Browse a journal, digitally

Over the last month, our library at Towson University has been trialing the BrowZine iPad app. Library Tech Talk is happy to have Laksamee Putnam share her thoughts and experiences with the app!

BrowZine Logo

BrowZine is a content delivery app designed to bring journal articles to your tablet. Currently it is only available for iPad, with Android and mobile interfaces under development. The app is simple to use and brings back the browsability of a journal which you might lack while accessing electronic formats from a computer. However, limitations to accessible content and annual cost may deter budget conscious libraries from being early BrowZine adopters.

For a brief introduction I recommend watching their video:

Accessing Journals

BrowZine is a free app created by Third Iron. After downloading the app, users have instant access to a free, no-login required open access library. Complete journals and back issues, such as the Public Library of Science journals, are available. This makes the app great for users who are interested in browsing their favorite online open access journals on an iPad. Additionally, if you are affiliated with an institution that subscribes to BrowZine you can also access your institution’s paid journal subscriptions. Journals can be placed onto a personalized bookshelf for easy access and notification of new available articles.

Not all of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listings are available, and many of your institution’s holdings may also be missing. This may be because BrowZine has not yet uploaded the content or has not negotiated access agreements with a publisher. However content is being loaded everyday and the Third Iron team has been extremely responsive to request or questions about access. Currently, journals can be added if they work with CrossRef and therefore have a DOI; if a journal you want access to is missing and it has a DOI you may want to send an inquiry to BrowZine.

Choosing a Journal Issue in BrowsZine

Choosing a Journal Issue in BrowsZine


The digital browsability of BrowZine will appeal to users on all levels, though faculty members may be the largest target audience in many academic libraries. Faculty members who enjoyed receiving paper journals to flip through, or who let their paper journals stack up unread are able to quickly scan issues via a digital table of contents. Frequently read journals can be placed onto a users BrowZine bookshelf, where alerts will tell the user when new content has been added. User can also save articles to a separate BrowZine shelf for offline reading.

A slight drawback to just being allowed to browse is the lack of any search features within a journal. Want to find any article on cancer in Cell? Too bad! For a librarian, that could be a teachable moment within class, to showcase the power of utilizing a database over the simplicity of skimming a single journal, opening a discussion about the different pros and cons for browsing versus searching.


Reading articles within BrowZine is easy; a high quality PDF takes moments to load and users can use the familiar pinch to zoom gesture in order to read or examine the paper closely. BrowZine also allows users to send articles to various other apps/social media/accounts. This includes annotation apps such as GoodReader, cloud storage such as DropBox and citation trackers such as Zotero.  A connected academic will appreciate the flexibility of these options, and also utilize them if they want to get their hands on a version they can save/print/share etc.

Open and send articles

Open and send articles

Depending on the size of your university and your library’s budget, the institutional cost for BrowZine could be prohibitively expensive, especially if you are unsure of how many of your faculty/students have a tablet device. In this case, you may consider exploring the available free, open access content.

Applications in Library Instruction

Considering the tablet’s growing popularity and the library prerogative to get patrons to utilize library resources, BrowZine could be a great way to market your library. If you have iPads for instruction, getting students to “hold” an electronic article, break down the different requirements for peer reviewed journals and to understand the breadth of topics would perhaps be more tangible through BrowZine. Faculty members could ask students to find and critique an article in a specific journal and then email in their responses. Libraries with circulating iPads could include BrowZine linked to the open access library or, if an institutional subscriber, access to the library’s electronic journal subscriptions. The convenience and visual appeal of BrowZine makes it an intriguing addition to library service and could creatively enhance instruction.

Let us know in the comments how you have used BrowZine!

Laksamee Putnam is a Research & Instruction Librarian at Towson University, Albert S. Cook Library.  She is specifically liaison to the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics.  Laksamee holds a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana.  Her research interests focus on the use of emerging technologies and social media in science.   Find out more about her here or follow her on Twitter!

Guest Post: Lucidchart – The online flow-chart app you’ve been dreaming of.

Today we’re featuring another fantastic guest post from Emily Thompson, Learning Technologies Librarian at SUNY Oswego.

Have you ever tried to make a flowchart in Word or PowerPoint? I can feel you cringing from here. It’s kind of an awful experience. Things are hard to line up and they always end up “good enough” after hours of fiddling. It’s a frustrating process that often made me think, “Come on. There has to be something easier than this!”

Lucidchart is that something. It’s a web-based application that makes charts: mostly flow charts, but also beautiful Venn diagrams, mind mapping, and wire-framing. The beauty of the program is that thing that will take a long time in your standard word processor take minutes. This chart (made for a poster on using librarians for SUNY Oswego’s Annual Symposium on Learning and Teaching last fall) took approximately ten minutes. It looks professional and clean, and it was incredibly easy.

