Category Archives: Technology

Remote Help: Zoom

zoom_logo

North Dakota is a much larger state than people often realize. With about 70,000 square miles, it ranks in the top 20 largest states (fun fact).

The North Dakota State Library (NDSL) strives to serve all libraries across the state in a timely and efficient manner. Several departments, like Library Development (LD), are frequently on the road conducting site visits and providing assistance to libraries. However, North Dakota’s geography can sometimes be a burden, especially when assistance is needed immediately. Thankfully, technology is here to help.

When a library has a pressing issue (that cannot be resolved via phone or email) and visual assistance is needed, LD utilizes Zoom.

Zoom is a communication platform that allows for collaboration, video conferencing, online meetings, webinars, etc.

With Zoom, LD can easily share their screen and walk you through the issue. This can also work vice versa: You can easily share your screen and visually explain things on your end.

Using Zoom may particularly come in handy with any WordPress questions or during the Annual Report/ State Aid seasons.

Here’s how a Zoom session with Library Development (LD) would work:

  1. Contact LD about your question or issue.
  2. If your inquiry cannot be resolved via phone or email and a visual aid would make the situation easier, LD will initiate a Zoom meeting.
  3. LD will provide you with the Zoom meeting information (either the link to join and/or the meeting ID number).
  4. Once you get the information, attempt to join the meeting. This can be done by clicking on the meeting link/URL or entering in the meeting ID on Zoom. If you do not have Zoom installed on your computer, you may be prompted to download it. (NDSL’s webinars and NDLA’s meetings are conducted via Zoom. So if you don’t have Zoom downloaded, it would be a good idea to have it anyway.)
  5. You will be redirected to join the Zoom meeting. In the Zoom meeting, you or the LD representative will be able to share their screen.

FAQ:

  • No microphone on your computer? – No problem! The Zoom meeting can be muted and you can talk with your LD representative on the phone while you collaborate and share screens.
  • No webcam on your computer? – No problem! A webcam is not required to participate in a Zoom meeting. As long as you are able to view the meeting screen, there shouldn’t be any issues.
  • Will there be any costs to use this service? – No! Zoom does have a variety of different plans, some of which have a fee. However, Zoom also has a basic plan that is free. But, there will be no costs for libraries to attending a Zoom meeting that LD sets up.
  • Does Zoom have remote desktop capabilities? – No. Zoom is not remote desktop software, so LD will not be able to gain access to your computer via Zoom. Zoom is a collaboration platform and only allows for the sharing of screens. You would still have full access to your computer, but all meeting attendees would be able to see your screen when you share it.
  • How can Zoom meetings be joined? – https://youtu.be/vFhAEoCF7jg
  • How do I share my screen? – https://youtu.be/9wsWpnqE6Hw
zoom_meeting

Zoom is very user-friendly, and a meeting would look something like this (when there are no webcams and a screen is not being shared).

Fake News Browser Extensions

Fake news and misinformation are everywhere. It seems like every time breaking news emerges, there are also fake or misleading stories being spread right alongside the factual information (often times via social media).

What is a person to do? Well, there are some easy steps the average person can take to remain vigilant (consult the many resources available here). It is vital that everyone should learn to identify and prevent fake news, why not let something else do the work for you if that option is available?

In the United States, the majority of adults (90+%) get at least some news online via mobile or desktop, according to a Pew Research Center report. Folks who get their news exclusively from mobile devices will have to manually identify and prevent fake news; but if you use a computer to get your news, consider installing a fake news-related browser extension.

Put your browser to work!

There are many fake news browser extensions available, but two prominent ones are NewsGuard and Media Bias Fact Check. They may not be 100% accurate (or you may not agree with them 100%), but they do a wonderful job of flagging sources that are suspicious, biased, untrustworthy, etc.

The two browsers don’t compete with each other. Rather, they are great companions to each other.

NewsGuard

(The bulk of the text below about NewsGuard is derived from an article written by Carmen Redding, which was published in the November 2018 issue of the State Library’s “Flickertale” newsletter.)

