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D Day

Today is the ending of phase two and the beginning of phase three of the new software installation/implementation. D (documentation) Day. This should be fun. Being a writer in a former life, I like making up sheets on how to use things. It also requires I make some signage, so that people know the exact longitude and latitude to go to to make their reservations. The sign up station is kind of tucked in the corner, which isn't terribly conducive to... well, viewing.

Logically I could move it to where the old word processor was, but then the vending machine would be in an odd place, and I would sort of like to replace the old word processor eventually.

So big signs are in order. I think a trip to the children's room should set me up with some supplies. Perhaps there are some in the supply closet, as well, but they've got fun stuff in the children's room. I wonder where we got the velcro for sticking signs on monitors from...

Any excuse to use velcro is a good excuse to use velcro.

My major experiment today is to see if yesterday's one time use numbers will work today, or if they have to be used the day they are generated. I wouldn't see why they would... But it's always good to check these things before you print out a gazillion of them.

I might also want to revise the rules that display on the screen a little bit. They aren't bad, they're pretty generic (no disks, no sound, no games, no instant messaging, as well as the warning you get exactly thirty minutes), but I don't know if there's anything specific that administration wants put in. I should probably take the rules off the internet policies and place them in there, although those pertained mostly to when we had unfiltered. I should be upfront about the filters, too, come to think of it.

I can't wait for the Mac version of this stuff. Woo hoo!

I do hope the demo period goes well. I think, once patrons adjust to and learn the new system, it will be helpful. I think in the short term it's going to be difficult, yes.

In the long term, though... Well, I hear that people are less likely to fight with machines, especially with the little counter counting down your minutes right at the top of your screen. It will be nice to see some people getting a turn that don't normally get a turn.

The assistant director came to me and said he was glad, actually, that this upgrading process took a few days, since it will get people in the mindset that the rules are changing. Perhaps he's right.

Could be stunning....

Inspired by the Stephen Writehead book, The Many Faces of Men , Daily Mirror columnist Jane Ridley tries her hand at classifying women using 27 distinctive character types and claims all women fit into one of her categories. And one of the categories is..

"LIBRARIAN

READS books, watches Heartbeat and University Challenge. Could be stunning if she in-vested in her appearance.

Prime example: JK Rowling."

Putting two and two together

From a NYTimes op-ed piece:

A stick of cobalt, an inch thick and a foot long, is taken from among hundreds of such sticks at a food irradiation plant. It is blown up with just 10 pounds of explosives in a "dirty bomb" at the lower tip of Manhattan, with a one-mile-per-hour breeze blowing. Some 1,000 square kilometers in three states is contaminated, and some areas of New York City become uninhabitable for decades.

From Al Quaida (ostensibly):

"We bring the good news to Muslims of the world that the expected 'Winds of Black Death' strike against America is now in its final stage...90 percent (ready) and God willing near." (quoted in a posting on A Small Victory)

Surely a coincidence. I'm just being paranoid, right?

Why Time Access Software Rocks

At least, today. We haven't actually used it on the public yet. But you can do such cool things with it... Okay, fine, I admit it. I was logging all the computers in and then sending messages to them. Just because I could. Messages like, "You've been naughty. No computer for you."

I haven't tried a remote reboot. That should be interesting.

The functionality is really quite nice. It requires a little bit of responsibility on the part of the patron, which scares me. Like, the patron is going to have to remember what time they're due to use the computer, because they get about three minutes to sign in, before it goes to the next reservation. It keeps things moving, though, which is important.

I decided to give the Gatekeeper (reservation) software a try. I think initially it will be some work, and I'm going to have to make some placards explaining how to use it (including the exact coordinates of the reservation terminal, which doubles as our print terminal). But I think in the long term it will be less work than having circulation deal with it, especially since the Console doesn't do that great a job at telling you what computers are in use. It lists them as all available, all the time.

I have a few concerns, but we'll have to see how they play out with the public. My biggest is people being confused and missing their reservations. I mean, to me, it couldn't be much clearer. If a computer comes available, check the reservation terminal and see if your name is up. Not real hard. The software developers suggest using numbers, actually, not names, to be more unique. They suggest your phone number. I know there's going to be a bunch of jokesters that come in and all use "69" as their unique number. That's a problem.

