Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Learn fast and win a prize

Would you like to learn about computers and the internet, but don’t have the time or money to attend a formal training course? Would you like to be a powerful PowerPoint user? What about Word? Do you need some excellence with Excel? Would you like to win a movie ticket! Try Learningfast.

This online training service is available through the CityLibraries website. Just click on “Online Databases” and then choose “Learningfast” from the list of Business / News databases. Registration is easy (and free), just use your CityLibraries Townsville card membership number for the username, and the word ‘thuringowa’ for the password. You will also need to enter your name, address and phone number if you wish to be eligible for the prize draw.

Learningfast has two parts. The first part, ICT Skills Benchmark, consists of a series of self-paced tutorials. You can learn all about the basics of computers, through to advanced Excel and Word functions.
Of particular interest to Searchlight readers is the “Searching the Internet Effectively” module. It contains tutorials on Search Engines, Subject Directories, Meta Search Engines, Search Strategies, and even information about mailing lists, newsgroups and web forums.

Taking the 'pre-tests' of a module will help you to decide if you need to complete it, or move straight on to more advanced topics. Simply work through the multiple choice quizzes as necessary. “Learning Activities” displays training tutorials and guides you to update your required computer skills based on pre-test results. Each module will give you an indicative time for an average user to complete, so you know how much time to set aside. Tutorials are also printable for reference offline and for you to make notes.

To check your progress through the whole package at any time, click on “My Results Summary” on the menu. Your individual report displays date and time accessed, all activities attempted and % score for the last attempt. You can also print out the report.

Need any more reasons to check out Learningfast? The first ten people to register and complete at least one tutorial on Learningfast will receive a free movie pass to Birch Carroll & Coyle cinemas. There will be runner up prizes as well, so log on and start learning!

Need help searching the web? Contact your local CityLibrary branch:
CityLibrary Aitkenvale 4727 8312
CityLibrary Flinders Mall 4727 9665
CityLibrary Thuringowa 4773 8601 or

Friday, April 03, 2009

LibraryThing: a social space for bookworms

Do you like to keep track of the books you own or have read? LibraryThing is a social site that lets you catalogue your personal collections, keep reading lists and meet others who have similar tastes.

Sign up for a free account and register up to 200 books. Beyond this limit, you can pay for a subscription. Starting an account is as easy as choosing a username and password. To share details of your collections while remaining anonymous, select a username that isn’t your real name.

It’s easy to enter a book that you have read or found interesting using the ‘Add books’ feature. Just enter a title or author or ISBN to bring up a list of possible matches in Amazon or Library of Congress. Clicking on a title in the list instantly adds it to your library with an image of the cover and all available information including title, author, ISBN, publisher, date and so on. You can also add your own ratings, comments and tags as on and Flickr.

You can make your collections private, but most people choose to make theirs public as they enjoy the social aspects of the site. There are many social networking features worth exploring.

This site is useful if you often choose books on the recommendation of others.
One way is to go to ‘your library’ which gives you access to your collection. Here you can select the people icon for a book that you have read to get recommendations and find out what other members have to say in reviews, ratings and discussion list conversations. There are also links to Wikipedia.

The ‘Groups’ area allows you to join over 1500 discussion lists, communities where members can discuss books akin to a book club. Take a look at the Green Dragon community for Tolkien, the largest and most active community.

Additionally, you can search the entire database, check out other member libraries, arrange your library by Dewey and place books on your blog.

Need help searching the web? Contact your local CityLibrary branch:

CityLibrary Aitkenvale 4727 8312
CityLibrary Flinders Mall 4727 9665
CityLibrary Thuringowa 4773 8601 or

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Searching for The Origin

Searching for The Origin

Charles Darwin has received quite a bit of publicity this year. If he was alive he would be blowing out 200 candles on his birthday cake! To mark this anniversary, plus the 150th anniversary of his work The Origin of the Species, there has been a range of publications, conferences and exhibitions marking his life and work in the field of evolutionary biology.

