Technology Resources

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From images, audio, and video to mobile apps, a growing number of information sources are found in non-print formats. These resources can be engaging and interactive, however they can also be difficult to locate and access.

Issues in Technology-based Information Access

social mediaWhen searching for information, much of what librarians access focuses on materials in a text form. However, in many disciplines non-text information such as images, audio, and video is more useful than text sources.

According to Neal (2012, 1), “Non-text information surrounds us. We move around the world every day by engaging constantly with non-text information such as inanimate objects, ephemeral events, and interpersonal cues without thinking about it.”

Satellite images are an example of a non-text information source.

Non-textual documents present distinct problems for librarians. It’s difficult to search a work of music or locate a photograph. Tools like Google Images have made searching visuals easier. For instance, you can drag an image into the search bar and Google will locate instances of that image. The use of tagging in social networks like Flickr and Pinterest help users locate images. Pandora and other music services help users locate similar works. However we’re still a long way from searching videos for key ideas or locating specific ideas within a silent film. Fortunately, research is underway to make visual and auditory indexing realistic.

Neal (2012, 7) notes that

“content-based image retrieval, which is explored in computer science and the more technical corners of information science, relies on physical similarities such as shapes, colours, and patterns that can be uncovered between images.”

Menard (2012, 41) notes that

“compared with text-based retrieval, image retrieval poses specific challenges. The first difficulty comes from the translation of the visual representation of an object into a textual description. Given the possibility of multiple interpretations of the visual resource, there is serious risk of ambiguity and error. In other words, image searchers will not necessarily describe and search for an image using the same concepts or the same words. Moreover, perhaps the most significant difference between textual and image retrieval is that, with images, users have a higher propensity to browse when they go through their searches. As a result, users will also check associated textual metadata to decide if an image is relevant or not.”

thinkngIncreasingly, librarians are making use of translation services to assist clients in making use of global resources. For instance, Google allows readers to translate web pages and many websites provide the option to browse in a particular language. When tags are used to search for images, problems with translation can cause issues with the search results.

“The quality of indexing language plays a major part at the time of digital image retrieval. The principal problem of most languages used for image indexing remains that difficulty in translating certain specific elements of language (e.g., expressions, compound words, proper names, etc.). Unfortunately, even if relevant images retrieved do not require any translation mechanism to be understood by the user and can be used immediately, language barriers still prevent users from accessing digital images” (Menard, 2012, 41).

Abebe Rorissa and others (2012, 185) studied the use of geotagged still and moving images in Flickr. They describe geotagging as “a process of tagging either the latitude and longitude coordinates or the place names of the location where an image was shot.” They note that

“systematic analysis of geotagged images is timely and necessary because the phenomenon of social tagging and its true potential is new and not fully understood, several million geotagged photographs are uploaded to Flickr each month, and tags are frequently criticized because they are imprecise and not well-investigated.” Their research found that geotagging can “help solve the indexing problem associated with semantic contents of multimedia documents”.

Read Solorzano, Ronald Martin (2013). Adding value at the desk: how technology and user expectations are changing reference work. The Reference Librarian, 54(2), 89-102.

try itTry It!
Think about how you would convince a person who only thinks in terms of print materials to make use of technology-based resources. Pick a technology such as mobile apps or videos. Select three information sources you think would be useful within a particular discipline. Use them to describe why technology-based resources are important.

Mobile Apps

A mobile app is computer software designed to run on handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Apps are shared through application distribution platforms run by the operating system of the particular device. For example, the Apple iTunes website is used to download apps for the iOS system. The GooglePlay website is used to download apps for the Android system.

Users can access mobile apps based on categories such as Reference.

Mobile apps are a popular way to share content. One advantage of apps over websites is that the content must be concise. Those overwhelmed with information overload will find apps to be much more usable information sources.

When purchasing apps for library devices, be sure to check for volume discounts from Apple, Google, or whoever you use as your application distribution platform.

Commercial Apps

Thousands of app vendors have emerged over the past several years. In most cases commercial apps cost from 99 cents to 10 dollars. When you find an app you like, be sure to check other apps that have been produced by this vendor.

Reference apps can be found across disciplines including encyclopedia, dictionaries, thesauruses, translation tools, and research tools.

Specialty apps are what make mobile apps so popular. These small, focused pieces of software can be found in every content area.

Government Apps

From virtual tours to performance reports, many different types of apps are produced by the government. Below are a few examples of apps in different categories.

The US Government Mobile Apps is the place to go for a master list of government apps. However, you can also find lots of them at US Government Apps.

Library Apps

Mobile apps can assist library users with many activities from using the library catalog to searching databases.

Mobile Websites

Mobile websites aren't apps in the sense that special software is downloaded. Instead, they're simply a version of a website designed to be viewable on a mobile device.

annetteLamb's Personal Connection
Mobile apps are HOT! If you don't have experience downloading apps on various devices, you need to develop these skills. Find a friend with a smartphone and spend some time together exploring and downloading apps.

This is not a trend that's going away, so it's time to get on the band wagon. Free government apps are a good place to start your exploration.


Online Tools

Many library user questions may call for the use of online tools.

Audio Creators

Whether introducing readers to your website or sharing information in a non-traditional way, audio creation tools can be very useful across disciplines.

Calculators and Converters

Online calculators and converters are very useful in reference work across subject areas. For many calculations, simply enter the formula into Google and it will display the results.

try itTry It!
Go to Google Search Features to learn about the features. Also, check out Google Calculator information. You can also go to the Google Guide.
Give it a try!


Citation Tools

Many people find the creation of citations to be a tedious task. Online tools are a quick way to generate a professional, quality citation. In most cases, users can choose the citation style they wish to use.

Cloud Apps

Whether collaborating with colleagues or simply sharing with friends, cloud-based applications make working together easy. DropBox is just one of many file sharing websites. Many websites provide areas for sharing. For instance, Scribd specializes in online document viewing. Google Apps is the most popular cloud-based application tool. It also provides a place to storage and share files.

Comic Creator

When looking for a fun and attractive way to share information, consider creating a comic.


Whether working with money, sizes, measurements or other numbers, use an online converter to save time.

Graph Tools

For many activities, professionals make use of Microsoft Excel to generate charts and graphs. However, there are online tools that can provide a quick way to produce these images.

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are an excellent way to brainstorm ideas or present information in a visual way. While Microsoft Office provides some SmartArt tools that can be used to generate basic organizers, online tools provide more options.

Image Creators

Many people own digital cameras or use the one built into their phone. Once the images are downloaded, they may be looking for a free tool for editing. There are many options.

Infographic Creators

Over the past several years, infographics have exploded in popularity. Online tools make it easy to create profession-quality infographics.

Map Creators

Whether building a map for a trip or designing a virtual tour, many online tools can help with map creation.

Polls and Survey Tools

From polling your library users to helping a library client develop a professional-quality survey, make use of online tools.

Presentation Tools

Although many people continue to use Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple KeyNote for producing presentations, online tools have gained in popularity.


Screencasts are excellent tools for creating online tutorials.

Storytelling Creators

Children of all ages enjoy creating stories. Many online tools can be used to help produce these exciting products.


Timelines provide an engaging way to explore history. Online tools allow uses to create timelines with text, images, audio, video, and links.

Video and Animation

Whether creating a short animation to embed in a website or editing a video to be shared on YouTube, there are many options. Unfortunately, many of these tools have limited, free options.

Video Sharing

Video sharing has become popular for all ages.

Web Page Creators

Although many online vendors provide free tools for building web pages, Weebly continues to be the most popular.

Word Cloud Creators

Want to add a fun word cloud to a project? Try one of the following tools.

try itTry It!
Create a list of "go to" online tools that work for you that you feel confident sharing. List a dozen of your favorite online tools.

Social Media

From children to seniors, people use a wide range of social media tools. Many of these are also useful information sources. A few examples are listed below.

Blog and Microblog Creators

Use the following tools for creating blogs and microblogs.

Content Curation

Use the following tools for organizing and sharing websites and other online resources.

Data, Statistics, and Visualization

Use the following tools for exploring data and statistics in a visual way.

Social Networks

Use the following tools for connecting with others.

Read Richardson, Rebecca; Vance, Candace; Price, Elizabeth & Henry, Jeffrey (2013). A mightier pin: creating a credible reference library on Pinterest at Murray State University. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 18(3-4), 247-264.

try itTry It!
Explore social media tools. Select one to examine in-depth. Discuss how it might be used in a library to share information sources with a particular audience. Why do you think it would be effective for this audience? Provide a link or a screen capture of an example.


A wide range of images can be used as information sources. Digital imaging is the process of creating images from physical objects.

Image Types

Charts and Graphs. Numeric data are often displayed on charts and graphs. Search back through some of the data and statistics websites explored earlier in the semester for lots of examples.

Cartoons. Cartoons can be found across disciplines with religious, political, environmental, and business themes.

The Library of Congress houses the largest collection of editorial cartoons in the world, but like other image collections it lacks the indexing required to make it easy to access. Chris Landbeck (2012) notes that this lack of effective indexing is a systemic problem with editorial cartoons and that distinct content of editorial cartoons make them difficult to describe.

Diagrams. Diagrams are a simplified visual representation of an object, concept, or idea.

Illustrations. Drawings, paintings, sketches, and etchings are examples of illustrations. These visual representations are intended to communicate an informational or artistic message.

Infographics. Infographics are a great way to convey complex ideas in a highly visual way. An infographic is a graphic representation of information. It provides the "big picture" that might otherwise be difficult to understand by using visuals to quickly convey the key ideas.

Infographics are increasingly important ways of sharing information. Use Google Images to do a search for a topic and add the word infographic such as whales infographic.

The Learning Network at the New York Times did a nice series on teaching with Infographics:

Explore lots of examples:

Discipline Examples

Read Infographics & Inquiry: Practical Ideas for School Libraries by Annette Lamb.
Think about the many ways that infographics can be used in information seeking activities.

Maps and Satellite Images. From Google Maps to historical map collections, maps are an excellent way to visualize a place.

Photographs. From historical photographs to up-to-date images in the news, many online sources provide image collections. The IUPUI Image Collection is part of the Ruth Lilly Special Collections & Archives focusing on IUPUI's history and development. Go to the Digital Resources for a master list of image collections.

Symbols. Semiotics is the science of signs and symbols. Symbols are visuals used to represent ideas, concepts, or other abstractions.

Image Collections

Use niche search engines to find discipline-specific online sources.

Read Terras, Melissa (2009). Digital images. Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, 3rd Edition. Taylor and Francis.

Read Vaughan, Jason (April 201). Insights into The Commons on Flickr. portal: Library and the Academy, 10(2), 185-214.


From famous speeches and animal sounds to music, audio can be an important information source.

Sound recordings might include recorded music, spoken word, and interviews. In addition, many events are audio recorded include sports, conferences, and news.

Many libraries and archives maintain digital collections of audio recordings. Examples include.

Multimedia: Video & Animation

You no longer need subscription databases and academic library resources to have access to video. Many websites provide excellent resources for free.

Yin Zhang and Athena Salaba (2012) studied the effectiveness of library systems for retrieving moving images. The researchers compared the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Film and Television Archive catalogue (UCLA-Cinema) and the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). They found that both systems are ahead of other library catalogues in supporting moving image retrieval. While the UCLA-Cinema has a particularly cataloguing record structure and interface, IMDb was noted for its “rich links, work-level records, record content, and cross-references.

Subscription-based Video

Kanopy Video Streaming Service. Provides access to thousands of videos from major educational film producers and distributors in a wide variety of subject areas. Subject content includes education, communication, film studies, engineering, foreign languages, humanities, gender studies, sociology, psychology, health sciences, the arts and more. Kanopy also includes The Criterion Collection, California Newsreel, DEFA German Film, Media Education Foundation, Roland Collection, First Run Features, Green Planet Films, Stenhouse, Medcom, Michael Blackwood, Kino Lorber. Also included are PBS films from American Experience, Frontline, and NOVA. Available through IUPUI.

Overdrive is known for its ebooks, but there's also an audiobook and video component.

Some libraries subscribe to other video services such as Netflix.

Open Access Video

YouTube Channels

Although doing a general search of YouTube can be effective, it's also important to make use of the YouTube channels. Many government agencies, non-profits, and company channels are available in addition to individual channels.

Informational Videos

Instructional Videos

Read Otto, Jane Johnson (March 2014). University faculty describe their use of moving images in teaching and learning and their perceptions of the library’s role in that use. College & Research Libraries, 75(2), 115-144. Available: http://crl.acrl.org/content/75/2/115.full.pdf+html

try itTry It!
Browse the videos at Ted Talks and Khan Academy.
Think about how they might address an information seeker's needs.


Most of this course has focused on specific types of information and information sources that contain that information. Website resources are tough to categorize. From corporate websites to nonprofit pages, web-based resources can be extremely useful in identifying information.

Read Frazier, Barbaraella (2013). Niche search engines: expanding information discovery. The Reference Librarian, 54(2), 168-174.

Web Directories

Some of the most useful sources of information come from websites. Mine "best of" lists for favorites in each content area.


Landbeck, Chris (2012). Access to editorial cartoons: the state of the art. In D.R. Neal, Knowledge and Information: Indexing and Retrieval of Non-Text Information. Water de Gruyter. Available: http://site.ebrary.com.proxy.ulib.uits.iu.edu/lib/iupui/detail.action?docID=10634523

Menard, Elaine (2012). Multilingual taxonomy development for ordinary images: issues and challenges. In D.R. Neal, Knowledge and Information: Indexing and Retrieval of Non-Text Information. Water de Gruyter. Available: http://site.ebrary.com.proxy.ulib.uits.iu.edu/lib/iupui/detail.action?docID=10634523

Neal, Diane Rasmussen (2012). Knowledge and Information: Indexing and Retrieval of Non-Text Information. Water de Gruyter. Available: http://site.ebrary.com.proxy.ulib.uits.iu.edu/lib/iupui/detail.action?docID=10634523

Rorissa, Abebe; Neal, Diane Rasmussen; Muckell, Jonathan; & Chaucer, Alex (2012). An exploration of tags assigned to geotagged still and moving images in Flickr. In D.R. Neal, Knowledge and Information: Indexing and Retrieval of Non-Text Information. Water de Gruyter. Available: http://site.ebrary.com.proxy.ulib.uits.iu.edu/lib/iupui/detail.action?docID=10634523

Zhang, Yin & Salaba, Athena (2012). A user study of moving image retrieval systems and system design implications for library catalogues. In D.R. Neal, Knowledge and Information: Indexing and Retrieval of Non-Text Information. Water de Gruyter. Available: http://site.ebrary.com.proxy.ulib.uits.iu.edu/lib/iupui/detail.action?docID=10634523

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