Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fold 3 History and Genealogy Archives

If you're interested in history and genealogy, our newest database may be right down your alley. Fold3 History and Genealogy Archives has over 50 million pages of historical documents, including presidential papers, historic treaties, military rolls, photographs, maps, and more. To access Fold 3, go to the library's homepage at www.mytpl.org and click "Research" on the navigation bar. Then click "Databases by Name" and look for Fold3. If you're outside the library, you'll be asked to enter your library card number, and then you'll see the Fold3 homepage.

The front page has links to many of the resources available within Fold3. However Fold3 itself is just one database in this package--there are also five others to explore, as shown in the image below.

Each of these databases contains a huge number of historical documents. The best way to see what each one offers is to select one from the dropdown menu, and then click "Browse" next to the search box. This opens up a page that lets you see what collections are included in each database, and then explore what's in each collection. For example, the picture below shows how you can pick "City Directories", then pick a city (New Orleans in this case), and then pick a year.

Fold 3 History and Genealogy Archives has so many historic resources that it's hard to give a brief overview. The best way to get started is to simply open it up and start exploring. In the Revolutionary War Archives, for example, you can look through papers from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, as well as George Washington's wartime correspondence. In Fold 3 itself you can browse milestone documents in American history such as the surrender of Germany or the repeal of prohibition. You can even search through Air Force documents about UFO reports! You never know what kind of records you will stumble across.

If you have any questions about Fold3 History and Genealogy Archives, give us a call at 876-5861, option 2. We hope you enjoy browsing through American history!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Geaux Vote with Geauxvote.com

It’s that time of year again: voting season. If you’re trying to find out where to vote, what’s on the ballot, or even whether you are registered to vote, the state of Louisiana has a website designed to help called geauxvote.com.

To find your voting information on geauxvote.com, click the “Are You a Voter” link in the middle of the home page.

Click “By Voter” from the choices on the right, and then enter your first name, last name and either your zip code or birth month and year.

You should now see a page that displays your name, political party, voting parish, ward, precinct and voting status.

To view a sample election ballot, click the "Ballot Information" tab located on the same page just above your voter information.  Click “What’s on My Ballot” on the next page, and a sample ballot should soon load. 

Geaux Vote is also offered as a mobile application for both Apple and Android mobile devices.

If you need additional help finding your voter information, stop by the Main Library across from the Civic Center or call the Reference Department at 876-5861, option 2.

Geaux Vote!

Monday, November 11, 2013

National Geographic Virtual Library and National Geographic Kids

Since 1888, National Geographic magazine has given subscribers a window into the rest of the world, bringing amazing photographs, articles, and maps into people's homes. Now your library card gives you access to every issue of National Geographic, all the way back to the first one, plus hundreds of maps, photographs, video clips, and books from National Geographic Publishing. All this is available through our latest database, National Geographic Virtual Library. For kids, we've also added the National Geographic Kids database, which has full issues of National Geographic Kids magazine back to 2009, over 200 kids books, and hundreds of kid-friendly images.

To get to both databases, go to the library's webpage, at www.mytpl.org, and click "Research" on the navigation bar. Now click "Databases by Name", and look for National Geographic Virtual Library and National Geographic Kids under the N's. If you're in one of our libraries, you'll be taken straight to the database. Otherwise you'll need to enter the number on the back of your library card. This brings you to the NGVL home page:

Now you can click "Browse Magazines" to look through every issue of National Geographic for the last 124 years. Or you can go to "Explore Topics" to find articles, maps, pictures, and ebooks on the topics below:
You can also do an Image Search to find downloadable images. This even lets you search old ads in National Geographic magazines, if you want to see, for example, what kind of cars were being advertised in the early 1950's. If you want to see a list of all books, images, maps, and so on, you can go to Advanced Search. Just select Books, Maps, or any other category you're interested in. If you enter keywords in the search box, you'll see results that contain those keywords. If you leave the box blank and select a format..."Books" for example...you'll see a list of all the resources in that format.

National Geographic Kids is a separate database designed especially for young people. Like NGVL, it has a wide range of pictures, books, maps, and videos. To get to it, just click the yellow button that says "For Kids". This kid-friendly database is great for writing reports, finding pictures for school projects, or just learning more about the world!

