Use Me, Abuse Me, Make Me Test Your Web Site

Day 4 of Library Day in the Life project

Not the best day of the week – I woke up at 2am with a nose that suddenly turned into a faucet.  Not a dripping one but one that was on full force.  So not to wake hubby I took my tissue box and myself nose into the computer room.  Blow, blow, wipe, blow, wipe…..went on for about an hour.  I have no idea what caused that.  Finally took some allergy medicine but by then my nose was as red as poor ol’ Rudolph.

Did all the normal morning stuff to get ready and out the door.

Get to the library.  Checked in with Foursquare, yep still the Mayor of Central :)

Unlocked the office door and did my morning routine of swapping out the tapes for Horizon and Authority Works and unforwarding the phone.

Caffeine was a must today.  Went down to the vending machine in the staff lounge (on the hopes they had filled it) only to find they had not.  So over to the expensive vending machines in the lobby.

Back upstairs with 2 Diet Cokes to fortify me I booted up my Ubuntu and Windows machines.  Fired up Tweetdeck, Thunderbird and Firefox on the Ubuntu machine and Horizon on the Windows machines.

Moved a bunch of photos I had taken over to my Dropbox account.  Love me some Dropbox!

Noticed that one staff member had found the new staff Intranet and had registered for an account there.  She had recently left so I deleted her account on the new Intranet which wasn’t really up and working yet.

Decided to tackle my Inbox a bit.  Noticed I had an email that I remember entering as a helpdesk ticket.  It drove me  nuts – I couldn’t find the helpdesk ticket and I didn’t want to delete the email until I knew it was recorded somewhere.  Finally figured out that I hadn’t use the subject line I thought I had – deleted email (along with a bunch of others).  I tend to use my Inbox as my to-do list.

Sent two emails to OverDrive support regarding two helpdesk tickets that had been assigned to me.  I still find this such bad customer service – customer has problem – has to fill out form on OverDrive site – which then gets sent to someone here in MD – then they forward onto us – then staff here enter into helpdesk – I then get it assigned to me – I contact OverDrive – they write back – I write customer – usually problem is solved.  But the path it takes and the time it takes is just so wasteful.  I must admit their support team is pretty helpful but still this path is not the best way to serve our customers.

Logged into my blog and wrote post for yesterday’s fun filled day.

Our network admin came and showed me one of our old colleague’s, Mike Ricksecker, latest endeavor – Ghosts of Maryland.   He was so sweet – he named each of the IT members in his acknowledgement section.  Gotta buy me a copy and visit all the cool sites he documented.

Sadly removed my old boss’ photo from our Intranet and put it in the “Gone but Not Forgotten” section of our gallery.

Edited more of the photos I had taken with Julian in regards to the scan feature on the copiers.

Took a call from our PR dept. regarding a change on the web site.  Made the necessary change.  While on the phone we also established that I would be listed as the donor of my services so I would actually appear as a donor on the web site. I’m being auctioned off (silently at our fundraiser Evening in the Stacks) as a social web/Intranet consultant.  Hope someone takes me up on the offer and raises money for the library.

Our ILL dept. submitted a helpdesk ticket regarding an system error when trying to print the pick list in Marina.  Did a little digging and called Enoch Pratt since they are the first point of contact.

Ah the first usability test of the day – drove to our East Columbia branch.  Went very well.

Quickly grabbed some lunch.

Then downstairs to Customer Service for the second test of the day.  Again good feedback.

Came back upstairs and made a few tweaks to the new Intranet.

Then we drove over to our Miller branch for the third test of the day.  She was a ringer – got everything right off the bat and quick too!

Came back to Central.  Responded to a customer via email about their OverDrive problem.

Called Pratt again and got some more information about the problem with printing and ILL.  They will have to contact SirsiDynix.

Linked new blogger to the Contributors page on our blog, Highly Recommended.

Answered a staff member’s question about screen savers.

Started to make some changes to the MAILL (Maryland InterLibrary Loan) web site.

