Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's new in the library? Click to find out.

When you use the library's online catalog, be sure to click on the New to the Collection link, which is under Catalog Information on the catalog home page and also under Search Options on the right-side menu. These lists are updated each month, usually the last week of the month, and provide you with an easy way to see what's new to the library's collection as of late.

If you're a book lover and want to know what's been added each week, click on the This Week's Top Choices link under Search Options (it's right below New to the collection). This list, part of the library's subscription to the Wowbrary service, is updated every Saturday morning. You can sign up and have this list delivered to your e-mail box every week, too, making it easier than ever to learn about the latest items in our collection. You can even place your hold right from the newsletter and pick up/check out your item(s) at your local library.

More resources for readers include:

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Science of the Olympic Games

Teachers and parents can take advantage of students’ interest in the Vancouver Olympics to make science more accessible to them by illustrating how scientific principles apply to competitive sports.

NBC Learn has teamed up with the National Science Foundation to provide teachers and students 16 original videos that delve into the physics, biology, chemistry and materials engineering behind the Olympic Winter Games. Topics include "The Science of Snowboarding" and "Slapshot Physics: Hockey" and are narrated by the affable Lester Holt of NBC News.

For additional educational resources to use during the 2010 Winter Games, click here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

New Language Courses @ the Library

Fauquier County Public Library is pleased to introduce a new series of interactive language courses from Transparent Language that you can download directly to your laptop or PC. The courses, which are contained on a USB storage device (i.e, a "flash drive"), focus on two (2) proven learning methods to help you expand your language abilities: (1) vocabulary building and (2) using words and phrases in an immersive, whole-language learning experience.

How it works
Simply insert the USB key into one of your computer's USB slots/ports, install the software and you're ready to begin. For more details, watch an online demo of this process on the Recorded Books library site.

You'll first start out with 15 Beginner Lessons, equivalent to one year of a high school course or 1 semester of a college course. Every lesson builds on the ones before it, to gradually take you from no knowledge of the language to an intermediate level of proficiency.

Then, when you are ready, you can proceed on to the Advanced-Beginner level and Intermediate level video lessons, which include Reading Lessons, Travel Tours, and Video Conversations featuring real native speaker dialogues.

Over a dozen different languages are available at the library, from Chinese to Swedish. These USB drives can be checked out, and borrowed for three weeks, just like other library items.

Free online resources
Check out some of these free online resources to supplement the Transparent Language courses:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Improve your typing skills

I teach a weekly Internet course at the Warrenton and John Marshall branch libraries (a colleague teaches the courses at the Bealeton branch), and one thing that bogs down my students is a lack of any keyboarding skills. For some of the students (usually those of an older persuasion), they've had some basic experience using a typewriter, but a lot of the folks just never had to type/keyboard much in their job (or past jobs), had a "secretary who did all of that," etc.

One site that I ask people to go to for practice is Goodtyping.com. (The library system does not have typing software, i.e., Mavis Beacon, loaded on the public computers). While you have to register to use their online course, it's free and at least gets my students somewhat familiar with the keyboard. If you're not sure you want to sign up, they do offer you the ability to try it without registering. Once you try it, though, you'll probably want to go ahead and register to build your typing skills and keep track of your progress.

A few things to bear in mind are that (1) while the site is free, there are some advertisements and they do solicit donations and (2) there is no information on the company (or person) behind Goodtyping. While they say they only record data for statistical purposes, there is no privacy policy. You CAN create a "user name," what they call an "identifier" instead of your e-mail address if you want to sign in that way (you'll still need to create/remember a password). Because of some of the terminology used (i.e., "identifier" versus "user name,"), I suspect the site is run/programmed by an entity that's NOT based in the United States. So yes, the site is free, does the basics, but you get what you pay for.

Anyway, if you want to get more out of your Internet surfing, work on/practice your keyboarding skills with this free online course.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Black History Month

Although Black History Month is in February, many schools begin covering the topic in January (or at least students start doing their reports in January!). Here are some online resources to help get you started:

FREE Learning Opportunities


Looking for a job or just looking to improve your skills? I just learned of a fabulous Web site, gcflearnfree.org, that provides numerous online courses and activities that develop computer and everyday life skills, including:
For native Spanish speakers, please note that there is a version of the site in Spanish, as well.

You'll need to set up account (again, it's free and GCF does not require that you provide a lot of personal information), which allows you to register for classes, monitor your learning history and print out certificates of completion for your employer or potential employers.

GCFLearnFree.org serves the educational part of the Goodwill Community Foundation (GCF) mission by creating and providing quality, innovative online learning opportunities to anyone who wants to improve the technology, literacy, and math skills necessary for them to be successful in both work and life.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, often called the Lunar New Year, is February 14, 2010. This year, is the Year of the Tiger. Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese, and is often celebrated here in America in cities with large populations of ethnic Chinese. Get into the Chinese New Year spirit with these resources...
  • Chinese New Year Crafts from Kaboose (Note - Kaboose.com has great crafts and I often refer to this site in my postings. However, I noticed recently that they've incorporated a lot of annoying "interstitial" ads, i.e., you have to view or choose to skip the ad before you get to the content, in this case, a craft project. The content on the site is still stellar, but be prepared to skip a lot of ads.)
  • Chinese New Year Images via a Google search
  • The History of Chinese New Year from History.com - includes information on specific traditions, foods and videos
  • Books on Chinese New Year - Parents and teachers -- check out to use at home or in the classroom

Discovering the history of your house

The following is an adaptation of a wonderful print resource put together by Vicky Ginther, Senior Reference Librarian and Virginiana Room expert at the Warrenton Library.

