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Back To School!

No, I'm not touting the classic Rodney Dangerfield film (although it's really funny!), I'm actually going back to school to work on my Bachelor's Degree. Yesterday saw the start of my first class at Northern Kentucky University! I am working towards my degree in Library Informatics, which should hone my geek skills to be more effective in a library environment.

I can only take one class a semester due to budget constraints, and now that I've started my first one, I'm really glad that is the case. My first class is Ethics of Information Technology, and basically it's a class in philosophy that concentrates on the ethical issues of the IT world. It's very time consuming and is forcing me to dust off some brain cells that I haven't used in, well, let's just say a very long time. The time consuming part so far has been having to read articles & watch a (mostly boring) film with talking heads from the upper echelon of the philosophical studies world, explaining what several facets of philosophy are and how they came to be studied. Hold on a second....


Okay, now where was I? Oh yeah. It's not like I've never been to college or I've never studied anything difficult before. It's only been five years (already?) since I graduated with my A.A.S. in computer programming. But, given the time requirements of this class, the fact that I'm overhauling the Friends of Kentucky Libraries' website, and the stuff I do at work and at home, I'm really happy I'm only in one class.

Anyway, I'm happy to get this journey started! Go Norse!

'Til next time....

Do Something. Anything!

Countless times over the years, we've all seen and heard this expression in one form or another. A prominent movie that featured this exchange was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when Ron & Harry were battling the mountain troll in the girls' bathroom. It was a "life-threatening" situation in which immediate action was necessary!

Thankfully, life isn't usually like that unless you work in an emergency room or as a paramedic, but that doesn't mean we should sit idly by and watch life carry on. We all have life experiences we can pass on to someone else, whether in our own profession or not. For example, I've only been working in the public library field for four years, but I have over 30 years of computer experience if you count the BASIC programming I did as a child and the office programs I've used over the years. In addition to that, I had worked in fast food, retail & manufacturing before I finally decided to make a career out of being a geek. I guess you could say I've been about halfway 'round the block when it comes to my life education.

So coming into the library field with an AAS in computer programming and about 5 years' documented experience as a geek has given me the opportunity to pass on some tech knowledge to other librarians -- not just here, but at the state level also where I give presentations on various tech subjects.

I'm not one to sit around and 'just do my job.' I'm always working on something, even at home, whether it's computer-related or not. I do computer work on the side, to be sure, but I also work on both my vehicles and I maintain a vegetable garden. My wife & I serve on the Simpson County 4-H Council and are leaders of the Cloverbuds Club. I serve on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Kentucky Libraries, where I am also their tech guy and overhauling the website.

My point is, if you are bored with your job or are looking for ways to spice up your existence, Do Something! Anything! And what brought this post about is this image I received in an e-mail:

Life is too short to stand by and not TRY to make a difference! I've maintained that you are only as young as you let yourself be. I also maintain that you will never know your potential until you start exploring your limits. I'm going for it. Join me!

'Til next time...

Remote Desktop From a Phone

I'm sitting here in the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center at the G-FIRST Conference listening to the opening plenary panel talking about cybersecurity and remote access and thought, "I wonder if there is a remote desktop client for my phone?" So, a quick look on the Android Market revealed several choices. I ended up installing the 2X Software offering, and after a quick and easy configuration, I was able to access & log in to the Library's server!

I will say that the experience isn't the most comfortable for someone with big fingers. After all, we are talking about administering a Windows 2003 server, which doesn't have the ability to reflow its screen to smart phone size. For that matter, while I was able to see and use the entire desktop and native Server programs, the circulation program I opened was chopped off without any scroll bars to access all the information and controls. However, being able to access the server alone is reason enough to install such an app since most administrative tasks happen natively on the server, platform.

This app connects via the RDP protocol,  so it will likely be a whole different ball of wax when trying to access a Linux server. But then again, that's what SSH is for ;)

So it would seem that in this increasingly connected world, I have yet another way of being a geek.

'Til next time....

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.

