May 6, 2016
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App Review: Meetup

Spring semester is over, the weather is (getting) warmer- it’s a great time to explore Pittsburgh and meet new people! The popular social networking site, Meetup, has a mobile app available for both Android and iOS.

Founded in 2002, Meetup provides an online platform to help people organize groups and events off-line. Access to your phone’s GPS data tells the app where you are. There are tons of Pittsburgh meetup groups to choose from. Events are organized around common interests such as hiking, music, art, movies, politics, dancing, foreign language learning, or computer coding. There’s even a meetup group for introverts!

User accounts are free. However, organizers have to pay based on the size of their event or group.

Within the app, you can:

  • Create an account or log in to an existing one. After selecting from a set of general interests, Meetup will begin recommending groups and events to you.
  • Join groups to receive event notifications.
  • Get event details and view profiles of other users.
  • RSVP to events.
  • Receive and manage messages from organizers or other users of the site.

There are four main tabs:

  • An activity homepage featuring a vertical list of upcoming events, recent comments, and new groups that may fit your interests
  • A calendar of upcoming events hosted by your groups, displayed as a vertical list by date and time   MeetupScreenshot
  • A visual tile listing of groups you currently belong to and more groups you may be interested in joiningMeetupScreenshot2
  • Section for reading, composing, and otherwise managing messagesMeetupScreenshot3

It could be easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of groups and events featured on the app, but the design is simple and intuitive. The color scheme and layout remind me of the Gmail app, which many users may already be familiar with.

Message notifications are pushed to your phone’s home screen and can be archived to keep your inbox clean.  The app also links out to other web pages- some organizations on Meetup have their own websites or an event may require the purchase of tickets on a separate site.

I would highly recommend using the Meetup app this summer, especially if you are interested in learning about inexpensive events around town or just want to expand your radius of activity in the city!

April 22, 2016
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App Review: IMDb

Looking to catch up on some much needed rest and relaxation by watching a movie? If you’re like me, you’re looking to enhance your viewing experience by learning background information about the actors, script, or filming locations. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) offers the IMDb Movies & TV mobile app, which incorporates the functions of the popular website.

The app is free to download and available for iOS and Android users. IMDb is owned by Amazon.com.

Within the app, you can:

-Search and browse by movie titles, t.v., celebrities, news, and special features like details about seasonal television, award shows, film festivals, and IMDb user polls. The “movies” section allows you to browse by U.S. box office results, top and lowest rated movies, best picture winners, and more. New movie pages include a feature where you can check show times in your local area.

Screenshot_2016-02-26-12-31-07

 

 

-In individual movie pages, you can watch trailers, access major quotes, trivia, soundtrack information, and read reviews.Screenshot_2016-02-26-12-31-13

 

-If you have an account on IMDb you can use the app to add to your watchlist, track your ratings, manage lists, and “check-in” to movies or television programs you are currently watching. You do not have to have an account to access your viewing history or view notifications.

-Under settings, you can manage access to your device location, control video quality, and manage notifications about opening movies, recent trailers, or individual people. The “Contact Us” section includes links out to IMDb support pages, the site’s Google+ Community page, and email. The “About” section includes your app’s version number, updates to that version, legal information, and similar Apps from Amazon.

I like this app because I can get quick information without having to open a browser or interrupting whatever I’m watching, which is usually streaming from my computer. With around 185 million data items, there is a lot of content to access. There are in-app advertisements, but they are not overly intrusive.  The mobile interface is also very similar to the web version, making it easy to navigate for regular users of the site.

If you’re looking for a source of movies to watch, you can now stream for free from Swank now available through our database portal.

April 22, 2016
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App Review: Poetry Month roundup

Happy National Poetry Month 2016! National Poetry Month was founded in April 1996 to highlight the achievements of poets in the United States, increase publication and distribution of poetic works, and aid teachers in bringing poetry to their students.

Last year, we reviewed The Poetry Foundation’s POETRY app. This year, we’ll take a look at a few apps to help you celebrate.

diamante2The Poet’s Almanac, created by the journal Poetry East at DePaul University in Chicago, matches a poem published in its pages to the current weather in your location using GPS and meteorological data. It is developed by digital publisher Appoet and is free to download for both Android and iOS devices. The layout is simple and easy to navigate and there are built-in options to share poems via Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. A shopping cart icon links out to the publisher’s website for purchase of the physical journal. Although the selection is limited to poems already published by Poetry East, I find myself checking the app regularly to see what poems are selected on rainy days or when it’s particularly sunny.

 

To get your own creative juices flowing, try the Diamante Poems app to experiment with a specific poetry style. Diamante poems are written in the shape of a diamond and use nouns, adjectives and gerunds (nouns made from verbs by adding –ing) to describe two opposing or one central topic. The Diamante Poems app is freely diamante3available for both Android and iOS. It was created by the International Reading Association, ReadWriteThink, and the National Council of Teachers of English. It provides a template to create a diamante poem and includes definitions for each element. It has a profile system that allows for multiple users to save and edit completed poems within the app. While a great tool for teaching, the text is very small and does not scale well to small mobile devices.

