Monday, January 31, 2011

The Value of Giving

The holidays are a great reminder to give back to your community. The possibility of giving can continue all year long through donating to local nonprofit agencies. There was a request to list some of the local nonprofits in our area as a sort of “giving guide”. This list is in no way comprehensive, so if you feel an organization has been overlooked or should be added, please leave a comment below and I will make sure they get included.

There are many ways to donate but the two most common are time and money. If you are looking to donate time I suggest checking out the United Way of Waukesha County. They have a volunteer database where you can lookup different volunteer opportunities available in the area. Otherwise the contact information for each of the nonprofit organizations available by checking out this list, please contact them for more information.

Of course, We would love to have you come down and volunteer at the library. Some of the bigger events we could use help for are our temporary relocation or the Summer Reading Program. Stop in for a teen or adult volunteer application today!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Project Gutenberg --> more eBooks than you can handle!

If you’re craving e-books and want to be able to download until the memory on your reading device is full, checkout Project Gutenberg.

Project Gutenberg as a nonprofit business entity was officially created in 2000, but the premise behind it has been developing since the creation of the first e-document in 1971. Michael Hart the founder and creator of that first document wanted to make eBooks accessible to as many people as possible. The project aims at providing free access of eBooks to over 33,000 titles of books whose copyright date has expired. These items can be downloaded to your Nook, Kindle, Android, or other mobile devices.

Three portions of the Project Gutenberg Library, basically can be described as: (from Project Gutenberg's website)

Light Literature; such as Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass, Peter Pan, Aesop's Fables, etc.
Heavy Literature; such as the Bible or other religious documents, Shakespeare, Moby Dick, Paradise Lost, etc.
References; such as Roget's Thesaurus, almanacs, and a set of encyclopedia, dictionaries, etc.” (Project Gutenberg website).

Your first time downloading items directly from Project Gutenberg can be a little difficult, especially if you new to eBook devices. The best way to access a selection of these titles is through Overdrive. Recently they have added 15,000 titles selected from the Project Gutenberg Collection. When you checkout or download these items from Overdrive they won’t count towards the number of items you are allowed to checkout! To access Overdrive go to our subscription database page and log in. To find the Project Gutenberg eBooks search under the “Browse” page and look under the heading “Browse Public Domain eBook”. Here is a little sample from a neat cooking magazine I found from 1921!
I suggest checking out this neat neat collection, especially through Overdrive. If you have any questions please don't hestitate to contact us!

Monday, January 24, 2011

We're Moving!

But only temporarily. With construction ready to begin in late March or early April, the library will be vacating its current site in mid-March and moving to a temporary home for the 8-9 months it should take to build the new facility. Our new home will be 1012 S. Main St.-- the old Gooddens Sporting Goods store across the street from Amato Ford. If all goes well, we'll be moving back to our expanded, renovated home on Washington Avenue in late November or early December.

Some of you no doubt wonder why we're moving-- couldn't we just stay where we are during construction and wouldn't that be easier and also cost less? Good questions. The option to remain at the current site was available to us, but after discussions with our architect and construction manager it became apparent that moving out was preferable to staying, for a number of reasons.

Moving out during construction will be both safer and more pleasant for everyone-- library users and library staff alike. While our construction manager has an exemplary safety record, having large equipment and other construction activity close to an occupied building is always problematic. Especially when, as we typically do at the library, there are lots of small children around. And no matter how tightly and carefully you seal things, dust, dirt and noise are inevitable byproducts of construction. Staying would have been less fun and more dangerous than moving.

So, what about cost? We have determined, with the help of our architect and construction manager, where the approximate “break even” point is on the cost of moving out versus the cost of staying. We are moving because we can do so and stay below that "break even" point-- moving out temporarily should actually save us money on the project.