Lucidchart flowchart example

Flowchart created using Lucidcharts.

After signing up for an account (more on that later), you click on “New Document” and choose a template. I like to start with a blank one. The work space looks familiar, with shapes on the left, choices on the top, and a white space in the middle. To get started, you just need to grab a shape from the left and drag it onto the workspace. You can edit the fonts and colors using the choices. Then to make the next node, hover near the side  of your box. The cursor will turn into a +, click and drag and your arrow will appear. Release, and you can pick your next shape.

Lucidchart workspace

Lucidchart workspace

In addition, you can drag in your own pictures, which can be handy for building instructions that require screenshots. Under File->More Shapes, you find your options for Mind Mapping and Venn diagrams. I find the Venn circles to be particularly time-saving. Rather than spending time on powerpoint trying to get the perfect translucent overlay, Lucidchart just gives you circles. The overlay is automatic. All that’s left is a text box to label them.

Venn Diagram from Symposium on Learning and Teaching poster

This Lucidchart example is also from the Symposium on Learning and Teaching poster.

When you’re finished, the final product is downloaded from the File menu. Lucidchart gives you a choice of a pdf, jpeg, png, or a Visio. The pdfs are 8.5×11, but the others can be downloaded as a full page or a selected area. After downloading they can be added to any project just like any other image.

You can sync Lucidchart with a Google account and it will show up in your Drive. If your not on gmail, you can still share any chart with anyone else with an account.

Lucidchart icon for setting up a free educational account

Icon for setting up a free educational account

The one caveat: signing up for a free educational account is far more confusing than it should be. First you have to sign up for a paid account trial (it doesn’t ask for a credit card though). Then you have to click on your name at the top left of the screen. Once you’re in your account, you should see a grey box on the right that says “Get a free educational upgrade.”

You will only see it if you sign up with an email that ends in .edu. Students can get an individual account (after feeding Lucidchart three email addresses), but teachers and librarians need to sign up for a class account. It’s all sort of confusing and weird, but it’s such a great product that it’s worth it.

Emily Thompson is the Learning Technologies Librarian at SUNY Oswego in Oswego, New York. She spends her days seeking out new tools to help her students make their projects as awesome as possible. She also co-hosts the LiTTech podcast on You can follow her on Twitter @librarianofdoom.

Guest Post: Using Google Fusion Tables for Address Data

Today we’re featuring a guest post by Ilana Barnes. Take it away, Ilana!

Data is out there. I would refrain from saying good data is out there, or even relevant data is out there. As Kim said, we are in the “year of the infographic,” and we are equally in the “year of the unruly excel document.” When one is lucky enough to receive large amounts of data that is relevant, they may stare down at their excel or SPS document and then say: “Now what?”

One type of data becoming increasingly accessible is addresses. More and more companies and organizations post their address online. They are aggregated up into somewhat tidy databases like RefUSA and OneSource, accessible on many college campuses and local public libraries. Once bound in the white pages, this address data is the meat of many new and exciting ways to research. With information about where companies are, you can find a great number of exciting things. For example, the location of food stores in Detroit can help you locate food deserts. The location of Targets in the United States can help you predict where next to put your big box store. I just had a chat yesterday with a professor who researches how industry is affected by natural disasters, using location-based disaster data and addresses as well as other indicators.

Working with data may not be a common task for all academic librarians, but there are a lot of possibilities once you start diving in.  As a future Business Librarian, I learned about better ways of dealing with address data because so many students were asking location-based questions. Where do I put the Walmart? Which city has the most crime and where? For those who feel a little less steady diving into data-related questions, address data can be a good, solid place to start exploring. Beyond the reference desk,  questions that librarians ask can be answered through use of address data. Where are comparable services to my library? Where are the different campuses of your university where you trying a specific information literacy strategy and where are the campuses of your partner institutions?

Sold on address data? Excellent! We’re going to go over some tools for working with address data. Firstly, if all you want to do is create a map of addresses, BatchGeo is an excellent tool for taking all those address and putting them on a Google map. You can code 150,000 address per IP per day, and create a Google map which you can then enhance using the Google interface, either drawing polygons or adding metadata. But what if you want to do some other visualizations?

Google Fusion Tables is an awesome product. Google Fusion Tables also can geocode addresses into a Google map.

Why I like Fusion Tables:

  • Different types of visualization
  • Sweet, sweet fusion. The merging capabilities of Google Fusion
  • Collaboration. You can share your data sets relatively securely via Google Fusion Tables with research partners. This is great for us librarians, who often want to work together on large, spreadsheet heavy projects.
  • You can link it up to Google Refine for those more squirrelly datasets.

