Wednesday, December 13, 2006

December 2006 Sites

This month's sites are geared to help you break away from Google, who, along with Microsoft, wants to Rule the Planet. We must thwart this evil intention. Here are some good Google alternatives to play with: goes beyond Google. Besides Web pages, the site also indexes PDF, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, PostScript, and Excel documents. displays search results graphically instead of alphanumerically. Findings look like clusters of cities on a map. When you put the cursor over one of the listings, a thumbnail image of the Web page pops up. groups search items into categories, "helping you refine your search or expand it into areas not initially intended through your original search. searches for audio and video files, making finding songs, movie trailers, and audio and video blogs a snap.

Source for this month's sites: The Week, December 1, 2006, p. 36

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

November 2006 Sites

NationMaster's goal is to be the "Web's one-stop resource for country
statistics on everything." What sets it apart are its numerous reliable
sources and the visual presentation of statistics. Statistical results
comparing countries are strikingly presented using colored bar graphs, pie
charts, and geographical maps.

And, companion site StateMaster
StateMaster is a unique statistical database which allows you to research
and compare a multitude of different data on US states. They have compiled
information from various primary sources such as the US Census Bureau, the
FBI, and the National Center for Educational Statistics. More than just a
mere collection of various data, StateMaster goes beyond the numbers to
provide you with visualization technology like pie charts, maps, graphs
and scatterplots. They also have thousands of map and flag images, state
profiles, and correlations.

The Federal Citizen Information Center's National Contact Center This site lists federal agencies and private organizations that "assist
individuals in locating persons of unknown whereabouts." It provides
guidance for finding active, reserve, and retired military personnel, AND
private individuals (including U.S. citizens living or visiting abroad).
Check this out! It might be a way of helping patrons looking for people
when we can't help using the more traditional directories, online or in
print! Thanks to Karen Johnson for passing along this great site.


October 2006 Sites

With holiday gift-giving (and gift-getting!) just around the corner, Karen
J recommends sites that let you sell or swap gift cards that you can't
use. A number of places do this, some offer a bit more security than
others, but if you might be interested in unloading a gift card, or in
getting a good deal on one yourself, check out these sites: (get cash for your cards!)
There was an article in the Gazette recently about these sites which you
might look at to get an idea of things to watch out for:
Gazette 10/22/06 p. 2D (available through Newsbank online). Otherwise,
check them out and see what kinds of deals you can make!

Have you ever wished you convert your own documents to pdf format? Have
you ever priced the Adobe software that lets you DO that? Yikes! It's
REALLY REALLY expensive! But this doesn't mean you can't create your own
pdf documents. Just visit where you can convert your
own documents to pdf for free! Seriously! You can convert most commonly
used document applications (e.g., Word, Power Point, Excel, etc.) to pdf
format right at the site. Of course, I found out about this just AFTER I
bought my own software (not Adobe, but still pretty expensive). Give it a
try! Thanks to our own tech guys for showing me this one.

Portal to Asian Internet Resources (PAIR)
This site was highly recommended by CHOICE magazine. PAIR offers scholars,
students and the interested public more than six thousand professionally
selected, cataloged and annotated online resources within 25 different
subtopic areas including agriculture, business and industry, demography,
environment, politics and government, many others! An excellent resource!

I hope you will enjoy these sites and that you can find ways to make use
of them for yourself and for our patrons.


September 2006 Sites

Well, after taking the summer off (did you all notice?), Monthly Cool Web Sites is back and ready to impress your socks off! (Including that clean right sock you need to wear for your health screening next month, so be prepared ... )

Okay, first of all, I do KNOW that the ballet resources in the reference collection are getting pretty dated. However, I haven't been able to find much to update our stuff. Many of you will know who our favorite ballet patron is, so this might be a good site to keep in mind for when she calls. The American Ballet Theater provides archives at their site where you can click on any of their ballets and find out who did the music, choreography, costumes, lighting, and who was in the premier. You can view their list by ballet, by choreographer, or by composer. The URL is
Thanks to Kim for this one!

