Exploring Chrome Extensions, Week 1: Pocket

This is the first installment in a new series of posts that hopes to explore useful or interesting Chrome browser extensions.

The first extension we are going to look at is called Pocket. Pocket is an interesting way to save websites/articles/other content to be recalled at a later point. If you find content while browsing that you wish to look at again just click the Pocket extension button or right-click the page and choose “Save to Pocket”. This will save the website to your own Pocket queue which is a website (getpocket.com). It is essentially like bookmarking a page but, ideally, for content you are not going to want to access continually. I could find this useful for various articles that I do not have time to read at the moment but would like to at a later point but not fill my bookmarks toolbar/menu in the process. You can access your Pocket queue by right-clicking the Pocket extension button and choose “Open Pocket”.

To get Pocket setup just click the link below while using the Chrome browser. You will need to setup a basic account with Pocket which is just providing a name and an email address.


Coding for Fun (Youth and Above) with Scratch

Have you always thought that learning to code is a bit on the dull side? That it’s text-based and a solitary activity for adults only?

MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten Project has slayed that preconception with a drag and drop programming language called Scratch. Scratch was designed for 8 – 16 year olds in mind (but anyone can 'play'); it encourages an interest in coding by emphasizing creativity, collaboration and community by making it pure fun. 



The Scratch website offers tutorials, galleries (by category) of peoples' creations and the ability to remix them and re-post.  YouTube offers close to a million short tutorials as well.

Here are three, brief examples of what you can do with Scratch
* "The Scratch Movie" (about a cat buying a sofa at Ikea)
* "4 types of school kids"
* "Interactive Violin"

May the fun begin!



DATASETS for WI Public Libraries


Data helps answer questions and tell stories. As Stephen Few, a data visualization guru, quoted: 

“Numbers have an important story to tell.

  They rely on you to give them a voice.” 

New tools, like Tableau, make it easier to explore data for story insights. There is, however, a data glut with access to data (BIG DATA!) that wasn't available 5 years.

As I've been learning Tableau, I've been collecting datasets that can support library initiatives. I was introduced to some of these datasets at workshops, like WiLsWorld 2017: Making the Most of Demographic Data presented by faculty and staff from the UW-Madison Applied Population Lab. The following is my consolidated list of free datasets (so far), which is also available as a handout: goo.gl/55RLkSPlease let me know of other datasets to add to the list!

American FactFinder: factfinder.census.gov

Includes population, age, business and industry, education, governments, housing, income, origins and language, poverty, race and Hispanic origin, and veteran data.

Census Bureau TIGER/Line Shapefiles: census.gov/cgi-bin/geo/shapefiles/index.php

Shapefiles for U.S. census tracts, voting wards, county subdivisions, school districts, and more.  

Census Bureau Data Tools and Apps: census.gov/data/data-tools.html.  

A list of powerful analysis tools such as OnTheMap, QWI Explorer, and Census Geocoder.

County Health Rankings: countyhealthrankings.org/app/wisconsin/2017/downloads

Vital health factor and outcome measures.

FoodShare WI Data: dhs.wisconsin.gov/foodshare/rsdata.htm

Monthly case counts, recipients, and benefits by county and state.

GetFacts: getfacts.wisc.edu

Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data by state, county, or county subdivision.

Global Libraries Data Atlas: glatlas.org

Data visualization portal for tracking performance and impact metrics of international libraries.

Home Based Private Education-Statistics: dpi.wi.gov/sms/home-based/statistics

Enrollment of WI home schooled students by CESA, grade, district, and county.

Homeless Student Enrollment by Public School District: dpi.wi.gov/homeless/data

Enrollment of homeless students by WI school district.

Impact Survey results: impactsurvey.org

Library patron technology survey results.

Kids Count Data Center: datacenter.kidscount.org/data#WI

Data and trend analysis that tracks the well-being of children in the United States.  

Madison Neighborhood Indicators: madison.apl.wisc.edu/profile.php

Madison demographic, housing, public safety, health, economic vitality, and transportation indicators.

Open Enrollment Data and Reports: dpi.wi.gov/open-enrollment/data

Open enrollment data on pupil and aid transfer in and out of each WI school district.  

Pew Research Center Datasets: pewinternet.org/datasets

Raw data from Pew Research.

Project Outcome: projectoutcome.org

Outcome data from library surveys throughout the United States.

