Resolutions and Remembrance

January is traditionally the month to make resolutions, and to remember the past year.  In Roman mythology there was a god named Janus who represented beginnings and endings.  The month of January was named for him.  He is depicted as having two faces.  One face is to look to the future and the other is to gaze upon the past.  As we start this new year, we are going to remember some of the people we lost in 2016 along with giving some suggestions for resolutions for 2017.

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A statue depicting Janus

  • 2016 was a tough year in terms of losses.  In January alone we lost over 20 notable individuals including David Bowie and Alan Rickman.  February saw the passing of literary legend Harper Lee.  I personally remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird in the 9th grade.  Former first lady Nancy Reagan passed away at age 94.  Country fans mourned the loss of Merle Haggard in early April.  Just a few weeks later the State of Minnesota mourned the loss of our beloved Prince.  Landmarks all over the city (including Metro State) were lit in shades of purple.  In May, we lost another Beastie Boy when John Berry lost his fight with dementia.  June took boxing’s greatest legend, Muhammad Ali, and Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, from us.  Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor passed away July 2 at age 87.  In August we lost R2-D2  and Willy Wonka when Kenny Baker  and Gene Wilder both passed away.  The LGBTQ community lost a member upon Alexis Arquette’s death in early September and the golf community lost legend Arnold Palmer in late September.  Actor Michael Massee died in October.  November 7th was a hard day, Janet Reno and Leonard Cohen both died that day.  December went out with a bang taking real life astronaut John Glenn and Star Wars princess Leia, Carrie Fisher along with George Michael and Debbie Reynolds.  For a more thorough list of people we lost in 2016 check out wikipedia.

Now lets take a peek through Janus’ other face and look to the new year.  Everyone makes resolutions for the new year.  According to Dictionary.com one of the definitions of a resolution is as follows:

n. the act of resolving or determining upon an action, course of action,method, procedure, etc.

If you haven’t chosen any resolutions for this year we have a few suggestions.

  1. No more fake news.  Check your sources every time you read and re-post.  If you need help telling the difference check out our Fact or Faked blog from November.
  2. Read more!  Whether you have your own books-to-read list or you are picking from Time magazines top 100 (or some other list) get that nose into a few more books this year.  Reading to your kids (if you have kids) is a great way to get them into books too.
  3. Play more games.  Did you know gaming is good for you?  Check out this TED talk by game designer Jane McGonigal and come out to our 3rd Tuesday gaming nights at Metro State Library for bonus points.
  4. Make more time for yourself.  Taking time for you is an important part of mental, emotional, and physical health.  Whether you prefer hitting the gym or meditation, make a little more “me time” in your schedule.  Check out our blog about de-stressing for suggested relaxing activities.
  5. Learn a new language.  Pick a language you’ve always wanted to understand and commit to learning it.  There are lots of free language learning websites out there.  Check out Duolingo, Openculture, and LearnALanguage for a start.  You can also check out your local community ed. flyer for classes in things like sign language.

Hopefully 2017 will bring you joy, knowledge, and perspective in life.  Good luck with those resolutions and remember that a stumbling is not the same as failing.  Get up and keep going.

About the Author

Mallory Kroschel is a Information Commons Specialist at Metropolitan State University Library.

Boxing Day

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Martyrdom of St. Stephen by Peter Paul Rubens 1617

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay ’round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel

Perhaps you know the tune to the lyrics above.  The song is Good King Wenceslas, first published in 1853, and it tells the tale of a king venturing out into a snowstorm to give alms/Christmas leftovers to the poor during the feast of Saint Stephen. (Saint Stephen was a martyr that was stoned to death because of his religious beliefs.)

Giving to the poor on the second day of Christmas or Saint Stephens day was a tradition that is thought to have started during the middle ages when churches put out poor boxes or alms boxes for donations. Over time it morphed into wealthy folk giving their servants the day after Christmas off to spend with family.  Traditionally they would send them home with a box filled with leftovers of the previous days feast and sometimes gifts or bonuses as well.

Today Boxing day can be compared to black Friday in the United States in terms of shopping and consumerism.  You can still find some traditional boxing day celebrations such as parades or horse and hound meetups, but they are overshadowed by the shopping the day brings.

About the Author

Mallory Kroschel is a Information Commons Specialist at Metropolitan State University Library.  