People are going to use numbers they can't remember and not notice their reservation numbers, so their reservations will go up for grabs. But I guess we just have to let that happen once or twice. They'll learn. Inevitably, I think my learning curve is about in the middle and the public's has only just begun.

I am going to see if it allows the option of reserving with names tomorrow. That would be nice. But it's a little funny with the whole name thing. Like there aren't a hundred people that sign in as "Jim".

Some Govdocs re Clinton and Bush on anti-terror

I thought about making this a news item, but since the reports mentioned below were obtained by a partisan group, in the journal it goes.

The Center for American Progress has posted a page titled 9/11: Internal Government Documents Show How the Bush Administration Reduced Counterterrorism. They have grouped together a set of internal DOJ documents obtained by CAP. The claim is that the current administration cut funding for anti-teror efforts and downgraded an anti-terror post from cabinet level status. Until 9/11, the administration rejected FBI requests for additional language translators and intelligence analysts.

Have a look at the page, the documents and decide for yourself.

I don't have an interest in promoting Clinton or Reno, by the way. I supported President Clinton's impeachment and thought that Janet Reno's DOJ was nearly as surveilance hungrey as Ashcroft's. So, let's try to focus on facts and less on personalities.

If you have specific information about either the current admin's focus on terror PRIOR TO 9/11, or on critical failures in the previous administration, post your links in the comments section.

P.S. - I'm going to be in Fairbanks at the Alaska Library Association conference from Thursday through Sunday, so I probably won't be checking in till after the weekend. So, happy weekend!

Easter fun!

Okay, it's getting to get Easter time again and that means Peeps. That's right, I said Peeps. For those that don't like (or can't eat) these sugar filled creations I give you these websites. Enjoy.

Center for Peep research

Peeps in Millikin U library

If you're bored on a chilly spring weekend, I suggest nuking some of these peeps... it's rather fun. :-)

Library Lookup for Aleph

I recently revisted John Udell's library lookup bookmarklet page. My library uses Ex Libris' ALEPH system, and I did not see ALEPH listed as a library on Jon's page, so I modified his bookmarklet to work on our system.

The script for the bookmarklet is this:
javascript:var%20re=/([\/-]|is[bs]n=)(\d{7,9}[\dX])/i;if(re.test(location.href)==true){var%20isbn=RegExp.$2;void(win=window.open('http://catalog.umd.edu/F/?func=find-c&ccl_term=020%3D'+isbn+'+&adjacent=N&x=29&y=7','LibraryLookup','scrollbars=1,resizable=1,width=575,height=500'))};

If you want instructions on how to install and use this bookmarklet, see Jon's page above or http://www.lib.umd.edu/MCK/GUIDES/liblookup.html

I believe any other ALEPH library should be able to use this script by replacing the http://catalog.umd.edu/F/ with whatever is appropriate for their system. An interesting thing about this script is that the ALEPH catalog at http://catalog.umd.edu is for the University of Maryland System. When I use the bookmarklet from on campus, the bookmarklet searches the catalog of my campus. When I use the bookmarklet from home, it searches the system wide catalog.

perverse pleasures

Certain talk show hosts think librarians live to give kids porn. No. Librarians live to take away internet access once in awhile. I got this bizarre sort of pleasure in watching people walk into the library, and look utterly lost when they saw the signs that the computers were out of order. Some actually then went and picked up books. Some just left. Boo.

The upgrade went really well, thanks to a kind soul at OCS who was very patient. I am pleased to announce that reading the manual was nothing like upgrading the server software. But it went smoothly.

Now comes configuring, testing, and working out bugs, and making training materials for staff and patrons. All in a day and a half. Ha! I'd like to thank the disgruntled patron who said, "I'd like to know why it takes three days to stick a disk in a drive..." If he only knew....

If he only knew what was coming. The software is a thing of beauty. I am not so sure about the self reservation software, which I decided to put on just to test and see how it flies. It looks straightforward to me, but I'm not the patron who hasn't read the manuals.

The self reservation will allow a lot more flexibility, and less time on the part of the circ staff, and hopefully, eventually, the librarians.

