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Comment Contest!

wouldn't lunch with Craig be fun?
TechBits is two years old.  To celebrate, we're having a comment contest! 

What might you win?  A $20 Amazon gift certificate  - OR -   lunch with Craig.  (He notes, "Lunch with me is a *great* prize, but you'll have to treat. I like barbecue!")

How can you enter?  Simply leave us a comment and share one or more of the following:

  • your favorite post(s)
  • things you've learned about through TechBits that you're using at your library
  • topics you'd like us to cover
  • an area of technology you're interested in for your library

Official Rules: To enter, leave a comment on this post by Friday, March 11th.  Provide your real e-mail address so we can get in touch with you later (it will not be posted on the Internet). Anyone can comment (we're very interested in the feedback!), but you must be an employee of a South Central Library System member library to win.  The winner will be announced on the blog.

We'd like to make TechBits as interesting and relevant as we can, and every comment and bit of feedback helps!

The dark ages

20090905_11photo © 2009 Erik Stabile | more info (via: Wylio)

For such a sunny morning, it was pretty dark in our offices.  And eerily quiet. 

As you know, SCLS Headquarters had a power outage this morning that took *everything* down--- email, network and web services, Dynix, database access, Library Online... even our cordless office phones. Ugh!  A transmission line was down in the area, and it interrupted service for about 1,000 power customers.

What did we do when the power went out? We...

  • contacted people to find out what was going on and how soon service might be restored
  • updated the SCLS status page so any libraries who have non-SCLS networks could easily see what was going on
  • powered down the servers that were running on limited battery backup (much better than having them shut down abruptly when the backup power runs out!)
  • called the libraries using personal cell phones and spare corded phones that don't require an outlet

Thanks for all of your patience this morning!  It was stressful and chaotic on our end, and I'm sure it was even more so at your libraries!! 

Scanning a smart phone as a library card

Barcodephoto © 2008 Conor Lawless | more info (via: Wylio)

A few months ago, I ran across some posts about apps like CardStar and Key Ring. These are designed to let you put all the numbers from your membership and rewards-type cards into your smartphone, eliminating the need to carry around a wallet full of cards.  Unfortunately, laser scanners (like our current Metrologic scanners) are great for scanning materials but aren't able to read barcodes off a shiny smart phone screen.

This post from the Swiss Army Librarian had me thinking about it again, and we're ordering a CCD scanner for testing that should work to scan the screens (wondering why we use laser scanners? here's a great FAQ that covers laser vs CCD scanners).  I also checked to see if there were any LINK policies limiting a library to using the patron's actual library card--- according to Heidi O, there aren't.  Each library makes its own decision.

So...  take a look at the Swiss Army Librarian's post.  Read what he writes about libraries honoring "virtual" library cards. 

  • Have you had requests for this from your patrons?
  • Will your library honor a "virtual" library card?  (If your library would honor a "virtual" library card, would you also honor a barcode that a patron recites or writes down on paper?)
  • What do you think about this new technology?

Winter Fashion Tip

Every Christmas, my in-laws give me a pair of gloves for Christmas.  It's really nice because I haven't had to buy new gloves in ten years.  Last Christmas, the gloves I received were technology-related.  They bought me a pair of Isotoner SmarTouch gloves.
Your bare fingeGlovesrs and touchscreens are conductive to electrical impulses.  When you wear normal gloves, touchscreens do not respond to the movements of your fingers because gloves are not conductors.  The new SmarTouch gloves have a conductive thread at the tip of the index fingers and thumbs that is compatible with the touchscreens on iPads, iPhones and most other SmartPhones. 

I have a work-provided HTC SmartPhone to communicate with co-workers while on the road.  Before I had the Isotoner gloves, I'd have to take off my gloves just to accept a phone call or dial out.  The gloves are comfortable and the palm is imprinted with silicone so you don't have to worry about your phone slipping away.  You may want to give these a try next winter.

Use the WPLC Support Request Form for OverDrive Support

WPLClogo A librarian recently asked me, "Do you have any advice on when to advise a patron to fill out a WPLC OverDrive Support Request form vs. having them ask us and then we ask you?"

Here's how I answered: Librarians and patrons can use the WPLC OverDrive Support Request form for questions about the Digital Download Center anytime the patron is comfortable with email follow-up and the question does not require an immediate answer or access to the library's patron records (e.g. Dynix).

In the past, WPLC support would forward all questions submitted via the form to the appropriate library system contact (for SCLS, that's me), so it was a time-saver to skip the form and send questions directly to me. Now WPLC is providing an added layer of assistance: WPLC support will reply directly to patrons to help solve the problem and only refer questions to the appropriate library system contact if patron record information is needed. Thanks, WPLC!

