Blogs

A Snow Reprieve

I see students walking around with light jackets at most. This is good. I also see sunlight outside. For someone who gets to see very little sunlight due to the library science lab being in the center of the library building without any windows to the outside world, such is verily a good thing.Two weeks...two conferences...too much to worry about!

I have had more people ask me

I have had more people ask me in the last week where I got my IT training. I tell them "O'Reilly Books." Not only do they have cute animals on the covers, they're really quite good. I like the Windows XP Annoyances cover the best. Surinam toads just rock. Somehow fitting for Windows XP, too.

Simmons helped. They had some good courses in certain computer concepts. But like anything, you get out of it what you put into it, and even still further study was necessary.

I had a guy offer to "help me get the network back up" yesterday. He must have been really desperate for internet access, or really out of the loop if he thought I was going to let him anywhere near the server. It's amazing how many of our patrons that come in to use the internet for hours used to work in software development. I can think of about six offhand. The day I have someone come in and say they worked on ARPANET... Well, then I'll at least believe they had some classes somewhere. Even if it was only a computer history course.

Of course, the truth of the matter is the network is perfectly fine. Which I was honest and told him. Upgrading and installing software shouldn't equate with "problem". Well, yeah, we're upgrading to fix a problem, but it's not of the technical variety.

Everything has gone quite smoothly. My big thing being that I don't want to just give an hour of training, leave my documentation, and then leave the rest of the staff tomorrow to puzzle out how you do certain things. That, and there are a few little things I'd like to experiment with. I'd actually like to get in early and change the ctrl-alt-delete functions on the computers before I give my training. That way I can really demonstrate how it should work.

I hope that people appreciate the thought that went into this... Not the public, they won't appreciate it all, no delusion there, but the staff. I know circ is going to complain about having to write out and look at the lists of library cards and patron names when they give out their one time use numbers. But hey.

It just makes more sense to do this all at circulation. And accountability with library cards is everything. I can't believe I almost lost sight of that through this whole thing.

I wrote an email thanking my tech support guy. He was quite helpful, and I figured he could put it in his "good boy" file next time he's up for a raise. Hey, I worked in corporate long enough to know. That, and it's certainly nice to get a thank you once in a while.

Who was Sheik Yassin?

This Globe & Mail editorial knows part of the answer:


Sheik Ahmed Yassin was often called a "spiritual leader." In fact, he was the leader of a ruthless war of terrorism against Israeli men, women and children.
...


That Sheik Yassin was a murderous fanatic is not in doubt. He was the founder of the militant Palestinian group Hamas. Its goal is quite simple: the destruction of the state of Israel.
Not just an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the end of Israel.
...


His decision to continue the slaughter of Israeli civilians despite last year's attempts to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks helped scuttle the international road map to peace.

Bob Tarantino notes that, despite acknowledging Yassin's true character, the editorial couldn't bring itself to consider his killing a wise move on Israel's part. Wretchard has a different and rather more nuanced take on the matter here, here, here, and here. I found especially interesting the information on the infighting within Hamas after Yassin's death as well as the implications of his death for relations between Arafat's associates and Hamas.

I say that if you want get an idea of who a person was, consider his effect on his posterity:

At a debate, the Hamas candidate asked the Fatah candidate: ``Hamas activists in this university killed 135 Zionists. How many did Fatah activists from Bir Zeit kill?''

The Fatah candidate refused to answer, suggesting his rival ``look at the paper, go to the archives and see for yourself. Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades have not stopped fighting the occupation.''

Fatah set up models of Jewish settlements and then blew them up with fireworks. The display was meant to emphasize the group's focus on attacking settlers and their communities - considered by Palestinians to be one of the most provocative elements of Israel's occupation of territory they claim for a state.

Hamas countered by blowing up models of Israeli buses, a tribute to the dozens of suicide bombings its members have carried out in the past three years, killing hundreds of Israelis.

Speaks volumes, I'd say.

(From a Guardian article no longer online but quoted at Daimnation!)

No Internet for You!

At the subtle and not so subtle suggestions of the assistant director and some other librarians, I have decided to leave the computers down till Monday. Unhappy patrons. Yes. But here's the thing: Friday and Saturday we're half staffed. Friday I won't be in at all, since it's my day off. That leaves me exactly one hour to train the staff on how to use the software tomorrow, and then we're all thrown to the lions.

Better to do it Monday, when I come in. I'll get it up and running, then I'll be there till closing. I'll close, then be there Tuesday morning to show people how to open. And we'll be full staffed, so that we'll all be able to spare the extra five minutes to help a patron having a hard time adjusting.