Played telephone tag with our HR dept. all day – tried one more time, she is now it.  (every time she called me I was on the phone – every time I called her she had stepped out of her office – maybe tomorrow?)

Home to crash – I NEED SLEEP!

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Why Libraries Rock

3835642932_1981254635In order to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Louisville Free Public Library but libraries everywhere I decided to participate in the Blogathon that Andy Woodworth got started.

So why are libraries awesome or rock or kick butt?   All libraries rock because they allow free access to all information (be it print, audio, visual or world wide webable).   We do a lot more than that but since each library focuses on different aspects of their community I thought I’d blog about why MY library rocks!

My library rocks starting at the top and it works it’s way down through every staff member.

  • Our Library Board is very supportive of what we do and sees that our mission & vision stays current and provides our customer base with what they expect.
  • Our Executive Director and CEO has seen that we are not only aligned with  but synonymous with education.  Education is the corner stone of what we do.  We educate all the time – whether it is a story time class, book promotion, or customer service staff helping a customer log into their account.  Each interaction is based in educating, in training.  This is just one of the many initiatives she has implemented since coming to Howard County.
  • Our Public Relations department that produces an outstanding newsletter every quarter that highlights our classes, events, and seminars.  They have created the Howard County Library brand and oversee everything from our flyers, to our signs, to our social web presence making sure  we are consistently presenting the correct image and wording.
  • Our Information Technology department which not only supports over 300 computers (and more coming)  for our public to use (using a Linux operating system which allows us to save our tax payers money while providing a stable, secure environment on which to work) but also the staff desktops (in Linux, Mac and Windows).  We also maintain the web site, catalogs, and databases so our customers may  self-direct their education.
  • Our Children’s & Teen Curriculum – what can I say about all the wonderful classes our children’s services provide?  I’ve been privy to many (taking photos or just walking by) – the amount of energy, time, thought and fun (while learning) that goes into these classes is second to none.  These instructors really have  a calling and put our youngest customers on the path to lifelong learning.  The teen events are no less spectacular.  Making purses from old jeans,  “Hogwarts Summer School” to celebrate the latest Harry Potter movie, Duct Tape flip-flops and gaming nights give our teens a safe environment to socialize, learn and interact.
  • Our Events and Seminars – the learning and fun isn’t just for our children and teens.  Author visits, book club discussions, classes on technology, health, finances or travel and recreation are just some of the great offerings our adult customers can enjoy.
  • Our Passport facility.  Our East Columbia Branch is now an official Passport Acceptance Facility.  Another great service for our customers.  They can use all the wonders of the library while applying for their passports.
  • Community Education and Partnerships.  No library is an island, we are very  much a part of the community.  Our partnerships – Howard County Public School system, Howard Community College, Lincoln Technical Institute, Leadership Howard County, Choose Civility, Horizon Foundation, Howard County Autism Society, Lazarus Foundation – (PCs4Kids), HC DrugFree, Inc., Girl Scouts, Ubuntu Maryland Local Community Team – are just some of the ways we are out in the community interacting, engaging, and educating our customers.
  • Our Collection.   It’s not just the outstanding materials our selectors purchase but the hard working individuals that catalog, process and circulate these materials so that our customers can get what they want when they want it (whether it’s an in house visit or via our web site and catalogs).
  • Our Customer Service.  We pride ourselves on not only meeting but exceeding our customer’s ideas of what good customer service looks like.  This comes in all shapes and forms – from helping someone at our Information or Customer Services desks, to recommended a book/dvd/cd/or event via our blog Highly Recommended, to answering a customer’s concern via email, to talking to a teen who just needs someone to listen – we believe in going that extra step, that extra degree.

There are many more aspects and departments that I didn’t mention.  They too help to give our customers what they want or support our staff so they can give our customer what they need.  We need ALL the parts of this well oiled machine to make our library rock and to rank first in the nation among great public libraries according to Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings 2008.

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Blog Day Afternoon – Day 4

Little did I know when I came into work today it was going to turn into the day of blogs.

