Author Archive

Final Draft of Outcome Statement from 7.15.10

July 16th, 2010 Comments off

Click here for the Adobe PDF.

Goal/Outcome Statement
Southern System Planning Panel Agreement

July 15, 2010
By July 1, 2011 to create a new and revitalized cooperative library service
organization that encompasses the libraries in southern Illinois that are part of
the LCLS, LTLS, RPLS and SHLS library systems, as well as any contiguous
libraries or library systems that wish to be part of this cooperative program. The
organization will support the primary resource sharing services for the people of
Illinois including providing automation services and physical delivery. During the
process for creating a restructured program it is anticipated that the plan will
address how to expand and enhance these programs as well as support other
cooperative programs such as advisory and education services. At the end of
the development process it is anticipated that there will be one administrative
organization formed by uniting the current organizations through a merger

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Complete Financial Data for Southern Systems

July 16th, 2010 Comments off

Agenda for 7.14.10 Meeting

July 16th, 2010 Comments off
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Notes for 6.21.10 Meeting

July 16th, 2010 Comments off
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Agenda for 6.21.10 Meeting

July 15th, 2010 Comments off
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60 Seconds of Tech Podcast #3

March 23rd, 2010 Comments off

Resources discussed:

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60 Seconds of Tech Podcast #1

February 4th, 2010 Comments off

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A dark secret revealed at last

November 13th, 2009 Comments off

Among the great misunderstandings in history, the perceived rift between those who self-identify as ‘techie’ or ‘non-techie’ ranks high.  Techies both love and loath the misconception that they are modern day warlocks, conjuring technology know-how from dragon scales and silicon.  But now, for you and the world, I will reveal the secret of the techie-wisdom, stolen from the gods themselves: trial and error.

There has never been a human being who instinctively knew how to solve computer problems.  It’s absolutely an acquired skill, which is good news, because you too can acquire it!  Exhibit A: an online web comic called XKCD has perfectly illustrated the process of trial and error that solves the majority of computer problems:


Available here at XKCD

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On Buying Computers

September 18th, 2009 Comments off

Everyone’s got a few (or several) clunker computers in their library, and when a grant or unexpected windfall comes your way, it’s helpful to have a plan for replacing antique computers.

Do your keyboards look like this?

Would you use this?

There’s about a million choices out there for getting new computers, but
I’ve got a couple of pointers that might help you decide.  The first
choice is whether or not you want to go with a local outfit.  You tend
to pay more for local service, but it’s generally less of a hassle to
get problems resolved, and buying locally gets you good karma.  If you’re interested in seeing what local companies offer specials to libraries, have a look at the LCLS vendor discounts page.

Alternatively, you can take the do-it-yourself approach and usually
save some money. Your options include Dell, Walmart, Bestbuy, and
Amazon, just to name a few.  While these places tend to sell computers at a lower price, future service can be difficult or non-existent.

What you decide to purchase depends on what you want to provide to
your patrons.  If you’d like to offer web browsing and
word-processing, you can purchase computers (be they laptop or
desktop) that serve only those purposes.  If you want to provide a
wider range of services, like CD burning, PC gaming, movie and photo
editing, you’ll want to purchase beefier computers.

In addition to traditional tower-style desktops, there are several new
options that focus on cost over performance.  A good example is
something called a Nettop- it is fast enough to browse the internet,
work in Microsoft Office, but not for playing games or editing video
(both of which are resource-intensive).  Here’s a Nettop on Amazon.
These computers don’t have CD drives, which is something you may or may not
be interested in offering to your patrons.

Similar to the Nettop (but more well-known) is the netbook- a compact
notebook that’s meant for surfing the web and document creation.
They’re small (usually 9″-10″ wide) but have fewer moving parts than
full-size notebooks, which makes them much more durable.

I know it’s tough to decipher all the numbers and acronyms, so if you find a specific PC and would like to ask a question about it, feel free to contact the technology staff at the System.

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The Wide World of Downloadables

June 2nd, 2009 Comments off

It doesnt work with iPod?!

It doesn't work with iPod?!

