Friday, May 14, 2010

New Software--Will it be better?

Next week all the libraries in the East Central Regional Library system, including Mille Lacs Lake Community Library, will be closed. We are changing our circulation software from Unicorn to Evergreen. We need to transfer all the book and patron records so that will take a couple of days. We also need a few more days to work the bugs out. All of us at ECRL are a little worried--last time we did this in 2007 our whole system crashed.

We're hoping that doesn't happen this time. Evergreen is "open source" software meaning that our tech support people can modify and adjust the program to meet our needs. That is a big plus. Unicorn was a product of Sirsi Dynix and they housed the server that contained the records.
Unicorn is set up so that different functions are in different screens on the computer. If we want to check-in, pay bills, renew or place a hold, we have to click on different screens. With Evergreen we are able to scan in a patron's barcode and do all of those functions from one screen. Check-in is on a separate screen, but we will be able to set up tabs so that we can move back and forth quickly between different screens.
Running the holds list is a daily function for us as a branch. What this means is that we get a list of items that people from other libraries want from our library. We take these items off the shelf and scan them to find out what branch they go to. With Unicorn, we received an e-mail in the morning of the holds for that day. With the new system, we will be able to get the holds as they come in. For example, if someone in the North Branch area requests a book that is on our shelf on a Wednesday afternoon, I can go to a screen on my computer and check the holds before I leave work. I can get the hold and put it in delivery and it will be on its way to North Branch a day ahead of what it would have with Unicorn.
There are minor things with Evergreen that are not as good as Unicorn--it doesn't print up a renewal list--it prints up everything that you have checked out. It also has new terminology that we will have to get used to, such as "bucket" and "grocery". The search screen has more graphics so it runs slower when you want to place a hold.
Evergreen is part of the PALS system which has been used by the Minnesota State College System, so we hope it is reliable software. Be patient as we learn this new software system together. We hope that patrons can make the adjustment and that in the long run, this will have been a positive change for ECRL.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I suppose every library has its regulars. Most of our regulars come in to do a task or two, such as check e-mail or pick up a book and then leave after half an hour or an hour. This is not the case with Paul.

Paul lives across the street and he usually comes in the door when we open at 10:00 a.m. He takes his book, which he purchased from the library when we downsized our reference collection, and diligently copies out information. He sits at the back table with his books and notebook. When you ask him what he is doing he says that he is researching WWII. He usually stays until around five minutes to five, when we close.

For awhile Paul used the computer. He was especially interested in pictures of German planes and ships. He would copy hundreds of black and white photos and diagrams of these ships. He carefully wrote down the captains of these ships as well as the battles that these ships were used in. He would often get over 100 copies made a day--which he sometimes paid for with all dimes.

At first when Paul came he didn't say much. But now he always asks, "And how is your lovely day?" when he comes in. He also likes to join in conversations about history. This afternoon there was a discussion about a massacre that the Mormons perpetrated on a group of settlers heading west. Paul seemed to think this occurred during the Civil War (another of his interests). He also looked up when Grant was President in his reference book. The massacre actually occurred in 1857.

I guess everyone needs someplace to be--everyone needs human connections. Sometimes that place just happens to be the public library.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Irrepressible Dalen

Dalen is the type of teen that anyone would want around their library. He comes to use the computers, but he also reads. He also likes to chat--he got an ipod touch for Christmas. He volunteers for around a half an hour a week and he comes to teen programs.

The best part about Dalen is that he has great ideas. He can also strike up a conversation with anyone about anything and he is very tech savy.
One example is the coat rack. I asked Dalen, "What does our library need?" He looked around at the coat laying over a table and said, "a coat rack." He was so right. Though we found several in a library supply catalog, co-worker Carolyn decided we needed a nicer one. Her friend Kenny, who is a wood worker, is now working on a coat rack. Great idea Dalen!

Another example is when just talking to another patron he mentioned our large print books. She said, "What are large print books?" We showed her and she was immediately thrilled. She didn't even know such a thing existed. She checked one out and said she'd be back for more. All because of Dalen.

Dalen also has set up the Teen Advisory Group Facebook page and done other things to make the library a friendlier place.

