Welcome to iHCPL: The Next Generation. This site was created as the next step in Harris County Public Library's iHCPL Learning 2.0 Program; a discovery learning program designed to encourage staff to explore new technologies. The original iHCPL program was adapted from The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County's Learning 2.0 Program.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Crafts & Hobbies #65: Coin Collecting

Having finished pumping his gas, the old man walked into the station to pay the clerk. Ahead of him in line at the counter was a young man, who asked the clerk if he would accept a gold coin as payment. The clerk reluctantly agreed. Intrigued, the old man craned his head and caught a glimpse of a small $10 U.S. gold bullion piece being offered. A casual collector for most of his life, and having lived long enough to recognize a fool when he saw one, the old man realized he had an opportunity to capitalize on what seemed an otherwise insignificant transaction. He stepped up next to the counter as the clerk dropped the coin in the register. After paying for his gas, the old man made an offer. “I’ll give you $10 for that coin.” “Sure,” the clerk replied. “Not sure I can do anything with it anyway.” The deal struck and the coin now in hand, the old man had a hard time concealing a self-satisfied smirk as he walked back to his truck. It was the easiest profit he ever made. The unwitting clerk had practically paid the old man for a full tank and a few to follow.

True story.

This post is worth .5 training hours.

© 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
You may not know it, but most of the coins you’re accustomed to handling day in and day out have two different values -- one as legal tender and one for coin collectors and dealers. No, you’re not likely to find any single piece of change in your pocket that will instantly alter your fortune, but if you keep a brand new coin in excellent shape it’ll probably be worth at least a little more than face value down the road.

Coin collecting, besides being an investment, is a fun and interesting hobby that you can pursue in a variety of directions depending on your resources and what catches your eye. A good place to begin online to find out which coins strike your interest is the U.S. Mint’s website. There you can learn about all of the coins currently in circulation here in the U.S. along with special and commemorative coins that you can purchase directly from the mint or from a local coin dealer.

One of the most common starting points for a collector is what you’ve got in your pocket or piggy bank. For many—usually the younger ones—it all starts with a curiosity in the ubiquitous Lincoln cent. It just so happens that 2009 marks its 100th year in circulation, and the Mint has seen fit to strike four new designs on the reverse of the coin during the year in commemoration of this anniversary. If, however, the penny holds little curiosity for you, almost anyone would be familiar over the last few years with the state quarters program, which sparked an interest in casual collecting among the general public. All of the designs had been struck and were in circulation by the end of 2008, and you probably wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find someone—maybe yourself—with a complete set in their possession.

Perhaps after a little time you become interested in something other pocket change. You might browse through the U.S. Mint’s Historical Image Library and find something more appealing. Or perhaps you thumb through what’s known as the Red Book, the official annual price guide for U.S. coinage, or other books in the library on the hobby and find something much more lucrative worth collecting. In any case, it definitely pays to do your research before you exchange a stack of hard-earned bills for a few coins, albeit attractive ones. You might even want to take a look at some reputable sites online, such as this one at About.com, which offers quite a bit of valuable info in one place for both new and experienced collectors.

So, once you know what you want and have educated yourself on how to pursue the hobby as a wise investor, how do you find the coins you crave? Well, there’s always Google Maps, where you can simply enter “coin dealers” and your zip code in the search field to find a dealer quick, easy and close. But where else? To find a trustworthy and reputable dealer, you might want to try the Professional Numismatists Guild’s dealer search. If, however, you’re the type who’d prefer to shop at home, there are plenty of online auction and dealer sites, one of the most popular of course being eBay, which boasts a substantial online marketplace for common collectibles. As always, be sure to check eBay seller ratings before making any bid or sealing any deal. Also, another well-known auction site worth looking into for the rarest and most expensive of coins is Heritage Auction Galleries, based in Dallas, Texas.