Are you having trouble deciding if a website is sharing the truth? Well, NewsGuard, a news literacy program, has been launched with the support from Microsoft. Staffed by almost 40 reporters and dozens of freelancers, the NewsGuard team diligently examines thousands of websites based on nine widely-accepted, journalistic criteria designed to minimize human bias and subjectivity. The results determine a website’s rating.

Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard Technologies’ co-founders and co-CEOs, joined forces to give this program a human face rather than relying on algorithms to determine what we see. NewsGuard is the opposite of an algorithm. People with journalistic backgrounds are reviewing the sites. “Algorithms don’t call for comment,” says Brill. NewsGuard, on the other hand, gives plenty of explanation about their ratings.

NewsGuard works as a browser plug-in/ extension, giving credibility ratings to thousands of websites. A user simply downloads the extension on Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari. Sorry, Internet Explorer, users. If you are reading this, it is time for you to abandon IE and go with a much superior browser.

After the extension is added, the NewsGuard icon will appear in the upper right corner of the browser. The rating icons will appear on websites, Google searches, and Facebook and Twitter when website articles are used.

George Washington

By hovering over the colored icon, a “Nutrition Label” appears. This label explains how NewsGuard decided the website’s rating. Ratings and label information are updated regularly, and whenever a site changes its practices, the icon will be adjusted accordingly.

Addicting Info

The NewsGuard website contains plenty of information, including a section dedicated to news literacy; and on this page, NewsGuard makes a compelling argument for libraries, educators, parents, etc. to add the browser extension to their computers.

The NewsGuard browser extension can be downloaded from their website: https://www.newsguardtech.com/

Media Bias Fact Check

According to their website, Media Bias Fact Check (MBFC) was founded in 2015 and “is an independent online media outlet. MBFC News is dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices. MBFC News’ aim is to inspire action and a rejection of overtly biased media. We want to return to an era of straight forward news reporting.” MBFC’s methodology and additional information are available on their website.

The MBFC browser extension is not as comprehensive as NewsGuard, but it does excel in one area that is more hidden on NewsGuard: bias. After the extension is added, the MBFC icon will appear in the upper right corner of the browser.

When visiting a news-related website or reading an article, the browser extension will prominently display a color-coded icon indicating its bias (see image below for a list of the icons).

MBFC icons

Clicking on the icon will reveal more information about the source (see the slightly compressed image below).

Fox News

The Media Bias Fact Check browser extension is only available for Chrome (a Firefox version exists but it seems to be faulty). It can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store.

Other promising browser extensions

With so much information coming at you everyday, it can be hard to figure out what is Real Journalism vs Fake News. While computers can’t tell you what’s true and what’s not, they can help provide information that will help you make that determination. FakerFact uses a machine learning algorithm we call Walt (named after Walter Cronkite). Walt has read millions of articles from sites all over the internet, and has been trained to detect relevant Fake News patterns. For example, Walt can tell you whether the web page you are viewing shares characteristics of articles that are typical of good journalism, opinion pieces, clickbait, conspiracy theories, or satire. Then you can make your own determination of whether you think the article is a valid and trustworthy news source or if it is Fake News.

SurfSafe gives you the power to find the source of misinformation and make informed decisions about what you are really reading. At the heart of every fake news story is an image that is likely doctored or taken out of context. SurfSafe uses the news sites you trust, along with fact checking pages and user reports as benchmarks for what images are considered “safe”. It’s simple – just hover over an image, and SurfSafe will classify the image as “safe”, “warning”, or “unsafe”. SurfSafe will also show you every instance of where the image in question has been seen before. You will be able to see if the context of image in the article has anything to do with the original instance. Not only can you protect yourself from fake news with SurfSafe, but you can also fight back. SurfSafe allows you to report suspicious images in order to help others surf safely.

Trusted News uses independent, transparent and neutral sources to assess news sites. We aim to help you cast a more critical eye over the news by rating for fake, questionable or trustworthy news. We do not intend any political bias. Using a simple notification system, the extension flags the trustworthiness of the site. Check at-a-glance if a site is reputable or not. Trusted News also highlights satirical and user-generated content. Clicking the Trusted News extension will provide more detailed information about a site.

