What’s Up with Windows 10?

windows-10-logoWindows 10 was released at the end of July, though you have probably been hearing about it for much longer than that.  Even if you haven’t been keeping up on tech news, Windows 7 and 8 users will have noticed an icon on their desktops urging them to reserve their free upgrade.  Microsoft states that this will be the last operating system they release.  Going forward, Windows will provide all updates free of charge and do away with supporting multiple operating systems.  In fact, some users will be forced to install updates whether they want to or not.  While this will be helpful from a security and support standpoint, it could spell trouble if any of those updates go awry.  If you have a genuine copy of Windows 7 or later, upgrading to Windows 10 will be free for a year.  After that, you may need to pay for the upgrade.  However, to clarify, there will be no charges after upgrading to Windows 10.  Some readers have seen “free for a year” and assumed that Microsoft would start charging Windows 10 users after a year.  That is not the case.

There is a lot of information about Windows 10 out there, and I have done my best to sort through it and provide links to some of the more helpful resources available.

Because of third-party software concerns, the library will not be upgrading its public computers to Windows 10 for some time yet.  However, I am planning to upgrade one of our staff computers in order to test the new operating system and help me answer questions patrons might have about their computers and other devices.  If you have any questions or comments regarding Windows 10, we’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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New Tech in the Library

upgrade

Thanks to a generous grant from the Friends of the East Greenbush Community Library, we have been able to replace some of the outdated technology in the library.

Monitors

If you have used any of our public computers in the last several years, you know that the square, analog monitors were not keeping pace with the way modern video and web content is displayed.  Some patrons also complained that the refresh rate was causing visible flickering on the screen.  We were able to replace all of the monitors at the public computers with digital, widescreen LED monitors.  In addition to improved display, these models are much more energy efficient than their predecessors.  This should save the library money in the long run.

Tech Cart in Meeting Rooms A and B

If you have recently attended a program in meeting rooms A and/or B that required A/V equipment, you may have noticed that the tech cart boasted an ancient LCD projector (for which they no longer make replacement bulbs) and a DVD/VCR combo.  The Friends helped us to purchase a new, more energy efficient DLP projector which projects a very clear image that can be seen on the wall at any lighting level.  We took this opportunity to replace the DVD/VCR with a Blu-ray player, which still supports DVDs.  Because the projector supports HDMI inputs, watching a Blu-ray using the projector is a much higher quality visual experience than watching a VHS tape with the old projector.  This should make the next movie festival much more enjoyable!

We hope you enjoy these improvements to the library.  What would you like to see next?  Let us know in the comments.

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Android Security Gets Stagefright

androidA new and nasty vulnerability in the Android operating system, dubbed “Stagefright”, has recently come to light.  Initially, it was reported that this bug would allow a hacker to gain control of an Android device with only a text message.  Once in your phone, a hacker could steal or take over anything on your device and then infect everyone in your contacts.  Until device manufacturers and wireless carriers can issue a fix, Android users were advised to disable the setting to “automatically retrieve” MMS messages in their texting app and Google Hangouts.

A week later, it was reported that the infection could not only arrive via text, but could also be embedded in any number of apps or websites just lying in wait.  Because the bug is surrounded by “safe coding”, security software will not necessarily catch it.

The good news is, lots of people are working on fixing this.  In fact, Samsung and Sprint have already worked together to release a fix for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.  Unfortunately, their fix only works on that device.  Many more fixes will need to be generated and pushed out to patch up the nearly 950 million vulnerable Android devices out there.  If you are an Android user, be on the lookout for available updates for your device.

For more information about Stagefright, Fortune.com has an excellent article and Q&A on the subject.

Has your device been infected?  Tell us about it in the comments.

 

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Library Software Upgrade Report

SierraencoreWelcome to my long overdue update on the software situation in the library.  Since our library system (UHLS) moved to a new library management software at the end of March, the system’s techies have been working hard to get the kinks out of the new system.  Believe it or not, there are still several modules and functions that are still being configured.  The purpose of this post is to let you know which issues are still outstanding and where to get help if you need it.

1.  Notifications

Some people are still experiencing minor issues receiving their notifications.  Most commonly, emails are not received.  Make sure to check your spam folder.  Even if you have already “rescued” a library email from your spam folder and marked the sender safe, emails can come from different library email addresses.  You may need to add several addresses to your email whitelist before the emails will stop going to junk mail.  If you are not receiving notifications and you have already checked your spam folder, please contact the library and let us know.