Day 4

It’s Thursday so I don’t have morning duties or bouncedback emails today.  After putting my stuff away I turned on my Ubuntu and Windows machines.  Checked my voice mail (was one regarding the email and spam settings that we had posted on the staff Intranet).

Moon Landing
Walked out into the public area after getting ice for my green tea and replenished my display celebrating the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.  Some folks might consider it wrong but I mixed adult non-fiction books with the children’s non-fiction.  Bottom shelf of the wedding cake was all children’s titles – they have actually been the hot items even though this display is upstairs in the adult non-fiction area.  My reason for adding the children’s titles to the display is often Mom or Dad have a little one in tow when they are upstairs, so why not have something for them on the same display.

Went back downstairs to Customer Service (the department formally known as Circulation) and picked up my reserves (several books on photography and a CD for hubby).  Back upstairs to my desk.

Opened Twirl and replied to a Tweet.  Checked both work and Gmail accounts.  Since revamping our Staff Intranet has been on my mind I logged into the backend of Joomla and made a few tweaks (from suggestions that staff have provided).  Then I moved over to the front end and checked to see if there were any helpdesk tickets to assign (yep a few but not many).

Emailed the Central Asst. Branch Manager regarding a tweak I made on the Staff Intranet.  It related to items she posted – combined her web guides from Enoch Pratt/SLRC into one location.

Closed a helpdesk ticket regarding a new staff member who had forgotten his email password – changed password back to default and it will prompt him to change it again.

Sent an email to all the branch managers asking them to clean up (unpublish and delete if possible).  In hopes that we can clean up lots of content that won’t need to be brought over to the new Intranet.

Now the start of the blog day —

Tweaked our main blog, Highly Recommended per the phone conversation I had with the editor on Day 2.   Moved the login on the front end to a less conspicuous location on the blog navigation area.  Then I added a new blogger to the list of contributors per the editor’s email

Wrote my blog entry for Day 3.  Sent an email to the blogger of Highly Recommended about the tweaks I had made so they are kept in the loop.

Answered the helpdesk phone line – question about accessing our Intranet remotely (from a new grandmother visiting her daughter and grandson in NC).

Then I began the afternoon of updating all our blogs which uses WordPress.  Luckily 3 of the blogs were not that old so I could just click on Update under Tools.  Open Source, This Is Your Life and Customer Service all upgraded with no problems.  I then had to upgrade Teacher Notes the hard way.  WHOO HOO, it went pretty smoothly and I didn’t mess anything up.  Okay 4 out of 6 went okay so I must be doing something right.

Call from Public Relations department asking for help with posting an article to our Choose Civility site which uses Joomla.  Walked him through a few things and corrected code that seemed to make the one video disappear even though we weren’t adding anything anywhere near the video on that page.

Got a lovely surprise, former employee Aileen Trout came in for a quick visit.  Aileen left us many years ago and moved back to her place of birth, Hawaii.  She hasn’t aged at all – I’m convinced living on the islands there is like the fountain of youth.  After that I checked the helpdesk tickets and assigned 2 to fellow IT staff.  Answered the helpdesk phone line – fellow IT staff member needed help with the printer settings for Horizon.

Consulted with our web programmer about navigation and design for our new Intranet.  We looked at Google Analytics to get a feel of what people used the most on our Intranet (that combined with actual feedback from staff should help).

Consulted with fellow IT staff member about helpdesk ticket regarding a broken link in Aquabrowser (the information page in AB had never been updated to reflect the RSS feed page on our new web site which went live over a year ago – GULP!).  Need a better way to keep track of all our links out there.

LUNCH!! finally

Assigned another helpdesk ticket.  Got a call from the editor of our Highly Recommended blog about linking a contributor’s name.

Guess my confidence from earlier was a bit premature.  I updated our TeenZine (which isn’t a true blog but does use WordPress).  This time things did not go well. Not sure if I missed some files in the update or what.  Was seeing strange results even though I did get the right messages during the upgrade process.  Cleared cache and refreshed browser and still had odd displays.  Asked web programmer for help – he watched me do the upgrade for the 4th time – something about him standing there must have done the trick.  But even he saw the odd display and seems like things took several minutes to display correctly.  It’s all good in the end.

