How to Use AI to Ask the Literary Universe for Answers

Artificial intelligence is being explored for use in every sector, for every purpose you can imagine. Today’s tool leverages the information in Google Books to allow a user to pose a question and see a list of “answers” in related quotes from books.

Google Talk to Books is an experimental tool designed to respond to questions asked using natural language, as opposed to using keywords. In other words, you can type a question in sentence form (Why do dogs bark?) and get better results than using a sentence fragment (Why dogs bark).

I feel obligated to issue a warning that this is the kind of tool that you can lose a whole afternoon (or more) to. Asking the same question in different ways will get different results, and those results often lead to engaging book passages. Next thing you know, your “to-be-read” pile is out of control.

That said, let’s try some sample searches.

Simple Search Interface

In true Google fashion, the page features a search box that prompts the user to “say something to books.” I started with a basic question with a scientific answer – “Why is the sky blue?”

Screenshot of search results including passages from books in all categories.

This brought up a list of five passages, with the option to load more. Each entry includes a citation and is clickable. You can follow the link to read more.

For my next question, I went for something more informal. It turns out this had scientific responses, too.

Question posed: Why are cats so weird? Search results include their keen senses and other attributes that differ from other animals.

To see what sort of non-factual answers I might get, I narrowed the results to fiction using the filters in the upper right.

Filter books by category list includes: arts, current events, fiction, history, literary criticism, and more.

The new results:

Same search with results filtered to fiction. Includes statements that cats are strange and that beings seemed wrong because they were descended from felines.

These results looked more like places I might find similar observations but in more imaginative settings.

Next, I tried rewording my question, which led to very different results.

Screenshot of question "are cats possessed?" with results about their relation to demons and how they can attack seemingly without warning.

These results were a little more interesting, for sure.

Give it a try and let us know how it went in the comments!

Download Books to Your Kindle with the Libby App

If you have a Kindle and use the Libby app, you may have been wondering how to send e-books to your Kindle.

Libby is an app made by OverDrive that allows you to browse for and read and listen to e-books, digital audiobooks, and digital magazines. If you have a Kindle, you also have the option to checkout e-books and read them on your Kindle device.

To get started, open the Libby app on your phone or tablet, which is available on iOS (Apple) and Android devices. If you have a Kindle Fire or another device that does not support the Libby app, you can go to

Once the app is open, click on the shelf icon on the bottom of the screen.

Screenshot showing the shelf view of the Libby app with two e-books listed and the shelf icon highlighted.

Next, find the book you want to send to your Kindle and tap or click on Read With.

Screenshot of loan shelf with "read with" highlighted on the first e-book..

If this is your first time accessing the book after borrowing it and there is no “Read With” text and it only displays “Open in Libby,” that means that particular e-book is not available in Kindle format. If you have previously opened the book within the Libby app and would like to send it to your Kindle, tap on “Manage Loan” and then tap on “Read With.”

Next, tap on Kindle.

Close up screenshot of the "read with" screen with the Kindle option highlighted.

From here, a browser window will pop up prompting you to log in to Amazon if you aren’t already logged in. Once you are logged into Amazon, you’ll see a screen with more info about library loaning as well as a “Get Library Book” button.

  • If you have more than one Kindle or device with a Kindle app (for example if you have the Kindle app installed on your phone), you will have the option to choose where you’d like to deliver the book.
  • Above the Get Library Book button, the email address you use to log in to Amazon is displayed. If that is not the email address of the account you used to register your Kindle, click or tap sign out and log in with the correct account.
  • Also on this page, you will see when your loan period ends. After the loan expires, the title will automatically be returned.
  • Tap or click “Get Library Book” to send your e-book to your Kindle.
Screenshot of Amazon book checkout page showing the book cover, user email, destination indicator, and "get library book" button.

Once you have sent your e-book to your Kindle, you will get a confirmation screen that it was successful. The e-book will automatically be downloaded to your Kindle and it will be displayed in the Your Library section of your Kindle. If you are using a Kindle Fire, open up the Kindle app, which is called either Kindle or Books. If you don’t see the e-book on your Kindle, make sure that it is connected to WiFi.

Here is a step-by-step video showing the process when using the Libby app on an iPad:

Have you used the Libby app to send books to your Kindle? Let us know in the comments!

Access Even More Digital Content with Your Library Card

If you enjoy downloading or streaming digital content with your library card, we have great news for you. The available selection on OverDrive/Libby just got bigger! The Upper Hudson Library System (UHLS) and the Mid-Hudson Library System (MHLS) have decided to partner up and share resources. Members of both library systems have access to both digital catalogs with a single library card number.

UHLS members can continue to use OverDrive/Libby as they always have, but now they have an additional option to search the MHLS collection and borrow from there, as well. Don’t worry – this won’t make wait times longer for popular items in either digital library. Only items available for immediate checkout are available to the members of the guest library system.

How to Access Additional Content

Using the Libby App

Screenshot of Libby main menu

Go to the Libby menu and select “Add library.”

Screenshot of search results with Mid-Hudson Library System available

Search for and select “Mid-Hudson Library System.”

Screenshot of MHLS selection screen

Select “Upper Hudson Library System Cardholder” under Partner Libraries and sign in with your card number.

Screenshot showing library selection screen

Once you have activated both systems, you can toggle between the two from the menu.

Using the OverDrive Website

Sign in to the OverDrive website by selecting “Upper Hudson Library System” dropdown menu.

Screenshot of sign in screen

Toggle between the partner libraries by selecting the desired system from the Partner Libraries dropdown menu.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will UHLS users see everything from the MHLS catalog?

