All posts by David

Technology Help

keyboardBecause computer technology has come to influence so many aspects of our lives, learning to be familiar and comfortable with it has become a near necessity.  However, given the rate at which such technology can change–just think of how many gadgets come out in a single year–it’s easy for anyone to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of learning and relearning new skill sets.

At the County Library, we understand how difficult it can be to “catch up” (or even “get started”) on developing these new skills, which is why we offer “Technology Help” every Friday from 1:30-4:30 pm. All of our assistance is provided on a one-on-one basis, and we focus on what you as a technology user would like to discuss. Would you like to learn how to operate that new eReader or tablet?  Bring it along, and receive an interactive, individualized tutorial.  Are you a job-seeker who’s new to the process for applying for jobs online?  Stop by for tips on navigating the application process, as well as using Microsoft Word or Google Docs to develop a résumé.  Of course, if you’ve not had much experience with computers at all, our “Technology Help” sessions are the perfect means of learning the basics, from using a mouse to searching an online database.

Keep in mind that our “Technology Help” sessions take place on a first-come, first-served basis.  Depending on the number of people who stop by on any given Friday, library staff may need to shorten individual sessions in order to accommodate everyone.  Moreover, while we are more than happy to introduce you to the “ins and outs” of technology, we are not in a position to troubleshoot or repair any devices.  We are here to help you learn at a comfortable pace, so give us a try!  If you have any questions, please contact us at 540-984-8200.

Try Before You Buy

Now is the time of giving and receiving.  To help those patrons who may be buying or receiving new eReaders, tablets, or computers this season, we at the library will be holding “Try Before You Buy” workshops throughout December and into January.  (You can download a full schedule here).  At these workshops, friendly and experienced staff will be on hand to answer any questions you may have.  You’ll even have a chance to play with the devices yourself!

To keep pace with the number of changes in the gadget world, we’ve outfitted our “technology zoo” with even more devices than last year.  Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to see:


Designed primarily to facilitate reading—as opposed to playing games or watching movies—eReaders offer the clarity of paper but have been hampered heretofore by an obvious shortcoming:  the need for external light in dark environments.  This year saw the emergence of illuminated eReaders such as the Nook Glowlight and the Kindle Paperwhite.  These devices come with built-in lights, and we have examples of each for you to try.


Perhaps no category of gadget has seen more growth or development than the tablet.  Offering users a great deal of flexibility with respect to common computer tasks, such devices come in a variety of sizes and support a variety of applications and functions.  Find out what suits your interests by comparing the latest offerings from leading companies, including Apple’s iPad Mini, Google’s Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and Barnes and Noble’s Nook HD.


Despite the strong growth of mobile devices, many users still turn first to desktop or laptop devices when performing computer tasks.  Microsoft and Apple remain the main players in the development of computer operating systems, and as luck would have it, each company released significant upgrades this year.  If you’re in the market for a new desktop or laptop this holiday season, you’ll want to explore the changes and improvements made by Windows 8 and Mountain Lion, both of which are represented in the library’s “technology zoo.”

At the library, we’re always focused on remaining up-to-date on technological developments and thereby providing the best service to our patrons.  We hope you can make it to one of our “Technology Open Houses.”

What is a Teen Advisory Group, Anyway?

As any parent or caregiver knows, adolescence is an especially important (and sometimes challenging) time of life.  The years between 12 and 18 bear witness to enormous physical, emotional and intellectual changes.  Given the impact these changes can have on future development and progress, it is crucial to engage teens in activities that encourage independent thinking while providing a sense of structure and guidance.

The Teen Advisory Group (TAG) at the County Library is just such an activity.  At its core, TAG is intended to give teens a means of shaping library services, allowing them to generate program ideas and make suggestions for book purchases.  Over the 13 months of its existence, the group formed at the County Library has become much more.  Of course, our monthly meetings provide opportunities for teens to practice their leadership and decision-making skills, but our group also has become an important social outlet.  We tend to spend as much time sharing pizza and playing video games as we do focusing on library matters, but having fun has lessons to be learned as well—not least, how to interact with others in respectful and appropriate ways.

We are always on the lookout for new members and new perspectives!  Our next TAG meeting is on Friday, November 30 at 4:30 pm, and no registration is required to join us.  For more information, please give David a call at 984-8200.

Find Something to Read

It won’t be long before the cooler weather of fall is here, and with more time spent indoors, you may find yourself looking for good books to read. If so, the Shenandoah County Library can help.

In addition to the recommendations that are always available from its staff and volunteers, the library provides access to two online resources that can help you locate that next great read.


The newest addition to the library’s growing list of databases, eSequels performs one specific task extremely well: tracking novels that form part of a series. This easy-to-use site allows you to search by author, title, character, location or setting, and subject.

With eSequels, you can find a series that suits your interests—Amish romances, for instance, or Scandinavian mysteries—and determine the order in which books should be read to maintain story continuity.

Alternately, if you have an individual title you suspect to be part of a series, you can find out which novels come before and after it. With information even on forthcoming titles, eSequels is a great resource for organizing your reading. Give the database a try by clicking here.


Long a part of the library’s online resources, NoveList continues to be a reader’s best friend. Here, in addition to information on what comes next in a particular series, you’ll find genre-based reading lists for all ages and guides that can be used in book clubs.

So, if you’d like to find historical romances that are directed to teens, NoveList will provide not only a list of recommended titles but also plot summaries and indicators of reading-levels. Likewise, if you’re interested in leading a discussion of a novel, you’ll find concise background material and focused questions that will help you manage a group meeting.

Perhaps the best feature of NoveList is its “Author Read-alike” option. Simply type in the name of a favorite novel, click the “Author Read-alike” link, and choose a new favorite from a list of similar titles.

