Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Google is Changing Libraries, But Not in the Ways You Think

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I’ve never identified as a tried and true Reference Librarian, but I have worked Reference for years. When you are a Teen/YA Librarian, every system seems to put you some place different. Sometimes it is in Youth Services. Sometimes it is in Adult Services. And sometimes, if a library is doing it correctly in my opinion, Teen/YA Services is it’s own department, even if it’s a department of one. But, and this is a big but, even if you are your own department, a lot of libraries don’t have a public service desk in their teen areas and it is good practice to have someone available to talk with teens even when you’re not having a program, which is how I end up spending a lot of time working at the Reference Desk.

Even though I don’t identify as a Reference Librarian, I love working the Reference Desk. I love the challenge of answering a question. I love the joy of helping someone find a book. I do some days grow weary of giving directions to the bathroom and answering the phone only to say yes we’re open, but there is a lot of joyful and intellectual curiosity to be had at the Reference Desk.

Sadly, two of the four libraries that I previously worked in have totally gotten rid of their reference desks, their reference staff, and their reference services. People stopped using those services, or so administration believed. But what if we killed Reference ourselves?

I’m old enough to remember libraries before access to public computers was a big part of our service model. Yes, I’m the crypt keeper, carry on. I worked in public libraries as public libraries were tasked with trying to figure out how to incorporate the Internet and how to provide public access computers. These were challenging times because we were suddenly tasked with devoting huge chunks of floor space that we did not have to a new and high demand service. And then we had to figure out how to staff them.

In the beginning, as libraries began having public access computers, new often part-time and minimum wage staff were hired to keep paper logs and sign patrons in and out of the computers. Then time management software was developed and it was believed that those staff were no longer needed and computers were moved and they often became a part of reference services, simply by defacto because the computers were always near reference and it turns out that time management software and printing kiosks don’t completely eliminate the need for human regulation. In fact, in these scenarios, reference became much more about helping patrons sign on to computers and print then it did about helping patrons navigate the library collection or find specific answers to specific questions. We know this because many of our regular patrons told us that as they had to wait in longer lines to ask reference questions that they simply stopped coming as they found that climate and goals of the library changing.

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This next part may be kind of controversial to say, but the idea of the climate of the library is important. You see, a lot of people who come into the library to use computers do so for one of two main reasons. One, they have a computer at home but don’t have a printer or their printer just ran out of ink. These patrons usually come in quickly, print, and leave. But the second main reason a person goes to the library to use public access computers is because they don’t have access at home and, often, this is because they are economically challenged, homeless, or a restless teen who travels in a pack and wants to sit at a computer with a couple of loud friends as they discuss whatever game it is they happen to be playing that day. Now suddenly, patrons have to wade through a sea of waiting patrons, some of whom smell, some of whom are engaged in questionable online viewing habits, and some of whom are loud or boisterous. Then there is the patron who is trying to pay a bill and they are talking loudly on their cell phone while the person on the other end is trying to walk them through their website.  There’s the parent with two kids and a stroller that doesn’t fit next to the computer who is ignoring the crying baby while they try to do whatever it is they are trying to do. In each and every one of these cases there is nothing wrong with the individual or their computer use, they are all there using a service we gladly provide, but taken together all at once it can be a lot. That’s a lot of people in one small space trying to use a service and trying to walk through or around them can be daunting and whether it is safe to say so or not, it does change the overall climate of the library. You know the expression location matters, and this is very true when it comes to where libraries put their public access computers.

So now we have large banks of computers with a lot of users that are located near the reference desk and increasing the patron load of reference staff and the wait time of patrons wanting to ask for help at reference.

Then comes Google. Google, it has been said and quite often really, will eliminate the need for librarians because everyone can just get it online. Anyone who really understands the Internet knows this isn’t true. For one, not everything is online. It just isn’t. Two, when you use Google it gives you thousands of responses and asks you to wade through a bunch of possible hits to determine what the correct answer might be. It uses a variety of algorithms to do this, some of which is influenced by number of hits and, yes, money. So if you ask Google a question, it searches and returns thousands of hits and says okay you, here are a ton of websites for you to peruse and find the answer.

Now, step up to the Reference Desk and ask the same question. A good reference librarian will ask you a variety of questions to help return a precise answer to you. In asking those questions, we are trying to filter out all the possible answers that Google is going to return and get you the correct answer or resource. In reference, we do the filtering for you.