Some patrons have pointed out that phone notifications do not mention the library where their items are being held.  This can be an issue for power users who pick up items at multiple locations.  At this time, there is no fix for this issue.  We suggest that patrons who are unsure where their items are being held login to the online catalog and click their name in the upper right corner of the screen.  On the left menu of the next screen, select “holds.”  Any items showing “ready for pickup” under status will also list a pickup location.

2. Prompts to request specific items

In some cases, when requesting an item, a patron is prompted to request a specific copy of an item, even though all of the copies are the same.  This is a cataloging issue that all of the libraries are working to fix.  Reports of this issue are few and far between, but it still happens.

3. Blocked from placing a hold

On our previous system, patrons with outstanding charges on their library cards could place holds on items and would be prompted to pay down their fees when checking out an item.  The new system no longer allows holds for any card not in good standing.  Unfortunately, we cannot control this.  If you are blocked from placing a hold, call the Reference Desk (477-7476, option 4) and we can override this restriction and place the hold for you.

4.  Checking out an OverDrive item through the library catalog

Previously, we had two separate catalogs for our physical items (books, CDs, DVDs, etc.) and digital items (OverDrive).  While the two separate catalogs still exist, our new library catalog contains our digital items as well as physical.  You can even check out and download most digital titles without leaving the catalog!  To test this, search the catalog for a title.  In the left menu, look under “format.”  If the item is available as a downloadable audiobook or e-book, there will be options for “downloadable e-book” or “downloadable audiobook.”  You may need to click “more” to see all available formats.  format

If you are looking for a magazine or streaming video, the format categories are less helpful.  Downloadable magazines show up as “downloadable e-books” and streaming videos show up as “DVDs.”  Check the individual record for more clarification:

checkoutvideoIf you click on “Check out with OverDrive”, you will be prompted to sign in if you haven’t already.  Then a window will pop up confirming checkout:

odcheckoutAfter you select “check out”, you can immediately download the title by selecting “Get eBook” if you are using the device you would like to read/watch on.

downloadOtherwise, you can download it later by logging into your account in the OverDrive catalog.  Occasionally, an error message will display, and you will need to go to the OverDrive catalog and sign in to download, anyway.  We’re working on that, too.

error5.  New item notification

We had more direct control over our last system, which allowed UHLS to create add-ons that would use the power of our library catalog to provide extra features for patrons.  One of these add-ons was the ability to subscribe to a “New Items” feed.  This feed would notify subscribers when a new item was added to the catalog.  The popularity of this feature was made clear to us by patrons who were very frustrated when it disappeared.  UHLS knows how much patrons want this feature, and they are working to bring it back.  Because there are still some higher priority bugs to work out with the everyday functioning of the catalog, this feature may need to be on the back burner for a while.  However, it is definitely on the to-do list.

6.  Getting help

We have created several types of training resources to help you navigate our new catalog. Our Online Catalog Help page includes short videos and text instructions for common tasks, as well as a print-friendly (PDF) guide to using your library account online.  Of course, if you’d rather get assistance from a live person, our reference librarians are always happy to help.  Give us a call (518-477-7476, option 4) or stop by at your convenience.

Again, we’d like to thank all of our patrons for their patience and understanding during this time of transition.  What are your thoughts on the new catalog?  Have you discovered a bug not discussed here?  Let us know in the comments.

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The New Catalog – Week 1

encore

What’s Encore?

Last week, the Upper Hudson Library System (UHLS) upgraded its catalog and patron management software.  We were unable to remain with the old software, as the vendor had stopped supporting it years ago and it was really showing its age by failing in critical ways.  Moving to a new library management software is an enormous project that takes lots of planning and configuration.  In fact, the project has several phases, and it will remain ongoing for several months.  While the new software has many exciting features for both patrons and staff, many of them are not yet available and will roll out over time.

Phase One Complete

Because this was not simply an upgrade to our current software, but changing software entirely, much of the battle here was getting the data from our current system to move successfully and meaningfully to the new system.  I won’t bore you with the details, but at times this can be like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

The priority for our first day working live in the new system was to make sure that we could check items in and out and they would attach/remove appropriately with a patron’s account.  Now we are identifying glitches that may have occurred in translation (a.k.a. stuff that got lost or broken in the move) and working to fix them.  If you believe something may be amiss with your patron account (lost requests, inability to login to your account, etc.), please let us know ASAP so we can investigate and fix the issue.