Public Library Survey: imls.gov/research-evaluation/data-collection/public-libraries-survey/explore-pls-data

Annual survey results since 1988 on the state of public libraries in the United States.

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (WI): nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Wisconsin  

Agricultural statistics that includes a Quick Stats searchable database that can be limited by geographic areas.

WI Department of Administration (DOA) Demographic Services Center: doa.state.wi.us/Divisions/Intergovernmental-Relations/Demographic-Services-Center

Population estimates and projections for all WI towns, villages and cities.  

WI Department of Health Services Data & Statistics: dhs.wisconsin.gov/stats/index.htm

Vital WI health statistics by topic.

WI Food Security Project: foodsecurity.wisc.edu

Data and charts about the food security infrastructure in Wisconsin.

WI Geospatial Data: sco.wisc.edu/find-data.html

A list of resources for downloading commonly-requested WI geospatial datasets including boundary maps.

WI Information System for Education WISEdash: wisedash.dpi.wi.gov/Dashboard/portalHome.jsp

Multi-year education data about WI schools.  

WI Information System for Education WISEdash data resources: dpi.wi.gov/wisedash/help/data-resources

Data sources about students, schools (staff, programs, finance), performance reports, and types of schools.  

WI Public Library Service Data: dpi.wi.gov/pld/data-reports/service-data

Annual public library statistics at the state, county, system, and library levels.

WI School District Performance Report (SDPR): apps2.dpi.wi.gov/sdpr/spr.action

Annual school report with multiple indicators and comparisons to districts in the same athletic conferences.  

WI School Nutrition Program Statistics:  dpi.wi.gov/school-nutrition/program-statistics

Participation in nutritional programs including WI school free/reduced eligibility data.

WI State Legislature Open GIS Data: data-ltsb.opendata.arcgis.com

Open GIS datasets including WI legislative district collections and election data.

WI WORKnet Data Table Menu: worknet.wisconsin.gov/worknet/datablelist.aspx?menuselection=da

WI economic data on employment and unemployment, wages, occupations and industries.

Checking links

LinkCheckerAs we're preparing to move to our redesigned website, we've been checking some content to make sure it looks tidy and functional.  One of the tools we've been using is Firefox's LinkChecker add-on.  When installed, it allows you to right-click a webpage and "Check Page Links."  If it thinks the link is a good one, it is highlighted green. Broken links are highlighted red. It's not a perfect tool, but it has helped us cover a lot of content and find problems with our links.

When I find links that are flagged as problems, I hover over the link to display the destination in the status bar. It's a quick way to check where the link will take you. (It's also a handy way to check where links in your email and on social media might be sending you and save yourself from phishing attempts!)  If you don't see this in your browser when you hover over a link, you may need to change a setting to show your browser's status bar.

Annotated screenshots are the best!

You may love it or hate it but the bottom line is that writing documentation is necessary for most projects. One of my colleagues is excellent at reinforcing that my future self will thank my past self for writing great documentation. Annotated screenshots have become a staple in all the documentation I write.

My tool of choice is a software product called Snagit. Snagit is made by TechSmith (Jing, Camtasia, Relay) and quite frankly I can't live without it. Snagit isn't free but libraries get a substantial discount because they consider us "educational customers"  I can't post the price we paid but it's really good. To get a quote from TechSmith go here.

Below is an example of an annotated screenshot I made for a training a while ago. If I were to write these steps out it would be painful. (Please click on the picture to get a full size view of it)


*note that this might me an extreme example but I wanted to showcase what is possible when using Snagit.

Snagit can do MUCH more that just screenshots here is their "promo" video which explains all the things you can do with the software.

Snagit Screen Capture Software & Screen Recorder | TechSmith

Office 365 login change

MessageYou may have noticed recently when you log into Office 365 for email that a prompt with the message “We have a new sign-in experience! Try it now” appears. Sometime late last month Microsoft added this “update”. From what I can see nothing changes other than the login screen, rather than having your user name and password on the same screen you select your user name then another window appears to type in your password. If you don’t like the new look you can revert back…for now. At the login screen click “Go back to the old one” in the bottom right corner. I have a feeling that eventually everyone will be migrated over and you won’t have a choice to go back any longer.

I switched to the updated login on one of the accounts I check on a regular basis that is programed to auto log in a couple weeks ago and I didn’t have to do anything different. I switched this morning on my regular account and I don’t really notice any difference other than the picture that looks like sunny California is gone. I also feel like I’m a better person than I was yesterday too, but that could just be a coincidence.

New login with option to go back    Password


Mouse Settings Now Accessible on Public PCs

We received a request to grant patrons access to the mouse settings on public computers.  The settings can now be accessed on Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 computers by opening the Accessibility folder on the Desktop.  On Windows 7 computers, you will go to the Desktop and open the Ease of Access folder.

The speed of the mouse pointer can be changed after selecting the Pointer Options tab.  This could be useful to people who have difficulty controlling the mouse at its default speed.

Pointer Speed

Another nice feature is the ability to change the primary button configuration of the mouse.  Many left-handers prefer to use the right mouse button for selecting and dragging.  This can be changed on the Buttons tab.

Primary Button

PCs with the MyPC reservation system reboot automatically at the end of a patron session.  The mouse settings will revert back to the default configuration after the restart.  On catalog PCs and full internet stations without MyPC, the settings will only revert back if the patron initiated a reboot or logoff at the end of his/her session.

Printing in Landscape Mode

    It's not often that I need to print a webpage in landscape mode. I found the other day that I needed to however because the site had a lot of information that became squished and hard to read in standard portrait mode.  I wasn't sure if users knew this was possible within web pages and not just reserved for Microsoft Office Documents.  Each browser is capable of this and the steps slightly vary between them.

Google Chrome:   Printing in Chrome

    At the print preview screen:  

        Select the drop down box next to Layout and select Landscape.


    At the print preview screen:

        Select Landscape within the top menu bar.

Internet Explorer:   

    At the print preview screen:

        Select the icon with the sideways paper for Landscape.

Microsoft Edge:   

    At the print preview screen:

        Select the drop down box next to Orientation and select Landscape.

What is IoT?


You may have heard a lot about IoT in the news lately; like the Wisconsin company that is offering microchip implants to their employees that can be used to scan them into the building and purchase food. But what exactly is IoT? IoT stands for the Internet of Things and is a system of devices, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network. So this includes pets with GPS tracker implants, your car's TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), a person with a heart monitor implant, your Alexa or Echo or even the books in your library if they have RFID tags in them. All of these devices have the ability to transfer data over a network via either a wireless or RFID signal. While all of this data transfer makes our lives easier there are concerns over security. People want to know how to make sure that their information stays secure and wondering if someone would be able to hack into their toaster and thereby get access to their entire network. The IoT also opens up companies all over the world to more security threats and we also have the issues of privacy and data sharing. The U.S. government is now getting involved in this as well with some new legislation that they're introducing to require vendors to ensure that their products are patchable and conform to industry security standards. Unfortunately though, this new legislation only applies to Internet-connected devices that are sold to the U.S. government. So I guess consumers are on their own for now to guard their privacy and protect their data.

I hope you have enjoyed this short and cursory overview of IoT. If you want more information about it there is plenty of it out there to be found using your favorite search engine.

What should a modern Integrated Library System offer?

What should a modern Integrated Library System (ILS) offer to the library staff and patrons it serves? That is the question that SCLS libraries will try to find out as they do an evaluation of the current market place this fall. 

So where will we start? What are we looking for? Most likely we will start by making sure that any potential ILS meets the basic needs that we already have. We know that our ILS needs to handle the library staff functionality (circulation and technical services) easily and efficiently. Holds management is super critical to a very large public library consortium such as ours. However, much has changed in the ILS world since the last time we looked and we will need to make sure that we understand what new options are out there. One place to look is Marshall Breeding's annual Library Systems Report. In the most recent article, he speaks of the great changes in the market place (vendors buying up other vendors). 

Perhaps what will make the options available to us stand out from each other is what we are calling the "Patron Interfaces". This certainly includes the Public Access Catalog, but it is so much more. We need better integration with other databases and online resources such as digital books. We need integration of enhanced content such as reviewing tools. The mobile app has now become a critical component. We want digital library cards and better "discoverability", including through web browsers (AKA linked data). But, is there even more? Perhaps the next step up will be seamless integration of the catalog with a library's web sight. One of our library directors, Carrie Portz from Spring Green, just shared with me the following article about this: "What Library Will Create the First Real Website? (Please Stand Up)." I found this to be very enlightening reading and this idea may give us something new and exciting to strive for.