My next library learning topic is Google Tools.
I have just set up a couple of Google Alerts to try out that application. It could be a useful way to see what's new on a topic or what people are saying out in the blogosphere, depending on what you set it up to search. I've set up one on peanut allergy as a news search and another on More Things on a Stick as a blog search. I'm just curious to see what and how much comes up, and then I plan to edit my searches. And what do you know - I just got a batch of alerts while I was writing this, and they have nothing to do with More Things on a Stick. I need a phrase search. Can I put my search terms in quotation marks? (Update 4/14/09: Yes, putting a phrase in quotation marks seems to work. I tried it with "More Things on a Stick" and now I'm getting only blog updates that mention this project.)
Google Alerts could be a useful way to search things on the Internet that wouldn't be included in more traditional periodical alerts. If you didn't only want to find published information, but instead you wanted to see what was being discussed anywhere on the Internet, it would be useful for that. It's a little difficult to see how it would be useful to a library, since our job is to give people reliable information from good sources. But if you still sort that out, there are good things put out there on the Web. And if a patron wanted to see what was being said about their business on an ongoing basis, Google Alerts would be an excellent suggestion.
I took a look at the other alert services. Twilert was not working anymore. I would really like a Twitter alert service. I have not used the other alerts, but Alerts.com looks intriguing. In certain situations, it would be really nice to have alerts on Ebay or Craigslist items up for sale, price drops on something you want to buy, or product recalls (coming soon).
The other Google Tool I worked on was Gmail. I've had a Gmail account for about a year, because I wanted an e-mail account that I could hang onto when I was between Internet providers because of moving. I have kept it because it's nice to have an e-mail address that I can give out to companies and such without worrying about getting too much spam in my regular e-mail box. But I don't check it as often. I learned from More Things on a Stick that I can forward all or selected messages from my Gmail account to my other e-mail. That's handy, because some people have never switched to using my new e-mail address. Really, I'd never found the "Settings" section of Gmail to explore at all before. I did find that I don't have access to the Themes or the Labs because I have Internet Explorer 6, not 7 or above.