Book Thing #33: This Book is Overdue

This Month’s BookThing we’re going to bring it back home as suggested by Susie Dunn and read This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Mariln Johnson.

From Publishers Weekly:

This Book is OverdueStarred Review. In an information age full of Google-powered searches, free-by-Bittorrent media downloads and Wiki-powered knowledge databases, the librarian may seem like an antiquated concept. Author and editor Johnson (The Dead Beat) is here to reverse that notion with a topical, witty study of the vital ways modern librarians uphold their traditional roles as educators, archivists, and curators of a community legacy. Illuminating the state of the modern librarian with humor and authority, Johnson showcases librarians working on the cutting edge of virtual reality simulations, guarding the Constitution and redefining information services-as well as working hard to serve and satisfy readers, making this volume a bit guilty of long-form reader flattery. Johnson also makes the important case for libraries-the brick-and-mortar kind-as an irreplaceable bridge crossing economic community divides. Johnson’s wry report is a must-read for anyone who’s used a library in the past quarter century.

About Marilyn Johnson:

Marilyn JohnsonMarilyn Johnson is the author of three books: Lives in Ruins, about contemporary archaeologists (coming in November from HarperCollins), This Book Is Overdue! about librarians and archivists in the digital age, and The Dead Beat, about the art of obituaries and obituary writers. The Dead Beat was chosen for the Borders Original Voice program and was a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award. Johnson is a former editor at Esquire and Outside magazines, and a former staff writer for Life. She lives with her family in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Visit her websites at http://www. and

To earn 2 CE credits answer the following three questions in a 300 word blog post or a three minute video posted to your blog:

  1. What did you / what can librarians learn from this book?
  2. How might the focus of this book impact library service?
  3. How might the focus of this book impact library users?

If you would like to plan ahead, next month’s book will be No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald.

Please contact the Information Services Team if you’d like to check out any of these titles from the Commission. Thanks.

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Thing #84: Timeline JS

Timeline JS logoThis month we’re going to take a look at a service from Northwestern University’s Knight Lab: Timeline JS.

While there are several different online timeline creation services available this is the one that I’ve found the most flexible and easiest to use. However, I will admit that there is a small learning curve but in the end, if you can fill in in a spreadsheet, you can use this to make a timeline.

What you’ll need:

  1. A google account in which to create your spreadsheet
  2. Somewhere to store your visual content like Flickr or YouTube (maybe).

How to do it:

The basic 4-step instructions are completely available on the Timeline JS site but allow me to add a few tips from my own experience that will make you’re experimenting a bit easier.

  • When you first open the Google Spreadsheet template there will be a “Use this template” button at the top of the page. Click that to open it into your account. If you’re not already logged into your Google account, you’ll be asked to do that here. Once you’ve got an editable version in your account you can change it’s title as needed.
  • Before you go any further it will be helpful to not make any changes and continue through the next three steps just to see how it all works. Once you’ve got a timeline of your own based on the template, you can then go back to the spreadsheet and start making changes.
  • In the spreadsheet, if you hover over the cells in row one, tips will appear including telling you which columns are required and which are optional.
  • Do not leave any blank rows in your spreadsheet. If the program encounters a blank row, it will stop looking for new events (rows) and end your timeline there.
  • You do not need to enter events in chronological order. However for organizational purposes it helps if you do.
  • If you update your spreadsheet your timeline will update the next time you refresh your browser.
  • The media column supports many sources for content such as Flickr, Soundcloud, Youtube, Vimeo, and Google Maps. So, as long as your media comes from one of those services, you can just paste the URL into that cell. If you have an image from your camera you’ll first need to upload it to Flickr (video to YouTube) before you can use it in your timeline.
  • If you’re familiar with HTML, you can include some basic code into your description cells such as <b>, <i>, and <br />. Experiment with caution as it can cause the timeline to break if you’re not careful.

As I learned from experience, getting your timeline perfect does take some work and some practice. Below is one that I’ve created for our eBooks & eReaders workshop. You can view the spreadsheet that generated this here.

As you can see from my example, cramming the timeline into the blog post can be a tight fit and some blog platforms don’t like the <iframe> code as it can be a security risk. There is a way to get a URL for a full-screen version. For example: the code for embedding my timeline into this post is

<iframe src=”″ width=”100%” height=”650″ frameborder=”0″></iframe>

In this code pull out the URL value for src. In my case that’s

Change the 650 on the end to 100% and then link to that URL. Click this link to see the result of this example.


  1. Go to Timeline JS and create a timeline. It does not need to be as complex as the example or even a timeline of real events. Try experimenting with embedding different kinds of media.
  2. Write a blog post about your experience with timeline creation. Be sure to either embed your timeline your blog post, or include a link to it, so we can all take a look.

Here are some things to think about:

  • What did you like/dislike about Timeline JS?
  • What did you think of the creation process? Was it difficult or easy to create a timeline?
  • How can Timeline JS be used in libraries?
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Book Thing #32: We Are Anonymous

This Month’s BookThing is We are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olson.