The assistant director had a good point. I need to have a canned speech ready as to why we implemented this software when patrons complain. I am thinking something like this:

After reviewing our system, it didn't seem like a particularly fair or democratic way of distributing access to people. We require cards because we require cards to check out books, and in all reality, people, when they use the internet, are checking out expensive and sensitive pieces of equipment.

Or something like that.

I think the patrons are going to be bummed when they see what our, er, upgrade was. I heard them say something about hoping it's faster access. Whoops. Well, yeah, in a way.For some people.

There won't be any real sure way to ensure that people only get on in two half hour slots... I am going to have circ record the numbers, so that we can do a visual check, but I fully imagine with human error that things will slip by. But if the same three people show up seven or eight or nine times a day, circ will notice.

Ooooh, cool of cool... I found the part of the software today that controls the language. So I changed the stilty "Put a code here that you will remember" to "Enter your name or unique identifier". It's kind of a tricky thing to change, but didn't seem to fudge anything up. It certainly seems clearer to me.

I need to get in tomorrow to disable ctrl-alt-delete (much thanks to folks at TechReport.com forums). Fortres does it just dandy in Win98, but it doesn't stick for Win2K. And I fear that some crafty patron will discover that by going to Task Manager they can stop the client program from running. If I can't get the entire key combination to disable, then I'll just disable the change password (although you need an administrator password to actually change your password, I believe) and Task Manager. If the silly rabbits log out or shut down, they're only making it obvious they're doing stupid things they shouldn't.

I'm learning to think like a crafty patron. That scares me.

Egg Shortage in Manhattan?

The RNC on MTV? Good luck Mr.Gillespie. Just in case the studio windows can be opened, I suggest a plastic poncho at the ready.

For those unfamiliar with MTV's political endorsement policy, they prefer the subtlety of weaving political bias, liberal of course, within the context of a voter registration campaign. Back in 2000, "Rock the Vote" provided the perfect irony by assuring a Bush win by energizing a few of Nader's green anarchists.

The latest campaign, Choose or Lose, is a twist of demographic symbolism and admonishment. Obviously in response to November of 2000, when the Gen X and Y crowd found Real World reruns more relevant to their real world than voting in a federal election. The Choose or Lose parting tag line "What would the result have been if all of these people would have voted in 2000"? (paraphrase)

My question, where can I find a "NO MO WTO" bumper sticker?

The Dunce Factor

Happens all too often now. Jump aboard the perverbial train, drive that train hard down the track to the end of the line and you'll discover the line end right at a point where was "supposed" to be a bridge. Indeed no bridge was found, and with little warning you are careening locomotive first into the canyon below.

My case involves the squid cachine proxy service. I slapped that sucker onto the firewall as a bandwidth reduction utility in order to reduce costs the library I work for has to pay our ISP. I've had this software in place for 8 months, and not once did I realize that my caching proxy service was going out over the DSL line to our ISP to look up domain name addresses (as set in /etc/resolv.conf) every stinking time a web site was looked up via a browser local to this private network.

*Smacks self in head* Whats with that? Every pathetic domain lookup not only travels out over the DSL line to the ISP, but it takes more time to get an answer back because of the slower network connection! Why the heck didn't I set the unix resolver to point to my already internal domain name caching service that runs on the mail server? Thats local, 100mbit connection, caching already several domains. Only one answer is to be had: You Dunce!

At least it was an easy fix. Make the nesessary changes to resolve.conf, reconfigure the squid proxy service from the command line (no windows reboot required :) . The results are quite startling. The web proxy cache is now more responsive than ever. Almost hard to believe that one little change can make such a difference.

So I guess I didn't fall over a canyon in the previous example, more like stubbing a toe between rail cars. But you can be sure I have managed more unfortunate mistakes that I care to count, and this year barely just begun!

LISNews Gets Some Print Coverage

Robin noticed we got mentioned in the Jackson Citizen Patriot for our Story on the Jackson District Library's web site being cracked.

"A Citizen Patriot news story about the incident was picked up by the Librarian & Information Science News, a Web site featuring news of interest to librarians. The story, "Cyber vandals strike library," had gotten nearly 500 "hits" by the time we checked. It also had sparked a debate among librarians on political speech. One person began the debate with a partisan comment: "This is anti-Bush hacking, so it should be OK. Shouldn't it? I'm just so confused by which stand to take." Others replied that, while Jackson's hack could be defended as free speech, it was also cyber vandalism.

Oh, the moral dilemmas of library science! Librarians have struggled with computer filters as a free-speech issue, and now hacking."

[Note: crack and hack, should not really mean the same thing, though they seem to be used interchangeably.]

It's interesting to see how this story traveled from print, to web, and back again.

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.

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