8 January 2016 - 11:10am | by Ginny Mies

This blog originally appeared on the TechSoup blog. Libraries can use many of these new features as well so we wanted to share it with the TechSoup for Libraries community. Please let us know in the comments if you've used any of these new features or if your library finds Twitter useful.   

Twitter has had a very interesting year. The social media company changed CEOs, going back to its roots and naming co-creator Jack Dorsey to the executive role. It also made some new acquisitions, went throughlayoffs, supported influential movements (such as #BlackLivesMatter and #RefugeesWelcome), and rolled out some new features.

While there was a lot happening this year, these new features are important to address. Many of them are targeted toward making the platform even more accessible for new users, an area where Twitter is struggling. But a few of these new features and enhancements are quite useful for nonprofits, public libraries, and other social good organizations. Let's take a look at the gifts Twitter gave us this year.

4 January 2016 - 12:09pm | by Ginny Mies

Here's a question: how often do you check your personal Facebook a day? In mid-2015, Facebook surpassed 1.49 billion users, and on average, those users are spending almost an hour a day on the social networking site. Here's another question: how often are you checking your library's Facebook account? And is your community actually engaging with it?

Jamie Matczak, continuing education, youth, and public information coordinator at the Nicolet Federated Library System in Wisconsin, shared 15 ideas on improving your library's Facebook page at our December webinar. To give you a peek, I've highlighted 5 ideas Jamie shared. But really, you should watch the whole presentation to get all 15 tips — this was one of our most popular and well-received webinars!

24 December 2015 - 10:56am | by Ginny Mies

A book Christmas tree

Happy Holidays! TechSoup offices and Customer Support (phone and email support) will be closed starting at 1 p.m. on Thursday, December 24, 2015, until we reopen at 7 a.m. on Monday, January 4, 2016 (Pacific time).

11 December 2015 - 11:37am | by Ginny Mies

Making Music at the Ramona Library

There's that pesky stereotype about the library: it's a quiet, noise-free place and any music, noise, or exuberance will be met with a harsh-faced librarian saying "SHHHHHH." We know this isn't true, however, and sometimes learning needs to be a little noisy. And in the case of the Ramona Community Library and the Borrego Springs Library in San Diego County, sometimes learning means making music. 

The Connection Between Learning and Music

Music is actually a pretty normal thing in the library for babies and toddlers. A lot of story-time programs include a few songs at the beginning or the end of the story. There are also dedicated music-making programs for the younger set as well.

Music can teach early learners how to rhyme, new vocabulary words, and numeracy, and improve basic communication skills. A study from the Music-Science Lab at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev shows that young children who played hand-clapping song games are more social, write better, and have better cognitive abilities.

Both the Ramona and Borrego Springs libraries go beyond traditional early childhood programming. The library also offers music programs for older demographics: tweens, teens and sometimes even adults. At the California Library Association's conference, Michael Voss discussed how teaching teens to play music has increased self-esteem and confidence, teaches math, and improves teamwork skills.   

8 December 2015 - 11:30am | by Ginny Mies

At this year's California Library Association's conference in gorgeous Pasadena, I attended a lot of STEM-related (Science Technology Engineering and Math) sessions: STEM for kids, STEM for adults, STEM for babies! And lately, there's been an "R" thrown in for reading and an "A" thrown in for Art. I saw some really exciting and creative examples of STE(A)M programs, from using music to teach math, to science-based art projects.

But the presentation I got the most excited (and envious) about was about the La Jolla/Riford Library's Life Science Collaboratory program. After visiting the La Jolla/Riford Library, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said, "The lab is a game changer for the city. This is the first of its kind, but probably not the last."

Located in the city of San Diego, the La Jolla/Riford Library is a neighbor to numerous biotechnology companies and research institutes, such as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and the Human BioMolecular Research Institute, just to name a few.  Therefore, incorporating biology, life sciences, and biotechnology into library programming seems like a natural fit. It also works quite nicely with the La Jolla Library's wonderful statement on its website:

"Libraries are like schools, as they give people of all ages access to lifelong learning."

2 December 2015 - 11:09am | by Jim Lynch

LoC Great Hall

Over on the TechSoup blog, I just did a profile of iFixit's Kyle Wiens, who won the 2015 refurbishment lifetime achievement award. One of his recent accomplishments was to successfully advocate for exemptions to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Many of the exemptions free up device owners' rights to repair or alter their electronics devices. There are a number of new digital rights management (DRM) changes that affect libraries.

Every three years the U.S. Copyright Office department of the Library of Congress devises adjustments to the DMCA. The DMCA makes it illegal to circumvent digital rights management (DRM) copy protections. It does things like prevent the copying of movie DVDs and music CDs, or the jailbreaking (rigging) of a game player so that it runs unlicensed games.

Protesting DRM

12 November 2015 - 10:57am | by Drew Montreuil

Kids playing Minecraft

The Groton Public Library, part of the Finger Lakes Library System, runs a simple Minecraft program that has led to a boost in youth attendance and book circulations. Additionally, Minecraft has had a positive influence on the lives of the young patrons who play it, increasing creativity, teaching cooperation, and even helping develop social skills.

Why Consider Minecraft?

Minecraft is especially popular with elementary and middle school-age kids, and is a tremendous draw that can bring this age group into the library on a consistent basis.

Minecraft books are also immensely popular. Since the beginning of 2015, a number of Minecraft books rank near the top in total circulations at Groton. This includes both "how-to" non-fiction books and fan-created fiction.

Author Sean Fay Wolfe at the library

In September 2015, Groton hosted Sean Fay Wolfe, a rising star in the world of Minecraft literature. More than 50 youth turned out for this author visit, with each family getting a free autographed copy of one of Wolfe's books.

Minecraft players learn to cooperate with one another to survive, have their creativity spurred, and learn basic social skills as they interact with each other and library staff. A number of Groton kids have shown tremendous social growth from playing Minecraft — a benefit that has measureless worth.

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.

3 November 2015 - 9:25am | by Jim Lynch

From time to time, we like to check to see what product donations public libraries particularly like among the more than 400 offerings on TechSoup. We thought you might like to know what your colleagues are interested in.

Hidden Gems for Libraries

 

From reading programs to language dictionaries, these products are especially popular among our library members. There might be something on this list you haven't yet considered for your library!

30 October 2015 - 10:15am | by Ginny Mies

Is your Pinterest account in need of a refresh or new ideas? Or perhaps you're just getting started in the Pinterest world and need some (p)inspiration? Lucky for you, we just had Lauren Drittler, assistant director of the Arkansas River Valley Regional Library System (ARVRLS) and Pinterest expert, on our October webinar, Pinterest for Libraries: Building Community Through Social Media.

Under Lauren's supervision, the ARVRLS has 61 boards and 1,600 followers. She was first inspired by the Sacramento Public Library's tremendous Pinterest account (4,400 followers!). She wrote to the Sacramento library and asked for some tips for building up a Pinterest account. Here's how the librarian, Amy Loseth, responded:

"In general, we aspire to be entertaining, engaging, and educational, just like the library itself."

Here are some of the key tips Lauren shared during our webinar:

1. Create Pinterest Boards That Build on Your Existing Library Programs

Lauren showed us the ARVRLS' Play Date and Lego My Lego boards, which are based on the library's current programs. These boards let your program attendees take their projects or learnings home with them along with related craft ideas or more information on a certain subject. Some other ideas might be a craft board, a computer basics board, or a board built around a book club theme.

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