December 7th, 2013 Brian Herzog
I've seen some weird things while helping with tech support, but this is really one of the weirdest damn things I've ever encountered.
For awhile now, we've been getting complaints about YouTube videos not working on some of our computers. The problem has been easy to reproduce, because, sure enough, the video will play for a second and then the viewer window goes black/staticy and displays a "video cannot play" error.
Usually the culprit is an out-of-date browser or plugin, but even with the latest versions the problem persisted. Searching online didn't really turn up anything useful. I got so frustrated that I had to go to my second-to-last-resort, YouTube's help suggestions - still nothing.
Finally, I went to my last resort, asking our IT person to take over the problem because I wasn't making any progress. It baffled her too for a little while, but after some more online searching, she came up with a fix: plug in the headphones.
I believe our computers automatically mute their speakers when headphones are unplugged (so as not to play sound otherwise, which may bother the patrons around them). YouTube must be looking at some sound setting in the computer and doesn't like not having available speakers, and so just doesn't play the video at all. But if you have headphones plugged in before the video starts, it works just like it should. I have no idea why YouTube videos would not play without this, but there you go.
I don't understand it, but it works, so maybe I don't need to. Just, thank goodness for smart coworkers.
December 5th, 2013 Brian Herzog
I'm still getting caught up on things from Thanksgiving, so forgive me if this is old news.
I read on BoingBoing that the Department of Labor is compiling a list of "Books that Shaped Work in America" - there are quite a few titles there already, and they're also accepting submissions.
A bit more:
The idea for this list derived from the Books that Shaped America exhibition sponsored by the Library of Congress in 2012. This exhibition endeavored to spark a national conversation about the impact of books on overall American life and culture. Not surprisingly, many of the books included in the exhibition address issues related to work. But it was the wide range of books with work as a central theme that really served to underscore the significant role published works have played in shaping American workers and workplaces.
Neat. I thought this was a handy readers advisory tool to pass along.
November 23rd, 2013 Brian Herzog
Here's a service I didn't even know the library could offer - until someone asked about it.
An older patron called late morning one day, and asked if we had a slide projector. Before I could answer (and the answer would have been "no"), she continued, saying that she had a bunch of slides from different places she's been - she hadn't looked at them for years, and just wanted to see what was on them.
While she was talking, and knowing we didn't have a slide projector, I started thinking of other options to accommodate her. To view slides, all you need to do is project light through them, so I thought maybe using a digital projector and holding the slide in front of it might work. Or even just a flashlight.
Then for some reason I thought of our microfilm machine. I've never tried it with slides, but it seemed like it would work - just put the slide on the glass where the film/fiche would go, and it should be nicely viewable on the screen.
So I told the patron to come in, and that we could find something she could use. If the microfilm machine didn't work, there's always a flashlight.
About mid-afternoon she arrived, with a shopping bag full of slide boxes. We went over to the microfilm machine, and I showed her how to turn it on and put a slide on the glass - and amazingly, it worked great:
She's not a very techie person, but she could easily handle swapping out slides and aligning them so she could see them on the screen. There was hardly anything to it, and the image was nice and big. And, a side benefit was that she could even print them!
She spent a couple hours looking at them - not rushed at all, just enjoying them. She let me know when she was leaving so I could turn "that machine" off, and she seemed quite happy. Yay! And double-yay for successfully improvising.
Also: an interesting aside to this reference question is that I believe this is the first time I've ever seen a color image on our microfilm machine - I never knew it had it in it.
November 20th, 2013 Brian Herzog
I was recently forwarded this email, concerning a yearbook scanning project that is free to libraries:
We are contacting you in regards to a FREE project we're doing to digitize the High-School yearbooks at all of the libraries in your state. The program is called "The Yearbook Project", and it is sponsored by the Records Conversion Department at OCI; as I previously stated.COMPLETELY FREE. We even pay the S & H.
The Yearbook Project came about after it was brought to our attention that high schools and local libraries throughout Oklahoma were losing their yearbooks. Some were being destroyed by natural disasters, and others were being destroyed by people cutting images out of them. Once they are gone or damaged it is nearly impossible to replace them and these yearbooks are irreplaceable because of their historical value alone. The Records Conversion and Digital Imaging departments also use this program as an advertising tool to highlight the quality of work we do here at OCI. There's no obligation for our other services, we would just hope you keep us in mind if you ever do need them.
