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Why Libraries Will Never Go the Way of Blockbuster

The Future of Libraries

The Future of Libraries

A few quick questions before we start:

  • Do you read the newspaper in print or online?
  • Do you watch reruns of your favorite movies and shows on DVD, or do you opt for Netflix instead?
  • Do you refuse to abandon print books, or do you adore the convenience of your e-reader?

As a consumer in the digital age, you have access to a greater volume of information in more formats than ever before. And regardless of how you answered these questions, the manner in which you access information and media has likely changed drastically. For example, online streaming of films and television shows has virtually eliminated video rental services (R.I.P., Blockbuster!).

Another question: Do you use your local public or academic library? If so, how often?

Many of us do not have the time to browse the stacks for hours on end, much as we might like to. What does this mean for the future of libraries?

Are libraries and the services they provide obsolete?

Though they have long been deemed the unfortunate victims of the digital age, here are a few reasons why libraries will not go the way of Blockbuster any time soon.

Quality versus Quantity

“Without libraries, what do we have? We have no past and no future.”

 – Ray Bradbury

A simple Google search will yield millions of hits in a fraction of a second. This means that we can find information on any topic imaginable almost instantaneously.

If this is so, why use library resources? Visiting a library in person or using a library website to access resources might seem like more of a hassle than anything else.

I’m sure you’re aware, though, that the information you find on the Internet is unpredictable in terms of quality (to put it nicely). Immediate answers to your questions are not necessarily the best answers. And depending on your purpose and the type of information for which you are searching, getting the wrong information could be problematic.

For example, using information from an anonymous online blog to write your paper on the history of the printing press could lead to a true research disaster. (No, the printing press was not invented by a wheat-loving baker named Glutenberg in an attempt to spread pro-gluten propaganda.)

Librarians can help you sift through the content you are bombarded with daily and filter out the misinformation.

Workspace-in-Library Librarians pride themselves on providing users with high-quality, trusted information. For example, as an alternative to resources like Wikipedia (which is fine for some preliminary research but should be used very cautiously as a final resource), libraries subscribe to electronic reference materials like dictionaries and encyclopedias. These sources provide information on an immense variety of subjects, with entries that are often written and signed by experts.

Information Access for All

“I go into my library and all history unrolls before me.”

 – Alexander Smith

As a true library advocate, this point is one of my favorites.

In my view, the principle on which libraries operate is truly democratic. Those who have access to meaningful information can make well-informed decisions in all areas of their lives.

Libraries help remove barriers to information access by providing all users with free information in a variety of formats on virtually any topic. Library policies ensure that all library resources are routinely evaluated to eliminate any potential barriers that could inhibit users as they access information (e.g., paywalls for journal articles or hard-to-reach shelves).

Historically, librarians have championed users’ right to information on all topics and have even fought against authorities that have attempted to bar users from accessing this information.

For example, the Windsor Public Library in Ontario posted an article discussing some of the glorious banned books being read by staff, just in time for the American Library Association’s banned book week.

Libraries also help support literacy and learning for people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Sometimes referred to as the people’s university, libraries tackle the growing cost of education by providing free educational resources for everyone. These resources can provide academic support to students of all ages and aid those who wish to brush up on a topic or learn something new.

In addition, libraries can help users find a copy of virtually anything that exists bibliographically through interlibrary loans. This service allows users to obtain a copy of an item that is not held at their local library. Need an online article or a specific book? Before making an online purchase or running to the bookstore, try an interlibrary loan.

Though many of us are fortunate enough to have an Internet connection at home, some are unable (or unwilling) to subscribe to an Internet provider. Thankfully, libraries bridge the gap to digital information by offering free Wi-Fi so that users can surf the web and avoid paying a monthly Internet bill.

Always Adapting

“My lifelong love affair with books and reading continues unaffected by automation, computers, and all other forms of the twentieth-century gadgetry.”

Books in My Life, Robert Downs

Though the way that libraries offer their services has changed, the fundamental standards on which their services are based remain the same. Understanding user needs and emerging trends in information access are the guiding principles on which library services are based.

Libraries have demonstrated an incredible ability to adapt their services to shifting user needs. In an effort to reach more users and accommodate various preferences, library materials are offered in both traditional print and digital format.