 

Speak2Check out some experimental digital poetry with Speak, part of a series of poems meant to be read as interactive text called P.o.E.M.M (Poetry for Excitable [Mobile] Media). Speak is free to download, but only available for iOS. To read the poem, you simply drag your finger across a black screen and letters from the background gather to form lines of the poem “What They Speak When They Speak to Me.” The longer you drag on the screen, the more words form in line and once you break contact, the letters dissipate once more into the background. According to the app’s description, this process is meant to replicate the confusion and frustration of communicating in a foreign place. You’re given the option to write your own poem or pull text from Twitter to interact in the same way.

 

Looking for more ways to celebrate? The Academy of American Poets has 30 ways to celebrate national poetry month.

April 15, 2016
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Meet the JKM Library Staff: Megan Massanelli

Megan:megan 2

  • Is a fan of Pittsburgh’s hills (to look at, not climb)
  • Likes a good thrifting trip on her days off
  • Is a secret trekkie

What do you do here at The Jennie King Mellon Library?

I’m a Reference Associate! Which means… I help you find and retrieve the right books, articles, and other media to fulfill your research needs. I can help check-out materials for you or let you know about a resource that you might not have known about before. I do a variety of things and usually know the right person to ask if I don’t know the answer myself.

What made you choose your current profession?

I’ve always fancied myself a detective, so reference work is right up my ally. I’m also trained as an archivist and have an affinity for primary resources and preservation.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A cartographer and interior designer.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I love hearing about what other people are into, what they get excited about. I also enjoy learning about how information systems, like the library catalog and databases. Being able to work around a bunch of books doesn’t hurt either.

If you could do one thing to change/improve the JKM Library—with no worries about time or expense—what would you do?

I know there’s been a theme in answers to this question involving a library cat, which would only improve all of our lives. We could even get one that is hypoallergenic. I’d also like to see a pop-up library somewhere outside elsewhere on campus or a seed library.

What do you like to do on your days off?

I love spending time outdoors, riding my bike or walking around town. A good thrifting trip or checking out an art museum or gallery are also high on my priority list on my days off.

What’s the last thing you checked out? (Brief reviews are appreciated)

Women of Steel. This short documentary was made by a group of former female steelworkers in the Pittsburgh area in 1984. In it, they discuss their experience finding work in the steel mills and subsequently getting laid off due to mill closings. There is a theme song and it’s amazing.

What book do you think everyone should read? Why?

I’m interested in first-person narrative and autobiographies. I really like Revolution from Within by Gloria Steinem. This book of essays on the theme of self-esteem connects external, social revolution to an internal revolution of spirit and consciousness. Several of the essays include parables from the lives of individuals such as Wilma Mankiller and Julie Andrews as well as observation from Steinem’s own experiences. I don’t know if I think everyone should read it, but it has certainly been meaningful to me.

Some of our student workers update the popular reading display and are always looking for recommendations. If you could please list 5 or so of your favorite books that JKM has, that would be great!

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

How to Save Your Own Life: A Novel by Erica Jong

Art 21: Art in the 21st Century (DVD). Any season.

Anything by Octavia Butler.

Contesting Archives: Finding Women in the Sources ed. By Nupur Chaudhuri, Sherry J. Katz, and Mary Elizabeth Perry

What’s your favorite thing about living in Pittsburgh?

The hills! (Looking at them, not so much traveling on them.)

What’s one thing you think everyone should do while they live in the city? (This includes restaurant recommendations, of course.)

Ride an incline, kayak on the rivers, eat pierogies, and visit an art museum. That’s four things.

Tell us some surprising things about yourself (2/3 would be great):

I moved from Arkansas to Pittsburgh about a year and a half ago.

I’m a Trekkie.

February 12, 2016
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App Review: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Fan App

Did you know that, as a Chatham student, staff, or faculty member, you can experience a world-class symphony for $15-20 (http://bit.ly/1PpszOp)? And you don’t have to leave town! The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been bringing classical music to Pittsburgh audiences since 1896 and today they have a mobile app that makes it easy to purchase tickets, listen to music, PSO Iconand more.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Fan App is free and available for both Android and iOS users. It is developed by InstantEncore, a company that has helped create similar apps for institutions such as the New York Philharmonic and Houston Ballet.

Designed for phone and tablet use, the interface is attractive and easy to navigate. A rotating set of images representing upcoming performances set the background of the main page and a series of tabs at the bottom of the frame correspond to different content and media types. The content included in this app is dynamic and includes audio, video, maps, and calendar schedules. Additionally, the in-app browser makes it easy to view content on YouTube, various news sites, and the Symphony’s main webpage without taking you out of the app.

PSOScreenshot_1                      PSOScreenshot_2PSOScreenshot_3

 

Don’t know anything about classical music? Or looking to learn more?

  • The app connects you to the Pittsburgh Symphony’s YouTube channel. The channel features videos demonstrating different instruments as well as interviews with Symphony musicians and audience members. This function is available when clicking “Videos” from the “More” tab.
  •  The “Music” tab features free audio clips of Symphony performances, so you can get a small taste of the experience.
  • The “What’s New” tab includes links and clips of news articles, the Symphony’s blog, and videos relating to current performances.

 

Looking to plan a visit?

  • You can view a calendar of events in a list form in the “Events” tab as well as in a calendar in the “More” tab.
  • You can purchase tickets and share event information from the app.
  • Information about parking, dining, and accessibility services is also located in the “More” tab.
  • You can set up notifications for upcoming shows and concert series when you first download the app or later under “Settings.”

If you are interested in attending a Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performance (they offer everything from Beethoven to music from the Pokémon video games), the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Fan App is definitely worth the download.

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