On our 2K terminals, the desktop resets on login. Beautiful. It makes you agree to the library rules before signing in. Beautiful. It reserves a certain computer specifically for you... so no one can cluster and there and jump on if you stop to tie your shoe or something. Beautiful. Most beautiful of all -- thirty minutes, folks. You get thirty minutes. As counted by our server.

I enabled the option to extend the time if no one is waiting. Hey, I'm not totally heartless.

The only real problem I can forsee is if a computer crashes. Most specifically, I'm worried about our Win98 machine, which sometimes gets senile and requires a reboot. I think the actual clock and timer is kept on the client machine, so the server has no record really of who was on or why the machine was shut down. That might take some finesse to handle that situation.

The senility of the Win98 machine is caused, not only by a whopping 32 MB of system RAM, but by people who click on a million things at once and wonder why things aren't instantaneous. I shouldn't talk, I've crashed that machine once or twice doing that.

On the plus side, the Win98 machine is printing. Yay!

I was so pumped with adrenaline from my successful install (how sad) that I couldn't sleep again last night.

Advice for the Youngsters from Jaded Veterans

This list of advice from anonymous public library veterans has been making the rounds for the past month. Reading it, you have to wonder why anyone would go into the profession, a public library in particular. The comments I've seen and heard about the list range from "right on" to "what a bunch of jaded poops." It does paint public libraries with a very broad brush, but there's enough familiar in it to have folks I've shared it with say "yep, yep."

broke down!

I decided to go ahead and call in sick at my cataloging job this past week. I had spent a few days in Chicago for spring break (woo hoo!) going to museums and one of the little tykes on a school trip infected me with some foul virus. Combined with all the stress of driving around Chicago and not eating any vegetables all week, I succumbed to the first real illness I've had since March 2001. I'm doing lots better today, but I'm guessing my significant other will soon take this opportunity to get sick too and want me to wait on him like he waited on me. I "got" to make up the hours over the weekend so my paycheck shouldn't be too much less either. If anyone wants to hear about museums in Chicago, or the awesome cheesecake I had at the Cheesecake Factory, let me know! :-)

'Every working Day' Logfile Review

Or events, if you use Microsoft Windows.

Lets see, tally up the server machines I've got here, were looking at four servers log files needed to review. Two minutes a log file in a lame attempt to discover if anything is amiss, and problably about 4 log files per machine to look over. That is a grand total of 32minutes a working day. Is that really enough?

The firewall, email and intranet servers are library managed and are running unix (well, OpenBSD :) . Starting on the mail server, there is the daemon log, maillog -> runs the mail-side antivirus and spam filter daemon, the messages log file, and the apache log file + ssl access (for web mail). The firewall also has anti-spam software logging in daemon, the packet filter log (see what ip addy's are *ahem* probing what services), syslog daemon log file messages, and of course the web caching proxy server log that I use a script I "Googled" to summerize for me. Intranet server runs things like dynamic host configuration protocol daemon, dns, intranet website (not ssl) and syslog.

The Windows web server and the file/print PDC on the private network have Event Viewer to look over. The only real exciting thing when looking at those is when the local UPS to those machines catch a brownout. But I have a bridge filter on the web server that I have no remote access to, so I have to take my sorry butt of this workstation and haul it down to the computer room to look at the probing attempted on the webserver. So many logs, so little time.

*sigh* Like many other things in the library world, computer/server security tend to take a backseat priority when compared to public service.

"Things to do list" has been getting so high lately that some minor things, like installing a printer in a Department Head's office, can sometimes be forgotten. I wonder how large a library has to be until another IT inclined employee gets hired?

Shameless commerce division (Library Juice)

Rory Litwin of Library Juice fame, asked about posting a link to his libr.org shops, where he's selling t-shirts, undies and such, bearing the libr.org and Juice logos. If we had a "shameless commerce" category, I might have posted it, but then, would we be beholden to any vendor who wanted a free plug? Not sure what our policy is about such stuff. Maybe we could add a "Shameless Commerce" category (a la Car Talk) for friends and contributors to point to their products and services. Nonetheless, here's the link to Rory's shops. If I get a sense that it would be okay to post a link among the stories, I will, but thought I'd ask first.

