Thursday, May 22, 2008

Opening Pandora's Box

Oh boy. I am totally in love with the Pandora music site. I checked out & IMEEM as well, and they both have their good points, but Pandora...oh my my my. I can now sit at my desk, working away, headphones on, completely blissed out because I'm listening to my "station" on Pandora Radio. When I first went to their site, I typed in "Josh Groban," my favorite contemporary artist, as I had done when I first went to Then a strange thing happened--Pandora did start by playing one of Josh's songs, but then it moved on to playing other songs by other artists whose music matches Josh's in certain characteristics, like melody, harmony, rhythm, lyrics, vocalizations, instrumentation, orchestration, and arrangement. At first I was startled, but soon I began smiling as I realized that I actually liked these other suggested songs. Some of them were actually some of my other favorite songs, and some were brand new or relatively new to me. After a few songs, the site asked me to register--and like a drug addict, I did because I was already hooked. Once registered, Pandora gave me a chance to give each song the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. So far I've only used the thumbs-down option once, and that's over the course of now hours of listening! The one time I said I didn't like a song, the song immediately stopped playing, and a new song began. The rest of the time, I've been sitting here at my desk getting all kinds of things done--I've nearly cleared off my desk for the first time in weeks--while feeling my heart rate slow, my breathing deepen, and my stress melt away. I realize these things are the result of choosing to listen to music that is beautiful and peaceful. (I also created a "Loreena McKennitt station.") Were I listening to rap music or anything with a driving beat, I would not feel so calm. Too bad we can't make some of our edgier patrons listen to my "stations." :)

I also visited the four non-music sites for this 2.0 Item, and while I think they are interesting, none of them captured my adoration as Pandora did. I am glad someone is preserving items on the internet (Internet Archive) and offering free access to them. Ditto for open access to books in the public domain ( But searching for them is so clunky! And I am not a fan of reading copious quantities of text online. Blogs are bad enough, but whole books? Ugh. No thank you. Give me a hard copy any day. (Did I see somewhere that you can download these things and then print them out? That would be preferable, if detrimental to our forests.)

I do like the Mango Languages site, at least based on my free trial. (I am tired of registering for things, so I'll wait on that one for now.) I tested out the Spanish language lesson one, and it was very repetitious, with native speakers pronouncing the Spanish words--2 essential elements for learning a language. I think this site has potential for library use, especially if we could afford to offer at-home access where patrons could sit and practice to their hearts' content without bothering others around them. I didn't check out the costs of offering this service, but I did notice it was specifically marketed for libraries. Patrons frequently ask for language-learning materials to check out, only to discover that the level(s) or formats they need are already checked out--very frustrating for all concerned. This is not to say that I think we should eliminate our current collection. Obviously not everyone has internet access at home, much less the high-speed access Mango would require for optimal functionality. Rather, my vote is to add the service to our existing resources. I know I would use it to brush up my faltering skills!

As for the question of whether CDs are dead, well, no, they're not. They may not be the newest technology on the block, but they are not obsolete yet. Was this supposed to be a serious question?

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