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Tools for working remotely

I get more work done at home than in the office_I swearHow did you cope with the “Safer at Home” order? Have you been able to work from home? If so, what did your home office setup look like and what are some tools you used to collaborate with other staff and how have you been staying in touch? I’ve mostly been using my dining room table as a desk; my laptop, smartphone, and headset for my primary equipment; and a pen and paper to jot down items for my “To-Do Lists”. This morning I started a “To Don’t List”, so far the only things on it are don’t put a cup of coffee on my “To-Do List” and my cup of coffee.

Our office is fortunate that we are able to work remotely. While doing so we’ve been using a combination of products to keep in touch with each other. For collaboration we use Slack and Google Docs. We also video conference for weekly meetings using Slack, BlueJeans, GoTo Meeting, and Zoom. These tools help keep us in contact with each other and make working from a distance much easier. Google just release Meet, which is now free for all users. I haven't tested it out yet, but it's supposed to be very similar to the other platforms I just mentioned. I'll write a follow-up post about it once I've had a chance to use it.

I would like to add that at this time Bluejeans is the only meeting platform we use that has a toll-free option for calling into meetings.

To keep track of who is using a particular video conferencing account and when it’s in use, we set each one up with a Google calendar so that we can see which account is available for use during a meeting. I color-coded all of the meeting platforms in my calendar with a different shade of green so that I know right away anything in green is a virtual meeting.

In addition to having good collaboration and communication tools, I discovered how important it is to have reliable internet service and to have a back-up plan in place in case I experience any disruption in service (which I did for a week). I have two back-up plans, my first plan is to tether to my cell phone for minor needs and my second back-up plan is to drive to the library and use the wifi from the parking lot for a more reliable signal.

How likely do you think you are going to be allowed to work remotely in the future? Are you preparing for another situation similar to this, if so what are steps you are taking? If you are receiving Techbits through your email click on the title to leave a comment.

Using a stylus to reduce touch screen “touches”

In the previous post, we mentioned that SCLS was looking into testing using a stylus on touch screens. Providing styluses at self checkout machines or other touch screens would give patrons a way to use touch screens without needing to be concerned about cleaning the screen between each patron. You could then just clean the styluses. It would also let the stylus take the wear and tear of cleaning/disinfecting instead of your touch screens.

We ordered a pack and tested them on the selfcheck in our office. The main criteria in choosing the ones we did for the test was that they were in stock and as inexpensive as possible. We then tested the stylus on the selfcheck in the office.

The stylus worked well and did not require a lot of pressure to use. The ones we chose were not fine point models so they were not the best if you were trying to use them on small print but they should work well on anything designed for people to use their fingers.

One thing I don't know what will happen to the styluses over the long term if you use disinfectant or isopropyl alcohol to clean them. I have a feeling that won't be very nice on the finish.  It's also possible repeated exposure to isopropyl alcohol at least will dry out the rubber tip which may cause it to either not work as well or crack and break. I would not recommend soaking the pens either as that might let the tip or the pen itself fill with liquid.

Sanitizing Staff and Patron Electronic Devices

General Guidelines

Operating-system-1995434_1280SCLS recommends these general guidelines regarding sanitizing electronic devices in between staff and patron use:

  • Work with local public health officials and follow their guidelines, especially to establish frequency of cleaning, etc.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instruction for cleaning and disinfecting (see section below).

SCLS Tips (incorporates guidelines from CDC)

  • Wash or sanitize hands before sanitizing equipment.
  • Unplug the devices (mice, keyboard, touch screen monitors, etc.) from the PC. It is not necessary to unplug the power or turn off the PC.
  • If no guidance from manufacturer, use alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% isopropyl alcohol.
  • Do not spray directly onto the device. Always spray onto a cloth. Do not use paper towels. Microfiber or white/light cotton cloths (including old dish towels or t-shirts) are preferred.
  • Make sure wipes are damp, but not dripping. Dry surface thoroughly.
  • Do not get moisture into any openings, gaps, ports, keyboards, etc.
  • There is a concern that repeated and frequent cleaning of any electronic devices of a long period of time may cause problems. We do not know what the effect will be. These tips are based on manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Wash or sanitize hands after sanitizing equipment.

If all else fails, encourage patrons and staff to wash hands before and after use. Cleaning-service-3591146_1920

Ways to Reduce “Touch” on Touch Screens

  • Provide a stylus per patron that can be cleaned in between use (SCLS is researching these)
  • Reconfigure settings for self-check settings to reduce touch (for example, disable PIN)

Manufacturer’s Instructions

The following are known manufacturer’s instructions:

Encourage Washing Hands Hands-311366_1280

Based on access to cleaning supplies, it may not be feasible to perform frequent, if any, regular cleanings. Encouraging staff and
patrons to wash hands may be your only option. You may post signs regarding proper hand hygiene before and after using the computers to minimize disease transmission. 