That might not make sense at first, but think about these "hidden" costs to remaining onsite during the construction process:
  • Internal moves: Our construction manager estimates it will take at least four, maybe five or six, internal moves to allow the construction workers the necessary access to various parts of the building. These will be small moves, but each will be disruptive. With relocations, there are only two moves, albeit larger ones. The overall cost for the 4-6 internal moves would be at least as much as the two big moves.
  • Extended construction time. If we remain onsite, the construction workers will have to work around us, and scheduling contractors will be much more difficult and constrained. This extends the length of time to complete the project. Current estimates are that remaining in the building will extend the length of construction by 1.5 to 3 months. Each extra month of construction costs approximately $50,000 in additional administrative costs.
  • Contractor “repeat” work. With the library moving internally, there will be a need for contractors—electrical, drywallers, carpet layers, etc.—to do part of their job, then return later to finish the areas that were occupied earlier. This is much less efficient and leads to significantly higher costs.
Ultimately, moving out should be the same cost as, or somewhat less than, staying at the present site during construction.

So those are the reasons we're moving out. The space we're moving into is a good one, and we will maintain the level of service our patrons have come to expect. It will be an adventure-- so I hope you'll join us!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Student Loan Information

The estimated cost of tuition for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for one year is $8,284. Throw in the cost of supplies like textbooks and you are easily at $9,000, and that doesn’t include you're living expenses. It is quite possible that an undergraduate degree would cost at least $40,000 at a state college. What happens when you have to pay back those student loans?

Because of a slow economy the student loan repayment market has changed vastly in the last five years. When I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2007 you could still consolidate your loans through a private bank or financer for a low locked in rate of about 6%. Lenders like Sallie Mae, US Bank, and other large companies would consolidate your loan for you and set you up on a payment plan that you would pay until you had a zero balance. I know some people that have been making minimum payments and paying off their student loans for 30+ years.

Let’s fast forward to 2011. Student loans have become an unprofitable market for private lenders because of the lower interest rates and a large amount of people whose loans go into default. There are still some possibilities for private lenders, but in most situations it would be overly expensive and not worth your time. There are basically two options: simply pay them off or consolidate them through a federal government program.

Most students accrue multiple Stafford loans or “plus” loans for each semester they attend school. If you do not consolidate you will have to make minimum payments on each of these individual loans. After I graduated with a master’s degree I had eight individual loans totaling…$88,000 (deep breath). Great Lakes is the company in our area who handles tracking those student loans and receiving payments for them. They will send you statements the entire time you’re in college to let you know the total you owe. There are different payment options such as 10 year or 25 years repayment plans.

The other option is to consolidate loans through the federal government's Direct Consolidation Loans. Be forewarned that only certain types of loans like Stafford loans can be consolidated through this program. The benefits of this consolidation are the ability to make income contingent payments and sign up for other loan forgiveness options and only making one minimum payment. For example if you are a teacher in a designated high risk school, every year you teach there a certain percentage of loans is forgiven. If you work full time in a hospital, registered nonprofit, as a public service employee, or a part-time community college professor you can enroll in the Public Service Forgiveness Program. If you make 120 (10 years) worth of payments while employed full time at one of these positions after the 120th payment they will forgive the remainder of your loans. This legislation was enacted in 2007, so I am not certain if this can be applied retroactively. The other helpful legislation is no matter what payment plan you have through consolidation after 25 years of payments the rest of your loans are forgiven.

For example if a full-time single public service employee whose income is estimated at $25,000 with $88,000 in debt could sign up for an income contingent payment options. This would be an estimated monthly payment of $247 for the next 10 years, which translates into a total repayment of about $30,000. If the person was not a public service employee they could still enroll in income contingent payments for the next 25 years which would be a total repayment of about $75,000. No matter what be aware of your options. When you do entrance and exit loan counseling for school pay attention to the small print, because it could cost you if you don’t.


-Never borrow more then you need.

-Consult your financial aid department every year.

-Read the fine print involved in entrance and exit counseling for student loans, twice!