The downloadable audiobook/ebook scene has always been awkward for libraries.  In the perfect world, content providers could keep a tight leash on their titles, patrons would get a seamless experience, and libraries would exceed expectations as a digital destination.

Reality, however is quite different- downloadables tend to be riddled with DRM (Digital Rights Management), which makes the patron experience baffling (at best), and libraries are left with the choice to abstain from offering downloads, or use a service that will inevitably frustrate their patrons.

So, have things improved?

In a word, yes.  The movement against DRM-laden downloadables is gaining steam, but has manifested itself in rather diverse ways.  On the commercial front, companies like Netlibrary and Overdrive are offering DRM-free titles that will work with almost any platform, not just MP3 players.  That might not sound like a big deal, but imagine a patron who wants to listen to an audiobook on their iPhone or Blackberry- a pretty simple concept that takes a huge leap from where we were a year ago.

The more surprising development in downloadables doesn’t involve a company or business plan, but rests on efforts of collaboration and free culture.  Collections of copyright-free titles are being built through volunteer efforts, who read or transcribe public domain works to share online.  A couple of my favorites are Project Gutenberg, Open Culture, and Librivox.

How do the commercial vs. free options compare?  Pretty much like you’d expect.   Commercial offerings, like Overdrive and Netlibrary, have the newest titles, better user experience, and have MARC records that can be indexed in your catalog.  The free offerings have a vast collection of public domain works in several languages, including some rare books that aren’t otherwise accessible to patrons, and cost nothing.

The ideal situation would be to offer both commercial and free downloadables-  patrons could access a panoply of titles and use them however they liked.  What choices are available in your library?

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A song in the key of B safe

April 16th, 2009 Comments off

Mike Hayman and his student singing troupe from Collinsville Middle School created this video about using technology responsibly.  Have look, and share it with the youth in your library (or sing about it, whatever your prefer).

OTFL 2009 Technology Presentation

March 18th, 2009 Comments off

In case you missed On The Front Lines 2009, here is my presentation Library 2.0 on a 1.0 Budget.

Other presentations from OTFL will be posted on Webjunction Illinois soon!

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February 27th, 2009 Comments off

Time for a quick lesson on RSS – Really Simple Syndication.  It might seem silly to explain a concept that has Really Simple in the name, but I didn’t totally get it at first, so here goes.  I think this video sums it up very well:

I often think of RSS as being akin to Tivo.  Instead of memorizing when all of your favorite shows are on TV, you can set the Tivo to record them all for watching at your convenience.  Similarly, RSS allows you to pull content from all your favorite websites into a central place, where you can browse them all at once.

So how can you start using it?  After getting an account, you can subscribe to Conduit’s RSS feed.  Any new posts will automagically be sent to your reader.  If that’s not enough, you can subscribe to new LCLS events in L2 with your RSS reader.

If you already use RSS, what library feeds do you subscribe to?

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Take a deep breath…

February 10th, 2009 Comments off

…and try not to think about indoor air pollution.  I’m not talking about the smell of microwaved left-overs either- there’s all sorts of nasty stuff floating around indoors.  You could buy a fancy $300 air filter for your workspace, or just get a few plants.

This article from Lifehacker gives you three of the best plants to improve the air in your library.

I know from experience that the Money Plant thrives in low-light, low-care conditions (most of my indoor plants have to survive low-care conditions).

Do you have any indoor plants in your library?

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

Locking Down your OPAC

February 9th, 2009 Comments off

A perennnial problem for libraries that offer online public access computers (OPACs) for access to online databases or catalogs is that those same OPACs are used for neither.  Instead, OPACs are used for browsing Amazon or Facebook or whatever patrons feel like looking at.  Of course, you have computers for general internet browsing, but they probably require a login of some sort.  Thus, the patrons who really do want to search the catalog or online databases have to sign up for a computer, which may involve a significant wait.

What’s the solution?

An OPAC for every site on the web, and two for MySpace!  Or, you could restrict what sites are allowed on the OPACs you already have.  There’s an easy way to do this, and it won’t cost you a dime.