Duck Town, Quaranzine, and Stories from a Distance

Last month, Kerri highlighted projects around the state that are documenting COVID-19. Since then, I've come across three project from SCLS libraries to add into the mix.

Ducktown art_editedThe Lodi Woman's Club Public Library received a WiLS Ideas to Action grant in 2019 and created Duck Town. Duck Town is a podcast "that would publish the student work and any oral history recordings we made." During the emergency closure, the project has expanded to include library staff being interviewed about their experiences. As the recordings can be done over the phone, this is a great project to do while working from home.

Madison Public Library recently launched a new collection, Stories from a Distance, as part of their Madison Living History Project. There are 27 stories (so far) about peoples' experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, while learning about this collection, I found out about a podcast called Inside Stories, which is a podcast of Madison stories produced by Jen Rubin and Takeyla Benton. Inside Stories is also featuring stories about COVID-19 and these stories are being archived in Stories from a Distance.

The Monona Public Library is accepting submissions to Quaranzine, a small online publication of local art and writing by the Monona community. When completed, it'll be distributed through the library's website.

Is your library collecting stories during the pandemic? Let us know in the comments.

Relax and Color

File0001265772805With all the stress going on in the world today I thought it might be nice to talk about something that is relaxing and possibly therapeutic. This is something that you may have done as a child. I'm talking about coloring. Yes, the act of taking a coloring utensil and filling in a design outline. It's not just for children anymore. Adults are trying it and loving it, saying that it helps them relax and reduces their stress. This is why over the last decade or so adult coloring books have surged in popularity. When I searched Amazon.com I found that they had over 40,000 of them for sale. For those of you who don't want to wait for an Amazon shipment can search online and find lots of sites that offer free downloads of coloring sheets. One of the best sites I've found is called Just Color. So remember the next time you get stressed out about the Coronavirus just print off a coloring sheet and "Keep Calm and Just Color!"

Archival newspapers and COVID-19

I've posted cool search tips I've read about on the SearchResearch blog before ("Drag and drop for Google Image Search", "Searching with emojis", and "Some Google Image search tips"), but it's been a while and I'd like to give the blog a shout-out again. Daniel Russell, a senior research scientist at Google and author of The joy of search :a Google insider's guide to going beyond the basics, writes the SearchResearch blog and covers helpful search strategies. The usual format is first a post with a search puzzle which you can try to solve. Blog readers will comment on the challenge post with what they think the answer is and how they found it. Then Daniel writes a post about how one might find the information to solve the challenge.

It was fascinating to read some of the articles in local papers -- here's an example from the Portage Daily Register, Oct 25 1918

Recently, he posted this search challenge:

SearchResearch Challenge (4/22/20): The Future Through the Past - Using archival news to see what's next in COVID

which included this question:

  1. Can you find articles from the news archives of 1918 and 1919 that will show us what happened back then, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, give us a clue about what might happen in the months and years ahead?

He also noted, "You'll also have to figure out what questions you might like to see answered about the future course of COVID. Here are some thoughts:

  1. How did your nation recover from the economic downturn caused by the Spanish Flu? What articles can you find that tell us what to look for?
  2. How well did the protests against mask measures work out? Were the protesters successful? What happened to the number of flu cases after people stopped wearing masks?
  3. Was the course of the Spanish Flu pretty simple, or was it (as some have predicted about COVID), fairly up-and-down for quite a while after the initial outbreak?
  4. Why did the Spanish Flu finally go away? (Or did it?) Did someone develop a vaccine for it, or why did it stop being a pandemic?"

You can find the answer to the challenge and additional commentary in these follow-up posts:

They contain some helpful tips for searching archival newspapers, and his research notes for this challenge are a fascinating read. I'd highly recommend the blog challenges if you want to practice your search skills and learn new tricks.

A few additional distractions

There have already been a number of posts talking about additional online resources and sites to use to help or even just keep from going stir crazy at home. I'm going to add a few others:

As some of you may have seen, this past week Google put some of their most popular interactive doodles back up on the main Google page. But did you know you can actually access those prior doodles at any time?


On a more education front, from now through June, the Wisconsin Historical Society is letting the public access the digital "Wisconsin: Our State, Our Story" textbook and student activity guide for free from their website.


If you haven't heard already, Adobe will be discontinuing support for Flash at the end of 2020. While this will be a relief from the security issues and near-constant updating that Flash requires, it will mean the end of being able to play any of the old Flash browser games. Or will it?

While Flash, and by extension Flash games, has been dying for years, once upon a time there had been quite a few of them. A number of groups have been creating archives of playable Flash games.

Flashpoint: https://bluemaxima.org/flashpoint/

Newgrounds: https://www.newgrounds.com/flash/player

Internet Archive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22flash+games%22

Speaking of the Internet Archive and classic games, they also have a number of classic PC games.  A lot of these are only the demo versions of the game, but many can be played within your browser.  Though I will warn you some of these weren't working on my PC.