From the back cover:

we-are-anonymousA thrilling, exclusive expose of the hacker collectives Anonymous and LulzSec.WE ARE ANONYMOUS is the first full account of how a loosely assembled group of hackers scattered across the globe formed a new kind of insurgency, seized headlines, and tortured the feds-and the ultimate betrayal that would eventually bring them down. Parmy Olson goes behind the headlines and into the world of Anonymous and LulzSec with unprecedented access, drawing upon hundreds of conversations with the hackers themselves, including exclusive interviews with all six core members of LulzSec.

In late 2010, thousands of hacktivists joined a mass digital assault on the websites of VISA, MasterCard, and PayPal to protest their treatment of WikiLeaks. Other targets were wide ranging-the websites of corporations from Sony Entertainment and Fox to the Vatican and the Church of Scientology were hacked, defaced, and embarrassed-and the message was that no one was safe. Thousands of user accounts from pornography websites were released, exposing government employees and military personnel.

Although some attacks were perpetrated by masses of users who were rallied on the message boards of 4Chan, many others were masterminded by a small, tight-knit group of hackers who formed a splinter group of Anonymous called LulzSec. The legend of Anonymous and LulzSec grew in the wake of each ambitious hack. But how were they penetrating intricate corporate security systems? Were they anarchists or activists? Teams or lone wolves? A cabal of skilled hackers or a disorganized bunch of kids?

WE ARE ANONYMOUS delves deep into the internet’s underbelly to tell the incredible full story of the global cyber insurgency movement, and its implications for the future of computer security.

About Parmy Olson:

Parmy Olson is a journalist for Forbes magazine known for her work on the hacktivist movement Anonymous. She describes herself as covering “agitators and innovators in mobile”. -Wikipedia

To earn 4 CE credits answer the following three questions in a 300 word blog post or a three minute video posted to your blog:

  1. What did you / what can librarians learn from this book?
  2. How might the focus of this book impact library service?
  3. How might the focus of this book impact library users?

If you would like to plan ahead, next month’s book will be This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson.

Please contact the Information Services Team if you’d like to check out any of these titles from the Commission. Thanks.

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Thing #83: Create Animated Videos with PowToon

The last time we worked with making our own animated videos in Nebraska Learns 2.0 was in 2012, when we used Xtranormal. However, in 2013, Xtranormal was shut down. So, we’ve decided it’s time to revisit animated video creation with another service.

For this month’s Thing, we will learn how to use PowToon to create an online animated movie or presentation to promote your library and its services.

PowToonPowToon is online animated presentation software that provides you with themes of animated characters, props and transitions, and uses simple drag and drop functionality to create professional looking animated presentations and cartoon style videos. You can then upload your video to YouTube to share.

Sign up

First, you will need to sign up for a free account. All you need to provide is your first name, last name, and email address. Then you choose a password. In addition, you can select a profile to get a customized experience. The choices are Student, Teacher, Video Artist/Animator, Small Business Owner, Entrepreneur, Marketing Pro, and Other.

There are also Premium and Education plans that give you more features and options. But, for this exercise, you will only need the free account.

Soon after you create your account, you will receive a welcome email and more follow-up emails with tips and tricks for using PowToon.

Create Your PowToon

To create your video, you have the options of using a pre-made Powtoon and editing it for your purposes, using one of the free template styles, or starting completely from scratch with a blank template.

Once you have chosen your starting point, you are brought into the editor where you can add static or animated characters, props, backgrounds, and text.


You can also record your own voice-over audio or add a music track from the provided list. Your own pictures or library logo can be imported into your video, or you can do a Creative Commons search in Flickr to find images you can use.

Using the Timeline, you can adjust the timing of your animation and audio until you are happy with your video.

When you are done, you can Save your project into your PowToon Dashboard and then Publish it to YouTube.

This ‘How to use PowToon’ tutorial will give you step-by-step instructions on how to create your own PowToon:

There is also a series of tutorials on the PowToon website, showing you the basics, as well as how to use more of the features of the software.

In addition, PowToons has made available online for free their ebook, The Power of Cartoon Marketing. It’s a more in depth look at using animated videos to share your message. The Bonus Workbook has detailed instructions for creating your own PowToon.

PowToons in my library?

Here are a few examples of libraries using PowToons:

Introducing the Nonfiction Section of the Library

Upper School Technology 101 for 4th-6th grades

Check Out Cheatham County Public Library


  1.    Go to PowToon and create an account.
  2.    Make a short animated video, adding any elements you like.
  3.    Write a blog post about your experience with animated video creation. Be sure to either embed your video in your blog post, or include a link to it, so we can all watch. Some things to think about:
  • What did you like/dislike about PowToon?
  • What did you think of the video creation process? Was it difficult or easy to create your own video?
  • How can PowToon be used in libraries?
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Thing #82: Crowdfunding

Please note: This month’s thing involves money. To be clear, we are not requiring you to spend any; unless you want to. That’s up to you.

