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Digital Literacy

AbcmouseGuest Post by Jean Anderson

The phrase Digital Literacy has been cropping up recently in articles and blog postings in my Google Reader. According to Wikipedia, digital literacy is “is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and analyze information using digital technology.” Sounds a lot like a librarian, doesn’t it?

If you or your patrons are looking to improve your digital literacy skills, I’ve come across three tools to help you. First, the Northstar Digital Literacy Project from Minnesota. The project is designed to assess the ability of adults to perform tasks in six main computer areas: Basic Computer Use, Internet, Windows Operating System, Mac OS, Email and Word Processing (Word). Just for fun, I took a couple of the assessments. While they include audio, the quiz questions are also written on each page. When you complete an assessment, you’re given a score. For any incorrect answers, you’re told what skill you need to improve before taking the assessment again.

Second is the Colorado Libraries 2.0 project. This project, like our Project Play, is designed to help library staff (and patrons) become familiar and comfortable with Web 2.0 tools. The project is broken up into seven categories: communication; collaboration; visual communications; personal learning environments; productivity tools; social networking; books and reading. Each category has two to four different tools to try out. While the project was designed and created for Colorado library staff, the material and lessons are open for anyone to use. Designed back in 2010, some of the content or tools may be slightly dated but overall, it’s a great place to start learning more about Web 2.0 tools.

Last, but not least, is another Colorado project. This one is called Tech Training for Libraries and can be used in a number of ways. You could use the lesson plans and activities to teach classes on topics ranging from Computer Guts to Craigslist 101 to patrons at your library - handouts included! Or you could use the competencies and checklists to ensure that library staff are all on the same page, technologically. I think this could be a great programming resource for libraries. If you try out any of these classes in your library, please let me know! I’d love to hear how you’re using this site and others in your library.

P.S. One more thing...Nicolet Federated Library System recently held a webinar called Technology Trainer Bootcamp with Sarah Houghton. Her presentation topic fits in nicely with this post. Enjoy!

Credit and Debit Card Acceptance: quick, easy & cheap

Guest post by Andy Barnett of McMillan Memorial Library

Many libraries have trouble accepting credit/debit cards for payments from patrons. They need a solution that is quick to install, easy to operate and offers low fees. Regular merchant accounts are too complicated and expensive, especially at the relatively low volume that libraries generate.

The square logoWhile a long term solution is being worked on, libraries have a new option—one that McMillan has implemented: Square. The hardware installs in minutes, the account setup is simple, there are minimal up-front costs, staff training is easy. It works with MasterCard, Visa and Discover credit and debit cards. Fees for a scanned card are 2.75% with no per-transaction fees. Fees for a typed-in number are 3.75% with no per transaction fees.

Square is a free card scanner that fits in an iPod Touch or smart phone jack. Square software is also free. Staff signs into the account and scans the patron’s card. Patrons sign on the screen, though that
can be optional for amounts under $25.00. Receipts can be emailed or texted if desired.

McMillan had a spare iPod Touch, which we were using for staff training and familiarity. Our Business Office had no trouble setting up the account and verifying that it deposited the funds appropriately. Charges are still rung up on our cash register and reconciled daily. Square does not interface with Koha or any library system, so it solves the problem of card acceptance, but does not address the wider topic of e-commerce. Still, it was a way for us to say yes to patrons when they wanted to use plastic.

Previous coverage of Square on TechBits

Database stats for Jan-Jun 2012

ChartEver wonder how much your patrons are using online resources like Ancestry Library, EBSCO, OverDrive, and the rest? 

SCLS gathers some usage statistics by way of our authentication scripts. These database statistics aren't perfect (they're really more of a "ballpark" count), but they can give your library an idea of which resources your patrons use and which may need more training and promotion. OverDrive statistics come straight from OverDrive and should provide an accurate count of checkouts.

Both database and OverDrive statistics are found on the SCLS website on the "Reference Database Statistics by Library" page. Database statistics by library are on the left, and OverDrive statistics by library are on the right.

If you have any questions, need custom reports (database or OverDrive), or would like reports in a different file format, please contact Kerri.

Interested in running your own OverDrive stats for your library? Sign up for an OverDrive support account and you'll have access to OverDrive reports and also the OverDrive support form.

Delete Thunderbird spam without opening it

Have you ever gotten an email that you just know is spam by its subject?  You know those subject lines that I'm talking about, like the ones that talk about pharmaceutical or enhancement items.  On all LINK staff PCs we use SpamAssassin to help keep your mailboxes cleaner, so hopefuly you never see these kinds of emails.  In Thunderbird, if you have a preview pane at the bottom part of your window, as soon as you click on an email to delete it opens in this preview pane.