Library SeminarIn fact, many libraries (public and academic alike) have increased their focus on developing their electronic collections and digital resources. For example, Hoopla, a database available through the Chatham–Kent and Windsor Public Library systems, lets users borrow free digital music, movies, and audiobooks, all of which can be downloaded to a computer or phone for offline access. Most libraries subscribe to expensive databases and electronic resources so that patrons are able to use them for free.

Beyond Internet resources and other media, many practical opportunities are made available through libraries that teach the public everyday skills, such as how to do CPR, how to do basic yoga, and how to properly use laboratory measuring equipment. These events not only impart knowledge but also connect people and encourage community involvement.

Conclusion

Libraries are no longer simply repositories for print books waiting to be checked out; they are spaces in which collaborative learning and engagement take place. Library programming and events are incredibly diverse and target all segments of the population, and the resources libraries provide benefit all members of the public.

Although it may be impossible to predict the future of libraries, these institutions have proven to be innovative and relevant. Libraries will continue to cater to the needs of the public, even as those needs change.

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The Best Software for Collaborative Writing

Collaborative Writing Software

Collaborative Writing SoftwareWorking on a team is necessary for success in virtually any professional scenario. You might be a business professional collaborating on a project with your colleagues. Or perhaps you’re an academic writer who is working on an article with your peers, hoping to submit it to a field-specific journal. In these scenarios, you need the ability to communicate effectively with your team to ensure the project goals are met on time.

Easier said than done, right? A team’s ability to accommodate conflicting schedules and differing perspectives is an art form, a tenuous balancing act.

To further complicate things, members of the team might be working from separate locations, whether that means different cities or different continents. This certainly complicates what can be an already convoluted process. It is difficult enough to ensure that group members communicate effectively. But when the members of the team are working from remote locations, it is even more crucial to implement systems and methods to improve the lines of communication and optimize interaction within the group.

Many professionals and academics work remotely on collaborative writing projects. Here’s the thing: there is nothing more confusing than sending out multiple versions of a document via email with revisions from each team member. Keeping track of a document’s version history is bound to hit a snag with this editing/revision process.

Collaborative writing software to the rescue! Software for collaborative writing allows multiple individuals to engage in the virtual, real-time writing and editing of a document. Many types of collaborative writing software are out there, each providing unique features, pricing options, layouts, and degrees of complexity. Of course, the ideal collaborative writing software depends on the specific project, as well as the price and complexity required by the user.

Collaborative Writing Software: The Best of the Best

1) Google Docs

When you hear “software for collaborative writing,” does Google Docs come to mind first? If so, it’s easy to see why. Google Docs is the prevailing software solution for this task. Multiple collaborators can simultaneously compose and edit a document. The keyword here is simultaneously: those who have access to a document on Google Docs are able to work at the same time and view the changes that other collaborators are making. What’s more, Google Docs is free to use, and any changes made to a document are saved automatically.

Prior to opening a file on Google Docs, users can either select a blank document or use one of several templates (essay, letter, lesson plan, report, etc.). Contributors can provide comments that are linked to specific portions of the text, and other collaborators may respond to the issues/concerns raised in these comments. Google Docs also sends emails to contributors when a file is shared with them. In addition, files can be exported in .pdf, .doc/.docx, or .odt format.

While Google Docs is one of the major contenders among collaborative writing software, it is not open source. Furthermore, the ability to track a document’s version history is limited, and documents tend to lag and become less responsive when many individuals are writing/editing at once.

2) Etherpad

In contrast to Google Docs, Etherpad is an open-source software for collaborative writing that allows multiple users to compose and edit documents. Etherpad is available for Windows and Mac/Linux systems, and it is ideal for recording collaborative minutes or brainstorming with colleagues. Etherpad color-codes the contributions made by different authors, and the changes that have been made to a document over time can be recorded and played back for review. Therefore, the ability to track versions of a document is more robust in Etherpad than in Google Docs.

Once the document is complete, the color-coded changes are integrated into the text to produce a more appealing, professional format. Etherpad is ideal for those who do not want to dish out an outrageous monthly payment. This resource is free, though donations are encouraged. The main downside to Etherpad is that users may be limited in their ability to include footnotes, figures, or images with their text.

3) Draft

Draft is a type of collaborative writing software that enables several collaborators to work with and edit a single document. The changes are not immediately integrated into the text, however. Instead, a new version of the document is produced every time a contributor’s changes are accepted.

While this feature permits users to easily keep track of the project’s version history, some may view this as a downside, as only the original author of the document can accept or reject other contributors’ changes.