Library Day in the Life Project

It's time once again for librarians all over the world to capture their day's activities and show that our jobs are much more than sitting at a desk & checking books in and out. Bobbi Newman's Library Day in the Life Project does just that -- shows off how lots of different librarians from different types of libraries spend their time on the clock! For some librarians, we are the Jacks (or Jills)-of-all-trades and do more than our job descriptions require. So here's how my day is going so far:

7:45 Arrive at work & turn on the lights, computers, printers and copier.
7:55 Check e-mail, answer some, send a collaborative note to a colleague, read a thank-you from a patron on helping him choose an eReader for his wife.
8:15 Read a couple of bits of library-related news.
8:20 Turn on a computer in the process of being provisioned for public access.
8:22 Read the log from the anti-virus scan, see no errors.
8:25 Start on this post!
8:30 Go downstairs to get the book drop in, and start checking in last night's deposits.
9:00 Take the bookmobile to Springfield, TN for service.
10:50 Return from Springfield, TN, sans bookmobile.
11:00 Go to lunch.
12:00 Return from lunch, start catching up on e-mails.
12:15 Examine a patron's laptop as to why it won't get through its startup repair procedure, determine that it's a corrupted machine with no viable restore points, start the factory restore process. Windows 7 goodness, that!
12:23 Sent that laptop on its way with its owner!
12:45 Start cataloging.
12:50 Respond to a fix from our ILS provider.
12:51 Return to cataloging.
1:30 Break from cataloging to finish up public access computer. Read antivirus log (yay, no threats found!), install DeepFreeze, thaw the computer, make final desktop adjustments. Go install the computer at its station, restart after Windows finishes installing drivers for the hardware down there, freeze the computer and reinstate its circulation status. Thank God that's over!
2:00 Talk to my wife, who's come in with two of my girls to get books for them to finish their Summer Reading lists. Discuss supper options, with no conclusive menu from me as I ate waaaaayyy too much for lunch and don't want to think about food!
2:10 Back to cataloging!
3:30 Bookmobile librarian comes in to 'give me a break,' meaning that she needs the Tech Services computer to enter her circulations, do her transfers and get the bookmobile stuff up to date. So I'll work on this post some more.
3:47 Put batteries in charger for tomorrow's Games @ the Goodnight session.
3:52 Started triage on another patron's laptop.
3:53 Researched & found that the laptop is of 1997 vintage AND a Compaq, which means that it MUST use proprietary Compaq components if anything needs replacing. #proprietaryfail
4:15 Downloaded a Windows 98 Boot Disk & determined that this computer has a failed hard drive, a stuck F1 key, a dead battery and is generally ready to be buried. Played Taps.
4:20 Back to cataloging.
4:43 Fielded a Readers Advisory question from a patron.
4:50 Back to cataloging.
5:25 Finished for the day, wrapping up this post!

So my days are usually filled with IT & cataloging duties, but right now through the end of the month, you are just as likely to find me at the circulation desk, covering when we are shorthanded. We only have a staff of 11 (counting the cleaning lady, who is actually a contract worker), so I go where I'm needed.

Cutting the Cables, Redux

Hello again! I posted an entry back in September 2010 about cutting the cables at home in regards to phones and Internet. This post is a follow-up to that, just to let you know how it's going.

We have changed some things around, but we are still cable-free in terms of both services! We dropped the satellite Internet, since it proved to be unreliable when I needed it most -- during a rainstorm of course -- to remote into the library and see what was going on with one of the servers. Plus, we were consuming enough data that we were starting to bump into our 17 GB cap that Wildblue imposes on its customers. Don't think we weren't happy to have the 1.5 Mbs download speeds when the weather was clear, but that data cap is a deal-breaker for an online family! Additionally, the modem seemed to behave a lot better after we signed up for the Pro package, which I think just paid them to ramp up the transmission power from the satellite to the ground station. And please don't think this isn't a great service; it is well worth a look if you live in an area like several residents here, where there is a state line involved (Tennessee) and the carriers don't want to infringe on territory by placing cell towers too close to their competitors or internal territorial divisions! This creates a fringe area where no one gets good cellular reception, and the cable companies don't want to run miles of line for a few subscribers, and where the only phone company in town doesn't want to invest in equipment for the same reasons.

Anyway, my brother-in-law is the owner of the Radio Shack & Scottsville Cellular store in Scottsville, KY, and he is a dealer for our regional cellular company, Bluegrass Cellular. Bluegrass has a nifty device that allows you to surf the Internet at speeds that rivals basic DSL service. For the purposes of this discussion, basic DSL service offerings are those that advertise speeds of "up to" 3Mbps. Most basic DSL packages are in the neighborhood of 512Kbps - 1.5Mbps, so it is a fair comparison in my eyes.

