Monthly Archives: January 2009

Do you really want to create world class library website?

If you want to improve you library’s website look at what the leaders in the field are doing. Here is a list of websites that I believe are leaders. created Belmont Abbey College

avenue-a razorfish created NYTimes CNN US News and World Report

3rd Edge Communications created ORBIS International

HelloDesign created Wilshire Boulevard

UnifiedField created Brooklyn Public Library’s introduction to entrepreneurship

See what you think and add your own.

Sirsi/Sopac: Part 17 User Account

Today I fixed a bug on the fines piece of the code. It was throwing an error when the patron had zero fines. This has been corrected. I have seen some talk on the Drupal library listserver about getting patron data onto Drupal from a Sirsi system, so here is a picture of my patron account (I have hidden my library card number). This data is taken from Sirsi/Dynix Unicorn system in realtime.


Sirsi/Sopac Part 16 Item types

Today I am looking at item types. Things such as books, magazines etc… and having the ability to search on these types. John has abstracted these out in the locum.ini file and you are going to have to go in and make some changes. Below is what I did. I have commented out John’s code because the III system has a different way of identifying items. I have written another webservice call and this takes a cat_key and returns the item type. I have followed John’s lead and grouped the item types with search descriptors below in the next section. This means when I do a search for book I am really searching item types books, largeprint and  book boards. You get the idea.

Part of the locum.ini file

; This is where you provide a list of key-to-value pairs for material codes so,
; for insteance, if the material code for books is “a”, you would do:
; a = “Books”
; Do one-per-line.  Codes ARE case sensitive.
;1                                                      = “Book”
;2                                                      = “Reference”
;3                                                      = “Magazine”
;4                                                      = “VHS”
;5                                                      = “Book on Tape”
;6                                                      = “CD”
;9                                                      = “CDROM”
;a                                                      = “Express Book”
;b                                                      = “Book on CD”
;c                                                      = “Leappad Game”
;d                                                      = “DVD”
;g                                                      = “Book in a Bag”
;h                                                      = “Computer Equipment”
;k                                                      = “Read-along Tape”
;m                                                      = “Playaway”
;n                                                      = “Newspaper”
;x                                                      = “Audio Download”

; This is where you provide a list of key to value pairs for material codes
; I have cumstomized this for our Sirsi/Dynix system
BOOK                                                    = “Book”
BK_ON_CD                                                = “Book on CD”
BK_ON_TAPE                                              = “Book on Tape”
BLDG_PLANS                                              = “Building Plan”
BOARD_BOOK                                              = “Board Book”
DVD_EDUCAT                                              = “DVD Education”
DVD_MOVIE                                               = “DVD Movie”
DVD_RMOVIE                                              = “DVD R Rated Movie”
EQUIP-21DY                                              = “21 Day Equipment”
EXPRESS                                                 = “Express Book”
ILL                                                     = “Interlibrary Loan”
LARGEPRINT                                              = “Large Print”
MAGAZINE                                                = “Magazine”
MEDIA_KIT                                               = “Media Kit”
MUSIC_CD                                                = “Music CD”
MUSIC_CASS                                              = “Music Cassette”
PTC                                                     = “Parent Teacher Kit”
PUZZL_GAME                                              = “Puzzle Games”
SCORE                                                   = “Score”
SOFTWARE                                                = “Software”
VGAME_7DAY                                              = “Video Games 7 days”
VERT_FILE                                               = “Vertical File”
VIDEO_GAME                                              = “Video Game”
VID_EDUCAT                                              = “Video Education”
VID_MOVIE                                               = “Video Movie”
VID_RMOVIE                                              = “Video R Movie”

