Austin Public Library Blog

APL Blog

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Austin schools went back in session a month ago, and the first day of autumn was last week. Students from kindergarten to college are in the swing of the school year as I write this, and writing comes with the territory. As does reading, studying, working, hoping, playing, practicing, and planning for the future. 

A student’s life is this hectic mix of –ings propelling them to the finish line. For students with an APL card, the finish line is that much closer with Brainfuse. Brainfuse is a comprehensive suite of online academic services designed to support many learning needs and styles.

The service is available for free both online through APL’s website and on a mobile device through the Brainfuse app. Help yourself to homework help using Brainfuse’s skill-building library of lessons, videos, tests, and more. Or get expert, live writing analysis for that paper that’s due tomorrow.

The app in action.In fact, with the Brainfuse app, you can enter the online classroom and receive live help from a Brainfuse tutor. Tutors are available every day from 2pm to 11pm Central. Being the student that you are, you’re on the go and going places. Don’t sweat it. Install the app on your mobile device and take the tutor with you. 

Click on the graphic at right for a glimpse of the app in action. The graphic combines four screenshots that I grabbed from an iPad to show what’s available to you when mobile (the live help and writing lab, mainly). I also connected to a tutor based on grade level (from kindergarten to college) and subject, and asked for help. 

Ask and you shall receive! If you need assistance with Brainfuse, its website offers an FAQ, and feel free to Ask a Librarian anytime. Also, the Brainfuse website is available en Español, if needed.


One of the virtues of the Virtual Library is that it provides APL cardholders with an abundance of digital content, including databases that are mobile-friendly and that you can access through apps when you’re on the go. This blog post is one in a 6-part series that will sample a few of those mobile-friendly databases. The series is published twice a month, using the blog tag On the Go.

 (Top Image Credit: via Flickr Creative Commons)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Reading a zine from the Austin Public Library Zine Collection is a completely unique experience. You can find our new zine collection tucked into the Magazines and Newspapers section at the Faulk Central Branch. You pick one (or two, or five) zines out. Zines are often short, light booklets. This brevity allows to you openly explore a wide range of topics without having to commit to an entire book on the subject.  The Zine Collection is library-use only, so you settle into a cozy corner near the windows. 

Zines are often handmade and photocopied by their creators. Thus, you hold in your hands an object the artist or writer created in their hands. The content of zines is undiluted by editors, publishers or critics, representing pure freedom of speech. And you experience your own liberating literary freedom while enjoying your zine’s impassioned political argument, stark black and white photography or moving travel stories.  

The Austin Public Library Zine Collection is already filled with treasures and continues to grow. Check out our Pinterest board Zines @ APL to get a sense of the Collection and marvel at a few of the gorgeous covers (like the one featured above) that grace our zines. We strive to collect local Austin zines, so you may even see one by someone you know! To learn more about our zine collection and zines in general, visit our information guide


Zines (pronounced ZEENS -- it's short for magazines) are handmade, often photocopied publications, typically devoted to counterculture topics and creative expression. Often highly visual with photographs and drawings, zines may be created by one or several contributors and can include essays, poetry, interviews, observations, recipes, reviews and more. 

Here are a few books from our collection that will help you learn more about and make your own zines!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Phew! We’ve been so busy with last week’s Vinyl Record Extravaganza and the new store reorganization that I’ve barely had time to do any crafting at all! If you haven’t stopped by Recycled Reads this week, we’re changing the layout of the store to better serve you, so please don’t be alarmed when you come in and see your favorite section is not where it used to be! Just ask one of us and we’ll happily help orient you.

As I mentioned, we’ve been busy, and the crafting I have done consists of folded books. We’re getting ready for SXSW Eco, where we will be teaching the fine art of book folding using damaged and/or out of date books. The current folded book I am working on is a heart pattern that repeats itself over and over. How do I keep it looking even? I’m working from a pattern made on a graph, so the shape of the heart is graphed out on a grid. I then traced lines on the edges of the pages to correspond with the horizontal lines on the pattern. The vertical lines of the pattern are represented on the book as individual pages. Make sense?


It’s a little tricky to wrap your head around it until you’ve actually done it, or at least that’s how it is with me. If you want some one on one guidance, stop by one of our Upcycle This! Craft nights. It’s the first Thursday night of every month at 6pm.

Friday, September 26, 2014

One of my all-time favorite tropes in YA is when a kid gets sent away to boarding school. Maybe it’s the idea of having an adventure in a new place or maybe it’s the freedom from parents (really, I think it’s a convenient way to mostly get rid of adults in YA books…even though you still have those pesky headmasters and headmistresses to deal with!) No matter the reason, I love a good boarding school book. And with everyone headed back to school, I wanted to share some of my favorites with y’all!



