Digital Byte: Top Tech Tools

Did you catch Jamie's most recent Digital Byte video? In it, she talks about her 8 favorite tech tools at the moment and how they might help you in your library work. The video is only 6 minutes and covers 8 tools (Slack, Screencast-O-Matic, Noisli, Pixabay, CamScanner, LunaPic, iMovie, and BeFunky).

You can find more of the WVLS Digital Bytes here:

USB Who?

We recently have been ordering new models of PCs and I noticed some brand new USB ports on the front.  In the past there has only been two different types with one being a super speed: USB 2.0 and USB 3.0.  But recently I have been seeing new symbols next to the USB ports.  I was curious so to Google I went. 

Port A is a regular USB 2.0 and supports all devices with the same connection.  This is the standard and most common USB type.  Port B is a new type of port called USB PowerShare which allows you to charge small devices like a smartphone while the PC is off.  Normally when you turn the PC off, the USB ports are off as well.  PowerShare allows the port to receive a small amount of power still. IMG_4335

Port C is a USB 3.0 or super speed that allows a fast transfer of files and data.  This is helpful when you are copying a large amount of data to and from a flash drive or using your phone's fast charge feature.  You can tell when a port is 3.0 v.s 2.0 by the "ss" next to the symbol or the internal connection is blue.  Port D is a USB-C port which is a newer, super speed, universal connector which allows the transfer of video or power.  While a lot of devices do not have this yet I do have a hard drive that does, so it is becoming more popular.

Who knew there would be this many different USB ports!

Technology straight out of Science Fiction

Today I received an invitation to a readers advisory webinar titled "Why Read Science Fiction and How to Help Those Who Do".  I deleted it because a) I don't work with the public and b) I know why to read science fiction and people would like to find a way to prevent me from telling them what science fiction stories to read and which science fiction authors to read and and ...

Ahem.  While working away at my desk and thinking about what to write for this inaugural 2019 Tech Bits post, I thought "Where's my flying car?"  As an elementary school child in the mid-to-late 1960's I was thrilled by the promise that when I became an adult, I would be zipping around in my own private, flying car.  Just like on the Jetsons.

So ... where's my flying car?

Sadly (or perhaps happily for the local geese population) single-passenger electric aircraft are only just this year getting off the ground for consumers.  Pun intended.  And it is unlikely that I will win a lottery and have enough money to purchase one of these babies ($$$$$!!!!!)  But, to get back to the beginning of this ramble, flying cars are not the only technology that has manifested out of science fiction books, television programs and movies too, for that matter. 

What, don't you think your old flip-top phone bore a marked resemblance to the communicators on Start Trek?  Just sayin' ...

Courtesy of Electric Lit, here are the "8 pieces of Modern Technology That Science Fiction Predicted -- Or Invented.

1888: Credit Cards - Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward

1911: Video calling - Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+

1931: Mood-Enhancing Pills - Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

1939: Surveillance - George Orwell’s 1984

1968: Tablets - Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

1969: Electric Cars - John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar

1972: Bionic Limbs - Martin Caidin’s Cyborg (aka TV’s The Six Million Dollar Man)

1984: The World Wide Web - William Gibson’s Neuromancer

The next time you are offering readers advisory, offer your patrons some titles that will allow them to glimpse the future.  Or help create it.

Other online articles 

13 Everyday Technologies That Were First Imagined In Science Fiction

10 Great Technologies We Got From Science Fiction

The 5 Coolest Technologies from Hard Science Fiction




New Database List & WiLS Webinars

As the end of the year approaches, two of the things that SCLS Tech staff works on (thanks Kerri and Brian) are updating the Online Resources page and making sure that your patrons can access your library's online resources. To make communication about databases and electronic resources a bit easier for us, we set up a new email list: SCLS Databases. This list is for SCLS library staff who are involved with databases (selection, training, marketing, etc). The focus is on library-subscribed resources, but topics may also include updates and information about statewide resources like OverDrive, Biblioboard, and BadgerLink. Ideally, we would like at least one staff member from every library subscribe to the list. Sign up here!

Taco-Tuesdays-Logo-300x300One of the first things that I'll share with the list is the new WiLS TACO Tuesday webinar series. TACO stands for Talking About Coop Opportunities. SCLS libraries work with WiLS to subscribe to, renew, or investigate new database and online resources. This is a great way to learn about new resources that your library and community may be interested in subscribing to in the future. The first one is February 5 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will feature Gale Resource Center, Demco Makerspaces Website, Hein Online, and Sage. Find out more information here.

Have a great holiday season!


Grow with Google

Are you (or your library's patrons) thinking about making New Year's Resolutions to take training or learn new skills?

Grow with Google

Google has a "Grow with Google" program with free training, tools, and events to help people grow their skills, career or business. Google and the American Library Association are also launching the Libraries Ready to Code website, an online resource for libraries to teach coding and computational thinking to youth.

You can read about these and other ALA activities on this ALA District Dispatch blog: "Grow with Google is coming to a library near you."

If you're interested in more details about some of the many Google initiatives associated with Grow with Google, take a look at this Google blog post: "Opportunity for everyone."

Looks like there are some good free learning opportunities for 2019!

Tip: How to add background color to an image

Screen shot of database icons showing LINKcat, OverDrive, and with white backgrounds, but no white background on Ancestry.comA library director and I agreed the logo would look better in a group of database links (pictured at right) if the background colors matched... but the image didn't come with a white background. How can we add background color to an image that has none?

The image in this example is in .png format, which can have transparent areas that allow the color of a web page to peek through (light gray, in the screen shot). To make the image "match" the others, the transparent areas need to be filled in white.

For images that only need a white background, the trick is to open and re-save them in Microsoft Paint. Paint auto-fills transparent pixels with white when it saves an image.