Called the Information Services Supervisor regarding the voice mail she had left me that morning – left her a voice mail.

Emailed username/password for our Staff Intranet to staff member so they could add content.

Assigned to myself and closed helpdesk ticket regarding an email from a customer letting us know that the wording on one of our PACs screen savers was wrong.  We had already fixed this so I contacted the customer via email thanking her for catching this and letting her know we fixed it.

Cleaned up a bounce of AOL accounts that had marked us as spam.  Trying to get the message out there that when you sign up for a library card and give us your email account you will receive notices via email.  Do not mark us as a spammer – you agreed to receive notices from us.  Some reason the AOL users don’t remember this more than any other email user.

Went ahead and updated our last blog (our main one and the one that I was most scared about) to the latest version of WordPress.  It was my biggest worry but things went smoothly.  WHEW!

Past time for me to go home.  Off to get my son, walk dogs, take some photos, fix dinner and possibly get a little Lost season 2 watching done.

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Home Away From Home – Day 2

Ah, day two and it should have started off better.  Knew I had to leave a bit early from home to drop my son off at his Dad’s new house.  Still trying to figure out best routes to and from his house.  This morning with the hazy fog it didn’t help and I was a few minutes late getting to work.

EntranceFirst one in the office this morning.  Dropped my stuff at my work space and scurried to get to the morning duties (I had switched days with a co-worker).  Unforwarded the helpdesk phone and then proceeded to swap the tapes on both the Horizon and Authority Works servers.

This was to be my IT @ Admin day so I needed to focus on the morning duties and get them out of the way.  Once logged into my Ubuntu and Windows machines I did a quick cursory check of email (no dire messages).  I then proceeded to do the morning duties (just like yesterday).

Once they were out of the way I checked the helpdesk tickets and assigned them accordingly to my co-workers (seems some days I get a lot and others I don’t – it all evens out in the end).  Opened Twirl so I can peruse Twitter (both my personal account – @mlibrarianus and the library’s official account @HoCo_Library).  Then I queued up a Tweet for the library’s account using TweetFunnel.

Our Network Administrator came into the office and had mentioned that we had a power outage (clock in the workroom before ours was behind).   PACs were showing red on PACMON (our own montioring system that our web programmer wrote) but luckily the Day End computer finished running Day End before the power outage (having to run day end in the morning before people start logging into Horizon is not a fun thing to coordinate).

I proceeded to work on the email bouncebacks.  I’m still amazed at how many we get.  Are that many people really changing their email addresses and not updating them with us or what?  Still trying to figure out the best way to ensure our customers get notified without this having to deal with bouncebacks.  It is a labor intensive process that should not be handled by IT.  Haven’t come up with the answer as I know that there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a tweet that made me chuckle.  I don’t normally follow the trends on Twitter but this one caught my eye #verydullbands.  Some were pretty good.  tumour seemed to be on a roll.  Time to head to our Administrative office in the East Columbia Branch and be the IT guru of the day (each of us takes turns spending a day at Admin helping with computer/software related issues that arise).

Home away from homeAfter getting my lunch in the fridge and things settled into the IT cubicle, I logged into the Ubuntu machine we have set aside for us.  Last time I was there I used Good OS – as if Google and Mac had a love child this would be it.  I really liked the operating system and having the Google gadgets.  Alas I was back to our staff desktop version of Ubuntu which is nice too.

Queued up another tweet for the library’s official account (which is approved by our Public Relations dept. and released to the Twitterverse).   Talked to a colleague who had heard I’d been recently to Spain recently and was thinking of going.  So I sent her a link to my photos from Espana on Flickr.

Consulted with fellow IT co-worker about iTouch and our collaborative software, DeskNow.  He had a Blackberry and wasn’t familiar with the iTouch.  Went around the Admin office asking staff if they had an iPhone or iTouch.  Found someone in Public Relations that had an iTouch who was able to help with the question another staff member had asked me.  I won’t mention my extreme jealousy of those with the iPhone or Blackberry (I soooo miss my Blackberry).