Kat Has Left the Building

This week we say goodbye to one of our own.  Katherine Gerwig, known around here as Kat, is moving on to bigger and better things.  She is leaving us for a position at Walter Library in the Physical Sciences and Engineering Department at the University of Minnesota.  Before saying our final goodbyes we thought we’d reminisce a bit.  This post is dedicated to Kat.

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Kat and one of her favorite reference books

Kat kicked off her career at Metro State as a student.  She found herself a good fit in the library as a student worker.  She learned the important things right away (if you are looking for a good restaurant in the neighborhood you should definitely ask her) but she also took on research and cataloging projects.  She made her presence known by grabbing a few internships within the library during that time as well.

Eventually she worked her way up to being a Information Commons Specialist.  Aside from helping patrons with computers each day, she worked with multiple committees and the public library to create community outreach events.  She managed to join and eventually chair several committees and teams including events and social media.  She also became one of the student worker wranglers and helped design a training program for those in a position she knew quite well.

A few notes about Kat…

“She motivated, encouraged, and supported me in all my wacky ways.  Team Shenanacorn forever!” Nancy Kerr Circulation Technician

“Kat has done so much for the library that it feels as though she fit 5 years of “Kat” work and accomplishments into each year she was at Metro. Given a task of any size, she’d get it done in half the expected time and do it exceptionally well. Under her leadership, the library events grew in number and size, which led to some pretty epic parties. Not just anyone can manage events with live reptiles and piñatas and wand-making, but Kat has a real talent and energy for it.  As a state university, the paperwork required alone would land most people into the care of Madam Pomfrey, but Kat knew how to navigate the system and to avoid the dreaded 16A form (which not even a mandrake restorative draught can cure you of).

It has been a privilege to watch Kat grow from student worker to library school grad.  To have seen her rapidly gain experience and chops as a public speaker and writer. I’m looking forward to seeing her grow at her next job, and am sure to be impressed with all of her new accomplishments there. ” – Jen DeJonghe Librarian

“Kat personally taught me all about social media from a institutional perspective.  I never would have had the confidence to write a blog post before working with her.  I will definitely miss being able to bounce ideas off of her from across the mega-cube.”                 – Mallory Kroschel Information Commons Specialist

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“Kat has been a fantastic person to work with. I personally appreciate her willingness to go “above and beyond” the expectations of her position. She has taken her library degree and applied it so well to both her job and to the various activities in the library. I wish her all the best for her new adventure at the U of M. Go Gophers! (And don’t forget to tell Julie D. she cannot steal any more of my library colleagues!)” – Chris Schafer Dean of Library and Information Services

“…I swear every time I hear Kat talk, all I hear is MoMo. You shall be missed dearly…” – Sujit Maskey Student Worker

And from the woman herself,

“Metro State Library is where I came into my professional self. Academia truly is a gated community and can be incredibly intimidating. My colleagues in the library guided and supported me through the graduate school application process and later the professional job hunt process. In the past 5 years I have watched the as the faculty and staff of Metro State Library work tirelessly and passionately to support the growth and learning of so many people like myself, who need guidance as they attend a university, change careers, or work their first job in a professional environment. I am extremely grateful to the Library faculty and staff for taking me in and providing the support, freedom, and challenging learning experiences that have been integral to my personal and professional growth.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work here at Metro State. I wish all of my colleagues the best as they continue to make higher education accessible to everyone.”      – Katherine Gerwig Former Information Commons Specialist

Kat will be missed but, she reminds us that libraries are the places that create…

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Kat loves libraries because of “all the potential!”

Happy trails Kat!

This post was written and edited by Mallory Kroschel with quotes from other library staff.

The story of the Great Library Cookie Bake-off

‘Tis the season! The wonderful, chilly, and in some places, snowy white, season we call winter.  If your family is anything like mine, cookies are coming.  My grandmother always had a tin of cookies waiting for us grandchildren when we arrived.  We each had our favorites, spritz style, Russian tea cakes, or chocolate chip.  Maybe your family has favorites too such as linzer cookies, rosettes, krumkakke, or spice cookies by many a name.

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Cookies, cookies and more cookies!

To celebrate the season of cookies, library staff decided to have a friendly (and delicious) cookie competition.  Cookies were required to arrive within the time frame of the competition and be stored in an airtight container.  Each staff member was allowed to vote once per day for the duration of the contest.  Staff members could try as many of each cookie as they liked (scarcity encouraged people to try cookies faster, and vote). At the end of the competition, the votes were tallied and the winner received the coveted “Cookie Master” trophy along with a little gift.

