OPAC Screen Changes

We recently updated the software that runs our OPAC to a version that allows for better integration with ebooks. The name of the software is Follett Destiny and it is quite effective in managing our catalog. Sadly, a couple of our favorite OPAC features were changed with the most recent update.

The first change is the landing page. The library OPAC’s address is http://library.istianjin.net. That’s easy to remember. It used to take us to a page with a tree on it, which was not the page where we could log in. This prompted us to remind people to “Watch out for the tree!” and to first enter the library OPAC by clicking on the blue IST Library link.

This is the landing before before the update. The tree in the corner meant we were not yet inside the library OPAC.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


That tree is now gone, replaced by the Follett Destiny logo. Trying to log in from that logo page will still result in an error message, but now we don’t have the handy reminder that we’re outside of the library because trees do not grow inside libraries. If you have any ideas for an easy way to remind people to enter the library proper, please let us know in the comments.

New landing page for OPAC. Click on the IST Library link to enter the OPAC.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


The second change is the location of the call number relative to the cover image. It used to be that the call number would be conveniently placed below the cover image, if there was one. Now the call number is to the right of the books cover image, making it less obvious. While we can understand changing the tree to the software’s name, we don’t know why the company changed the location of the call number. It’s still visible though, so we can continue to use it to help us locate books on the shelves — something that grade 2, 3, and 4 students have had a lot of practice with lately. They’re experts at using the call number to find books.

I don’t have a screenshot of what a book record used to look like, but this is what it looks like now.

This is the OPAC record for a book.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Have you noticed any other changes with the new update? Let us know in the comments.

Online Reading: Tumble Books

To help keep our students reading over the summer, IST has several online reading options. Our students in grade 1 to grade 5 have been learning about them in our library sessions this week and will continue with more options next week.

One of our options is TumbleBooks, an online database with animated storybooks, chapter books, graphic novels, and non-fiction books to read online. You will need an Internet connection and an updated Flash plugin, which can be downloaded from the Macromedia website.

There are three different levels of TumbleBooks.


To access the three different levels of TumbleBooks, first go to the library OPAC.

  1. Log in to the OPAC. You can use your personal account credentials or the library’s Quick Login, which is found on your homework logs and the library brochure. Elementary children have been taught to find the Quick Login.
  2. From the OPAC Home page, scroll down the list of subscribed databases to the three TumbleBook links. Note the username and password for the level you want to access.
  3. Enter the correct username and password.
  4. Click on a category to see a list of books.
  5. Click on the “Read Online” button for the book you want to read.
  6. Sit back, relax and wait for the book to load.

Click here to download a pdf tutorial with screenshots to guide you.

Bibliographies with EasyBib Now Even Easier

Students and teachers at IST are principled inquirers. Among the many skills we possess as principled inquirers is that of citing our sources. Students from grade 5 and up are expected to maintain bibliography lists with the sources that they use in their school assignments.

Along with their classroom and subject teachers, the librarians help students cite sources accurately and correctly. One of the tools we provide our students for efficient bibliography making is EasyBib, an online citation engine.  Students in grades 5 and up are taught to use EasyBib.

EasyBib landing page

As its name implies, EasyBib is  easy to use. It can automatically generate citations for books and websites, and additionally it offers 59 different options for other types of sources. A new feature makes EasyBib even easier: importing of citations from databases and writing/pasting of citations. This last is very useful if a student copies a ready citation from a database or if the student has written it out by hand using the guides in his or her homework log.

Write-paste citation on EasyBib

As the elementary librarian, I am working with grade 5 students as they research the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for the Grade 5 Exhibition. As they will for major projects in middle school, the fifth graders must submit a bibliography with their other Exhibition assignments. They are becoming quite proficient at using EasyBib and are taking advantage of another great new feature: sharing their bibliographies with other students and teachers.

If you want to learn how to take advantage of EasyBib’s school subscription, please visit us at the library.

Citation-Ready Sources for Elementary Students

Last Tuesday, we had a parent session for grades 2 to 5 titled: Principled Inquirers in grades 2 to 5. One of the skills that principled inquirers use is giving credit to the sources that help them arrive at their answers. We call this “citing our sources” and each instance of that is a “citation.” Our school uses the Modern Language Association (MLA) citation format.