OCI is a state agency located in Lexington, Oklahoma. Our Records Conversion department has been in business for thirty (30) years and consists of four areas; Data Entry, Digital Imaging, Image Review & Verification, and Microfilm. We do records conversion for every state agency in Oklahoma. These include; the Department of Education, Department of Human Services, Department of Labor, The Oklahoma Supreme Court, and the Attorney General's Office, just to name a few. If you would like to visit our website it is www.ocisales.com.
Our overhead non-destructive scanning method ensures that the yearbooks are not damaged and that they are returned in their original condition. You can view sample yearbooks and read about Non-Destructive Scanning by clicking on the following links: Click here to view yearbook examples or Non-Destructive Scanning. The yearbooks are scanned at 300 dpi and saved in a [jpeg] format. Meaning, they are done with Publisher Quality so that libraries can digitally reprint any books, just a few pages, or a single image from the DVD for anyone who would like a copy.
- Archival purposes
- Reduces storage space and cost
- Protection of valuable and irreplaceable materials
- Ability to provide full or partial reprints from the DVD final product
- DVD provides easy access and viewing of scanned material
- DVD allows viewing without physically handling the original material
- No cost to libraries participating in the Yearbook Program
After the yearbooks are scanned, they are returned to your library along with a set of DVD's containing each yearbook. These DVD's belong to the library and you can then load it in your computer database for everyone to access. In addition, if you would like to contact the area high schools and add to your current collection, we will provide a second set of DVD's to share with the schools (also free) and their books would be returned to you. Just be sure to let us know which school(s) to include an extra set for. The only thing needed to be done from your side is for you and/or your staff to box them up (no more than 25-30 in a copier-paper size box, please) tape them securely and make two inventory sheets, one for yourself and one to be put in the box. You'll then call us and let us know what day you would like scheduled for pick-up and we will take care of the rest with FED-EX. We will send you the shipping-labels via-email and the books will be returned to you within 5-6 weeks. Whether you have only a few or hundreds, we would be happy to be of service to you.
If you are interested in having your yearbooks converted into a digital format at no cost, please contact me at (405) 527-0833, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. central time. If you have any questions or need any references you can e-mail me at email@example.com Also, feel free to forward this email to any area Branches or Directors in your Library System so that they may benefit from this offer as well.
From the limited research I did, I learned that "OCI" stands for the Oklahoma Correctional Industries, which explains why this service can be offered free - having inmates doing the work gives them something productive to do, while at the same time benefiting libraries who could not otherwise afford the scanning.
Has anyone used OCI for yearbook scanning, or heard about the quality of their work?
In our case (and all of Massachusetts), we have scanning services available through the Boston Public Library, in conjunction with the Internet Archive. However, I thought this was interesting enough to post, to hopefully find out more about it. If you know any details, please share in the comments - thanks.
November 16th, 2013 Brian Herzog
This wasn't a particularly difficult question, but it was fun and interesting - and none of it took place in my library.
One Friday night, a guy I know showed me a cane passed down from his grandfather to his father, and from his father to him. His grandfather lived in Sweden, and all my friend (who is in his sixties) knew about him was that he worked on some kind of coastal cargo boat, making runs to various ports of Europe. He figured the cane could be be fairly old, and could be from anywhere in Europe.
The cane was interesting because it wasn't just old, it also concealed a hidden weapon. Now, I've seen sword canes before and have heard of gun canes, but I'd never heard of anything like this one. It was a kind of gun cane, in that the shaft screwed apart to open up a place to insert a bullet. But the really unusual thing was that the top of the handle also unscrewed, and that was designed as a blowgun.
The net result of this was that you held the cane to your mouth, blew (hard) to move a firing pin forward to strike the bullet to fire it down the barrel which was inside the length of the cane. Very novel design, and a really cool antique cane.
But holy smokes I can't believe people wouldn't knock their teeth out firing this thing.
Anyway, this is what we were able to figure out just from examining the cane. The blowgun part was unmistakable, and the firing pin mechanism was still intact and worked. We weren't sure exactly what caliber bullet it took, and had no idea of the age or origin. However, it was a neat thing to see on a Friday night.
But of course, being a librarian, I wasn't satisfied with that. When I got home that night I started researching "blow gun cane" online, and eventually found a few websites with pictures almost exactly like what my friend had, including some auction websites giving a ballpark value.
Now that was some pretty good information, but I noticed one website included the reference,
Similar to one illustrated on page 191 of Snyder's Canes.
Research is all about following clues, so my next stop was Amazon to figure out what book this "Snyder's Canes" might be. My best guess was Canes: From the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century, by Jeffrey B. Snyder. Another quick search didn't turn up any option to read the book online, so I checked our library catalog - and my luck continued to hold. My library didn't have a copy, but another library in our consortium did.