We're excited about our new National Geographic databases, and we hope you will be too. If you have any questions about National Geographic Virtual Library or National Geographic Kids, call the Reference Department at 876-5861, option. 2. Have fun exploring!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Axis 360: Our New Alternative for E-Books

Our e-book services are expanding!  Axis 360 is a new service which lets you check out a wider variety of e-books than ever.  It allows the library to purchase e-books that we can’t get through Overdrive, our main e-book service. Our collection of Axis 360 books is small now, but we’re adding new books all the time. Axis 360 books may be available in three different formats—EPUB and PDF, which are also used in Overdrive, and another format called Blio. EPUB and PDF are easier to use, so we recommend those. Be sure to click on EPUB or PDF instead of Blio when downloading your book.

How you download books depends on what kind of e-reader you have.  Some e-readers need to be connected to a computer, and others allow you to download books directly to your device. Just find your device in the list below.

If you want to read the book on your computer, or on one of these e-readers, you can download books through the library’s website. You can either search for them in the catalog and click on the book you want, or go directly to our Axis 360 page.  To get to Axis 360, go to the library’s webpage at www.mytpl.org, and click Catalogs. In the dropdown menu, click EBOOKS, and then click on Axis 360. When you find a book you want, click on it more information. Click here for more detailed instructions for downloading your book.

To get started on these devices, you can download the Axis Reader app from the app store. Click here for detailed instructions.

With the Kindle Fire, you can download e-books directly from your device with the Axis Reader app, but you need to install the app by connecting the device to your computer.  Click here for detailed instructions. Unfortunately, Axis 360 doesn’t currently work with original (e-ink) Kindles.

Android devices with access to the Google Play store can download the Axis Reader there, and then download e-books directly on their device. Click here for instructions. 

Downloading your first e-book may seem a little complicated, but once your device is set up, all the others will be easy. If you need help, give us a call at 876-5861 option 2, or bring your device by the Reference Department at the Main Library. Happy e-reading!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Downloading Music and Videos with the New Freegal

If you're a music lover and you haven't checked out Freegal, the library's downloadable music service, you should! With Freegal and your library card, you can download music and videos, and they're yours to keep. It's free and it's legal, and that's why it's called Freegal.

Now there's a new edition of Freegal, with many advantages over the old one. It has a more user-friendly interface, more music, new video capability, and you can see what's available before you login.

Freegal is based on a credit system. Library patrons get three credits per week. For one credit you can get a song, and for two you can get a video. If you have run out of credits for the week, you can simply add songs and videos to a wishlist, and download them with the credits you get the next week.

To get to Freegal, go to our webpage at www.mytpl.org.  Then go to Online Catalogs on the navigation bar, and click "E-Services" in the dropdown menu. On the next page, scroll down and click on the Freegal icon.

This brings you to the Freegal page, which looks like this:

From this page you can browse songs and videos, see what's new and what's popular, and browse by genre. Or you can use the search box at the top of the page to find particular songs, artists, albums, and videos.

Let's go through the process of downloading a song. First, login by clicking the "Login" button at the top right of the page. Now enter your library card number, as well as your PIN, which is a 6 digit number based on your birthdate.  For example, someone born on September 9, 1999 would have the PIN number 090999 (if you have trouble logging in, give the library a call at 876-5861 ex. 2 for help).

If you want the song "I Had Me A Girl", by The Civil Wars, you could enter the song title in the search box.
This will bring you to the page for the album the song appears on. Now you can click the play button to hear a sample of the song. If you click the button with a + sign next to the song, you can either download the song, or add it to a wishlist so you can download it later.

If you click "download", your computer will prompt you to save the song in a file on your computer. Bingo!  Now you own the song, and you can transfer it to a mobile device or burn it to a CD.  It's yours to enjoy.

Freegal also has Apple and Android apps for your mobile devices.  These are useful if you're out and about, however, we recommend using the Freegal website to download songs to your computer first.  This allows you to transfer them from your computer to your mobile device, so you have them in both places. If you use iTunes, you can download the song to your computer, and then transfer it into you iTunes library.

If you have an questions about using Freegal, please don't hesitate to email us at reference@mytpl.org, or call the Reference Department at 876-5861, ex. 2.  Happy listening!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Searching the New Online Catalog: How to Pinpoint What You Want

When I was a kid, if I wanted to find a book in the library I would go look it up in the card catalog.  For those of you who aren't old enough to remember such antiques, this was a big set of drawers filled with cards, like the one to the right.  Each card had information about a single book.  You could look up books by author, title, or subject, which meant each book had three different cards.

