Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction was first published in 1979 and has been an excellent and venerable tool in library reference collections. The third edition is published online and is available to use free of charge.  The internet and links have made it a far more powerful tool.  You can find The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction at this address:

 If you are interested in science fiction or speculative fiction, this tool is extraordinarily valuable.

You can click on the picture to enlarge this view of the homepage.  

Near the top of the screen, below the title of the encyclopedia, is a search box to search the Encyclopedia's contents.  Across the top of the screen are tabs that are excellent points to begin browsing:


AUTHORS  provides an Art A-Z, Author A-Z, Editor A-Z, House name A-Z, and People A-Z.  Throughout the Encyclopedia entries are dated when they are published, where entries have been updated there are links to earlier versions.

THEMES A-Z provides an extensive maybe comprehensive list of themes.  You can find material on particular themes, and you can look at how a particular theme has been handled by different writers and different media.  If you are considering writing science fiction or speculative fiction, this could be a particularly valuable tool to find out what has already been done and figure out directions to move forward. Themes are listed A-Z, and currently there are 809 entries.

MEDIA gives you access to information about characters, comics, films, games, music, radio, and tv.

CULTURE includes Awards.  It covers Community, which includes conventions, organizations and publishers.  It also contains a Fan A-Z, an International A-Z, and a Publication A-Z.  It is great for connecting with other people and groups that share your interests.

ALL ENTRIES are just that, the whole spectrum of entries under one heading.

NEWS has bits of recent news from the SF world, and information about any changes to the Encyclopedia.

The front page has a random entry generator and a random new entry generator that are fun to play with, plus a number of other features you'll find when you visit.

If you are new to science fiction or speculative fiction, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction will prove a superb guide.  For old hands it can enhance your experience and enjoyment and help you make connections and open up whole new areas of interest.  It is a great tool to enhance your library experience, and direct you to new material to savor at your leisure.

Visit The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Nell M.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Arts

I love books. Not a surprising statement from a librarian, I suppose.
I really love them in all their forms and permutations; hard covers, paperbacks, comic books, ebooks, audiobooks, picture books, albums, even blank books.
 I am fascinated by cuniform tablets and palm-leaf books.
Cuneiform inscription on baked clay
  I love the smell of linotype slugs.

 (It all started with Egyptiana and making a papyrus scroll. But that was ugly. Don’t ask. Just don’t ask.)
So it’s not surprising that I had to try my hand at making books too.
Thus I became influenced by Susan Kapinski Gaylord, whose website (Making Books with Children) has an almost weird hold on my imagination.

I'm not the only one hanging out at 686 in the Dewey stacks,  where you may find The Essential Guide to Making Handmade Books by Gabrielle Fox. Or check out Making books that fly, fold, wrap, hide, pop up, twist, and turn by Gwen Deihn for projects to make with your children (or anybody's children).
Essential guide to Making Handmade Books by Gabrielle Fox
 Check out some Pinterest pages of handmade books from other sufferers.
 And let us not forget the world of altered books; where books are stacked, cut, painted or turned inside-out to say what mere text cannot.
Books can be written, printed, stamped, painted or etched, sewn, cut, folded, glued or strung. They can be big, small, flimsy, rigid, plain or fancy.
You can make a book in a box or a book on a string. You can tan, taw, paste, embellish, marble, embroider or set jewels into your book. You can make it and make it yours. What better way to celebrate and remember Library Lovers Month?
Jan D.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

MOOC!! (not moo cow)

Photo by A. J. Cann

What do Jose Saramago,   Abraham Lincoln and Julian Assange all have in common?  They are all autodidacts – people who for one reason or another did not have much formal education and so are self taught. Other famous autodidacts include Frank Zappa and Ray Bradbury.

People may choose or be forced to eschew formal learning for many reasons.  They may be too poor,  too far away, or simply opposed to a formal educational system.   In times past, the public library was the best friend of the autodidact – Bradbury famously said “Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities.”

Libraries are still a stalwart friend to the autodidact, still providing free access to all of the volumes collected on library shelves, but also in terms of access to free Internet enabled public computers and free wireless access.

Photo by mathplourde
That digital free access opens the door to hundreds of free or low cost learning opportunities – referred to as MOOCs, for Massive Open Online Courses.  A MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web.

MCPL has recently begun to provide access to a service called “Learn4Life”, which is a collection of over 300 Instructor-Led Courses focused on professional development and personal enrichment.  The courses run for six weeks, with lessons available each week.  The courses also offer an interactive learning environment, where students can chat with the instructor and classmates using an online bulletin board.

I am currently taking an intro class on Microsoft Outlook 2010, as Montgomery County Government recently upgraded to Office 2010.  I can say that I’ve learned useful tips for working with Outlook, and I will probably complete the full suite of classes related to Outlook.  There are many, many different types of classes ranging from things like digital photography to resume writing to writing effective grant proposals.

If you are interested finding out more about free online courses, some of which are offered by top universities like Harvard and Yale,  you can find a listing of various websites that offer MOOCs on the library system's Education Libguide.   Here are descriptions of just a few of the listings -

Coursera -  Partners with top universities, including Princeton, Stanford, Penn, Duke, and UVA,  to offer free courses online.  Among the current offerings, (over 500), is an “Introduction to Chemistry”  course from Duke University, and a very interesting offering called “Moralities of Everyday Life” from Yale.

EDex - A not-for-profit online learning platform that features teaching designed specifically for the web. Participating universities include Harvard and MIT.  The site offers self-paced learning, online discussion groups, wiki-based collaborative learning, assessment of learning as a student progresses through a course, and online laboratories. 

iTunes U – Of course, Apple is a player in the MOOC world.  With iTunes U, university, college, and K-12 school educators design and distribute complete courses featuring audio, video, books, and other content. Students and lifelong learners can experience those courses for free through an app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

Khan Academy – You have probably heard of this site, which offers over 2600 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and includes practice exercises.  Their motto is “A free world-class education, for anyone, anywhere.”

Goodwill Community Foundation  -  Provides free, quality, innovative online learning opportunities to anyone who wants to improve the technology, literacy and math skills needed to be successful in both work and life.  Noteworthy courses include a series on life skills such as reading labels and making sense of tax documents.

Saylor Foundation  - Features over 200 free, self-paced, automated courses, with a focus on undergraduate college level material. While Saylor does not confer degrees, they do offer the knowledge equivalent of thirteen popular disciplines.

I hope to have the time someday to explore a course like "Moralities of Everyday Life", but right now I'm pretty happy to be able to take a guided course on Outlook, free and in the comfort of my own home.  I hope you find something useful from MCPL too!