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Commuter’s Corner

Jun 15 2009

Accessories for the Road

by Amanda L

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Getting ready for my road trip. Checking my list… gas, tires inflated, extra money, what am I missing? Hey, I don’t have anything to listen to while I cruise. To my rescue again is my local library.

The Library has audiobooks on compact discs and they have some that you can download.  You can see a list of new audiobook titles on CD using the Library’s RSS feed. Click on the feed for audiobooks. You can read the list online or you can subscribe to the feed and read it through your RSS reader.

The Library’s downloadable audiobooks have gotten friendlier to iPod users and those of us with basic MP3 players.  You can access eAudiobooks through Netlibrary by using our homepage.  The eAudiobook link  can be found under the eLibrary tab. Netlibray has WPA file Audiobooks that will work with some MP3 players and then MP3 file Audiobooks that will work with MP3 players and iPods.

Once you get into Netlibrary, you will need to set up an account for yourself. It asks that you create a user name and password. I usually recommend using your library card number and pin number since you just used this information to gain access to Netlibrary. (I try to keep things as simple as possible.) You can browse the titles in Netlibrary or you can search for particular titles.  To find those MP3 titles, you can sort by format. This is rather handy if you have a basic MP3 player or an iPod.

Not sure how to download eAudiobooks? We have an FAQ page that might be helpful. You will need to have Windows Media Player or iTunes loaded onto your computer in order to transfer the file to your MP3 player or iPod.  If you are still having problems downloading an audiobook, feel free to call us or use our Email a Librarian service. Make sure you select need help finding information and one of our Reference Librarians will get back to you via e-mail.  Now I’m off to download some audiobooks for the trip!

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Dec 2 2008

Car-less in Atlanta…

by Jnai W

I don’t have a car. And I live in Atlanta.

Those are two sentences that, to the casual observer, should not be uttered by anyone…in a single breath.  But they are true of many Atlantans, myself included.  Whether one is willfully car-less in our fair, sprawling city or whether one is financially restricted to public transportation (or a combination of both, such as I am), being without a car in Atlanta is not easy…but not impossible.

The most obvious and well-known option throughout Metro Atlanta is MARTA, with service in Dekalb and Fulton counties. MARTA isn’t perfect–limited bus services in many areas–but it is a feasible option. Planning ahead is imperative but, thankfully, that has gotten much easier with their website’s Trip Planner feature.  Other mass transit options have come about over the past few years and, in conjuction with MARTA, can really help you navigate around the city.  Buslines serving the Buckhead district (the Buc) as well as university communities such as Emory and Georgia Tech can also be a big help.

A great place for information about alternative transportation is the website for Citizens For Progressive Transit.  Here you’ll find all the latest news about developments in Atlanta’s transit system (for example, What is Concept 3 and what does it mean to Atlanta?  There’s a meeting about it tonight!).  You’ll also find links to informative websites about other means of car-less transportation, such as the Path foundation for bikers, runners and walkers and P.E.D.S, a site about pedestrianism (is that a word?).

I’ve been surviving carlessly here in A-Town for about 5 years now…and I’m strongly considering giving up the ghost and getting my own set of wheels.  But until I do, the aforementioned methods and sources are decent ways to get where you need to go without a car or at least getting close enough and hoofing it the rest of the way–thanks, MARTA.

Seriously…I am curious about Concept 3.  I should try and get to that meeting.  Could someone give me a lift?

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Nov 17 2008

Got the traffic blues?

by Amanda L

If you are like me, you spend a lot of your time and money driving around Atlanta to get to work, shopping, etc. In fact, according to statistics I found using our database Demographics Now (listed under the Business section of our Reference Database page ), citizens in DeKalb spent on average per household $2,375.13 last year (2007) in gas. That is a lot of driving! Over seventy-six percent of the people living in DeKalb own one or two cars per household.

I am always looking for ways to minimize my driving time and cut my transportation costs. The Georgia Department of Transportation has several tools to help us stay out of the traffic blues. They have a website that you can check anytime to see traffic conditions around Atlanta and the state.

Interested in where the accidents and construction delays are on your side of town? You can sign up for a My Navigator Account. This account will let you create a Personal Traffic Page, set up e-mail Traffic Alerts, and more.

In fact, if you use iGoogle, you can have incidents and construction delays displayed right on your personal Google page.  Traveling around and hit a wall of traffic and want to know if there is an accident? You can dial 511 from any phone and get traffic updates. You can also get weather conditions, report an accident or request vehicle assistance. On the other hand, you can also talk to a live operator by dialing *dot.