The Axess MV400 is a wireless broadband router that uses the cellular phone network to provide high-speed wireless Internet access. Bluegrass Cellular is the ONLY cellular provider in our area that has 3G or better speeds, and they have partnered with Verizon to bring 4G to town later on. Once that happens, I may jump ship with my cell phone, since AT&T have no interest in a small rural community -- they've said as much -- which tells me that they are no longer concerned with growing the cellular business. If AT&T were concerned, they would be pursuing every line of revenue.

So to keep this from becoming another AT&T-bashing session, let me point out that we are extremely happy with our new service. We get download speeds in the neighborhood of 3.5Mbs, which rivals mid-range DSL service, and uploads as high as 1.8Mbps, which beats most basic DSL offerings. On a consistency note, our average download speed is around 900Kbps, with our uploads in the neighborhood of 512Kbps.

Since we ditched our satellite TV service, we have watched all our shows over the Internet. This service is hands-down better than satellite Internet could ever offer, in large part to the higher bandwidth and low latency in the connection! Whether it's Netflix on the Wii, HD video from YouTube, Hulu or a network's offerings, the videos load relatively well and have few pauses or buffering issues unless someone else in the house is online watching videos also. Since I don't watch NASCAR or much baseball, I guess I'll have to wait & see what football season brings as far as sports goes.

This service is also very beneficial to me professionally. I have used the Linux operating system (OS) & open source software almost exclusively for the last five years, and I really like to experiment with the new & updated OSes that come out from time to time. As you can imagine, these files are not small! I have downloaded and used one that is over 8GB in size, and that much data takes hours to download on all but the fastest connections.

The ability to download any Linux distribution, burn it to USB/CD/DVD, and try it without installing it are the biggest reasons I switched from Windows. I can do this all for the cost of a CD, DVD or USB flash drive, and a little of my time. I can try any piece of open source software I want, at any time, without installing it on my hard drive. When I'm done, I simply restart the computer, remove the live media, and boot up normally. You can't do that with Windows or Mac OSX at all, unless you have a lot of patience, don't mind backing up all your data, installing the OS, restoring your data, and then rinse, lather, repeat for each version you want to try. And then there's the money and time to shop for the software to make Windows & OSX productive! For that price, I will continue to experiment, I will continue to be vendor-free, and use my computer the way I want.

Thanks, Bluegrass, for the ability to have high speed Internet in an otherwise under-served area!

Until next time...

LiveJournal's Android App

As I sit here waiting for my hot and sour soup to cool, I thought I'd give this app a go. I'm finding that the more I use my phone for more than just a phone, the more I'm replacing my desktops and even my laptop for daily tasks like checking emails & Facebook.

Since this is a test run, here is a picture I took with my phone the other day:

This is the road in front of my house. I live on a hill,  but my road is now under water, the result of all the rain & storms we've had lately.

Well, my food is here, so I will go for now and blog some more later. 'Til next time....

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.

The Tree is Dead; Long Live the Tree!

I ran across an interesting post and response on Facebook today. The post is a very thoughtful insight to the whole eBook conundrum, painting eBooks as not much more than a marketing ploy. He makes some good points, but I will have to disagree with him, based mostly on the number of patrons I'm seeing (and from whom I'm getting phone calls) that want or need help with their shiny new eReaders that they got for Christmas or for a birthday present, and his final statement about eBooks being a distraction from the library's mission. The All These Birds With Teeth blog, authored by Joe Grobelny, states:

Finding ways to help people access information, for pleasure or otherwise, and then giving them the tools and the know-how to create new knowledge is bigger than books or ebooks. The true mission of the library is to lower the barriers for access into the “information economy” and frankly, the ebook is a distraction from the real mission of libraries.

Now, it seems to me that his statements here are contradictive. If the eBook is another medium through which people access information (think New York Times, e-textbooks, and online encyclopedias), then wouldn't the mission of the library be also to help that person get over the "barrier for access into the information economy?" Not sure I understand his statements here, unless it is to illustrate that the whole eBook fracas with HarperCollins is a distraction from the library's relevancy as a community support center. Perhaps it is, but then it just hurts the publisher, because several authors have come forward publicly in support of libraries, and even have denounced the actions of HarperCollins.

Claire Eike, a librarian for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, posted two responses, the second of which is the one that got my wheels turning:

...we see all these studies that people are reading significantly less. I think we have to redefine "reading" to include online reading and dialoging.