It’s not just a failure to properly understand Google versus the reference interview, however, that has changed reference services. It is that Google has changed patron expectations, and in unrealistic ways. Google can return a list to you in mere seconds and it is immensely gratifying. It feels powerful. It feels immediate. You forget about the fact that you now how to wade through that list of replies, in part because more often than not the correct answer is in fact on the first page of links. But now reference users want reference librarians to respond as quickly as Google. It’s the ultimate man vs. machine conflict. I can get you a more correct answer than Google, but not in mere seconds. I like to call this the McDonald’s effect: Your way, right away. But the patron isn’t always correct and sometimes we can’t deliver right away.

I experienced this several times last week while sitting at the Reference Desk. A patron came up and asked a question, stating up front that they didn’t have any time, and then became frustrated when I asked some very necessary follow up questions to make sure I understood their request and got them a good answer. They were impatient and dissatisfied because I could not meet their unrealistic customer service expectations that have been formed by years of using Google. Librarian are often better than Google, but because we’re human, we’ll never be faster than Google. And that expectation is one of the main ways that I think Google and the Internet are changing libraries. It’s not that we are or will become obsolete, it’s that we must constantly manage patron expectations in a world where the myth of machine has a better PR spokesperson than libraries do.

Using Snapchat to Engage Teens at the Library

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If you want to engage the teen patrons, go where the teens are. And the teens are on Snapchat.

I’ve had this vision in my head of the perfect library Snapchat account since my first job in a teen department. A teen would register for an event that sounded awesome. In the middle of school, sports, and SAT classes, she would completely forget about the event. She barely had time to sleep, never mind check the library website! She would, however, look through all her friends’ Snapchat stories last thing before bed and on the way to school in the morning. An event reminder, posted on the library’s Snapchat story the night before, would refresh her memory and she’d be there for the game day/crochet lesson/ light painting event that she had wanted to attend.

Snapchat has grown in popularity, particularly with the teenage crowd, since the app was created in 2011. According to the Pew Research Center’s Teen Relationship Survey, 41% of all teens ages 13-17 use Snapchat. The same survey found that Snapchat was one of the top three social media apps used by this age group.

While the teens are using social media, I couldn’t help but notice that few of them follow the library’s pages. I asked why: some weren’t aware the library had a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Some felt the content wasn’t relevant to them.

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Although the Snapchat account has been marketed to our teen patrons, it isn’t limited to teen content. The Piscataway Public Library Foundation hosted a fundraiser at the local Chipotle, which was advertised across all our social media platforms including Snapchat. Collections for veterans and hurricane victims are posted. So, although the content isn’t exclusively teen-specific, we make every effort to keep it teen-relevant.

I aim for three posts of teen-relevant content a week, which is frequently enough for me to feel like the account is active, but not overloaded. The teens love searching the shelves for their own bookface ideas–an image in which they hold a book up to align with their face. They also love filter face–applying a filter to a book cover with a face on it. Asking for the teens to get involved with the posts has been met with enthusiasm. Since they are a key part of creating the content on the account, they feel ownership and pride over what is posted.

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Once a week I record book talk videos. Either I do the videos, where I highlight a YA or Middle Grade book in a one-minute video (approx. six Snapchat clips), or I ask the teens to make one. Due to waiver issues, the teens’ faces are rarely included. Instead, their voice is featured over the cover of a book they recommend. They say one or two sentences about why they like the book. I might ask a question, also done by voiceover.

Book Talk on The Wave by Todd Strasser

Piscataway Public Library launched our Snapchat at the end of August, and things have really taken off. The app makes it easy to monitor how many people our posts are reaching. The account has about forty followers, and each story is getting anywhere from twenty five to thirty five views. We can also monitor how many users screenshot a post, which lets us know if they are interested in that particular book or event.

The launch of the Snapchat coincided with a big change to the teen space of both library branches.  Instead of a social space for loosely supervised hangouts, the teen space would transform into STAR Homework Club every day for three hours after school. Some of our regulars weren’t sure how they felt about having their hangout space turn into a homework club, but reception has been positive. The STAR rules and new activities were posted on Snapchat a few times a week in the final weeks of August, to remind the teens of the new expectations we had for their behavior in the space.

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This October, the library is doing a “Snap-venger Hunt.” Teens will be encouraged to attend events and participate in the STAR Homework Club by Snapchatting themselves in the library. They will be pushed to think of their own creative picture ideas, to join study break activities, and to participate in Teen Read Week to earn points. Each task is worth a certain number of points.  When they reach twenty points, teens will be given a small prize and entered into a drawing for a larger prize.