Coding, STEM, & STEAM Resources

Coding Resources

Coding Apps, Websites, & More

Coding Clubs

Coding for Girls

Hour of Code

STEM & STEAM Resources

Books: STEM, STEAM, & Coding

Girls Who Code

The North Dakota State Library is excited to announce its partnership with Girls Who Code. Girls Who Code brings computer science opportunities to elementary, middle, and high school girls in your community—no coding experience is necessary to facilitate a weekly club.

After signing up, facilitators will receive access to the club curriculum completely free and can learn to code right alongside the students.

3–5th grade club: This club is run similar to a book club and does not need computer access. Books are provided for free. Check out the sample curriculum here.

6–12th grade club: This club does require computer access for each participant. To view the learning platform and sample curriculum, follow the instructions below.

  1. Visit the online learning platform, Girls Who Code HQ
  2. Create an HQ Account by clicking Sign Up and “I want to start a club or I want to volunteer for a club.” This does not obligate you to host a club.
  3. Click on the different icons to learn more about the clubs.

To learn more about the Girls Who Code organization, you can check out these links: Overview; Club Summary

To apply to host a club, click here. Remember to indicate North Dakota State Library as your partner affiliation.

For more information, please contact Abby Ebach at aebach@nd.gov or 701-328-4680.

State Library Has A Drone!

Attention North Dakota libraries! The State Library now has a drone! The DJI Phantom 3: Drone Kit is available in KitKeeper. The kit includes a drone and an iPad for shooting and editing digital video. The kit only circulates to public and school libraries in North Dakota, and it be checked out up to 8 weeks. To reserve the drone kit or to learn more about it, visit KitKeeper at: http://www.eventkeeper.com/kitkeeper/index.cfm?curOrg=nodak

drone

Fake News: the history, hysteria, and hype – and how to see through the subterfuge

[updated June 2019]

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We live in a digital age of information. At the click of a button, we have access to thousands, if not millions, of resources online. But can we trust all of this information? Unfortunately, no.

What is Fake News?

There has been an increase (or perhaps an explosion or pandemic) in recent years of fake news. But what is fake news? Fake news can be described as propaganda, a hoax, and/or disinformation that is purposely spread and published as real news – often using social media – with the intent to mislead for political or financial gains. Fake news will often utilize eye-catching headlines and images to increase sharing and views.

The term “fake news” has evolved in recent years to become rather generic and inclusive, encompassing things that may have been considered separate categories at one time (like hoaxes, misinformation, urban legends, satire, propaganda, etc.).

The Very Brief History of Fake News

Fake news is nothing new. It has been around for many years. Fake news could even be traced back to the fall of the Knights Templar in the early 1300s.

A 2017 NPR article explains that long before fake news, there were staged photos.

Yellow journalism is a term coined in the 1890s to describe sensational news that is not well-researched but instead strives to be eye-catching to sell more newspapers.

According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, tall-tale postcards emerged in the early 1900s with larger-than-life images of crops and animals, thanks to clever photography and darkroom tricks.

A trip to your local grocery or convenience store’s checkout lane will reveal a plethora of tabloids containing fictional or less than reputable information, often about celebrities; and these tabloids have been in publication for many years (some of which include the National Enquirer, National Examiner, Star, Globe, and Weekly World News).

Social Media (fuel to the fake news flame)

If fake news is nothing new, why is it at the forefront of current issues plaguing society? One big reason is social media.

Social media usage has exploded in the last several years. It has become part of everyday life. In fact, a 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center indicated that 68% of adults get their news from social media. This number is up from 49% in 2012. Social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, etc., have become one-stop shops for sharing content, interacting with others, and, you guessed it, getting news.

