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February 11, 2016 / carlispina

Exploring New York Public Library’s Public Domain Collections

New York Public Library has conducted a number of interesting digital projects over the years, including scanning a wide range of items from their collection and sharing them online. While many of these items are in the public domain, it was not until recently that the Library started to focus on promoting these resources. These efforts included adding an option to retrieve only public domain resources when searching through their digital collections as seen in the picture below, but go well beyond this.

Digital Collections Search Tool screenshot

Also included in this new release is a series of blog posts highlighting specific public domain items as well as data and an API so that others can make use of this information in new and exciting ways. To get this ball rolling, NYPL created a few innovative digital projects using these public domain resources. The first is a visualization of the public domain images that they have released. The visualization can be manipulated to organize items by date of creation, genre, collection, or color. No matter which organizational method you choose, you can hover over the thumbnails to see a larger image and then click on the item to go to the full record (and download the item if you wish). This is a great example of a fun visualization and, since the code is available, is a great option for anyone who wants to learn more about how to build a tool of this sort.

Visualization Screenshot

In addition to this visualization, NYPL also released three “Public Domain Remixes,” which are applications that make use of the public domain items in very different ways including a game called Mansion Maniac, a collection of information and images from The Green Book which pulls valuable information from these resources and brings it to a modern audience, and Street View, Then & Now, which allows users to compare Fifth Avenue in the past to its modern day look. Though these are only intended to serve as inspirations, they are all fascinating in their own right. If these tools and resources inspire you to create your own application or visualization, you may also want to check out their Remix Residency, which will support select projects making use of these materials. But, act fast because the application deadline is February 19th!

February 8, 2016 / carlispina

Create And Share Lists With The List App

The List AppIf you like creating lists, The List App is the perfect app for you. This app has a single purpose, but it does it very well. With it, you can follow other members to read their lists or create your own. When you first create an account in the app, you will be prompted to follow people you already know, as found from your Facebook, Twitter, or address book, or other popular accounts such as PBS or the New York Times. Once you have followed accounts, you will see all of the lists that they have shared and you can also search through lists by keyword or username.

You can, of course, also create your own lists as well. Each list must have a title and can, but does not have to, have a description. Once you have entered these, you can add as few or many items to your list as you would like. Each item can have a further description, an image, a link, or a location associated with it. If you are having a tough time coming up with a list idea, you can check out the starter ideas that the app provides, such as “To me happiness is…” or “Movies I’ll always watch if they’re on TV.” Completed lists can be saved for later or published immediately. Even after you have published your list, you can edit or add to it if you want, and you can even delete it if you would prefer. After you have perfected your list, you can share it via Facebook, Twitter, text message, email, or URL from within the app. Published lists can be commented on by other app users and they can also share your list through the same services. This is a fun app and I can definitely see how it could fit into the social media strategy of many libraries. It would be a nice way of sharing lists of recommended books on specific topics or lists of new purchases. Since it works well with other social media platforms, you can use it to reach patrons both who use the app and those who don’t. If these sound like functions that could be of use to your library, it is well worth checking out.

February 4, 2016 / carlispina

Create Mobile Graphics With Adobe Post

Adobe Post LogoIf you frequently create graphics for personal or professional social media accounts, you may be interested in the new Adobe Post app. With this free app, you can quickly create social media graphics that combine text and images in eye-catching ways. The app includes access to a large number of public domain images, which are both browseable and searchable, making it easy to find the right images for your needs.

To start the process, you can either start from a blank slate or remix an existing sample graphic. Once you have created the base graphic, you can select which image, font, style, and design to use. You can also change the color palette and filters on the graphic to further personalize it. Finished graphics can be shared via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, text message and other apps that work with images. The image can also be exported to your device for use elsewhere. Though you won’t be able to create extremely complicated graphics from your mobile device, this app is nice for create quick, basic social media graphics. If you frequently find yourself wanting to create graphics on the go, Adobe Post is worth a try, particularly if you already have an Adobe account.

February 1, 2016 / carlispina

Learn More About Accessibility And Universal Design

Accessibility is an important issue for all types of libraries. No matter what type of patrons you work with, you can be sure that your patron base will include individuals with disabilities. This means that it is key to evaluate your libraries web presence and services to ensure that they are not excluding any of your patrons. The best approach is to incorporate Universal Design principles into your work, so that all of your design choices are welcoming to the widest possible range of individuals, but in cases where that is not possible it is important to still incorporate accessibility testing into your evaluation process.

