Bulk item record editing in Polaris ILS

It’s been about a year and a half since my library system switched to the Polaris ILS. In becoming pretty familiar with Polaris’s circulation module, I’ve been kind of wishing for this feature for Christmas: The ability in the circulation module to more quickly change, in bulk, predetermined fields in the item records of items we scan.

Polaris Item Record screenshot of possibly outdated Polaris ILS version.Circulation and reference staff are asked from time to time to change certain fields of certain types of our circulating items, such as the material type and loan period fields for all periodicals, usually due to a change in circulation policy. Right now, staff pull up each item’s item record individually and change the fields. It would be cool if we could tell Polaris to change, say, the “Fine code” and “Renewal limit” fields of all of the books we’ll be scanning next to 0.10 and 2, respectively. Then, we can simply scan that stack of books whose item record fields we need to change, saving a lot of time and ensuring more consistency.

Is this kind of bulk editing possible in any of the other modules? Cataloging, acquisitions?

CLA conference at Long Beach

CLA Convention Center 2013I attended this year’s California Library Association conference in Long Beach. The trip was definitely worth it:

  • there was a lot to learn–not as much from session presenters as from other attendees from different libraries doing things similar to what I do at my library
  • it was inspirational to see librarians at different points in their careers, from different libraries and different communities, all talking about the same problems and concerns and how they’re addressing them

The sessions I attended were very accessible (I didn’t attend any of the cataloging sessions. Some attendees said those were a little hard to follow). I’m thinking about proposing my own, maybe about computer classes. There weren’t any sessions about digital literacy instruction at public libraries, something I’ve worked on and thought about for years.

It was also nice to see that all but one of the sessions I attended didn’t rely at all on PowerPoint slides, and much of the feedback I read about other sessions appreciated how little the presenters relied on slides, instead encouraging audience discussion.

I made it to two of the three graduate school receptions but didn’t stick around either for very long. Everyone seemed to keep to their own groups. I think some time should have been set aside to encourage mingling between groups, or icebreaker games to introduce newcomers to the schools’ faculty and students.

Book ad on radio quotes Amazon.com reviews

sr-newspaper-ad

Does anyone notice the lack here of review quotes from prestigious media sources?

Maybe I don’t listen to the radio often enough, but I just heard an ad on some station promoting a new book by quoting only reviews people left on Amazon.com. Has a study or even just a survey been done to get a feel for how many people actually care where the review comes from? Maybe I should start one…

Quick and easy resource for beefing up online privacy

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Priveazy.com tracks these sites’ privacy settings and offers instructions for taking advantage of them.

Search results for mentions of a relatively old website called Priveazy.com are surprisingly low, and it’s such an appealing resource for patrons interested in maintaining all the privacy they can, so I thought I’d mention it here. Priveazy.com offers step by step instructions for adjusting the settings of the most popular social networking sites and email providers, mostly so that the least amount of your information is public, and to minimize your exposure to advertisers.

I’ve made it part of my computer classes, since I’d say half of those who show up already have Facebook and email accounts. The minutiae of instructions have been kept up to date so far (I’ve used the instructions for a handful of sites). The FAQ says they research new developments in the sites everyday (although the only member of “The Priveazy Team” is it’s founder and CEO). You’re not asked to create a free account for any of the instructions, which are jargon-free as far as I can tell, and instructional pictures seem well placed.

They also have an extension for the Google Chrome browser that’s supposed to make getting to and changing each site’s privacy settings a one-button affair. I don’t use Chrome, but the FAQ reads there are plans to support other browsers in the future.

So check it out and tell your patrons, especially the teens and parents who keep a close eye on their children’s online activity.

And while we’re aDatalogixt it, here’s news from lifehacker about opting out of Facebook’s “newest attempts to track everything you do, even offline” by cross referencing the email address and other info. Facebook collects with the info. on your rewards cards. So info. about the offline spending you do with rewards cards is tracked by one company, Datalogix, which has made a deal to share that info. with Facebook, which uses the data to help advertisers. The article has a link to the company’s site, which makes opting out pretty easy.

The disambiguation of the moon

Bananas aren't the only curved yellow fruit.There’s a Facebook group called “Campaign to Rename Our Moon.” The group’s founder wants to change the name because “the moon” is kind of boring. A friend and I talked about the idea and I was arguing in support of it, really only half seriously, but I was trying to stress the importance of applying consistent naming rules, that are scalable, so that it makes sense to more people than only the people we know or could know (and to computers), and in situations we can’t conceive of. (The conversation ended with parallel universes.) Especially in text, the fact that the moon, a specific thing, shares the same word with what we could call everything else like it (other moons) really bugs me. At first I thought, we might not always have the context necessary to distinguish between “the moon” and the moon (of another planet).