-Know your options and prepare yourself, imagine how you will pay off your loans before you graduate. Do not procrastinate.

-Look at every statement Great Lakes sends you.

-Make small payments while you are in school, even $30 per month will save you money in the long run. With an annual interest of 8.7%, that $30 worth of your loan compounds an additional $2.61 in just one year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pondering Pandora

With over 48 million users you might have heard of Pandora, the online music listening and selection website that caters to your individual music tastes. It is a part of the Music Genome project and it is centered on the user experience and tries to match music to your interests. For example if you type “Elvis Christmas Music”, Pandora will create a special music stations for you that steams music that is all similar to Elvis Christmas music. If you hear a song you don’t like press a thumbs down button and you will never hear it again. Neato burrito!

You can create a music station to fit all of your moods because Pandora lets you make up to 100 individual stations. It also lets you create a user profile and share all of your unique music stations and finds with your friends. The service is also compatible with up to 200 different internet accessible devices, so you can stream music from your Iphone, Nook, home computer, Playstation 3, Wii, X-Box 360, or any other device you can think of. In the car I stream Pandora through my cellphone and then hook it up to my car stereo (sort of like an Ipod).

Why do I love this service? As a librarian I want to give patrons access to the largest amount of information and experience possible for free. Pandora lets you sample new music, learn about the musicians, and even search for concert tickets in your area, and it has a FREE option. You can sign up for an account and listen to 40 free hours of music a month. (Don’t worry no tricks here, there is no credit card required for sign up, they don’t even ask for your address or telephone number.) If you want unlimited streaming music there are subscription services available.

I have over 35 stations and have never used my 40 hours of streaming music in a month. Now I have music to listen to when I clean the house, have a dinner party, or have people over for the holidays. I have discovered some neat new artists that I adore like Iron and Wine, Thievery Corporation, and a few other titles. Though those bands might not be your cup of tea, I bet you can find your own flavor!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting your taxes done with the Library!

It has been said that only two things are certain…death and taxes. It is that time of year when we find ourselves leveling up with Uncle Sam and facing that April 18th deadline for filing our taxes. Let the library help you deal with some of the stress from tax season.

Step 1: Stop by the library to get your tax forms.
We have print forms for the state of Wisconsin and federal taxes. (As of the January 11th we have the state of Wisconsin tax forms, but are still waiting on the federal tax forms.) If we don’t have the specific form you need we can help you find them on the internet, or you check these links for your state or federal forms.

Step 2: Use library resources to help get your taxes done.
For anyone over 55 years of age AARP will be having tax preparation help seminars at the library. They will be from 9:00 am until 12:00 pm, on February 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, March 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, and April 4th, and 11th. This is a first come first serve seminar so please arrive early, and it is not guaranteed that everyone who shows up will receive help.

You can check titles like these to help you with your tax preparation:

Or you can look to the community for resources in helping you by dialing 211 or checking out Volunteer Assistance Programs.

La Casa de Esperanza´s VITA Program offers free tax help for low to moderate-income taxpayers who cannot prepare their own tax returns. It is a volunteer-based program. Volunteers are certified by IRS and receive free training (sponsored by various organizations) to prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country.

Call 262-547-0887 to make an appointment for tax preparation. One of their locations is Waukesha Technical College in Pewaukee.

Step 3: Know your options for filing your taxes.

Whether you are hiring a professional to file your taxes, or filing yourself, be educated on your filing options.

Filing yourself: You can always mail in your completed forms yourself, or if you want to file online, check out this IRS link to see if you qualify for these free filing options.

Hiring a professional: Hopefully by now you have a great accountant or reliable person to file your return. But if you don't you can check your reference by using our online subscription database, Reference USA. Login with your library card number and you can look up the business in the Yellowpages portion. If they are a listed business you can see information like any legal filings against them, large news stories, and competitors. Some businesses even have statics about size, amount of annual income, and credit standing.