Here’s how:

Download the Firefox web browser.  Set your homepage to whatever site you want (e.g.,  Now here’s the clincher- you need to download a Firefox Add-on called Public Fox.  Here’s the link.

Once you’ve installed the Add-on, you’ll have to restart Firefox.  After that, you can access the Public Fox optinos under tools>Add-ons>Public Fox Options. From there, you can create a whitelist of sites you want to  allow, or blacklist sites you want blocked.  When you’re done adding sites, you can also export the list to other OPACs as well.

Of course, a witty patron might well disable the Add-on in the same way you set it up.  To that end, you can create a Public Fox password that will keep patrons from changing/disabling your handywork.

That’s pretty much it- you might want to take Internet Explorer off the desktop & start menu.  That should keep your average patron off of Craigslist and into your databases.

Categories: Technology Tags: , ,

… and a Happy New Yarrr!

January 6th, 2009 Comments off

With 2008 safely behind us, I wish everyone a prosperous 2009!  Take a moment to sit down in your favorite chair and think about what you want your library to look like in 2009.  What would you like to change?  What can you feasibly change? What have you been trying to change unsuccessfully?  What is your library’s bête noire?

I’ve resolved myself (or rather renewed my resolve) to tackle the things that I don’t understand, rather than dismissing them after initial frustration.  First on the list: I want to get good at coding in Python.

What are your resolutions for this year?

Categories: Technology Tags:

Holier than thou

December 12th, 2008 Comments off

ecofontSpare the environment and your budget with this font.   How you ask?  Tiny holes in the print add up to dramatic ink savings (the font’s creator says it reduces ink usage by about 20%).  I think it’s a great idea- maybe not for your Employee handbook, but for the day-to-day printouts, instructions, directions, recipes, etc.

It’s a free download, so get it while it’s hot!

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Christmas presents 2.7

December 11th, 2008 Comments off

We’ve just upgraded our WordPress to version 2.7.  It’s a drastically different interface than v2.6, and I wonder how it must look to someone unfamiliar with WordPress.  My own impression is that it’s intended to shed light on some oft-forgotten features, which is great.  To achieve that goal, they widgetized practically every feature onto the front page, which can be a bit overwhelming

Will it make you a better blogger (or a better commenter)?  Probably not.  Will it continue to be a shining example of the power of open-source software?  Oh yes friends; yes it will.

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Wifi Police/y

November 26th, 2008 Comments off

The other day a librarian asked me about wifi policies – who needs one, what should it say, is the library liable for wifi use/abuse, etc.  The first two questions are easy: everyone needs a wifi policy.  No exceptions.  It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece- you could borrow some of the language of your current internet access policy, perhaps adding a few lines like “don’t abuse our wifi by hogging bandwidth, and only use it for legal purposes“.  It could also be helpful to let people know whether or not your wifi is encrypted; it may keep them from risking personal information on an open wifi connection.

The question of library liability is trickier- I’m no expert on law, so I sought the opinion of Phil Lenzini, the System’s attorney.  Here is his response:

