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Library Planet

Sundsvall2smallRaise your hand if you visit libraries when you're on vacation. Consider my hand raised high and see the proof in the photo! Turns out, we're not alone. I read an article in Library Journal recently that proves it. Michael Stephens talked with Denmark librarians Christian Lauersen and Marie Engberg Eiriksson about their new crowdsourced travel blog, Library Planet, and how it came to life.

Library Planet started with a tweet from Lauersen to his followers about needing a Lonely Planet for libraries. Their followers were positive and the site was created and launched on November 17, 2018. It has entries from around the world and includes all types of libraries and is growing fast. I didn't see any entries from Wisconsin yet, though. I hope to see some there soon! Here's the information on how to contribute an entry.

SundsvallSmallThe first thing I thought of when I read this article was that I need to write up a couple of the libraries I visited in Sweden and Finland last year and submit them. What a great way to share my love of libraries to others who love libraries. I'll let you know when/if my entry on the Sundsvall Stadsbibliotek is on the site!


Rediscovering Excel Macros

What is a macro?  Macros are Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) codes that are saved inside a document.  They can be applied in several Microsoft Office Applications.  An analogy is to think of a document as HTML and the macro as Javascript.  A macro can manipulate a document similarly to the way Javascript can manipulate a web page.  Macros are powerful and can do many things including; apply style and formatting, manipulate data and text, communicate with data sources, create entirely new documents, and any combination of these. 

You must be asking, how can a macro help me?  They allow you to save time on predictable, repetitive tasks as well as standardizing document formats.  Now without having to write a single line of code!  I found myself having to run the same data sets for different libraries in our system regularly and exporting them into Excel spreadsheets.  I grew tired of all the customization and formatting within Excel I had to do each time.  Excel Macros were the answer for me!  Not only have they saved me time, but they have also helped improve consistency and accuracy. 

To create an Excel macro simply import your spreadsheet into Microsoft Excel.

  1. Select the View tab
  2. From there, select the Macros button and highlight the down arrow and select Record Macro.

1st pic

  1. From this point, go ahead and make your desired changes to the spreadsheet as you would normally do.
  2. When you are finished with your changes, go back to the Macro button down arrow and you will now select the option to Stop Recording.
  3. Close out of Excel and save your Macro.
  4. Once completed, the macro will be available anytime you open Excel under the Macro menu.
  5. Simply select View Macro and select which macro to use (if you have more than one saved).
  6. Then hit the Run button.

2nd pic


3rd pic

  1. The macro I created for the Library Weeding Reports completes the following tasks in Excel with just one click;
    1. Bolds and freezes the top row
    2. Converts barcodes to a number without decimal places
    3. Changes the print orientation to landscape
    4. Sets the correct margins
    5. Wraps the text
      (See my spreadsheet changes below.)


I have gone on to create many Excel macros for the different data sets I run.  It’s amazing how intuitive macros have become in the last several versions of Microsoft Excel.  Please share with us how you use macros in the comments.

Things to keep in mind when getting a new printer.

There comes a time in every printers life where one invariably has to say goodbye. Whether it has worn out, or you just can't stand the sight of that old printer, it's time for a replacement.  

However, when it comes time for a new printer to be installed there are a few things to consider. 


    1. Is this a new type of printer or just a replacement for the old one?

    2. Is this a staff printer, a patron printer, or both?  

    3. And finally, how critical is this printer?

These questions need to be answered in order to determine how much time it will take to complete the job.  A brand new printer will need to have every computer updated individually, and that can be very time consuming depending on the number of computers that will connect to it. 

It is very important that staff have the answers to these questions, and have called the Helpdesk, BEFORE the date of instillation....if at all possible. 

Keeping these things in mind will help us, help you, in the quickest most efficient manner!


Forward Analytics

The Wisconsin Counties Association formed a new research organization, Forward Analytics, to provide nonpartisan analysis of issues affecting the state. Their mission is “to use the best data available to highlight challenges facing the state, and to assist policymakers in understanding that data so they can make informed policy decisions”.  Worker shortages, changing demographics, and the opioid crisis are among the issues impacting the direction of the state and counties.

Research Reports and a “data lab” (compiled state statistics) are freely available on their website: forward-analytics.net. Be sure to check out their latest report: Falling Behind: Migration Changes and State Workforce.


Zamzar for converting files

WVLS has a new Digital Byte video that walks you through Zamzar, a free online file converting tool (also covered in these 2009 and 2018 TechBits posts).

Like the video format? Check out other Digital Bytes here.

Enabling High Contrast Themes

Enabling high contrast settings may be a good idea If you or somebody you know has difficulty reading text on a PC screen.  This is a common problem when a lighter-colored font, like gray, is on top of a white background.  High contrast settings can be enabled for the Windows operating system and there is an extension that can be installed for the Google Chrome browser.

The easiest way to enable High Contrast for your PC is to press Left Alt + Left Shift + Print Screen then click Yes.  Use the same key combination to turn it off.

Google Accessibility offers an extension for the Chrome browser simply called High Contrast.  After you add it to Chrome, you can enable and customize the extension by clicking its button to the right of the Address bar.

High Contrast Extension

HC Menu

Explain (It) Like I'm Five

I attended the WiLSWorld Short, "Five Steps to Better Online Privacy with Jessamyn West," last week (which I would highly recommend!) and I learned a phrase I hadn't previously encountered before:  "Explain Like I'm Five."  There are a number of variations on this theme out there ("Explain It Like I'm Five", "Explain It Like I'm Actually Five") and a quick search brought up several Reddit forums, a video series, a podcast and many other things.

Why might it be helpful to know this?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

If you're looking for help with a complicated topic and all you're finding are complicated, overly technical explanations, you could add this phrase to your search and, with any luck, find someone explaining it in a way that anyone would be able to understand.

For example: How does wireless charging work? (which includes a link to this pretty cool video)

It may not help in every situation, but it's definitely worth keeping in mind.

What tricks do you have for finding simple explanations of complex topics?

Choosing a projector screen

Over my career at the South Central Library System I have never been asked to help a library select a projector screen, until a couple months ago. Since then I’ve been asked about projector screens 3 times, and in order to provide the best answers for the libraries I’ve done a little research and have some information to share with you about how to select the right screen for you.

I think the most important factor in selecting the right screen for you is knowing your budget and setting expectations for what you can get in your price range. A few hundred dollars may get you a nice screen that will last a lifetime, but it may also be small and have a little pull string to lower the screen.

Manual screens come as wall mounted or portable. Portable screens come with a stand and can be moved around, but are limited in size and take up storage space.

Motorized screens are more expensive but offer ease of use and larger sizes.

Some terms you may hear when selecting a screen are aspect ratio and gain.

    Aspect ratio is the relation of the width of a video image compared to its height. The two most common aspect ratios are 4:3 (standard) and 16:9 (wide-screen).
    Gain is the amount of light being reflected back from the screen. The higher the gain the more light is being reflected back. Most screens are between 0 and 2. The coating on the surface of the screen contributes to its gain.

Their is way more to selecting a projector screen than I thought when I started researching them. I found this Projector Screen Buying Guide useful when doing my research. The link does go to a retail site, but it's still good information.

I’ve worked with a couple of dealers in Wisconsin who specialize in AV equipment, so if you live in Wisconsin and have a question about who to turn to you can ask me for a couple of vendors who support most of the state and I’ll pass that info along to you.