Here’s an example with some roughly 300 gas stations in the city of Detroit.
Here is the data as it looks in Excel. Ugly.

Ugly data in Excel.

Here’s what it looks like geocoded (editor’s note: for an interactive version of these charts, see Ilana’s blog):

Geocoded data.

Another view (this time using some sales data as well):

Another view (more pie charty). I understand this is a terrible pie chart, but it’s very aesthetically pleasing.

Pie Chart

For a very effective run-through what makes Google Fusion Tables wonderful, check out this YouTube video from Google.

Ilana Barnes is Business Information Specialist (Assistant Professor of Library Science) at Purdue University since May 2012. In April, she graduated from the University of Michigan with a Masters of Science in Information. Her main research interests are information literacy, data, GIS and gamification. You can visit her website at or follow her on Twitter, @librarianailana.

Creately: More Than Just a Venn Diagram

Sick of drawing circles on the board to illustrate Boolean? Lines and boxes got you down? Creately ( is your one stop diagram tool. From wireframes to flow charts, Creately helps you creatively create a multitude of diagrams. While newer versions of Microsoft products have some diagram tools, Creately is substantially more robust in terms of types of diagrams, shapes, images, connectors, etc. Additionally, one really nice feature of Creately is its collaborative capabilities. Not only can diagrams be shared and developed by multiple people, but Creately also allows for notes and comments.  After a diagram is created, there are several ways to use it.  PDF, PNG, and JPG downloads are available as is code for embedding online. I could see Creately used many ways in academia, but specifically in the library it could be used for:

  • Administration (organizational charts, project and workflow management)
  • Instruction (venn diagrams, mind maps)
  • Technology (database/ dataflow diagrams, website wireframes)
  • Research (data representation, presentations)
Examples of Creately  Diagrams

Examples of Creately Diagrams

Creately tools are available through a variety of ways including a web based program, a downloadable program, as a Google App, or as a plugin through JIRA, FogBugz and Confluence.  I looked at the web based version.  The web based program has several pricing options including a limited free version.  The free version allows a user to have any 5 diagrams saved online with a maximum number of 3 collaborators.   The web based Creately prices are listed here:  When contacting the company, I was told that there was a 50% educational discount for all of their products.  To receive the discount email:

pimp your search engine

A Google custom search engine can be embedded into your website

A Google custom search engine lets you determine the websites that Google searches.

In a world where just about everything can be customized, don’t forget to customize your web searching. Google offers users the ability to create custom search engines (CSEs), searching only the sites that you specify. So, if you hate the fact that Wikipedia is the top result when you search for ‘information literacy‘, maybe it’s time to do something about it.

Some librarians have already begun creating CSEs. Amalia Monroe at University of Kansas created a custom search for the 2008 Presidential Elections, which she embedded in the library’s resource guide for the elections. David Oldenkamp at Indiana University Libraries has done something similar for searching intergovernmental organizations. Monroe (2008) says that CSEs “meet patrons where they are by allowing them to search the Web in an environment they are most likely comfortable (Google), but at the same time helping them to learn about different, and possibly better, information sources.”

Many corporations, organizations, and individuals are creating CSEs that search their websites, including some of Towson’s own library superstars, Amanda Taylor and Claire Holmes. This provides a quick and easy method for visitors to search your page.

Additonally, you could create a CSE for your own personal use. Do you have a favorite set of websites you visit for reading up on library-related topics, for finding bibliographic information, for learning more about using technologies in the library environment (maybe a blog???)? You can create a custom search to help you with any of these activities and more. (Now if only database vendors would open up access to their databases…)

“How can I do this?”, you ask?

  1. Go to
  2. Click the “Create a Custom Search Engine” button
  3. Sign in (yes, you need to have a Google account)
  4. Name your search engine
  5. Describe your search engine
  6. Choose keywords that describe the content of your search engine
  7. Add a list of URLs that you want your CSE to search
  8. Click “Next” (be sure to check the “Do not show ads…” box)
  9. Click “Finish”

A couple tips

  • Make a list of websites before you actually start creating your CSE (maybe use iBreadCrumbs to find and track websites you want to include in your CSE)
  • Don’t worry if the Preview of your search engine doesn’t work in Step 2. It’s never worked for me, but my CSEs still work.
  • You can add or delete websites , and make other changes to your search engine after you create it, using the “manage your existing search engines” link.

To add your CSE to your website, click the “manage your existing search engines” link (login if you aren’t already). Click “homepage” next to the search engine you want to add to your website. Click “Add this search engine to your blog or homepage”. Customize the design (size, border, etc.) and hit “Get the code”. Then, copy & paste the HTML code into your website, subject guide, or blog.