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The Cookie Master Trophy

These are recipes similar to the recipes used to create this year’s delicious entries:

  1. Mint Chocolate Chip
  2. Molasses
  3. Cranberry White Chocolate
  4. Moravian Spice
  5. Raspberry Rugelach

Each cookie had a unique flavor and texture.  They were all quite tasty.  The Mint Chocolate Chip had a classic chocolate flavor with a cooling hint of mint throughout it.  The Molasses was soft and chewy with mild undertones of ginger and and a great molasses flavor.  The Cranberry  White Chocolate was soft and chewy with big chunks of cranberry and white chocolate throughout giving you a bit of both in each bite.  The Moravian Spice was thin and crisp with hits of ginger, cloves, and pepper in each bite and the Raspberry Rugelach was like having your own mini croissant filled with just the right amount of raspberry filling.  Not too sweet, and just a few bites of buttery goodness.

As the time flew by, the cookies disappeared and the voting box filled up.  At the end of the contest the votes were counted and the outcome was close.  The winning cookie was determined by a single vote.  The library staff had spoken and the winner was library dean, Chris Schafer’s Cranberry White Chocolate cookies. Coming in a close second were Saint Paul Public Library’s, Savitri Santhiran’s Raspberry Rugelach.  The winner received the “Cookie Master” trophy to display in their office for the next year and the runner up received the “Cookie Apprentice” medal to hang in theirs.

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The Cookie Apprentice Medal

Until next year, may you have all the cookies your heart desires.

This weeks blog was written by Mallory Kroschel, an information commons specialist at Metropolitan State Library.

Winter Reads

Need something to cozy up by the fire with this winter break?  Check out our specially selected collection of winter reads.  Our staff has combed through their favorite winter break books to bring you this collection of hot chocolate and fuzzy slipper worthy reads.

A Man In Full by Thomas Wolfe.

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Cover of A Man in Full from Wikipedia.com

“Set in the racially mixed city of Atlanta Georgia during the mid to late 90’s, A Man in Full tells the stories of Charles Croker, once a college football star, now a late-middle-aged Atlanta conglomerate king whose outsize ego has at last hit up against reality, Conrad Hensley, idealistic young father of two, star Georgia Tech running back Fareek “the Cannon” Fanon, and upscale black lawyer Roger White II who is asked to represent Fanon in the accused date-rape of the daughter of a pillar of the white establishment. A Man in Full will keep you intrigued with networks of illegal Asian immigrants crisscrossing the continent, daily life behind bars, shady real estate syndicates, and the cast-off first wives of the corporate elite.” from Tom Wolfe’s website.  Grab a blanket and a cup of tea before you tuck into this book.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

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Cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo from Amazon.com

A mystery/thriller set in Sweden in the winter.  If you decide you like it, there are two more books in the original series and a fourth book that is an offshoot of the original three.  Bundle up and grab a nip of something a little stronger to get in the mood for this book.

“I’ve had many enemies over the years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never engage in a fight you’re sure to lose. On the other hand, never let anyone who has insulted you get away with it. Bide your time and strike back when you’re in a position of strength—even if you no longer need to strike back.” – Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Mitten by Jan Brett and The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

Two great picture books for cold winter days, The Mitten and The Snowy day are sure become winter read favorites.  One tells the tale of chilly animals that are trying to make space for everyone to keep warm, while the other tells of a boy out for a snowy adventure in the city.  These are great stories to read aloud to little ones or just to yourself while you’re cuddled up with blankets and hot cocoa.

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Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.

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Cover of Doctor Zhivago from Amazon.com

During the turbulent times surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution, Yuri Zhivago struggles to retain personal agency, but is ensnared in political machinations beyond his control. Throughout his life, Yuri is entranced by Lara, eventually choosing her over his wife and children before ultimately losing Lara as well. Though bleaker than the classic film, the novel is just as memorable.

East by Edith Pattou.

Written for young adults, East retells the Norwegian folktale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” combined with elements of “Beauty and the Beast”. In East, a mysterious polar bear promises Rose health and good fortune for her family if she leaves them behind to travel with him through deepest winter to a ice castle in the wilderness.

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen.

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Cover of Winterdance from Wikipedia.com

Gary Paulsen’s great adventures in northern Minnesota learning how to run sled dogs and ultimately running the Iditarod twice in Alaska are just as exciting as any of the stories he pens for kids and funnier than one might expect.

The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch.