; This section is used when searching by material types.  Often there is more than
; one material code for the same type of material.  Locum uses these options to
; scope a search for, say “books” to material code a, b, and c if a, b, and c
; are print/books
; in that case, the option would be, books = “a, b, c”
;everything                                     = “all”
;books                                          = “1, 2, a, g”
;movies                                                 = “4, d”
;music                                          = “6”
;audiobooks                                     = “5, b, k, m”
;periodicals                            = “3, n”
;software                                       = “9, c”
;electronics                            = “e”
everything                                      = “all”
books                                           = “BOOK, BOARD_BOOK, EXPRESS, LARGEPRINT”
movies                                          = “DVD_EDUCAT, DVD_MOVIE, DVD_RMOVIE, VID_MOVIE, VID_RMOVIE, VID_EDUCAT”
music                                           = “MUSIC_CD, MUSIC_CASS, SCORE”
audiobooks                                      = “BK_ON_CD, BK_ON_TAPE”
periodicals                                     = “MAGAZINE”
software                                        = “SOFTWARE, VIDEO_GAME”


PINs and Self-Check machines at the ACPL

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I created this video as a PSA. It used a light kit that I created for about $50 and a SD video camera. I  used the built-in  microphone. I used Windows Movie Maker as the editing tool. I filmed everything in just one take so that simplified the editing process. I added a title and an ending. I did all the setup myself, so it was a true one person production.


This is the studio setup that I used. Here you can see that you can convert any space into a recording studio.

Sirsi/Sopac Part 15

Today Tim and I have been trying to figure out why the Reviews Section was not working. The gotcha is in the insurge.ini file. There were two variables group_id and group_key. The default values were larger than the database fields caused truncation to occur.  We when in and set our own values and then went back into the insurge tables and hand edited the variables. We used ACPLID and ACPLKEY, you can pick something that works for you.

The next little hurdle was the Tags and the Save Search features. These needed to be set so that they only displayed on selected pages. We were having them displayed after each general search and at that point there was not bnum association.  After this was corrected we were able to save searches and tags.


Things I learnt from Obama today

I am always on the look out for solutions to reoccurring problems. In a recent Time magazine Obama was asked if he ever got angry at his staff. His reply was that guilt was a far more effective tool than anger. Expressing disappointment seems a far less destructive emotion than anger and it is probably a more accurate emotional response. The answer was given in a joking response, but is it probably something to ponder. If you work in the IT field you accept a certain amount of criticism and second guessing from your coworkers. I have always grappled with how to respond. The options have always been a lengthy explanation of how the decision was reached or assuming a defensive posture and explaining it from that position. Neither of these seems to be a good approach. My new Obama inspired answer is this “If you have a better idea I would love to hear it” In the IT realm we have always had this unwritten rule that the best technical solutions will be implemented. I love this response because it engages the person asking the question in a way that requires them to be part of the solution and sends a clear message that we live in the world of ideas and that we are interested in ideas that solve problems.

Ask a Librarian redesign

There are ideas that resonant with you and over time and become values. Last year I heard Jenny Levine talk about meeting patrons at their point of need. We were able to correctly identify certain places where this was possible and results have been overwhelmingly successful. David Lee King talked last year about the “User Experience” and has blogged about Ask-a Librarian Services needing a reboot. So I took a look at the service that we were offering to see if there was a possibility for improvement. Here is the before picture.


What struck me about this page is we were telling people how to ask a question rather than providing them the mechanism too actually asks. Looking at the statistics showed that patrons were clicking on the ask link but not asking. I had also found that patrons were emailing their questions directly but we were only capturing 16% all potential questions.

Here are the statistic from Dec 15th 2008 until Jan 16th 2009ask-stats

Here it appears to be show that 1,221 patron click on the click but on 199 have actually filled out the ask form. While many patrons may email directly  I felt  a redesign would capture more patrons at their point of need.

Here is a look at the new design.


Adding a spell checking module to the catalog

I have just discovered a spelling checking module that can be added to the catalog. It is called Lucien and you can check out their website at We will be testing this service next week on the test system and then hopefully fasting tracking this into production. If you would like to see how this works take a look at the Libraries of Middlesex

Sirsi/Sopac Part 14

I have been looking at trying to figure out how to add pickup locations to my code. The solution ended up being pretty easy. Just activate the profile.module. Don’t worry if you have already gotten this far you had to have activated it. Now take a look at this video

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I have a little code to write to extract the variable but that should be transparent to you.