Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hold On Tight, Here Come Holds, Part VI

Go Live 2With the new ILS, customers can modify their holds.

Why would they want to modify their holds?

They may want to change the pickup location. Or, they may be going on vacation.

What does a customer's vacation have to do with holds?

Well, say a customer has been in a hold queue for a certain item for a few weeks. The customer goes on vacation, and while the customer is away, his turn comes up for the item. A message is left on his answering machine saying the item is available. Then, after seven days, the customer is still on vacation and the item is then made available for the next person in line and the vacationing customer is removed from the hold queue. This customer then returns from vacation and finds that he has to "get in the back of the line" for the item.

In order to avoid this situation, we have the capability to suspend a hold on an item. If a customer's turn arrives during the time in which we have suspended the hold, then once the suspension is lifted, the customer is first in line whenever the item is made available again.

Of course, this applies to other situation besides vacations. If the customer will be unavailable for a lengthy amount of time, for whatever reason, we can suspend the hold until they are available again.

To learn more, go to Modify Holds.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.). All questions and answers will end up on the Holds Discussion page.

Hold On Tight, Here Come Holds, Part V

Go Live 2What if a customer informs us that they no longer need a hold on a certain item?

Removing a hold within Workflows is easy. You scan or type the User ID and a list of existing holds will appear. Select the items the customer does not want anymore and click on Remove Holds.

However, there are a couple of issues that make this a bit more difficult. Was a hold placed on the customer's User ID or was it placed on a Generic Agency Hold ID?

If a hold was placed using a Generic Agency Hold ID, then reference staff should direct the customer to circulation staff (where the book is being held). Since the list of existing holds on a Generic Agency Hold ID could be lengthy, finding the item the customer has put on hold could be a bit difficult. This is one reason why we need to add the customer's name into the comments section when placing a hold using the Generic Agency Hold ID. Staff can sort the comment column and quickly find the customer's name and remove that hold.

For more information, view Removing Holds on the training wiki.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.). All questions and answers will end up on the Holds Discussion page.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hold On Tight, Here Come Holds, Part IV

Go Live 2With the new ILS, customers can not only place a hold on checked out items, they can place a hold on available items while searching the OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog).

That is right. Customers do not have to call us to place items on hold. They will be able to find a book on our online catalog and with a click of a button, place that book on hold. They will then be automatically notified when the item is available at their desired location.

But what happens in between a customer putting something on hold and that item being available at their desired location?

If the item is currently available, then this is where the Pick List comes in. A Pick List shows all of the current customer holds on available items that need to be trapped. This report is run Monday through Saturday at 8:30 AM and 2:00 PM and is delivered via the agency circulation and reference email accounts.

A staff member then takes the list, finds the item(s) on the list and traps the hold. The customer is then notified that the item is available.

NOTE 1: If the item happens to be missing, it is important to mark the item missing at that point. If the item is available at another location, that agency will be notified on the next Pick List report.

NOTE 2: A Pick List report includes more than just holds placed via the online catalog. For example, if you are helping a customer who wants an item at another location, yet that location is currently closed, you can offer to place the item on hold for the customer. The item will appear on the next Pick List report for the owning agency.

See Trapping Holds for Held Items on the Pick List for further information.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.). All questions and answers will end up on the Holds Discussion page.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Can Customers Use Public Computers to Download Music to Their Portable Media Player?

Pamela at Raleigh took advantage of the Ask the Technical Trainer service to ask this question:

Kevin, many of our customers want to download music to their portable devices. We can't figure out how to do it. It seems like there should be an easy/free way. (This is from free legal music sites. Moving files from a CD to their device is another story, but if that's possible, tell us how to do that, too. Thanks, Pamela at Raleigh
So we have two scenarios, but they are similar. One involves how to move files from the Web to a portable media player. The other involves how to move files from a CD to a portable media player.

A trip from the Web or CD into a portable media player MUST make a stop on the "non-portable" media player which resides on the computer (Our public computers use Windows Media Player 9). To remove possible security risks, we do not allow customers to save files onto our public computers. Therefore, this "stop" on a "non-portable" media player is not possible.

On top of the security risk, music files are very large files and I imagine our public computers would fill up rather quickly, not to mention the difficulty involved if a customer ever wanted to change or edit the music on their player. They would have to find the exact computer that they originally used and hope that no one altered their playlist.

It sounds like we have several customers who received Portable Media Players as gifts during the holidays, but do not have a computer. What do we tell them to do, since they cannot use our computers?

I know someone who received an iPod from a friend. The only problem is that he does not (and does not want to) own a computer. I offered some space on my hard drive for him to rip some of his CDs, but he turned down my offer.

That is what these customers need. The need someone with a computer who is willing to let them borrow several Gigabytes. And those type of friends are few a far between...

Does anyone out their at other libraries have any suggestions? How do you assist these customers?

NOTE: A version of this post was added to Computer HELP!.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hold On Tight, Here Come Holds, Part III

Go Live 2The two previous posts in the Go Live Series explained how our existing Hold policies will translate to the new system. Now we are ready to move into uncharted territory. The new ILS will allow us to add a service that our customers have been wanting for a long time. Customers will be able to "put their name on a list" for books that are currently checked out.

Now, with our current policies and technology, if we are helping a customer and they request an item that is checked out, we give them the due date and ask them to call back. We put the onus on the customer to take the necessary actions in the future in order to obtain a copy of one of our items. Certainly many customers do not make those efforts and either make due without the book or obtain the book in another manner.

With the new ILS, we can extend our service by telling the customer that we can put them in a hold queue. The customer will then be automatically notified when the book is available. The customer does not have to do anything else except come by and check the item out. Certainly, more of our items will end up in the hands of the customers who want them.

Also, think of the time that will be saved in regards to shelving the item. Currently, we have several books that everybody wants. We spend a lot of staff time moving just-returned books back to the their shelf where it will inevitably be requested to be sent back to the Check Out desk within a day or so. Now, as soon as a heavily requested book is scanned to be checked-in, staff will be notified that the book needs to be sent immediately to the Check Out desk. The book makes one short trip, instead of two or three lengthy trips. Likewise, the book requires the actions of only one staff member, instead of two or three.

For more information, see Placing Hold for Checked Out Items....

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.). All questions and answers will end up on the Holds Discussion page.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hold On Tight, Here Come Holds, Part II

Go Live 2So my previous post discussed how we are "translating" our current Hold procedures to the new ILS. There is another current procedure that involves some tweaking in order to work with the new system.

Currently, if someone wants to hold a Popular Library book, we will place the item on hold until the end of the day. To make this work in the new system, you actually go through a modified checkout process.

You will place the book on hold to the same Branch Hold accounts that I mentioned in the previous post. The system will automatically apply a due date of the end of the business day.

For more details, see Placing Holds for Popular Books and New DVDs.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.). All questions and answers will end up on the Holds Discussion page.

Hold On Tight, Here Come Holds, Part I

Go Live 2Since the ILS Go Live date has been postponed, it gives us an opportunity to gradually introduce the new procedures to you (rather than bombard you with all these things within a 3 hour time frame). So, starting today, I will begin creating frequent posts regarding one single aspect about the new ILS.

So, what should we start with? Well, since every conversation about the new ILS inevitably focuses on holds, we'll start with that.

First, it is important to know that we are already doing holds in some aspect, so this post will focus on our current service to customers and how that will be "translated" to the new system.

If a customer wants a book that is checked in, we currently check the shelf and route the item to another location or to our own circulation desk. We will put a slip of paper in the book with the customer's last name and first initial. That book is then held for the customer.

We will still provide that same exact service. However, we have to tweak the procedures just a bit because the new system does not allow you to move an item unless it is tied to a customer account.

And we certainly do not want to start asking for customer's library card numbers when we currently do not have to. Customers would inevitably ask "Well, I never had to provide my card number before, why do I have to now?"

So to address that issue, numerous branch hold accounts have been created specifically for these type of holds. If you are at the Central library and customer wants to hold a book that is currently on the shelf, you would hold that book for the account CENHOLD. If you are holding a book at Whitehaven, you would hold that book for the account WHIHOLD. You would then type the customer's last name and first initial in the comments section.

For more information on this procedure, look at Placing/Trapping Holds or Routing Items Available at Your Location with a Customer.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.). All questions and answers will end up on the Holds Discussion page.

Is Your Pop-Up Blocker Blocking Your Functionality?

Pop Up Someone recently reported that they could not open a link in their OWA account because Internet Explorer's Pop-Up blocker was not allowing it.

I investigated this situation and found that there could be a remote possibility that you may come across a computer that would block some of OWA's functionality. For example, if you use the calendar or tasks function of OWA, you usually receive a reminder upon log in. This reminder appears as a separate "pop-up" window that could be blocked. There are a few other instances that could occur.

Luckily, this is easily fixed. As you see in the picture above, if Internet Explorer is blocking a pop-up window, a message will appear immediately below the toolbars. Just click on that message and you will see the option to always allow pop-ups from the current site.

