Old Technology, Broadcast TV, and, um, Aliens?

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So today I’ve been going through some old technology the library system is no longer using to evaluate its continued usefulness. I was deciding whether to re-purpose the technology or send it to surplus to be auctioned, or whatever they do with this old stuff. The items today included things like old PS/2 mice, filmstrip projectors, slide projectors, dot matrix receipt printers, more than a few VHS players, and even a TV/VCR combo unit from the 1990s. I plugged in the TV to see if it still worked and I was immediately asked if I wanted to do an auto-programming of the channels. Well I thought to myself, “Why not?” and fashioned a make-shift antenna to the back of the TV.

After a few minutes of scanning available channels, the TV showed me there were no broadcast channels available. “Of course,” I thought. “Obviously this TV does not have a digital tuner, and broadcast TV ended years ago, so there shouldn’t be any channels out there to receive.” But then that made me think of an article I once read a long time ago that discussed the idea that our closest solar system, Proxima Centauri, which is something like 4 1/4 light years away, would be receiving episodes of “I Love Lucy” about the time the article was written in the late 80s. Wow. This means that for the past few decades, extraterrestrial aliens have been enjoying all those old TV shows we now watch on TVLand or MeTV.

Now sitting at work in front of this old TV/VCR unit that no longer received any broadcast signals, I wondered what the aliens might have thought when the TV signal they were receiving suddenly stopped when all TV transmitters went digital in 2009? Many of us were inconvenienced at having to go out and buy digital tuners, but what did that mean for all those aliens receiving those broadcast signals, when suddenly, the signal stopped? Would they have assumed our civilization just ended? Snuffed out in the blink of an eye?

Well this led me to the logical conclusion that if aliens from another world ever did make contact with us on planet earth, it would have to be because they were driven to find out if Jessica actually got shot by a firing squad at the end of “Soap,” or if Sam Beckett ever actually got home on “Quantum Leap.” Maybe they would want to meet James T. Kirk and see the Enterprise, help Dr. Who defeat the Daleks, or heck, maybe just bowl for dollars. You know, maybe NASA should consider sending out one last broadcast signal informing all those extraterrestrial alien planets out there that when the signal just stopped coming in for them, it didn’t mean our civilization ended and the Cylons destroyed us, it actually only meant that they needed to switch over to a digital tuner to continue receiving all those great programs. Being left in the dark, so to speak, maybe when the aliens do finally show up at earth’s doorstep and contact us, they won’t say, “Take me to your leader,” instead, they may well ask, “Did the Fonze ever get married? We are dieing to know!”

Webmail Automatic Logging In Last User Fix

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At our library system, we use Microsoft Office 360 and most of our staff use the webmail edition of Outlook like the one provided at https://login.microsoftonline.com. So far, this has been a great choice especially for various staff that do not have a computer assigned specifically to them. However, one problem we have encountered when multiple people use the same computer to check their email, such as front-line staff on the public desk, is that when one staff member logs out of their account and closes the browser, and then the staff member sits down and opens the browser, the browser automatically logs into the first staff member’s webmail account. That’s a problem.

Here’s a quick and easy solution that alleviates the problem. The solution also got me thinking about public machines as well and that perhaps this same setting should be standard on all computers in the library as well.

Here’s the solution for Windows 7:

  1. Click on Start button, then Control Panel.
  2. In the Control Panel, click on Internet Options.
  3. In the Security Tab, click on the Custom level button.
  4. Scroll all the way to the bottom and under User Authentication, choose “Prompt for user name and password.”
  5. Click the OK button. Click the Yes button when the box appears asking “Are you sure you want to change the settings for this zone?”
  6. Click the Apply button, then click the OK button and close the Control Panel.

By the way, you can also get to the Internet Options window by starting Internet Explorer. Then click on Tools in the menu options and choose Internet Options. This also works for Windows 10.

See the screen shot below to make sure you got the right setting:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope this helps. It solved the problem with us.

Robbie Taylor

IT Jack of all Trades

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4-jack termination wall plate.

4 Jack termination wall plate.

Jack of all trades, computer-wise, I have heard more than once over my career as a Systems Librarian. I never know if that is a compliment, or a back-handed something else. Personally, I’ve always seen it as a strength because having diverse skills in IT has saved libraries where I have worked thousands of dollars worth of contractor fees to do simple jobs I think every Systems Librarian should know how to do.

