One aspect of librarianship that I love is incorporating new technologies into library services and job-related tasks. The librarian profession is one of these professions that has drastically morphed since the invention of the Internet. Gone are the days of card catalogs. The Internet Age has ushered in a completely uncharted territory for information retrieval and how we disseminate it. Thankfully, there are a plethora of free tools to help in this. Listed below are my top four “can’t-live-without” web-based tools that I think you will find useful as well.
1. Dropbox.com (https://www.dropbox.com/) – Mark Puterbaugh, our Information Services Librarian, turned me on to this particular tool. Dropbox.com is a free site that enables users to easily store, sync and share files online. No more emailing yourself word documents or saving them your flash drive (which lately have become easy targets for computer viruses). Instead, simply upload your file to your dropbox and it will now be accessible on any computer with the Internet. The folks at Dropbox.com created a great introductory video if you’re interested in learning more about it. Watch it here.
2. Jing (http://www.techsmith.com/jing/free/) – Ever wish you could take a snapshot of what’s displayed on your computer screen? Maybe you want to capture an image of just part of your screen. Better yet, say you want to record the action occurring on your screen to play to someone else. Jing can do all of the above and more. Created by TechSmith, Jing enables you to capture screenshots and then mark them up with explanatory text, highlighting, arrows and/or boxes. It also includes a screen capturing feature that allows you to record the action occurring on your screen. Have a computer microphone? Then you can even add narration to your screencast. If those features weren’t enough, Jing also makes it easy for you to then share your creation by email, through Twitter or Facebook, uploading it to YouTube, or embedding it in your blog/website/Blackboard course (for the professors out there). Here in the library we use Jing when creating our library tutorials.
3. Social Bookmarking – If you’re like me, then you’re always discovering informative or interesting websites that you would like to save. In the “old days” before cloud computing, if you found a website you liked, you could bookmark it in your web browser. The problem was that if you were working on a different computer and wanted to access your website bookmarks, you couldn’t. That’s where the beauty of social bookmarking comes in. After the advent of cloud computing, innovative & easily accessible bookmarking sites popped up everywhere. These are sites that allow you to create a personal account and then save website addresses to your account for referring to later. Sounds just like the “old days”, right? The major difference is that instead of saving those web addresses to your computer, you’re saving them to your account, which is accessible from any computer with Internet. Now, thanks to these social bookmarking sites, I can access my website bookmarks when I’m at home, at work, in the library, in Starbucks, etc. The “social” aspect of it allows other users to discover your collection of bookmarks. The library uses the bookmarking site Delicious to organize our website collection (we currently have saved 1,156 sites), but there are a ton of additional bookmarking sites out there. Some of the more popular ones are Digg, Mixx, and Reddit. Even academic institutions are adding to the mix. Check out University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Tags.
Want to learn more about social bookmarking? This is a short & informative video on it by the folks at CommonCraft- http://commoncraft.com/bookmarking-plain-english.
4. RSS feeds – I don’t subscribe to any print newspapers. Instead, I get all my latest news from the Internet through RSS feeds. Most commonly known as “Really Simply Syndication”, RSS feeds bring the information to you. Instead of checking each of your favorite news websites to learn the latest headlines, RSS feeds will bring those headlines from separate sites to one place- your feed aggregator. The most popular feed aggregator is probably Google Reader. It’s very simple to use. We have created a tutorial on how to setup and use a Google Reader account.
Do you have a free, web-based tool you can’t live without? I’d love to hear about it! Post it in a comment below.