MLA citations are slightly different depending on the source consulted, i.e., a citation for a book is slightly different to that of a personal interview or a website article, but they all try to answer the following questions:

  • Who – is the creator/originator of the information?
  • What – is the title of the source?
  • Where – was the information published?
  • When – was the information published?

One additional “When” question asks, “When was the information accessed” if the source is online.

On Tuesday, we spoke about the progression of citation skills we expect from our students in grades 2 to 5. We also spoke about citation-ready databases.

Databases are online collections of articles that are accessed through a portal. Databases are sources of authoritative, accurate and reliable information. One of the benefits of using databases for research is that they often supply citations ready to be copied and included in student’s bibliographies.

The following subscription databases are “citation-ready” meaning that they will provide citations for students. We subscribe to these databases on behalf of our community. Students are taught by the librarians and their classroom teachers to access them via the library OPAC. Please let us know if you are a member of the IST community and you need help accessing our databases.

Citation-Ready Databases

PebbleGo – A database for students in preK to grade 2. We have two collections: Animals and Earth & Space. The database is arranged via a graphic interface that makes it easy for our younger students to find the topic of their choice. See the screenshot below with the citation button on a sample article.

Citation button on PebbleGo

Britannica Online School Edition – The school edition of the famous Encyclopedia Britannica offers three different levels of reading ability. All three levels provide citations for their articles. Students can copy and paste directly into their bibliographies. Students from grade 4 are expected to copy the full citation.

Citation on Britannica

Britannica Image Quest
– a collection of searchable, high quality images. Each image has a full citation that can be copied and pasted. For many school projects in the elementary school, students are allowed to write the phrase “Images from Britannica Image Quest.” More formal projects require students in grade 5 to include the full citation for each image.

Citation on Britannica Image Quest

WorldBook Online
– Like Britannica School Edition, WorldBook Online offers three levels of reading difficulty and citations for each article.

Citation on WorldBook

BrainPop – This is a very popular database with our students. It has short videos on a variety of school topics. Although BrainPop does not include ready citations, there is a FAQ page that explains how to cite a BrainPop movie. Note that you need to add the word “Web.” to the citation.

Logging in to the OPAC? Watch out for the tree!

We get a lot of calls, emails and texts from people who are trying to log in to the library OPAC but keep getting an error message. Maybe they’re trying to access our subscription database links and passwords, post a review, renew a book, or check their outstanding materials, but they just can’t get the OPAC to recognize their password.

We tell them to watch out for the tree!

How to poster

Want e-Books for Summer Reading?

You’ll find lots of online reading options through our library OPAC. 

TumbleBooks and TumbleReadables – new ebook collection in June 2012

To access our newest eBook collection, you will need to log in to the library OPAC. Use your own personal account credentials or the quick login (included on our bookmarks and in the student homework logs.)

Remember to log in where you see the IST logo.

Skitch of library OPAC

You will be taken to the Home tab. This lists all of our databases and their login information.

Select Tumblebooks for readers from preK to grade 3, and TumbleReadables for readers from grade 3 and up. Login is automatic from school, but when accessing from home, be sure to notice the username and password listed next to the link.

OPAC homepage

TumbleBooks and TumbleReadables are ebook collections. Most books include narration and a comprehension quiz. When browsing through TumbleBooks, clicking on Readables will give you more reading genres: Early Readers, Chapter Books, Graphic Novels, Classics and Audiobooks.

TumbleBooks full page

Scroll down to the bottom of the homepage for a TumbleBooks TumbleTour.

Please let us know what you think of our new ebook collection. If you have any questions, or would like a personalized tour from an IST librarian, please let us know.

Scholastic Book Club Orders Arrived

The Scholastic Book Clubs orders we placed before the Chinese New Year break arrived this week. Thanks to the purchases of our community members, the IST library was able to acquire many excellent new titles for our library collection as well as many books for the ESL classrooms from grades 1 to 5.

To see the complete list of titles, please visit the library OPAC (see the links to the OPAC at the top left side of this blog or click here).

(Blame the mini-tutorial below on my desire to play with my new Comic Life 2 app.)