A lot of quality information about Darwin and his work can be found in the range of online databases offered by CityLibraries Townsville. All of these databases are free to use, you just need a library card (also free) to login from home. Visit the online databases page and check out the following resources.

An online database is a collection of information about a particular topic which is written, selected and organised by experts and professionals in a particular field. Some databases are collections of articles (usually full-text) from newspapers, magazines and other publications

The Australia / New Zealand Reference Centre has the full text of newspaper and magazines from around Australia and the world. Searching for Charles Darwin in this database will provide recent articles about his anniversary and reports of various events and exhibitions. Articles can be saved and emailed to your personal email address.

Biography Resource Centre contains over 415,000 biographies of prominent people from around the world, throughout history and across all subject areas. There are several articles on Charles Darwin from various publications. The articles range from short overviews to long detailed essays.

If you have a student in the family studying biology, point them towards the Science Resource Centre database. It has a wealth of articles on evolutionary biology, from the work of Darwin to recent research.

The whole idea of evolution versus creation can cause significant debate, so to get both sides of each story, head to the Opposing Viewpoints Resource centre. This database brings together all the information that's needed to fully understand an issue: pro and con viewpoint articles, reference articles that provide context, full-text magazines, academic journals, and newspapers, primary source documents, government and organizational statistics.

Need help searching the web? Contact your local CityLibrary branch:

CityLibrary Aitkenvale 4727 8312
CityLibrary Flinders Mall 4727 9665
CityLibrary Thuringowa 4773 8601 or

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Search for a different point of view

Hot topics such as climate change can receive significant attention from the media. Such controversial issues do periodically gain coverage and debate in the mass media, however they are also frequently set as debating topics or SOSE assignments for high school students. Trying to find information about disputed issues can be difficult on the internet. Entering the subject in a search engine can bring up a range of sites which vary from sensible and authoritative to extremist and misleading.

One way to avoid dealing with these types of sites is to use the Opposing Viewpoints Resource Centre (OVRC) which is available through the CityLibraries Townsville website. You will need your library card to login. Don’t forget that it is free to join CityLibraries Townsville to get a library card.

OVRC covers "social issues, such as gun control, genetic engineering, censorship, endangered species and terrorism. It brings together viewpoint articles, contextual topic overviews, government and organisational statistics, biographies of social activists, court cases, profiles of government agencies and special interest groups, newspaper and magazines articles, as well as links to more than 1,400 reviewed and subject-indexed web sites".

Before using OVRC it is advisable to check the Toolbox and Help sections for advice on how to best approach the material on offer. For example, they suggest that users should consider the author's credentials and affiliations and identify the author's supporting material.

Searching of OVRC is easy as many topical issues are listed on the home page in alphabetical order or you can enter a direct search. Take advantage of the advanced search page. Documents returned from the search are divided into categories according to their type such as Magazines & Newspapers or Web Sites.

OVRC will provide you with good coverage and recent articles (newspapers and periodicals updated daily) of ethical issues affecting the world, particularly America. To find more information relevant to the Australian debate another database on offer through the library website is the Australian and New Zealand Reference Centre.

Need some help searching the Web? Contact your local public library:
Thuringowa Library Services 4773 8601
Citi Libraries Aitkenvale 4727 8312
Citi Libraries Flinders Mall 4727 9665

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Easy homework help online

School is well and truly back and the homework is coming thick and fast. Some parents struggle to help their children with homework, either because of work and other commitments, or simply because “they don’t teach maths like I learnt it back in my school days!”.

Help is at hand. YourTutor is a free online classroom where students can connect to qualified tutors for one-one-one help with homework, assignments, exam preparation and study questions. All you need to access this free service is a library card from any public library in Queensland.

English, Maths and Science subjects are included and the service is available 4pm-8pm, Monday to Friday from either library or home computers. Help is immediate, professional and secure and it’s free to library members. Students in Years 4-12, simply log on to the YourTutor website, and follow the links to log on using their local library card number.