I couldn't agree more with Claire. Reading needs to be redefined to include online & electronic media. Reading is so much more than words printed on dead trees these days, and really has been transforming from paper to electrons for several years. School children are even being given electronic textbooks (e-textbooks), school libraries are going all-digital, and some schools are even handing out iPads for student use! With the advent of computers getting cheap enough for the average person to afford, the transformation started. Granted, back in the 1980s a PC cost well over $2000, but it was still cheap enough that more of the public could put one in their homes. Then, when services like AOL came along and offered "cheap" dial-up Internet service (for $29.99/minute!) it became even easier for people to do research online, then printing what they needed on their tractor feed, dot-matrix printer.

In the 20 years or so since, more and more advances have been made, to the point that we can now carry a device on our hip, or in our pocket, that has more computing capacity than those first PCs. On those "smart" phones, which are now more like tablet computers that make phone calls, we can watch video or read eBooks, which are really not books at all, but electronic files that never go away. And that, of course, is the point of contention for publishers who have obviously not learned anything from the MPAA or the RIAA in their attempts at monetizing online file sharing.

But how many of us actually use them, or need them to the point that we have bought a device dedicated to the purpose of eReading? For my money, I'd get an iPad or an Android tablet, simply because I wouldn't want a single-purpose device. I like to be able to do more on a device that's able to do more. The original Nook, the Sony Readers, and the Kobo Reader all have rudimentary web browsers, but they are horrible for web surfing!

So I can figure about when the tipping point of reading electrons more than paper came about, but how much of that can we attribute to reading works distributed by a publishing house? Technically, a work is published when it is first put into a medium, whether physical or electronic. But how can we track the myriad of blog entries, YouTube videos (many of which are text juxtaposed over a slide show with music), online documents, self-publishing sites and other avenues for authors to distribute their works? Nearly anyone who has an eReader will use an online service from which to download/checkout eBooks, so unless a library is subscribed to a service through which the patron's account gets authenticated, then the library does not get credit for the circulation. How can the definition of reading be made to fit all the new media that come out seemingly yearly, for any purpose?

Say Hello to Our New Little Friend!

The Goodnight Memorial Library is proud to announce that we now have an early literacy station available for children up to 6 years old! It is located beside the catalog computers on the 2nd floor and is available during normal business hours. Here's what it looks like:

It's a system we purchased from AWE, Inc., a supplier of early learning & early literacy stations to the world, really, with systems going to all types of libraries and organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs and Head Starts.

The system is very kid-friendly, with a set of tiger-themed headphones,

a child-resistant keyboard, which should last a good amount of time due to the fact that there will be no drinks around (I hope!),

and a themable, easy-to-navigate interface for kids to play educational games:

In "testing" this product, I found that it really is kid-safe and appropriate for small children, with all facets of knowledge and concepts available to the young ones. Everything is included, from basic shapes, motor skills, colors and language development, to basic math, science, foreign languages (are there any, anymore?), and health and science, all taught by characters your kids already know! Learn Spanish and other subjects with Dora the Explorer, as well as Mercer Mayer's Little Critter and other popular characters! AWE even went so far as to reassure everyone that the content wasn't selected willy-nilly, as evidenced by the "Educator-selected content" header:

The theme-ability of this station is one thing that's good -- there's a default, cartoon-ish theme, a space theme, which you can see two pictures up, a princess theme and a jungle theme. Additionally, you can change the character and the language from English to Spanish, as shown in this picture:

We hope you are able to bring your young ones in to use this machine regularly -- we think they'll enjoy it and will learn something without even knowing it!

In order to ensure a bit of fairness for everyone, all sessions are limited to 30 minutes, and this station is only available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no Internet access on this machine, so parents needn't worry about objectionable content coming in by mistake. We ask that parents please supervise their children while they are in the library using this machine, especially if they haven't had much exposure to computers. While it is made to be both child-friendly and child-resistant, these things won't last with lots of abuse.

Biting the Hand That Feeds You

So I'm working along this morning, reading other librarians' blogs when I come across this post about a change in OverDrive Media's licensing of e-books (OverDrive is the company that powers KY Libraries Unbound)on Librarian By Day:

The first bit – ownership of ebooks will now expire after a certain number of check outs to patrons. Libraries may no longer own them forever and ever. This is unbelievable! And a HUGE step backwards in lending rights and library access.

