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My distractions from Life

This post deviates a little bit from the normal tech topics you find here, but since the world has deviated a little bit from normal I thought, "Why not share with you my top 5 favorite YouTube channels I subscribe to that help distract me from life." I find these channels relaxing, entertaining, and educational...sometimes at the same time!

Cruising the Cut: This is currently my go-to channel on YouTube if I need to unwind. I don’t know what I searched to have the YouTube algorithm recommend one of his videos but I’m glad it did. I’ve been subscribed for a couple of months and I’m going through the back catalog of videos. This channel is hosted by a guy named David who quit his job, bought a narrowboat and cruises the canals of the United Kingdom. You get a glimpse of what life is like living on a narrowboat along with charming commentary.

Stinnett Sticks: This is my second favorite channel for relaxing. Michael Stinnett creates amazing walking sticks on this channel. He has a calming voice and a cute dog named Pearl that sits on his lap while he carves his walking sticks. Mike takes you through the process of making a walking stick from start to finish. Some of his videos are of him and Pearl walking along the mountainsides of central Oregon looking for sticks to carve. Most of his walking sticks are realistic reptile representations, FYI.

Pecos Hank: I was hooked on Hank Schyma’s videos after the first one I watched. Hank is so talented---he has a gift for music, photography, making videos, and in my opinion, comedy. He’s also a storm chaser and amateur meteorologist, which is this channel's main focus. He has a love for any critter crossing the road; this forces him to stop and help them across. See if you can find the video where the floor of the passenger seat is full of turtles he picked up to help.

Crime Pays but Botany Doesn’t: This is by far the most educational channel I subscribe to. If you want to learn more about plants and minerals, this channel is a great resource. If you want to hear cursing, this channel is a great resource. I can’t put in words how much joy I get from watching vlogger Joey Santore's commentary on human nature along with Mother Nature---this is something to be admired, in my opinion anyway. This is the first sentence of the about page for his channel: “A Low-Brow, Crass Approach to Plant Ecology as muttered by a Misanthropic Chicago Italian.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Really, I couldn't, because I don't know what misanthropic means.

From the Mind of Christine McConnell: This is a relatively new channel to YouTube, but prior to that Christine had a short-lived Netflix show. Christine, whose style can be described as “vintage goth,” currently lives in California with her cats. She has an ease about her that makes her videos enjoyable to watch. Christine’s videos are primarily DIY projects she does to decorate her house with sewing and baking too. If you’re into sewing and crafts you might like this channel.

What are some of your favorite YouTube channels that you enjoy watching? Comment below and if you enjoyed this post don’t forget to smash that Like button and subscribe!

Libby and OverDrive Updates

Wow - I am so impressed with all of our libraries and how they're responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of you have been posting about Wisconsin's Digital Library, OverDrive, and Libby and I wanted to make sure you knew of some of the recent updates and additions to the service.

First, the Lucky Day collection went live on February 14 (an appropriate day, I think!). This collection of almost 2500 popular titles is available to check out for 7 days and patrons may borrow 2 Lucky Day items at one time.

Second, Holds Redelivery is now live. What does this mean? Basically, after receiving notification that a hold is available, patrons have 3 days to borrow it, suspend their hold and pass it along to the next person in line, or cancel the hold. If the patron takes no action, the hold will automatically be suspended for 7 days and the title will go to the next person in line. If no action is taken a second time, the hold will be cancelled automatically. 

Third, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to offer additional resources to our patrons, WPLC added 400 Duke Classic ebooks. These are all simultaneous access and will be available for a year.

LibbyReturnEarlyPrizeFourth, a happy announcement from Macmillan today. According to an article on the Publishers Weekly website, Macmillan will abandon their embargo on new release ebooks for libraries on Friday, March 20 (or maybe sooner). Woo hoo!

Lastly, I will be running a second OverDrive Support Course for the spring beginning on March 30 and running through May 1. If you or your staff are interested, please register here.

Just for fun...If you return a book early in Libby, you may notice a small icon in the middle of the screen. If you tap on it, you'll see this - enjoy!

