Category Archives: Technology

Humans (not robots) digitize newspapers

Here at the library’s Digital Commons team, we are building a digital version of The Gatepost student newspaper collection. (The print version lives in our Archives and Special Collections, as always.)

Doesn’t Google do that?

No. Actually, humans put newspapers on the internet. Sure, we use computers and cameras, and lots of software tools. But overall, the process of digitization is more manual than automatic. It involves a lot of planning and prioritizing as a team.

Human eyeballs, hands, and good judgement are required every step of the way.

Essentially, we are stitching together searchable PDF documents of each issue from hundreds of scanned images, organizing them, adding background information, and finally serving documents up on the internet, such that Google can crawl and index them, and users can find what they want.

We will publish the finished product on our repository website, DigitalCommons@Framingham, so that anyone can search the FSU student newspaper back issues for names and events of the past. We plan to roll out a decade or two of the paper at a time: the Thirties, the Forties, etc. For each volume, we will highlight some notable campus events, personalities, or artwork on the website so that the high points don’t get lost among the dozens of issues.

 

What’s the benefit of digitizing newspapers?

We can never quite anticipate who might find our treasures useful, but we believe that open access to our collections will enrich intellectual and artistic work of the future. It’s vital for us to share the collection to anyone with an internet connection and an interest in the content.  I hope that the digital newspaper archives will be valuable to all sorts of users.

Possible users of the collection:

  • Explorers of the history of journalism, teacher education, and 20th century collegiate life
  • Nostalgia-seekers
  • Current campus group officers who want to read up on the group’s past adventures, successes, and follies
  • Genealogists and descendants of Framingham community members

 

We look forward to sharing our history with you! We will keep you updated with more Gatepost digitization news as it happens.

 

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Filed under Archives/Special Collections, guest blogger, Open Access, Resources, Technology

Library’s New Technology to Help Students with Disabilities

Library’s New Technology to Help Students with Disabilities
By: Shelby Wood

On March 1st 2012 the library applied for a grant that will benefit students, faculty and staff members who have disabilities. CASA is the place on campus for students to get advice, support, tutoring. It is also a place for students with learning or other disabilities like visual and hearing impairments to get help. Before, students with disabilities that needed to find information for projects or articles, would first have to go to the library, then go to CASA (which is across campus) where they would start to prepare their research. This process can take a toll on students because what if their information was wrong then they would have to do the entire process over again.

I believe that it would be hard for our Framingham students with disabilities to have to do this process over and over again and thankfully the FSU library was awarded a grant to help with this problem. Shouldn’t there be an equal and easier way for students with disabilities to do their work since they pay so much in student fees? We as students want our library to fulfill their mission statement, “The Henry Whittemore Library ensures that students, faculty, staff and the general public with disabilities have appropriate technologies needed to access programs and services of the university”.

I am certainly happy that the grant that was awarded to us. With $15,000, the library’s new grant has helped us purchase technology like, Win Wizard, which is for students with learning disabilities and who have difficulty reading and writing. Another software, Openbook, converts printed documents into electronic text format on the PC using quality speech and the latest optical character recognition technology. JAWS is a computer screen reader program that provides a text to speech output. Finally Zoomtext is a screen magnifier software.

Students should thank the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the money that they have granted us with. Not only did they grant our school with a large sum to help students with disabilities, the institute supports over 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums all over the nation. Their mission says “IMLS is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. We provide leadership through research, policy development, and grant making” I believe that they have fulfilled their mission and FSU should thank them.

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iPad’s for use now at Framingham State

iPad’s for use now at Framingham State
By: Shelby Wood, library social media intern

Over the past weekend I got to personally take-out an iPad that the Whitimore Library lent me. It was one of the most entertaining weekends ever. I literally could not be separated from the device for more than an hour. When I went to dinner I took it with me to show my parents (but also to play with it). The thing was so addicting.

One reason why I really liked it was because the screen was so big and in my face that I could see everything up close and personal. I loved that because I have bad vision. Another reason why I thought it was so useful was because it had every app that I usually used with a computer on the iPad. I barely touched my computer all weekend. Using this iPad I could take it everywhere with me instead of lugging around my laptop. I just used the iPad.

The most common apps that I think students would use are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pandora. But not only does it have a great variety of social media to use; it also has a HUGE variety of games that you can play. At my family dinner, my cousins and I took turns playing Temple Run and Angry Birds. Another addiction that kids have these days is with the game Candy Crush. No worries because you can spend days on the iPad playing that game as well.
The battery life is amazing on the IPad. I was playing around with it for 3 days before it got to 50% and I thought I might have needed to charge it. As long as you use the screen lock so that it doesn’t drain the battery I’m sure the battery life could have lasted me a week.

But not only does it come with media and games, the iPad has dictionaries, a Shakespeare app to help with English classes, and apps for eBooks like if you have accounts. If you need to check your email, Gmail is already installed. You can use Safari, which is a browser to the Internet.
The iPad is fully loaded with activities, homework helpers and communication suppliers. I would highly recommend renting this out from our very own Whitmore Library. The iPad is on loan for use for 7 days. They have you read and sign an agreement saying that if broken, it has to be paid for by the user. “You break it, you buy it” is a very fair rule, considering they are letting us borrow and use a $500 electronic device. The iPad was a lot of fun to use for the week. It kept me very entertained and I highly suggest students use this awesome opportunity to use this free device.