For example, I was recently called out to a library branch because some carpenters were cutting a hole in a wall for windows and discovered metal conduit running where the opening would be. The carpenters quit working until the conduit could be dealt with. After looking at the conduit, I could see it was for data lines that fed a 4 jack outlet plate some 10 feet further down the wall. A County IT Department person I really didn’t know well showed up and was going to cut the cables and put in a temporary switch under the counter where the 4 computers were. I suggested disconnecting the jacks, pulling the cables back through the conduit, lower the conduit below the window opening, pull the cables back through and re-terminate the wires in the flush mounted service box. Voila! The carpenters said it made sense to them, but the county IT person said they would have to call a contractor to pull the wires and re-terminate them. I thought, “Hmm. Don’t you work in the networking department?” “Don’t bother,” I said. “By the time you can finish talking to the contractor, I will have the job done.” “You know how to do that work?” The person asked. “Yes. I’m a Systems Librarian,” I said and went to work to get the job done. With the carpenter’s help, 20 minutes later the job was done and I punched down the last jack. “Easy Peasy,” I said. As I finished up, the cabling infrastructure manager from the County IT department came by to see what was going on. After explaining what just happened, he asked who re-terminated the jacks? The IT person explained it was the librarian. “Where did you learn to do that?” He asked. “I’ve been doing it my whole career,” I replied, “Since my first library in 1996, from hubs, switches, routers and firewalls to cabling, desktop and server support, it was expected by our directors that we would know how to do these things.” “So you’re kind of an jack of all IT trades?” He asked. “You got it,” I said. “I never knew librarians could do that,” he commented as he left.

Of course. How would he or anybody else know librarians are capable of doing a lot more than shelving books. People are always amazed that librarians know how to do such things. And little credit do we get for knowing them. Often I see ads for jobs in these IT specialties paying twice what we make at the library, but the library and local/county governments that run libraries do not see the equivalent value. Often the exchange goes like this: “You’re an IT person,” I get asked. “Yep,” I always answer. “But you work in a library?” Is usually the next puzzled question. “Yep,” I answer. “But you’re an IT person,” usually comes again. “Yep,” I answer. “Then why don’t you work in an IT department somewhere?” is usually the last question. “Because I am a Systems Librarian,” emphasis on systems, as in IT systems. It takes a while before it begins to sink in. And then the light bulb goes on. Yes! Librarians do a lot more than just shelve books. There is a whole universe of sophisticated information technology and electronic gadgetry we need to support so that libraries can fulfill their missions. And we are expected to know it all before it even hits the market. In a Systems Librarian job, we typically support everything from the Kindle grandma shows up with at the library because she got it for Christmas, to speaking fluently about virtual open source cloudstack servers. And more often than not, we conduct classes to teach these wondrous things to the public at no cost to them. We do it all, and yes, we even fix the cables inside the walls. We are a veritable “IT Jack of all Trades.” Pun intended.

Rob Taylor,
Systems Librarian

The Arch-Enemy of Computers

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I recently was requested to troubleshoot a computer that was running very slow. The computer would also freeze up, or lock up, forcing the user to reboot and lose valuable work. When I sat down at the computer and had a look, I couldn’t see anything wrong at first, so I decided to open the case just to give it a quick once over. When I opened the case, I found this.

Pic of clogged CPU fan.

#1 enemy of computer hardware.

The picture here was what greeted me once I removed the cover. The CPU fan was working so hard trying to get what little air it could through the cooling fins, and from what I could see and hear, I believe it was about to give up the ghost.

We don’t often think that simple dust could be so destructive to computer hardware, but in library environments, we should think again. Libraries actually harbor a lot of dust from such sources such as the books themselves and foot traffic. The foot traffic where I currently work often exceeds a thousand people per day coming through the doors. All those people bring a lot of dust in with them, not to mention the thousands of books on the shelves, delivery drivers, daily maintenance work, and you get the picture.

I wonder how many complaints from people about their “slow computers” could be alleviated by a simple cleaning program done once per year?

Protecting Valuable Equipment

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Never take for granted what surge protectors do for our valuable equipment.

Back in the day I saved up my money and bought a new Packard Bell 586 Desktop computer. It was my first computer running Windows95 (and Navigator) and a big step up from my Dell 286. I cherished the PC and played games like Doom and Wolfenstein, as well as I learned how to program in HTML, C++ and Java, and wrote my Master’s Thesis for Library Science.

legend100cdOne day, while I on dialup Internet searching for something on Dogpile, I heard thunder outside my window. I didn’t think anything about it until suddenly I saw a flash of lightning and my computer screen completely froze. The computer, it turned out, was completely toast. Lightning traveled through the telephone line and zapped the mother board of the PC. I never forgot that lesson and it has served me well in the years since.