While this feature permits users to easily keep track of the project’s version history, some may view this as a downside: only the original author of the document can accept or reject these changes. The original document is updated only when these changes are accepted.

Users must create an online account prior to using this software. Draft is unique in that it prepares analytics of an individual’s writing habits, such as the number of words produced by a writer per week. And, as with Etherpad, Draft is free.

4) Quip

Quip is a writing software suite that encourages teams to collaborate more efficiently. Members of a project team can work collaboratively on documents, spreadsheets, and checklists.

Quip Logo New

Quip provides a comment thread to facilitate interactions between collaborators as they work on a file. Users receive notifications of any changes that other collaborators have made to the document. What’s notable about Quip are the multiple platforms on which the software is supported (Mac, Windows, Android, iPhones, iPads, or online). Quip is also designed to be ideal for a mobile environment. While the business version of Quip requires regular payments (a free trial of Quip Business is available), a free version also exists.

5) Dropbox Paper

Though Dropbox has always been a great tool for sharing Word documents and file folders with multiple users, it has recently improved its capabilities for collaborative writing by introducing Dropbox Paper, a cloud-based software for editing.

This application can only be accessed online through a Dropbox account. In order to access Dropbox Paper (which is still in beta), users must first join a waitlist to receive an invitation to use the application. Project members can work together on a single document, with contributions from different users marked by colored cursors. Yet Dropbox Paper offers only three fonts and basic formatting options (underline, bold, strikethrough, and italics), which certainly limits your editing capabilities.

Dropbox Paper is ideal for managing a project because users can create to-do lists and notify team members of a task that requires completion.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it—the best software for collaborative writing. For those in academic or professional environments, working with group members from different locations is a reality. And though virtual group interactions can be complicated, these tools will help you avoid the cumbersome, hopelessly frustrating, sending-edits-via-email form of collaboration once and for all!

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Effective Business Communication

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How to Use Keywords to Navigate Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant Tracking Systems If you’re looking for employment, you’ve probably lost count of the number of online job postings you’ve answered. When you apply to an online posting, you may receive an email from the company acknowledging the receipt of your resume and noting that the document is currently under review. And then . . . crickets.

Tumbleweeds.

Weeks (and possibly months) pass without any additional contact from the company or hiring manager.

To understand this unfortunate, all-too-common issue with online applications, it’s important to consider how companies evaluate the resumes that applicants submit online. Does the image of an overworked hiring manager come to mind, anxiously sifting through emails and reviewing thousands upon thousands of resumes?

That image is partly correct.

Yes, the volume of resumes that companies receive in response to a single job posting is often overwhelming. And though it is true that finding the ideal candidate for a job is very strenuous, hiring managers use specific tools to make the recruitment process more efficient.

One of these tools is the applicant tracking system. If you’re not receiving responses from companies when you submit your resume online, then an applicant tracking system may be the culprit.

These systems automatically screen resumes well before they hit the hiring manager’s desk (or inbox, as the case may be). Applicant tracking systems identify the most suitable candidates and discard the resumes of those whom these systems classify as underqualified.

By eliminating the resumes of unqualified candidates, applicant tracking systems reduce the number of resumes that hiring managers have to review.

Keywords and Applicant Tracking Systems

An applicant tracking system determines the degree to which the information in an applicant’s resume matches the requirements outlined in the job description. The factors that these systems consider include occupational skills, employment history, past employers, and educational background.

The system then assigns a score to each applicant. These scores are used to determine which applicants will move on to the next round of hiring and, subsequently, which resumes the hiring manager will actually see. So, this basically means that your application may be eliminated from the pool of qualified candidates before it ever is reviewed by human eyes.

On top of that, these systems are not perfect and occasionally disqualify candidates who are actually ideal for the position.

Don’t lose hope!

Although these systems are growing more and more sophisticated (and sometimes cost companies millions of dollars), there are also many helpful techniques that job seekers can use to ensure their resumes get past the seemingly insurmountable barrier of applicant tracking systems.

Given that applicant tracking systems scan resumes for information related to the job posting, applicants must also learn to optimize their use of keywords within their resumes.

Keywords (in the context of applicant tracking systems) represent the primary job responsibilities and professional skills that are required for a position (e.g., “customer service,” “analytical skills,” or “strategic management”), as well as the appropriate employment history, years of experience, and education.