No. Titles that are not available for checkout will not be visible.

Can guest users place holds?

No, users can only place holds in their own library system’s digital catalog.

Can guest users renew their loans?

Yes, as long as there are no other users are waiting for the item.

How many items can be borrowed at a time?

Both UHLS and MHLS each allow users to borrow up to 10 items at once. The limits set by each system will function independently. Items borrowed from UHLS will not count against the MHLS 10 item limit. Likewise, items borrowed from MHLS will not count against the 10 item limit set by UHLS.

Can guests recommend titles for purchase?

No. Users can only make recommendations of titles to purchase to their own library system.

Will settings applied to a UHLS account carry over to the MHLS collection?

Any settings you configure in the Libby app (accessibility options, notifications, etc.) will be applied to all library systems linked to your account.

Settings that you apply on the website version (default lending period, display options, etc.) will only apply for the specific collection associated with them. If you want the same settings on both collections, you will have to configure them separately for each site.

Will students accessing the UHLS collection through Sora’s Public Library Connect feature have access to the MHLS collection?

No, Public Library Connect users will only have access to their home library system’s collection at this time. They will not see options to access additional content from other systems.


Thanks to the partnership between our library systems, more digital content is available for all library users. Everybody wins! Let us know how you like this new feature in the comments. Got questions? We’re happy to help.

Libby 101: Virtual Presentation

On February 3, 2022, the library held a virtual program via Zoom called Libby 101. The program was basic intro to the Libby app, which is the app created by OverDrive to read and listen to e-books, audiobooks, and magazines. If you are currently using the OverDrive app, please be aware that it will no longer be supported as of February 23, 2022 and you are encouraged to use the Libby app instead.

If you were unable to attend the virtual program, you’re in luck! We have recorded the presentation and uploaded it to our YouTube channel. We have also uploaded a PDF file of the presentation as well.

We have divided the presentation into parts, so you can easily find the information that you’re looking for. If you would like to watch the entire presentation, please view the playlist on our YouTube channel.

Part One: Getting Started With Libby: How to get started with the app and the steps to take after downloading the app and opening it for the first time.

Part Two: Browsing and Searching: How to browse and search for content on the Libby app.

Part Three: Borrowing and Placing a Hold: How to borrow an item and how to place a hold on an item.

Part Four: The Shelf: Loans: We discuss the loans section of the Shelf section of the Libby app.

Part Five: The Shelf: Holds: We discuss the Holds section of the Shelf on the Libby app.

Part Six: Reading and Listening Settings: How to adjust the settings used while reading and listening to digital content.

Part Seven: Settings: The settings section of the Libby app.

Part Eight: Libby Demo. A demo of the Libby app on an iPad.

If you have any questions about the Libby app, please call the library or ask a librarian when you’re in the library.

Do you use the Libby app? Let us know in the comments.

Libby Gets an Update and the OverDrive App Says Farewell

There are some changes coming to the Libby app! The folks over at OverDrive, the makers of the Libby app, have rolled out some improvements to the Libby app for easier navigation and an overall improved experience.

If you aren’t familiar with Libby, it is a free app that can be downloaded to your Android (non-Kindle), iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch), and Windows 10 devices. You can use the app to browse for e-books, e-audiobooks, and digital magazines. (OverDrive video is not available in Libby.) Once you have borrowed an item, you can also use the app to read/listen to them.

Updated Navigation Bar

New Navigation Icons with Labels

The first change is an updated navigation bar on the bottom section of the app. Each icon in the navigation bar has been updated for clarity and consistency.

Search: Search the library’s catalog for e-books and e-audiobooks.
Library Home Screen: Takes you to the UHLS OverDrive home screen.
Notifications: A badge icon with a number will display if you have any notifications, which includes if there are titles ready to borrow or if a hold placed has not been borrowed in time and has expired.
Libby Menu: Displays notification messages; allows you to add a library card (if you have more than one East Greenbush or Upper Hudson library card) or library (if you belong to more than one library system); and Help & Support (including Settings).
Shelf: Displays your current loans, holds, and tags.
Timeline: Shows your recent activity on Libby: items borrowed, items returned, holds placed, and other Libby activity.

Library Home Organization

New Library Home Screen

Extras and Guides are now featured prominently. The Preferences option has been moved to search results, lists, and guides to help better filter the results so you can easily find what you are looking for.

Search Enhancements

New Search Features

When searching for an item, you will now see an Explore with Filters section, with options to browse by format, availability, and more.  Advanced search filters are available with the + more button on this screen.

New Settings Menu

New Settings Menu

There is a new Settings menu, which include existing settings such as manage notifications, change download rules, choose your language, etc. as well as new options like adding labels to the navigation icons.

If you choose to add labels to your navigation icons, this is how it will be displayed:

Timeline Improvements

The timeline has a new layout, with each title displayed once in a single collapsible entry. More title and user activity details are available in this new layout. The timeline displays your recent activity such as when you borrowed or returned a specific title.

OverDrive App Is Being Discontinued

In addition to all these new Libby improvements, the OverDrive app is being phased out. The OverDrive app (which is a separate app from Libby) will be removed from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, and Microsoft Windows Store in February 2022.

Current OverDrive app users can continue to use the app. If you are searching for the OverDrive app, you will be directed to Libby. All users can continue to use, borrow, and open titles from the Upper Hudson OverDrive website via a browser.

More Information

OverDrive has prepared a landing page with more information about the transition to Libby. If you have any additional questions about the new Libby features or the discontinuation of the OverDrive app, please contact the library.