That was then.  Today, library catalogs are almost all web-based programs called Online Public Access Catalogs, or OPAC's.  They allow patrons to do things they never could have done with a card catalog, like searching the catalog from home, and reserving and renewing books online.  They also allow much more powerful searches...if you know how to use them.  In this post, I'm going to talk about some ways to make your searches more effective, by narrowing your results to the items you're most interested in.

To get to the library catalog, simply go to the library website, at www.mytpl.org.  You can enter your search directly by typing it into the Search Catalog box on the right.  Or you can click on Online Catalogs, and then click Online Catalog.  This will bring you to the New Releases feature, which shows the covers of new books we've just added to our collection.

Now type a word in the search box.  If you type in the word "dogs", for example, you'll find that we have over nearly 4,000 items with "dogs" as a keyword.  Unless you want to click through all of them, you'll need to narrow things down a little.  One way to do this is to specify the kind of material you're looking for.  In the Format section on the menu to the left, you can narrow your search to books, DVDs, books on CD, and so on.

Another way to narrow your search is to specify whether you're looking for fiction or non-fiction, or for children's or adult works.  You can do that by clicking on Collection, and choosing the type of work you want.  For example, the picture below shows that if you choose Non-Fiction Adult, that narrows your search to 418 items.

If you want to narrow it down a little further, you can choose a particular subject, such as Behavior or Training.

Finally, you can narrow your search to items at a particular library branch.  Just click on Change in the box labeled "Searching".  This will open a popup window that lets you choose the branch you want to search.  This can be useful, but you may also want to search all the branches, because we deliver books from one branch to another.  Just request it, and we'll deliver it to your home branch and call you when it arrives.

You can also see which branch (or branches) a particular item is available at by clicking All Copies beneath the item listing on the left.

The Card Catalog will then display all the branches that carry the item, its availability, and where to locate it on the library's shelves.

Things have changed a lot since the days of card catalogs.  Our online catalog lets you search in new, sophisticated ways to find exactly what you need.  It also offers many other powerful search tools, but we'll cover those in future blog posts.  Have fun searching!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Journey Through the Universe

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. - T.S. Eliot
Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered, "Where ARE we in all that?" Astronomers have found some amazing answers to that question. That was the topic of a program we had here at the Main Library last week, called A Journey Through the Universe. If you missed it, we took an imaginary journey through space, stopping to look at some of the astounding things astronomers have found out there. Since it's an imaginary journey, we can do it just as well in a blog post as in a talk. So let's take a quick little jaunt through the galaxy.

First, let's look at where we're going. Imagine that we're walking out in the early spring, to see something like the image below. There's the Milky Way arched across the sky at the top, and Orion the hunter in the middle. The little cluster of stars on the right is the Pleiades, and the bright star on the left is Sirius, the Dog Star.  Between Orion and the Pleiades is Jupiter, which is not a star at all, but the biggest planet in the solar system. If you had a pair of binoculars, you could look up and see four of its moons. The sun, the moon, and Jupiter all seem to move along that red line, called the ecliptic, because all the moons and planets are in the same plane, so from Earth they appear to move along a single line. The stars and the Milky Way stay put relative to each other, but they all seem to spin around the north star. That's because the earth spins, and its axis just happens to point at the north star. That's lucky for people in the northern hemisphere--there is no "South Star" to show the people in Australia which way is south.

Our trip is going to take us deep into space, in the direction of Orion, starting with number 1, Jupiter, and ending with number 7, the Crab Nebula. The reason we're going to jump around the map so much, instead of going from left to right, is that we're starting with the closest objects, and making our way toward the most distant ones. Jupiter and Betelgeuse look pretty similar to the naked eye, but Jupiter is much, much closer (and smaller). I'm not going to dwell on the planets much, because most people learned those in school pretty well (although poor Pluto has been demoted to a dwarf planet since some of us were in school). What most people don't know is how things are arranged out beyond the solar system. That's where we're headed.

But we'll stop at Jupiter, since it's on the way.  Jupiter is the first and largest of the gas giant planets out beyond Mars and the asteroid belt. It's not a solid object, except at its rocky core. Its famous bands are formed by rising and falling clouds of ammonia ice and ammonium hydrosulfide--you would need to bring oxygen on a real visit. Jupiter is the big boy of the solar system--over 1400 Earths would fit inside it, and it's twice as massive as all the other planets combined.