To begin exploring the database, click here. If you’re browsing from home, please use your library card number to log in.

The Museum of Online Museums

If you plan on surfing the Web this summer instead of actual waves, be sure to visit “The Museum of Online Museums,” a great collection of links to all sorts of digitized collections.  You’ll find the tried-and-true represented, of course—works from the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art can be accessed from here, for instance—but the fun lies in browsing collections that are off the beaten track.  If you’re a fan of vintage advertising, take a look at USASODA, which collects pictures of soda drink items produced across the years.  If you’re an “arts and crafts” person, you might enjoy the “Treasury of Macramé Owls” Web site, which is neither more nor less than its name suggests.  As with all things Internet, you may find that some links don’t work, or some sites are not to your liking, but just as with any good museum experience, you may also discover a new passion.  Who knew that Radio Shack catalogs could be so intriguing?


Books That Shaped America

In connection with an exhibition of rare editions that opened June 25, the Library of Congress has compiled a list of the “Books That Shaped America.”  As Librarian of Congress James H. Billington notes, these are not necessarily the best books but rather titles that speak to the American experience in all of its diversity.

You’ll find many familiar works on the list—Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” for instance, and Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”—and works that are far less known but equally influential.  Amelia Simmons’ “American Cookery” comes to mind here, the first truly American cookbook published in the United States, as does Christopher Colles’ “A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America,” considered to be the first guidebook to the United States.

“Books That Shaped America” is a fascinating conversation-starter and a wonderful invitation to catch-up on your reading this Fourth of July.  The full list can be read here, and nominations for additions to it can be submitted here.

Teen Book Finder Mobile App

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is a division of the American Library Association dedicated to improving library services to teens.  As part of this mission, YALSA has released an app for iPhone and iPad that will be of use to anyone looking for teen-appropriate books:  “Teen Book Finder.” With this free app, you’ll be able to browse for teen books in a variety of ways, including genre and “best of” lists, and you can be assured that the included titles have been recognized by critics, librarians, and readers alike as being especially noteworthy.  As with all new software, some features of “Teen Book Finder” could be improved–the “Find It” option is not particularly precise–but overall, the app is effective in offering quick access to recommended teen reads.  The iPhone/iPad app is available via the iTunes App Store, and an Android version will be available via Google Play later this year.

New Library Databases

We are proud to announce three new additions to the Shenandoah County Library’s online resources.  For the auto mechanic in all of us, Chilton Library provides access to all of the great material found in Chilton Manuals, such as wiring diagrams and step-by-step repair instructions, with the added benefit of video tutorials.  Whether you’re looking to repair your car or maintain its performance, the information available via Chilton Library can help.  You can test drive the database herePlease note:  If you’re accessing any of these new databases from home, your library card number will serve as your password. 

If you have a need for Virginia legal forms, then our second new database is the place to start:  LegalForms.  Represented topics include divorce and bankruptcy proceedings, real estate transactions, powers of attorney, and much more.  The database doesn’t offer legal advice, but it does include a legal dictionary and attorney directory, should you need additional information.  Access LegalForms by clicking here.

Finally, the library now offers Testing and Education Reference Center (TERC), a terrific resource for students, career-changers, and job seekers.  TERC is loaded with information on colleges, technical schools, practice entrance exams, certification and professional license exams, and much more.  The database’s Résumé Builder and Virtual Career Library make Testing and Education Reference Center the perfect choice if you’re looking for specific writing examples and tips for conducting job searches.  Explore what TERC has to offer by clicking here.

We hope you find these new databases useful. Please give us a call at 540-984-8200 if you have any questions or comments.

Connect with the Library

Do you own a smartphone or tablet computer? Would you like to use it to access library information and services? If so, do we have an download for you: Boopsie for Libraries. Boopsie is a free application that allows you to log in to your library account, search the library’s online catalog, renew items or place holds, and checkout eBooks and audiobooks. Simply navigate to using your device’s Web browser, and you will be directed automatically to the appropriate download site. Installation is a breeze, but if you’d like some help, we’ve developed a how-to guide here. Once you’ve installed the app, be sure to locate “Find It Virginia” from the list of available libraries to access Shenandoah County Library.  As always, if you have questions or comments, please give us a call at 540-984-8200.  We’d love to hear what you think.

eReader News

Interested in checking out e-books from the library? If so, you might wonder whether you should use an E-Ink reader, or a tablet. Don’t worry, we get this question a lot!

Until now, an important difference between E-Ink and tablet devices has been their suitability for outdoor and nighttime reading.  With no glare-prone backlighting, E-Ink devices such as the Nook Simple Touch and the Kindle Keyboard promise a “just like paper” experience, making them a great choice for reading in direct sunlight.  However, this absence of backlighting also has meant that readers hoping to enjoy their favorite novel at bedtime need to supply their own light, relying on the uneven rays of a booklight or the sleep-disturbing brightness of a bedside lamp.

So do nighttime readers need a tablet? Maybe not. Barnes and Noble has developed a potentially game-changing device:  the illuminated E-Ink device.  The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight maintains the anti-glare qualities of a traditional eReader but adds the option of an adjustable, evenly-distributed light that originates from LEDs housed within the device’s frame.  The device doesn’t go on sale until May 1, but it is already garnering great reviews, such as this one from tech site Gizmodo.

The best news is that the new Nook is fully compatible with the library’s downloadable eBooks. Of course, if you still can’t decide between tablet or e-ink, just stop on by the library sometime. We’ll be happy to answer questions, or schedule a time to let you have some hands-on experience with both types of devices that we have as part of our “Technology Petting Zoo.” Whether on paper, computer screen, or portable device, we’re always here to help you have a happy reading experience!