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Cover of The Chronology of Water from NPR.org

“This is not your mother’s memoir. Lifelong swimmer and Olympic hopeful Lidia Yuknavitch accepts a college swimming scholarship in Texas in order to escape an abusive father and an alcoholic, suicidal mother. After losing her scholarship to drugs and alcohol, Lidia moves to Eugene and enrolls in the University of Oregon, where she is accepted by Ken Kesey to become one of 13 graduate students who collaboratively write the novel, Caverns, with him. Drugs and alcohol continue to flow along with bisexual promiscuity and the discovery of S&M helps ease Lidia’s demons. Ultimately Lidia’s career as a writer and teacher combined with the love of her husband and son replace the earlier chaos that was her life.” from hawthornebooks.com.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

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Cover of The Name of the Wind from patrickrothfuss.com

“Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.

The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature.” – Goodreads

If you are searching for something to keep your brain sharp amidst the warm fuzzies above, here is a book for you.

ADHD Nation: Children, Doctors, Big Pharma, and the Making of an American Epidemic by Alan Schwarz.

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Cover of ADHD Nation from Amazon.com

“In ADHD Nation, Alan Schwarz examines the roots and the rise of this cultural and medical phenomenon: The father of ADHD, Dr. Keith Conners, spends fifty years advocating drugs like Ritalin before realizing his role in what he now calls “a national disaster of dangerous proportions”; a troubled young girl and a studious teenage boy get entangled in the growing ADHD machine and take medications that backfire horribly; and big Pharma egregiously over-promotes the disorder and earns billions from the mishandling of children (and now adults).

While demonstrating that ADHD is real and can be medicated when appropriate, Schwarz sounds a long-overdue alarm and urges America to address this growing national health crisis.” – from Simon and Schuster.

A Man in Full recommended by Nancy Kerr, Circulation Technician.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo recommended by Dylan Haris, Library Technician.
The Mitten and The Snowy Day recommended by Mallory Kroschel, Information Commons Specialist.
Doctor Zhivago, East, and Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod recommended by Martha Hardy, Librarian.
The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch recommended by Chia Vang, Student Worker.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and ADHD Nation: Children, Doctors, Big Pharma, and the Making of an American Epidemic by Alan Schwarz recommended by Katherine Gerwig, Information Commons Specialist.

Just in Time for Finals Week: 5 Distracting De-Stressors

Feeling stressed because of Finals? Take a break from studying and try one or more of these distracting de-stressors.

Meditation – It doesn’t have to be the kind practiced by monks or hippies, lots of people meditate these days.  Start small with a minute or two a day and add more time as you get used to it.  If you like it, you can always add to your practice. If the thought of sitting still to meditate doesn’t sound appealing. Get some fresh air and focus your thoughts while walking the labyrinth on the Library’s south side.

Exercise – Take advantage of the warmer November/December weather to go for a brisk walk or run or take the time to squeeze in some jumping jacks or squats and bicep curls before hitting the books.

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Tiny figures working out from Giphy.com

Animal time – Therapy dogs are popping up on more and more college campuses during finals week.  In fact, Simon the schnauzer will be visiting the Metro State Library Lounge on Monday, December 5th, 12-1:30. Can’t make it on Monday? No problem!  Look into volunteering at your local animal shelter or the Animal Humane Society.  There are always animals in need of care and who knows, maybe you’ll find a therapy pet of your own to take home.

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Simon the therapy dog while on duty.

Coloring – You did it as a kid, who says you have to stop as an adult?  Adult coloring books and pages are popping up everywhere.  Get mesmerized by mandalas or enchanted by elephants.  Grabbing free, online versions is easiest, but a book to call your own is fun too.

Sleep – Depending on your age, 8-10 hours of sleep is the recommended nightly amount.  Without enough sleep it is harder to focus your attention on tasks, such as studying or taking a final exam. Sleep is also when your brain consolidates information and stabilizes memory. In short, squeezing in a nap is a great way to retain more info!

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Student catching some Zzzz’s in front of the second floor fireplace at Metro State Library 2nd floor lounge.

For bonus points – laugh more.  It really is the best medicine!

Contact library.socialmedia@metrostate.edu with questions or concerns.