That should fix the problem.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Why a Wiki?

Go Live 2"Why are we using a wiki for the ILS Reference training document?"

As mentioned in the previous post, we will be using a wiki for the Reference ILS training document. And as this entire transition to the new ILS is a work-in-progress, things may change frequently. This will allow us to change with it (not to mention the cost benefit of not having to print and re-print multiple documents). For example, you may recognize quicker procedures once we put this to practice. If so, we can quickly change the training document and everyone will have immediate access.

This will also allow for a greater level of interactivity. For example, you can create an account on this wiki. Once you do that, you can pose questions or offer suggestions via the Discussion (or Talk) page. That way, all questions and answers can be accessed immediately by all. Read these instructions for more information on contributing to the Discussion (or Talk) page.

Also, if you use a web feed reader/aggregator, you can subscribe to the Recent Changes page and be notified whenever anyone changes this wiki.

Go Live! Sirsi ILS Reference Training Wiki

Wiki Announcement The Go Live! Sirsi ILS Reference Training Wiki is available for you to start perusing. Once there, get a glimpse at some of the functionality that the new system will bring. The training is broken into three main sections: 1) Workflows; 2) Enterprise Portal System; and 3) Central Search.

Workflows is the main staff interface. This will replace Circle.

The Enterprise Portal System is the public home page on the Web.

Central Search is the Federated Searching tool that will be able to search many different databases from one place.

Monday, January 22, 2007

How to Limit Your Google Searches to a Specific Type of Site

Google has a nice handout that highlights some fancy tools you can use to perform some advanced searches. One of these is the site: tool. Use this to limit your search to a specific site. For example, click on the search terms below and take a look at the results:

global warming

I was familiar with this tool before, but I did not know that you could also do this next step. You can broaden your search by limiting it to a specific type of site. For example, click on the search terms below and take a look at the results:

global warming site:edu

This limits your results to only .edu sites.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Digital Rights Management and Our E-Audio Books

Wired News has an interesting blog post about Overdrive, the vendor behind our E-Audio Books service.

It touches on two aspects of this service: 1) the built-in Digital Rights Management that disables the downloaded files after a certain time period; 2) the fact that it does not work with Apple Macs/Ipods. A couple of excerpts:

  • "One of the cheapest (okay, free) ways to amass digital content is to check out CDs or DVDs from the public library and rip them onto your computer. But when it comes to digital content, DRM rears its ugly head. Library patrons have to install a Windows program called the OverDrive Media Console that allows them to play borrowed/downloaded content in a DRM-ed Windows Media format. "
  • "The point of libraries is to make content freely available for the common good, I thought, so these restrictions are a little weird. Physical library cards don't require a certain type of wallet; why should the electronic ones only work on Windows?"
However, the beauty of the blog is that it allows for comments. And while the brief post is worth reading on its own, the comments expound on the topic and present different views.

For example, you have the library supporters:
  • "So you're pretty much complaining that you can't pirate music or movies by checking them out from the Library. Cry me a river."
  • "Do you close down the whole thing because some people can't use it?"
  • "You can't fault a library for only providing the solutions that are available to them at a price they can afford."
  • "If a good iPod equivalent to Overdrive existed, most libraries that subscribe to Overdrive would probably subscribe to the iPod service instead of Overdrive. There just isn't another good (and legal) alternative for libraries to use that is compatible with iPods."
The folks who think libraries are the problem:
  • "Maybe the thinking was, well Mac users have such an easy time accessing and enjoying digital content on their computers and peripherals as it is, maybe we don't need to worry about them - let's focus on those poor Windows users who are struggling out there!"
  • "or it could be "macs are worthless to the point the majority of the population uses windows, so since there's already a solution for windows, let's forget about that worthless 4-5% of the the population." "
  • "Why should a publicly funded institution force a back door tax on it's patrons?"
No, wait. It appears that Apple is the source of the problem:
  • "Apple has locked everyone out of their system. If the Apple iPod wasn't such a closed system I would agree with you, but in truth Apple doesn't let anyone else into their DRM scheme."
No, Microsoft is the problem:
  • "The reason that the eBook won't work on anything but Windows is that the book reader uses a seriously proprietary M$ eBook format. M$ refuses to release "Microsoft Reader" for anything but Windows." [I assume M$=Microsoft]
Then, you have one clever hacker who bypassed everything:
  • "We have Overdrive at my local library. I looked into it, found software out there that strips the DRM, which then allows the user to import it into iTunes for Windows."
It's a big, complex world out there. And many times the library finds itself in the middle of the confusion when all we really want to do is give the customer what they need.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Launch of Computer HELP!

