Blogs

Success

Well, I am pleased to note that the TA software unveiling to the staff was a success. The assistant director was pleased with the functionality of it, as was the old systems guy. So were the rest, but I think those two got more of what went into actually putting it in.

Most agreed it was less confusing than they thought it would be (I think it's less confusing than the print software), but I think they wished there was a way around going to circulation then going to sign in on the Gatekeeper software. Of course, the Reservation software only comes in if there's a wait. There will be waits, but not big long waits anymore, I don't think.

Why? Because I managed to get the card access idea to fly. Circ staff didn't protest too much, and whereas a few librarians were concerned about the extra step in signing in, I think patrons will eventually figure it out. With any luck I will have an hour or two on Saturday to make signs and get the instructions and documentation done.

I've got the basics down, though, enough to run the system, and I'll be there the first two days to do the trickiest parts -- open and close.

For some reason the "power down" sequence occasionally causes a "restart." My husband had a suggestion that maybe I've got the pull down menu on the client set the wrong way. I figure that's a reasonable assumption. I had left them on restart, I believe.

My disabling of ctrl-alt-delete went beautifully, and there should be no way to exit out of the timer software now.

I made the offer that if anyone has a real problem with the fact we're asking for cards now or the fact they're getting timed, would they please be directed to me. I don't want the circ staff to have to put up with the abuse that I know will be inevitable from a few people.

I did put out one sign introducing the new system, explaining how it would work and why we were doing it. I'm sure no one will read it. One of our custodians has a great saying, "People come to the library not to read."

Yesterday on info I had a girl try to convince me to let her take out reference materials. I know this girl's track record. Even if I could, I so wouldn't.

Book Sales

I just went to Amazon and checked the sales status of Lessig's new book. It was in the 400s this morning but was 58 when I checked at 5pm on the 25th of March. At his website you can download the entire book for free and he still made it to 58 on Amazon. You are moving books if you are in the top hundred at Amazon. Just goes to show that currently electronic copies do not stand up to the printed work. People still want that paper.
Link to book at Amazon.
Link to Lessig's website

Anonymous Patron Account: Help or Hindrance?

Let me preface this post with the following caveat: I am in no position to make anything even remotely close to what I am proposing here happen. I don't have the time, or the PERL skills to put a system like this in place… This is really just me riffing, I have no answers, only questions...

Rusty has made an interesting move over at K5. It's almost like he's going to combine Orkut, and K5. He's going to mandate all new users be sponsored in some way by other, current members. I wonder if that kind of thing could be used in the Slashcode? Would it be worth it to shut of the AP account, and make LISNews invite only?

First, let's look at the numbers:
LISNews has 2808 user accounts, of those accounts, 345 were active this month in some fashion, that is to say, at least 345 were logged in this month. So let's say that means we have about 345 active members.
Anonymous Patron left 112 comments, and my guess would be that's about 80 distinct people (and that's a very educated guess).

So, let's round things off, 350 active users, and 2500 others who could invite others to become a member. Is that enough people to keep LISNews interesting? Metafilter has been in "slow growth" mode for years now, and I'm not sure it's been hurt at all. I still make frequent visits. But with signups closed, there's not much of a chance of any big changes in what gets posted, the same people post the same things most of the time. I've seen some changes in LISNews over the years, some turnover, and that makes things more interesting. What do we lose if things are no longer Anonymous? Does locking people out make those on the inside more important? Does locking people out make an LISNews account more desirable?

What I've always hoped to gain with the AP account is the occasional user who doesn't have the time or inclination to bother with getting an account, but who has something to contribute once a month, or maybe just twice a year. It's those folks we'd be locking out by turning the Anonymous account off. Would we just be losing noise, and leaving the signal?

So how would the site grow, how would we manage new accounts, and who would control this? We could do it like Okrut, all current users can invite friends to join. We can sell new accounts. We can limit AP to one post a day. We can allow one new account a day. We can have us authors decide who gets an account. A random lottery? Accounts as a reward for submitting a story? Maybe only add new accounts when the number of comments falls below a certain level? Could active members be rewarded with accounts they can sell?

So far I don't see the need to shut off the anonymous account, or limit new accounts in any way, but it's worth thinking about as we go forward, because we may have the same problems K5 has. I don't think we appeal to such a wide audience, but I do think our audience can grow a little more. I keep thinking we've topped out, but it hasn't happened yet.

So that's the theoretical stuff, what can I really do at this point? I can turn off the Anonymous Patron account. It's just a click away. I've had several people suggest it, but I can't say that I really see any need at this point. Anonymous Patron comments seem to be, on average, less useful that Non-Anonymous Patron comments, though not always bad. This week has been especially bad, and if things keep up, or get worse, I may start to consider turning off the AP account.

I have no idea how I'd begin to program any kind of system to control new signups, but maybe that's something I can think about down the road. I'd still like to keep LISNews as open as possible, for now.

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! :-)

Syndicate content