If you find yourself getting serious about the hobby and decide to deal in rare and expensive coins, you might want to consider having them graded for a fee by a professional coin grading service. Many serious collectors prefer these “slabbed” coins since an official grade can solidify value and effectively narrow a price when selling or purchasing. About.com again offers good info on the subject of coin grading. Among the more well-known and respected services is the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). Other services include the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), the American Numismatic Association Certification Service (ANACS), and the Independent Coin Grading Company (ICG).

You’re probably not going find yourself dealing in graded coins anytime soon, and chances are you won’t come across a rare find during a casual trip to the gas station. However, given the chance, coin collecting can be a one of the most rewarding hobbies with lasting value.


1) Spread out some of the change in your pocket, purse or piggy bank and see if you find anything interesting upon closer inspection. If not, ask an older relative if they have something stashed away somewhere, as they often do. See if you can identify them at the Historical Image Library website or with the most up-to-date copy of the Red Book at your library branch.

2) Try to find a local coin dealer using the Professional Numismatists Guild’s dealer search or Google Maps. If you get a chance, make a visit and do a little window shopping. See if anything catches your eye.

3) Blog about your experiences or thoughts on this module or coin collecting in general. Did you run across anything attractive or intriguing? Could you see yourself getting seriously interested in the hobby or would you consider yourself only an occasional collector?

HCPL Staff: Have you completed this exercise? Then Submit your Registration of Completion

This post was brought to you by Jim Johnson.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Crafts & Hobbies #64: Zines

In Chip Rowe’s The Book of Zines, the author defines zines (or ‘zines) as “cut-and-paste, ‘sorry this is late,’ self-published magazines reproduced at Kinko's or on the sly at work and distributed through mail order and word of mouth…They're Tinkertoys for malcontents. They're obsessed with obsession. They're extraordinary and ordinary.”

This post is worth .5 training hours.

Perhaps the first zines were science fiction fanzines of the 1940s, providing individuals and communities within the science fiction fan empire an avenue to review, create and organize around their love of the genre. Since that time, however, zines have evolved to represent a variety of subjects and communities: there are zines for fans of specific films, music groups, or genres, autobiographical zines, political zines, DIY zines, zines full of recipes…practically anything and everything one could think of.

Some zines are professionally bound, others stapled and copied in black and white on a Xerox copier. Furthermore, as other interest groups and communities have migrated to the internet, so have zine communities, now publishing e-zines – either an entirely internet-based electronic zine or a website promoting traditional print zines. There are several online directories of e-zines available.

For those of us in the library world, Library Journal will occasionally review zines. There are also a few public and academic libraries around the country that have zine collections, including: Crestline Branch Library of San Bernardino County, Michigan State University Library, New York State Library, Salt Lake City Public Library, and San Francisco Public Library, among others. There are also several librarians who self-publish zines, including the Lower East Side Librarian, a librarian at Barnard College.

Getting Started in Creating Your First (Paper) Zine


What do you want your zine to be about? Do you have a special interest that you could talk about all day? Maybe it’s cooking, knitting, motorcycles, reading…yourself?


Something that prints text (a typewriter, your computer, your hand)
Something that allows images, if you so desire (that old box of National Geographics, your Microsoft licensed clip art, your hand)
Something that can bind paper (a stapler, a fancy spiral-binding machine, needle and thread)

Preparation Work

I personally like to think out my entire text before beginning anything else. I hand-set all my zines (I physically lay out each item), but you could use software (like Microsoft Publisher or Microsoft Word) to arrange your text and any pictures you’d like to include.

You will want to determine how many pages you want to make your zine and how large you want the pages to be. I will sometimes use ½ of a regular sheet of paper (making four pages per sheet) or divide the page into fourths (8 pages per sheet) or sixths (12 pages per sheet). I would advise folding your paper and making sure the numbering is correct before laying out your text or pictures. Even if you are using a computer to help you lay out your text, you could still make mistakes in orientation or numbering that you would not notice until it comes time to cut and staple it all together.

