Ask-A-Librarian Instant Messaging

The Ask-A-Librarian instant messaging service, widgets on our websites, and text messaging services are currently having technical difficulty. Our provider’s servers are currently down, but they are working on restoring the services.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

For the meantime please call the Reference Desk if you need any help (570 – 941 – 4000) OR use the 24/7 Chat service  to get help from a librarian at another Jesuit University.

Library Research Prize

The deadline is fast approaching to submit your application for the first annual Library Research Prize which will be awarded by the Weinberg Memorial Library! Completed application packages must be submitted by 4:00 pm on Wednesday, April 27, 2011.

This prize is designed to attract the outstanding research projects from courses taught in departments across The University of Scranton campus. It recognizes excellence in research projects that show evidence of significant knowledge in the methods of research and the information gathering process, and use of library resources, tools and services.

$500.00 will be awarded to the winning student or group. (If won by a group, then the award will be split equally among the group members.)

Only undergraduate students are eligible. For more information, go to the Library Research Prize web page. If you still have questions, contact Bonnie Oldham, Information Literacy Coordinator, by phone (570-941-4000) or e-mail (

Web Surfing Made Simple

While surfing the Web I came across a website which makes focusing on your work all that much more difficult.

StumbleUpon is a website which leads you to other websites.

The webpages you stumble upon could range from Government Fact Sheets, National Geographic Images, YouTube Videos, Flash Games, News Articles, Blog posts, just about anything you can imagine.

My first result was a great set of images which help to scale galactic objects in comparison to one another…

After that I stumbled on a game where you try to tranquilize sheep running from your herd.

Then an extremely interesting video from YouTube.

Lastly, a photo of Earth at Night from NASA.

You do not need to sign-up in order to use this site, but for people who do a lot of surfing I would suggest making a free account. Account members can chose what kinds of websites they most frequently enjoy. As you are lead to a new site you can decide if you Like or Dislike the site. The more you rate websites the more likely you are to be lead to sites that you’ll enjoy.

Happy stumbling!

Indie Magazines for Everyone


One of my favorite websites to kill some time on is Issuu.

Issuu is a website which allows you to “Publish yourself.”

I think it’s pretty cool that you can publish your own work on this website, but that is not the reason why I enjoy it so much.

Issuu has a large collection of magazines which are all free for you to peruse. The only difference is that these magazines are not the ones that you usually see at the grocery store.

Because Issuu is free to publish on, a lot of magazines which are not mass-produced and are uber-popular in America use it to increase their readership.

The magazines are mostly Independent, Student run, or from outside the U.S.A. The content of these magazines ranges from Poetry, Photography, Art, Graphic Design, Film Reviews, Popular Culture, just about everything…

Issuu is a great way to get your daily dose of culture and to read something a little different for a change.

Check it out at

Pandora Radio, Music Genomes, & Beautiful Sounds

Here we are, in the thick of finals. All-nighters. Citation madness. Dum-dum lollipops from the Reference Desk.

I know all about it — I’m the trusty librarian that is up at least half the night with you this week, at the Reference Desk ’til 2 am when we close.

But boy, did I come across a gem of a website that I believe you will love as much as I do. Because we all love music, right? But of course we love very different kinds of music… And that’s where the brilliance of Pandora Radio comes in.

This website allows you to create personalized, customized Internet radio stations that play only the music you love. When I first heard about it, I was very skeptical as to how user-friendly, effective or accurate such a claim could be. But I moseyed on over to the URL, where I was prompted to input a favorite artist or song. I humored Pandora, and typed in “Jason Mraz.” A station called “Jason Mraz Radio” started playing, with the first song as “I’d Do Anything” off of his first studio album, Waiting for my Rocket to Come. Okay, that’s neat, and I figured it would just play Jason songs in succession… But then, the second song began, and it wasn’t Jason, but a groovy rendition of “Over the Rainbow” by a Hawaiian artist whose name I can’t remember, accompanying himself on a ukulele — a version of the song I had heard about but never gotten around to looking up. A little pop-up from Pandora told me they were playing this song because, essentially, it “sounds” like Jason’s music. Well, it wasn’t Jason, but it was groovy in all the ways Jason is, and I was pleased. And the neat part is, now I have learned about an artist I never would have known about, for free, who plays the same kind of music as Jason — the kind of music I like. This is very cool indeed.

So I started creating other stations, and decided it was well worth creating an account at the site, so I could save my stations for future use. Right now, I am listening to “Bluegrassy Instrumental” (one of the genre-stations they also offer), and I’m loving it. And when Pandora plays a song I like in particular, I have a few options: I can rate it w/ a thumbs up, so the station knows to play more songs like it, and I can also Bookmark the song, so I can remember the artist and album for future reference. There are also ways to interact with other Pandora Radio listeners, recommending songs, creating profiles, etc. This site rocks my socks, and it will rock yours too. Just trust me on that one.