Tutors are certified teachers, professional tutors, post graduates and advanced undergraduates from Australian universities. All tutors have been security screened are specially trained to work with young people online. Tutors can review specific homework and assignment questions with students on line, using features like controlled chat, an interactive white board and shared web browsing.

Students can now communicate with tutors the way they love to learn – via the internet- which makes the experience enjoyable as well as educational.

Need help searching the web? Contact your local CityLibrary branch:

CityLibrary Aitkenvale 4727 8312
CityLibrary Flinders Mall 4727 9665
CityLibrary Thuringowa 4773 8601 or

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wet Weather

The weather is always a popular topic of conversation, even more so at this time of the year with extended periods of rain and the threat of tropical cyclones. There are a host of useful websites covering this topic, so here are some search tips for finding them.

When searching for information, one of the best questions to ask yourself is “Who cares?”. Who would care enough about that information to collect, organise and publish it? Who would be the best person or organisation to consult for an answer?

In this case the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is an obvious answer. Their website holds a wealth of information about current conditions, cyclone and flood warnings, satellite images, forecasts and more. Townsville residents should check out the updated radar images from the Mount Stuart station and the local rainfall maps.

Another search strategy when using internet search engines, is to type the answer you hope to find, rather than the question you are asking. For example, if you’re travelling to another place and want to know the weather forecast, instead of typing “what is the weather in Christchurch?”, try typing “the weather in Christchurch is”. This strategy takes advantage of the fact that search engines index the words on a page, and most information is written as answers, rather than questions. This doesn’t always provide better results, but it should certainly make you aware of different websites that may not appear in your first search.

A third search strategy to consider is to enter your search words into a number of different search engines, as the results that each one provides can be very different. Try typing “Townsville weather” into four different search engines - Google, Yahoo!, Ask and MSN Search – and compare the results. You might find out what the weather is like in Townsville in North Carolina!

To finish up on something a little bit different, check out 50,000 years of weather expertise at the Indigenous Weather Knowledge site by the Bureau of Meteorology.

Need help searching the web? Contact your local CityLibrary branch:

CityLibrary Aitkenvale 4727 8312
CityLibrary Flinders Mall 4727 9665
CityLibrary Thuringowa 4773 8601 or

Friday, February 06, 2009

The largest library in the world – Library of Congress

Have you been searching for a good website to start researching a topic or to increase your general knowledge? Where better to start than the largest library in the world - the United States Library of Congress.

"The Library's mission is to make its resources available and useful to the Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations." For those of you fortunate enough to visit Washington D.C. in the future, go take a look around the actual library and be amazed. Luckily for the rest of us in Oz, the Library of Congress website offers abundant opportunities to exploit the
rich resources and information expertise held within the Library of Congress. It is worthwhile to read the section “About the Library” on the home page to gain an idea of the breadth and depth of knowledge the Library is charged with collecting and organizing.

The huge wealth of online resources is probably best encapsulated in the Global Gateway. This area offers a wealth of knowledge and opportunity to explore - from Portals to the World, International exhibitions, and access to the Library's 21 reading rooms which are specialised areas of expertise organised by international regions and subject. You can either try a direct search in the search box or browse through these resources.

A useful search option is to browse through the reading rooms of your
interest by clicking on “Research Centers” from the home page. Most of the reading rooms offer access to expert guides to Internet resources and digital projects. For example, if you were looking to keep up with the 2008 United States election, take a virtual look around the Newspaper & Current Periodical research center.

Other online experiences offered are the Wise Guide - a monthly
magazine highlighting different aspects of the Library; and Exhibitions
providing access to a large number of enduring online exhibitions.

The Library of Congress website is recommended as an important starting point for research on worldwide topics - especially those with an American historical or cultural aspect. The website should also be a consideration for people thinking of travelling to America or the rest of the world as a good general guide to international Internet resources

Need help searching the web? Contact your local CityLibrary branch:

CityLibrary Aitkenvale 4727 8312
CityLibrary Flinders Mall 4727 9665
CityLibrary Thuringowa 4773 8601 or