Federal Library Funding is at Risk

PORI have recently spent some time in libraries, essentially using them as a temporary office space. It strikes me that libraries are very vital and vibrant places. They are downright busy. People are using the photocopier, PCs and printers; getting help from the library staff; using the meeting rooms, checking out materials; or like me, just sitting in comfy chairs and using the library’s wireless with their own laptops or mobile devices. Excellent Internet and wireless service help to make libraries such useful places. Federal LSTA funds, and in some cases Federal FCC E-rate funds, offset the cost of providing Internet and wireless service to just about all of the libraries in the South Central Library System. This funding is in danger. If you live in Wisconsin and you use libraries and appreciate the great Internet, wireless and other services they provide, there are two ways you SMBcan help preserve the Federal Funding. The first is to contact Congress. The American Library Association has made it very easy to do so, by providing a form and contact information. The second way is to help the Wisconsin library delegation going to National Library Legislative Day in May tell your personal library story. There is a form for that too!

Test your cybersecurity knowledge

CybersecurityLast summer, the folks at the Pew Research Center surveyed adult internet users living in the US about cybersecurity.

The results? "A majority of internet users can answer fewer than half the questions correctly on a difficult knowledge quiz about cybersecurity issues and concepts."

Want to see how you fare? Take the short 13-question quiz. When you finish, you'll be able to compare your scores with the average American and see explanations for the terms and topics in each question. The analysis of the findings from the poll can be found in the full report, "What the Public Knows About Cybersecurity."

How did you do?

Which cybersecurity topics would you like us to cover on the TechBits blog? (Please let us know in the comments!)

Overcoming Distractions

FocusThis year, I've been working on improving my focus at work (and at home). By that I mean, focusing on the tasks at hand, getting things done, and avoiding distractions. My main distraction at work is my iPhone. What I've discovered over the last few months is that I'm using my phone to avoid working on difficult or challenging projects.

It's hard, though, because I also use my iPhone as a tool. I use the timer, the calculator, the camera, the calendar, and more. Some of my colleagues even text me about work things. Full disclosure—I also used the camera on my phone to take the photos that are included in this post.

My phone will always be a tool that I'll use for a variety of things. My focus is on keeping it as a tool to help me succeed at work and avoiding using it as a means to procrastinate. My phone now lives on the other side of my office instead of right in front of me and I'm only using it at work when necessary. 

BulletJournalThe other tool that I'm using to improve my productivity and focus at work is Bullet Journaling which I learned about at the Wisconsin Library Association Conference last year. What I love about this way of tracking my projects and to do lists is that everything is in one place. Before Bullet Journaling, I was using a separate notebook for each big project—PLSR, WLA, iLEAD, and SCLS Continuing Education.

For a few months, I had one Bullet Journal (the smaller one in the photo) for both home and work projects. I recently realized that I needed to keep them separate and started the larger journal for work. I'm not giving up Remember the Milk for my online to do list or my Google Calendar for meetings and appointments, but I'm figuring out what technology works for me and when.

What tools do you use to help you focus on your work projects? Please share—I'm always on the lookout for new methods or tools to try.

Cleaning up your patron database - address verification tools.

Interested in cleaning up and verifying address information in your patron records?  Here are some free tools to help you out. 

Free address look-up tools:

  • SmartyStreets: 250 free lookups every month.
  • Experian data quality: verify up to 500 addresses for free against the USPS database (no mention if per month or total).
  • American Factfinder Address lookup: provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, this tool has been used by LINKcat libraries for years to determine the municipality of a patron's legal place of residence.  Provides geographical, municipal and political information about the address you submit.
  • USPS provides address verification and change of address (COA) tools, many through vendors that may allow a set number of free searches and require payment after that.
    • The Zip+4 Code Lookup tool can be used to confirm street address, City and zip code information.
    • Viewing the USPS change-of-address database (NCOA) requires end-user certification and licensing.  There are multiple vendors that are certified and licensed to provide this service; the amounts charged vary according to the number of addresses submitted. 

Bulk address mapping tool:

  • BatchGeo:  up to 250 addresses mapped for free each month.  Allows you to map out a set of addresses, from Excel format, so you can look at the set and see if any of the addresses you submitted lie outside of the range you are confirming.  For example, if you have a set of addresses that are marked as being in the "Town of X", use the BatchGeo mapping software to confirm that all of the addresses lie within that town.  If not, use the American FactFinder Address lookup tool to find the correct municipality for an address.

HINT: using the USPS standardized data entry formats may expedite searching, especially when using the  U.S. Census Bureau's American FactFinder Address lookup.

USPS Publication 28 - Postal Addressing Standards

  • Appendix B - Two-Letter State and Possession Abbreviations (p. 55)
  • Appendix C - Street Abbreviations (p. 59)
  • Appendix F - Address Standardization — County, State, Local Highways (p. 79)


Low-Tech Maker Fun

Monster-1297726_1920Want to make your own slime, lava bottle, ice sculpture painting, or bubble wand? Then you might want to check out Kiwi Crate’s DIY ideas at www.kiwicrate.com/diy. These and other low-tech projects are available with printable instructions that include a messiness rating, age range, estimated time, what you will need, and how to do it.

I first heard about Kiwi Crate Inc. from an engineering listserv. I had been looking for a unique “hand-on” present for my 3 year old grandson who lives in Texas and the Koala Crate (ages 3-4) subscription looked like the perfect gift. The subscription includes a crate (box) sent in the mail with everything needed for 2-3 creative theme based projects, plus additional materials to learn more. Luckily, I was visiting when his first box arrived. It was “Maker Fun”! I am embarrassed to admit that I now want the Tinker Crate (ages 9-16+) for myself.

Once we finished the activities in the crate, we wanted more. I was thrilled when I found the additional and free DIY ideas listed on the Kiwi Crate website. I wonder what our next project will be, maybe the Syrofoam stamps or the marshmallow launcher. Happy Tinkering!

Thinking mobile

PhoneappsThis afternoon I pulled up my feed reader and tried to catch up with various blogs I follow. This took me to 3 wonderful posts on the TechSoup for Libraries blog (have I mentioned how much I LOVE the TechSoup blog?) that all had me thinking about mobile devices:

If you're looking for program ideas for helping seniors (or even 45-year olds who need bifocals) make their devices easier to see and use, those first two might be a nice place to start.

The last post has all sorts of interesting links, one of which took me to this article that lists "30 Ed-Tech Apps to Inspire Creativity and Creation." There are some apps here that I've heard of (Aviary and Google Slides, for example) and others that I can't wait to look into (Adobe Capture, LEGO Movie Maker)! 

Email list solutions

Mailinglist-800pxThe December 2016 issue of Computers in Libraries included a very informative article on "Next-Level Emailing."  In it, Jessamyn West discussed why email lists are helpful and reviewed MailChimp, TinyLetter, and Medium--some lower-cost (or free) alternatives to Constant Contact.  If you've been wondering how to choose an email list solution and what options are out there, you might want to give it a read.

Permalink to the article (accessible by staff in libraries on the SCLS network)

If you're outside the library and have access to EBSCOhost (either through SCLS or through BadgerLink, for example), you can pretty easily find the article with a quick search for "Next Level Emailing."

Windows 10 Screen Resolution

I have had a few people ask how they can change their screen resolution in Windows 10.  This is the easiest way to do this.

  1. Right-click an open area of your Desktop.
  2. Select Display Settings.
  3. Scroll down and click Advanced display settings.
  4. Select your preferred resolution.  Windows will recommend the optimal screen resolution for your video adapter and monitor.
    Recommended Screen Res
  5. Click Apply.
  6. Windows will warn you if you did not select the optimal resolution.
  7. Click Keep changes if you are satisfied with your selection or click Revert to start over.

Thermal Technologies

Zebra Printer, it's a little larger than the Dymo printerFor centuries man has been printing spine labels, but not all spine labels have been created equal. No -- as a matter of fact, some spine labels fade when exposed to sunlight or heat. "Why is this?" you may be asking. Simply put, it’s a difference in the thermal printing technology used when making the label. Some printers use a direct thermal approach while others use a thermal transfer method. Labels that are prone to fading over time use the direct thermal method where the label is chemically treated to react to heat. You may notice if you get a receipt from the gas pump and leave it in your car on a hot summer day it’s almost unreadable within two or three days. That’s because the chemicals in the paper are reacting to the heat in your car. The thermal transfer method in my opinion is better because the labels are not chemically treated, instead the printer has a wax or resin ribbon that a heated print head touches to apply the print to the label. This is a lot like the old method of using a dot matrix printer with a ribbon that transferred ink to the label.

The advantage of using the thermal transfer method is that the labels don’t fade over time. The downside is you have to buy a printer that supports this type of printing along with new labels and ribbons.

We started testing the Zebra TLP2824 thermal transfer printer back in September and have had really good results with it. We are now offering this printer to the libraries at a cost of $294.00 per printer. We will also order the first roll of labels and ribbon to get you started. I will give you more information after you purchase the printer on where to get the labels and ribbons in the future.

DuraReady Labels (peeled and unpeeled)If you’re not ready to commit to purchasing a new printer and supplies but would like labels that don’t fade, you could try DuraReady labels that work with the current Dymo LabelWriter 450 printers. These labels are a little odd in that they have a ribbon attached to the label itself so you get the non-fading qualities of a thermal transfer printer without having to change printers. The downsides to this label are you can’t really see what you’re printing until you peel off the ribbon, and you have to peel off the ribbon which can sometimes leave a light smudge on the label.

I have one roll of the 1” x 1” DuraReady labels to give away to the first person to ask for them. I would like to get some feedback from you on how likely you are to use them in the future.

(BTW, I do find Emily to be a little annoying.) Sometimes more than a little:)

Converting Google Keep notes to Google Docs

I use Google Keep on my phone on a regular basis to jot down quick notes. I started exploring it a bit more recently and realized that you can convert a Google Keep note to a Google Doc.

This could be useful in situations where you don't have a computer but want to jot down some notes that will serve as a starting point to a larger document. Jot down the notes on your phone or tablet and then when you are back at your computer, you can do the conversion.

Googlekeep-to-googledocsTo convert a Google Keep note to a Google Doc, click on the menu in the lower right-hand corner of the note, and choose Copy to Google Doc. Then open up your Google Docs and there it is!