Looking for away to pass your time away while you are traveling? The library has a variety of audio books. We offer them in cd, cassette and downloadable formats. We also have a variety of music cds that can help pass the time as you work your way through the streets of Atlanta.

Looking for a new or used vehicle that might get better gas mileage? The library subscribes to Consumer Reports that can help give you car ratings on new and used vehicles. Want to know whether to trade in your gas-guzzler for a new hybrid? Smart Money magazine has an interactive feature that can help you determine if it is economical for you to buy a new hybrid and sell your current car.

Why is that driver is in the next car is driving that way? You might want to check out the book Traffic: why we drive the way, we do by Tom Vanderbilt. The author researched and interviewed many driving experts and traffic officials about why we drive the way we do. The book looks at the psychological, physical and technical factors that explain why we drive, what causes traffic jams and what our driving says about us. We also have the book in audiobook format for those who want to listen why you drive. I hope that some of these sources can help you beat the traffic blues!

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Oct 9 2008

Don’t Resist, Save Gas!

by Jimmy L

If you’re looking for more ways to save gas (and thus, money!), then here is something you’ve probably never thought about before, but can make a big difference.  Cars have an optimal speed for gas efficiency, and that speed is around 60mph or less.  “In a typical family sedan, every 10 miles per hour you drive over 60 is like the price of gasoline going up about 54 cents a gallon,” according to this CNN article.  The reason is simply air resistance!  The savings can really add up, especially if you do a lot of highway driving.

Interested in other ways to save gas?  Check out these older (but still relevant) blog posts:

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Love the Library’s eAudiobook service but have an iPod?  Unfortunately, there are currently no vendors offering downloadable audiobooks to libraries using Apple’s digital rights management format, but there are a few free options available for you on the Internet.

LibriVox is a volunteer, open source, free content, public domain project.  LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain, and then “release” the audio files back onto the net.

Classic Poetry Aloud provides podcasts of, well, classic poetry.  If it’s Shakespeare, Pope, Keats, and Shelley you’re looking for, this is the place.

Podiobooks Listeners to Podiobooks.com can choose to receive the episodes of their books via an RSS feed or by listening to episodes by directly downloading episodes from the site.  The site is free, but donations are accepted to compensate authors, who permit their works to be available on the site.

openculture is a site that collects podcasts, videos, and online courses that are freely available on the web, and claims to “sift through all the media, highlight the good and jettison the bad, and centralize it in one place.”  The link provided here takes you directly to their audiobook collection.

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Jun 16 2008

Google Street View–Cool or Creepy?

by Nolan R

Even as a librarian and a firm believer in freedom of information, I have to admit I’m both fascinated and weirded out by Google‘s newest addition to their mapping product. I was trying to verify a zip code last week and since I was in a hurry, I just typed it quickly into Google. If you haven’t used Google for maps or directions, it’s very simple–you just type the address into the Google search box. Alternately, you can click on “Maps” and go there directly. This time, something new popped up along with the address and map–something called “Street View,” complete with a thumbnail photo. Curious, I clicked on it and felt a little like I’d invaded someone’s privacy. I then typed in my own address, and lo and behold, there I was staring at a photo of my own house from the street. You can click on the screen and rotate the view 360 degrees, as well as travel up and down the street. We think our picture is from the fall, because you can see pumpkins on our porch.  Which means sometime last fall, the Google car went down our street. Our cars are in the driveway, and our garbage can is out by the street, so we figure it must have been a Sunday afternoon.  Here’s a link to the street view of the Decatur Library.

Read more about the how, why, and where here. You can see a picture of the Google camera car, and see what they have to say about privacy concerns. I think Google’s Street View could be really useful in some situations, like checking out a new neighborhood while house-hunting (especially in distant cities), visiting a new doctor’s office, or driving to any address you’ve never visited before.  Google has a short instructional video and more info HERE.

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Jun 12 2008

Make Money by NOT Driving!

by Jimmy L

If you’ve been thinking about alternative/greener modes of transportation, then now is the time to get serious. Gas prices have never been so high and global warming has never been worse. As if that’s not incentive enough, a non-profit organization called the Clean Air Campaign is literally PAYING you to NOT drive your car.

