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Becky out of office

I'm going to be out of the office starting April 3. I'll be back next Tuesday, April 8. I'll be in San Antonio for Final Four Weekend festivities. You can consult the white board and check in with Elena about tasks in my absence.


What is a petabyte?

The new term that puzzled me last week was "petascale computing." Basically, this means very large capacity computing and comes from petabyte. So what is a petabyte? A petabyte is measure of storage space equal to 2 raised to the 50th power (1,125,899,906,842,624 bytes). This is still mysterious, so I did some research. Starting at the beginning, a "bit" a unit of measurement of information (from binary + digit) and is either a one or a zero. A byte is 8 bits. A kilobyte (or 1 KB) represents 1,024 bytes. A megabyte (1 MB) represents 1,024 KB. A gigabyte represents 1,024 MB. A terabyte is 1,024 gigabytes. A petabyte is 1,024 terabytes.

In the late 1980s, the average home computer system had a single hard drive with a capacity of about 20 megabytes (MB).

In 1997, Michael Lesk wrote, "How Much Information Is There in the World? ( At that time, he said that the total size of the Library of Congress was about 3 petabytes.

His calculations were based on:
-- 20 million books, each requiring 1 MB
-- 13 million photographs, even if compressed to a 1 MB JPG each, would be 13 terabytes.
-- 4 million maps in the Geography Division might scan to 200 TB.
-- Over 500,000 movies; at 1 GB each they would be 500 terabytes (most are not full-length color features).
-- 3.5 million sound recordings, which at one audio CD each, would be almost 2,000 TB.

Thomas Landauer suggested that the brain holds about 200 megabytes of information, taking into account the rate at which information is forgotten and the amount of information need to do normal activities.

For more information, read: (This article is available electronically. Use Citation Linker.)
Thomas K. Landauer: How Much do People Remember? Some Estimates of the Quantity of Learned Information in Long-Term Memory. Cognitive Science. 10(4): 477-493 (1986)

The Libraries new Netfiles "U" drive has the capacity for 600 gigabytes.This is the new system that Libraries staff is now using to store and organize our internal electronic documents.

-- Peggy Johnson, Associate University Librarian

Tragedy Today

TO: University of Minnesota Faculty, Staff, and Students

FROM: E. Thomas Sullivan, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

SUBJECT: Today's tragedy at Virginia Tech

Dear students, faculty and staff:

Today's news of the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech University gives us all reason for pause. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those impacted by this tragedy.

We have one of the largest, most urban campuses in the country. Constantly improving security is an important priority for University officials. In recent years, we've invested millions in expanding video surveillance, growing our police force and providing critical training and planning for our police, security and emergency response officials.

Unfortunately, the best planning and preparation in the world are sometimes not enough to prevent random acts of violence. That is why it is so important for students, faculty and staff to pay attention to their friends, their surroundings and observe appropriate security protocols. If you observe potential risks to safety and security, please don't hesitate to report it to the University of Minnesota Police Department by calling 911.

The University has crisis counseling services available, including crisis and mental health services. This free, confidential service is a valuable resource for anyone struggling with personal challenges. To learn more, visit

Also, to learn more about the University's safety, security and emergency preparedness resources, visit

We are all shaken and deeply saddened by this horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech. Thank you for your continuing personal efforts to keep our campus safe.

This Post Will Change Your Life

So, if anyone here is a student, they will find this post very helpful.

A lot of times at the desk we get people who are just starting their research and are unsure of where to begin. Margaret recently introduced me to the Undergraduate Virtual Library. It is a great way to search many of the online indexes and MNCAT at the same time. The best part about this jumbo-index is that you can browse the articles it finds and save the most relevant ones to use later. Many are available online, so you can complete a lot of research at home!

The Undergraduate Virtual Library link is located on the library homepage on the left side of the page, when you show people how to use it. I highly recommend using this site as a resource for yourselves and patrons.

Visit the Undergraduate Virtual Library at

All students please go to this resource, try searching, and make a comment about how it worked for you. Thanks!



Magrath Library will be having a grand opening celebration for their SMART Learning Commons on Wednesday, April 25, 2007 from 1:30 to 3:30 pm. “There will be free food and prizes, and a chance to learn about the services, history, and philosophy of the SMART Learning Commons.�

Did you know that the Magrath commons hosts a coffee break every Tuesday from 1-3 pm, where they serve coffee, cookies, and fresh popcorn?

Did you also know that there are now SMART Learning Commons at three locations at the university? Klaeber Court (East Bank), Magrath Library (St. Paul), and Wilson Library (West Bank). A fourth location, in Walter Library, is in the planning stage.

Do you know about all the cool services and equipment that the SMART Learning Commons offers for students at all of their locations? Not only do you have access to great technology, but you can get one-on-one assistance from Peer Learning Consultants in areas like mathematics, sciences, statistics, economics, writing, German, Spanish, and library research (check out the schedule!). There are also introductory workshops in Excel, PowerPoint, and other academic services available!

Portlets, Widgets, and APIs.