By now, you have probably seen the new MPLIC public blog Computer HELP!. Several times in talking with customers, I have had a need to show them posts on the MPLIC Tech Train. However, rather than pointing customers to an internal blog, I thought about creating a "mirror" site aimed at the public. This mirror site would be stripped of all things a customer does not need.

Computer HELP! is not meant to be a replacement for staff assistance, but hopefully this will be a useful tool to direct customers to when they need a little helping hand.

I have tried to include some of the most frequently asked questions, and if you have suggestions for Computer HELP! additions, please let me know.

E-Filing on Public Library Computers

PPM 807, our Internet Use Policy, states this about using library computers for personal business:

The Library is not responsible for any liability that may occur as a result of the disclosure of financial or personal information over the library's public computer services. Customers should be aware that use of public computers is not a secure medium and that third parties may be able to obtain information regarding customer's activities.
As tax season gets in full gear, we may have customers wanting to use our computers to e-file their taxes. We should not dissuade customers from using our computers to e-file, but we should inform them that they should close all browser windows when they are complete.

The IRS lists several companies that provide free e-filing services.

Here are some possible limitations that should be considered:
  • Is the customer's state covered? Scanning the list of companies, not all companies provide this service for Tennessee residents.
  • Does the company require you to download software? Our computers cannot allow someone to download software. I scanned a few of the companies that the IRS lists, and none of them required you to download software!
  • Will the customer be able to finish this important piece of personal business within the time frame of their computer reservation? Because you have to create a username and password for the companies I surveyed, customers would be able to save their work if they are not complete. They, of course, would need their username and password to log back in at a future time.
  • Does the customer have an e-mail address? If not, then a customer will need to register for one (making it harder to accomplish the task within the reserved time frame).
  • Does the customer have efficient computer skills? Not having certain computer skills will make some tasks longer to complete.

LINC 2-1-1 Database Handout Now Available

A handout is now available for the new LINC 2-1-1 Online Database. Click here to access the handout. You can also find it on the Staff Developments site under the Helpful Handouts section on the left sidebar.

See PPM 806-02 for more information on I&R Referrals.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Adaptive Workstations

Adaptive Workstations are being installed at Central this week. These stations will also be installed at Cordova, Hollywood, and Whitehaven. They include a Braille keyboard, a Big Keys keyboard, and a compact keyboard. These stations also include a roller-ball mouse and a 21" monitor. Finally, each station includes ZoomText, a program that allows the user to magnify the screen without losing clarity. This program also has a Reading mode which will read the contents of the screen.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Anyone Else Having Yahoo Mail Difficulties?

The word from Bartlett is that they have been experiencing a problem with Yahoo Mail:

"We have noticed for the past month or so that when a customer attempts to go to Yahoo e-mail, the computer will stop loading. When they click the Refresh button, then it quickly goes to the e-mail screen."

Has anyone else experienced this problem?

I did a Web search and no one else seems to be having this problem. One person did say that Yahoo Mail times out from time to time when you try to load it. This does require you to hit Refresh.

I see no reason why this would have anything to do with any of our settings on the computer.

Yahoo is currently testing a Beta upgrade, so that could explain why this "timing out" is occurring now more than it did before. This is purely a theoretical observation, though.

If anyone else has noticed an increase in difficulty with Yahoo Mail, please comment!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Quality of Staff Development Trainings


Unshelved, the comic strip about a library which I thoroughly enjoy, ran a series of strips during the week of December 11-15 about staff trainings.

December 11 - Dewey (the main character) wants to be a disruptive co-worker.

December 12 - Dewey takes over a technical training because the trainer is inept.

December 13 - Dewey disagrees with the trainer on the clique "always give the customer what they want".

December 14 - Dewey leaves the training early when the trainer wants to implement a "trust exercise".

December 15 - Dewey explains that he would rather not go to staff trainings.

So, all in all, not a good picture of staff training. And certainly this series has a bit of that "it's funny because it's true" feeling. This can happen when you train just for training's sake.

But please know that your Staff Development department works hard to avoid these types of trainings. The last thing we want to do is waste your time. And we also work hard to make sure our material is directly related to your day-to-day operations. We also attempt to make our training environments open and inviting. You should feel free to ask questions, to clarify, and to add input. In the end, you should feel free to evaluate our training realistically and provide input on how we can improve the training.

That being said, not wanting to be in a training and not listening/participating in the training will often lead to a self-fulfilled prophecy of wasted time, no matter the amount of effort put into developing the training.