But you may ask, how does Pandora achieve this? How can a website or even an extensive database of music know what songs are really like other songs? That’s where the Music Genome Project comes in. I won’t go crazy trying to explain how the participants do what they do, but in short, they basically map the musical DNA of every song, characterizing and analyzing each song for many things like “melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics” (taken from About Pandora — worth reading too). Then Pandora takes these DNA maps (as I’m calling them) and uses them to match songs with other songs, to create a stream of music that can continually be customized to fit your taste in that style of music.

I think this is just awesome, and I felt the need to share it with all of you. We all love music, and this tool not only gives open access to the thing we love, but it enables us to discover artists and songs we might never have before.

So, if you need music in the background while you work on papers and finals — for my part, certain kinds of music (like “Bluegrassy Instrumental”) help me concentrate — check out Pandora Radio.

This is technology and the Internet at their best.

Project MUSE now on our Facebook page

Exciting news! The article database Project MUSE has now designed an application for Facebook. “The University of Scranton Weinberg Memorial Library” (found here) has just added the Project MUSE search box to our FB Page, which means you can search for articles right from inside Facebook. I just tested it out, and it definitely works, allowing you to open the full-text .PDF’s of articles in your results list.

There’s a possibility if you use the search box from home, you’ll be prompted for your My.Scranton username and password — but just type these in and you should have access to the full-text articles in this database.

This is a step in the direction of giving you guys full article searching and access capabilities from right inside Facebook, which is our ultimate goal.

So, give it a try! And if you hit a dead end, or for some reason you aren’t able to access the full-text of articles in your results list, definitely let us know (leave a Wall comment or post in the discussion forums on our FB page) so we can fix the problem.

Just for fun: try running a search for “Pittsburgh Steelers” (I know, such a scholarly topic :-P ) and yinz should check out the .PDF of the 2nd hit in the results list! (And I’m not even a Pittsburgh native — just an adoring Steelers fan who laments their loss to Philly tonight. *sigh*)

A case for the new Facebook

By now, I think we have all had exposure to the “new Facebook.” For those readers who don’t know what that refers to, it is basically a complete redesign of the social networking site Facebook, which the developers have been working on for some time now. Since 2004 when Facebook was first launched and created, the design of the site has remained the same, where a person’s personal profile is viewable on one single page, and links to get to other parts of the site were in familiar and convenient places on that page. But Facebook has been expanding to include new features, like “pages” (i.e. pages devoted to people, places and things, which users can become “fans” of — see our Library page for an example: The University of Scranton Weinberg Memorial Library ), and interactive applications (widgets or add-ons to your profile, created by 3rd parties, that allow for more ways to interact). The Facebook design crew felt the structure of the site could be improved to handle all of these new features, and so they redesigned the whole site, and made the switch from “old” to “new” voluntary for the past month and a half or so.

Until late last week, when the option to revert back to the old Facebook was taken away from users… (See this article by Michael Liedtke of the Associated Press for more details on this.)

And the reaction has been pretty strong! Three out of 5 stories on my newsfeed these days are of my friends joining groups like “6,600,000,000 Against the New Facebook!” and “Petition against the ‘New Facebook.'” And here I am… not minding the new design at all, and in fact digging it for various reasons. It makes a gal feel as if she didn’t get the memo that said to dislike the new Facebook with a passion, when everyone she knows is having such a strong negative reaction to this change, and she is not.

And so, for your reading and discussing pleasure, here are my top 5 reasons for liking the new Facebook:

1. Home Tabs:

I like these tabs on my “Home” page because they organize all of the information about my friends that I care about. The 2 tabs I use most often are “Status Updates” and “Photos.” I have heard criticisms that this new accessible layout increases the opportunity for people to “Facebook stalk” their friends. But answer me this: When you sign into Facebook, other than updating your friends on what’s new with you, isn’t your next interest, well, finding out what’s new with them? I mean, come on, if someone is your friend on Facebook, I’d like to hope they aren’t gonna “Facebook stalk” you — and hey, if you think they are, then you can change your privacy settings regarding what gets published in newsfeeds about you. These tabs mean less pages to load, in order to see what people have updated about themselves. Which is one of the reasons I sign into Facebook in the first place. So, I like ’em.

2. Profile Tabs:

This is possibly my favorite change. You can’t tell me that, in the old Facebook, you didn’t find it annoying that it took so long for most people’s profiles to load with 50 applications attached to each one. The single-page-per-profile layout of the old Facebook was so cumbersome and slow, I love that the Facebook designers have now tucked most of our crazy applications behind a tab called “Boxes,” making the load time for profiles a lot shorter. I also think it’s neat that “Info” is clustered under one tab as well — let’s face it, sometimes we are interested in seeing where our friends work and what movies they have listed, and sometimes we’re not. When we’re not, we’re usually more interested in seeing who’s posted on their Wall lately — or, to make that sound less “Facebook stalkerish,” what sorts of social interactions they’ve been engaging in recently. And there is nothing wrong with this, as far as I’m concerned. The site is designed for us to interact — I’m not gonna pretend that’s not why I use it. Along these lines, on the old Facebook my click pattern was to click on a person’s name to get to their profile, and then speed-scroll down to their Wall. In the new Facebook, all that clicking, and loading, and waiting, and scrolling is eliminated. I like it.