I was at a meting last week at which I heard several terms used that were mysterious to me. While I had a general understanding of portals, I needed definitions of portlets, widgets, and APIs.

IBM definition of a Web portal: "Portals provide a secure, single point of interaction with diverse information, business processes, and people, personalized to a user's needs and responsibilities." One way to think about portals is that they provide a consistent and uniform way to interact with applications in the same way that Window managers (like Microsoft Windows) interact with operating systems. A portal is a central place for making all types of information accessible to a defined audience. Portals can be roughly broken down into two major classifications: the enterprise information portal and the content management portal. Most portals combine both functions. myU is a portal--it enables participants to asynchronously get personalized information, interact with friends and colleagues, and create and distribute dynamic Web content. See

Portlets are pluggable user interface components that are managed and displayed in a Web portal. Portlets produce fragments of markup code that are aggregated into a portal page. Portlets, according to the WebSphere Portal site, are "visible active components users see within their portal pages... In the simplest terms, a portlet is a Java servlet that operates inside a portal." Portlet applications include e-mail, weather reports, discussion forums, and news.

A Web widget is a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based Web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation. They are akin to plugins or extensions in desktop applications. Other terms used to describe a Web Widget include Gadget, Badge, Module, Capsule, Snippet, Mini and Flake. Web Widgets often but not always use Adobe Flash or JavaScript programming languages.

An application programming interface (API) is a source code interface that a computer system provides in order to support requests for services to be made of it by a computer program. API stands for Application Programming Interface. Windows APIs are the function calls that are the fundamental building blocks of Windows programming. Each time Windows is loaded, or whenever Windows programs are run, many API calls are made. API calls manage memory, create and destroy windows, read keyboard and mouse actions, draw graphics, etc.

The term API is used in two related senses:
A coherent interface consisting of several classes or several sets of related functions or procedures.
A single entry point such as a method, function, or procedure.

-- Peggy Johnson, Associate University Librarian

What does RSS mean?

Peggy Johnson, AUL of Access Services, is providing weekly "DId you know's" for Libraries staff about new technologies impacting libraries. Here is her latest snippet.

RSS is a format that supports delivering regularly updated Web content (e.g., news feeds, blogs, podcasts) as soon as it is available, without requiring the user to visit a Web site to look for new content. The initials "RSS" are variously used to refer to the following standards: Really Simple Syndication, Rich Site Summary, and/or RDF Site Summary. To set up an RSS "feed," a user subscribes to a feed by using a "feed reader" and supplying links to the desired feed (e.g., news feed, blog, etc.). The feed reader then checks the selected feeds to see if new content is available since the last time it checked. If content is found, the feed reader retrieves it and presents it to the user. A list of feed readers is available at Many sites have an orange RSS button, which will allow you to set up an RSS feed. See, for example, Lorcan Dempsey's weblog on libraries, services and networks at; look in the bottom left corner.

For an introduction to an RSS feed, go to the Library of Congress site In the lower left corner, you will find an orange button labeled RSS. This will take you to: Here you will find various topics from which to select.

--Peggy Johnson, Associate University Librarian

What is Libraries 2.0?

Web 2.0 is a term often applied to a perceived ongoing transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of isolated Web sites to a full-fledged computing platform serving Web applications to end users, i.e., the next "enhanced" version of the Web. It is also used to describe the social phenomenon that is seen online--open communication (blogs, etc.), social networking, online gaming, and so on. Web 2.0 is also sometimes applied to enhanced organization and categorization of content, emphasizing deep linking (hyperlinks that dynamically link to a specific document, page, or image elsewhere on the Web).

Library 2.0 takes the ideas behind Web 2.0 and applies them to the library environment. "The heart of Library 2.0 is user-centered change. It is a model for library service that encourages constant and purposeful change, inviting user participation in the creation of both the physical and the virtual services they want, supported by consistently evaluating services. It also attempts to reach new users and better serve current ones through improved customer-driven offerings. Each component by itself is a step toward better serving our users; however, it is through the combined implementation of all of these that we can reach Library 2.0. While not required, technology can help libraries create a customer-driven, 2.0 environment. Web 2.0 technologies have played a significant role in our ability to keep up with the changing needs of library users. Technological advances in the past several years have enabled libraries to create new services that before were not possible, such as virtual reference, personalized OPAC interfaces, or downloadable media that library customers can use in the comfort of their own homes. This increase in available technologies gives libraries the ability to offer improved, customer-driven service opportunities." (quoted from "Library 2.0: Service for the Next Generation Library," by By Michael E. Casey and Laura C. Savastinuk (September 1, 2006);

--Peggy Johnson, Associate University Librarian

Research beyond google: 119 authoritative resources

Click here for a great article on deep web research

Try searching for the same term in a couple of the "Deep Web Search Engines" plus google and compare your results.

Tell us what you found. All students must comment. Thanks!

We want to hear from you!

Only half of students have made a comment to the following post about Archival finding aids.

Please revisit this post and make sure you've commented. Thanks!!


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