But Jupiter is a pipsqueak compared to the sun, which is over 1000 times as massive. The planets are really just bits of debris around the sun, and even the sun isn't that impressive by astronomical standards. This becomes obvious if we look backward and remove the constellation lines, to see the inner solar system as it would really look from Jupiter. From here, the sun just looks like an unusually bright yellow star, and we wouldn't even recognize the inner planets--including our own--if they weren't labeled. You could get lost pretty easily around here. But then, we've come a long way by our normal standards. To put the distance to Jupiter in perspective, if you could point your car there and start driving at a steady 75 miles per hour, it would take several hundred years before you arrived. You would need to bring a lot of music.

But we've barely gotten started. Our next stop is Sirius, which is 8.6 light years away. That means a beam of light, which goes fast enough to circle the world over 7 times a second, would take 8.6 years to get to Sirius. And Sirius is one of the closest stars to Earth. If the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which has just reached the edge our solar system after 35 years, were heading for Sirius, it would take about 180,000 years to arrive. Travel to the stars is still pure science fiction. If aliens from other star systems had ever visited Earth, they would need technology almost beyond our imagining. Either that or long lives and a whole lot of patience.

Luckily, we're taking an imaginary trip, so we can get to Sirius in no time at all. As we approach, we see the single point of blue-white light resolve into two stars. It turns out that Sirius is a binary star system, with two stars orbiting a common center of gravity. The bigger one, Sirius A, is about twice as massive as our sun, but it's much hotter, and thus 25 times as bright. Sirius B is an entirely different story. It's a white dwarf star, slightly smaller than the earth, but more massive than the sun. In other words, it's astoundingly dense--a piece of it the size of a sugar cube would weigh about a ton. Try dropping that in your coffee.

White dwarfs like Sirius B are the shrunken cores of larger, deceased stars. Around 120 million years ago, Sirius B resembled Sirius A, but it became unstable as it used up all its fuel. This caused it to swell up into a huge red giant star, and eventually puff its outer layers of gas into space, creating a luminous nebula which has long since dispersed. All that remained was the hot, tiny core, which will burn with stored heat for billions of years to come, until it finally cools down into cold, dark object called a black dwarf.

The next leg of the trip is an even bigger jump. We're going to the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters (you may also recognize them from the Subaru logo). The Pleiades are a group of stars at least 390 light years away. That means the light we now see on earth when we look at them has been traveling through space since around the time the Mayflower landed. Unlike most constellations, the Pleiades are an actual group of stars, called an open cluster. But I like to think of them as a litter, because they're siblings, born together in a giant cloud of collapsing gas. The bright blue stars we see are blue giants, which are bigger, hotter, and far brighter than most of the other thousand or so stars in the cluster. Blue giants burn bright and die young, blazing through their fuel at a furious pace. Some of the ones in the Pleiades are already showing their age, and they're a mere 100 million years old. The smaller yellow and red stars take the slow and steady approach. They will live on for billions of years, some of them for many times the current age of the universe.

NASA, ESA, AURA/Caltech, Palomar Observatory

Rogelio Bernal Andreo (Creative Commons Att. Share Alike)
Now it's time to head for Orion itself. First, let's take another, closer look at Orion as it appears from earth.  The amazing photo to the right is a long-exposure mosaic showing the clouds of gas and dust that fill the constellation. The red clouds, called emission nebula, glow because they're heated up by the stars forming in and around them. If you look closely, you can see darker clouds too, which show themselves by blocking the stars behind them. The Orion region is one of the most active regions of star formation known. In fact, some of the stars visible around Orion's belt and sword were born together out of those clouds. It's unusual for the stars in a constellation to be related, but many of the stars in Orion are, possibly including the next two we're going to meet.

Our next stop is Betelgeuse, the enormous red supergiant star that defines Orion's left shoulder. When I say Betelgeuse is enormous, I mean it's really just stupendously sizeable. A common comparison is that if our sun were replaced with Betelgeuse, it would swallow Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, and come nearly to the orbit of Jupiter. The giant star is nearing the end of its life, though, and it's really starting to fall apart. It roils and pulsates, belching plumes of gas as large as our solar system. In about a million years, it will collapse and then explode as a supernova. Anyone still around on earth will see it shine as bright as the moon for a few weeks, even though it's 640 light years away.

