The proper way to plug in a USB cable

See all the USB symbolsOn a recent trip to a library I overheard one librarian ask another if there is a way to tell how to connect a USB cable to the PC correctly the first time. I thought I was the only one who had that problem. Even when I’m certain I have the cable the right way it doesn’t go in to the port I think I must have the cable at the wrong angle or I missed the port, either way I have to flip the cable around to make it fit.

This got me thinking that there must be some way to tell how the USB cable is supposed to fit into the port. A quick internet search lead me to an article on Lifehacker which revealed that the USB symbol on the cable is “up” and that the USB port on a PC should have the same symbol which represents “up”. Easy peasy right, not so fast, what about PCs where the USB symbol is on the side of the port. Well, in this case figure out what side of the PC is “up” and that should work.

I found that this isn’t going to work 100% of the time. We found a cable in our office that had a brand logo on the top and the USB symbol on the bottom of a cable. In this case look at the two square holes at the tip of the cable. One side the two holes will be filled in and the other side they will be open. The side where the two holes are open is up.

I know this isn’t a huge problem and I didn’t just blow your mind (maybe Tim’s) because it probably takes less time to switch the cable around vs looking at the cable and port studying the symbols. So maybe if you didn’t already know this, this can be that one thing you’re supposed to learn today.

Guest post: Website traffic infographic from Visually

This guest post is from Abby Ward, a UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies student who completed a practicum with SCLS.

Unsure how to navigate Google Analytics to find useful information about your website traffic? Don’t have time to check your data every week? A free service from Visually can create an appealing infographic using your Google Analytics data to give you a quick snapshot of how your website is doing. The service sends an infographic to your email inbox every week.

To get started, go to and sign in with the Google account you use to access Google Analytics.

Sample Google Analytics infographic from Visually

Free PDF Tool

Pdf-155498_640The other day I needed to find a way to merge two PDF files together.  I don't have Adobe Acrobat on my PC so I thought I would look to see if there was anything on the Internet that was free and easy to use.  After some searching I found a website called  I was amazed at what you could do with PDFs on their website and it was all free.  They have the normal conversions that offers which are JPG to PDF, PDF to Word, PDF to Excel (though I don't know why you would want to do this), PDF to PPT (convert a PDF into Powerpoint sounds really useful), and then the reverse of these.  Then there were some options that I thought were really cool.  They are Compress PDF, Merge PDF (yes!, exactly what I was looking for), Split PDF and Unlock PDF (this unlocks password-protected files; not sure of the legality of this).  I tried the Merge PDFs option and it was very simple.  The merged file I got back looked great and I was very happy with it.  I would highly recommend this website if you ever need to manipulate PDF file(s).

Excel Color Options

Colors - 6387333329_7a39b2c707_o

image © 2011 atramos, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Awhile back I shared a trick for quickly turning boring report numbers into colorized heat maps. Accenting data is something I find myself doing frequently in Excel. Although it offers many options for doing that (fonts, borders, fills, etc.), color is my preferred highlighting method.

Sometimes the default colors aren't enough or aren't appropriate for the task. Particularly when designing reports for printing, I prefer a broader range of lighter pastels; many of the default colors are just too strong.

Of course, Excel will let you assign custom colors to just about any element, and you can pick from over 16 million colors. The catch is that you'll have to fuss with the custom color selector, perhaps repeatedly, which can be time consuming.

Of course there's an easier way. Select the Page Layout tab from the Office Ribbon. Near the left end of the controls, pull down the Colors menu, and choose from a number of prefabricated alternate palettes. Any of these options will replace Office's default colors with a new set.

For my purposes (more pastels, for better printing), I find the color sets named Adjacency, Black Tie or Foundry are particularly handy. You can also achieve a new color set by choosing an entirely different Theme, but doing that will also change all your fonts and other display characteristics.

What's in a maker kit?

Mindstorms2SCLS recently used LSTA and other funds to put together a variety of maker kits / labs that are loaned out to SCLS member libraries. We thought it might be useful to share the contents of the kits. Click on the link below for each kit type to see the contents and other information about the kits. There is a lot that goes into these kits and we have an awesome group of people who work together to make it all happens. Tasks include: selecting and ordering equipment, organizing documentation, finding containers, scheduling the kits and delivering the kits to libraries. Browse our Mobile Maker Kits page to see everything that goes into this process. One of my favorites is the instructions for packing the scanning kit.

Scanning Kit (purchased with LSTA grant funds)

Stop Motion Animation Kit (purchased with LSTA grant funds)

Lego Mindstorm Labs (purchased with an SCLS Foundation grant)

Mobile Printing Press (purchased with SCLS funds)


Merging Barcodes in OverDrive Support is Here!

OverDriveMergeYes, you read that right. We've been asking for and waiting a long time for this option in OverDrive Support. Now, instead of filling out a support request and waiting for OverDrive Support staff to merge library cards, you can do it on your own.

And, it's pretty easy. Library staff can log into OverDrive Marketplace* with their credentials and then select Support. You'll see the Merge Barcode Activity option. You'll need both of the patron barcodes - the old one and the new one - to merge the accounts. Be sure to search and review the barcodes before merging as any activity merged with the new barcode cannot be removed afterwards.

OverDriveMerge2As you can see by the screenshot, it's a pretty simple process. And, our patrons won't have to wait to be able to use their new library cards - woo hoo! Enjoy!

Updated 7/30/15

OverDriveMerge3A question came in about searching and reviewing the barcodes before merging that I want to address. Here's what you'll see when you enter barcodes in both fields. Any activity on the original barcode - the checkouts and holds - will be merged with the new barcode.You'll need to select each barcode before the Merge button becomes active. Then click Merge and you're all done.

Note - the authentication name is "south" for all South Central Library System patrons.

I'm sure there will be more new things coming from OverDrive soon. Next week is Digipalooza 2015, OverDrive's International  User Group meeting. Sara Gold from WiLS and I will be attending and will bring back news, updates, and more for you. Join us on August 25 at 10 a.m. for our Digipalooza 2015 Highlights webinar.

*Each library should have credentials to access OverDrive Support in OverDrive's Marketplace. Contact me if you need help accessing it or need an account.

Removing Duplicate Entries in Excel

Say, for example, you had a program sign up and now have a spreadsheet with a list of people to subscribe to an email list but first you want to make sure you're not trying to subscribe the same address more than once.  Sure, you could sort the list by email address then manually pick out and delete the duplicates.  You could even use Conditional Formatting to highlight the duplicate entries to make them easy to find first.  Or you can use the Remove Duplicates function and get rid of them in just a few clicks.

Before you do this, a word of caution.  Removing the duplicates will change how many rows display.  It will either shorten the column you selected making it not line up with other columns in the spreadsheet or it can delete the entire row if you have all columns selected.  Depending on what you need, you may want to copy the data you want de-duplicated to another worksheet.

  1. Select the column where you'd like to remove the duplicates.
  2. Click on the Data tab
  3. Click on the Remove Duplicates column.
  4. If you have other information in the spreadsheet that's not selected, you will get a "Remove Duplicates Warning" pop-up box asking if you want to expand the selection or continue with the current selection.
    1. If you only want to remove data in the selected column, choose "Continue with the current selection and click on "Remove Duplicates".
    2. If you want to remove data from all columns, choose "Expand the selection" and click on "Remove Duplicates".
  5. The "Remove Duplicates" window will open.  There will be a list of the columns and a checkbox in front indicating which columns you'd like to use to compare for duplicate entries.
    1. If you've selected a single column, there should be a checkmark in the box in front of your column (or column name if your data has headers) and you can just hit "OK".
    2. If you've selected multiple columns, choose which columns need to be duplicated for the entry to be removed and click "OK".  For example, if you had a spreadsheet with the first name, last name and email address in separate columns and wanted to remove any entries for the same person, you'd need to have a checkmark in front of all three columns.  That way only an entry with all three the same would be removed.  If you just used the last name and email columns, you could delete other family members using that email address. 
  6. Another pop-up window will appear telling you how many duplicates were found and how many items remain.  Click "OK" and you'll be at your now cleaned up spreadsheet.


Format Painter tips

You probably already know that you can use Microsoft's Format Painter to quickly copy formatting from one bit of text in a document to another. But did you know..

  • you can double-click the Format Painter button if you want to change the format of multiple selections in your document or worksheet? (to stop formatting, press ESC)


  • you can use Format Painter to copy formats and apply them to drawing objects and pictures?

    video (selection is < 1min)

"Modules Unraveled" Drupal training videos now free

flickr photo shared by cogdogblog under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

When librarians ask about advanced Drupal training resources, from now on I'll mention the training videos from Modules Unraveled. Modules Unraveled recently changed to an ad-sponsored model, making its high-quality tutorial videos on Drupal modules free. (In the past the site was subscription-based, and that's a big barrier for many. Not anymore!)

Modules Unraveled provides intermediate to advanced coverage of select Drupal modules. You may already be using some of these modules on your library's website. For example:

  • "Calendar" powers many sites' calendars.
  • "Views" powers Calendar and almost any display that combines text and images from multiple nodes (Articles, Basic Pages, Events, etc.) into one page or block.
  • "Views Slideshow" powers image slideshows (aka carousels).
  • "Quicktabs" produces tabbed blocks for combined Search LINKcat/Search this website.

Beginner documentation for SCLS's version of these features shows how to use some of them, but falls far short of explaining how to tweak or significantly alter how they work. For the site maintainer who wants to do just that*, Modules Unraveled explains settings and configuration options for Calendar, Views, Views Slideshow, Quicktabs, and more—premium videos that are now available for free (in exchange for watching a 15-second ad).

* Contact me if you need extra permission to tinker with your SCLS-hosted Drupal site.

3 min of Google searching goodness

Have 3 minutes for a little Google searching goodness? Learn how to use Google's site: operator to find pages on hard-to-search sites, and how to narrow your searches to a specific period of time.