Applicant tracking systems use keywords to form a link between a candidate’s qualifications and the requirements outlined in the job description.

To identify the keywords you must use in your resume, your first step is to look to the job posting itself. The most relevant keywords will be the terms and phrases that are repeated throughout the description. The name of the position itself is a great indicator of the possible keywords that should be used (e.g., if you are applying for a position as a financial analyst, then these two terms should be considered relevant keywords).

Keywords can also be unique to certain fields. For example, in the case of information technology, a keyword may include the names of specific programming languages.

In some fields, certain acronyms are very common (such as “CPA,” which stands for “certified public accountant”). A great trick is to use both the spelled-out version of the term and the acronym itself. The hiring manager may have programmed the applicant tracking system to scan resumes for the acronym or the complete term. By using both, you can rest assured that you’ve got yourself covered.

However, a simple laundry list of keywords won’t cut it. When assigning a score to a resume, applicant tracking systems place more weight on keywords that are contextualized and are used in conjunction with other related terms.

And, yes, while you should use keywords in your resume, do not overload your resume with them. Try to ensure that the placement of keywords is appropriate and natural. Finally, remember: an applicant tracking system will not be able to process a keyword if it is misspelled, so always double-check that your spelling is correct.

Conclusion

Although issues such as formatting also play a big part in overcoming applicant tracking systems, you’re now a master of one step of the process: using keywords to help get your resume to the hiring manager’s desk.

To ensure that your resume continues performing once it’s there, check out Inklyo’s online course on resume writing, a research-backed and up-to-date guide for writing a resume, which includes resume examples, ready-to-use resume templates, and more.

How to Write a Resume

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How to Use Collective Nouns

Collective Nouns

Collective Nouns

Subject–verb agreement in the English language is complicated. When you have to deal with tense, gender, number, irregular verb forms (Need I go on?), it can be quite the task to ensure that the subjects and verbs in your sentences agree. Assembling the pieces of this grammar puzzle correctly is not easy.

To add another layer of difficulty, collective nouns are crafty little pieces of the grammar puzzle that introduce even more challenges to achieving subject–verb agreement.

Collective nouns are used to refer to a group and, as with other nouns, may include people, places, ideas, or things. Some examples of collective nouns include the words group, congregation, committee, pack, public, minority, audience, jury, and band.

The tricky thing is that, when trying to figure out how to use collective nouns, the question of whether to use a singular or plural verb form depends on whether you are writing in American or British English.

Collective Nouns in American English

In American English, collective nouns generally take the singular verb form.

The jury has (singular) reached a verdict.

The public is (singular) alarmed at the rising cost of housing.

In these examples, the collective nouns are treated as a whole. The jury, as a group, has collectively reached the verdict. All of the public is alarmed by rising housing costs. If you want to know how to use collective nouns in American English, you are all set: collective nouns will almost always take singular verbs.

As is the case with most pieces of the grammar puzzle, however, there are a few exceptions to this rule. A few words, such as police and people, are most often used with plural verbs, even in American English.

Collective Nouns in British English

If you are working in British English, you must consider the context of the phrase to determine whether a singular or plural verb form is correct. When you are working with a collective noun and are writing in British English, you must consider whether the members or elements of the group are working in unison (i.e., as a cohesive whole) or whether the individual members or elements of the group are acting separately.

The audience claps (singular) in excitement.

The committee disagree (plural) on the timeline for the project.

The band are (plural) practicing their individual instruments.

Parts of SpeechTo American English speakers who are familiar with collective nouns and singular verbs, the last two examples above might sound odd. But try to think of it this way: the members of the committee disagree with one another regarding the timeline for the project. The opinions differ within the committee itself. The distinct members of the band are practicing their specific instruments. To ensure that the use of the plural verb form is correct in these sentences, test it by adding the word members after the collective nouns.

For example:

The committee members disagree on the timeline for the project.

The band members are practicing their individual instruments.

Conclusion

When working with collective nouns, remember that singular verbs are generally used in American English. In British English, it is important to analyze the context in which the collective noun is used. Employ a singular verb form when the members are performing the action in unison; employ a plural verb form when the individual members of the group are acting independently.

With these simple tricks, you should have no trouble assembling the tricky puzzle of English grammar, even when you’re dealing with collective nouns.

So you now understand how to use collective nouns. If you would like to brush up on the other parts of speech, check out this trusty ebook written by the grammar experts at Scribendi.com.

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