Churches United is a big group of local churches that are, as you might guess from the name, united "to provide for its members and the greater community." Pretty nearly all local churches seem to be involved, and this site has some useful information, including an alphabetical list of churches (who are members) and their pastors' names. For the list, visit: Back up to for the Main page and other options.

Since we no longer really have Pathfinders at our Web site, I thought you might like to know that Pathfinders are available through the State Library. Visit the Pathfinder Project for an extensive list of topical pathfinders. Most are available in both Word and PDF formats. People of all ages need to develop their own systems for navigating and managing the information-rich environment of today's world. Those who have the ability to find, evaluate, and use information effectively achieve greater success. They enjoy increased access to basic services, job opportunities,
academic achievement, and a richer quality of life. Like good reading skills, information literacy is a natural fit--and a vital service--for libraries of all types. The State Library's Pathfinder Project is easy to find at:

And now for your September bonus site: because I know you all missed the Cool Sites this summer, here is one more:
Calling all college students and other collaborative writers! Here's a must-visit site: Writely: The Web-Based Word Processor. Thanks to Margaret for recommending it to the Reference staff, but I'd like to share it with all of you. Here's what Margaret had to say: "I haven't used it myself yet, but it sounds so great I immediately notified my children--the college students will particularly find it useful. It seems to be a free, web-based word processing program with collaborative functions. It should be especially good for people who use various computers in different locations and who have a tendency to run their jump drives through the wash. You guys might like it, too, although I'm sure you never do that. :) "

Thanks all, and I hope you can find good uses for these!


April 2006 Sites
Just in time for spring! Check out the Iowa Department of Transporation's Web site. In addition to information on bike safety and
Iowa's multli-use trails, most particularly cool and useful is the link to
the state bicycling map. (We also have print copies of this map here at the library.) There is a page of free bicycle safety materials you can order.

Get Human Database
The most popular part of the Get Human website is the Get Human database
of secret phone numbers and codes to bypass phone menus and get to a human
when calling a company for customer service. (See also their general tips for finding toll-free numbers and for getting directly to a human.) Thanks to Kirk for submitting Get Human!

Prints & Photographs Reading Room at the Library of Congress
You know if it's from the Library of Congress, it's bound to be way cool.
As a resource for wonderful historical stuff, LOC is right up there with
the Smithsonian. Check out this page for great, searchable, historical
photographs. Here is just a tee-tiny taste of what lies in store:
African American photographs assembled for the 1900 Paris Exposition Civil
War photographs
Look Collection (3.9 million photos made for use in Look magazine)
Stereograph cards
Van Vechten Collection (!! - Carl Van Vechten is a Cedar Rapids native)
The list very literally goes on and on and on. I was able to help a patron
looking for pictures of Native American Wicki-Ups by searching this

Enjoy these sites and remember to refer our patrons for help with their
related questions.


March 2006 Sites

Here are a few neat sites to explore and share:

One stop shopping for world news. Founded in 1998, provides access to over
500 media sources and 4000 thematic and regional news sites in numerous
languages. Includes links to regional news from all over the world and
links to broadcast news. There are audio links to Web
broadcasts from the BBC, CBC, NPR and Canal Sur Radio in Spain.
Searchable with keyword searching in 23 language. Recommended in Choice.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Highly recommended in Choice. Authoritative information on conservation
status, taxonomy, and distribution of animals - includes evaluation of
risk of extinction. The site is searchable and provides external links to
relevant taxonomic and image databases. Really cool.

Official U.S. Naval History Site
This is the official military Web site for U.S. naval history. It's laid
out for ease of use and includes online texts of administrative
histories and reports (primary research material). Also cool is a link
to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Reading Room where there are
links to information on Amelia Earhart, the Bermuda Triangle, the attack
on Pearl Harbor, the "Philadelphia Experiment," and lots more!

Enjoy these and think of them if you get patron requests for which they
might be useful!