The brilliant blue star that forms Orion's right foot is called Rigel. It's a young blue supergiant star, around 8 million years old. It's no small fry itself--if the sun were the width of a dime, Rigel would be about the width of a hula hoop. It's not nearly as big as Betelgeuse, but it's big. It's also tremendously bright--at least 117,000 times as bright as the sun. Its brilliance is caused partly by its size, but mostly by its intense heat. Rigel's brilliance is the reason we see it so clearly, even though it's about 860 light years away, which means the light we see left it around the time Genghis Khan was born.

Now let's take a closer look at a place where stars are born (no, not Hollywood). If you walk out on a clear night and look up at Orion, the middle of his sword is actually not a star at all, but a glowing red cloud called the Orion Nebula. It's one of the most spectacular star formation sites known, so let's go take a closer look. As we approach the nebula, about 1,340 light years from earth, we see that it's really a bright cavity in a more extensive cloud. It's like an amphitheater packed with thousands of stars. The brightest, as usual, are blue giants and supergiants, but there are stars of all other sizes and temperatures being born too. Some are still wrapped in discs of dusty debris which will one day aggregate into planets. Others are in the so-called bipolar outflow stage, with great jets of gas shooting out from each pole. Astronomers have even seen brown dwarfs, balls of gas too small for fusion reactions to ignite, so they never quite turn into stars. If we could look into the cloud with infrared vision (and astronomers can do just that) we would see even younger stars forming from the dense gas. After they form, stellar "winds" of radiation will push back and illuminate the gas, deepening the cavity of the Orion Nebula. This, in turn, will cause gas further back in the cloud to collapse toward stardom. Starbirth propagates itself like spreading wildfire, so that as we move deeper and deeper into Orion, we find younger stars. Looking back toward Earth, stars like Rigel and Betelgeuse may be older progeny of the same great cloud across Orion, born in clusters like the stars of the Orion Nebula, but drifting away from their siblings over millions of years.

NASA, ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team
We've gone straight through the heart of Orion, and now we're on the other side. Let's keep going, to see what we can see. Our next stop, the Crab Nebula, is many times farther away than anything we've seen so far--6,500 light years. That means we see it as it was about a thousand years before the Sumerians built the world's first cities. The Crab Nebula is a completely different animal than the Orion Nebula. It's what's left over from a supernova explosion in 1054 AD. Back then, Chinese astronomers recorded a "guest star", which appeared all the sudden, bright enough to be seen in the daytime. What we see today is a cloud of glowing gas 11 light years across, and still expanding at about 1,500 kilometers per second...yes, per second. At the center of the cloud is the leftover core of the old star. When the core collapsed and then rebounded, the pressure was so great that it collapsed protons and electrons into neutrons, forming a ball of neutrons as dense as an atomic nucleus, but as large as a city--a neutron star. It's still spinning about 30 times a second, pouring radiation out from each magnetic pole. We see this radiation as rapid-fire pulses, so this kind of neutron star is also known as a pulsar. It's hard to believe anything this extreme really exists out there, but if science has taught us anything, it's that nature is full of surprises.

X-Ray: NASA/CXC/J.Hester (ASU); Optical: NASA/ESA/J.Hester & A.Loll (ASU); Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R.Gehrz (Univ. Minn.)
In the long history of the Milky Way galaxy, there have been countless supernova explosions like the one that created the Crab Nebula. In fact, we couldn't exist without them. Scientists think when the universe was young, the only elements that existed were hydrogen, helium, and traces of lithium. Then, when the first stars lit up, they burned by fusing hydrogen and helium into heavier elements, creating the rest of the periodic table--the atomic alphabet that makes life possible. All stars create a few heavier elements, but some of the most crucial elements for life, including sulfur, sodium, and potassium, are created in supernova explosions. We are quite literally made of stardust--stardust blasted into space in some of the most violent explosions in the universe. It's a pretty amazing heritage, and we share it with everything in the solar system.