Meet Our Guest Blogger

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Kate-Lynn is a teen services information assistant in New Jersey. She is currently a student in the Rutgers Master of Information program, which she will complete in May 2018. She loves reading thrillers and creative nonfiction. You can find her digital portfolio here and follow her on Twitter, @katelynnbrown95.

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – a review

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This past week TLTer Robin Willis came and spent the week with me and visited my library (The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Ohio) and the Teen MakerSpace. Her visit coincided with the exploration and evaluation of a Silhouette Cameo 3 machine which we are considering for the Teen MakerSpace. Here’s what we learned.

But first . . . here’s Robin with the Teen MakerSpace Manual (which you know I love) and her own Teen MakerSpace bag.

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The Silhouette Cameo is a cutting machine that you program using it’s software and it cuts a variety of things like paper, vinyl and temporary tattoos. It is similar to a Cricut machine which is popular with scrapbookers and t-shirt makers, except you don’t have to buy separate cartridges. This does not mean, however, that there aren’t additional costs, because there are. For example, you can purchase graphics and fonts, though you do so online as opposed to buying cartridges. You can also find a variety of free images and fonts online. In fact, there are Pinterest pages dedicated to this very thing. The initial cost of the machine itself is around $220 and there are some additional tools that you should purchase to help make your projects a success.

Cutting Machine Basics: What You Need To Know To Get Started

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In addition to buying images and fonts, you will have the ongoing cost of what ever medium it is you are cutting. Paper, is of course, the cheapest. You can use paper to make things like cards, signs (for example, mod podge them onto a canvas) and more. Vinyl can be used to make a wide variety of things like window decals, drinking cups, and t-shirts. You can buy vinyl at local crafts stores or purchase it at a discount online. Depending on the project, the cost of consumables can get pretty expensive.

To begin with, I first tried cutting some paper projects. The first project I designed using the software. The second project, the Cheshire cat, I found for free online and used so that I could learn how to download a project.

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After this initial success, I then tried t-shirts and hit some snags. To begin with, I loaded my vinyl upside down and it did nothing. I found the instructions hard to read on the vinyl itself and had to call a friend for assistance. Then, because I didn’t have the proper tools, I tore my vinyl while trying to pull it off.

The next day we had more success. It helps that we stopped at the store and bought the tools we needed. When the machine cuts your designs you have to do a process called “weeding” to pull off the insides of letters and things like the Cheshire cat’s teeth. Robin turned out to be really good – because she is incredibly patient – at weeding. The tool you use looks like one of those horrible dentist devices that scrape your teeth, but it’s effective and necessary. Buy the extra tools.

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We then made a variety of t-shirts and book bags.

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I then designed my own t-shirt using the software and an image I purchased through the Silhouette store.

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Overall, I am in love with this machine. So here’s a look at some of my final thoughts.

Pros:

You can do a wide variety of projects using the Silhouette Cameo; it has versatility.

It does exactly what it says it will do very effectively.

There is a great variety of online resources and project ideas to get you started and keep you going.

The end product looks sharp and professional.

High School Librarian Dani Fouser made this great window display using her Silhouette Cameo

High School Librarian Dani Fouser made this great window display using her Silhouette Cameo

Robin and I made these vinyl window clings for the Teen MakerSpace

Robin and I made these vinyl window clings for the Teen MakerSpace

You can convert and scan in images and transfer them to an .SVG image to use them with your cutter, though I have yet to figure out how. But again, there are a lot of online tutorials.

Cons:

The initial cost of the machine itself is a bit pricey.

The ongoing cost of consumables is also a bit pricey.

The learning curve is a bit steep. I was initially told the design software was similar to Microsoft Publisher but I found it to be more similar to Gimp.

The Silhouette Cameo 3 does not come with a user manual so you have to use online help resources to even figure out the basics. If you know someone who can help get you started, put them on your speed dial.

The machine is definitely more of a one on one machine, similar to a 3D printer.

Some Resources for You:

Silhouette America – Silhouette America

Silhouette America – What Can You Make?

Silhouette CAMEO Project, Tutorials and Free Cut Files

Coconut Love: 43 Project Ideas for Silhouette Cameo

19 Amazing Silhouette CAMEO Print and Cut Project Ideas

The Mother Lode of Silhouette Tutorials for Beginners

Silhouette Cameo Projects | Made in a Day

15 Blogs To Find GREAT Silhouette Cameo Project Ideas

10 Best Silhouette Cameo Projects of 2016 – Simply Made Fun

50+ Silhouette Machine Projects to Try Now – MakeUseOf

Over 200 Free Silhouette Projects, Crafts and Tutorials at AllCrafts!

