Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

The Waterloo Public Library will be open today until 5:00 p.m. We'll be closed New Year's Day, but will reopen Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Until then, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Welcome Back!

We've now reached the end of our second day back from the Christmas holiday and the Reference Department is very busy. Our hundreds of regular patrons have been joined by their out-of-town friends and relatives to make extra time on the PACs, hard to come by.

Tuesday morning, Kim V and I replaced the old firewall with new hardware and software. After two days of extremely heavy usage, the update is a booming success. While functional, the old system had some limitations, wasn't easy to configure, and didn't have advanced monitoring tools. Those deficits have been remedied and it's now time to move on to other improvements.

The PACs use a product from Team Software Solutions, Public Web Browser 2, as a "front-end" for Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Several weeks ago Microsoft released their first browser upgrade in half a decade: Internet Explorer 7.0. We've been running it on one of the PACs (you'll have to guess which one) for about a week with good results. So, sometime this weekend we'll be looking at upgrading the other 32 (don't forget the four in Youth) WPL PACs.

We'll also be checking the configuration of each of the Reference Department PACs. I noticed this afternoon that at least one machine (PAC #5), "forgot" its session information after a restart. The result? Instead of getting a 2 minute grace period during which the user could resume the session, our patron had to get back in the queue. It turns out that several others have also suffered from this phenomenon.

The good news? We're confident that we've identified the problem. The bad news is that to remedy it we'll have to visit every machine while we're closed. Right now, we're thinking of doing it some evening this weekend. If not, we'll start early Tuesday and hope for the best.

On a more cheerful note, have you noticed that the printing is going faster? We're using a new print driver, have added system memory, and updated the firmware. Testing shows that complex color jobs now complete in less than half the time needed by the old configuration. Many thanks to Matt, the new ASI technician who made the suggestions.

c 2006 Waterloo Public Library

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays!

The Waterloo Public Library will be closed December 24, 25, and 26. We will reopen at 9:00 a.m., Wednesday, December 27.

c 2006 Waterloo Public Library

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cunningham Students Serenade the WPL!

Students from the Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence entertained WPL staff and patrons with Christmas carols this morning. For pictures, visit our our new Flickr site.

c 2006 Waterloo Public Library

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Our New (to us, anyway) Microfilm Reader

One of our ancient mechanical microfilm readers passed away this week. Age finally caught up with it as the cost of repairs became prohibitive.

Luckily for the Waterloo Public Library, microfilm reader vendor Dave Thomas came to the rescue. For about a third of the cost of resurrecting our old hand-crank model, Dave sold us an electric version.

The Library Researcher Gideon 1000 is used, but has been refurbished. Even before Dave had a chance to fork over the invoice, one of our regular microfilm patrons was cooing over the improvement.

The next time you need to look up an obituary, or just want to know the price of milk in 1966, give the new microfilm reader a try.

c 2006 Waterloo Public Library

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Why pay $4 - $8 bucks?

I was out at Barnes & Noble the other day, browsing through their magazine titles to see what was new, when I happened to glance at some of the newstand prices.

$3.95 for Rolling Stone...

$4.50 for the New Yorker (my husband's favorite)...

$4.95 for Martha Stewart Living...

$6.95 for Everton's Genealogical Helper...

$7.99 for Fine Homebuilding or Starlog!

I'd go broke if I tried to buy all these titles, even with subscription discounts!

But ---

Did you know that WPL subscribes to almost 200 different magazine titles, including the ones listed above?

What an easy way to stay up-to-date and save money!

Adult magazines are located on racks at the top of the stairs on WPL's second floor.

We also have a Teen magazine area on 2nd Floor with great titles like Vibe, Slam and Spin.

Our Youth Department also has a magazine section, with titles like American Girl, Highlights for Children, and Dirt Bike, among others.

Si prefiere leer en espaƱol, tenemos periĆ³dicos como Furia Musical, Latina y Quien.

To check for a given title, visit our catalog.

c 2006 Waterloo Public Library

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Adult PACs in Youth

Caregivers for our younger patrons are expected remain in the vicinity of their charges. Since the adult PACs are upstairs, this meant that mom, dad, or big sister couldn't go surfing without risking the ire of Youth Librarians brandishing copies of the Safe Child Policy.

With the installation of two high speed PACs across from the Youth Department service desk, parents may now spend up to an hour a day (30 minutes if we're busy) checking their email, shopping, or doing whatever else it is that people do on the Internet.