Fast forward to 2014, I’m standing out on the 2nd floor main public PC area in the library. Outside is a large thunderstorm moving across the river and next to the building was a lightning strike. Everybody jumped, the lights blinked and then all the computer equipment began to restart, everything except for the SAM Print station. When troubleshooting the problem, I found the following in the surge protector plugged into the wall.

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photo 1(1)It appeared that the surge protector took the brunt of the stray voltage and saved the SAM Print station computer, Jamex coin box, and laser printer. The little $12 device saved some $4,000 dollars worth of computer equipment. Eventually I scrounged around and got a UPS unit with a built-in surge protector to plug the equipment into, and when I plugged the unit into the wall, I remembered my old Packard Bell. If only I would have had one of these back then.It is important to remember to always plug expensive computer equipment into surge protectors, and if possible, a line filter, which can filter out voltage spikes and smooth out voltage drops (brown outs). With a simple device between the computer and the wall, the equipment should last much, much longer.- Rob Taylor

How to Replace a Jamex 6557 Coinbox Logic Board

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At our library system, we have Jamex 6557 series coinboxes attached to Comprise SAM print stations. These coin boxes are typically very reliable, but they sometimes fail for some reason. At the library, we had a power event due to a thunderstorm. After the storm, the Jamex machine stopped dispensing quarters. It would dispense dimes and nickels, but no quarters. After some troubleshooting, it was determined that the main JPC logic board was faulty. Jamex tech support explained to me that the chip that held the information for the quarters was not holding the information any longer. Sometimes these chips fail on their own, and sometimes something like a thunderstorm, power surges, and the like, may instigate a chip failure. Since these machines cost in the neighborhood of $3,500 and upward, I opted to repair the machine instead of purchasing a new one. To replace the faulty logic board cost $689, and to send the board in for repair cost $150. I decided that replacing the board was a better route to go because of the age of the board, which was 6 years old. If one chip on the board went bad and it was sent in for repair, other chips on the board could also fail after repair. $650 compared to $3,500 was still a great bargain for the library, and with replacing the board, the print station could limp along dispensing dimes and nickels until the new board came in, which took about a week. Listed here is the video for other librarians on how to replace the faulty board.

 

Watch this video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yc6kPqwdkc&feature=youtu.be

Hope the video helps!

Choosing a New Integrated Library System (ILS)

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 Rocky turbulence or smooth skies?

Airplane-cockpit-controls

In the old days, technology-wise, choosing a new integrated library system (ILS) for the library was not an overly difficult task. Department heads got together and talked about what kind of features they would like to see in the basic components of an ILS. Choices and features were limited by the technological capabilities of the system they were considering, and back then, choices were fairly limited. In today’s technological climate, however, it is a completely different story. The paradigm has shifted from a librarian-centered viewpoint with dedicated infrastructure to a patron-access-centered viewpoint with open-source, cloud-based systems, and discerning the technological features and capabilities offered by many of the new integrated library systems today can feel like sitting in the cockpit of a modern jetliner, metaphorically speaking. Needless to say, navigating the companies, technology, and features can be a daunting task. So I offer here some directed help for those who find themselves facing the task of reviewing and selecting a modern ILS for their library.

For many libraries, the need for a new ILS system is driven by the age and maintenance costs of their current ILS. As with the library system where I work, Manatee County Public Library System, it has operated the SirsiDynix Horizon ILS since 1995. Horizon was first developed and released in 1991, and on March 13, 2007, SirsiDynix announced that it had discontinued development and enhancement of the Horizon product, but would continue to provide legacy support to existing customers. In addition, the high annual cost for software licensing and legacy support has increased an average of 5 to 6% per year for a product no longer developed. Although the Horizon product contains the basic components of an ILS, with a rather sophisticated relational database schema, it became quickly outdated after development officially stopped and the needs of our library system continued to evolve with the advent of newer technologies and increasing patron expectations.

A decade and a half into this new millennium, modern ILS systems embrace advances in technological capabilities and have thus moved beyond the basic ILS components model to include such functionality as integrated Web 2.0 and Social Media capabilities, patron-centered services such as intuitive discovery layers to access library resources, e-commerce with online bill payment and account handling, support for mobile devices, use of APIs for 3rd party vendor integration such as eBook integration, streaming video & audio resources, Readers Advisory services, and the use of CSS to produce highly configurable rich content. In addition, there are patron cloud-based services, integrated inter-library loan and automatic notification methods provided by these modern systems. All that and still offering a more cost-effective solution in terms of ongoing support, annual licensing and maintenance fees, thus saving money and providing a better product to libraries and the communities they serve.