Just in time for the holidays, I’ve created a CSE for holiday information. Try it out!

Monroe, A. (2008). Organizing the 2008 presidential election: the creation of a custom search engine. C&RL News, 69(9), 540-543

Grazr helps you share your RSS feeds!

In the last post Carrie helped us understand what RSS feeds are and how to use Bloglines to read your feeds. Now that you have the basics of RSS feeds down, let’s get creative. Perhaps you have a feed or two that you’d like to share with your library liaison areas or people who are on a committee with you. You could direct them to the blog and tell them how to subscribe or you could use Grazr to create a feed reader like Bloglines directly on your own website!

grazr-image5Grazr’s free account option will allow you to create unlimited single RSS feed widgets to place on your webpage.  If you wish to combine multiple feeds into a widget, you can do this also, but it may cost you.  The free account allows you to create one combined RSS widget, but to be able to have multiple combined RSS widgets, you’ll need to pay anywhere from $9.99  a month to $149.99 a month.  Confused?  Let’s say that you have a liaison web page like the one above, a free account will allow you to stream blog entries from one single blog in any one widget.  You will have to create multiple widgets to stream multiple blogs (and they will not be combined).  If you would like to create a widget with let’s say health news from Medline Plus, along with health news from the CDC, along with articles from a search you conducted in a database, you will only be able to create one of these multi-stream widgets for free (although you could place this same multi-stream widget in multiple places).

Although the free Grazr account does have its limitations in terms of multiple feeds, it can still be a great resource for your liaison pages as well as on any webpage where you’d like to share the latest news, articles or updates from another website, blog or even podcast.  Amanda Taylor, a librarian here at Towson has come up with a great way to share new books in the library using Grazr.  She has created a blog listing all of the new science books as they come into the library.  Grazr allows this blog to be viewed from her different subject pages such as this page:

So I guess you could say that Grazr allows you to be super web 2.0- not only are you able to direct feeds into your feed reader like with Bloglines, but then you are able to push that feed back out on any relevant webpages.

iBreadCrumbs, do you?

Bookmarks are out, breadcrumbs are in. Doted as the web’s version of DVR, iBreadCrumbs is a browser plugin/toolbar for Firefox that keeps track of the websites you visit as you browse. But don’t worry, it’s not Big Brother; you control when it records and when it does not through the convenient browser toolbar.


The iBreadCrumbs Toolbar

iBreadCrumbs automatically saves the sites you visit during an iBreadCrumbs session. While you search, you can add annotations for a particular site and give extra-cool sites the “thumbs-up”. When you finish your session, click the “Stop” button. Now, you can name the group of sites you have just recorded, add a description, and categorize it; or, add it to an existing group. The real power of iBreadCrumbs is the ability to share what you find in numerous ways. BreadCrumbs can be shared with members of an iBreadCrumbs group, exported as an Excel file, sent via email, or translated into HTML for easy web page creation.

So why would you want to use iBreadCrumbs? Let’s see:

  • create web research guides for a class
  • create an iBreadCrumbs group for your liaison areas to share resources
  • create an iBreadCrumbs group for your department or committee and share resources with your colleagues
  • track websites to turn into an online research guide or a handout
  • email a list of helpful links to an inquiring patron
  • keep track of all those websites you forget to bookmark

Add “quickly and easily” to the beginning of these and you get the idea. Another potential use is given on the Information Literacy Technologies blog: “have students install and then track, annotate/reflect and share the path they took to finding resources on a topic”.

The creators of iBreadCrumbs estimate that it only takes 30 seconds to sign up. Here’s how:

  1. Go to
  2. Click “Sign up”
  3. Choose your login name, password, etc., and click”submit”
  4. Click “Download the Toolbar”

Then just click the “Start” button on the toolbar and never get lost in your internet searching again!

Check out these other resources that I gathered about iBreadCrumbs, using iBreadCrumbs:

YouTube – Introduction Video Checkout this video to learn more about how iBreadCrumbs works.
iBreadCrumbs A sample BreadCrumb from GMU
Wired Campus: iBreadCrumbs: a Social Network for Research Sharing -… The Chronicle of Higher Education’s article about iBreadCrumbs.
iBreadcrumbs « Information Literacy Technologies A great idea for using iBreadCrumbs for information literacy instruction.
iBreadCrumbs: “The First way to Save and Share Online Research” « CMJN… A nice blog entry about the features of and uses for iBreadCrumbs.
Open Access Journals in Mathematics A BreadCrumb I created and then exported as HTML in order to create a web page listing open access journals in mathematics.

powered by iBreadcrumbs