Lost In Migration

I was going to say that I’ve been MIA but felt that would be disrespectful of the real MIA‘s from our military and others around the world.  So I thought a nod to the Scarlet Johansson-Bill Murray movie was a better title.

Life has gotten in the way of my blog.  Once things settle back down I will hopefully resume a more regular schedule.  So what’s keeping me so busy?  One word – Polaris!  We are in the midst of migrating from our current Sirsi-Dynix ILS (Horizon) to Polaris.  I’ve been given a great opportunity to coordinate all the training for over 240 FT and PT plus all the on-call staff.  This means fitting all these people into 3 rounds of training in less than two months.  This comes at one of the busiest times of the year for our library – just before Summer Reader!  Children’s staff will be book promoting in the schools, then sign up of kids and summer reader begins about a month before we go live.  I have to thank everyone who has been so flexible and understanding – we have a great library staff.

I’m enjoying the challenge and it wouldn’t be possible without Rachel Rappaport’s guidance.  She is our training coordinator but she is about to have her hands really full with her latest project – a baby boy (she is due the end of this month)!  Congrats ahead of time to Rachel and Jonathan – don’t worry about us just enjoy your new bundle of joy.

So if nothing new is posted here for awhile you’ll understand why.  I will be attending Computers in Libraries 2010 this year and I will be blogging from there but after that it will be back to all Polaris all the time.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

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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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A Day in a Life part deux

Day 2 of week of keeping track of what librarians or library workers do so we can see the diversity of the jobs we do.

Tuesday January 27, 2009

8:00 – finally got to work. Snowing in MD and for some reason took more than double my normal time to get here.

8:15 – after logging into both my Linux and Windows computers, getting my bottomless cup of Diet Coke I logged into email, Facebook, Friendfeed, Meebo, Staff Intranet

8:30 – updated blog post to include tags I had forgotten the other day (self professed tag whore)

8:40 – checked voice mail

8:42 – posted 3 job positions to Staff Intranet and library web site (made mental note that I must get HR trained so they can do this and not me)

9:00 – Talked to boss and hubby to help me sort out feelings, fears, and concerns.

9:45 – helped reference desk with customer who wanted to move all his Comcast email to Verizon

9:52 – help staff with Horizon Wimba issue

10:33 – worked on email bouncebacks

10:45 – helpdesk ticket regarding suspended hold turned out to be a matter of timing customer tried to suspend hold at the same time a copy was checked in for them

11:00 – phone call with staff member about Firefox 3.0 and new staff desktop

11:15 – helpdesk ticket regarding reformatting page on SI (staff Intranet)

11:30 – hooligans threw snowballs at our 2nd story windows (right behind my desk).  Inside joke – our Network Admin every year since he’s been at this location has thrown a snowball at the window.  First couple of times we didn’t catch on that it was him.  Now it’s just tradition and we humor him by accusing hooligans not him.

11:45 – worded email about ILL request for purchase and vendors we saw demoed the other day – Relais, AutoGraphics, OCLC and SirsiDynix.  If I had to pick one right now based on what I saw it would be AutoGraphics even though I went in leaning toward Relais (they just aren’t ready but to be honest none of the solutions were there yet).

12:05 – lunch

12:35 – answer a few emails

12:55 – worked on CIL09 slides

1:10 – posted notice to Staff Intranet and IM-ed staff about leaving machines on so updates can run

1:20 – back to CIL09 slides

3:17 – helped staff member with HCL logos and open office – getting staff to understand the concept of opening documents thru a web product is different than thru directory on hard drive

4:00 – head home to play with doggies in the snow

Tips for Those Going Through an ILS Migration

I suddenly feel lighter than I have in weeks. All thanks to Debra Denault of Liblime for coming to Howard County Library and helping those of us involved in our migration from SirsiDynix‘s Horizon to Koha to get a grasp on things.

This is not the first migration I’ve been a part of but certainly this one was a lot different. Last time we basically changed from one product offered by a vendor to another product. This time we were going with an open source ILS and support would come from many places (our data migration company – Liblime and the whole Koha community). I often wasn’t sure if I should submit something to the community, chat with the developers in IRC or just what was my first step. I was not only learning how Koha worked (I am creating content for the testing or discovery phase as well as helping with creating the training for staff) but I was learning a completely different way of getting answers or help.

Change can be scary for most folks but I’ve often found it interesting. Change gives me something new to focus on, play with, explore. This time, however, I’ll have to admit that I was a bit scared. This time it was a little bit out of my comfort zone. At one point this week I Twittered that I knew there was a lesson in here somewhere for me to learn but it wasn’t revealing itself to me just yet.

But that has all changed. Something clicked. Something stopped being scary. Something lightened my load. I think it was having someone, Debra, who knew the product inside and out be here to walk us through things. Debra’s calm nature (although she swears there is a Type A personality underneath), her depth of knowledge, her ability to get answers immediately from folks at Liblime was the perfect mix to calm nerves, soothe the worried SysAdmin in all of us.

