Magazines in the LMC

          Remember those amazing print sources full of information from yesteryear? No, not newspapers. The ones printed on glossy paper. I hear you thinking catalogs, which is close, but no. I’m talking about magazines and other periodicals like professional journals. While many of our young students may view magazines as quaint old disposable technology from a bygone era, we at the HHS Library Media Center still value and promote their use and usability.

          In the past, good libraries were measured by how many periodicals they carried and warehoused (remember the old guide to periodic literature … yeah, neither do most people). Nowadays, students often turn to Google and Wikipedia as their first (and unfortunately, their only information sources). Of course, we work hard to teach them that they should be using subscription databases such as those found through their public libraries, but I also remind them to turn to the web-sites of magazines and journals that we carry in our library.

          Every year, I try to update our magazine subscriptions according to feedback I get from our faculty, staff and students. Some publications are staples such as Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report, Scientific American, National Geographic, Discover, and Sports Illustrated. Other titles get shuffled around, as we try to find a balance between entertaining, informative and school appropriate publications. Here then, are four of my favorites from our newstand.

  • Archaeology: New to our shelves, this publication comes from the Archaeological Association of America. I love this magazine because it is at the intersection of so many subjects that fascinate me such as art, history, ancient civilizations and science. There are many great pictures and articles about people at work discovering the truth about our common past.
  • ID: This title is also new to our shelves and so far it has not disappointed. Full of beautiful photographs of mostly ordinary products given new appeal and flavor by design students, artists and commercial manufacturers.
  • UTNE Reader: Their tagline is “the best of the alternative press”, and it’s a pretty accurate description. I discovered this magazine when I was in grad school and enjoy their offbeat, but interesting selections. One story in the latest issue for example, warns that, “Your Pet is a Global Warming Machine”. It seems Fido’s got a larger footprint than a Hummer. How cute would a puppy sized Hummer be?
  • WIRED: Fifteen years ago, I used to find this magazine’s layout and design really annoying. But we’ve both changed a lot over that time, and now I find myself waiting for the next issue. Their website is also a great place to visit, combining good writing with graphics that are second to none. Whatever you do, don’t steal the LMC issue before I’m done reading it.

          I hope you find something interesting on the list, and invite you to stop by and have a good casual read. Thank you for reading and I hope you have a great Friday.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved

Citations generators

          I know many students dread writing to begin with, and writing academic papers adds one more layer of frustration with the need for citations. Even I, who love writing, remember hating having to find the names of writers, titles of books and articles, page numbers, years of publications and other minutia that then, had to be arranged in a certain order. To this day, I still pull out a handbook to make sure that I am doing it correctly.

          One advantage that a modern student has is the on-line MLA Citation generator; a simple web tool that asks for information about the source being cited and then arranges the details into the proper MLA formatting. If you prefer APA or Chicago style, you can choose those options as well. Listen, it’s time that analog luddites accept that there are certain things that digital tools can do better and faster than people, and I tend to encourage adopting use of these tools. Sure I can divide 13,583 by 81 on paper in about 45 seconds or I can use my calculator to figure it out in 5 seconds. (By the way I think it’s most important that you can actually do the long division on paper BEFORE you turn to the calculator – I’m still a little analog). Here then, is a short list, with brief commentary, of these handy, free to use MLA Citation tools. I recommend that teachers and students try out the various sites and judge for themselves which one best fits their needs.

  • Citation Center is very straightforward and easy to use, though it is limited in the kinds of sources it will format. Missing are choices for various kinds of media such as podcasts, videos, and audio. The simplest of all the websites I review here, I would only use Citation Center if all my references were traditional sources such as newspapers, magazines and books.
  • NoodleBib express is a reliable, yet “clunky” program. Rather than using pop down menus on a single page or form, NoodleBib leads you through a series of detailed questions about the source you are trying to cite. To proceed you must hit a next button several times which automatically refreshes the page and leads you to the next question. While this is time consuming, it does guarantee the accuracy of your citation. Each citation is independently generated and NoodleBib Express does not allow you to save a series of sources. Instead, you must CUT and PASTE each citation to an open document in a word processor.
  • Son of Citation Machine, like the previous website, is also clunky and imperfect, but it gets the job done. Here, too, you must CUT and PASTE each citation to an open document in a word processor. Easy to use and understand, with options for different types of information sources.
  • Easy Bib is a citation generator site that I have recommended in the past to students and teachers. It has been around for a while, so I trust that they have slowly improved their usability and accuracy. While EasyBib does allow you to generate multiple citations, you must download a file to your computer, and it’s only available as a Word file. While I am always wary of downloading anything unnecessary to my computer, my personal experience has been that Easy Bib is fairly safe and comes highly recommended by other reliable sites.

