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Guest Post: Awesome Box

Thanks to Ben Miller, director of the Sauk City Public Library, for this AWESOME guest post!

The Awesome Box is a simple way to solicit and share patron recommendations.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Your patron reads a book, watches a movie, or listens to audio materials from your library. 
  2. They return the item and indicate that the item was, in fact, mind-blowing or awesome. 
  3. Your staff scans the item’s ISBN into the library’s Awesome Box site. 
  4. The item is then populated on your library’s Awesome Box page and links to the record in LINKcat where other interested patrons can place a hold on the item and have their mind blown as well. 

But don’t just take it from me. Here are the creators, Annie Cain and Matt Phillips, explaining the Awesome Box concept: http://youtu.be/WE6eSGUq3WU

Awesome BookmarksBecause we’re a small library, we’ve traded the concept of a physical box for returned Awesome items with a laminated bookmark. Patrons just slip the bookmark in a book they think is great and it alerts our staff that we need to mark it as “Awesome.”

We also share patron recommendations for Awesome stuff in three ways. Online we have a link to our Awesome Box site: http://saukcitylibrary.awesomebox.io/ (this link is now accessible on LINK catalog computers, so patrons can browse the Awesome Box and place a hold without logging onto an Internet station) and newly awesome items generate a tweet on our Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/SaukCityLib/status/364479556444770304 (they’re working on the wording to make it more indicative of being an Awesome Box book.) In the library, we have a physical display for books. We check out items to an Internal card for a week if it is simply returning to that library and not filling a patron hold.

The Awesome Box was developed by Harvard Library Innovation Lab and is completely free for libraries to sign up and use. To sign up, go to http://awesomebox.io/ and enter your email address and wait for a response from the folks at the Innovation Lab. While you wait, you’ll want to gather some information

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Username (used to log into the system) 
  • Email Name of your library 
  • Your library URL 
  • Requested Awesome URL (SOMETHING.awesomebox.io) 
  • Catalog ISBN lookup URL (yourcatalog.com?isbn=) 

For SCLS libraries you can use this URL for the last item on the list:

Patrons seem to really like both the act of declaring a book Awesome and finding books that other patrons have deemed Awesome. As a selector, I feel like I have a much better feel for the kind of books my patrons like because we’re actively soliciting their opinions.

In the end the Awesome Box is just, well…awesome.

TED Talks


In between audiobooks, I listen to a selection of podcasts. My newest favorite podcast is the TED Radio Hour produced by NPR. Let me tell you why...

I heard about TED Talks a few years ago and have watched a number of them since that time. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and it started as a conference back in 1984 - almost 30 years ago. Who knew? I didn't and was surprised to learn that there are over 1500 talks that you can watch on the TED site - including the six talks from the first conference. From the TED site, "TED conferences bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less)."

The challenge, for me at least, is how to find the TED talks that are most interesting to me without watching an over 450 hours** of video. Mostly, I hear about them via Facebook friends, Twitter, or email. You can follow the TED Twitter feed (@TEDTalks or @TEDNews), like them on Facebook (they have over 3.3 MILLION likes!), follow via your RSS Reader, or do what I do - listen to the TED Radio Hour.

What I like about the TED Radio Hour is how they combine several different talks on a similar topic. In addition to clips from the original talk, the speakers are also interviewed. Recently, the show featured a talk from Nicholas Negroponte from 1984 where he made some technology predictions and looking back to see how many have come true (most have). He was talking about touch screens over 20 years before the first touch screen smart phone appeared on the market. You'll have to listen to the program to find out about the other predictions - Enjoy!

**452 hours is my estimate based on 1509 talks as of May 8, 2013 that average 18 minutes long which equals 26,162 minutes or 452.7 hours.

Places for questions

AskquestionEver wonder how other libraries are doing this, that, or the-other-thing?
"What are you using for a gate counter?"
"How is your library deploying iPads?"
"Are other libraries that circulate Nooks having problems with the cords breaking?"

SCLS has some email lists for asking about it. Two of the more general ones are:

  • link-discuss - An open list for group discussion in the LINKcat library community (for LINKcat-related topics)
  • scls-discuss - An open list for group discussion in the SCLS library community (for general topics)

A few of the SCLS-hosted email lists that cover more specific technology-related topics include:

  • scls-drupal - A list for discussion and information related to SCLS libraries' use of Drupal
  • scls-libonline - A list for libraries using Library Online to manage time on public patron PCs
  • scls-socialmedia - A list for discussion of libraries' use of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and other web tools

Wisconsin has these library-related email lists:

  • wispublib  - The Wisconsin public library email list, a "venue to discuss public library issues of interest to the state's public library community"
  • wispublibIT - wispublibIT is an informal discussion listserv for IT staff at WI public libraries, from the individual library (non-system) perspective. However, our friends in public library system IT are welcome to participate as well

What other forums (email lists, discussion forums, wikis, websites, groups, etc) do you know of for library-related questions and topics? Are there any that you use regularly?

Installing Chrome?

Chrome-logo-large_270x216There were two emails that went out to Link-Announce this year right after a Firefox upgrade.  They talked about different options for printing Koha reports and Chrome was suggested as one alternative.  In the past, when staff PCs had Windows XP on them, for some reason staff were able to install Chrome without any help from the Help Desk.  Now I've discovered, that with Windows 7 that ability is gone.  I've gotten calls from numerous libraries saying that they couldn't install Chrome without Administrator rights.  I don't know what changed in Windows 7 to prevent staff from installing it themselves, but I would be glad to install it for you if you need it.  Just call the Help Desk!

OverDrive: Next Generation Basics


There have been lots of changes to Wisconsin's Digital Library over the last few months - including the recently updated OverDrive app.


OverDrive is hosting several FREE live webinars during the month of September. Here's the schedule:

All the sessions are 60 minutes long and will be recorded. More information on the sessions can be found here.  The recorded sessions and other resources can be found on OverDrive's Learning Center.               

Happy Learning!

Excel Chart Templates

Cylinder-chartYesterday was ILS monthly reports day. Today the focus is on analyzing network traffic statistics. Excel, Excel, Excel... oh, how I love to hate you sometimes.

Still, it's not all bad. Recently I learned a shortcut for complex chart formatting. If you've ever wrestled with Excel chart formats, you know that it can take some fussing around to get everything just the way you want it. If you do this sort of thing frequently, here is how to make life easy.

  1. If you've already got a completed chart that is just the way you want it, simply open that file. Otherwise, go through all of the fussy steps to create and fine tune your perfect chart.
  2. Select your chart by clicking on it.
  3. On the Design tab of the Excel control ribbon, choose Save as Template.
  4. Give your template a descriptive name. Do not change the default save location (Microsoft\Templates\Charts).
The next time you have similar data and a similar charting need, you can easily re-use your preferred formatting from the template.
  1. Select the data to be charted.
  2. On the Insert tab of the Excel control ribbon, choose Other Charts.
  3. Choose All Chart Types...
  4. Open the Templates folder within the dialog that opens.
  5. Find and double click your saved template.

Unfortunately, your template file names don't show by default, and the icons that do show aren't using your carefully selected colors or symbols. If you have only the one template file, it'll be obvious which to choose. If you have several templates you can hover your mouse cursor over any icon and its name will be shown.

If you want to make this shortcut even shorter (you know you do), try this. While you are creating or applying the template, click the button Set as Default Chart. After that, your next chart can be this easy:

  1. Select the data to be charted.
  2. Choose Insert => Other Charts.
  3. Choose All Chart Types...
  4. Your favorite template will be pre-selected. Click OK.