There are many different ways to evaluate accessibility and it can be tough to keep up-to-date on all of them. But, if you are interested in learning some of the key initial steps towards ensuring that your library is accessible to all patrons, I will be offering an online course on the topic through Library Juice Academy in April called Introduction to Accessibility and Universal Design in Libraries. This course will give you the tools you need to understand what makes a library accessible and will help you to incorporate this type of evaluation into your future workflows. I hope to see you there!

January 28, 2016 / carlispina

Color On Your iOS Device With Pigment

Pigment LogoWhether you are young or old, coloring can be a fun and relaxing activity. Pigment is an app from Pixite that brings this activity to your iOS device. This free app offers an array of coloring options from abstract designs to floral arrangements to animals. For each of the included coloring books, there are a few free pages to color and an option to subscribe to see additional pages. Subscriptions are available for $1.99 per week, for $4.99 per month, or $24.99 per year. However, you can also color in the free designs without ever signing up for a subscription or registering for an account.

The coloring experience within the app allows for a lot of experiences. If you want an experience that is closer to paper coloring, you can just color within the app by selecting between brush, marker, or pencil style drawings. If you would prefer to create neat designs without risking going outside the lines, you can instead double tap on sections of the design to select it. Then your coloring will stay within the lines of that section of your page. Either way, you can undo or redo your drawing with the tap of a button. You can also choose from over a dozen color palettes for your drawing and pick the exact shade of the color along a wide spectrum. Pigment is a fun and fairly versatile way to bring the adult coloring phenomenon to your iPhone or iPad and even allows users to share their creations on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram from within the app. If you are a coloring enthusiast or know others who are, it is worth taking a look at this app.

January 25, 2016 / carlispina

Grow the Perfect Bonsai With Prune

PruneA game about growing and pruning trees might not sound like much fun, but Prune from Polyculture makes this process surprisingly fun and relaxing. Available for iOS, Android, and Windows devices, the game asks players to prune bonsai trees to achieve specific goals. These can range from avoiding obstacles to finding the sunlight, but as players advance through levels both the configurations and the goals change. Sometimes there are orbs that will help your tree to grow and sometimes there are orbs that will poison your tree, but the mechanics of the game keep it relaxing and nonthreatening. In fact, even if you fail at your goals, you simply cut your tree down and start again.

IMG_3293Though this may make the game sound easy, the puzzles get increasingly complicated as you move through the levels and as new elements are introduced figuring out how to add them to your strategy keeps the game intriguing. But, what really sets this apart from other mobile games released this year is the attention to design details. The artwork and music are what make the game feel meditative rather than frustrating and the controls are easy to learn while still allowing for complicated puzzles. Overall, this game reminded me of Monument Valley in terms of attention to detail and design, which is high praise given how much I enjoyed that game. If you enjoy mobile games with a focus on puzzles, this is a great one to check out.

January 21, 2016 / carlispina

Collecting Dogs With Boku To Wanko

Boku To Wanko LogoLast fall Neko Atsume took at least certain parts of the internet by storm. This app allows players to tend to a yard full of cats. You leave out toys and food for them and they come by to play and, hopefully, leave you presents. Given the popularity of this Japanese game, it is no surprise that a version for dog lovers has emerged.

In Boku To Wanko (available for both iOS and Android devices), the premise and many of the game mechanics are the same as Neko Atsume. You leave food and toys out in a small yard and dogs come to play, eat, and entertain you. Though the game is not from the same company as Neko Atsume, the gameplay is extremely similar. You start with a small yard and a bowl of food and you decide how to use your dog bones to purchase new items for your dogs to play with or eat. Unlike Neko Atsume, specific items are tied more closely to individual dogs, meaning that each item will only attract a small number of dogs. In total, there are currently 42 dogs that you can try to find. Each dog who visits will reward you with silver or gold bones as well as sometimes other gifts such as a watch or a tennis ball. Once you have saved up a set number of gold bones, you can purchase two additional spaces for your dogs to play in.

Screenshot of the AppThis game doesn’t quite live up to Neko Atsume in my opinion. Part of the reason for that is that this app is still only available in Japanese, though that may change as it did recently with Neko Atsume. However, even aside from the language issue, this app doesn’t seem quite as easy to play as Neko Atsume, especially since you can only accumulate a small number of gifts at a time, which means that you will either have to check much more frequently or spend a much longer time accumulating bones. Another option, of course, is purchasing them, but you can download and play the game entirely for free if you would like. Also unlike Neko Atsume, there are ads built into the main pages in the app. If you are a dog fan or a big fan of Neko Atsume, you will probably like this app too, but it doesn’t quite compare to the Neko Atsume experience and feels a bit like a copycat of that app.

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