Screen shot of saving ancestry-library.png to add a white background

For a different background color, Paint has a "Fill with color" (bucket) tool. In this image, a different color reveals some shadowed areas that look jagged, and it would take some effort to paint or fill in the jagged edges. More fully-featured graphic programs like Photoshop Elements, GIMP, or provide layers and a "magic wand" tool to make that kind of cleanup easier.

Screen shot of jagged edges around the image when a dark background is added.

Good thing we just wanted it to have a white background! Screen shot of the database icons all using matching white backgrounds

New and Innovative Library: Helsinki Central Library Oodi

I was recently perusing social media and came across an article that spoke about a new library that was opening in the capital of Finland, Helsinki. What really grabbed my attention was that the Central Library Oodi project cost about 98 million euros to complete. I thought to myself, “Okay, I have to see what they are doing in this library!” I then began to read the article and I was not disappointed.

Oodi is broken down into three distinct floors each with their own intention. The third floor serves as the classic library. The library boasts 100,000 books in their collection and have reading areas called “oases”. The second floor is all about creativity. They have many rooms here that include art studios, media rooms, music rooms, makerspace areas, sewing machines, etc. The first floor is more of an interactive or public space and has a restaurant, a café, and even a theatre.

Oodi also has another room that I thought was neat. They label the room simply the “Cube”. It is a room with smart walls, which sound like they are very large touch screen displays that line the entire space, with the intention of creating a sort of virtual reality experience. The article notes that artists are already planning to use the Cube for ultra-immersive art exhibits.

The final interesting tidbit I would like to share is Oodi’s approach to book logistics. The article mentions that when patrons return their books, the system will scan it, and then a self-guided vehicle transports the book back to the library and onto the correct bookcase and then a librarian will properly reshelf. It sounds like a very cool idea but the article does not go into this aspect much.

If anything about the Oodi library interests you, you should check out some pictures as the architecture is also impressive.

You can find the article that I read here

Browse and search historic newspapers via the Library of Congress

Wood County Reporter, December 23, 1920Recently I heard about a resource for historic newspapers, called Chronicling America. Chronicling America is part of a Library of Congress/National Endowment for the Humanities program to digitize historic newspapers, called the National Digital Newspaper Program. Newspapers dating from 1789-1963 have been digitized and made available at the Chronicling America web site.

The program has been around for quite some time and there are 14 million+ pages (from 2,600+ newspapers) that are available on the web site, from most of the states, including Wisconsin (via the Wisconsin Historical Society). In addition to searching and viewing digitized pages, you can search the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information on American newspapers from 1690 to the present. 

One interesting aspect of the Chronicling America web site is the slide show featuring newspaper pages from 100 years ago today. While most of the newspapers are English language, there are newspapers in Polish, Romanian, German, Lithuanian, as well as other languages.

If you are interested in historic newspapers, Chronicling America is an interesting resource. Also, don't forget we have access to the Archive of Wisconsin Newspapers, which not only provides access to digitized Wisconsin newspapers from the 19th and early 20th centuries, but is also a searchable database of Wisconsin newspapers from 2005 to 90 days ago.

Consumer Reports Buying Guide - via Badgerlink

With the holiday season upon us, I was not thrilled when I had to change my focus from buying tech toys to researching washing machines. My very old washing machine died right before Thanksgiving. The dryer has also been making gremlin noises for months, so replacing them both made the most sense. 

I wanted to make a decision quickly to take advantage of Black Friday sales (and get back to baking cookies), but I also wanted a good value product that meets our family’s needs. After spending way too much time reading online – often biased - reviews, I turned to the Consumer Report Buying Guide which is freely available to all Wisconsin residents via Badgerlink databases. 

Here is the search technique I used to access it:

1. Go to and select All Resources. If needed, LoginThe site looks at your internet connection to see if you are in Wisconsin, but you can always login with your library card if it doesn’t recognize you.


2. Select Academic Search Premier. Consumer Reports Buying Guide is indexed in Academic Search Premier, but is also indexed in other Badgerlink databases including MasterFILE complete.  I picked Academic Search Premier only because it is listed first.



3. Select Publications. This shows you all the publications included in this database along with what years are included.



4. Enter “consumer reports buying guide” in the browsing publications section, select browse, and click on the title



5. Select 2019 to limit to the most current buying guide.



6. Scroll down or add a product name to the search terms.  In my case, I added AND wash* so that it looked for washer or washing. I took note, however, to look at the Fitness Trackers buying guide before I go shopping for my Dad's gift.



7. Select the PDF's of interest. The quick guide ranks models by overall performance, includes test results for key features, and recommends models.  


I used this information to find deals for some of the highly rated washers & dryers and ordered online to avoid the Black Friday fury. 

Some libraries have paid subscriptions to the Consumer Reports database, which has similar information.  I still like the compact and easy to print Consumer Reports Buying Guide, and you can’t beat the price – free from Badgerlink.

Happy Shopping!

Instagram Shopping Collection Feature…just in time for the holidays!

You’ve probably noticed a lot more advertisements appearing on your Instagram feed as the holiday season is rapidly approaching.  In November, Instagram released some new features for users to interact with these posts.  The most notable of these features is the ability to “save” products to a personal “Shopping Collection.”

When users click on a product tag in stories or on their feed, they will now see an option to save the product to a separate list.  Users can now create a wishlist on Instagram that takes them right to a product when they are ready to purchase it. 

You can add an item to your Shopping Collection by clicking on the icon:


You can access your Shopping Collection by going to your profile and selecting it from the Saved Collections on your profile.


Unfortunately, there is currently no way to share your Shopping Collection with another IG User or export the information.  After doing some research, it seems users are asking for this ability already.  Hopefully, IG will work on making this feature even better!   

Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!