About the Authors

Mallory Kroschel is an Information Commons Specialist at Metropolitan State University Library

Katherine Gerwig is an Information Commons Specialist at Metropolitan State University Library

 

Searching for Turkey (not turkey): A Thanksgiving themed experiment

Ah, Thanksgiving. My favorite time of the year to conduct slap-shod experiments! This year I decided to put the filter bubble to the test. The filter bubble is the selective presentation of search results, news, and other information by a search engine or social media due to the use of an algorithm using personal data (search history, browsing history) to personalize your search results or in the case of Facebook, your News feed. Eli Parisier spoke about filter bubbles in 2011.

The influence of filter bubbles has received more attention recently as a contributing factor to the widening liberal-conservative divide in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election. Using data from a 2015 Facebook study, The Wall Street Journal created a graphic showing mocked-up liberal and conservative Facebook feeds side-by-side.

While much attention has been paid recently to the filter bubble created via social media platforms, I decided to focus my attention on the filter bubble caused by search engines, namely the search behemoth, Google.

I LOVE Google! I LOVE that it is run by magical information seeking gnomes living in Google, California. I LOVE that the Google gnomes know exactly what news will bring me joy because it won’t conflict with any of my preconceptions of the world. Those gnomes are FANTASTIC!

But seriously…the “gnomes” are really factors plugged into an algorithm that ranks the results of my searches based on what Google knows about me. Two primary factors include my location and previous browsing history.

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Asda giant gnomes

Clearly, it was time to devise an experiment! Since it is close to Thanksgiving, turkeys are on my mind. Turkeys are also non-political. I have conducted very few (if any) previous searches on turkeys or Turkey. Looks like the word turkey is a prime candidate for my experiment.

I decided to try to cause Google to erase all mentions of “turkey” the bird from my first page of search results.

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Turkey, the country

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Turkey, the bird

 

 

 

Method

Using two Chrome browser windows, one opened to Google, the other opened to DuckDuckGo (a search engine that does not track your searches or browsing), the following steps were taken:

  1. The word “turkey” was typed into the search box of each search engine.
  2. Three links to sites about “Turkey,” the country, not the bird, were clicked on in each window.
  3. In between clicks the back button was used to get to return to the original results.
  4. After the third link was clicked, the browser window was closed.
  5. New browser windows were opened to Google and DuckDuckGo.
  6. The pattern was repeated until links referring to turkey birds dropped off the Google results list.

Results

It took three fresh searches for “turkey” before the first page of results from Google no longer contained links to sites about turkey birds. That translates to 3 searches and 9 clicks on links to information on the country. The Wikipedia article on turkey (birds) was the exception. Even after a 4th round of link clicking the Wikipedia article persisted.

How did DuckDuckGo fare? The 4th search for “turkey” in Duck Duck Go yielded the same mix of results (equal bird/turkey references) as had been retrieved after the initial search.

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Google results after 3 searches

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DuckDuckGo results after 3 searches

It only took 3 searches, clicking on 9 links in Google related to Turkey the country, instead of turkey, the tasty Thanksgiving Day mascot, to have Google stop presenting results related to the turkey bird option in the top 10 results.

Clicking on three links in between refreshing the browser windows was an arbitrary decision made to save time. If this were a real experiment a better estimation of the number of clicks could be determined with a higher refresh rate. The experiment lacked a control group. For instance, a separate user could have logged into Google and DuckDuckGo and repeatedly refreshed the search without clicking on links. This would have provided a baseline for comparison. After all, what if Turkey (country) or turkey (birds) were trending in the news during the experiment?

In the future, comparison of search engines other than Google and DuckDuckGo would be interesting.

Breaking Through the Bubble

Now just imagine how your search results for something like gun control, the death penalty, or immigration might be skewed toward a particular opinion based on your browsing history.

Some tools have been developed recently to help people break out of their news filter bubbles: AllSides is a web site that shows the liberal, center, and conservative side of daily news stories. The site also has a handy news media bias ranking scaleEscape your bubble is an add-on that daily injects a news article about an opposing viewpoint into your Facebook feed. Unfiltered.news is a data visualization tool that shows what news is least reported is least reported in a given location.

Here are a few things you may do to break out of your filter bubble:

  1. Use private browsing – You can change the settings on your browser to private (Incognito mode on Chrome). You will lose most of the personalized goodness brought to you by the magical algorithm gnomes, but don’t worry, you can get it back after you’re done.
  2. Use a search engine that doesn’t track you. When looking for news and information use a search engine like DuckDuckGo or StartPage.
  3. Sometimes click on things you don’t find interesting. Remember it only took clicking on nine links to make turkey birds disappear.

About the Author

Katherine Gerwig is an Information Commons Specialist at Metropolitan State University Library