Helped another colleague with a PrintNow problem.  Think the delay was due to her Java update message wanting attention.  Once I clicked on that PrintNow printed the screen shot she needed.  Stopped by the cubicle of our Training Coordinator to discuss a request that had come up in my visits to the branches regarding our Staff Intranet.  She was open to the suggestion that the less formal “Lunch and Learns” be part of the training calendar as well as a notice on the Staff Intranet.

ITBack to my cubicle.  Checked on the Merlin site since I was playing admin while Nini Beegan was on vacation.  Cleaned up a bunch of registered users that were clearly spammers.

Consulted with web programmer and network administrator about the best way to get a new image onto our PAC screensavers.  The library’s unofficial (yet very professional and wonderfully talented) photography, Fritzi Newton, had taken shots of each of our 6 branches along with iconic views of our county and mixed them with photos she was able to obtain from Enoch Pratt.  She put these altogether as a screensaver for our public computers.  There was wording on each saying where the photo was taken.  After 2 years of these being out there for the public someone had realized that one of the slides had Maryland misspelled.  Fritzi corrected this and gave us the new image (with correctly spelled state) to use.

Realized I hadn’t really talked to our staff at Admin about the revamping the Staff Intranet.  I had been to all the branches to get feedback so I wondered around the office and talked to different staff.  Along the way I helped with a couple browser settings.  The one feature that I love on our Intranet was one that I pointed out to several folks.  Our web programmer had created a staff directory – the staff search box searches that directory.  So if you don’t know what branch, the phone number, the exact spelling of their email, what title they have, etc you can search for a person (last name or first name or full name) and see all of that plus a picture.  I convinced several people that using the staff directory search was 100 times easier than scrolling through the phone list.  This made me realize that this well used by many but missed by some box needed a more prominent spot on our Intranet.  So I moved that up further on the left hand side along with moving the Quick Links further to the top as well.  These are just temporary stop gaps until we revamp the whole Intranet.

LUNCH!

Assigned to myself and closed helpdesk ticket regarding receiving spam from old email address.  *sigh* The only 100% sure fire way to not receive spam is to not use email.

Played telephone tag with the editor of our reader’s advisory blog, Highly Recommended, regarding a few tweaks and a new idea that had come up in a meeting.  Then I went about interviewing more of the Admin staff about our Intranet and what ideas they might have.

Dealt with calendar settings for two people in Public Relations.  They didn’t have a box checked so the calendar invites were not showing up on their calendars the way they should.

Debunked an Urban Legend that was sent via email to IT.  I love Snopes.com.  I used to hang out on their bulletin board and I do miss the folks from there.

Discussed ideas with the Events & Seminars Manager about the use of voice recorders regarding local authors.  Getting them to read excerpts from their books or interviews with them as part of a podcast.

Answered an email from staff about the spam filtering option setting in our email.  Explained that we use Barracuda, spam filter, on the main email server so there is no need to use the one provided by DeskNow (if you do it actually creates more work).

Decided to make another change to the current Staff Intranet (that was brought up by staff at the branch) and managed to not screw it up.  Deleted code and things still worked properly.  Then I got a little too confident and removed some more – this time I did screw it up.  THANKFULLY, our web programmer who has the patience of a saint with me was able to figure out what I did wrong and fix it.

Way past time for me to go, so I turned off my machine and headed home.  I had to pack and drive to PA that night since I going with my parents the next morning to the hospital.  My Mother was having a biopsy of her lung done.  Here’s hoping it all goes well and the results are good.

Bag Ladies or My Earth Day at Admin

103_0754Yesterday was my first time to be the IT guru on-call at our Administrative offices.  First I set myself up in what is affectionately known as the “typewriter room” (given that name because there is still a typewriter in there that no one can remember when it was last used).  I had my little netbook laptop, my cell phone, Diet Coke and water to keep me happy.   Off I went to make sure that everyone in the office knew I was there to handle any of their computer/IT needs that might arise that day.