I think something important to remember when making a zine is that creating something with a “professional” appearance or being the most amazing artist or the best writer is not integral to making something awesome. As with anything else crafty, the more you practice, the better you can become. In the beginning, just try not to censor yourself too quickly; letting yourself experiment without judgment can result in something surprising – sometimes it is absolutely awful and other times positively wonderful!


1) In your blog, discuss whether or not you think you might make your own zine. What would be the topic or focus?

2) Library Journal reviews them, some libraries collect them, and some librarians produce them. What do you think of zines inside the library?

HCPL Staff: Have you completed this exercise? Then Submit your Registration of Completion

This post was brought to you by Meredith Layton.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Crafts & Hobbies #63: Digital Scrapbooking

This post is worth .5 training hours.

Scrapbooking refers to a method of preserving personal and family memorabilia and photos in an artistic manner. The art of scrapbooking goes back to the Victorian era. Photos would be mounted in albums using photocorners and would include journaling and bits of memorabilia like newspaper clippings, letters, cards....even hair clippings!

Modern scrapbooking now incorporates a variety of handmade and manufactured embellishments, making it a multi billion dollar industry. The advent of scanners, desktop publishing, photo editing programs and advanced printing options has now made it relatively easy to create professional looking layouts in digital form using the home computer.

Digital scrapbooking offers several advantages over paper scrapbooking. Photos can be moved straight from a digital camera onto a layout...no need to print them first. It is easy to correct mistakes or change a design. A few clicks on the keyboard is all it takes. If you have already been bitten by the scrapbooking bug, you are well aware of the amount of time, space, tools and products required to create a traditional scrapbook page... not to mention the hassle of packing up and cleaning up your work area each time you finish working on a layout. With digital scrapping you no longer need a large work area, nor do you need to pack up supplies. Plus, you can reuse your supplies endlessly. Just think of the money that saves! Digital Scrapbooking is also fast and becomes portable if you are using a laptop, allowing you to be creative whenever and where-ever you want!

But...as with anything, there can also be drawbacks to going digital. Because digital files and graphic editing programs can be quite large, going digital requires a computer with a lot a available memory and a fast processor. Make sure your computer's hard drive has at least 10 GB of free space. If you don't have enough room on your computer's hard drive, you may want to save your layouts to an external hard drive. External drives connect to your computer via a USB port and are a relatively inexpensive way to add more storage space to your computer. If you plan to download digital elements (papers, alphabets, tags andother digital goodies) from the internet then you will also need a fast internet connection and the ability to unzip digital files. (EG: WinZip)

Getting Started

You will need some sort of graphics editing program in order to create layouts. There are many programs available with which you can create digital layouts. The learning curve, features and cost varies from product to product. Fortunately you can find free trials for many of the software programs.

There are several scrapbooking programs available for under $50.00. These programs are fairly easy to use and perfect for the beginner. While they come with preloaded papers and elements, you can also use kits that you download from various websites. Examples of these types of programs include Scrapbook Max, Scrapbook Artist and Scrapbook Factory Deluxe, Desktop publishing programs cost more, but the freedom to learn and create is endless. Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 and ACDSee are popular choices for the more advanced digital scrapbookers. If you need any help using any of the programs, tutorials are offered on various sites such as The Shabby Shoppe, or Scrapbook-Bytes. There are also some free online services available that are fast and easy. Smilebox allows you to make scrapbook layouts using ready made templates but you need to register and install their software. Through Smilebox, you can use their basic services to create, edit, publish or print scrapbook layouts.

Scrapblog is a free site that does not require you to register or install any software. With Scrapblog, you can create scrapbook layouts from scratch or by using templates. Scrapblog enables you to pull your photos from popular sites such as Flickr, Photobucket and even Facebook or you can upload them from your computer. Whichever type of program you use to create your layouts, once you have finished your scrapbook you can then choose to share it on social networking sites, email it to your friends, or print it out and put it in an album.