So how do you delete an email in Thunderbird and not open it.  The secret comes from About.com author Heinz Tschabitscher who gives these instructions:

To remove a single message in Mozilla Thunderbird without opening it:

  1. Click on the message with the right mouse button (or hold down Ctrl while clicking on a Mac).
  2. Select Delete Message from the menu.

To delete multiple messages in one go, you can hide the preview pane:

  1. Select View | Layout | Message Pane from the menu so that the item is not checked.
  2. Highlight the desired message or messages in the message list.
  3. Press the Delete key.
  4. Make sure to unhide the Message Pane when you're done.

That's it.  Now you can delete those pesky spam emails without even looking at them.

HTML5, CSS3 and You!

'<embed>' photo (c) 2007, Luis - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

So, how is your personal relationship to HTML5 and CSS3 going? Did you even know that you had one? You do now or soon will, if your library continues to rely on Windows XP for staff or patron workstations.

Perhaps we should start with the basics. What are HTML5 and CSS3? Technically, these are website content format standards that are maturing but are still under development. They represent a large number of feature enhancements over HTML4 and CSS2; too many to get into here, and probably you don't need (or want) to care about all the details.

What's important for you to understand is that some of these new features are highly, highly desirable to website developers. This is why Google Apps (among other sites) ended their support for Internet Explorer 6 in 2010, and then ended their support for IE7 (and Firefox 3.x and other browsers) in 2011. Can you guess the fate of IE8? Hot tip: don't bet on its longevity...

Officially, Microsoft is continuing to support Windows XP SP3 and IE8 until April 8, 2014. However, there will be no new versions of IE for the XP platform; IE8 is all you get. The good news is that IE8 does support some HTML5 features. The bad news is that some sites have already dropped support for IE8 because its implementation of HTML5/CSS3 is just too primitive or incomplete.

The world is not ending, of course, at least not on account of IE8. If your budget says that XP stations will be operating in your library for some time to come, then there is always Firefox. SCLS will continue to update Firefox on XP stations for as long as we are able to, and Firefox on XP is fully capable of handling websites that demand a lot from HTML5 and CSS3. You just need to be aware that as time goes on, IE8 will become less and less useful (and in some cases impossible to use) on evolving websites.

Want to know more about what's missing from IE8 (and for that matter, from IE9 on Windows 7)? Check out the fun interactive chart at http://html5readiness.com/. Hover your mouse pointer over any spoke on the chart wheel to see the name of the new feature that it represents, and note how many spokes are missing labels indicating IE8 and IE9 support. Want to replay the "browser wars" of recent years? Dial back the chart to yesteryear by clicking on the tags above it.


If you’d asked me about ePoetry before last week, I would have said, “Yep, bet there’s something like that.”, and that would have been the extent of my knowledge.  That was before I heard Jason Lewis' interview on BBC Radio.   For this little blurb, I’d like to share with you a glimpse of a few of the directions that ePoetry is headed: interactive, apps and DIY for kids.  Gg

Touch screen interactive poetry:
"Poetry is an intimate medium but when it comes to digital poetry, the computer screen creates distance between writer and reader. Touch screens allow the audience to be drawn into a closer proximity to the computer screen than ever before," says Lewis.  Lewis is a combination of poet and techie.  He’s working on a project called P.o.E.M.M (Poems for Excitable [Mobile] Media).

The interactive poems are designed to be read on touch devices, from large-scale exhibition surfaces to smartphones.  Examples of his work can be found here.  The video examples are abbreviated; if you’d like to see one in its entirety, right click the video, select “Copy video URL” and paste it in a new browser tab.   Lewis is working on other apps that will give users the opportunity to use Twitter feeds to generate original poems.   

Key board interactive poetry:
Jason Nelson has taken a different approach to interactive ePoetry.  He uses words, sounds, images, movement and video to create an experience.  One of his most popular ePoems, "Game Game", is part poem, part game and part "anti-design”.  It’s a 13-part interactive poem with quirky sound. (Your parkour skills, via the space bar, will come in handy!).  Nelson has a digital stable of interactive works at Heliozoa.com

Apps for traditional poetry and DIYers:
Whether you’re trying to remember the words to that special Rumi poem or wanting to create an ePoem from scratch, there’s an app for you.

For the iPad and iPhone  and for the Android.
DIY ePoetry for kids:
Scholastic serves as a great resource for identifying tools to turn a “poetry slam into a multimedia event”.

The delivery of poetry, both in terms of content and style, is in flux just like other forms of the written word.  Interative ePoetry and DIY multimedia add to both the definition and experience of what poetry can be.  What do you think about these new options? 


Guest post by Jean Anderson
Googliciousness is coming to SCLS this fall!

Stef Morrill, director of WiLS and Beth Carpenter, director of the Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library, will be at the Wintergreen Resort in Wisconsin Dells on October 5 to present Googliciousness! (Register here!) Beth & Stef will introduce various Google services and share tips and tricks for using them. They’ll cover maps, mobile, photo, productivity tools and even more awesomeness!

What tech topics should we cover?I need your help, though. Stef and Beth’s program will be the morning of October 5. As this will be our annual Tech Day, what topic(s) would you like to see covered in the afternoon? Do you have some new tech-related service or program that you’d like to share? While we have a few ideas floating around, we wanted to find out from you - the audience - what your tech education needs are.

Share your ideas by leaving a comment on this post or by emailing me. Thanks for your help and I hope to see lots of you at Googliciousness!


ChatMeebo is shutting down on July 11th. What will SCLS be using instead for instant messaging? imo.im.

How we chose it

  • First we identified how we use Meebo and what features Meebo had that were important to us. These included:
    • web interface (so we can use it from anywhere without installing a client)
    • Android app (so the techs can easily message from their phones)
    • a widget for our staff contact pages (so library staff can easily message us)
    • good notifications (ideally both audible and visual)
    • ability to integrate other services (we haven't used this much in the past, but we didn't necessarily want to rule it out)
    • ability to enable or disable chat history
    • good price
  • We polled the SCLS staff about which features were most important.
  • We identified the possibilities. (Some of the contenders included imo, Trillian, Zoho Chat, LibraryH3lp, IM+, and eBuddy, but there were lots of others whose features we reviewed.)
  • We narrowed it down to 4 services that we wanted to test (imo, Trillian, Zoho Chat, and LibraryH3lp).
  • We tested. (Thanks, Joanna, Mark, and Jean!)
  • We decided.

The bad news
The bad news was that none of the services we identified did *everything* we wanted it to do. The big missing feature in most cases was a widget.

The compromise
We compromised with imo. It has a pretty nice web interface and a good collection of features. SCLS uses Google Apps, and we can use our existing Google Apps accounts to log into imo.im (that's slick!). Staff who want a widget will create a Yahoo account, pull that Yahoo account into imo, and use a Yahoo! Messenger Pingbox widget on their contact page. It's a little clunky, but it should do for now.

SCLS uses IM mostly to communicate within the office. Although we had Meebo widgets on our staff contact pages, most staff received messages from these widgets infrequently. That being the case, we opted for a chat service that didn't provide a widget.

For libraries relying on widgets for reference service, a better alternative might be LibraryH3lp. LibraryH3lp is a product geared specifically toward chat reference and has a widget, as well as features that allow tagging for follow-up and emailing of transcripts.

SCLS is subscribing to LibraryH3lp through the state and is coordinating a pilot virtual reference chat project for SCLS libraries. If you're interested in more information, contact Jean Anderson.

Software and Hardware Compatiblity with Windows 7

As we transition staff computers from Windows XP Professional to the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional, it would be a good idea to make sure your library is using modern software and hardware.  SCLS will make sure standard software such as Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Thunderbird and browser plugins are compatible with Windows 7.  We also know that the Metrologic barcode scanners, DYMO LabelWriters and Star receipt printers are compatible.  Each library will be responsible for making sure their software, printers and document scanners are compatible.MP900382798

A few examples of software that you should be concerned about include Dreamweaver, Contribute, Print Shop, Acrobat and Photoshop.  These are just a few of the software titles that we know libraries are using. 

A good place to start your compatibility check is at the Windows 7 Compatibility Center.  Here, you will be able to search for many different software titles and devices.  If you do not find any information about your product, the next best place to check is the manufacturer's website.

If you have any questions or concerns about compatibility, please call the Help Desk.

Search tips for more successful Googling

Quote: "If you don't know this, you're roughly 12 percent slower in your searches."Part technical tips for getting more precise results from Google Search, part classic reference skills: How to solve impossible problems: Daniel Russell’s awesome Google search techniques by journalist John Tedesco. (Daniel Russell writes the fascinating SearchReSearch blog—also recommended.)

Thanks to Trish at Lodi Woman's Club Public Library for the tip!