Blog

30 June 2017 - 8:50am | by Phil Shapiro

3D optical illusion

In my opinion, one of the functions of libraries and librarians is to facilitate the sharing of ideas, particularly ideas that can move the world forward. In that spirit, I want to tell everyone about a new free downloadable application named JigSpace. With this Window or Mac desktop app, anyone can create 3D animated presentations called Jigs. Jigs can explain, show, or teach anything in an intuitive and memorable way.

22 June 2017 - 8:39am | by Phil Shapiro

Car Wash

One of my hobbies at my public library job is buying affordable laptops on eBay and fixing them up. I then sell them at the same price I bought them for to people who need a laptop. When I noticed on eBay that a private school in Colorado was selling 10 Chromebooks for $500 (shipping included), I jumped on that deal. The model Chromebook they were selling was just two years old and still very usable.

19 May 2017 - 1:27pm | by Phil Shapiro

Children enjoying using a computer at a library

Sometimes what you yearn and work for happens of its own accord. At my public library job at a small public library in the Washington, D.C., area, I've been yearning for students to use our public computers more for educational uses and less for recreational uses. Admittedly, some of the recreational uses of our computers do fortify the mind. But it sure would be nice for at least some students to be doing their homework on library computers.

7 April 2017 - 9:24am | by Phil Shapiro

A windows logo and a gold dollar symbol outweighing a linux logo on a scale

Like everyone, I have my preferences about the hardware and software I like. I think it is natural to want others to share your tastes. My Somali-American programmer friend has taught me to be more open-minded. Here is how that happened.

6 February 2017 - 12:00am | by Phil Shapiro

Open source linux laptop computer with an illustrated penguin on the keyboard

People go to the public library to expand their horizons. At the public library, they can encounter new ideas, new perspectives, and new possibilities. Sometimes they'll even find new hobbies and new career paths.

5 October 2016 - 10:32am | by Phil Shapiro

Community meeting at library

People come to the library with questions. Sometimes their questions are deflected as not being "ready reference" questions, meaning questions that can be answered by using one or two common reference tools. Is a question less valid if it is not a ready reference question? What would happen if librarians addressed questions by convening members of the community — pooling knowledge to discern and devise answers and solutions? The unanswered questions would have a higher chance of being addressed, which itself would promote more wondering.

Suppose someone came to the library and asked this question: "I don't have money to pay utility bills. In what ways can I make it through the winter in my apartment or house without freezing to death?"  That's a valid question, even though it's not your typical public library reference question.

There might not be one tidy answer to this question, but there are many approaches to answering this question. Naturally, all proposed solutions to this situation must place the safety of the community member first.

13 September 2016 - 11:12am | by Phil Shapiro

Piggybank

Crowdfunding is changing the world for the better, reducing barriers to entry for writers, innovators and inventors. So when I heard the news about equity crowdfunding becoming legal earlier this year, I couldn't help but wonder, "What role for public libraries?"

The intent of equity crowdfunding is to make it easier for individuals who are not wealthy to purchase shares in new business ventures. Doing so can be risky, and investors can always lose all their invested money. Yet, at the same time, there can be an upside to equity investment — when done wisely and prudently.

23 February 2016 - 9:58am | by Phil Shapiro

Kids playing Coderbunnyz

Effective teachers know that when you teach something new, it's helpful to connect the new material to something that is known and familiar to students. For young children, what could be more familiar than a board game?

Samaira Mehta, an elementary school student with coder parents, has invented a board game, CoderBunnyz, to introduce coding fundamentals to other young children. She has been visiting public libraries and other venues in Silicon Valley to teach her board game to children. Her teaching has garnered attention from as far away as Germany, which covered her on television, and EdSurge, a well-respected website that covers education innovations.

15 January 2016 - 2:03pm | by Phil Shapiro
Video booth at the UT Library
 
Public libraries could strongly benefit from having one or more "video booths," which are small, sound-insulated rooms for community members to perform various video- and multimedia-related tasks. 
 
The following tasks could be included:
 
  1. Creating screencasts, narrated explanations of activity on the computer screen.
  2. Engaging in Skype job interviews.
  3. Creating video book reviews for Amazon.com (see some examples).
  4. Participating in Google Hangouts.
  5. Recording spoken voice for digital storytelling projects using the free Audacity sound recording and editing software. (See my review of The Book of Audacity.)
  6. Recording of singing and other musical performances for YouTube or other purposes.
  7. Creating free multimedia educational content, such as animated children's stories.
  8. Recording "passion talk" videos, where community members speak directly to a webcam about a topic that stirs them — in the style of a TED talk.
9 November 2015 - 9:35am | by Phil Shapiro

I'm a big fan of the Inkscape vector graphics program, which is a no-cost equivalent of Adobe Illustrator and runs on all major computer platforms (Linux, Macintosh, and Windows). Back in 2007, I created a short promotional video showing the range of graphics that people can make using Inkscape.

Inkscape, when paired with Animatron (a freemium HTML5 online animation tool), can be used for creating narrated, animated children's stories. These tools might also be used to create multimedia motion graphics stories for libraries, nonprofits, foundations, government agencies, and more.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.