Normally I'd just request the book and wait the few days for it to arrive. However, I was seeing my friend on Sunday, and I really wanted to show him what I found. So, while I was out running errands on Saturday, I swung by the Topsfield Town Library to check the book out - yay for Saturday hours, and yay for consortium reciprocal borrowing privileges*.
It's a funny experience to pick up a book for the very first time and be able to flip right to the page with your relevant information - behold**:
The two bottom pictures are exactly it - awesome. Sunday morning I emailed my friend the links I had found and also show him the book. He was suitably impressed and grateful, but above all interested and happy to have the extra information.
The bottom line seems to be the cane is from France from the late 1800s, and probably fired a .32 caliber bullet. He has no plans to sell it or fire it, so for now, this information was exactly what he was looking for. And I of course ended up happy too, because what's more fun than a nice little weekend research project - involving an antique blowgun cane, no less?
*A special treat was that the library director was working the circ desk and checked me out - so a big yay for hands-on directors staffing service desks.
**By the way, this page was scanned with my library's public scanner - another library win!
November 14th, 2013 Brian Herzog
I've written a few times here about different aspects of library employment, interviewing, and job goals. A little while ago I received the following email from another librarian, which really captured my interest:
I am a reference librarian [and] recently applied for a job as head of reference services at another library and just found out I've gotten an interview. I've done dozens of interviews for reference librarian positions and have done pretty well at them. However I've never had an interview for a department head position and was wondering if you had any sense of what I could expect, how they differ from reference librarian interviews, or any other advice? Anything you could tell me would be very appreciated.
This is a good question, and one that I've never specifically considered. Of course every interview is different, whether because of the job requirements or other hyper-local reasons.
After I thought about it a bit, I realized that the differences between librarian and department head is a laundry list of the least-fun things about my job: paperwork, staff management, more meetings. The prospect of conveying in an interview that you're aware of these differences, and how you'd handle them, is an interesting challenge. Here's a few of my thoughts:
- Supervising a variety of people
The biggest challenge when I started my job was that I was a young guy suddenly in charge of women who were older than me, and who had been doing their job for years. Supervising people has a host of challenges, and while gender and personality differences may not apply to every situation, it's good to consider them. Other supervising situations are: having both "good" and "bad" employees, or having one particular person who is a gossip or troublemaker, staff who don't get along, a person who is chronically late, someone doing too much personal stuff at work, etc.
I don't think a new supervisor would be expected to know how to handle all of this right off the bat, but it is certainly fair game for an interview. The questions might be something like, "one of your staff people is terrible with technology and hates ebooks. How do you handle this?" Or, "one staff person refuses to help a particular patron. What do you do?"
- Setting goals for the department
As department head, you're not just doing the work anymore, but setting the course. I do lots of things that my non-professional staff don't understand or are annoyed with, but most of the time down the road it all makes sense. Or at least, it helps me down the road, so it's important to be transparent and get buy-in when doing things or making changes.
- Staff management
Doing the desk schedule to make sure shifts are covered (which is a constant pain), calling subs, covering vacations and sick days, doing payroll timesheets, etc. It doesn't seem difficult, and really it's not, but it can be very time consuming. Another part of my job is performing staff reviews - those are uncomfortable for everyone.
- Dealing with problems
Being the department head means everyone brings their problems to you, no matter what they are. You've got to be responsive and fair, and most of all effective, in addition to knowing when to ask your supervisor for help. This applies both to staff/department problems, as well as patron issues/questions that escalate beyond the usual.
- Working as a management team
Staff librarians probably work as a team within the department, but being a department head means you're working with other department heads to run the library. There's not always a lot of overlap, but it is good to all be on the same page and know what everyone else is doing - especially so for Reference, because we get asked questions about everything. Unfortunately, knowing what's going on requires meetings.
An additional source of meetings are regional meetings with staff from other libraries, to find out what works for other people, compare notes on products and services, etc. "Professional development" and "keeping up with the profession" might also come up in an interview - staff librarians need to do this too, but I suppose it's expected more from a professional position.
- Desk management
This kind of goes along with some of the others above, but it's worth pointing out that everything about the reference area is now your responsibility: how the desk looks, how staff functions while they're there, what kind of handouts do you have, do you have enough of them, does the printer have enough paper, why have those light bulbs been out for two days, is the copier working, and all the other little stuff that slips through the cracks - until something goes wrong of course, then it's a glaring error that everyone blames you for. Keeping on top of all the little stuff - or delegating it as projects - keeps things running smoothly.
I'm sure there are more differences - does anyone else have additional interview advice? Thanks.