The past several months have brought about dramatic changes for the print and eBook publishing and retail industries. Digital book sales are now a significant percentage of all publisher and author revenue. As a result several trade publishers are re-evaluating eBook licensing terms for library lending services. Publishers are expressing concern and debating their digital future where a single eBook license to a library may never expire, never wear out, and never need replacement.
OverDrive is advocating on behalf of your readers to have access to the widest catalog of the best copyrighted, premium materials, and lending options. To provide you with the best options, we have been required to accept and accommodate new terms for eBook lending as established by certain publishers. Next week, OverDrive will communicate a licensing change from a publisher that, while still operating under the one-copy/one-user model, will include a checkout limit for each eBook licensed. Under this publisher’s requirement, for every new eBook licensed, the library (and the OverDrive platform) will make the eBook available to one customer at a time until the total number of permitted checkouts is reached. This eBook lending condition will be required of all eBook vendors or distributors offering this publisher’s titles for library lending (not just OverDrive).

The second bit of bad news – publishers want to meddle in your library card policies:

In addition, our publishing partners have expressed concerns regarding the card issuance policies and qualification of patrons who have access to OverDrive supplied digital content. Addressing these concerns will require OverDrive and our library partners to cooperate to honor geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.). I can assure you OverDrive is not interested in managing or having any say in your library policies and issues. Select publisher terms and conditions require us to work toward their comfort that the library eBook lending is in compliance with publisher requirements on these topics.

Normally I wouldn't care a whole lot what the publishers are doing -- usually all I have to do with them is to catalog their information in our system. But now they are saying print books only last 26 checkouts on average? They have no clue! I'd love to see a citation for this number so I can disprove it with experience!

Of course librarians, library users and authors from all over the world have tried hard to bring Twitter down today, expressing both outrage and incredulity over this sudden policy. Josh Hadro revealed in his Library Journal article that the offending publisher is HarperCollins (HC). Instead of going the route of most other publishers and simply charging more, HC have decided that print books only last a year in a library setting. This is assuming that books check out for 2 weeks and aren't chewed up by dogs or left in the rain. They also fail to realize that libraries spend money on gallons of glue, miles of tape, rubber bands, and other supplies repairing these books over the years. Translated message to HC and all other publishers: WE WILL NOT SPEND MONEY ON NEW BOOKS IF WE DON'T HAVE TO!

At least one author, Courtney Milan has chimed in as well, at least from outside the HC family. On her blog, she likens this new policy by HC to "eating your seed corn," an old saying for using up your supply of seed that will grow your crop next season. Perhaps this is the case (maybe HC is quitting book farming?), but what they fail to realize is that libraries are fertile fields of both guaranteed sales and future customers, as well as sprouting new readers and customers for the future!

Another non-library blog, mobiputing.com, has also expressed dismay and concern over the future of e-books as well:

...given that I’m sometimes the 8th or 10th person on a waiting list to check out an ebook from the Philadelphia Free Library, I can’t help but wonder if this new restriction would mean the book will disappear before I make it to the front of the queue — or just as bad, a cash-strapped library might have to pay for another license for me to read the book for “free.”

OverDrive has to keep publishers happy or it won’t be able to provide any books to libraries, so it should come as no surprise that the company has added the self-destruct button to digital library books. But I can’t help but wonder if the move won’t severely limit the number of books available for check-out from public libraries across the US.

Here's a great breakdown of what all this means for libraries by The Librarian in Black, Sara Houghton-Jan.

Should you feel so inclined to follow the discussion on Twitter, follow the hashtag #hcod.
Should you feel the need to rant at HarperCollins, the e-mail address to use is library.ebook@harpercollins.com.
And finally, if you would like to tell OverDrive what you think of them kow-towing to the publishers, they are @OverDriveLibs on Twitter, OverDriveForLibraries on Facebook, and their standard inquiry form.

Lots of us in the library field are feeling a bit betrayed by OverDrive right now, as well as by HarperCollins, so I ask that you please join the fight and tell them how you feel!

Comments on my blog

I found out something rather accidentally just now. If you delete the notice in your LiveJournal Messages page, everything gets deleted! Duh, right? Well, that's all well and good until you delete the notice that someone has posted a comment to one of your entries. It turns out that it deletes that comment in the entry as well!

Bad form, LiveJournal!!

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