Let's stop and get our bearings. We're over 6,500 light years from home, farther than light could have traveled in all of written history. But just how far is that, in the grand scheme of things? Not very far. In the picture below, the yellow line shows roughly where we have been on our tour. Except for the Crab Nebula, which is in the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way, everything we saw on our tour was in the little sub-arm of the galaxy known as the Orion Spur.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt
The galaxy as a whole is over 100 thousand light years across, and it contains at least 200 billion stars--more than you could count in several lifetimes. We've only seen a tiny section of it, and then only in our imaginations. A real trip like this is still completely beyond our grasp, and will be for the foreseeable future. And the Milky Way is just one galaxy. In the next image, we see that our galaxy is part of a group of several galaxies, called the Local Group ("local" is a relative term, obviously). The Milky Way and another large spiral galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, are the biggest galaxies in the system, but there are also over 50 smaller galaxies orbiting around the larger ones. The Andromeda Galaxy is visible to the naked eye on clear nights, in the constellation Andromeda. Of course, since it's 2.5 million light years away, we see it as it was 2.5 million years ago. The deeper we look into space, the farther back in time we see.

Andrew Z. Colvin, CC Attribution, Share-Alike License
The Local Group is a fairly small association of galaxies. There are much larger associations, called clusters, which can hold over 1000 galaxies. Groups and clusters, in turn, combine together to form superclusters of galaxies. In the next image, we see that the Local Group is linked to several clusters of galaxies making up the Virgo Supercluster. 

Andrew Z. Colvin, CC Attribution, Share-Alike License
If we keep zooming out, we'll find that the observable universe is made up of countless superclusters and clusters of galaxies, strung together in walls and filaments. In between these are gigantic regions of empty space known as voids. The pattern is a little like a foam of soap bubbles, where the galaxies form the walls of the bubbles, and the voids are the space inside the bubbles. This is the largest level of structure we know about. At the largest scale, the universe seems to be a frothy ocean of galactic clusters and superclusters, extending for billions of light years in every direction. It's a pretty big place. 

Andrew Z. Colvin, CC Share-Alike License

The first images were created with two free programs. Stellarium is a free planetarium application that lets you see what stars will be out at night wherever you live. Celestia is a "space simulation" application which allows you to virtually fly around space.

Good Books and Websites on Astronomy:

Astronomy : a beginner's guide to the universe / Eric Chaisson, Steve McMillan.

Space odyssey : voyaging through the cosmos / William Harwood.

Hayden Planetarium: American Museum of Natural History

HubbleSite.org: Amazing images and discoveries from the Hubble Telescope.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Science Online: Our Newest Science Database

Whether you're looking for science project ideas, or just like to keep up with the latest discoveries in science, we have a great online resource for you.  Science Online is an all-purpose resource for learning about every branch of science, from physics to biology.   As the image above shows, you can search for a particular topic by entering keywords in the search box.  If you would rather browse different topics, you can click Explore Subjects. This opens a dropdown menu, that lets you click on the branch of science you're interested in.

For example, clicking on "Biology" opens a page with sub-topics related to biology.  Searching this way is a great way to discover new topics you may not have known about.

You can also search based on the kind of resource you want.  In addition to encyclopedia-type articles, Science Online has biographies of scientists, and news articles.  If you prefer to learn with diagrams, images, and videos, there are also plenty of those.

Finally, if you are trying to think of a science project idea, Science Online has a wide range of suggested science experiments, each with detailed instructions.  Want to amaze your classmates by setting a ten dollar bill on fire without burning it up?  Science Online has the instructions.  To look for particular kinds of resources, click "Browse Science Resources", and then click on one of the options in the dropdown menu.

To get to Science Online, go to "Reference" on the right side the Terrebonne Parish Library website, at www.mytpl.org.  Then click "Databases by Name", and look in the "S" section, or "Databases by Subject", and look in the Science and Technology section.  If you are in a Terrebonne Parish Library, those links will take you straight into the Science Online.  If you are logging in from a computer in a non-library location, you'll be asked for your library card number.  No pin required!

And if you decide to light that ten dollar bill on fire, make sure to read all the instructions.  We librarians can't be responsible for experiments gone wrong!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Where Do My Income Taxes Go?

It's that time of year again--tax season. If you've ever wanted to know just where all that money goes, now it's easy to find out--or at least get a decent estimate. For federal taxes, the easiest way is to use the White House website's Your Federal Tax Receipt page. You can enter your income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax, and see a breakdown of where the money was spent. If you don't know the exact numbers, you can also estimate your taxes. For example, here's an estimate for a married couple with two kids, with a household income of $80,000. You can click on the plus signs next to each category to see more details.