19 Amazing Silhouette CAMEO Print and Cut Project Ideas

Converting Silhouette Studio Files to SVG (Free & No Extra Software)

Silhouette PixScan Tutorial for Beginners: Part 1 of 2 – Silhouette School

34 Cool Things You Can Do with Your New Vinyl Cutter | Make:

Please share your thoughts, your favorite resources and your favorite projects with me in the comments!

I Tried to Escape the Bus (and Failed!) – An Escape the Bus Review

Last night, the local school district hosted a STEAMFest (more about this in a different post). One of the events they had during this day was Escape the Bus and I want to make sure everyone knows about this.

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Escape the Bus is a mobile escape room experience hosted by the iSchool Initiative. It is exactly what it sounds like: a mobile escape room that takes place on a bus. Groups enter the bus, are shown an introductory video, and then they have several minutes (our group had 25 minutes) to solve a series of puzzles that gave us clues to unlock various boxes and solve the overall mystery that would let us “escape the bus”. A group of 4th graders hold the record, they escaped in 20 minutes.

As I mentioned, my group failed. This was in part because we didn’t communicate well and people kept solving the same puzzles over and over again instead of moving on to new puzzles. I blame everyone but me, as one does.

The event itself was very well organized. People are invited in groups into the bus. The time slots are pre-arranged and there are tickets for each session. You approach the table to get your tickets and are told to come back 10 minutes before your session begins. You must have a ticket to get on the bus, and you must be there 10 minutes early or your place will be given to someone on standby. The event ran from 4:00 to 9:00 PM and they were out of tickets in about an hour. There were 8 sessions total and about 20 people per session.

The bus itself was epically cool. When you enter into the bus it is set up like a type of mobile maker lab. There is a 3D printer, a video projection wall, iPads and more. There are locks everywhere, locked boxes and locked cabinets that are just begging to be opened. But before you can open them, you need information.

The story is this: people from the future have come back in time to figure out what has happened to make the young person who cured cancer and created world peace suddenly become disinterested in school, changing the timeline. There is a very direct dig in the intro video against excessive testing and how it makes students lose interest in learning. Your goal is to figure out what this person was working on.

You start with some journals on the wall and the work begins from there. The kids were really good at working things out and we came incredibly close to escaping. Our facilitators were great with the kids and did a good job of talking to everyone afterwards about their experience. In the end there is a message about how young people can do things right now to make the world a better place.

You can find the website for Escape the Bus here. It looks like it is $3,500 for a one day event, which can definitely be cost prohibitive for a lot of places. However, I highly recommend this if at all possible because it was well organized and managed. They are located in Georgia and I don’t know how far they travel as I couldn’t find that information quickly on the website. They do, however, have a contact form that you can use to get more information. You can also do a Google search for “Escape Bus” and your location as it appears there are other mobile escape room experiences that may travel to your area or cost less money.

More on Escape Rooms at TLT:

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an escape room program

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer

TPiB: Escape Room The Game, a review

App Review: Enlight

enlight1For months now I have been wanting to talk to you about a photo app called Enlight, the only problem is – I can’t figure out how to use it very well. This may sound like a dig at the app but it’s not, it’s an admission of my own lack of skills. The truth is, the app is an advanced app and I have seen people do amazing things with it, but I have not yet reached that level of skill.

But I want to tell you about the app anyway because the app team is doing a lot of smart things.

1. The Enlight Challenge

Weekly, the Enlight app posts a photo on their FB page and ask their followers to remix the photo using the app. The new photos are posted in the comments. First, this is a genius education opportunity that would make for a great MakerSpace type of program. Second, it gives me creative ideas and then I go back in and try and figure out how certain pictures were achieved. It’s both inspiration and education, plus incredibly smart marketing.

2. Tutorials

They also post tutorial videos on their FB page and these are incredibly helpful.

3. The Blog

They also occasionally post helpful general photography tips about things like composition and lighting. Even if you don’t use the app, it’s a good resource.

enlight6But what about the app?

The Basics:

 

  • Cost: $3.99
  • Category: Photo & Video
  • Updated: Feb 27, 2017
  • Version: 1.3.3
  • Size: 128 MB
  • Compatibility: Requires iOS 8.1 or later.

 

This photo app is a really comprehensive, advanced and sophisticated app. It does a little bit of everything including blending, masking, painting, sketching, adding text and – one of my favorite features – it turns your photo into a type of graffiti wall art. The developers clearly know they have a good but advanced tool and are smart to work so hard in engaging users and providing educational opportunities.