The feature list can be long, or short, depending on the vendor and the system they are offering. So below is a list of the basic features I believe any modern ILS system should offer prospective libraries searching for a new system.

  1. The new Integrated Library System should include hardware/software to support:
    • Hosted, web-based, Cloud Computing Saas Platform system;
    • Utilize Open Relational Database design to support any third party report writer to access data and create custom reports using SQL;
    • Utilize standards-based interfaces with a variety of external electronic services and information resources;
    • Provide SIP2, NCIP and Z39.50 connection functionality;
    • Provide standard admin/root level access to system;
    • Provide functionality for daily, full-system backups.
  2. Administration, this module should provide for:
    • The ability to modify the system, including system settings, to meet the unique needs of the library;
    • The ability customize the system, including all web generated displays;
    • The ability to create, edit and set system limits for optimal system configurations;
    • The ability to create, edit and delete system variables such as collection codes, item types, collection rules, etc.;
    • The ability to create, edit and delete user and patron accounts, and set limits and rights to such accounts;
    • Run and configure system and statistical reports in addition to creating and editing custom reports and report templates.
  3. Cataloging, the module should support:
    • Standard cataloging methods and authority control;
    • The ability to import/export MARC21 and Bib records;
    • The ability to create, edit and delete all records;
    • The ability to import from OCLC Connexions and other Z39.50 sources;
    • The ability to do custom cataloging for local collections;
    • The ability to integrate a FAQ File, local community files, and special indexing;
    • RDA compliance.
  4. Acquisitions, the module should have the ability to:
    • Have vendor integration and compatibility with book wholesalers such as Baker & Taylor;
    • Perform budget management with easy transfer and year-end rollover;
    • Import from the catalog to a P.O.;
    • Import vendor records;
    • Run a report for titles by vendor and titles by budget;
    • Use a grid or distribution patterns for orders management;
    • Import invoices electronically;
    • Do electronic ordering;
    • Apply settings for vendor discounts;
    • Set up templates for vendor accounts;
    • Create work order slips for catalog processing;
    • Do batch functions, i.e. cancelling entire groups of orders;
    • Do title and non-title invoicing.
  5. Circulation, the module should provide:
    • Intuitive, easy to use screens for standard check-in/check-out functions;
    • Inventory control;
    • Support for self-checkout machines;
    • Ability for mobile circulation and off-line, backup circulation;
    • Support the use of RFID technologies;
    • Automatic electronic patron notification;
    • Debt Collection that includes the capability for patron online bill payment, cash/cashless transactions for debt collection at checkout points, (except self-checkout machines);
    • Debit/Credit card e-Commerce functionality;
    • Support for financial reporting/account handling;
    • Ability to create a hidden branch for “in-house” tracking;
    • Ability to transfer holds from one bib to another;
    • Multiple indexes for searching patron database;
    • Ability to count “in-house” items used by patrons as circulation;
    • Provide complete statistical reports and information, including the ability to run custom statistical reports using SQL;
    • Ability to search on multiple indexes such as name, telephone, address, email, etc., to the patron database with the ability to choose the sorting method to control the sort order;
    • Ability for patrons to make online donations.
  6. OPAC should provide the following:
    • Employ easy, single-search discovery that streamlines access to all library physical and electronic material offerings;
    • Offer an easy, intuitive and rich user experience for adult and children using the online public access catalog, including consolidated gateway/information portal and/or discovery layer to provide access to a wide range of library-provided print, electronic resources and downloadable media;
    • Provide compatibility and integration by the use of APIs with 3rd party vendor resources such as OverDrive, Freegal, Novelist and others;
    • Provide support for technologies such as federated searching, OpenURL, and library standards (e.g., Z39.50, Z39.83, etc.) to search multiple databases with various search terminologies;
    • Display the call number of items on the 1st search results screen;
    • Support for displaying all member library holdings on the first copy-display screen, with the home-library’s copies displaying first;
    • Support for exporting search results, both for printing, texting or E-mailing;
    • Support for ability to create special interest profiles or RSS lists that automatically E-mail patrons when items matching their criteria are added to the system;
    • Support for displaying an appropriate graphic icon (book, DVD, etc.) at the display of brief bib level. This display is based on data in the local custom 910 MARC tag;
    • Display book covers, jackets, integrating 3 party resources to display graphical representations of material types;
    • Provide the ability to market/advertise and brand library events functions and programs within the gateway/information portal and/or discover layer/OPAC;
    • Allow for Social Media sharing;
    • Open system architecture to insure future customization and enhanced functionality of the OPAC;
    • Patron controlled account management, such as the ability to pay fines and edit account settings on the Internet;
    • Highly configurable and adaptive interfaces using HTML5/CSS to meet library needs;
    • Integration with Web 2.0 based technologies including Social Media, user-generated content such as reviews, blogs, tagging, social bookmarking, wikis and community outreach and involvement capabilities;
    • User authentication for access to licensed electronic resources;
    • Have a “Best Seller,” “Most Recent,” and/or “New Arrivals” type graphical lists to display on the front OPAC page;
    • Responsive web design that is mobile-device aware and automatically scales to resolution/screen size of the mobile device viewing the site.
  7. ILL- Inter-Library Loan, should provide:
    • Integrated ILL module/method in the OPAC;
    • Provide a level of collaboration involving public services and inter-library loan with OCLC and local consortium.
  8. Serials and Periodicals:
    • Serials and continuations management including resource licensing and management for eBooks, ePeriodicals, and other electronic media;
    • The ability to have non barcoded serials;
    • The ability to claim functionality and prediction of next issues.