Thanks Dalen

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December in the Library

December is a slow month in the library--at least at my library. The weather is bad, so nobody wants to get out and about. Today we had around 4 inches of snow. If you live in the country, it takes all day just to plough out.

It's also the Christmas season. In their spare time, people are shopping, baking, or writing Christmas cards. They don't have as much leisure time to read.

Children are in school--at least until a few days before Christmas, plus with the colder weather, they probably want to stay inside instead of venturing out to the library after school.

So what do we do when the books are all put away and the holds are pulled?

1) We decorate--we've gotten our two tiny trees and our plastic poinsetta out of the closets. We also have gold garlands hung from the ceiling with ornaments on the ends of them. And of course, we have our many books about Christmas on display.

2) We plan. Winter storytime is coming up. I've gotten a great book called Storytime around the Year and the "mitten' and "valentine" themes sound very promising. I've made a list of themes and now I am working on the activities, crafts, music and books to match.

3)We work on committees. I'm on the wellness committee and we've been e-mailing back and forth about how to conduct the program this year. The Biggest Loser concept seems like it might work. We did a plan like that a few years ago and it was successful, but some of us want more focus on healthy habits, like exercise and nutrition.

4) Okay, let's face it, we're not productive every minute. We shop a little on-line. We browse through Seventeen magazine for ideas on what to get our neices for Christmas. We drink a cup of Christmas tea and we write our blog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Treating my Bell's Palsy

I have Bell's Palsy. The left half of my face is paralyzed. It is why one of my eyes is wide open and only one side of my mouth moves when I talk or smile. I am getting the feel of what it is like to be disfigured or handicapped. People have been looking at me with alarm, revulsion and concern.
Despite it's peculiarness, it is a relatively benign condition. According to the to Medline Plus and Mayo Clinic websites, it starts to get better in a couple of weeks and is pretty much gone in 3 to 6 months. There's not much that doctors do to treat the disease--possibly prescribing anti-viral medications or steroids. I've treated mine by reading about it on the Internet.
This doesn't sit well with some people. My brother--who first tipped me off that I might have Bell's said, "Do you want to go to the Emergency Room? It's right across the street." My co-worker, Norma, said, "Maybe you should go to the clinic." One patron asked "What doctor did you go to?" Others have expressed incredulousness that I haven't "gone to the doctor."
I'm not sure why I have avoided medical care. I don't have health insurance, but I don't think that's the only reason. As my husband says, "We can afford it if you want to go to the doctor." At my stage of life, I have grown leary of the authority of doctors. I have been to them enough to know that they are human and fallible. I trust my own knowledge and I know that doctors do not have any magical powers. I trust mostly in the human body to heal itself.
Americans may have to come to grips with this as they go about reforming their health care system. Too often we believe that more is always better and that doctors must do something. It is the great faith and value that we place on doctors and their tools--surgery, drugs, physical therapy--that have spent us into these excesses. Being "under a doctor's care" has such status to us that those of us who opt out of this system are shamed and pitied. The uninsured are even blamed for the high costs of health care. I just wish that the stakes weren't so high with health care. I wish I could go into a clinic and not wait for hours and spend hundreds of dollars on treatments and tests. Although I know modern medicine has something to offer, I also know that our ancestors lived long and healthy lives without it. For now I'm treating my Bell's with rest and aspirin.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Books are Life's Inspiration

I just finished reading Julie and Julia--now a popular movie--about a woman who decides to cook every recipe in the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julie Child. It got me thinking about how much a book can be a life inspiration. Another example is an article I'm reading by Ian Frazier (The New Yorker) and his travel across Siberia. Several times in his narrative, he refers to writers who have traveled across Siberia before him. How could these people have undertaken such wonderful and difficult life journeys without the help of a book?
Books are like time travel--they can take you to places you'll never go on your own and introduce you to people--to the point where you feel an affection and closeness to them even though you've never met them. The real Julia Child didn't think much of Julie Powell or her blog about cooking her recipes, but never mind, it was the book itself that was the guide and impetus. They whole experience also changed Julie's life in positive ways, giving her fame and (presumably) fortune.
Next time you are looking for a way to change your life, look in a book. Or write one.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How to Find out the Books in a Series

I am learning how to make screencasts. This one shows how to use Novelist--one of the ECRL databases. I apologize for the last few seconds.