Here are some scenarios that can't be handled efficiently with the WPLC form:

  • I get an invalid barcode error when I try to log into my account in the Digital Download Center; why is my barcode invalid? (WPLC support can provide common reasons for invalid barcode errors, but pinpointing the exact reason may require access to the library's patron records.)
  • I got a new library card, and now I can't access my OverDrive holds. Can you move them to my new library card number? (WPLC support can resolve this problem if both the old and new barcode numbers are provided; they just can't access the library's patron records to look up the correct barcode numbers.)
  • Can I download audiobooks/ebooks at the library and transfer them to my device?
  • I don't think I could explain the problem via email and really need someone to call me back.
  • I'm a librarian, and I need some advice to answer a patron's question, and I'd like to be able to provide an answer ASAP (before the patron leaves the library)!

To recap:

  1. Libraries are still the first line of support.
  2. If it makes sense to use the WPLC OverDrive Support Request form, submit a request.
  3. If using the form won't help the patron, please let me know (or, for readers outside South Central Library System, please contact your library system).

Drag and drop your Firefox tabs

FirefoxTabDrag Here are some quickie tips (probably most useful for Firefox users who have dual monitors):

  1. If you have two Firefox windows, you can drag a tab from one to the other.
  2. If the tab being dragged away is the only tab, that instance of Firefox will close. 
  3. If you drag a tab away from the toolbar, it will open in a new instance of Firefox.

I can't tell you *exactly* when you'd use these, but I know I do it from time to time.

Want more tips and tricks for Firefox tabs?  Try this video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2G4ZgdwVVw  (dragging a tab to a new window (#3) occurs at the 2:10 mark)

I have the power!

At the annual family camping trip last year, I had to laugh at the number of gadgets that were on the table one night.  Even with leaving a number of gadgets at home because we were camping, a couple of GPS units and three cell phones ended up scattered all over the camper to recharge.  Even at home it’s gotten to the point I can’t keep everything plugged in by my “tech corner”.  There simply aren’t enough outlets and there’s the added problem of figuring out which charger is the right one and making sure I even have the right charger for the gadget and didn’t leave it somewhere. 

Too many different, often incompatible chargers for too few outlets and an interest in portable recharging have had me looking into a number of different ways to go about charging the gadgets in my life. 

One of the technologies I’m interested are the wireless or induction chargers.  I’d seen these demoed years ago and now they’re actually available.  Put the charging sleeve or clip on your device and then all you have to do is set it on the charging pad.  No looking for the right adapter and, since they supposedly can charge multiple devices at the same time, you only need to use one outlet. 

Unfortunately the reviews for the wireless chargers point out a number of limitations with the technology yet, including needing to take the charging sleeve or clip off to sync the device with your PC, so I think I’ll stick with plan B for now; A do-it-yourself docking station.  While it’s not going to help with the number of outlets, it definitely helps with the organization and finding the right plug for your gadget. 

PublicIP Wifi and the Nook eBook Reader - Problems

I've done some testing and am sad to report that the Nook eBook reader can't connect to the wireless in libraries who use the PublicIP wireless system. Unfortunately, that means most libraries in SCLS. I'm not entirely certain what is causing this problem but I have an educated guess.

Here are the normal steps a laptop user takes to connect to the wifi:

  1. Connect to the wireless signal in the library.
  2. Open a standard browser. (usually Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome)
  3. Get the wifi logon page.
  4. Logon and start using the wifi.

Here's what happens with the Nook software version 1.5:

  1. Connect to the wireless signal in the library.
  2. Open the Nook browser.
  3. You get a blank page and you are stuck.

For some reason the Nook browser can't display the logon page. My best guess it that the page can't be displayed for two reasons.

  1. The proprietary Nook browser is not capable of displaying the PublicIP logon screen due to poor programming.
  2. The proprietary Nook browser can't display secure (HTTPS) website.

At this point in time there isn't much I can do to fix this problem. I'll continue to investigate any solution I find.

Office Cheat Sheets

Office2003icon Next time you’re struggling with figuring out how to do something with a Word document or Excel spreadsheet, try one of these convenient cheat sheets from customguide. A while back Kerri wrote a post about some of their other cheat sheets, but now we have quick access to some of the more popular Microsoft Office cheat sheets on our updated technology page in the documentation and troubleshooting section.

These cheat sheets include quick tips, keyboard shortcuts, basic functionality, and formatting guides. You may find it handy to print these sheets out for your staff and patrons.

Mad Tech Skillz

Librarian Sarah Houghton-Jan recently posted a pretty comprehensive "rough list" of technology skills she thinks all librarians should have: http://alalearning.org/2011/01/21/techskills/ 

(page may be slow to load)

Midge cat and computerphoto © 2007 Douglas Woods | more info (via: Wylio)

  • What do you think of her list?  
  • What skills are missing?
  • What percentage can you and your library staff check off? 
  • Are there areas in which you'd like to improve? 
  • How best can SCLS help you gain technology skills?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments!