Wisconsin's Digital Library Dashboard

Wisconsin library patrons love Wisconsin's Digital Library! In fact, in 2020, Wisconsin patrons checked out almost 7 million ebook and digital audiobooks (6,999,763 to be exact!). How many of those checkouts were yours in 2020?

OverDriveDashboardAs of right now, on February 18 at 3:58 p.m., 996,458 items have been checked out and 519,949 items have been placed on hold. How do I know that you ask? Today, a new Digital Library Dashboard was launched. You'll find this link at the bottom of Wisconsin's Digital Library homepage.

In addition to seeing the numbers change every second or so, you'll also see what items are being checked out or placed on hold. If you're quick enough, you can click on the cover image for more information about the title and place your own hold or check it out. It's a great way to fill up your hold list.

I made a video* so you can see an example of how fast these numbers are changing. I find the dashboard mesmerizing and I've had it open on my computer all day. I'm finishing this post up at 4:14 p.m. on February 18 and the numbers are now:

  • loans = 996,783
  • holds = 520,106

Happy reading and listening!

*There is no sound on the video and you can see how the number grew in just a few hours!


Help measure residential internet speeds in your community

This post is adapted from the DPI Broadband Speed Test Tookit prepared by IFLS Library System.

DPI is committed to improving digital equity in the state of Wisconsin. This year, they’re collecting data about internet speeds across the state. They need your help!

What they’re doing

DPI is collaborating with Measurement Lab (M-Lab) to collect data on internet connection speeds across Wisconsin. DPI will use M-Lab’s internet speed test data to create detailed reports and to provide maps of internet speeds across the state.

Why they’re doing it

The data will give the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access (and other broadband task groups) the information they need to target improvements where internet speeds and performance are poor. 

Your input is critical

In order to get an accurate picture of the state, we need a lot of accurate data. That’s where you come in. The more data M-Lab can collect, the better we can model internet connection speeds across the state.

How you can help

  • Include a link to the M-Lab Speed Test on your library websites, Facebook pages, and any other communication platforms your library uses. The URL to link to the speed test is https://speed.measurementlab.net/#/.

  • Encourage community members to test their internet connection speeds at home, several times if possible! Include this in e-mails and newsletters, tuck into pick-up bags, encourage your trustees and volunteers to participate and share.

  • Share the URLs of pages where you have posted the link, so DPI can get an idea of how the speed test is being promoted around the state. (They’re looking for your social media posts as well as your website.)

Suggested language



Kudos to IFLS Library System for sharing a toolkit with graphics to use for websites, social media posts, Facebook headers, newsletters, and bag-stuffers.

Cameras for virtual programing

Canon M50 III think virtual programs are going to be part of everyday life in libraries going forward, at least in some small part. So, I thought I would share with you some research I’ve been doing on tech gear you might want to use for your programs. I was going to write one complete post about all the gear I’ve come across over the last several months, but that would make for a long and boring post. Instead, I thought I would start with a short and boring post about cameras.

You’ve probably already been doing some form of virtual programming with a webcam or your phone which has probably worked alright for you so far. But, if you want to make your programs look better, you could upgrade to a digital camera designed with vlogging in mind.

When purchasing a camera to record programs or for live streams, I have 5 criteria to consider:

  • Articulating screen; so you can flip it around and see if you are in the frame
  • External mic jack; so you can connect a shotgun or lavaliere mic to the camera
  • Full HD recording; If the camera says HD 720 P, it’s not full HD
  • Good auto-focusing and tracking; this means the camera can quickly and quietly focus on a subject while moving around
  • HDMI output; for live streaming

If you find a camera that meets the first 4 criteria, you are well on your way to making your virtual programming better quality and easier on yourself.

Two cameras that came out in 2020 that I’m excited about are the Sony ZV-1 which was released in April and the Canon M50 mark II released in October. Both cameras meet all 5 criteria listed above and both go beyond by also offering 4K video. The biggest difference between these two cameras is the Sony ZV-1 is a Point and Shoot, meaning it has a fixed lens. The Canon camera is mirrorless which accommodates interchangeable lenses.

I struggled to find anything negative about either of these cameras. If I had to pick one thing, it would be that they both have a short battery life when recording video. Both cameras can overcome that, though. The Sony camera comes with a USB cable you can connect to a USB power source to keep the camera powered up while recording, and you can purchase a dummy battery with a power cable for the Canon camera.

These cameras cost anywhere between $700.00 - $800.00. If you would like to spend a little less and you’re not too concerned about the quality of live streaming the original Canon M50 can still be picked up new for around $650.00. If that’s still out of your price range you might be able to find a used Canon Rebel T5i or T6i that would give you the first 4 criteria and a USB port out for even less.

My intention here isn’t to go into great detail about either camera, you can find quite a lot of information online about both cameras, I just wanted to let you know these are available.
In a future post, I’ll write about microphones, lighting equipment, and stands.

Check out these videos for more information about each camera.


More Tools for Online Programming

My last TechBits post was about Interactive Tools for Virtual Meetings and Workshops. This time, I want to share a few physical tools that will help you host great online programs.

CookingClassThe inspiration for this topic came from a recent online cooking class I took. It was over Zoom and the presenter, Elyse Kopecky, wanted to be able to see all the participants cooking along with her. I was using my iPad Mini to attend and trying to find a place to put it so I could see Elyse, be seen, and cook was a challenge. As you can see in these photos, my first try was to use my cupboard and my second used a combination of books and storage containers.

If you are regularly presenting or hosting meetings, you may want to invest in a Ring light and a stand or tripod for your phone or camera. My colleague, Jamie Matczak from the Wisconsin Valley Library Service, recently added this Ring light and tripod to her equipment toolkit. There are lots of options out there so find one that works best for your needs. SCLS member libraries: if you need some advice, reach out to Craig Ellefson as he's helped many libraries with equipment needs this year.

Next, let's talk about sound. David Lee King recently tested a mobile friendly lavalier microphone. I like that this one is small and you don't have to wear a headset with a microphone to get good sound quality. On a similar topic, Richard Byrne from Practical Ed Tech recently covered Easy Ways to Sound Better in Virtual Meetings. He mentions a couple of microphones along with some tweaks you can make to Zoom to improve the audio quality. Again, there are lots of options for microphones so look for one that will work for you.

Lastly, attending this cooking class was a lot of fun! SCLS recently added a baking and cooking kit so you can host your own cooking show! Need some inspiration? Madison Public Library has a program called Cooking with Chef Lily and you can see the recordings here. Sun Prairie Public Library's program, Books and Cooks, features library director Svetha Hetzler cooking from a variety of cookbooks. And,I recently attended an event from Penguin Random House which featured a cooking demo with America's Test Kitchen Kids Editor in Chief, Molly Birnbaum.

SweetPotatoBiscuitsBy the way, I made Sweet Potato Biscuits and they were yummy! Happy Cooking!



Library Extension

Most of the time, when I'm interested in a book I'll head straight to LINKcat and do my searching there. Occasionally, though, I find myself on Amazon reading reviews of something I've heard about. In those cases, there is a handy browser extension that can quickly and easily tell me while I'm still on Amazon if the title is available in LINKcat or through Wisconsin's Digital Library (OverDrive) and provide links so I can hop over and place a hold. That extension is "Library Extension" and is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.


You can find more information about Library Extension here:

Library Extension and many other very cool tools were covered in the Tech Days 2020 "Productivity and Technology" session.  Recording, slides, and list of apps can be found here: https://techdayswisc.org/resources

Happy searching!

Interactive Tools for Virtual Meetings and Workshops

Like all of you, I've been attending and facilitating virtual meetings, webinars, and workshops a lot since March. I wanted to share with you a couple of the tools I've learned about that can make your virtual meetings and programs more interactive and fun.

First is Mentimeter. I'd seen this tool but not really explored it until now. I recently attended a fabulous Thoughtfully Fit Communications Masterclass with Darcy Luoma and Mentimeter was one of the tools used during the presentation. From live polling to creating word clouds, there are many ways you can use Mentimeter during your presentations or meetings. The free version allows up to two question slides and five quiz slides for an unlimited audience. You may see this in an upcoming meeting or workshop! I signed up for my free account today.

StickyNote4Next up is Google Jamboard. This is a virtual interactive whiteboard. I first heard about Jamboard from Richard Byrne of Free Tech for Teachers in this blog post from last May. Richard has a short video showing how to use Jamboard - it's really easy! Jamboard can be used to brainstorm and share ideas or even as a virtual icebreaker. That's one of the ways I've used it recently. My favorite question to ask at the beginning of a workshop is "What is making you happy this week" (which I borrowed from the podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour.) 

I set up a Jamboard for this Tech Bits post. Try it out and share what's making you happy this week. I started us off with the Great British Baking Show - Holiday Episodes. What's making you happy?

Patent FUN!

I think inventions and patents are cool, so I am sharing a couple fun ways to explore them:

US256265-Device for waking persons from sleep

Reading Journey in Libby

ReadingHistory2If you're a Libby user like me, you may have noticed some new information on your reading history in Libby. It's called your Reading Journey and it works like this.

From your Shelf in Libby, tap on the "due in X days" to see your reading journey for individual titles. I recently finished Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly and you can see that I listened to this book for 13 hours and 58 minutes and picked up the audiobook 28 times. Libby also told me when I checked out the book, returned it, placed another hold, and checked it out again (yes, I didn't finish it the first time). For Educated by Tara Westover, Libby tells me that I'm on track to finish listening to the audiobook in 8 hours and 13 minutes. Not only for audiobooks, similar information is available for ebook checkouts. 

Timeline2While this can be interesting information to have, if you or your patrons are at all concerned about this information, you can turn this feature off. I also want to share OverDrive's Privacy Policy to reassure you and your patrons that the timeline information is not shared with publishers or stored by OverDrive. Here's how to turn off your timeline. **Updated 10/30/2020: Once you turn off your timeline, you can't turn it back on without resetting the app so only turn off the timeline if you really, really want to. 

On a related note, the next session of the OverDrive Support Course (for SCLS member library staff only) starts next Monday, November 2. In this 5-week course, you'll learn about providing support for Wisconsin's Digital Library including answering Libby questions like this one. Register here!

Spotting a dark pattern on the web

A few days ago I was present for an excellent discussion that was briefly side-tracked by confusion about the pricing of a newsletter service which is widely used by libraries. Here's roughly what the fly on the wall (me) heard:

Librarian A: "We have 20,000 subscribers, so we're paying over $1000 for Service X."

Librarian B: "What?! Service X says they only charge $15/month for 100,000 subscribers!"

Frustratingly, the company's own pricing page was the source of the confusion because it's an example of a dark pattern: "a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying overpriced insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills" (Wikipedia).

Because recognizing dark patterns is key to avoiding their tricks, let's take a quick look at what that pricing page says about their Standard Plan, near the top of the page:

Screenshot 2020-10-16 170927Did you notice that small-print "Starting at $14.99" language? I didn't, at first, but it matters in a big way. (If you click the big "Select" button, you're asked to sign up for an account, gradually making you more invested in the service without being entirely clear about the price you'll pay—and you have to actively check a box to OPT OUT of receiving their marketing spam.) When we scroll further on the pricing page and interact with the price chart, by choosing the specific range of contacts, THEN we see that 20,000 subscribers is, indeed, a great deal more than $15/month!

Screenshot 2020-10-16 171930

Irksome, isn't it? They haven't tricked us into doing anything (yet), but they're chipping away at our resistance to signing up by featuring a price that seems like a better value than it really is. That's a dark pattern!

Next time you're shopping online or signing up for a new service, keep a lookout for anything misleading or deceptive about the process—you may be interacting with a dark pattern. (And if you, like me, need to see some dark patterns analyzed and cataloged, there is website and a hashtag to shame the offenders and air our collective grievance.)

Good Calculators, Google Forms, and more

WVLS has shared some short (3-15 min) "Digital Bytes" training videos recently that may be of interest to you or your library patrons:

Good CalculatorsGood Calculators
Time: 5:01
Jamie talks about an educational and fun tool that can help library patrons of all ages.

Google Forms
Time: 15:11
Anne talks about creating a Google Form and how to share it.  Watch

Social Media Message Optimizer
Time: 5:26
Jamie talks about using CoSchedule’s Social Media Message Optimizer to see if you’re getting the most out of your library’s social media posts, based on several factors. 

JCW Resume Builder
Time: 10:29
Anne talks about using the Job Center of Wisconsin online resume builder. Watch

WVLS Digital BytesUsing Bluejeans
Time: 10:46
Jamie demonstrates how to use Bluejeans as a moderator.  Watch

Scanning Documents On Your iPhone
Time: 3:24
Don’t have access to a scanner? Jamie talks about using your iPhone to scan documents as a PDF file.  Watch

You can find more of these "Digital Bytes" here on the WVLS website: https://wvls.org/digital-bytes/