Here are a couple of pictures I made using the app:

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Please note, they are nothing compared to what I have seen people do with this app. I highly recommend it with the acknowledgement that you will have a steep learning curve.

More Photo App Reviews at TLT:

App Review: BeFunky

App Review: Aviary

App Review: Prisma

App Review: FotoRus

App Review: Fused (with an assist from the Silhouette app)

App Review: Candy Camera

How Did You Do That? Photo Apps Version

Video Games Weekly: Abzu

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The video game Journey, which I talked about at length here, is one of my favorite video games at all time.  The same creator recently came out with a new video game called Abzu, which I pre-ordered because I loved Journey so much.  Although it’s not the same experience as Journey, I think many parents and librarians who are looking for video games that are rated E or T will be pleased to have Abzu as an option.

 

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Rated: E

Single or Multiplayer: Single

Storyline: There isn’t really a storyline in Abzu.  The best way I can describe the game is it is structured to be more like an experience instead of a story.  Your character is a diver, and you spend the entire game exploring the depths of the beautiful ocean.  That’s it. There aren’t any enemies, no goals, no time limits, you just swim about as you wish until you get bored.  Similar to Journey, you can discover a small narrative about the world’s history by examining hieroglyphics on walls, but they are vague enough for you to interpret them in a multitude of ways.

 

You’re probably wondering why gamers bother playing Abzu if you just wander around in a virtual world with little to do.  First, Abzu is a stunning work of art, but only if you are playing on a newer TV.  I just moved to an apartment that came with an older TV from the early 2000s, and the difference in graphics alone is enough to make or break the gamer’s experience.  I first tried out Abzu on the old TV, and I was bored after playing for about 10 minutes because the artwork looked clunky and unimaginative.  Then, when I tried it out on my 1080p Smart TV, I was stunned at the difference.  So, if you are going to give Abzu a chance, please be sure to play it on a TV that can produce high quality graphics!

 

The other reason Abzu is intriguing is because in a world of Call of Duty and other high stimuli games, it’s nice to be able to kick back and play a relaxing game.  The game did an excellent job on developing the artwork and musical score, and it feels similar to meditating.  Being able to divert my attention to something beautiful and relaxing is something that I find myself needing every time I read the news…and your patrons might be looking for the same thing!

Gameplay: The controls are basic, although there are some secret controls that the game doesn’t tell you about.  Here’s the link to an article that goes into more detail.

Audience: This game is tricky because it will probably not be appealing to large audiences.  One reason why I purchased it is I have had many parents complain to me that the XBox One doesn’t have rated E or T games for their kids.  This may not be the most stimulating game, but at least it’s an option I can give to these parents.  I also wanted to have at least one example of a video game as a piece of artwork in my collection, even if I know it will not circulate well.

Verdict: I recommend taking a look at how much Journey has circulated, and think about if patrons want/could benefit from a relaxation game.  If the answer is yes, buy a copy, but don’t purchase it for more than $20.  I don’t recommend this game for Teen Game Night programs because it’s a single player game and a little too chill for a program.

Pricing: $20 on Amazon

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

Tech Talk: The Ongoing Quest for iPad/iPhone Printing, Or, How I Fell in Love with a Printing App

At home and in my Teen MakerSpace, I find myself on an endless quest to figure out how to print from a mobile device like a tablet or smart phone. This is particularly true when it comes to Instagram pics. For a while I was quite happy using an app called Print Your Insta, but when Instagram updated the app was no longer compatible. Thus began a new quest for wifi printing options. My quest was arduous, but I managed to find an even better app that opened my world to new possibilities.

The Wireless Printing Service

If you work in a public library, the most reasonable suggestion is to use a wireless printing host, such as PrinterOn. One of the library’s that I worked at used this service and it worked fine for us (most of the time). It can have some issues, especially if you have an IT department who is concerned with security issues. This service can be open to the public, which is great for patrons who bring their own devices and need to print.

For something like a Teen MakerSpace, you do not need to have an open wifi printing network, you just need a wireless compatible printer. Sometimes these are called AirPrinters. Whatever they are called, they allow you to send a print job over a wifi network.

The Polaroid ZIP Printer

You can also buy and use something like a Zip printer if you have a small Teen MakerSpace, like I do. The device itself works fine, but the paper is expensive – and small. It’s great for doing something like a remote photo booth and printing off quick pics to send home with your teens, but not ideal for a long term situation.

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The Print to Size App

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Even with a wireless printer, Instagram is not set up to print. It’s one of the main flaws with the app in my opinion. So you have to use a printing app to get your Instagram pic from your device to a printer. Some of the various apps I have tried include HP Snapchats, PhotoPrint LT, and Print to Size.