This is a great question and I wish I had a great answer, but I really  don't
(yet).  As you probably realize although Wifi has been around for a  while
now and has installation in both public libraries and schools, but also  the
"private sector" (Starbucks, et al) there isn't really any "law" yet in the
sense of any court decisions I know of regarding any liability issues.   That
could be because it takes a bit of time to generate lawsuits and for them  to get
through the courts to a "court of review" which publishes their decisions  and
would have some precedental value.  Plus is may be that any  "liability," or
the precursor "any injury" or damage, has not in fact happened  to even
generate litigation. (The only case I know of dealing with Wifi is out  of Germany
last year and the only thing we can learn from it, in my view, is  that first,
the troublemakers were "stealing" the access [which in our  library/Starbucks
set up wouldn't be working in our favor] and second, the  lawsuit was brought
by copyrighted stuff wanting to stop infringers [if they  could "find" them],
which is likely to be our biggest real court problem too. In  any event the
court found the Wifi "provider" wasn't liable - but remember it  was being
I will say that I don't really see any real negatives when comparing the
library installation with the "private sector" though and I do see some slight
positive difference in the "partial immunities" that local governments still
have in Illinois (more against negligence claims but not "wilful and wanton" or
 intentional acts).
I do think disclosures or warnings would always be useful if they are
factually accurate and clearly or simply enough stated as to be understandable  by
the average consumer, but I think prohibitory language about illegal,
inappropriate uses and copyright violations to be equally important  elements.  I
don't know what the technology in place would permit us to do,  and I suspect it
varies depending on choices we make as to the Wifi structure in  place.  For
instance if it is totally "open" as I believe Starbucks is, it  may not have any
"threshold" except the laptop, with Wifi capability,  simply signing on.  If
instead you have it locked down and it can only  be accessed by a password (or
a hack) then I suspect at that threshold you could  require the patron to
sign or click through at least a screen with the  disclosure/warning.  But as I
understand your question, you're talking the  "open" type and about all the
library could do would be to have adopted a  policy on Wifi and access (which I
do think would be wise, though perhaps very  difficult to enforce) somewhat
similar to their old internet access policies,  where they prohibit use of the
network or internet access if anything illegal or  inappropriate is involved.
That policy could also include all  disclaimers and warnings and at least be
"published" in the same way all of its  policies and regulations are (usually
just a handbook of patron policies  somewhere in the Library).  Again I'm not
sure how enforceable that may be  and my techie days are a bit behind on all of
our Wifi and networking  capabilities.  I do know that the library itself may
be the contact point  for the FBI or law enforcement when using a Wifi (or
other internet connection)  as far as IP addresses go, and the difficulty in
trying to track back as to the  individual user who may have used the connection
illegally always seems to be a  problem.
It's a tough question, especially at this point in time, but my "gut"
feeling is that other than a policy itself, there isn't much liability avoidance
that can be done, but there isn't that much risk either.  I do think that  the
patron assuming they have a Wifi ready laptop will likely be held to some
standard (like an "assumption of the risk" or a "buyer beware") that  further
relieves the provider/library of some of the liability (at least as long  as the
Library is acting responsibly in it's creation and maintenance of the  router,
the network, internet gateway, etc).
Hope that helps somewhat, but keep me advised if problems arise.

Phillip B.  Lenzini

It seems like the issue of liability for library wifi internet access is still largely untested in court.  Without worrying about the vicissitudes of the law, I think it is essential to at least have a wifi access policy that is in line with how you imagine wifi should be used at your library (with similar rules to your regular internet access policy, perhaps).  Even if it’s not written in water-tight legalese, it will still help you avoid a litany of problems.

If your library already has a wifi internet access policy, what does it look like?

Blogs a-go-go

November 26th, 2008 Comments off

The staff at LCLS has decided to take a step into the library blogosphere.  Of course, they’ve always wanted to (albeit unknowingly).  There are innumerable ideas and thoughts that have been waiting for the perfect venue of self-expression; they need no longer slip through the cracks of our minds.  Rather, they’ll be read, analyzed, absorbed, reflected upon, commented on, and in some cases, ignored. Even the last case is not the equivalent of failure.  Not every idea to pass through our minds is destined to be realized; some are unattainable, unsustainable, and some are better left for another time.  On the flip side, there are some ideas that take wing and go on to become an integral part of our work.  In any case, if we’re afraid to advance an idea that may be too risky or different, we’ll never create anything really original.

For me, the prospect of being wrong is not as disappointing as letting ideas disintegrate without having received a chance.

Of course, a day of work is filled with distractions and obligations which make testing every idea impossible (or even most ideas).  An easy solution to this problem is to get personal assistants for our staff (LSTA grant, anyone?).  Sadly, this idea will (probably) not come to pass.

So while we can’t get assistants or avoid daily obligations, we can share our ideas and thoughts with other librarians.  Whether they think your idea is stupid or brilliant, they’ll gain a bit of your experience and you’ll gain a little insight from their comments.  This is the symbiosis of a blog; readers learn from the author, (hopefully) leave comments, which benefit the author and other readers.  It’s this cozy little arrangement that gives blogs their lustre and reputation as a great way to air ideas.

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