What I wanna know is: where's the LISnews merch, Blake? Maybe that's the way to build the empire. There's a "kiss me, I'm a librarian" thong in Rory's shop--boxers, too. Maybe we could grab another segment of the market with granny pants and tighty whities (all in breathable cotton).

the zero hour

Today I go in at one. After reading the not terribly descriptive (at least not descriptive enough to put my mind at ease) server documentation, I realized that a day and a half might not cut it to get this working. So I am going to ask that I have today to work on it as well. The way I figure is I can't really have been scheduled more than four hours on info and reference, and I should probably, at least on the reference time, be down and working on the server.

This involves a call at nine to ask them to "x" out the afternoon time slots on our soon to be defunct (oh god I hope) sign up sheet, so that I can get people off and get working.

I'd like to thank kctipton to bringing me back to my senses. After looking at the functionality of the software, and thinking about the big picture and how it's most consistent, I have decided the two seconds it takes to scan a card is just fine, staff and patron complaints be damned.

No, seriously, the reality of it is, we have a book budget, but no hardware budget. We take cards for the other internet terminals and the word processors.

Library card access lends some accountability.

The Time Access Console is a very limited program when it comes to the one time use numbers. We can't make reservations, for instance. All that the circ staff will be doing is looking at the screen to see what's available. So they'll be doing the reservations on paper, with the aid of the screen.

I am not allowing reservations further than the next half hour in advance. Why? Because people don't stick around and wait more than half an hour for their reservations. In the current set up, they sign their name down for an hour from the present time, get bored and leave, and then we're all confused about who gets that time slot.

I think I am going to have people sign in for a computer. If it's available, knock yourself out. If it's not, we take their name, library card number, and time the computer will come available. Then, when their time comes available, they come back to circulation and get their one time use number.

My thinking is if they don't have the one time use number in hand until log in time, they won't be as likely to a) take someone else's time slot accidently (or not accidently) or b) circle around the poor person on the computer trying to see when they'll be done so they can hop on immediately.

The circ staff is going to have some resistance because it's more work for them. It is. But it's going to cut down the conflict and unhappy patrons, I think, when it comes down to it. And it's not significantly more work. I guess I have to spin this not so much that it's a reduction in work as much as gain in efficiency and fairness.

And circulation will be doing, well, circulation duties, and librarians can do searching and help patrons, not spend time playing internet cop.

mail order diploma

My diploma is ready. Yay. I can't get into to town to pick it up, and I'm not going to commencement, so I had to stick an additional ten bucks in an envelope to fork over to Simmons so that I can get it certified mailed to me. I guess I would understand more if it was an overdue fine.

The kicker about the mailman here is I know he's going to fold it up and shove it through our mail slot. I know it. Perhaps I should put a sign on the door saying leave it on the back porch. I would have liked to have it delivered to work, but I feel funny about asking about that sort of thing.

I hope that Simmons puts it in a stiffy mailer. And I hope it's big. My diploma from college is about the size of postage stamp, and meanwhile, my husband's got his big impressive JHU and GW diplomas on the wall. My postage stamp from the state college did come in a leather case, though.

I've decided that even though I want to ask for library cards to use the internet, at this juncture, there's really no good reason to. I could do it if I thought we were going to get the card module any time soon, but I'm not so sure. And I suppose if I'm going to ask for cards, I should ask for a good reason. My fear is also that the email and Linux terminal will get fights, because they're the only ones that aren't going to be card only. Perhaps it's best to do this in stages. If we decide on the card module, and get the RAM so our server can support it, then we will start to put out signs and explain to people what's going on, so they can be prepared.

I think psychologically it will help the staff, too. And god knows we all need psychological help. (Hee, of course I had to throw that in). I think there's going to be some resistance to having to learn a new bit of software, that the extra step of getting a library card might just push them over the edge.

What is scaring me is people seem to think this is self serving... Which even if I was going to deploy that module, we'd be over there explaining it all day. It's going to eliminate conflict, mostly, and eliminate the need for the reference/info person to be the one that has to get up every half hour and nicely remind people to get the hell off. It will eliminate people coming in with ten minutes left on the half hour and saying, "I was only here ten minutes!"

I expect some complaints to begin with from patrons who have a hard time limiting themselves. I will let you know if that really happens, though. I know I've had patrons from other libraries say that they liked their library's timer software, too. So go figure.