Sharing content on social media has never been easier. One or two clicks is all it takes. But did you take the time to read more than just the headline before you liked, commented, or shared? Is the source reputable? Unfortunately, fake news outlets use social media to their advantage because the before mentioned questions go unanswered, it is easy for them to share things too, they are able to reach a wide audience, and their headlines or images draw people in (also referred to as clickbait).

With so much information present on social media and the sharing of it, it can be easy to skim something and not realize it might be fake. People do not always take the time to fact check something before sharing or commenting.

The Rise of Fake News (not just because of social media)

Social media cannot be completely blamed, however, for the rise of fake news. Other contributing factors include:

  • People moving away from newspapers, television, and radio to get their news
  • Evolution of the news (such as continuous coverage of an event without new and/or reliable information – this can lead to speculation and opinion)
  • Lack of media literacy
  • Ease of creating a blog or posting your own stories online
  • Tendency to trust what is seen on the internet
  • Tendency to trust the information received from friends and family

Consequences (so there’s fake news, so what?)

It’s safe to assume we can all agree that fake news is a problem. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center survey, 88% of adults say fake news is either causing some or great confusion about current events and basic facts.

Okay, fake news is a problem; but why is it such a big deal? Well, according to the same Pew Research Center survey, about one in four adults has reported sharing fake news, whether they were aware of it at the time or not.

And that is just with adults. Children and teens are also susceptible to fake news. According to a study conducted by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG):

  • Over 80% of middle schoolers thought an example of “sponsored content” was a real news story
  • Over 30% of high school students thought a fake Fox News account was more reliable than the real one
  • “Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally perceptive about what they find there. Our work shows the opposite to be true.” — Sam Wineburg, lead author of the report. (Source: report’s press release)

Fakes news will often receive more views, shares, etc. than real news. For example, the top 20 election stories on Facebook (from August to November 2016) received the following engagements:

Even journalists and politicians have been known to share or reference fake news.

Fake news stories have even spiraled out of control and led to violence (like the “Pizzagate” incident).

A 2018 article from The Atlantic states fake news/ misinformation has fueled the spread of certain health risks (like diseases and not receiving vaccinations).

People often fall victim to fake news because they don’t fact check; the story supports their argument, position, or belief; or the amount of information available is too overwhelming.

So here is the bottom line: fake news is dangerous.

factsdontmatter

Humorous, yet chillingly accurate, cartoon published in the New Yorker

What is the Point of Fake News? (why do people create fake news in the first place?)

  1. Money
    • The ugly truth behind fake news: there is big money to be made. The money comes from advertisements. The more clicks/views received, the more ads there are (which results in more money).
    • So when it comes to fake news, the more shocking the headline, the more potential for clicks and shares (and money of course).
    • In 2016, a teen in Macedonia made $16,000 between August and November with his pro-Trump websites.
  2. Agenda
    • Some examples of fake news have an agenda. They want you to get “fired up” and join their “dark side”.
  3. Joke
    • Some fake news is just a joke. It is meant to humor and entertain.
  4. Slander
    • Some stories are created with the purpose of damaging reputations.
  5. Other
    • And the list goes on and on.

Categories of Fake Stuff

Fake news has become a rather broad term (including things like hoaxes, misinformation, urban legends, satire, propaganda, etc.). So when breaking things down into categories, it can be more beneficial to use the technical/ scientific term “fake stuff.” There are a few different ways to categorize fake stuff, but generally, it can be put into these five categories:

  1. False/ deceptive
  2. Misleading
  3. Slanted/ biased
    • Stories that contain truthful elements but certain facts are selectively chosen or omitted to serve an agenda (like gaining headlines)
    • The stories that fall under this category are not necessarily false. The stories report true news, but they do so in a biased way.
    • Certain content from Fox News, MSNBC, and others could fall under this category (Fox News, MSNBC, Huffington Post, etc. don’t have to be completely avoided, but just be aware that biases may exist).
  4. Manipulated
    • Content or imagery that is altered falls under this category
    • “Doctored” or “Photoshopped” images would also be included (like some of the 2012 viral photos of Hurricane Sandy)
  5. Humor (satire/ parody/ jokes)
    • Stories are purposefully fake with no intention to cause harm but has the potential to fool people
    • Satire news, like content from The Onion, seeks to entertain and be humorous rather than mislead, but people can misinterpret the content as real

Beyond “Fake News”

Alternatively, there is a commendable movement that calls for more precision when categorizing and talking about fake news – doing away with the simple and encompassing term that “fake news” has become. The idea is to make specific distinctions on the many different types of misleading news, which is especially important when considering how to best teach and inform how to spot these different types and how to dissect them.