The White House tax receipt page is currently showing tax receipts for the 2011 tax year, so it won't give an exact figure for where last year's taxes will go this year. Still, it's a decent estimate. There all other similar sites, but all these sites have pros and cons. The White House site is the most recent, and more accurate because it lets you enter income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes separately, but it doesn't break down spending in as much detail as the next two sites:

WhereDidMyTaxDollarsGo.com gives a breakdown of where your taxes from 2009 went in 2010. It's less accurate than the White House site because it only gives an estimate of the taxes you paid based on income and filing status, but it has better graphics, and gives a more detailed breakdown of how much money went to each government agency.

Another site, WhatWePayFor.com, gives a detailed account of the federal budget for many years up to 2013, but it will only estimate where your taxes went up to 2010 (enter 2010 or a previous year to see your share). Both of these websites are based on the same data, but they use different assumptions about what deductions people will claim, so they give slightly different estimates. To get the best overview of where your tax dollars go, you may want to look at all three to get a range of estimates.

There's no tax receipt website available for Louisiana income taxes, but the LA TRAC website has links to information about state revenues and spending. Another useful resource is the Louisiana Popular Annual Financial Report, which is published every year. The report for fiscal year 2012 is available here.

Filing Your Tax Return

Many tax forms and instructions are available at all the branches of the library. We have the 1040 EZ, 1040 A, and 1040 forms, and the instructions for 1040 A and 1040 EZ. We don't have the 1040 instructions yet, because they were printed late, but they have finally shipped, and should be at the Main Library by March 5.

Both the state and federal government are pushing to abandon paper filing and get people to file online. One advantage of doing this is that if you qualify for a refund, you'll get your refund faster. If you're comfortable filing online, you can do so at www.irs.gov/Filing. The Free File program lets you do your taxes online for free in one of two ways: You can access fillable electronic forms and submit those, or--if you make $57,000 or less--you can use online tax preparation software through several companies that make their products available free for people in certain income levels. Many of these allow you to file your state income taxes for free, too, if you meet the income requirements, but you can also file your state taxes online at the Louisiana Department of Revenue website. If your income is higher than $57,000, or you use a tax professional, the IRS site also has options for e-filing that way.

If you make $50,000 or less, you can get your taxes done for free at the Main Library by the kind volunteers with VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), a program run by Catholic Charities. VITA is at the Main Library from 9-2 on Tuesdays and Saturdays, through Tuesday, April 9th (except March 30, when the library will be closed). For more information about the VITA program, go to bit.ly/vitainfo.

If you have any questions, give the Reference Department a call at 876-5861, option 2. Good luck with tax season!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The New Overdrive App for Nook: Downloading Library Books Just Got Easier

If you have a Nook Color, Tablet, HD, or HD +, it's now a lot easier to download ebooks from the library. Now you can download them directly to your Nook, without having to connect it to a computer, by using the Overdrive Media Console app.

The first time you use the app will be a little complicated, because you will need to download it and register it with Adobe. But you only have to do these things once, and then it will be much simpler.

To get the app, simply click "Apps" on your Nook, and then click "Shop All".

On the next screen, search for "Overdrive Media Console". When you find the app, click the green button that says "Free".

Now click "Confirm". 

Now you'll see the Overdrive Media Console home page. To start downloading a library book, click the menu button at the bottom of the screen. Then click "Get Books" at the bottom of the screen.

Now click "Add a Library". You should just have to do this once.

On the next screen, type in Terrebonne Parish and click "Search". Now click "Terrebonne Parish Public Library".

Now click the star next to "E-Library Co-Op of Southeast Louisiana".  

Now you can search for a book. When you find one you want to check out, click "Add to Cart". 

Now click "Proceed to Checkout".

Select "Terrebonne Parish Library".

Click "Confirm Check Out".

Now click "Download".

The first time you download a book using the Overdrive app, you'll need to register the app with Adobe. You will only have to do this once. If you already have an Adobe ID, click "Settings" and enter your login information. If you don't have an Adobe ID, click "Get ID". This will take you to a website where you can sign up for one. Be sure to write down your password.

Once you have an Adobe ID, you can enter it at the top of the settings page, and click "Authorize".

Now your book should automatically download! Just click on it to open and start reading. Once again, this whole process will be much easier the second time, because you won't have to download and authorize the Overdrive App. Just click on the Overdrive icon, go to "Get Books", and start browsing. As always, if you have any questions, give us a call at 876-5861, option 2. Happy ereading!