In this podcast (click through to download or connect to online player), LeeAnna Mills, Former Legislative Chair and Past President of the Alabama School Library Association, librarian at Northside Middle School and District Library Media Coordinator for Tuscaloosa County Schools, discusses how you can use data to reach administrators, school board members, and legislators in support of library services for young people.  And, don't forget to check out YALSA's advocacy resources at

Wendy Stephens is a member of the YALSA Advocacy Resources Taskforce.

apple news
Title: Apple News
Cost: Free with iOS update
Platform: iOS 9

Think RSS is dead? Maybe it's really just hiding. Like Flipboard, the Apple News app delivered as part of the iOS 9 update earlier this month focuses on the very thing missing from earlier feedreaders: the aesthetic.


As part of the roll-out, Apple is offering development tools in the form of Apple News Format to inspire digital journalists to embed videos, animations, and photo galleries specifically for this application. And the channels of well-designed sites are especially attractive within this interface.


As with RSS readers, when you first launch Apple News, you can select from among legacy and online media outlets to add to your feed. You can follow particular sites (they become your "favorites") or browse by subject ("explore"), and search for breaking stories by keyword. The "channels" appear to be vetted through the application rather than simply allowing someone to pull in any site with a feed (like this blog).
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Title: Crop
Cost: Free, with $ 1 in-app purchase to remove ads and maintain aspect ratio
Platform: iOS

Sometimes an app is so simple, but works so well, it's hard to imagine how you would get along without it. For me, one of those is Crop by Green Mango Systems.


Whether it's focusing on the content of a screen-captured Instagram post or creating a quick thumbnail for an avatar, there are many occasions when you'll want to remove the bulk of an image or rotate it on the fly. You simply select the image, use the eight points of the image canvas to determine the size you want, and you can keep finessing things until you hit "Save." And unlike the crop option within the iOS photo roll, Crop saves your creation as a new file, so you don't loose the original.
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Every library worker has gotten that request for a strange, old book which is still somehow required at some school somewhere. Betsy Bird did a terrific take-down of those outdated list earlier this summer, and an attempt to "update" the choices for teen appeal backfired in South Carolina and Florida.

Yes, assigned whole-class summer reading can be problematic. The number of titles (and the page lengths) required seems to have dwindled over decades, and other supposed innovations including "read any one book from the New York Times bestseller list" has led to a scramble for the shortest books.

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Screenshot 2015-08-04 at 6.58.57 PM
Title: Cardboard
Platform: Android and iOS
Cost: Free

It's more than a high-tech Viewmaster. Google Cardboard that takes advantage of the gyroscope in your phone to replicate 365 degree, stereoscopic viewing. Cardboard itself is an app which helps you get started, calibrate your device, and learn to manipulate the navigation and controls. A whole stable of apps and games build upon the Cardboard concept, but the populist VR trend is so new that the content is very uneven. Even in Google's demo, the international capitals captured through Street View pale next to the underwater landscape of the Great Barrier Reef.


Google Cardboard is truly low-barrier. It works as well with Android as with iOS, so more students can use it, manufactured Cardboard cases are inexpensive and you can download a kit to create your own headset.
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Just in time for District Days!  In this podcast (click through to download or connect to online player), Dorcas Hand, longtime Houston-area Independent School Librarian, discusses her experiences working with school board members, candidates, and legislators in support of library services for young people in her area and beyond.

The files and links that Dorcas mentions can be found below:
YALSA Advocacy Benchmarks
Students Need Libraries in Houston ISD webpage
Students Need Libraries in Houston ISD facebook page
Students Need Libraries facebook page
TASL: Parents & School Librarians Partnering for Student Success
TASL: Teachers & School Librarians Partnering for Student Success

Wendy Stephens is a member of the YALSA Advocacy Resources Taskforce.

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Name: Halftone and Halftone 2
Platform: iOS only
Cost: $0.99 (Halftone) and $1.99 (Halftone 2) and in-app purchases for square page layouts

Ever wish you were a cartoonist? The Halftone apps let you realize that aspiration easily enough. Named after the printing process for rendering images through gradients of black and white or color, these apps is easy to use and produce amazing effects.

photo (1)

You begin by importing a picture or using your camera. You can choose different caption styles, speech bubbles (which can be layered) as well as a series of classic "stamps" to simulate action. Fonts include a range of easily legible comic-based styles, with three sizes. The whole set-up means you can create something worthy of the funny pages in mere seconds.
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Title: PhotoMath
Platform: iOS and Android
Cost: Free

From WordLens (now part of Google Translate) to Invisibility 3D, apps which use the camera as an input tool to harness machine intelligence always interest me. When one such app, PhotoMath hit the top of the download charts last year, there was some minor outcry among educators. Would students use the app to cheat? But while the PhotoMath app reads and solves mathematical problems by using the camera of your phone and tablet in real time, it is far from the scourge of math teachers. Like Wolfram Alpha, it is a nice tool to have on hand when you can't remember enough math to help students with their work.


Within the app with an active camera, you can manipulate the size of the datawell to pick up the whole of more complicated questions, and the app solves advanced math problems including quadratic equations and inequalities. The app goes beyond solutions, anticipating the admonition to "show your work." A red button opens the step-by-step process for doing just that. Read More →

Google handwriting

Title: Google Handwriting

Cost: Free

Platform: Android (4.0.3 or later)

Google Handwriting is an app that works as an alternate keyboard to give Android users access to data wells through your scribbles.

Apps like Penultimate and Evernote have long enable handwriting input for searching content, but Google is a more "full-featured" handwriting-to-digital-text tool.

The really exceptional thing about Google Handwriting is how exponentially more accurate the writing-to-text translations manage to be, however sketchy the writing, as demonstrated below:

Part of the reason for the prediction quality: Google's optical text recognition has fine-tuned through Google Book project. Predictably, you can add your feedback on the accuracy of the handwriting translation to their database, but the default leaves this in-app reporting off. Read More →

Are you a maker? With all the emphasis on high tech gadgetry, it can make you feel a little left behind if you can't swing a 3D printer on your budget or lack the skills to wield some soldering equipment.

But, like the science-technology-engineering- math portmanteau STEM which added an "A" added to encompass art and become STEAM, the expansion of the "maker" trend to incorporate arts and crafts as a creative and productive use of time and space is a step towards recognizing the wide variety of material production that libraries have long been supporting. And it's an easy way to get in on the making trend with supplies you likely have laying around.

We've had success with this sort of low-stress, drop-in crafting at our library.

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