Debra along with Darrell Ulm of Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library, another Koha library, helped me not only get my head around things but helped me put things in perspective.

So I’d like to pass along to you some tips for getting through a migration:

  • “That’s a bug!” is a good thing. Both Debra and my boss, Amy De Groff, have helped me to see this one. At first I felt like “Oh great, another problem.” But now I can see what they see “Oh great, we can fix it!” Lesson being that the first step to fixing any problem is recognizing what it is. Once you can do that fixing is easy.
  • Collaboration eases any burden. Many of the things we had grown to expect from previous software weren’t part of Koha. Nice thing is since it is open source anyone can contribute to the success of Koha. Better yet, find another library (or 2) that want the same functionality as you and share the cost. Collaborating not only is a great way to give back to the community (as well as have another set of eyes give you a different perspective) but it eases the burden of cost.
  • Ask, don’t assume. We all know the old adage “Don’t assume because you make an ass out of U and Me”. Ask about everything, don’t assume you know the answer or that someone will think you silly for asking. Nothing is too small or too large. If we hadn’t asked some of the questions we did we may have never figured out some of our problems were caused by us.
  • Take your time. An old boss of mine used to drill into our heads “With accuracy, comes speed”. That is true with migrating as well. Don’t hesitate to say this is going too fast. Don’t hesitate to say you want to do it right and being rushed only stresses everyone. Stressed staff make more mistakes. By stepping back and examining things we slowed down and we now feel when we roll this out it will be a really great product instead of something we just rushed out. This will be a ILS system we can be proud of.
  • Reach out. Whether you have the benefit of the open source community or a list of other libraries using your vendor – reach out to them. This one didn’t come easy to me at first. I’ve exchanged several emails with the aforementioned Darrell Ulm. He has pointed out somethings. All the experts in the world are great but talking to someone who uses the product is invaluable. He also reminded me of the next tip.
  • Stay calm. This wasn’t always easy but Darrell was right, panic never helps anything. He shared that he had his share of panic about his migration and it actually set him back at times. He said that Liblime pulled through their migration quite well. Staying calm helps to keep things in perspective. So if you need help, follow my next tip.
  • Step back every so often. I found myself getting so wrapped up in Koha that I couldn’t focus on much else. I was coming home exhausted, going to bed early and arriving the next morning no more rested than I had been the night before. I insisted one night that my husband and I turn off the tv, unplug the computer and sit outside in front of a roaring fire in our chimenea. It recharged my batteries and gave me a clear head to face things the next day. Do what you need to do to step back and recharge.

So if you are going through a migration, I hope my tips have helped. I’d love to hear some more tips that helped or are helping you to get through.

Kicking and Screaming

Well thanks to strangelibrarian for tagging me on this my 2nd Meme (1st one was actually my first blog post). Interesting how a comment on FriendFeed takes on life of it’s own.

Funny I’ve told the story many times about how I got started here at Howard County Library but it wasn’t until this that I really thought about it. So here goes it….

I was born a poor black child….wait, that isn’t right.

It was a dark and stormy night……hmm, that doesn’t quite sound right either.

Like many of my fellow library workers, I suspect, my road to Librarydom started with a love of reading. As an only child it was often up to me to entertain myself and I often turned to books. I was definitely a fiction reader from early on but I also know I spent time scouring through our bicentennial editon of World Book encyclopedia. My folks also had a collection of medical encyclopedia’s put out by Reader’s Digest. The thought of that makes me laugh now. I know I often went to it as a teen who was too afraid to admit ignorance to my parents or peers and actually did find some good info in that collection. So basically everything from Dr. Seuss to World Book encyclopedia was devoured.

Then in middle school I had the opportunity to be a library aide. I can’t remember how I got asked to do that just remember shelving materials during lunch time.

Forward a bit to my 16th year and my Mother literally forcing me to apply for a page position (yes, we called them pages then – god knows what they are now they’ve been called many things over the years) at the Long Reach branch of the Howard County Library. I always tell this part as “she took me kickng and screaming…” which isn’t too far from the truth. Ironically my straight A student next door neighbor also applied for the job. Somehow my experience as a library aide in middle school must have given me an in because I got the job.

I was convinced that only the nerds, geeks, losers of high school worked at the *gasp* library. Back in that day there was actually more prestige associated with working at McDonald’s than at a library. However, my first day at work changed my opinion of libraries for good. The senior class clown was there working in my branch. How could someone that cool work at the library? Hmm, maybe this wasn’t such a bad place after all.

Forward about 7 years after I had left my page position at the library I find myself answering an ad for Circulation Technician. Wet behind the ears, I find myself dealing with the normal first job issues including having an elderly gentleman have a heart attack, fall to the floor and die on my desk shift. Ah, just another day in the life of a library.