It got me thinking about linked data, and the effort to include library catalogs, and how, in an environment in which things are more precisely identifiable because of its relativity to everything else, rather than in spite of it, we might not have to worry about the confusion our moon’s name might cause in a future we can’t see. On the Internet, linked data can provide that context all the time.

Of course, that future might not involve the Internet at all.

Incorporating note taking in computer classes

computer note taking

Software changes, buttons move and things don’t work the same, I say, and the notes beginning computer users are so fond of taking are worthless when a new program version or operating system overtakes the old one they grew accustomed to. At least that’s what I thought. But some people just like taking notes. Or they don’t trust their memory, or they need to make sense of the logic on their own time. It all sounds great when I say, “Left click here. Then here. It’s like those Russian nesting dolls. Files within folders within folders.” But at the computer screen by themselves the next day, they don’t have much to refer to. They didn’t take notes during the class, or they stopped early on because it was something I tolerated instead of something I encouraged (beyond offering a pen or paper).

So I came up with this:

Computer note taking aidIt’s an example note taking aid for creating an MS Word file, step by step. I’ve shown some patrons whom I know well the blank version of this when they’ve asked me for computer help. Some have taken to the idea right away; others haven’t and have said “no thanks” in a shooing kind of way. But when I get to use this example in a computer class, I plan on asking students to complete the aid, starting from lines three and four, and using the boxes on the right for visual aid, to get an idea of how to use it. Then, when the classes get hands-on with step by step instruction, they’ll feel compelled to fill out aids in their own words, and refer to them in and outside of class.

And at the top, noting the program and operating system version the steps apply to reinforces the idea that these notes can (excuse me: WILL) change when the versions change.

(First image by Brady Withers via Flickr.)

Live collaborative writing event with “Write or Die”

Pulitzer Prize–winning author William Dietrich gets down to business during the Novel: Live! at Hugo House (Seattle, WA) in October 2010.

I’ve wanted to do a live collaborative writing event at my library ever since I saw this, a live writing event with published authors working on a new novel, all of the work being broadcasted live from a cafe in Seattle. But simply writing seemed a little dull, especially from a marketing standpoint. The draw for the Seattle event was the big-name authors involved, and the scope of the work. So I bookmarked the link and didn’t think about it again until today, when two things happened: a patron asked if the library had any creative writing programs for adults, and I saw today’s Gradhacker post about a cool little program called Write or Die, which torments you when you’re idle at the keyboard for too long.

Now I’m thinking that a live novel event — or maybe short story for starters — with this program will be much more fun at the library. It’s like the effect a chess clock has on chess, except in Write or Die, the screen turns different shades of red as a warning if you stop typing, then it starts deleting words you’ve already written, subtracting from the word count you’ve set yourself to meet in a certain amount of time. I can imagine a crowd yelling suggestions at panicked writers staring at a red screen.

TL;DR > Ctrl+F

A researcher at Google claims 90 percent of people don’t know how to use Ctrl+F, the keyboard shortcut for the “Find” function in web browsers and applications.

The “Find trick” has been a eureka moment in my library computer class for four years. Even patrons listening to the class from nearby computers are delighted to hear about it. But very few people showing up to these classes are heavy Internet users, or aspire to be, although most have computers at home. I think of the 170+ people I’ve worked with, maybe three wanted to learn beyond the basics, or what they think are the basics.

The find trick is the solution to a problem a lot of people I meet don’t have.

In order to demonstrate the usefulness of Ctrl+F, my class creates the problem that the find trick solves, but when I’m creating that problem (using find and replace to fix patterned formatting errors in a document), no one really recognizes how he or she would apply that solution.

I suspect a lot of the people in the Google survey don’t use Ctrl+F because they don’t wade through a lot of text to find something buried in it. I say suspect because the article that quotes the survey doesn’t include any links to more info about the survey, like how it was controlled: Do the surveyed people use the Internet much, look at a lot of text much, use a different command for Find (“/” orF3), use Edit > Find on the toolbar? And I couldn’t find anything on the researchers site.

Who reads this?

TLDR is a popular Internet initialism because it’s a widely shared sentiment. The Internet isn’t the best medium for deep or long reading (eyestrain, distractions, etc.), so why use a tool that depends on it?

I would like to see the measure of Ctrl+F use among office workers only, where people read lot of text offline. Maybe I can pitch a library system-wide survey to the IT department.

On a more productive note, the guy from Google is obsessed with helping people search better, and pages-worth of his presentations and class content are on his blog: just what I need to start planning search technique presentations I’ve been thinking about. And that 90 percent survey result, however misleading it is, will probably remind a lot of educators how important computer and web search instruction is.