How to see the list of new arrivals from the Scholastic Book Clubs order

Reading the Spine of a Book

Library books most often show their spines to the world. On the spine of a book you can see the title of the book, the author and the name or logo of the publisher.

In addition to this, library books often have a call number label. At IST our call numbers are at the bottom of the spine. The call number has two or more lines. The first line or lines indicate the location in which the book can be found. The last line indicates the first three letters of the author’s last name.

Our library books are either fiction or non-fiction. The call numbers for the fiction books have E, ELE E or F on the first line for “picture books”, “elementary fiction” and “general fiction” respectively.

Call numbers for non-fiction books have a 3-digit number on the first line. This 3-digit number is for the Dewey Decimal Classification System and it organizes non-fiction books under different subject categories. For example, the 800’s section is for literature and the 900’s section is for history and geography. Students at IST are taught how to locate books using the Dewey system from grade 1. If you would like to learn more about it, come see us in the library.

Once you have found the section of the library where your book is located, you need to look at the last line of the call number. This is the first three letters of the author’s last name. Within a location, books are ordered alphabetically by author. In this way, for example, a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman would  be found in the 741.5 shelves after the authors whose names start with F and before the ones whose names start with H.

We sometimes add a bit more information on the spine with colored stickers.

  • New in 2011-2012 – white
  • Early readers – red
  • Easy readers for middle school – orange
  • Wordless books – purple
  • Mature topics – dark blue

Here’s a diagram to bring it all together. I prepared this for our wonderful volunteers who help us put books back on the shelves, but I thought that it might be of use to all of our patrons.

Sometimes we have more than two lines on the call number stickers, for example, for our books in languages other than English. Those books, in addition to having the same two lines that other fiction and non-fiction books have, may also have first a line with the letters WL to indicate World Languages and will have a line with the first three letters of a language’s name in English: CHI, KOR, FRE, GER, DAN. Under those two lines will come the rest of the call number as described above.

There you have it, how to read the spine of a library book at IST. Next time you check out a library book, take a moment to look at all the information we manage to put on its spine. We’re remarkable, us librarians. 🙂

 Source for the first photo:

Fiction Books. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest. Web. 17 Feb 2012. http://quest.eb.com/images/132_1250711

Register for December 7 library database workshops

We are offering three short workshops on Wednesday, December 7 from 8:05 – 8:25 in the library. Please complete the form below if you would like to participate.

PowerSpeak Languages: We will have a basic introduction to this language-learning database which supports students of Chinese, French, German, and Spanish. We will learn to log in through the library OPAC, create a personal account and take a brief look at the Chinese-learning options.

Elementary Databases: We will look at 2 databases available for the elementary students through the library OPAC: Britannica Online Encyclopedia and Pebble Go. Come to see how you can support your child/ren’s inquiry with these two authoritative and accurate resources.

Secondary Databases: We will learn to access the library OPAC and 2 of the databases we subscribe to: ABC-CLIO and Facts-on-File. Come and familiarize yourself with the resources your child/ren are using for class work and research assignments.

Are there any other sessions you would like the library to offer? Please let us know.

Get to Know Your Library OPAC Main Page

What can you do with the library OPAC?

OPAC stands for Online Access Public Catalog and it is a public and online listing of all the materials we have in our library collection. Thanks to the joys of living in the 21st century, we can view and search for titles in our collection from the comfort of our computers.

IST students in grades 1 through 5 frequently receive library skills lessons that start from the OPAC. We thought our other patrons might be interested in learning more about this essential library tool.

To get to the library OPAC, please look up at the top left corner of this blog page. You will see the picture of a knocker and beneath it, two links. One is to the library OPAC from school and the other is for access from school. Our server configuration demands that we have two different links for school and home.

You can also get to the library OPAC from the IST website. Click on the QuickLinks at the top left of the homepage for a dropdown menu that features school and home links to the OPAC.

This is the main page of the OPAC. So, what can you do with the OPAC?  (There is no need to login to carryout the functions we describe here.)

You can search the catalog.

You can view the links posted on the Visual Tab page.


You can search the Internet through the Webpath Express search engine. This search engine will return results from teacher-vetted websites so that you can be sure that information will be authoritative and appropriate.

Want to learn more about how the OPAC can help you navigate through our collection? Come to the library. We’re always happy to show you around our virtual home.