Promoting online resources

Who doesn't love Betty White?

Wow. How things have changed over the past week.

I ran across this blog post over the weekend, written by a Danish library director who wrote about the process of closing their libraries and what they are doing to support their library users during the closure.  About promoting online resources he writes, 

  • "All school kids in Denmark are sent home. We are going to provide learning resources to parents so they can teach from home. Many publishers are closing down paywalls opening up content so we will be promoting those as well
  • We will increase our budgets on digital content
  • We will not only push digital library collections but also other relevant resources
  • We will experience [sic] with online book discussion and in general see what relevant activities we can move to digital platforms"

I've already seen lots of Facebook posts and emails from our member libraries sharing what their libraries are doing related to COVID-19 and sharing information about all the electronic resources that are available from outside the library. Many on Facebook are also sharing other helpful resources they've heard about. Here are a couple of the posts worth mentioning that have come through my Facebook feed via a library:

Reminder: If you are promoting system-wide or locally-subscribed online resources that are authenticated by SCLS, please be sure to use the resource links that go through the SCLS authentication.

If your library is on Facebook and you'd like to follow the South Central Library System or any of its member libraries on Facebook, you can find us here:

Stay safe, and if there are any TechBits topics you'd like to see in upcoming weeks, please let us know.

Does the thought of working from home worry you?

CatI've been working from home one day a week for about two years now. For me, it is a day that I can work on difficult projects knowing that I can concentrate without getting interrupted. With the advent of COVID-19, more people will be working from home, including library staff. ALA posted an article in their newsletter written by someone who has worked from home for 5 years. I'm sharing this article with you because it is very timely: 20 Tips for Working From Home. There are things in this list that I will try to incorporate into my own routine when working from home. The only difficulty that I experience when working from home, is when a cat sits on my laptop. 

Keeping an eye on trends

LibraryTrendsWhile doing a little research for an upcoming TechBits post, I was introduced to the "Center for the Future of Libraries." This organization works to:

  • Identify emerging trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve.
  • Promote futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their future.
  • Build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues.

They put out a newsletter, "Read for Later," which provides a weekly wrap-up of news and articles that indicate possible trends and changes that could affect libraries and the communities we serve. You can sign up and have the newsletter delivered via email or view past issues in a browser or with an RSS feed reader.

They also maintain a webpage of trends relevant to libraries and librarianship. From their webpage:

"This collection is available to help libraries and librarians understand how trends are developing and why they matter. Each trend is updated as new reports and articles are made available. New trends will be added as they are developed."

Getting started with the NVDA screen reader

Automated tools for checking website accessibility (such as WAVE, AChecker or the aXe Chrome extension) are often the starting point to find and correct accessibility violations. Another important option to include in your accessibility testing toolset is a screen reader and keyboard, to help understand how a visitor with visual or motor disabilities might experience the library's website. A free choice for this is NonVisual Desktop Access (usually abbreviated as NVDA).

To get started using NVDA, download it to your Windows computer. It can be installed and used without admin rights (though enlisting an admin for the install let me use it without having to accept the terms of use every time) or even saved to a portable USB flash drive to run on different computers. When you start it up, it begins reading what you have on screen out loud. Switch to a web browser, and it will read the web pages you visit. This video includes how-to's and some demonstration:

NVDA has a Help menu and highly detailed user guide, but WebAIM's "Using NVDA to Evaluate Web Accessibility" is the quick-start guide I wish I'd started with. I use these tips a lot for testing web pages with NVDA:

  • F5 refreshes the page and starts reading from the beginning (in case you get lost).
  • The Insert key is the default special "NVDA key" for using the keyboard to navigate with NVDA.
  • NVDA key + S lets you toggle between having speech mode on, off, or "beeps mode" (so you can have NVDA on for a website you're testing, but turn it off to type an email where it would be distracting for NVDA to spell out what you're typing letter by letter).

With a little practice, you'll be able to test how your libary's website performs with a screen reader and keyboard. Despite the learning curve, it's a solid step you can take to identify problems, obstacles, and annoyances that can be fixed to help all patrons benefit from the services your library provides.