Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

  1. Create a WorldCat login.
  2. Create a brief list of books or movies. (You can duplicate one of the library’s book lists, if you would prefer.)
  3. Share a link to your public list in the comments below.

Example:  The Fan’s Guide to Baseball


Wolfram Alpha – a new “computational knowledge engine” – had been out for a few weeks now and it has taken every bit of that time for it to make even a little sense. When I first heard about it, I immediately pulled it up and tried a few searches. And I got nothing. “What kind of search engine is this?!” I cried.


Lesson: Don’t approach Wolfram Alpha like you do Google or Yahoo.

I think my first search was “woodworking” or something vague like that. I got a definition, pronunciation, and some synonyms. Not quite what I expected. Where were my search results?

But, Wolfram Alpha isn’t a search engine. It’s a “computational knowledge engine” – meaning we’re not going to get google-like results page. We’re going to get data. Wolfram Alpha seeks to pull you from the mire of millions of search results. Because who needs a search results page when you can get actual data?

Wolfram Alpha gives you data, not for a list of websites.

If you want to search for websites to plan your upcoming trip to Canada, you might be barking up the wrong tree.

A search for canada travel gives zero results.

If you’re looking for real data about a city, state, or country, Wolfram Alpha will knock your socks off.

A search for canada gives us the population, flag, satellite image, demographic info, cultural properties (with charts), related links, and a link to source information (so you can see where Wolfram Alpha got all this data).

Example Searches:

Looking for a historical stock price? How about the price of IBM stock in May of 1982. Click on the chart where the red line intersects the blue line and you get a price.

Looking for an overview of the exchange rate for Dollar to Yen? You can view the history of the exchange rate for the last month, last year, last few years…

Would you like to know weather conditions for Nashville on March 28, 2008? You can see results in metric and non-metric. You can get the temperature, rainfall, humidity, and historical temperatures.

Browsing Wolfram Alpha:

Maybe you thought your search string was a good one but Wolfram Alpha gave you zip. What do you do now?

When Wolfram Alpha doesn’t know how to interpret your search, you’ll get a list of category links to explore. Each category gives example searches. This will give you a good idea of the type of information you can pull out of Wolfram Alpha.

Want even more info?

Read this article from PC World.

The good people and robots over at Gale have been busy reading and sorting their magazine collection into new Princeton files. As a result of this spring cleaning, Tennessee Electronic Library’s PowerSearch will become PowerSearch 2.0 on Wednesday. PowerSearch 2.0 adds some great new options to the robust periodical search.

PowerSearch 2.0 allows you to search across fourteen TEL databases including OneFile, General Business, and Health. The default search now offers most popular limiter options: Full-text, Peer-reviewed, or documents with images only. Also, the default search is keyword; this will only match terms in title, author, subject, or abstract. For a more comprehensive search, remember to use entire document.

Powersearch2.0 still breaks down the results into a series of tabs for magazines, journals, books, newspapers, and multimedia. Magazines will appear first, but don’t stop there. Along the left side you will see more results from images and podcasts. Next time you want to watch some old news, head over to PowerSearch’s extensive video collection including videos from NBC Newscasts (Today, Meet the Press) and PBS (Jim Lehrer News Hour, Frontline, Nature). Plus, find matches under podcasts – including NPR’s extensive audio archive. Keep scrolling down your result list to get image results from the UPI photo archive.


Once you hit article level, you can do just about anything short of republishing it. Within each entry you can now listen to a robot read you each article. Hey, these cyborgs are good readers! If you’re running short on time, download all the audio files for your marked articles, then have the robots read to you on your iPod. ¿No habla ingles? Let Gale’s protocol droids translate your article into Spanish or ten other languages. The robots will even reformat the citation so you can cut & paste it into your report.

The most improved part of 2.0 is the Publication Search, which had not seen an update since the nineties. The title lists are now infinitely sortable by format or subject. For example, you can quickly pull up all the full-text magazines that cover “Cooking.” As you mouse-over the titles, you get the important coverage details: full-text and dates of run. Select a title and you can get an RSS feed that will alert you when new issues are available to read in PowerSearch. RSS feeds are also available for any PowerSearch you run.

Check out Tennessee Electronic Library on the database page this Wednesday, July 1st.

If you use the handy in-browser search box in Internet Explorer this month, you may have noticed  something new. The search results you used to get from Google are gone and now you see results from something called Bing.

What is Bing?

Unless you lost your TV transmission during the digital switch, you’ve probably seen a Bing commercial. They’re weird. They’re everywhere. But have you tried Bing? It’s a search engine, like Yahoo!. The results look similar, but there are some additions.

  1. Expanded Description
    When you mouse over the orange dot to the right of each result, you’ll get a box with an expanded description and some links on the page.
  2. Search from Results
    Sometimes you even get a search box in the results list. Search for Nashville Public Library and you’ll see a search box for searching the library catalog within the result.  Search for Amazon and you’ll see a list of results with the Amazon search box.
  3. More Options
    Search results are listed in the center,  and you’ll see links for related searches or ways to narrow your search along the left side. A search for the band Green Day lets me narrow to Images, Songs, Lyrics, Downloads, Fan Club, etc.

I tried Bing. I want Google/Yahoo! back in my search engine box!

The first time I got results from Bing, I was surprised. Microsoft had changed my search engine without telling me. The second time I got results from Bing, I was mad. I wanted to take back my browser power.

Internet Explorer 6

  • Click on the SEARCH BUTTON in the Toolbar.
  • At bottom of ‘What are you looking for’ panel, select CHANGE PREFERENCES.
  • Under ‘How do you want to search companion?’ choose CHANGE INTERNET SEARCH BEHAVIOR
  • Next, select SELECT DEFAULT SEARCH and OK.
  • Choose your favorite search engine (c. 1997) and select OK.
  • This should change the results from this search box and search terms typed in the address bar.

Internet Explorer 7:

  • Beside the Search Box there is a magnifying glass icon. Next to the icon is a tiny grey triangle – select it with mouse.
  • You should see a list of the search engines currently loaded to your browser. At the bottom of this list, select the option called CHANGE SEARCH DEFAULTS.
  • Select the search engine you use most often and click ‘SELEECT DEFAULT, then ‘OK’.

Internet Explorer 8:

  • Next to the Search Box there is a magnifying glass icon. Next to the icon is a tiny grey triangle – select it with mouse.
  • You should see a list of the search engines currently loaded to your browser. At the bottom of this list, select the option called MANAGE SEARCH PROVIDERS.
  • Select the search engine you use most often and click ‘Set as Default’, then ‘Close’.

I use Chrome / Firefox. How do I change my default search engine?

Google Chrome 2.0

  • Right-click on the Address Bar.
  • Select your preferred Search Engine from the list.
  • Then click ‘Make Default’ button.

Firefox 2, 3:

  • Next to the search box is a logo for the selected search engine.
  • Click on this logo to select from other loaded search engines. This selection should remain through future sessions until changed.
  • If Google (or preferred engine) is not in this list, use “Manage Search Engines” to add it to the list.

Twitter Search

April 27, 2009

Say as you were returning from lunch you overhear someone mention a plane landing in the Hudson River. When you return to your computer, you might check several news websites to get a story. Or you could try a Twitter Search.

If you had done a Twitter Search in January, on the day the plane landed in the Hudson River, you would have seen a tweet by Janis Krums. He is the rescuer who posted the first picture of the accident from a cell phone on a nearby ferry boat.

Twitter Search for Breaking News

Have you ever seen four fire engines head down Broadway, then an hour later Google “fire Broadway Nashville,”  only to find that nothing? Local news sites also coming up empty? What was going on? Why can’t I find it on Google? Does this sounds familiar?

Retrieving current information on local occurrences can be challenging. Yet with so many Tweeters now reporting from their cell phones, there is a good chance that an eyewitness mentioned it on their Twitter. Twitter Search offers a way to find real-time updates on just about anything. Type in a topic and search will turn up any recent tweets with those words included.

Twitter Search helps businesses too

We saw how friends might use Twitter to make casual comments to a group. Unlike the office water cooler, Twitter comments are very public – meaning all these casual conversations can be found. Why is this useful?

Businesses can use Twitter Search to find out what people are saying about their company. Say someone tweets to their pals about the Olive Garden restaurant. Olive Garden’s management could search twitter.

  • i love olive garden now that i figured out i can get soup and not that gross salad
  • I like that Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden myself
  • Is there really a Culinary Institute of Tuscany, like in those Olive Garden commercials?
  • Heading out to Olive Garden tonight

Some tweets give honest opinions on company issues, like menu choices or commercials. Others may be less direct, but  Olive Garden can still see who dines there. Companies would normally pay marketing firms to identify customer preferences, now Twitter offers the same data free.

Want to see what people think about your branch library? Check it out on Twitter Search. You’ll see some compliments that will make you smile. But you’ll also see some comments about what we could do better. Anything that gives such candid feedback is a good thing to watch.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

1. Do a Twitter Search for:

Nashville Public Library


Your branch library

2. Did you find anything? Let us know in the comments.

Google site search (48)

October 20, 2008

Let’s face it, websites can be big. Really big. And sometimes even the best planned websites make it hard to find what we want.

If you use Google, and I know you do, there’s a simple way to take control and search a site for the information you want.

It’s called Google Site Search

It’s most basic use is to search a site. Let’s say you want to know which library in our system has Spanish language materials. You could look through each branch page until you find the answer. Or you could search in the catalog to see what comes up. Or, you could do a Site Search in Google.

That search would look like this:

Take a look at the results and you’ll see how helpful site search is. One quick search tells me which branches have a Spanish language collection (Thompson Lane and Southeast). It also reveals that there are Spanish language books available in the Tumblebooks database!
How does it work?
Type your search terms in the Google search box, then type site: and the web address you want to search in. We searched for: spanish collection
But wait, there’s more…
Site search can help with narrowing your results list. Why wade through tons of useless sites when you can better target the kind of information you’re looking for? Let’s take a look at an example.
Say you’re looking for information vaccinations. You could do a basic Google search and you’d probably find some good websites, but you’d probably have to wade through a bunch of not-so-great sites too. Sites that end in .gov or .edu might give you more accurate medical information. So why not narrow your search from the start?
Let’s search for information on vaccinations and ask for results ONLY from government information sites. That search would look like this:
This search will exclude .com, .edu, .org, and any other site that doesn’t end in .gov. This can be useful when doing research and you know what kind of information you’re looking for. But, beware that you may be excluding useful information.
If you need help remembering this and other search tips for Google, you can print out this cheat sheet (pdf), shown at left, and stash it by your computer.

And if you have any search tips, please share them in the comments!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

1. Do a search in Google for Disaster Preparedness.

2. Do a search in Google for Disaster Preparedness and limit to sites that end in .org.

3. Compare.

Who knew? Read 20 Tips for Google Search from dumb little man.