets you limit your search to items that have copies that are available to be checked out. This is helpful if you want to check out an ebook immediately and don’t want to have to put an item on hold.

Like all eResources provided by the Troy Library, you will need a valid Troy Library card to be able to use OverDrive. To get started, go to, click on the "Downloadable Audiobooks, Video" link, and select OverDrive.

Additionally, OverDrive is currently running a contest to help celebrate Read an E-Book week. Just go here, read the post, and leave a comment about the OverDrive ebook you are currently reading and where you downloaded it from. The winner will receive various goodies from OverDrive. Good luck!

March 8, 2010

Read an E-Book Week: NetLibrary

NetLibrary is one of two major vendors that supply ebooks for the Troy Public Library. Let's look at what they offer.

NetLibrary features over 17,000 ebooks that cover a wide range of subjects. While these ebooks are not able to be downloaded and saved on your computer, they open directly within your web browser and are always available to be viewed online. The majority of NetLibrary ebooks are in HTML format, however, some display as PDFs. There is no additional software needed to view NetLibrary ebooks, other than Adobe Reader for the few ebooks that are in PDF format. NetLibrary ebooks do allow you to print pages from them. However, because they are not saved to your computer, NetLibrary ebooks can not be transferred to ebook readers.

NetLibrary also features an "eBook of the Month." This month, the featured ebook is J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye: Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations. If you have a NetLibrary account, you can access it here.

The NetLibrary site offers several ways to locate ebooks. You can do basic searches by title, author, and subject. There is also an advanced search that lets you search by publisher and ISBN, and also allows you to combine search terms.

To be able to use NetLibrary, you will need a valid Troy Library card. You must also register for a NetLibrary account in person at the Library. Come to the Technology Center or Adult Reference Desk for assistance. After creating account, go to the, click on the "Downloadable Audiobooks, Video" link, and select NetLibrary.

March 7, 2010

Celebrate Read an E-Book Week

Read an E-Book Week was started in 2004 to help promote ebooks and the concept of reading electronically. While ebooks did take some time to catch on, they have become increasingly popular in recent years with the launches of such devices as the Sony Reader, the Amazon Kindle, and the Barnes and Noble nook. In 2009, ebook sales reached $169.5 million. With the upcoming launch of the Apple iPad and other ereaders, these sales will undoubtedly continue to grow.

The Troy Public Library offers two services that provide ebooks: NetLibrary and OverDrive. But did you know that several other eResources offered by the Library also contain ebooks? Each day this week, we will be profiling a different source of ebooks available from the Troy Public Library.

Click here for more information about Read an E-Book Week, and be sure to check back daily for more information about ebook offerings from the Troy Public Library.

March 3, 2010

A Look at nook

Here at The Tech Desk, we have been following the rise in popularity of ebook readers. Until recently, we have not had any hands-on experience with these devices. Because we have seen an increase in the number of questions about them, I decided to purchase one to better understand the technology involved and to better help patrons who have questions regarding them. After considering the pros and cons of the different ereaders available, I decided to purchase the nook from Barnes and Noble.

The nook features 2 display screens. For viewing ebooks, the nook features a 6” diagonal E-Ink screen that displays content in 16 shades of gray. It also features a smaller color LCD touch screen at the bottom of the device which is used to navigate through the nook’s contents. The nook supports many popular file formats, including EPUB, PDF, MP3, JPG, and GIF. It also supports DRM protected content, such as ebooks checked out through OverDrive, one of the Troy Library's suppliers of downloadable content.

Like the Kindle and the Sony Reader Daily Edition, the nook features free wireless connectivity so that you can purchase ebooks directly from the Barnes and Nobel website, and have them directly loaded into the ereader without having to sync with a computer. The nook uses AT&T’s 3G network. Firmware updates are also sent wirelessly.

Setting up the device was easy. The nook comes with a Micro-USB cable and also an AC adapter. After taking it out of its package I plugged it into a wall outlet. After the device started up, it walked me through a brief tutorial on how to use it. When plugged into a wall outlet it is available for use, so while it was charging I was able to access the Barnes and Noble eBook store and purchase an ebook. Within a minute I was reading a new ebook while my nook was finishing its initial charge.

Having finished reading a 400 page novel on the nook, I can say that reading is a pleasure. There are 3 font styles available, along with 5 different font sizes. Like most current ebook readers, the nook is not backlit so you need to have light in order to read. Additionally, it does take a second for text to refresh when you turn a page; however, recent firmware updates have reduced the time this takes.

The biggest drawback with the nook is that the main reading screen is not a touch screen. For example, if you need to look up a word (the nook comes with a copy of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary), you have to use arrows displayed on the touch screen to highlight the word. This process would be much easier if the main display screen was a touch screen.

As mentioned above, the nook is compatible with OverDrive. I was able to go to the Troy Library's website, and checkout and download a title. Transferring ebooks downloaded from OverDrive to the nook was straightforward. OverDrive content on the nook is DRM protected, and you will not be able to access it on your nook after the checkout time expires.

I have had some small problems with my nook. It has a tendency to freeze at times, especially when turning the wireless on and off. This is easily remedied by turning the device off and on again. It also seems that battery life does not last as long as indicated on the Barnes and Noble site. Again, this is a minor complaint.

Overall, I believe the nook is a great ereader, especially for someone who likes immediate gratification of being able to purchase books wirelessly and also wants to be able to download ebooks from a library.