Once you get started on the road to digital you will think about other ways to use your new-found skills. You can make greeting cards, invitations, recipe cards, calendars, screen savers and blog banners to name just a few.


1. Go to Scrapblog.com and take the 5 minute video tutorial, then create a layout using their free online program. (No registration is required).
-Other online sites you may want to try would be Crop Mom or Scrapbook Flair

2. Post about your thoughts on digital scrapbooking on your blog. Do you think this is something you would like to learn to do? Did you encounter any problems in trying to make a layout?

3. Post your layout.

HCPL Staff: Have you completed this exercise? Then Submit your Registration of Completion

This post was brought to you by Sandy Kippes and Jennifer Nandlal.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crafts & Hobbies #62: Decoupage

Dictionary.com defines decoupage as “the art or technique of decorating something with cut-outs of paper, linoleum, plastic, or other flat material over which varnish or lacquer is applied” (2009: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/decoupage).

One can decoupage almost anything – ceramics, furniture, plastics, mirrors, cardboard – with almost anything that will adhere to a flat surface with glue or lacquer – paper, fabric, vinyl, and more! Even for those of us who do not feel particularly crafty or artistically inclined, decoupage is fun and can yield amazing results. This post is worth .5 training hours.

For inspiration, one might search Flickr for decoupage. I especially love the decoupage suitcases that pixiegenne does. You could also check out Etsy, an online store of homemade wares, to see what others are doing with decoupage or perhaps to eventually sell your own decoupaged treasures. There are social networking spaces for crafty people as well, such as MyCraft.com or you can share your inspiration and crafts at HGTV online.

Or just do a Google search for decoupage. I love these poster chairs!

HCPL also has several books available on decoupage techniques and project ideas.

Gathering Your Supplies

Mod Podge or diluted white glue

An object you want to practice on

Wrapping paper, magazines, scrapbooking paper, origami paper, construction paper, wallpaper, thin pieces of fabric, etc.


X-acto or utility knife (for cutting detailed pieces)

Paint brush

Popsicle stick or brayer (to smooth out any bubbles)

Polyurethane or acrylic spray sealer (this is optional, but for some projects – such as furniture or suitcases – essential!)

Once you have picked an object you want to decoupage, you will want to make sure you clean the item or, in

some cases, apply a sealant to the item before you begin. If you are working with a wooden piece of furniture, for example, you might need to spackle in deep holes or sand down the piece to get rid of phantom bumps. You might want to repaint or refinish a piece before you begin. Some materials (like wood or metal) might best be decoupaged with a fresh coat of primer.

Everyone approaches a craft project slightly differently. Some plan the entire project from beginning to completion. I, personally, plan section by section. Others fly by the seats of their pants and let the choices they’ve made so far guide the end result. For those who do not particularly like to plan, I recommend at least placing your cut-out pieces on your object before making the final decision to glue it all down. Because many decoupage projects involve layering pieces and many of the cut-outs are paper, once they’ve been glued together, second-guessing a decision can lead to ripped paper and starting over from the beginning (yes, I speak from experience).

Ready for the fun?

Follow the instructions on your Mod Podge or dilute white glue with water in a bowl.

Grab your paint brush and apply glue to the surface and (or possibly) the back of your cut-out.

Try to place your cut-out evenly to avoid ripples in your cut-outs. Smooth each cut-out using your brayer, popsicle stick, or your finger, rubbing from the middle out toward the edges. Repeat with each piece. If you are layering pieces, you want to make sure that the glue from previous layers has dried before proceeding.

Once you are happy with the appearance of your decoupage masterpiece, let the object dry completely.

If you wish to add a sealant to your decoupage (which I recommend because it really makes all of your cut-outs and layers appear like a seamless whole), you can use a specialty decoupage sealer, varnish or lacquer. When applying multiple coats of sealant, let each coat dry completely before proceeding to the next.

Sand your sealed object between each few coats of sealant for best results. Obviously you want to make sure your object is completely covered in sealant before sanding.