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Shifting into Overdrive: The Library’s New E-book System!

There’s no use denying it. We live in the age of digital information. Smart-phones, iPods, iPads, laptops, and many other devices ensure that we are never disconnected, for better or for worse. Everything is becoming digitized in the name of ease, and now many things that were staples of the home have become quaint novelties of a bygone era. And, unfortunately, books seem to be falling into this same trap.

I’ll admit it. I am riding the e-reader bandwagon. I was fortunate to receive an Amazon Kindle for Christmas, and I have to admit, I’m a believer in the digital age. While I don’t feel that the Kindle can replace the feel of a good book in my hands, the ease surrounding the small device cannot be denied. I read three gigantic books over the summer, each close to one thousands pages long, and my back thanked me when it didn’t have to lug around those behemoths everywhere I went.

Of course, this is a Library’s Blog, not a personal one. How are these e-readers going to affect the libraries? Are they also doomed to vanish from this world? How do they keep up with this new technology?

It’s a problem that has already been written off by some. But, as a lot of people know, libraries are no strangers to technology. Instead of shunning e-books, they have embraced the new medium, and are offering a new method of digital book distribution, thanks to something called Overdrive.

Overdrive is basically a fancy way of saying “Online E-Book Library.” And it works just as the same, with few headaches. You go to a special section of the Minuteman Library Website, where a listing of all the digital books are displayed. You can search through them, or display them in a full list. When you find a book you want, you click it, select the format you want it in, and then download it. It’s really that simple, with only a few tweaks depending on your e-reader of choice. You then have the book on your device (or even your laptop!) and can start reading right away.

But they don’t stop at just e-books. They have a large selection of audiobooks as well, along with the potential for videos as well. These are just as easy to obtain, following the same process described above. Select, download, and enjoy.

Of course, there are limitations. Firstly, the selection, while constantly growing, is still limited. It is likely that a book you want just won’t be available, however the library is happily accepting requests. Secondly, the library can only loan out a certain number of copies of most books. Like the physical thing, if someone has the only copy checked out, you have to wait for it to be returned before you can take it. That, and there’s no way for the book to be renewed. After the loan period passes, you have to check the book out again, which is a minor issue, but one that should be noted.

However, there are a number of books that are “available anytime,” as it states on the website. This is exactly what it sounds like; the books can be checked out by an unlimited number of patrons. Of course, these are likely not “best-sellers,” and instead tend to be classics.

With that said, Overdrive is already a great service and only has potential to grow better with time. It’s somewhat limited now, yes, but what is there is very easy to use and surprisingly robust. Once the selection grows, I think it will become a staple of libraries everywhere. Unfortunately, it’s not quite there yet. But, I know if I see a book on there I want, or need for a class, you can bet I’ll be using Overdrive to check it out!

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E-Readers Now Available!

Did you know that the Whittemore Library not only has e-books available, but they also have three different e-readers available for checkout? Neither did I!

Yes, it’s true! And it’s one of the library’s most interesting secrets. Behind the circulation desk rests these three e-readers, available for checkout to any of the University’s students or affiliates. I recently had a chance to take one of these e-readers for a test drive, and will tell you my thoughts below.

The e-reader, to my surprise, was not of the more well known brands like Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook. Instead, it is a Sony e-reader, but that should not deter you. This one is one of the nicer ones I’ve seen, and also one of the heavier. This gives the e-reader itself a very sturdy quality that feels good in the hands. It doesn’t feel easily breakable, which is good, as library technology tends to take a beating over time.

The e-reader comes with a wall-charger and some directions to help get you started. Finding the power button was a little tricky, but after turning it on, everything was smooth sailing. The menus are clear and easily readable, though the touch screen isn’t quite as responsive to the touch of my finger as I would’ve liked. Thankfully, after a quick glance at the directions, I found a stylus hidden on the side of the device, and using that made the menus much more responsive. I recommend using the stylus at all times, both for the menus and to keep fingerprints off the screen.

There is a small learning curve that comes with every e-reader, and this often catches new readers off guard. When you turn the page, the screen has to refresh itself before the next page can be shown. During this refresh period, the screen quickly turns solid black, before loading the next set of text. This sounds intrusive, but it’s not as bad as it sounds, as the whole process takes less than a second. But it does require some getting used to at first, and can be quite distracting. Having had my own e-reader for close to a year, however, I can say that this doesn’t bother me at all.

Turning pages, however, took me a few tries to figure out. Since the screen itself is a touch screen, I assumed that to turn the page I would tap on the edges of the screen. Not so. You can turn the pages two ways. Either by swiping the stylus across the screen  right or left, or by pressing the buttons on the bottom of the device. I found the buttons to be a more reliable method of page-turning, as the swipe didn’t feel as responsive to me.