In addition to Internet access, these computers are equipped with the MS Office XP suite as well as FrontPage. If you have a camera with a USB cable, plug it into one of the ports and download your images for manipulation with MS Photo Editor. When you're done, email them to yourself or save to a thumb drive as all traces of your session are erased when the computer restarts.

If you wish to print, you'll have to tote your documents to the second floor where you may log into the full-service PACs which include access to a printer capable of high resolution color or highspeed duplexing.

c 2006 Waterloo Public Library

Thursday, December 14, 2006

WPL Speed Demons

The Waterloo Public Library switched to a new Internet Service Provider in mid-September. Where we used to share a 3 mb/s connection with 6 other libraries, we're now the prime user of a 10 mb/s line. As I examined the firewall incoming log this evening, it occurs to me that we're regularly seeing through-puts of over 600 kb/s.

Prior to the change-over, the library rarely moved as much as 200 kb/s and was often lucky to see 100 kb/s. While downloading a service pack the other day, I saw a burst speed of well over 1,000 kb/s! As a practical matter, we've now got as much bandwidth as we can use: we're no longer the bottleneck.

There are times when we have as many as 33 Pentium 4 computers simultaneously surfing the net, streaming video, and circulating books, with little or no latency. The combination of modern computers, current software, and an extremely high speed Internet pipe has made the WPL PACs a very popular service.

This connection might be as good as it gets--for now, anyway!

c 2006 Waterloo Public Library

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Insert Your $ First!

While helping patrons recover print jobs Sunday afternoon I noticed an interesting phenomenon: Every single user scanned his or her card, selected the job(s), and THEN inserted the money. This usually works out okay, but quite often, it doesn't.

The system is set to time-out 30 seconds after the card is scanned. This means that if you scan your card, pick your jobs, and spend a minute fumbling around for change, you might have to start over from the beginning.

My advice? When you send your print job, a few moments after you've named it, the cost computation will pop up in the lower right hand corner of the screen; remember the amount. When you approach the print release station, drop your money in the coin box first. Then, scan your card, select your job(s), and click the "print" button.

Follow these steps, your prints will be released, you'll be able to get back to work, and others won't have to stand in line while you fumble around for your card and change.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Introduction to E-Learning

Every time I work the WPL Reference Desk I run into desperate students: Students from Hawkeye Community College, Upper Iowa University, Hamilton College, the University of Northern Iowa, and even DMACC!

Life-long learning is one of the core values of the Waterloo Public Library and Reference staff are particularly interested in supporting patrons using library resources to do homework or to take tests.

Many of our student patrons struggle with educational technology; they spend as much time figuring out how to run programs and manage files as they do learning history or economics. Staff members want to help--and often do so--but there's a limit to how much can be done in the limited amount of time available.

Luckily, there's now an option for students who want to improve their computer skills: Introduction to E-Learning, a 2 hour developmental elective that gives students who are new to technology the skills necessary to succeed in college.

How did I hear about this great learning opportunity? My wife, Professor Cherie Post-Dargan, is the course designer and teacher.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

We're there!

With the application of the latest service pack from Pharos, the upgrade of the reservation and printing system is complete. You'll notice a couple of changes. On the left is a sample of the new cost computation popup that will appear a few seconds after you've named your print job.

The other big changes are also print related. The upgrade allows us get consistent page counts. This means that, instead of having to charge by the sheet, we can now charge by the page. That's good, because we're finally charging the correct amount: 5 cents per page, whether simplex or duplex.

In response to popular demand, the public access computers now default to simplex. If you want duplexing, click the printer "preferences" button, then click the "Print on both Sides" box. Let me know if you have any questions about print charging or switching between simplex and duplex printing.

We've also made a couple of repairs to the printer which have greatly improved quality. Sometime later this week we're going to experiment with adding more memory; maybe that--along with the improved Kyocera drivers--will speed things up a bit.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Close, but not quite there yet

Monday's upgrade to Pharos 7.2 did not go very well, and I was a bit apprehensive about applying the same product to the Cedar Falls Public Library early this morning. However, the vendor, Freddy Rodriguez of Dallas, Texas, informed me that Pharos has released two hot fixes (one made things worse!) since Monday.

The Cedar Falls PL upgrade used the latest hot fix and the system now runs much better. So, I had Freddy make a distribution package that I'll apply in Waterloo Saturday evening. At that time we'll set the PACs so that they default to simplex (single-sided) printing and will also apply the hot fix. I'm optimistic that this will make our lives much easier.

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