EAVI (European Association for Viewers Interests) has a superb infographic available online. This Beyond “Fake News” infographic breaks down misleading news into ten categories: propaganda, clickbait, sponsored content, satire and hoax, error, partisan, conspiracy theory, pseudoscience, misinformation, and bogus. Four bonus categories include false attribution, counterfeit, misleading, and doctored content.

How to Spot Fake News

There are a few quick and easy things you can look for to spot fake news. FactCheck.org has some great advice on how to spot fake news:

It is easy to do a couple quick checks to identify fake or real news. But when in doubt, ask the experts – like librarians! Libraries are a trusted source of information. In fact, a 2017 Pew Research Center survey listed libraries at the most trusted source of information.

Utilizing librarians, library resources, and library databases is a great way of finding credible sources and information, and not to mention avoiding the possibility of running into fake news. Click here to explore the reliable databases available through the North Dakota State Library.

Many libraries across the country are already working to combat the fake news problem. For example, many libraries are creating guides and resources.

The Harvard Library has created a guide that lists 5 ways to spot fake news:

Many universities, colleges, and schools are also fighting back against fake news by adopting the CRAAP Test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose).

Other things to look for to spot fake news:

  • ALL CAPS
  • Advertisements: excessive pop-ups, banners, etc.
  • Assess grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Altered images (use a reverse image search like TinEye)
  • Are there any quotes that are taken out of context or used incorrectly?
  • Does the headline match the rest of the article/ story

If you’re not sure it’s true, then don’t like, share, or comment!

Only You Can Prevent Fake News

Social media platforms are starting to fight back against fake news and misinformation. However, some critics say that these companies (like Google, Facebook, and Twitter) are doing too little, too late (even YouTube is being criticized).

So long story short, we cannot completely rely on these social media platforms to do all of the work; it is also up to us to take on the responsibility of preventing the spread of fake news.

While it is almost impossible to prevent fake news, we can, however, strive to prevent its spread. If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Let’s all be part of the solution by following these steps:

  • Before sharing, commenting, or liking, it is paramount that you read past the title of the article.
  • Follow the steps from FactCheck.org, Harvard, and others to identify fake news and determine if there are any red flags.
  • Put the article or source to the test and use a fact-checking website (like Snopes).
  • Use the “Report” option on social media to flag posts that are spam, harmful, or inappropriate. Click the dots or downward arrow at the upper right of the post to report it.
  • Be responsible – Don’t try to fool people by sharing something that could be mistaken as a real story (like the person who intentionally tweeted a fake image of a shark swimming through the streets of Houston during 2017’s Hurricane Harvey).
  • When in doubt, chicken out. If you are not sure if the article is true or the source is reliable, then don’t share, like, comment, etc. Think before you share.

There is a lot of information online, and that is unlikely to change. As more things become accessible online, we have to remain vigilant of what is credible and what is not. It is up to us to be responsible enough to decipher what is real and what is fake. Take advantage of the simple advice, the easy credibility checks, and the many resources at your disposal to win the war on fake news.

Resources

Handouts & Flyers:

Fact-Checking:

Identifying the Source:

LibGuides:

Videos:

Resources for Schools, Classrooms, & Educators:

Browser Extensions:

For more information about fake news extensions, visit http://bit.ly/2V27PJZ.