          I can hear the purists out there complaining that this is just one more sign of the apocalypse. I don’t agree. While citation generators are not perfect tools, they do make the job of properly formatting referenced works easier. Even though the formatting is done for you, the user must still collect and input the author’s name, the title of the work, the publishers information, the date of publication and so on. Students still learn the value of citing their references, without the unnecessary stress of knowing where the page number and publisher’s name is supposed to go. To avoid all of this hassle, I recommend academic users such as teachers and students to turn to subscription databases for their information. Most subscription sites such as e-library, EBSCO host and InfoTrac provide the citation information with each article, ready to be cut and pasted into any bibliography or works cited page.

Hope you find something useful and thank you for reading.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved

Televison’s little rewards

          One of my guilty pleasures is watching a lot of television. I freely admit that I was raised on television and that I always have it on in my house. If my TV isn’t on and I’m home, then we’ve probably lost power. But I use my TV as background noise (visual and auditory) while I carry on — writing, reading, painting, doing laundry. I turn the volume up and down as needed, while I concentrate (on videos I’m watching online or while reading a particularly interesting and difficult book or magazine). Obviously, I have issues.

          The payoff, for me anyway, is that I find wonderful stories and resources that I can pass along to the readers of this blog. Most times, I find inspiration for a blog post from the History, Discovery or National Geographic type channels. Sometimes, however, I find a great story from a more unusual source.

          One such discovery comes from one of my favorite programs The Daily William KShow, with Jon Stewart. (I know it’s not real news) The story is about a young man named William Kamkwamba , from Malawi who was forced to leave school because his family couldn’t afford his schooling. Back around 2000, when he was just 14, young William started visiting the small library in his village, where he learned about energy and decided that he would build his family a windmill.

          It sounds like something out of a horrible fairy tale that begins with poverty and ends with a small, but significant triumph. In fact, it has been turned into a book titled, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind: creating currents of electricity and hope. I’ll try to get a copy of the book for our library, but in the meantime, check out the links to find out more about this incredible young man’s resourcefulness and how he used knowledge and information to literally empower himself, and his family.

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you for Friday.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved

Some Thoughts as September Ends

               Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough or maybe the kids have all gotten too good at hiding and getting away with things. Maybe I’m imagining it all, because I want to believe so badly that what we do in the library media center (LMC) matters, and that it is a reflection of what is going on in the rest of the school. Maybe what I’m sensing, though, is real and I have seen a change in the overall behavior and study habits of the students.

                I know what you’re thinking … c’mon, September just finished. But that is the point, it’s early in the year and I like what I see. I believe that habits and attitudes are a matter of practice. Communities take time to build and people need time to recognize what is acceptable, expected, rewarded and punished. School cultures are created slowly over time with everyone being a part of the big picture. What I have seen so far, this year, in the LMC has been exemplary of what I have always wanted to see happening.

 library work

               I have seen students studying, typing out reports, checking out books, reading and, for the most part, working. I have completed most of my freshman orientations without having to stop once to ask a student to raise their head and pay attention. These may seem like minor things, but they are not. They reflect a general attitude about why we’re here and what we’ve all shown up to do.

               I often tell students that the library is like a holy place for me. It is a collection of the knowledge that humans have gathered throughout the generations and passed on to us. We stand on their shoulders and everyone that walks into that library owes someone (a lot of someone’s actually) a huge debt. The knowledge in our library is just a tiny representation of the hours of human labor spent not just imagining impossible things like agriculture or flight. Our library, and every other library in the world, is a collection of documents that attest to the universal quest for information and ultimately a very personal understanding of all that data. If knowledge is power, as Francis Bacon said four centuries ago, then every new generation is equipped to be more powerful than the last.

               My job, in part at least, is to help students understand what a grand inheritance they’ve stumbled upon. That they, too, no matter where they come from, no matter how they label themselves, no matter what they speak or eat at home, have a share of the marvelous spoils that humanity has gathered. Undoubtedly, some will walk away from this, unable to appreciate or comprehend what a tremendous gift it is. But for those who long to share it, and ultimately contribute to this precious cargo that we will pass along, I stand prepared and eager to make sure they are granted a place in our school, where the most uniquely human qualities of thinking and learning can happen.

                Thank you for reading and I can’t wait to see you all tomorrow.

 Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved