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Linking to SCLS Online Resources

Cursor Let's say you're CRAZY about LearningExpress Library (and who wouldn't be with all those online practice tests and tutorials to help you prepare for testing success?). Let's say you want to do some special promotion and also highlight LearningExpress Library on your library's web page so you can bring it to your patrons' attention, too...

How do you link to it?  

The best way to link to it is by using a special URL that goes through our authentication script (instead of linking directly to the LearningExpress Library website). A complete list of these special URLs can be found on the SCLS website with the information about Reference Databases.

Why go through our authentication script?

  • so patrons have the same experience inside or outside the library
  • to insure that patrons automatically end up in the database under the library account without being prompted for top secret user names and passwords (which they won't know)
  • so we can collect statistics about usage for the member libraries

If you have any questions about linking to the SCLS Online Resources, please contact Kerri or Rose.

Help the Help Desk to Better Help You

When you call the Help Desk it helps us a lot if you first give us the following information: 

  1. Your first and last name, as there are a lot of Susans and Janes out there
  2. Your library name

If you need your Dynix workstation reset, then it's very helpful if you already know your workstation number. A workstation number is the four-digit number that you use to log in to Dynix.

If you have other non-Dynix related problems then we'll probably need to know the name of the PC that is having the problem. This name helps us to find your PC in case we need to remote into it in order to fix it. The name of any LINK PC begins with your library's three-letter agency code. Next it contains any where from three to four characters, ex. SLAL or PAL, that help us to identify if it is a Staff PC or a Patron PC. Finally the name of your PC ends with a two-digit number. This entire PC name can be found on the PC itself, usually on the top, and it is found on a white label with black letters.

If you have a mouse and/or keyboard problem then it's helpful if you already know what type of connector your mouse and keyboard use. There are two kinds that are in use and they are USB and PS/2. The USB connector end is shaped like a small rectangle and the PS/2 connector end is circular shaped. PS/2 connector ends for mice and keyboards will always have different colors. The mouse PS/2 connector is always green and the keyboard PS/2 connector is always purple.

Current Awareness Techniques That Might Work for You

Clock This is a comment we received from one of our readers... but I often feel this way, and I bet lots of folks can relate:

"I often don't remember to check [TechBits] or all the other blogs, wikis, lists and sites recommended by other staff--even when I have a moment to spare. Example, I check my Bloglines maybe once every six months. Not exactly useful to me, is it? How do folks manage? And what aren't they doing that should get done?"

Finding time for current awareness and getting things done is definitely a balancing act, and everyone manages differently. What works for one person might not work for another -- and adjustments may be necessary in the face of other demands. Here's how I manage -- and I hope others will share their own philosophies in the comments!

  1. Figure out which RSS feeds are relevant to your work, and then be ruthless in picking what to read. Pick a daily limit (say 10 min./day) or a longer block of time each week/month, and then skim until you find something that could apply to you and your library. Don't feel bad about marking everything as "read" if it's overwhelming to see too many unread items.

  2. Watch for technology in the news media -- my favorite source is the "All Tech Considered" segment of NPR's All Things Considered program. I catch it during my commute, but the website lets you listen to it on your computer or transfer it to a portable music player, or subscribe to RSS/podcast feeds.

  3. Use the SCLS Journal Routing service to get tech info in handy magazine format -- I like Computers in Libraries for its tight focus on library technology and Wired for general tech (and tech culture) awareness. Sign up for journal routing (requires password). 

If you feel like you're shirking "real work," remember that the knowledge you gain from current awareness can help you plan ahead and solve problems more nimbly. Better to balance a little time learning about tech matters (like Kindles, software licenses, Thunderbird, for example) with your other work now, than to really scramble when your library needs them or when patrons ask about them!

It's easy to BeFunky

I ran across a site today that I already adore: BeFunky.com.

Think photo effects. Think about how you might jazz up your website, newsletters, and posters.

Meet Izzy-the-original:


Now let me introduce Izzy who has been made funky in 4 different ways (I can't decide which I like best!):

 4 examples

Quick. Easy. No registration required.

Re-Kindling e-book enthusiasm


Hi!  I'm Stef Morrill, the Associate Director of South Central.  I used to be part of the technology team, and they occasionally still let me pretend I am by letting me do things like write blog posts.  My focus is usually new (or soon-to-be) technology and how we can use it to improve library service.

Yeah, really bad pun.  But it's true:  The launch of the new Kindle came with a flurry of press coverage and excitement.Kindle

And maybe you've already had the question: "Can I get books for my new Kindle from the library?"

The answer, at least for right now, is "No".  But there is some hope:

netLibrary, our current e-book provider, has launched a program for the less-hyped-but-still-good Sony Reader.  Unfortunately, the netLibrary content isn't for patron devices -- it's for library-owned devices.  Not really what we're looking for.

OverDrive, our current downloadable audiobook provider, is introducing content for the Sony Reader that patrons can download to their devices.  We'll be looking into this service to see if it's worth pursuing.

But what about the Kindle?

Well, there's an interesting story.

OverDrive does provide e-book content in a format called MobiPocket.  Lots of devices, including the Kindle, support MobiPocket.  Problem solved, right?

Wrong.  There are two problems with using the Kindle with OverDrive's MobiPocket content:

1.  You have to know a hardware ID number that isn't accessible on the Kindle.
2.  The OverDrive content is protected with Digital Rights Management (DRM) that the Kindle doesn't support to allow them to only work for the checkout period.

Here's the interesting part: Last year, someone figured out how to hack the Kindle and get around these two things.  They wrote some scripts that made the Kindle work with the protected MobiPocket format that OverDrive and many other sites use.  The great thing is that the books expired just as they would have on any other device.  The DRM still worked!  Problem solved, right?

Well, no.  About a week ago, Amazon cracked down on the site that published the hacks.  This crackdown prompted a lively discussion on Amazon's site.  And do you know what many people were upset about?  That they couldn't get content for their Kindle from their local public library!  Maybe Amazon will figure out that library users would be a fantastic market for the Kindle, and make this work.  We can only hope.

Have your patrons been asking about Kindles or other e-books?  Comment on this post and let me know!

RSS Feed Me

When we announced the TechBits blog, we made mention of RSS and RSS readers. But what is RSS? And why is RSS great?   Cake

Here's an "Oprah-fied" explanation of RSS...

I can tell you why *I* love RSS. Before signing up for an RSS reader, I relied mainly on email and word-of-mouth for information. This was okay, but I wasn't always receiving information about *new* tools and trends.

When I signed up for an online RSS reader (I picked Bloglines) and added a few blogs I wanted to follow, suddenly I was getting lots of information about new tools and trends.  The people writing the blogs were the ones out pounding the pavement to find new stuff, assessing whether it might be useful, and sending the information my way. Now it was easy to hear about sites for learning languages, online word processing options, and time-saving tips!

Admittedly, when I first signed up for Bloglines I went a little nuts and added LOTS of feeds, some of which just really weren't that helpful (a few put out TOO much information, and a few just weren't that interesting). Over time, I revised the feeds I follow to be ones that give me the information I want in an amount that I can deal with, and I found some excellent sites that feed me information about what new technology is out there and how libraries might use this technology.

In addition to work-related blogs, I also follow some feeds for friends' Flickr accounts, and some personal blogs where friends post news and pictures of their kids and review Madison restaurants. That's always the "extra fun part" when I log in to check my RSS feeds.

Using an RSS reader lets me keep my critical, time-sensitive info in my email and my interesting, nice-to-know information in my RSS reader... which is waiting for me whenever I have a minute to sit and read.

Want to learn more about RSS readers? There is a training session on Google Reader scheduled for Wednesday, March 25 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Preparing to migrate from Eudora to Thunderbird email software

Intro: Hi, I’m Pat, LINK’s Network Administrator. My work is mainly behind the scenes: keeping the LINK network running smoothly and assisting the Help Desk and PC Technicians with odd-ball things as they arise.  I also play a role in planning and implementing necessary technology changes, e.g. BadgerNet, antivirus, email and Windows migrations.

Have you felt like the Eudora email software is "old news" and you would like to use something more modern?  Eudora email will be going away this year.  The company that makes Eudora is no longer supporting it. Consequently, SCLS staff have researched and identified Eudora's replacement: Thunderbird.  The Thunderbird software costs the same as Eudora: free.    EmailIcon

SCLS Automation is in the process of writing documentation so that you can migrate your own email from Eudora to Thunderbird.  In the mean time, it's become clear that you will save yourself some time (and possibly headaches later) if you clean up and organize your Eudora mail now before migrating to Thunderbird.  Full details of the clean up and organizing process are covered at http://www.scls.info/technology/email/prethunderbirdprep.html

You may opt-out of performing many of the suggested clean up tasks. However, you are strongly advised to at least familiarize yourself with the section on “Organizing features that will not transfer from Eudora to Thunderbird”:

1. Eudora's Reply and Forward symbols do not migrate to Thunderbird. If you have Eudora emails to which you've either replied to or forwarded, the arrow symbols will not transfer when you migrate to Thunderbird.
2. Both Read and Unread messages will migrate as Unread messages.
3. Color-coded labels in Eudora will not migrate to Thunderbird.
4. Emails sent/received in Eudora during Daylight Saving Time will be off by one hour.

There are some new organizational processes that you can create now to compensate for "feature loss" if any of these are of interest to you.  See the above link for details.

If you want to get a head start on preparing for the migration process, join Jean Anderson for the next Brain Snack: Email Tips & Tricks, March 20 at 10:00 a.m. Visit the SCLS Calendar (www.scls.info/calendar) to register.

Start->Run... Calculate

Did you know that Start->Run... can be a quick way to open programs?

Simply click on the Windows Start button    Img-3003
Select "Run..."
Type in the box, and hit OK.

Here are some programs that you can start:

  • Type calc for Windows Calculator
  • Type notepad for Notepad
  • Type wordpad for Wordpad
  • Type mspaint for Microsoft Paint
  • Type iexplore for Internet Explorer

And for PCs that have these programs installed:

  • Type firefox for Firefox
  • Type winword for Microsoft Word
  • Type excel for Microsoft Excel

I use this mainly for Calculator and Notepad... programs that I don't want to make shortcuts for (I don't use them THAT frequently) and which are nested in the Programs menu (Start->Programs->Accessories)

And finally...an easy way to make a desktop shortcut to Windows calculator:

  • Right-click on the desktop
  • Select New->Shortcut 
  • Type calc in the box
  • Name the shortcut whatever you'd like and click Finish

Calculator Voila! You can keep the shortcut on the desktop, or drag it to the Quick Launch toolbar near the Start button.

Document Storage Recommendation

My name is Andrew and I am the other PC Technician for Automation.  Craig and I work together to support the PCs on the LINK network.  Some of you might know me from answering the phone at the Help Desk.  I'd much rather blog about baseball, but since this is a technology blog, I'll continue on with that theme.

Some of you might be wondering where might be the best place to save your documents.  Whether you work at your own PC or at a shared workstation, my recommendation is to save your files within the My Documents folder.

The My Documents folder is recommended for several reasons.

  • It is quicker for Automation staff to back up your data.  When we replace your PC or reinstall your Windows operating system, we make a backup of your data.  It takes less time to back up data from a centralized location, My Documents, than searching the entire hard drive for what may be valuable data.
  • There is a much smaller chance that we will miss backing up some of yMydocsour documents when they are all stored in the same My Documents folder.
  • It is much easier for you to back up your documents regularly.  Instead of copying over several folders or loose files to your USB flash drive, you can simply copy over the entire My Documents folder.  The same goes for those who prefer to burn to CD or DVD for backups.

If you share a workstation with others, you could create a subfolder for each person within the My Documents folder.  This way, all your files are still saved within the same container, yet separated from the files of other users.  The illustration shows how this might look.

Most of you should be able to access My Documents from its desktop shortcut.  If you do not have a shortcut, try this.

  1. Right-click the Desktop
  2. Select Properties
  3. Click the Desktop tab
  4. Click Customize Desktop
  5. Check the box for My Documents
  6. Click OK twice

Teen Tech Week is March 8-14

One of our first reader requests was for help finding ideas for Teen Tech Week.  This year's theme is "Press Play @ Your Library," and the official dates are March 8-14.  Unofficially, you can celebrate it whenever you want -- maybe during your local schools' spring break?

The first places to look are the ALA/YALSA Teen Tech Week website and the Teen Tech Week Wiki.

Take some budget-friendly tips from Tech on a Budget and 25 Ways to Celebrate Teen Tech Week (PDF).  Maybe your teens would like...

  • Game night or a LAN party at the library
  • Tech-type craft projects
  • Recording their own podcasts
  • Building their own funny avatars online

Are you celebrating Teen Tech Week?  Tell us how in the comments!