  • NewsGuard
  • Media Bias Fact Check

Apps:

  • Neocortix News – “Tired of Fake News? Try Neocortix News, the High-Quality News Aggregator with No Fake News! We only show you real, fact-based news from reputable news sources. No targeted ads. No tracking. No foreign manipulation. No hoaxes or conspiracy theories. Just real news.”
  • FactSteam (iOS app developed by the Duke University Reporters’ Lab) – “FactStream helps you find the truth in American politics by bringing together the work of the three largest U.S. fact-checking organizations – the Washington Post, PolitiFact, and FactCheck.org.”

Additional Reading:

  • Akpan, N. (2017). Everyone is too distracted to stop fake news, study shows. PBS Newshour. Retrieved from http://to.pbs.org/2sK1O5Y
  • Alvarez, B. (2017). Public libraries in the age of fake news. Public Libraries Online. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2iSOmcx
  • Davis, W. (2016). Fake or real? How to self-check the news and get the facts. NPR. Retrieved from http://n.pr/2hbEsl3
  • Lohr, S. (2018). It’s true: False news spreads faster and wilder. And humans are to blame. New York Times. Retrieved from http://nyti.ms/2G7aWGI

2016 ARSL Conference

arslOn October 26-29, I had the pleasure of attending the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) 2016 Conference in Fargo, North Dakota. This was my first national library conference, and what a conference it was! Each day was full of interesting speakers and great sessions.

Perhaps my favorite moment from the conference occurred during Will Weaver’s speech. Weaver is the author of Red Earth, White Earth, A Gravestone Made of Wheat and Other Stories, Saturday Night Dirt, and Striking Out. In his speech, Weaver talked about the importance of libraries and how they have influenced him over the years. He held up a book at one point, and confirmed with the crowd of librarians that it was indeed a library book. He admitted he has the tendency of accidentally stealing library books when he visits them for various engagements. As it turns out, a librarian from the library to which the book belonged was in attendance! As the audience roared with laughter, Weaver had the librarian come up to the front and he returned the book to her.

I thoroughly enjoyed each keynote speaker, and I don’t think there was one session I regretted attending. If anything, I regretted not being able to attend more sessions!

I attended two sessions on programming. One was on teen programs and the other was on how to utilize your community for library programs. The session on teen programs, presented by the librarians at the North Loan City Library in Utah, offered some great ideas: Nerf gun events, teens volunteering at the library to earn points, forming a teen advisory board, and creating an email list just for teens so they can stay up-to-date on what teen-related things are happening at the library.

The mining your community session, presented by the librarian of the Stanley Community Library in Idaho, was just as beneficial. Every community has its gems so utilize them! For example, if someone in your community knits as a hobby, ask this person if he/she would come to the library and host a program on kitting; or if someone is a toy collector, set up a display or have the person come in for a lecture on their history. Some of the great program topics from this session included knitting, adult coloring, lectures, writing classes, music, car maintenance, photography, and cooking.

Librarians are often seen as the people who know everything. As a result, we are likely to receive technology questions that we may not know the answer to, or perhaps the patron is not being receptive. One session on patron technology training tips addressed this. Some of the tips from this session included identify yourself as a technology trainer and do the best you can, create a plan, take deep breaths, narrate your process to the patron, focus on quality, create teachable moments, and implement a resource guide.

Another session, presented by California librarian/ trainer Crystal Schimpf, covered the basics of digital storytelling for libraries and how it can be used for advocacy. Technology is ubiquitous in today’s world so it makes sense for libraries to use it to promote themselves and reach patrons. Libraries can make videos that highlight a database, give a virtual tour, or provide a crash course on services. The sky is the limit! The session stressed that videos should be short but fun. When creating videos you will want to create goals, pick your video platform, write scripts, log your shots, and get the necessary equipment and software (which can be done at a relatively low cost). Once the videos are done, share them on social media and get them out there as much as you can.

One of the more entertaining sessions was presented by Harmony Higbie, director of the Underwood Public Library in Underwood, ND. The session was on Kahoot, a modern twist on trivia. Kahoot can be played for free on your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Kahoot can be used in the library for trivia, book clubs, and more! For more information on Kahoot, visit their website: https://getkahoot.com/

In addition to the before mentioned sessions, I attended two sessions relating to digital preservation. If you would like more information on this area, review the services offered by the Internet Archive. You can also contact the State Library’s Digital Initiatives coordinator.