I had Tweeted earlier that morning (which feeds into my Facebook status) that I was challenging my colleagues at Admin to come for a walk with me and we’d pick up trash as our contribution to Earth Day.  A couple of ladies took me up on the challenge.  However, it didn’t look like Mother Nature was going to cooperate with us.  It drizzled or even pour a few times most of the morning.

After spending the morning updating the director’s pc with the latest version of Adobe Reader so she could open the budget PDFs, helping a co-worker understand the template and process we use to blog on Highly Recommended, answering helpdesk tickets about email aliases, talking with a staff member about how we could make her section of the Staff Intranet more up-to-date and a few other issues it was 1 o’clock before I knew it.  So off I went to try the salad bar at Harris Teeter (which was recommended by our Public Relations staff as almost a “baby Wegman’s”).

As I was leaving the building the sun decided to grace us with it’s prescence.  Ah, maybe we will get our help Earth day walk in this afternoon.  But first I needed to go over uploading photos to our library’s Flickr account and trying to edit one photo from Battle of the Books that had the highlights blown out.  Wasn’t the photographer’s fault as he was working with a basic point and shoot camera.  He needed a DSLR with a flash attachment so he could bounce the flash or other possibilities – the kids in the picture were all wearing tinsel like wigs and the flash just went crazy.  I wound up having to call my photography mentor and she was able to edit it a little bit.

103_0757So the two ladies who took my Twitter/Facebook challenge joined me for a walk armed with grocery and trash bags.  One of us picked up soley the recyclable bottles/cans and the other two went for the trash.  What really made me feel good was our influence on the kids that had just gotten out of the Cradlerock School next door to the library.  We were walking past them and I heard several say things like “oh because it’s Earth Day” as an explanation as to why 3 grown adults were picking up trash.  We even had 2 kids stop us and give us some that we had missed.  I hope next time they see a piece of trash they will pick it up whether or not it is Earth Day.

Mother Nature felt we had walked long enough so we got a little wet as we scurried back to East Columbia Branch.  All in all I think it was good to get the exercise, connect with co-workers and help the Earth a little.  My challenge is to keep some extra grocery bags in my car so next time I’m out I will pick up some trash.  This isn’t something to just do on Earth Day but everyday.  As others have said – every day is Earth Day.

Photography Leads to Micro-Blogging

Last night I volunteered to help my photography mentor with a class she was instructing in how to use Flickr.  With a hands-on class it always helps to have an extra set of eyes, hands and legs to walk the room and help students.  I was more than happy to help.  Not only did I coerce…umm, suggest that she teach the class but it gave me yet another chance for her to impart her years of photography experience on me.

When the class was over I wound up talking to several people and registering them for her next class (sure sign things went well).  She had billed me as “the web 2.0 guru”, a name I wear proudly and several ladies asked me when I was going to teach my web 2.0 class.  One woman in particular wanted to know if I would teach about Twitter.  I was thrilled to hear that word (one of my favorite web 2.0 sites that I feel has such potential).  So when I got a tweet from Mashable, I thought how timely.

10 Ways to Build Your Blog Community with Twitter stressed many of the points I would have made.  The first 3 bolded paragraphs are just a start but each of the ten bullet points bring home good reasons to use Twitter as well.  I’ll be passing this blog post along to my photography mentor.  Why you may ask?  Because she is also the editor of our readers advisory blog at the Library, Highly Recommended.

Hubba, Hubba, Hubble

My library has the honor of displaying some of the fantastic photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in our Central library’s main stairwell.

p1010001

One of our talented Children’s Information Specialist & Instructor, Barb Langridge, was the mastermind behind this.  The pictures tie in with a couple of programs (one for kids and one for adults) that will be taking place in December and February.  She blogged about the photos and programs on our library blog, Highly Recommended.


Digg!

If you can’t make it to our Central Library before March 15th to see the spectacular photos, you can see my photos of the photos on Flickr.  Truly makes you realize how grand the universe is and what a small part you play in it.  Perfect time as it is the holiday season and with the economy being what it is – helps to put things into perspective.

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