It erases cookies and history and cache, though. Dang! The systems librarian likes the timer software.

I am really nervous about this. This is the first big decision I've had to make, and it's a little unnerving. I hope it goes well.

Europe starting to wake up?

In the Washington Post's "World Opinion Roundup" column, Jefferson Morley cites some European reactions to the Madrid bombings that I found surprising:

Sociologist Emilio Lamo de Espinosa says Europeans have been dreaming. Writing in Le Monde (in French), Lamo says Europeans have thought they would be spared because they haven't supported the Bush administration's policies.

"When the Americans declared war on terrorism, many of us thought they exaggerated. Many thought terrorism was not likely to occur on our premises, [inhabited by] peaceful and civilized Europeans who speak no evil of anybody, who dialogue, who are the first [to] send assistance and offer cooperation. We are pacifists, they are warmongers. . . . . Don't we defend the Palestinians? Are we not pro-Arab and anti-Israeli?"

"Can we dialogue with those who desire only our death and nothing but our death?" Lamo asks. "Dialogue about what? The manner in which we will be assassinated?"

"The war against terrorism will be long and difficult," he concludes. "It was that cretin, President Bush, who said that." [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

This man has thought through the issue of Islamofascist terrorism in a clear-eyed way, and has concluded correctly that the Islamofascists will not spare Europe just because they aren't America. He has correctly perceived the implacability of Al Qaida and its associates towards all of Western culture.

Morley's column finds the Guardian taking up the same theme:

In London, the Guardian says "emergency security meetings across Europe yesterday signaled the deepening recognition that the 200 deaths in four trains blown up in Madrid on Thursday probably constitute more than just a domestic Spanish terrorist event." The leftist London daily says no European nation will be spared, no matter what its past stance on the war on terror or Iraq. [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

I would go further and say that 9/11, and Bali, as well as something like Madrid 3/11, would have taken place even if the U.S. hadn't invaded Iraq, or even if Bush hadn't been elected. Of course, the invasion of Iraq necessarily changed the calculations of AQ et al. in their choice of targets. It brought new problems, new demands, new reasons to attack here instead of there, but the first WTC attack, and the USS Cole attack, and the African embassy bombings show us that war was declared years ago.

Until the war on terror is over, the question will never be "Will they attack?" but rather "Where?".

R-ing TFM

So today and tomorrow and Monday morning I'm doing the ol' RTFM aspect of network software installation. The more I RTFM, though, the more questions are arising. Technically this is a upgrade, and I'm adding a module, but it sure sounds like I have to reinstall the whole server and client software. That just doesn't make sense though. It seems like creating tons of extra work for myself.

I am still playing with the card access system. The people on the nameless listserv are saying pretty much what I thought they would -- they're split down the middle. But from what I see, I have nothing to lose by asking to see a card and everything to gain. We will still have our terminals out that aren't card access, of course. No printing off them, unfortunately. Not until I can tweak them further.

I had a discussion with a supervisor about the direness of the hardware situation. In a home environment, the hardware could last indefinitely, until it was finally too obsolete to run anything. My husband's boss just gave up his 386 a few months ago. In the public environment though, hardware has the shelf life of milk left on a picnic table in July. Our new machines act wonky from time to time. It's no wonder. People log them out constantly, bang on them, shut them down improperly... I get testy when people (or anyone but me anyway) insults the machinery at the library. Considering what it faces day in day out, I think it's pretty remarkable we've still got some serial mice and P1 chips kicking around.

And I was never a Mac person, but am fast becoming one. For the love of pete, don't insult the Mac. OS X is a happy middle ground between Linux and Windows. Easy to navigate, somewhat easier to configure, and less than $130 for the OS.

I had a patron tell me that in the OS wars, Windows was the lesser of two evils. I wanted to remind him that there were, ahem, more than two operating systems out there.

Anyone else psyched about the 2.6 kernel coming out in the form of SuSE 9.1? I've wanted to compile and play with 2.6 since it came out several months ago, but I'm too scairt of screwing up the ubercomputer. I'm still too newb to compile my own kernel. So yes, all you cool Linux people I totally want to be one day will say, "Jeez, chick, 2.6's been around for ages..." I know. I just wanted it in the Linux flavor of my choice. I heard SuSE 9 Pro didn't run real well if you used the experimental 2.6 sent with it.