Post to your blog a discussion of your experience with decoupage; what kinds of objects did you create? If you have not yet had the pleasure to decoupage, do you think you will? What projects, if any, look interesting to you? What projects did you run across in your search of Etsy, Google, or Flickr?

HCPL Staff: Have you completed this exercise? Then Submit your Registration of Completion

This post was brought to you by Meredith Layton

Monday, June 1, 2009

Crafts & Hobbies #61: Craftspiration!

Now that summer is approaching, it might be of interest to take up a craft of some sort and strengthen those creative skills of yours. Not sure where to start or need a little push in the right direction? This summer is a potluck assortment of craft posts. Each post will be worth between .5 and 1 training hours. You'll have until August 31 to complete the craft posts for training credit.

This post is to give a brief introduction of the various online sources that are ready for you to indulge in at any time of day for however long it may take to fill your creative fancy! This post is worth .5 training hours.

Before you delve into source types, please view this little quirky video by Leslie and her entourage. Known for her gem sweaters, this video is to get you inspired and see how easy it is to just start crafting.


Since you are doing iHCPL, you should have some sort of blogroll set up, correct? Blogs are a great source for inspirations and tips about crafting, materials, and much more! Here are a few worth mentioning:

© 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
Pimpstitch: This blog features free pattern downloads and tutorials for those who like to sew and embroider.

Repurposeful: A blog about "being resourceful, creative, frugal and environmentally sound." Not only does this blog have posts on crafts from recyclables, it also give tips on reusing a number of objects that you may collect (perhaps, detergent containers). You can review the tag list and just search posts dealing with crafts or any other topic.

One Hour Craft: This blog is most ideal for the time sensitive individual. Crafts demonstrated on this site take about an hour to complete.

Online Communities, Forums and Websites

The online craft community loves sharing information (like libraries) and experimenting with materials. Most forums are free but some require registration. Forums usually have categories, online discussion boards, and photo albums of completed projects.

Craftster: a forum for the less than traditional craftster, this site allows you to browse their community for a variety of crafts such as sewing, knitting, jewelry making and more.

© 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Etsy Community: The very popular Etsy (and online store front for artsy business types) has a forum for a number of topics. The Techniques & Materials specifically offers tips and tricks to making things.

Instructables: This site peruses crafts that are more constructive and friendly for both men and women who like to build things with their hands and enjoy DIY (do-it-yourself) projects. Projects are split into categories which include art, craft, food, games and other general topics.

Craftzine: Brought to you by the makers of Make (an electronic DIY magazine), the Craft site has podcast, tutorials and forums on a number of craft topics.


Did you think you could only read about crafts? Of course not! For the more visual learner (and audial), craftspiring sources are available in multipe formats!

Videos: some websites have embedded videos that show tutorials and there are YouTube channels that focus on crafting and DIY project.

Etsy's YouTube channel has interviews with crafters and also has "How Tuesdays" which are tutorials that are posted on...Tuesday!

TheCraftsChannel is your "online masterclass for crafting techniques." Videos include tutorials of crafts that can be done in 5 minutes or less.

Podcasts: If you are more of an audio person, try out a podcast. Most craft sites have their own links to podcasts so be sure to browse sites for all of their resources.

Photos: Do you remember Flickr? And you thought you wouldn't have to learn about photos again...sheesh. The great thing about Flickr is that people tag their photos or submit them to "pools" that make it easier for the general public (such as yourself) to peruse their photo stock. Check out the Craft pools.


1) Check out some of the craft sites listed above. Do you see some fun craft ideas you'd like to try? Pick one to talk about on your blog.

2) Browse around one or two of the sites in the multimedia section above. Do you think you would enjoy learning a craft technique or hobby by watching a video, or do you prefer some form of written instructions?

3) Write a blog post with your thoughts on the above questions.

HCPL Staff: Have you completed this exercise? Then Submit your Registration of Completion

This post was brought to you by Veronica Garza.