December 2005 Sites

Want to know if that charity is spending your donated dollars wisely?
Check at one of these places:
Charity Navigator - this charity evaluator works to advance a more efficient philanthropic marketplace by evaluating
the financial health of America's largest charities - strives to revolutionize philanthropy with information, Guidestar provides comprehensive data on
more than 1.5 million nonprofits
Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance - encourages donors to investigate before you donate and reports on nationally soliciting charitable organizations that are the subject of donor

This list contains the "Top 1000" titles owned by OCLC member libraries --
the intellectual works that have been judged to be worth owning by the
"purchase vote" of libraries around the globe.

The Family Watchdog
A must-visit (and pass along) site. Type in your address and you will get
a map of registered sex offenders living near you. Click on an "offender"
and get his or her name and address, a photo, and details of the offense.
Another one of those "the Internet is AMAZING" sites.

I hope these might be useful for you. Enjoy, and please share with patrons
as appropriate.


November 2005 Sites

The Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
(Not to be confused with the City of Cedar Rapids site)
The Chamber's site is the place to go for community information: main
sections at the site include Events, Doing Business, and Live-Work-Play.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Chamber will no longer publish their annual Business &
Professional Directory; it will ONLY be available from their Web site,
where you can always get the most current information on local businesses.
The online directory is updated nearly every day.

OnGuard Online from the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) and the FTC (US
Federal Trade Commission)
This consumer brochure lists seven practices for safer computing on the
Web, including tips for protecting personal information, knowing who you
are dealing with, using anti-virus software and a firewall, setting up an
operating system and Web browser, protecting passwords, backing up
important files, and learning whom to contact if something goes wrong.
There's lots of excellent information here; please pass it along to our
patrons when you have an opportunity to do so.

Okay, here's a treat more for you all than for our patrons, a neat
literary treasure I just learned about from a friend. For those of you who
have heard of (or who subscribe to) Netflix, this is like Netflix only
with books! Check out for the largest online library of
paperback and audiobooks delivered to your door! has over
63,000 titles from which to choose (6800 CD Audiobooks, 1600 MP3-CD
Audiobooks) in all genres. You pay a monthly subscription fee (there are
several levels available) and select as many books as you like -- free
shipping and postage (both ways), no late fees. If you decide you want to
keep a book you have rented, you can even buy it at a discounted price.
The company has been in business since 2000. I think this is pretty cool.
Visit and sign up today!

I hope you will enjoy these great sites!


September 2005 Sites

Here are a few neat and useful Web sites to welcome fall weather:

CLIP Carnegie Libraries in Iowa Project
This Web site is an ongoing project of two University of Iowa Library
School faculty members. See photos of Carnegie Libraries and read
documents about them. Check in as the project develops. You'll also find a
link at this page to the Iowa Heritage Digital Collections, which I
mentioned in a previous "Cool Sites" email, and which is lots of fun to

Project Vote Smart
"Recognized as 'THE BEST' most useful political website in the world." We
will begin to get election information for distribution again in 2006 from
Vote Smart, but FYI, in the meantime, check out their Web site. Project
Vote Smart, a citizen's organization, has developed a Voter's Self-Defense
System to provide you (and our patrons!) with the necessary tools to
self-govern effectively: abundant, accurate, unbiased and relevant
information. As a national library of factual information, Project Vote
Smart covers your candidates and elected officials in five basic
categories: biographical information, issue positions, voting records,
campaign finances and interest group ratings. It is bipartisan and really
has excellent information!

Practical Legal Brochures
Law library staff at the State Library of Iowa have developed two popular
brochures. They are "Sources for getting help
resolving disputes without an attorney," and "Help finding an attorney -
free, low-cost or private." These brochures are now available on the
State Library's web site; please make sure our patrons know about these!
The State Law Library's Web site has other useful links as well, including a
link to the Code of Iowa, the Iowa Administrative Code, Thomas Federal
Legislative Information, and GPO Access.

Whoa, once again, I'm amazed at how much the Web has to offer! Please
enjoy these sites and use them to help with patron questions.