Researching the history of a house can be time-consuming, but also rewarding and a lot of fun! Use a combination of resources, including the Fauquier County Records Room, the Virginiana Room at the Warrenton Library, your neighbors, and the Internet.

Where to start
Start by writing down all you know about the house, such as the address, block/plot number, lot size, architectural style. Then, talk to your neighbors or the house’s previous owners, if possible. Longtime neighbors and previous owners may be familiar with the area’s history and changes in the neighborhood. They also may have interesting stories about the house and events that occurred there, even photographs of the house or neighborhood.

County Clerk’s Office
Next, initiate a deed search to find the names of the house’s previous owners, starting with the current owner. The Records Room at the Fauquier County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office has copies of deeds to all properties in Fauquier County. Deeds show the progression of ownership of a house and any legal notices against the house, such as liens and mortgages. You should be able to trace the property back to its original owner. Note any address or street name changes; these will be crucial for researching the area’s history.

Virginiana Room at the Warrenton Library
The Virginiana Room has these resources for researching your house:

  • Telephone directories: The Virginiana Room has Polk’s Directories for most years from 1963 to the present. The directories list head of household, owner’s occupation, and names of business owners. They also have a reverse directory to look up properties by address, which is useful for locating neighbors.
  • Newspapers: Once you have the names of previous owners, you can check the local newspapers for any articles mentioning them or the house. The Virginiana Room has an index to articles in The True Index newspaper (1865-1904), an index to articles in the Fauquier Democrat (1936-1966), and an index to births, deaths, and marriages noted in the Fauquier Democrat (1907-1981).
  • Federal census records: Census records for Virginia, taken every 10 years, are available back to 1810. For some years, the census will give you information on the house’s owners, such as names, ages, and how the people who lived in the house were related. These are available on microfilm. Fauquier County Public Library also has subscriptions to AncestryLibrary.com (for use in library only) and HeritageQuest online services, which have scanned images of the census records.
  • Books on the local area: The Virginiana Room, the Bealeton Library, and the John Marshall library have books on Warrenton, Marshall, The Plains, and Fauquier County history in general. These will give you information on the county’s towns, historical events, famous people, and some historic houses.
  • Sanborn Insurance Maps: These are detailed maps of urban areas, originally used for assessing fire insurance liability. The Virginiana Room has Sanborn Maps on microfilm for Warrenton, 1886-1931. They cover only the town of Warrenton.
  • Historic Records Surveys: Virginia did two surveys of historic properties: one by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s, and one by the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission in the late 1970s. Only properties of historical significance were surveyed. Both sets of surveys are available in the Virginiana Room, and are listed under the name of the house or property. The WPA surveys are also scanned and available from the Library of Virginia’s Web site.
  • Tax Records: Tax documents will tell you what taxes were assessed on the property. A large change in the tax value may indicate an addition to or remodel of the house, a jump in real estate prices, or neighborhood rezoning. The Virginiana Room has land tax records on microfilm from 1783 to 1857.
  • Wills: Wills (or Probate Records) of previous owners may contain a description of a property or house or an inventory of the house’s contents. The Virginiana Room has wills on microfilm from 1759-1866. Wills after 1866 are found in the county’s Records Room.
  • Photographs: The John Gott Library in Marshall, Va., has a collection of Fauquier County photographs, including some houses. You can contact the library at (540) 364-3440. The John Gott Library is staffed by volunteers and is open a few hours each week, so call before visiting.
  • Vertical Files: The Virginiana Room has files of information on Fauquier County people and places, including some houses and other buildings.
Compiling Your Research
You might want to keep your information in a loose leaf binder; this makes it easier to add new items. It can be organized in chronological order, by subject, or by the name of each family who lived in the house.

Easy Way to Create a Graph/Chart

Have data you want to present in a visual manner, something that will jump out at your audience? Using graphs/charts is a great way to do that. While the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Kids' Zone is geared at kids, their Create a Graph feature is a handy tool for anyone, adult or child, and will help you present your data in a compelling manner. And no need to know Microsoft Excel!
  1. Pick the type of graph or chart you'd like to present your data in;
  2. Design tab - Customize the design elements (shading, background color, etc.);
  3. Data tab - Enter in your data values, labels and title, etc.;
  4. Labels tab - Choose whether you want your data labels to be % of total, value + %, etc., fonts used and so forth;
  5. Preview tab - See how your data will be presented in the graph/chart you chose;
  6. Print/Save tab -You can then save (download as a PDF, JPG, etc.), print or e-mail the graph.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

The federal holiday honoring the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner and civil rights leader is observed on the third Monday in January. In 2010, the holiday falls on Jan. 18. Aside from resources available through your local library, be sure to check out the following e-resources for information and projects related to the civil rights leader:

Jan. 2010 E-Resource: Kids InfoBits

Are you the parent of a child in grades K through 5 and looking for an age-appropriate online resource to help them with their homework? Look no further than Kids InfoBits, a database that covers geography, current events, the arts, science, health, people, government, history, sports and more. With a kid-friendly interface (lots of graphics), Kids InfoBits includes full-text reference content from respected, curriculum-based publishers like Blackbirch Press and KidHaven Press, as well as magazines, newspapers, images and maps. Kids InfoBits is also set up for users who like to browse for topics (animals > birds > penguins, for example). For younger children/children with less developed reading skills, Kids InfoBits allows you to hear a document spoken aloud by a computer-generated voice.

To access Kids InfoBits from the library's Web site, click on "Search for Articles & More" (under Find Information) and look under Encyclopedias & Reference for the link to Kids InfoBits. You'll need a library card to access this resource outside the library. If you don't have one yet, apply online and begin using this online resource immediately with your temporary card number.