The best app I have found is an app called Print to Size, which appears only to be available for Apple products (sorry). It allows you to pick your paper size, easily drag and size your pictures, and to place multiple pictures on one sheet of paper. It’s quick, easy and incredibly versatile. You do have to have a wifi/airprint printer to use your mobile device to print over a wifi network. This app is not just great for printing your Instagram pics, it is a one stop app for all your photo printing needs.

Insert and size your image

Insert and size your image

You can then send your image to the printer or export it as a PDF or JPG

You can then send your image to the printer or export it as a PDF or JPG

You can easily print your Instagram pics at a 3.5 x 3.5 size on a 4×6 sheet of paper, trim the edges, and have an old fashioned looking Polaroid picture.

Print, trim & make a classic looking Polaroid image

Print, trim & make a classic looking Polaroid image

You can print in a variety of sizes or make your own collages

You can print in a variety of sizes or make your own collages

This quest has also served as a great reminder to me that sometimes it is a good idea to go out and try new things even if you think you are happy with what you have. I loved my Print to Insta app, but it only allowed me to print my Instagram pics. Now I can print any of my pics, in any size that I want. Being forced to try something new helped me find a better product.

Video Games Weekly: No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky has gained a lot of media attention in the gaming community over the past few weeks.  It was one of the most anticipated games of 2016 for the PC and PS4, but has flopped almost as hard as the hype after its release.  The number of users simultaneously playing No Man’s Sky on the PC dropped 90% last week, which is way more dramatic than what it sounds. Still, many gamers are disappointed with No Man’s Sky, so much so that the game has brought around the discussion of the ethics of game returns.  So, what happened?

YouTube Trailer:

Platform:  PC and PS4 (I played through on my PS4)

Rated:  T

Single or Multiplayer: Single

Background:  No Man’s Sky is a ginormous space exploration gameUnlike other space adventure games, or really any game before it, No Man’s Sky has algorithm-generated 18 quintillion planets in the game. I’m not making this up; it would take players five billion years to visit each planet for one second.  Each planet is unique with various animal species, alien races, plants, minerals (like Carbon and Iron), artifacts, atmospheric levels, and terrain.  This was the top selling point to No Man’s Sky, but it functions like a double-edged sword. On one hand, holy crap this game is huge and still manages to have beautiful graphics even though it is all generated by math. On the other hand, the game gets boring after a few hours because it’s like there are the same floating balls in space with different pretty colors and there isn’t much to do.

Image: http://cdn.gamerant.com/wp-content/uploads/No-Mans-Sky-E3-2014-Trailer.jpg.optimal.jpg

Storyline: Your character, called “traveller”, wakes up to a spaceship wreck.  I’m not sure if your character is a human, alien, or what…who we are is one of the great mysteries in the game.  Your first mission to is to harvest all of the materials needed to keep yourself alive and to rebuild your spaceship.  Along the way, you learn about Atlas, which is this mysterious diamond-shaped thingie floating in the sky.  Supposedly, Atlas is a central computer system where all data is stored (get it? Like how Atlas holds the sky on his shoulders?).  Everything the traveller learns, from alien languages to the names of species, comes from Atlas structures.  That’s…pretty much it.  The game is an exploration game, so the plot is minimal.  If anything, it feels non-existent, and I struggle to say if that is even considered the “plot”.

Image: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/ALoQ2UFdRug/maxresdefault.jpg

Controls:  The controls are simple to navigate around planets and it feels like a first-person shooter. The one thing that is annoying is the lack of a formal tutorial, so you’re left to your own devices to figure out how to create items in your inventory, recharge items, and equip new items.  Sure, there are tiny pop-ups in the bottom right-hand corner that give you tips and instructions, but they’re really easy to overlook.

Image: https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/zhOlVW8eCSkIQGSRx3LbRNmmHu4=/2016/08/15/44526efc-3af7-4e81-b076-67d82a3c428e/no-mans-sky-tips-and-tricks-4.jpg

Gameplay:  The first time I played No Man’s Sky, I spawned on a horrible starter planet. The planet was desolate, had really high toxicity levels in the atmosphere, and no artifacts that I could find.  I was so frustrated because I had to spend equal amounts of time harvesting minerals to prevent my exosuit from deteriorating and collecting materials for my spaceship.  I also kept dying from stupid drones, which is extremely aggravating in this game because you spawn at your broken down spaceship and have to go all the way back to where you originally died in order to recover all of your inventory items.  At first I didn’t mind dying because the game’s loading screens were quotes from famous science fiction novels, and of course I thought, “OHHH LIBRARIANS WOULD LOVE THIS!” but it got old after like, five deaths.

