Office365 Predictive Text

The one time I wanted predictive text to work it didn'tOffice365 text prediction isn’t quite as good as I’d like it to be. I don’t know if it was an update or if I somehow activated text prediction in Office365, but sometime in May or early June, it appeared out of nowhere. I disliked it so much that I had to find out how to turn it off. Even though it accurately predicted the text I was trying to type about 95% of the time, it would still cause double letters or double words about 99% of the time. I would spend more time angrily retyping words than I was saving by having the text prediction in place.

If you’re in this situation and are as frustrated as I was, follow these quick and easy steps to getting your life back in order.

  • Click on the Settings menu, which is the little gear icon.
  • On the bottom of the menu click “View all Outlook settings”.
  • Click on the “Compose and Reply” tab and scroll down to near the bottom.
  • You will see “Text predictions” uncheck it and click “Save”.
  • Also, feel free to browse around the other setting to see if there is anything else you can turn off that’s been annoying you.

I’ve had it turned off for a few weeks now and I couldn’t be happier. Then I thought I should write about this and perhaps I should give it another chance because maybe it was me… it wasn’t, but then again, it never is. I’m in complete agony over how horrible this is and I’m going to turn it back off as soon as I’m finished writing this sentence.

Twitch and Discord

Twitch-3372590_1280What do you think of when you see those two words? Did you think of public libraries and programming? I didn't! I recently attended the ALA Virtual Conference and as I was browsing through the program options, I came across this one: Twitch & Discord in Public Libraries: New Opportunities for Adult Services.

Until I read the description of the program, I didn't know that Twitch is a streaming platform and that Discord is an online platform for communication and collaboration. The speakers, Lorin Flores and Michael Dunbar-Rodney, are from San Antonio Public Library and shared how they and other libraries are using Twitch and Discord in their libraries for adult programming including online workshops, book clubs, gaming, and more. Their presentation included some emerging best practices as this is a really new space for libraries.

You can find out more about Twitch and Discord in libraries by visiting the Libguide that Lorin and Michael created and are continuing to update. In addition to their presentation slides, there is a large list of references for you to visit. American Libraries blog posted an article recapping their presentation, too.

Have you used Twitch or Discord in your libraries? We'd love to hear about your experiences. Please share in the comments.

*Image from Pixabay

COVID-19 INFODEMIC - Tools for Myth Busters!

As a data specialist (and someone with family members at high risk for COVID-19), I have been following researchers and collecting a personal library of COVID-19 data visualizations, datasets, and scholarly articles. With so much information generated daily, it is hard to keep up and sift through sources to find credible information.

This week, I watched a UW Now Livestream featuring Professor Ajay Sethi on "Confronting Covid-19 Misinformation". In his talk, Professor Sethi shows how our scientific understanding of COVID-19 is improving with time.“The problem, however, is that running in parallel with this expansion of knowledge about COVID-19, is the spread of vast amounts of misinformation and disinformation (misinformation spread deliberately), called the COVID-19 INFODEMIC.” 

Professor Sethi also explores why it may be easy to believe COVID-19 misinformation and offers approaches to confront misinformation in our society. I was intrigued by his example of a fact checking organization, the Corona Virus Facts Alliance, fighting this INFODEMIC. On their website, they have a visualization showing categories of hoaxes with each fact check represented by a circle that you can hover over for details on the falsehood.

Covid2

The term “COVID-19 INFODEMIC” is new to me, so I wanted to learn more. Here are additional resources I found:

Lastly, check out “Dear Pandemic” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. They are a diverse group of public health researchers providing the public with evidence-based answers about COVID-19. 

Dear

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.

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.

Scan documents with iPhone

Our son is finishing up his first year of college from our kitchen instead of his dorm room due to COVID 19 stay-at-home orders. This week, I saw him taking pictures of his homework laid out on the kitchen counter. He said he uses Notes on his iPhone to scan his homework/tests to a pdf for submitting online, and that it was a useful tool I should try. Here is how I got started:

Apple_Notes_(iOS)

  1. Open Notes and create a new note.
  2. Select the Camera icon and select “Scan Documents”. If you do not see the Camera icon, check Settings to make sure Notes is connected to iCloud or the local notes folder on the device.
  3. Take a picture of the document and adjust the scan to fit the page. Select “Keep Scan”. Continue scanning pages to the document and then select "Save". All the pages will be combined into one pdf.
  4. Select the Upload icon to send or share.
  5. Optional: Select the Upload icon and then the Markup icon to add text or a signature. 

Searching for Census Tracts? - replacements for American Fact Finder.

For many years LINKcat libraries in SCLS have used the U.S. Census Bureau's "American Fact Finder" address search tool to determine the Census tract and/or the legal  municipality of patron addresses.  The U.S. Census Bureau has discontinued access to the American Fact Finder tool as of 3/31/2020.  Here are some options for library staff to use to help determine the Census tract or municipality for patron records.

The U.S. Census Bureau is now providing an updated digital Census Tract map that can be found here: https://tigerweb.geo.census.gov/tigerweb/ You have to enable these options in the left sidebar - Census Tracts, Blocks layer and the Places and County Subdivisions layer - to indicate the type of information you are searching for. Enter the address in the Address Search bar along the top to find where a particular residence falls within these areas.

Another resource is My Vote WI - this works well to determine smaller incorporated places and townships. The exception to this is places like Village of Brooklyn which is in multiple counties, because the My Vote site doesn't distinguish which county an address is in.

AccessDane provides county subdivision-level info via address searches for Dane County addresses only.

Wisconsin Hometown Locator:  https://wisconsin.hometownlocator.com/maps/  Address Based Research & Map Tools.
 
Wisconsin Statewide Parcel Map:  https://maps.sco.wisc.edu/Parcels/   After you enter the address you need to right click the map to get the info.

Big thanks to Alicia, Joe and Rachel for compiling these resources!

 

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.

Common Sense Media

Call of the wild movie quick review from Common Sense MediaIf you are looking for reviews of movies (both in theaters and available via streaming/DVD), as well as video games and apps, I am putting in a plug for Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media provides information about media content for families and educators. I have used it to help choose apps for my kids, in addition to figuring out whether now is a good time to watch say, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, or whether we should wait a year or two.

The site also has book reviews and does research into children's use of media and technology. If you have some time and are interested in these topics, I encourage you to check it out.