Here are some of the basic questions to ask library vendors about their systems:

  1. What are the base requirements for a PC to work with the proposed system? Include with your response what type of operating system, processor, amount of memory, and hard disk space needed. Are these desktop requirements the same regardless of module to be used? What type of Internet connection will properly access the system?
  2. Libraries currently use a wide variety of laser scanners, thermal printers, label printers, receipt printers, and laser printers, etc. Please define any categories of such peripherals that will not work with the proposed system?
  3. Is there a software client to be loaded on library computers to run the ILS? Are there different clients for different modules?
  4. Can you describe the upgrade cycle for your product, costs for such upgrades, and customization costs, fees, or structures of costs for such services?
  5. Can you describe for us your customer support structure in place and hours of operations?
  6. What is your methodology for system back-ups? How often, where, and how is the data stored?
  7. Does your system provide an auditing trail for all access made to the system? If so, what types and how long is the information kept?
  8. Can you specify how many patron statistical categories that can be attached to each patron record? Please also specify how your system tracks and reports transactions at all locations, by users of all libraries, including inter-/intra-library loans (among different libraries). Please also describe the “canned” reports and availability of statistics to all library staff?
  9. Does your system provide the ability to have “in-house” or “hidden branch” categories for statistical purposes so checked in items can be counted for circulation?
  10. Libraries are particularly interested in how statistics and rules are applied when patrons access the ILS from home. For example, how are renewals counted? To which agency(-ies) are renewals credited when patrons log in from home? Are first-time circulations counted separately from renewals?
  11. Libraries often have local bar-codes for statistical purposes only, such as one bar-code number for all paperback books. A patron checking out 5 books will have only one bar-code scanned and the number of books typed in at circulation. Can your system provide this functionality?
  12. Can you describe how Point-of-Sale/e-Commerce is handled at the circulation counter with your system? Does it work with a cash drawer or is a cash register needed? How are debit/credit cards handled? Are there extra costs/charges associated with this service?
  13. Can you describe how e-Commerce is handled by your system via the website for the ability to pay fines outside the library. Are there extra costs/charges associated with this service?
  14. Our library system has thousands of existing database records that need to be converted and migrated intact into any new system.  Can you please describe your history converting and migrating records from our ILS to your ILS?
  15. Please describe on-site and/or off-site training offered by your organization and the costs associated/incurred by our library for such training?

Last, but not least, ask for a list of recent conversions/migrations the library vendor has completed, especially noting public libraries of similar ILS, size and volume of business to your own.

Selecting a new ILS can be a daunting task, but knowing the features ahead of time, and knowing right questions to ask can make the process more manageable. One last helpful tactic is to make use of one-on-one webinars with prospective vendors in a “information gathering” phase of the selection process. Many vendors are happy to pair one-to-one, or a group-to-one, for library staff to be introduced and go through their system in an 1-2 hour webinar-format time slot. In our selection process, this technique was invaluable in helping us to narrow down and identify features we hoped to have in our new system. We discovered that while some systems boasted of great functionality, reality was like flying blind in a Piper Cub. Other systems made our jaws drop in technological features and functionality that was like flying smooth skies in a modern jetliner. Knowing what one is looking for makes all the difference. I hope this list helps any other systems librarians faced with the prospect of reviewing a new ILS.

Good luck!
Rob Taylor, Systems Librarian
Manatee County Public Library System