Anna and the French Kiss Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna doesn’t particularly want to be in France, but she also doesn’t have a say in the matter. Her father shipped her off for her senior year to The School of America in Paris (nicknamed SOAP, naturally.) Things change when she meets the irrepressibly charming Etienne St. Clair. They click immediately, but things like current girlfriends, new friends and school rules keep getting in the way of a possible relationship. Stephanie Perkins knows how to make a reader swoon.  Fans of the book will be delighted to know that the final book in the trilogy, Isla and the Happily Ever After, was just released and also takes place at SOAP.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie Landau-Banks is unforgettable. She’s a new sophomore at Alabaster Prep and this year, Frankie has an exclusive connection to the boys-only secret society at the school (she’s dating one of the members.) The whole “boys-only” rule doesn’t sit well with Frankie, so she takes it upon herself to challenge that norm. Feisty, fresh and also super funny, the setting of the boarding school makes the perfect slate for Frankie’s deviousness.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Okay, this is cheating a little. Cath, the fangirl of the title, is in her first year of college, which is almost like boarding school! As an added bonus, Cath is obsessed with Simon Snow, which is a Harry Potter-esque series that’s set at the Watford School of Magicks, which is definitely a boarding school. Cath’s freshman year comes with all of the anxiety and romantic entanglements and assignment pressures that one would expect, but Rainbow Rowell’s story never feels forced or cliché. In fact, Cath’s story is often so relatable that readers will find themselves identifying with or flashing back to working through a new (and sometimes scary) situation.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Boarding school PLUS Jack the Ripper? Sign me up. Rory, transplanted from Lousiana to London, feels like a fish out of water at her new school. Things get worse when murders echoing the work of Jack the Ripper hit her neighborhood. Is it a mimic or Jack himself? Rory stumbles upon clues and maybe even the murderer himself. The end result is marvelously spooky, with a twist sure to hook readers into the sequels.

White Cat (The Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black

As with any good mob story, family plays a huge role in this book, even is Cassel is away at boarding school for most of the year. It’s not just any mob story, either. In this case, the mob can do magic (a.k.a. “curse working,” hence the series title) and curse work is highly illegal. Cassel runs a teensy little betting pool out of his dorm room, which adds a lot of amusement to the book. For an additional treat, check out the audiobooks. At last year’s Teen Book Festival, I geeked out with Holly Black about how the audiobooks for this series were wonderful.

Winger by Andrew Smith

Oh, this book just slays me. I love it so much. Ryan Dean West plays rugby for his prep school’s team, even though he’s a couple years younger than the other juniors. Ryan Dean (called “Winger” by his teammates) goes through the school year attempting to not get beat up. He’s also trying to figure out how to tell his best friend that he’s in love with her. The boarding school plot has an added element of mischief, since Ryan Dean is currently living in “Opportunity Hall,” which is where all of the trouble kids are sent. Ryan Dean’s not really a trouble kid, but he does have a habit of speaking his mind, which makes his narration of the book utterly delightful. The ending packs a real punch, too.

Would you ever want to attend boarding school? I’m kind of sad that I never got the chance!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Oooooh! The cover of this book looks creepy.  I open it, and I see the first picture.  It makes me shiver.  I’m gonna be scared!   I know it, because there’s a monster in there.  Uh oh, here it comes…oh no!  It’s…it’s…hey, it’s a silly monster.  Whew! 

A story that’s not so scary, or a silly monster story, can be a lot of fun.  Just when I expect something awful to happen, funny or surprising turns up instead.  I like to try to figure out what will happen before the author tells me. That’s the best kind of game, and I get to play it with the very person who made the story up.

Gee, but it's getting dark early, and that's scary-spooky.  Oh no!  What's that I see?  It''s... Austin Public Library's Not So Scary Stories.  Hooray!   It's a great opportunity to give kids ages 3 and up a thrill but still let them sleep at night. Double hooray!  They can enjoy the fun that fall has to offer with interactive stories and silly monsters galore. Find out more about these shows, see the schedule, and watch a trailer on the Literature Live! website!

Want to get crafty?

Check out this fun active craft for kids who aren't afraid of anything from the Toddler Approved Blog!



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The APL Blog promotes Austin Public Library's resources and services through thematic item lists from our collection; topics related to today's events and news; research tips; programs and events; and databases.

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