I saw road atlases in the supermarket today and felt compelled to pick them up and look at them. I think, with the roads around Boston changing almost daily thanks to the Big Dig, it might be time to just trash and buy all new ones. I hate people coming in for directions and heading directly to MapQuest. MapQuest stinks!

Librarian Wannabe

First entry...hmm...well I'm currently emloyed as an IT drone for a large insurance company, but I've decided to change careers, for a variety of reasons I'll explain later. My current plan is to become an academic librarian, specifically doing IT stuff at a Library.

I've applied to go to the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I'm currently waiting to see if my applicaton is accepted - wish me luck!

Stress and burnout in library service / Janette S. Caputo

The "interesting" thing is that this title is in my library, the STM library on campus, rather than in the social sciences library. I wonder if this is related to a perceived need in my library back in the early '90s when the book was published.

Some choice bits include

Libido: A decrease in libido also frequently accompanies high levels of stress.... Because of social conventions and concern about job security, satisfaction of sexual needs is likely to occur outside the library workplace....(p 92)

and

Building a Support System: To build a support network, you need to start seeing your peers as likable people....(p 121)

But not so likable that you start working on your libido within the library workplace, I assume.

tearing down the Berlin Wall @ your library

Today I withdrew some atlases from the collection. Goodbye, thirty year old atlases. Goodbye, East and West Germany. Goodbye, Soviet Union. If I held on to them a few years longer I could have just pencilled in the word "historical" on them. No one would have known the difference.

There are a few I am sorry to see go. The Atlas of Africa, for instance. It's a good thing to have, and I'm having a hell of a time finding a replacement, but a forty year old map of a rapidly changing continent isn't terribly useful.

I need to order more atlases. I have a few trickling in, but I feel like we have gaps in coverage.

An argument for timed access software (discovery of link thanks to Librarian in Black): this little article from CNN that tells of a kid that went batty when dad turned off the game. This is what I fear some of our patrons will do when you tell them their time is up.

I downloaded the documentation for the timed access software, and now have to really buckle down and think hard about some things. My direct supervisor said she didn't want the librarians managing it, which was my first instinct. I mean, logically I would have it at reference. Now that I see the interface, I think perhaps it wouldn't hurt to have it at circulation. The only trick is printing off the one time use numbers. There are no printers at the circ desk. So I have to see what I can do to print them off easily. I am thinking perhaps trying to network the nice printer in the professional's office to the console. Either that, or I can physically haul a printer out and hook it up on a given day of any week. Or I could install the console on another terminal as well, and print from there. I think.

I'm also grappling with the library card issue. Technically, with this software, there's no reason to have them present their library card, except that we make them present their library cards for the one hour terminals and the word processing terminals. I say we should be consistent one way or the other. I like the idea of presenting cards, but the staff is split about fifty fifty on the issue. There would still be cardless access, it just wouldn't be whiz bang cool cardless access. Unless you're a geek like me that thinks Linux is da bomb.

Da bomb. I can't believe I just said that. That's the kind of day it's been.

I've been scheduled lightly on reference and information this coming week so I can devote some time to getting this puppy up and running (and getting some training manuals under way.) I am going to be one busy librarian this week. The very nice people at OCS swear up and down installation is easy. I do have to say they've been more than helpful in answering my questions as we go into the demo period. Let's see how the config goes. The network is basically all together now, at least. I just have to plug the circ computer into it. And get memory into the circ computer. That might be a Monday night thing.

I am worried about our feeble little once unfiltered terminal that can't seem to get up the gumption to recognize more than 32 MB of RAM. I don't know if it can take the network programs. We once had the printer software set up on it, so I guess it can handle that. But today it was complaining to me about lack of memory.

Today the woman at circ's daughter came in and asked how writers just know all "that stuff." I told her that's because there are good librarians behind them.

What is News?

Well, it's obviously different things to different people. Today the big news is how a cast member of the 'reality' show The Apprentice is accusing fellow cast-members of calling her names. A completely artificial grouping of heretofore unknown and not very likeable people cast together for the purposes of so-called "entertainment" and one calls another a name. The headline is repeated from coast to coast. What am I missing here?

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