There were around 500 librarians from across the country at the ARSL conference, and I was lucky to meet some of them and hear their stories. One of the librarians I met was from beautiful St. George, Utah, which is where the ARSL conference will be in 2017. The librarian will be the co-chair for the 2017 conference, and he had some great things to say about the St. George area (he even showed me a picture of the view from his backyard to prove his point).

If you are interested in attending the ARSL conference, I would highly encourage you to do so. You can learn more about ARSL and the annual conference at their website: http://arsl.info/

If you have any questions or would like more information on the ideas and conference sessions I shared, feel free to contact me.

Transforming Lives through 3D Printing at the Library

unleash-creativity[1]In September, I attended the NDLA annual conference in Jamestown. One of the sessions I attended was “3D Printing @ Your Library” presented by Greta Guck, the director of the Leach Public Library in Wahpeton. I thought it would be an interesting session, but it turned out to be considerably more inspiring than I expected!

Greta talked about how she was inspired to acquire a 3D printer after hearing Mick Ebeling speak at the ALA 2015 Midwinter conference. The founder of Not Impossible Labs and author of Not Impossible: The Art and the Joy of Doing What Couldn’t Be Done, Mick has used 3D printers to create prosthetic limbs for people in Sudan who have lost their arms due to violence in the area.

After the conference, I did some research and one of the articles I found about “Project Daniel” makes an excellent point: “To many people 3D printing can seem trivial or a bit silly, but for some this technology has the potential to transform lives.” Many people probably do think of 3D printing as something neat and cool, without stopping to think about the life-changing applications of the technology. Continue reading

A New Session

State Historical Society of North Dakota, William E. (Bill) Shemorry Photograph Collection (1-28-46-1)

State Historical Society of North Dakota, William E. (Bill) Shemorry Photograph Collection (1-28-46-1)

The governor will present his budget to the legislature today. One of the popular topics that has come up in recent years is oil revenue. This isn’t something new as demonstrated in the above photo from 1952. A Williston  City Commissioner, Neuman Ditsworth, leads a protest against legislative action on a oil tax bill. You can read more about it on Digital Horizons.

Take a few minutes to explore the new Digital Horizons website and our new content! The North Dakota Memories collection has new items from the Pembina County Historical Society and the North Dakota County and Town Histories collection has a number of new books for your searching ease.

Affordable VR for Fun and Library Programming

dodoVR

The promise of Virtual Reality (VR) has never really panned out the way pundits expected it would, but it remains an intriguing niche technology that often totters precariously close to mainstream acceptance. The Oculus Rift is the latest headline-grabber, but, it remains overpriced and (in my opinion) underwhelming.

Recently, there a new market emerged in open source cardboard enclosures that combine your smartphone and a pair of biconvex lenses to produce the first truly entry-level and easily accessible VR set. The best in class (if that term is even appropriate for something made of cardboard you wear on your face) seems to be the Dodocase.

There was a large of stack of these for sale when I was in Barnes and Noble last night, and they run about $25/each (you may be able to find some cheaper online). It’s worth noting that at this point there are only a handful of VR apps in either the Android or iPhone market, but all the ones I’ve found are free and fun to play around with. If you’re feeling ambitious, there’s Developer Documentation on the Google Cardboard site, to assist in programming your own Android apps.

A few caveats before you get started: a little DIY hacking is in order if you wish your raw cardboard headset to remain sturdy and hospitable and approximate the comfortable accommodation of human heads. Using some electrical tape, felt pads, or Sugru to shield contact points is a great idea, not just for comfort, but also because cardboard is easily besmirched in gross unsightly ways by our sweat exuding noggins.

That being said, you will not find an easier, cheaper, or more user-friendly approach to VR on the market, and I could definitely see patrons coming in to try it out if presented with the opportunity. Good luck and if you do try it out, I’d love to hear about your experiences with it!