3. Photo Tab:

And scrolling down on the same page you find:

I think the new photo tab is brilliant in its simplicity… Now, ALL of my photos are in one place. I don’t have to click one link to see tagged photos of me (first screen shot above), and another link to view the albums I have created (second screen shot above). When you click on a person’s Photo tab, all of their photos are on the same page, in one place. You also have a convenient button to “Create a Photo Album” right on your own Photo tab. All of this just makes more sense to me.

4. Customization:

I like that the new Facebook has buttons all over the place for you to immediately make changes to the content on your profile and on your newsfeeds. Note in particular the “Settings” button I circled in the above screenshot (right side). I admit I didn’t like the default settings for my “Wall” tab, since it was publishing stories about every little thing I did on any of my applications… So I just clicked on the convenient “Settings” button and made it so the only stories that get published on my page are for status updates or posts from my friends to my Wall. You can do this for your general newsfeed (on your “Home” page) as well. I can also change my profile picture really easily using the “Change Picture” button (see upper left corner of screenshot) which has a picture of a little pencil next to it… You will find these little pencils everywhere, and they are Edit functions, there to make it easy for you to change the content of your page. Very convenient and considerate of Facebook, if you ask me…

5. Accessibility of Applications:

Finally, I like what Facebook did with my applications. I can now access them very easily from my “Home” page, in the upper right-hand corner of the page, which is where the above screenshot comes from. Note especially the “more” button, which will expand the box to list every single application you have. You can also drag applications from below the “more” boundary so that your most often used applications are always visible. I also love that there is yet another “Edit” button right there next to the apps, which means I can go in and purge my Facebook account of unused or unwanted apps, just one accessible click away. “Edit” will also take me to the page where I can change settings for individual apps, so I stop getting emails every single time someone interacts with one of my applications, etc. This is very convenient and helpful, to me.

And so, there you have it. Perhaps my clicking patterns and behavior on Facebook are different than yours… and if that’s the case, maybe these changes I have listed don’t affect your use of the site at all. If so, I would love to hear some feedback from you avid Facebook users out there, as to why the new layout DOESN’T work for you. Because honestly, I see nothing wrong, and lots right with it… But I am open and very interested in the other point of view, since I want to understand where all the resistance to the new design is coming from.

So, discuss.

(Now, if only Facebook would fix the chat function so that it works more consistently and wasn’t so glitchy, I’d be even happier!)

OpenSource Software Makes Life Better

Currently, there are some really excellent free Windows applications which are great for making your lives, as students, easier. Most of these applications are available for download from Here are a few applications that I find excellent… 

1. WordWeb – See review and Download @

WordWeb is  an application that is practically invisible on your desktop, only a small icon is found in your toolbar, and it only pops up when you really need it. However, this application makes looking up definitions quicker and easier than ever before. Once you have downloaded the application, simply highlight the troublesome word in a browser, in a word document, and even PDF files – simultaneously press “CTRL + ALT + W” and a pop-up  window gives you the definition you need.

This application is published by Princeton University and pulls its definitions from their WordNet database, so its content is librarian approved.

2. Stickies – See Review and Download @

Do you use Post-It notes to keep track of your assignments? Worse yet do you not keep track of your assignments?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you should seriously consider using Stickies. This application takes the Post-It note and makes it digital, so no more sticky pieces of paper all over your walls and on your monitor.

The sticky note could be moved around your desktop or in case of last minute assignments could be set to be “always on top” meaning no browser windows will cover it up, so it’s always reminding you to finish your work. Though the default style is super plain, you can customize the Background color, the Font, and the Font color so that it becomes a little more friendly on the eyes.

3. The StarDock ObjectDock – See Review and Download @

As a librarian, I have an affinity for order, this includes desktop icons. Organizing your life is a good way of reducing stress and since many college student’s lives are lived on their computers, your desktop is a good place to start.

Now, with ObjectDock you can organize all of your Desktop Icons into a beautiful “MAC style” Icon Bar anywhere on your screen. Icons are animated and “Pop-up” when you scroll over them. So, now you can have the stylistic features of a MAC Operating System on your Windows PC.

Here’s a screen shot of my desktop and some of my open source items in action:

GJA's Desktop
Click me for a full screen view.

NOTE: There are many free applications out there, try not to download them all just because they are free. Many of the OpenSource applications found on the web are untested and could contain spyware. The items I have listed are tested as Spyware free and have made my life a little bit better.