In these days of tight library budgets, sometimes you have a great idea but you don’t have the funds to implement it. If you find yourself in this situation, have you considered trying to crowdfund your idea?

kickstarter_graphic_v2-1What is crowdfunding?

According to Wikipedia “crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. One early-stage equity expert described it as “the practice of raising funds from two or more people over the internet towards a common Service, Project, Product, Investment, Cause, and Experience or SPPICE.” The crowdfunding model is fueled by three types of actors: the project initiator who proposes the idea and/or project to be funded; individuals or groups who support the idea; and a moderating organization (the “platform”) that brings the parties together to launch the idea.”

Simply put, you have an idea, and you ask others to contribute funds to make that idea come to fruition. I’ve provided several examples of crowdfunded projects, both current and completed, near the end of this post.

Generally crowfunding works like this:

  1. Come up with the idea. Let’s say it’s to bring an author into the library for a program and all told it will cost $3000.
  2. Choose the crowdfunding platform on which you’re going to raise the money. (Some platforms don’t allow certain types of fundraising and/or fundraisers. More on this later.)
  3. Write up your idea along with what the end result will be, how much you’re asking for, what are the risks to the contributors, the end date for your fundraising effort, and (depending on the platform,) what the reward(s) will be for the contributors. (A free ticket to the event would be a reward example for this type of project or maybe a meet & greet with the author for a high-dollar contributor.)
  4. Promote your idea.
  5. When the end date arrives, collect your funds minus the platform’s fees and implement your idea. (On some platforms if you don’t achieve your funding goal, you don’t get any of the money. On others, you get whatever amount was contributed.)

If you’re more of an infographic person, click on the one of the right for the full-sized version. It is Kickstarter-centric, but accurate for most of the current platforms.


There are dozens of crowdfunding platforms available and more are being created regularly. To keep focus I’ll be briefly introducing you to three of the larger and more popular ones.

  • Kickstarter
    Kickstarter is pretty much the grandfather of the platforms. Everything from art books, to albums, to feature films have been funded here. On Kickstarter, if you don’t achieve your funding goal, you don’t get any of the money and you’re pretty much expected to offer something in exchange for contributions based on the amount contributed. Also, “Kickstarter does not allow projects to fundraise for charity or offer financial incentives.” Because of this I have heard of libraries having their projects being declined by Kickstarter.
  • Indiegogo
    Indiegogo is the next largest of the platforms and seems to be a bit more open than Kickstarter on who can create projects and the types of projects that can be created. For example, Kickstarter generally wants a “something that can be shared” to come out of a project whereas here you could ask for funds to take a trip by yourself. From what I’ve read, Indigogo is more library friendly.
  • GoFundMe
    GoFundMe focuses more on crowdfunding individuals and charitable organizations that are just looking for a new was to do fundraising. They have plans for “Personal Campaigns,” “Charity Fundraising,” and “All-or-Nothing” campaigns. Years ago when I collected money to fund a honeymoon I used a travel agent. If I was to do that again today I’d probably use GoFundMe instead.

Pros & Cons

Pros & cons of crowdfunding can be looked at from two perspectives, from that of those looking to receive the funds and from those doing the funding.

For those that are looking to raise funds this can be a great way to advertise your project on a more global scale. For example, I’ve contributed to library projects for libraries in other states. Had they just advertised locally, they would not have had me as a contributor. On the down side, this can be a lot of work and depending on the platform you choose, it may all be for naught. Also, be sure to check with your governing body (city council for example,) about any fundraising rules you may not be aware of.

From the funder’s perspective the up side is that you can have the great feeling knowing that you directly helped someone achieve their goal and in most cases get one for yourself. As a contributor I personally have received a number of books and movies either earlier than the general commercial release, or as part of a limited edition run that was only available to contributors. On tho down-side however, whenever I contribute I am taking a chance that the item I’m funding will actually appear. If you read the fine print, in most cases the platform will not make a guarantee that the funds will be used as intended. Though so far I have received just about everything I’ve funded, a few projects have gone under and not delivered.


Here’s a few examples of library & librarians that have used crowdfunding:

And here are several projects that Commission staff have personally participated in:


  1. Take some time and check out the three crowdfunding platforms we’ve linked to. Check out things like their rules and fees, and be sure to browse through both current and past projects for things that would either interest you personally or might be an example of what you’re library could do.
  2. Blog about your experience. Be sure to talk about:
    • How could crowdfunding be used in your library? Give us an example of a project that you’d like to do in the library. (You do not need to actually do it.)
    • Which platform would you choose and why? What would be involved in implementing your crowdfunding idea?
    • As an individual, did you find any projects that you would consider funding? Which one(s) and why or why not?

(Full disclosure: This lesson is based on an early draft of a chapter on Crowdfunding for a book I’m currently working on.)

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