Their Commuter Rewards program rewards commuters who currently drive alone to work when they agree to start using a clean commute alternative. Start carpooling, teleworking, using transit, walking or bicycling to work and earn $3 per day, up to $180 over an assigned 90-day period.

They also offer rewards for carpooling to work. Finding people who are willing to carpool with you is easy using the RideSmart website. The website matches you up with people who live and work in your vicinity, so you don’t have to do any of the work.

Commuter_rewards

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May 23 2008

Got the Gas Pump Blues?

by Nolan R

Lots of folks are staying close to home this summer, due to rising gas costs.  Although usually the Library is the place to go for free summer fun, please remember that all DeKalb County Public Library branches will be closed on Sunday, May 25 and Monday, May 26 in observance of Memorial Day. 

Even though the Library is closed, there’s still a lot going on around town this weekend.  There’s some great fun to be had nearby at the 20th Annual Decatur Arts Festival, including the Artists Market and Literary Arts Festival.  Another Memorial Day tradition in Atlanta, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, is moving to Woodruff Park this year.  For other local events this holiday weekend, check out the AJC’s Access Atlanta or Creative Loafing.

If you happen to be amongst the one million Georgians who have decided to hit the road this weekend, you might want to check out these links to find the best gas prices nationwide.  And if you’re not heading out of town, you can at least feel some satisfaction that Georgia’s prices aren’t as high as some–gas in Spring Valley, NY is up to $4.98/gallon!

Automotive.com – Search by zip.

GasBuddy – Search by state or zip.  Allows search by type of gas (regular unleaded, premium, deisel).

MapQuest Gas Prices – Shows prices in a map format.  Zoom in or out for area desired.

MotorTrend Gas Prices – Search by zip code or click on

MSN Autos – Find prices by zip code.  Prices displayed on map and in list format.

And if you’re looking for gas mileage tips, gas prices, or gas mileage comparisons for new cars, check out www.fueleconomy.gov.

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If you, like me, feel that time in your car is basically time wasted, you will be interested to hear that the library carries college level courses on audio CD.  DeKalb County Public Library carries two series, the Modern Scholar series and the Great Courses series.  Both series employ the talents of well-respected college professors to teach subjects like music, art, history, religion, and science.  The ones I have listened to have been very interesting and only one or two that I’ve come across sound like that dry, boring history teacher we all had at some point in our school career.  There are two series:

Check ’em out!

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200pxjonathan_strange_and_mr_norrelLike many Metro Atlanta residents, I am a commuter.  My drive from home to work and back totals about an hour and a half, and that’s on good days.  This long commute, while it takes away from time I could be spending with my family, has allowed me the opportunity to explore some books that I probably wouldn’t take the time to read if I weren’t able to listen to them.  I found the Harry Potter series this way and made my way through the compendious Lord of the Rings trilogy (unabridged).  Some people consider this “cheating” somehow, but I tend to see it as enjoying the lost art of good storytelling, and getting to enjoy books I otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to read.

My interest was piqued when I first heard of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell a couple of years ago.  As I browsed our audio book section recently, I came across a copy on CD and checked it out.  At 26 discs, I knew this would be a big time commitment, but what more do I have to do when I’m edging up I-285?  The story, like the Lord of the Rings, is paced and very descriptive, of people, places, and histories.  Susanna Clarke’s prose and subject matter is reminiscent of Jane Austen’s dry wit and focus on English upper class concerns.

Clarke’s early-nineteenth-century England has a long history of magic.  “Theoretical” magicians, or scholars of English magic, read and discuss and form societies of magicians.  But magic left England hundreds of years before with the departure of the renowned but mysterious Raven King.  Soon, a society of Yorkshire magicians discover that Mr. Norrell, a reclusive and fussy old bachelor in Yorkshire, possesses an extraordinary library of important books of magic, and the magicians bargain away their right to study magic to see an example of Mr. Norrell’s practical magic.  Mr. Norrell’s astonishing demonstration begins the return of English magic, and soon, Mr. Norrell and his charming and adventurous pupil Jonathan Strange are known around the country as the only practicing magicians in England.  They embark, together and then separately, to bring about the return of magic to England, and do so in fascinating and world-changing ways.

Simon Prebble’s reading is superb as he narrates the very long tale and subtly adds dimension to the story’s characters in his voicing of them.  He also adds interest to the copious footnotes throughout the story, that I’m sure I would have glossed over if I were reading the print edition of the book.  Overall, this compelling and mesmerizing tale is very much worth the time commitment involved.

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