Step 4: Celebrate you finished your taxes!

Good luck!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Gizmo, Gadgets, and Downloading…Oh My!

Did you find a Nook, Kindle, Ipod, Sony e-Reader, or other digital device under your tree this year? Are you wondering what type of free downloads the library can offer for your gadget? Welcome to the quick Q & A session that will hopefully leave you as technologically savvy as your new gizmo!

What services are available?

The library offers audio books, e-books, music, and videos. These resources are available through two different subscription databases: Overdrive and NetLibrary. Many titles in the Netlibrary collection are now available to be downloaded to an ebook device. There is a feature in advanced search where you can look for downloadable titles only.

Overdrive is a subscription database that can include Adobe PDF eBooks, audiobooks, MP3 audiobooks, Music, and Video. Unlike NetLibrary these resources can be downloaded so there are different file types and compatibility depending on devices. Check out time is usually 7 or 14 days.

NetLibrary is subscription database, which can include eBooks, eJournals, audiobooks, and reference resources. Patrons can search for and read full-text eContent (eBooks or eJournals) or listen to audiobooks. Now there are many titles that can be downloaded, there is a feature in advanced search where you can look just for those downloadable titles.

Do these services work with my device?

Each subscription database has different compatibility needs. In a nutshell the Barnes and Noble Nook works with both databases and at this time the Kindle does not work with either database. The details of other devices can be found on the NetLibrary and Overdrive wesbites. There is also a cheatsheet provided by Waukesha County Library System for Overdrive.

But Kindle users fear not, if you know other people with Kindles, you can borrow their e-books from them for up to two weeks through Amazon.

How can I get my device to work with these services?


Because Overdrive has more devices that are compatible with it and options for downloading, learning how to use your device can be a little bit more difficult. The first thing you should do is check the link of devices that has some information on what you may need to download before using your device.

  1. Have your current library card handy.

  2. From a computer go to the library website, click on subscription databases, and select Overdrive.

  3. Sign in, your library system is Waukesha County Federated Library. Then enter your library card. From there you have access to the entire system.

  4. Remember some of your devices need specific software that you can download for free from their website. Check out their getting started guide.

  5. Fill your cart with items you want, and check out. Check out days are either 7 or 14 days depending on the item. There will pictures that indicate what type of item you are checking out (e-book, audio book, etc).

  6. After checking out you will be able to download these items to your computer. After downloading them, plug in your device to the computer.

  7. Once your computer recognizes your device, you should be able to move files from the computer to the device. It will take awhile the first time you try, so don't get discouraged. I have to be honest the first time I tried out these items it took me 45 minutes to get everything going. Your device should have an informational website where people have posted answers to problems you might be having. A trick I use is typing the question in Google. For example "How do I make my Nook work with Overdrive.

To access NetLibrary your device has to be able to access the internet and surf websites. Like the Nook. Here are the steps on how to use your device:

  1. Sign up for an account in a Waukesha County Federated Library System library. You must be in the library to sign up for the account for the first time. Ask for library staff help at the reference desk. Once you have an account you can use your account from anywhere with internet access.

  2. Go to from your device and sign in. Most devices have the option of adding webpages to your favorites list, and saving your sign in information. This is really handy, especially for devices that are a little difficult to navigate on the web. It saved me at least 4 minutes every time I logged in using the Nook.

  3. Read away! There are two different types ways to access resources. The first is resources that cannot be checked out or downloaded, but viewed 15 minutes at a time. The second are resources that can be downloaded. There is a feature in the advanced search where you can look only for downloadble titles. Remember if you have any questions ask at the library! You can call us at (262) 363-6411 or stop in.

Update as of 01/13/2011 - For detailed download instructions for your Nook to your PC check this link.

Update as of 01/17/2011 - There are downloadable titles available for your device from Netlibrary. The blog was updated to explain.