After a few hours of attempting to rebuild my spaceship, I raged-quit and started a new game.  The second starter planet was much, much better. I found new aliens, found plenty of artifacts, and it only took me a half an hour to rebuild my ship!

Image: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Lgjvv19Rsbk/hqdefault.jpg

Okay, but is it fun?: The short answer was it is not fun for me personally because the game made me feel ridiculous lonely.  For one thing, players have to learn alien languages in order to converse with other NPC-aliens.  This is a cumbersome task because players unlock a handful of words at a time, and often have to make decisions based off body expressions from the other alien.  Players can’t even interact with the animal creatures on the planet…they tend to run away or attack you when they see you!  Together, these experiences isolate players from other living beings, which can get depressing.

The game is “multiplayer” because technically human players are zooming around the same 18 trillion planets; but the likeliness of you finding another human player is very very low.  Even if you manage to land on the same planet as another person, you can’t see them.  Sure, you can talk to other humans online while playing the game, but it’s not the same experience as interacting with each other in the game.

Image: http://65.media.tumblr.com/a4aed1555a1edddbc4d449abb4071536/tumblr_nr7jipFngR1uabvlio1_1280.jpg

I often thought to myself while playing, “this is what the Mars Rover Curiosity feels like every day” and then I was ultra sad thinking about how it sings “Happy Birthday” to itself all alone up there in space.  But, is this loneliness experience a bad thing?  I suppose not, because this game successfully manifests the idea that every human on Earth is just a teeny-tiny speck in this endless universe.  It’s the same as the mix of humbling, scary, and existential feelings I had when on standing on top of a mountain in New Mexico while on vacation.  It’s pretty remarkable to experience that same mix of feelings while sitting in my living room.  So, kudos to No Man’s Sky for that.

Now, is the game fun? I would argue for a few hours, yes, but the unfortunate thing about No Man’s Sky is that weighty loneliness is felt playing the entire time.  There isn’t a whole lot to do in No Man’s Sky other than harvest materials, roam planets, and contemplate big philosophical questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”.

Audience: This game is for a niche type of gamers, and I am simply not part of that group.  While No Man’s Sky did nothing for me but trigger an existential crisis, other players who love to grind the hell out games will flourish in No Man’s Sky.  What I mean is there are certain types of gamers who love completing repetitive tasks in games, which is called grinding.  The thing that brings these types of gamers joy is the experience of exploring new planets, species, etc. over and over and over again. The planet combinations are endless, and there are definitely gamers out there who are going to do their best to discover and explore all 18 bajillionwhatever planets even if the math proves it is IMPOSSIBLE to do so.

Verdict: After a few days, I grew tired of No Man’s Sky. The game is too repetitive and overwhelming for my taste.  All you do is find a new planet, land on it, explore, gather materials, maybe learn a few alien words if you’re lucky, rinse and repeat.  This game is great for gamers out there who love to grind in video games, but I think those gamers are the type who will go out and purchase the game for themselves.

I recommend this title as an additional purchase for circulating library collections.  Your average gamer will tire of it quickly, and those who will love this game will most likely purchase their own copy.

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

Pricing: $60 on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/No-Mans-Sky-PlayStation-4/dp/B00ZQB28XK/ref=sr_1_1?s=videogames&ie=UTF8&qid=1472863067&sr=1-1&keywords=no+man%27s+sky

App Review: Prisma

Knowing my love of photo apps, several people have wanted to make sure I know about the new Prisma app. Prisma allows you to transform your picture into a work of art based on the styles of many famous artists. It’s actually a fairly easy app to you, in part because it is limited in functionality. It does all the work, so there isn’t a lot that you, the user, have to do. You can manipulate the degree to which your photo is changed, you can split the screen so only half the photo is changed or the two halves of the photo are changed to different degrees, but you don’t have to worry about things like contrast or brightness or exposure.

Let’s look at what it does. Here’s my original photo:

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There are currently 29 filters to choose from. They include things like Gothic, Transverse Line, Paper Art and Mondrian. They also have my personal favorite, Heisenberg. Yes, that Heisenberg, from Breaking Bad. Here’s what the picture above looks like using some of the filters available on Prisma. I took screen shots so you could see the name of each filter being used.

prisma9 prisma3 prisma2 prisma1 primsa8 primsa7 primsa6 primsa5 primsa4As you can see, it does in fact turn your photo into a stunning work of art. And it is very easy to use. You literally just choose your art style by clicking on it, the app does all the work, and then if you would like you can adjust the degree of filtering by swiping your finger from left to right on the screen.