The e-reader comes preloaded with sixty-six full texts, all of which are “classics” available in the public domain. A student checking out the device cannot purchase or rent new texts, as that feature has been blocked. The librarian can add new texts to the device, and is always accepting requests. The books are all formatted properly, and read fine.

The e-reader does some have restrictions. It can only be checked out for two weeks, with a high late fee of $10 a day. It also cannot be renewed, and has to be back to the library with all parts in tact in order to be checked out again.

With that said, if you are looking for one specific book, it might be better to just get that book itself rather than e-reader, if nothing else than to avoid the chance of high-late fees. However, if you read books quickly, or are planning a trip, the e-reader would make a worthwhile option. It’s certainly a good device, works well, and offers a good selection of books. Just be careful of the late fees!

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Your Library: Free Netflix!

It’s true! Well, not exactly the same, but pretty darn close.

There’s this thing called “interlibrary loan” and it’s about to become your new best friend. If you want a book (for fun or for school) but cannot find it in our collection at Whittemore, you can order it from any library in the entire Minuteman Library network. Not only that, but you can also order movies and video games as well. All you need is a library card. They’ll ship it straight here.

And yes, it’s free!

You can either go online or come into the library itself to request a book (or game or movie). The process itself is painless either way, only requiring a few clicks and the creation of a PIN.

Interlibrary loan is a great, if imperfect service. Firstly, while the selection of books is huge, it can take a while to receive the items you request. It generally takes about a week, but if the book is in high demand, or hard to find, it can take much longer. I’ve personally never had to wait more than a few weeks for a book to come in, but that can be a problem if you need it for a class. Order early, just to be on the safe side.

The selection for DVDs is also quite good, with a number of both new releases and old classics available. My taste in films is varying to say the least, but I’ve always been able to find the film I’m looking for. I’ve rented things like The Hangover, Paranormal Activity, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and have always been able to find a copy. You can even order complete seasons of many TV shows. You get all the disks in the boxed set at once too, unlike Netflix where you get one disk at a time. However, the quality of the DVDs themselves is a little suspect. They tend to take a lot of punishment, and I have received a few DVDs that were unplayable. It’s easy enough to order another DVD if the one you receive is defective, but it is something you should take into account.

I actually had no idea that you could order video games through this service as well, and judging by the amount of games that actually are ordered, not many students know either. I found out by chance, but have since used it numerous times. The selection is, in a word, surprising, as the mix of choices contains some new releases and some older ones as well. The selection is not huge, so finding a game is somewhat unlikely, but it’s always worth a quick search. I myself just realized that a library has a copy of Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, a game that was just released on the 15th of November! However, the games are not as readily available as DVDs or movies, so expect to wait a longer time for them to arrive. Also, they can take a beating the same way DVDs can.

Overall, interlibrary loan would a decent service if you had to pay for it. The fact that it’s free just makes the deal all the sweeter. Give it a try sometime!

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Have You Found the IT HelpDesk?

If you haven’t been in the library lately, then you haven’t seen the big changes that have occurred.

And when I say big, I really mean it!

If you go down the stairs (or take the elevator) to the Lower Mezzanine (LM), you will find the new IT Help Desk, just finished construction early in the fall. No longer will you have to trek over to the basement of Hemenway Hall (though it’s still open if you prefer it) to have your laptop fixed; now you can have your troubles solved right in the library.

When you first come down the stairs, you will see the two newly built study rooms. They are fairly good sized, with comfortable chairs and a big table in the center. Inside each are two large flat-screen TVs, that can be hooked up to a laptop for group discussions. These TVs sound good, but unfortunately I feel that they have more use for slacking than studying. I have, however, seen a few groups in the room using them for presentations, so hopefully my fears are unfounded. While the rooms cannot be signed out yet, in the future that will become an option for groups who want to schedule study parties.

To your left from the study rooms is the IT desk itself. It’s brand new, and offers much more in the ways of both student comfort and ease of use. Instead of sitting behind a table in Hemenway, the IT workers sit behind a large desk with computer monitors that face the student, not the worker. These monitors can  be hooked up to the laptop the worker is fixing, so the student can see what is going on, or for demonstration purposes. No longer do you have to sit awkwardly while the worker clicks around on your laptop!

There are a number of comfortable chairs spread around the desk itself along with desks for study, and a few more TVs scattered around the area. It gives the place a feeling of comfort and relaxation, rather than just a spot to get your computer fixed. The desk itself is also far more welcoming than the room in Hemenway, with warm paneling and a clean exterior. It makes the desk a place that you actually want to visit, rather than a place to avoid.

The IT Desk has also made my life as a Circulation Desk Attendant (which is a fancy way of saying I check out books) much easier. Now, whenever a student has a laptop problem, often with printing, I can point them toward the desk. Not only that, but whenever a printer goes down in the library, someone from the IT Desk is always available to fix it. This means more working printers and less problems, which is always a good thing when you’re a college student.

With the addition of the IT Help Desk, the library is becoming far more of a one-stop-shop rather than just a holder of books. You can get some coffee, find a book to read, and get your laptop fixed without having to brave the great outdoors.

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