A few years later I took a position as the Evening Supervisor. Basically was in charge of keeping the pages (then called something else forget just what) in line on nights and weekends. Some of the kids were really motivated and great workers. As usual the slackers were the ones that made my life hell. Not sure I was the best suited for that job and the hours soon wore on me. At the end of my stint doing that I found myself back in college and planning a wedding. Talk about stress.

Within 2 years I entered into a job share position and had to step down a level but it was worth it as I was a new mother and it afforded me time home with my son. Just before he entered kindergarten I went back full time. Within a few months I was able to move back up to my previous level as Senior Circulation Assistant.

During this time I had managed to learn quite a bit about our ILS system and was often the go-to girl for other staff. I had worked off and on in Interlibrary loan during the years so when a full time position in ILL became open, I went for it. It was perfect timing for me as in the 6 years I spent in ILL I learned 3 different ILL systems (AutoGraphics, Sails which went on to become Marina (URSA from SirsiDynix), and OCLC passport). As someone who loves variety, loves to learn, likes to just get in there and get her hands dirty and learn my years in ILL were filled with many new learning moments.

Then it looked like the face of ILL was going to change so I applied for a position in Automation. Luckily they wanted me for it (as I didn’t have ALL the requirements for the job) but my thorough knowledge of our then ILS system was in my favor. Again, the opportunity to learn more about our ILS system (classic Dynix) plus a whole new department gave me many years of learning enjoyment.

Then the migration to Horizon came which was MORE than a learning experience for me. But it opened a new opportunity – training. I had done a few training sessions on our email clients (Netscape, Thunderbird, Webmail) but now I got offer classes on how to use Windows and Horizon. I stumbled upon an area that I was good at and really enjoyed. Funny, when I first started my library path I never would have envisioned training being part of my future.

Shortly after our migration to Horizon, the Automation department joined with the rest of IT and I got a new boss. Again I found that my job gave me variety and plenty of opportunity for me to learn but to also help others learn. My new title reflected that – Coordinator of Software Support and Training. More classes were offered (RSS feeds, how to use our new Linux OS, Groovix, on our PACs, AquaBrowser) as well as written instructions and FAQs.

I was then given the awesome task of recreating our staff Intranet using Joomla! So again, I got to learn something new, get in and get my hands dirty (oh you are suppose to read manuals? Nah!) and loved every minute of it. I’ve now brought up 3 other sites on Joomla! and continue to learn about the product as well as good web practices. This opened another path for me – web design. Well not quite that good but it enabled me to work with our web programmer on our new website. If I was only half as cool or knew half as much as he does I’d be happy. But I learned so much and appreciated his patience with such a web neophyte.

Now as we migrate to Koha I have another opportunity to learn and train. I’ll be working with one of our librarians to help create the training modules used for our staff. We will first look at the work flow issues in each department and how they do it now. I’m looking forward to that as well as eventually working on YakPac.

My next new learning moment for me will come this fall when I branch out from training staff to our customers. I will be giving my first class for customers on Web 2.0 this fall. I designed a 5 part series with the help of other web 2.0 enthused staff – overview (my part), wikis, photo sharing, social networking, and audio streaming. I hope to bring my love of Web 2.0 to our customers and help them to understand and navigate the web a bit better.

The future holds, I hope, more opportunity to grow, learn and be able to give back to others the knowledge I’ve gained.

Okay, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Now it’s your turn – so I tag the following:

Theycallmetater (whom I work with)

Library Trainer (who I’ve not met in person but would love to hear her story)

Greg Schwartz (who I’ve not met in person but had interesting email exchange and love his show Uncontrolled Vocabulary)

almostBaldGeekinMd (who I’ve met in person and worked with virtually) who was also tagged by strangelibrarian (so maybe we can tag team him?)

One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap for Open Source

Oh I feel so vindicated right now.  For the Doubting Thomas among you, this one’s for you.

I received an email alert “Due to incompatibility issues between the new version of Marina and Internet Explorer, please use Mozilla Firefox for your Marina requests.”  Marina is our state’s version of URSA a product provided by SirsiDynix.  SirsiDynix really seems to love Microsoft products so the irony of this is not lost on me.

I imagine libraries all over the state of Maryland are scrambling to install Firefox on their PACs so their customers can submit their interlibrary loan requests.  Ah, not at the Howard County Library.  We ONLY use Firefox and have for many years.  So for all of those customers and staff members that worried that Firefox couldn’t do what Internet Explorer could, I salute you.  You were right.  It can’t do what Internet Explorer does – it can’t install malware, spyware and the ilk, it can’t have problems with pages that are written with bad code, and it can’t not submit an ILL request through Marina.  Gosh, what a horrible browser it must be.

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