I can see using this filter to create some cool pictures and then downloading them to do things like add text to make end cap signs. Or bookmarks. Or incorporating the pics into flyers or on social media.

Or you can create pictures and mod podge or transfer them onto canvas or wood blocks. Make them into buttons or key chains. There are lots of creative opportunities for this app. The best part: it was totally free.

App Review: Pokemon Go, the very basics, safety issues, and Pokemon Go and libraries

This weekend my timeline flooded with posts about Pokemon Go. Then on Sunday afternoon, The Teen came home from a friend’s house declaring they had walked 3 miles trying to catch Pokemons. So I decided I needed to figure out what this Pokemon Go is because my teens are definitely in to it.

Pokemon Go is an app that you download to your mobile device. You then use it to go and “catch” Pokemons. You can use the Pokemons that you have caught to battle other players in places that are called “Gyms”.

Here’s how it works:

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After you create your character, you follow a map on your phone to try and find Pokemons.

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Once you are close enough to a Pokemon, you then try and catch them, hence the “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” slogan. When you are close, it then gives you a prompt and turns on your camera. You can take a picture with your Pokemon.

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You then use your finger and kind of fling the Pokeball to catch your Pokemon.

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Once you catch it, it is added to your Pokedex. It’s like a Rolodex of all your Pokemon. Yesterday I met a man my age walking around the neighborhood, he had 42 Pokemon in his Pokedex. I have 6.

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You can also apparently go to Poke Gyms and battle other players, though I have not done this. This man’s house is apparently a gym and people keep showing up at the middle of the night to do their gym battles and he kind of wishes that maybe they wouldn’t:This Guy’s House Was Turned Into A Gym On Pokémon.

Pokemon Go and Safety Issues

It’s also important to know that there are some inherent safety issues to consider in Pokemon Go, because you have to go places to catch Pokemon. For example, I had no problem with my kids walking around a certain defined radius of our local neighborhood to catch Pokemon, but not all kids will have this luxury because they live in unsafe neighborhoods. And there is also the issue that we live in a time where POC probably feel less safe walking around playing. The Mary Sue had this important post on the subject of race that you will want to read: Black Geek Writes About How His Experience of Pokémon GO Is Affected By Race. To highlight this point, on my neighborhood FB group this morning someone posted that there was a “dark skinned man” parked outside her house taking a picture and she thought he was casing the neighborhood, but many other people responded that he was just probably playing Pokemon Go. However, apparently, some robbers are in fact using Pokemon Go to target people: Robbers use Pokémon Go to target victims. So while Pokemon Go may be a lot of fun, not all players will have the same experience and it is important of us all to be mindful of that.

You’ll also want to remember not to catch Pokemon and drive, there have already been a couple of accidents related to Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go and Libraries

Some libraries have discovered that they are Poke Stops (they help you level up and give you special stuff) or Gyms and are capitalizing on that. In addition, some libraries are hosting Pokemon Clubs for players to meet and share their tips and tricks.

Bethany (@bookrarian) on Twitter is doing some cool things with Pokemon Go at their library, including setting “lures”. See also:

How local attractions are using Pokemon Go to lure visitors.

How ‘Pokémon GO‘ Can Lure More Customers To Your Local Business

Is LureSquad The First Monetized ‘Pokémon GO‘ App For Businesses?

Pokémon Go is doing what few apps can – driving real-world traffic

Why Pokemon Go and The Library is a perfect partnership – ALSC Blog

You’ll definitely want to be aware of this game so that you can be ready to talk to the people who come into your library about it. And honestly, it’s fun. I think I will keep playing.

Everything You Need to Know About Pokemon Go

CNet Article

Playing Pokémon Go Is Helping People With Mental Health Issues Feel Better

28 Things People Who Don’t Play Pokémon Go Will Never Understand

Pokémon Go Actually Started As A Google April Fools’ Prank

5 things we learned from ‘Pokémon Go’

Pokemon Go and Libraries

Pokemon Hunters WILL Visit You! : Libraries

Pokemon Go! at the Huntington Library and Gardens

Catching ‘Em All at NYPL with Pokémon GO

Cincinnati Library

Edited to Add Concerns About Privacy As Well

Pokémon Go is automatically granting permission to read your Gmail

Pokemon GO Raises Privacy Concerns with Apple Users

iOS version of Pokémon Go is a possible privacy trainwreck

You Should Probably Check Your Pokémon Go Privacy Settings