Getting Help with the New System

Another part of phase one of the project is staff and patron education.  The library staff has been trained on the new software, but it will take time for us to get used to using it.  We truly appreciate your patience, as transactions at the checkout desk and information desk may take longer than usual.  If you would like help searching the catalog or managing your account, please see our catalog help page for videos, text, and a printable guide, or our YouTube channel for videos only.  If you would prefer to walk through the new catalog with a librarian, please visit the reference desk, and we’ll be happy to show you the finer points of the new catalog and answer any questions you may have.

Phase Two Underway

The next part of the project is to integrate the new software with our other library software and turn on additional features.  Here are some examples:

  • We have integrated our online article subscriptions (databases) with the catalog, making it possible to search for digital newspaper, magazine, and journal articles right alongside our physical books, music and movies.  Unfortunately, there is still a bit of an issue getting these articles to display consistently when accessed through the catalog.  Until we work this out, you can search the databases separately from our online resources page.
  • OverDrive, our service for downloading books, audiobooks, magazines and streaming video, is currently partially integrated into the catalog.  Some, but not all, titles show up with links that will open the separate OverDrive catalog for checkout.  In the coming weeks, a feature will become available that will show all current OverDrive titles and allow you to check them out without ever leaving the main catalog!
  • Libraries that use software for managing public computers, printing, self-check machines, and point-of-sale systems (taking payments) are working to make sure that this third party software communicates effectively with the new system.  At the East Greenbush Community Library, these particular services are up and running.  Your experience may vary at other libraries.

Known Issues

Aside from the issues above, the following missing features have been brought to our attention.  Issues we may be able to fix have been submitted to UHLS support.

  • The My Account login page does not offer an option to save your barcode. This has been addressed.  There is now a check box you can click if you would like the browser to remember your barcode.
  • The New Items feed is no longer available.  We are aware of how important this feature is to our patrons, but are unsure if this can be configured as part of the new system.  It is on the list of features to explore.
  • When viewing the catalog in the Internet Explorer browser, the input fields on the login page are too short (though they do accept a full barcode), and sometimes the popup windows become transparent and don’t respond to clicks.  So far, we have only seen these issues in IE.  If you experience these issues, we recommend using an alternate browser, such as Firefox or Chrome.

We Appreciate Your Feedback

As always, your feedback on the new system is important to us.  We want to make sure your library experience is a positive one.  In the first week, we received a lot of feedback at our service desks, which helped us report issues we may not have seen otherwise.  Have questions or comments about the new system?  Please let us know in the comments below.

 

 

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Suspended Requests

suspendedIf you have placed a request on an item in our catalog, you may have noticed that your request was automatically suspended.  This is a temporary measure to ensure that the migration to our new catalog software goes smoothly.  By temporarily suspending requests until we go live on the new software, we will reduce the likelihood that items will get lost in transit during the change.  Your requests will automatically reactivate when we go live with the new system on 3/31/15.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

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Breaking News – Due Dates Changed

DateDueIn the last few days, some of you may have checked out materials from our library that were set to be due between 3/27 and 3/31/15.  In order to make the library software upgrade run more smoothly, the due dates on these items has been automatically changed to 4/1/15.  Please note that if you checked your item out from a different location, your modified due date may vary.

If you have a question about when your item is due, you can check your account online (your library card number is the Borrower ID, and if you haven’t changed it, your PIN is the last four digits of the phone number in your account) or call the library at 518-477-7476.

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Library Software Upgrade: What You Need to Know

past and future sign postAs I mentioned in my previous post, the Upper Hudson Library System is upgrading its catalog and patron management database.  The new software, named Sierra for staff and Encore for patrons, has some great features that we are very excited to offer.  As with any software migration (I’m not being overly dramatic – it’s an industry term), there will be some major differences between how the system runs currently and how it will run after we go live on the new system.

In my last post, I focused on some of the new features Encore will have for patrons.  This post is dedicated to the issues you need to know about, actions you may need to take to preserve your account information, and the timing of planned interruptions in service.

New Rules and Actions You May Need to Take

  • With our current system, patrons can suspend a request for an item if they want to place a request but make sure the item doesn’t show up when they cannot pick it up.  In Encore, patrons can only suspend (now called freeze) a request if there are no checked in items at any location to fill the hold.  In order to time future requests, we suggest patrons use the new “Reading List” feature when logged into their account in Encore.
  • If you currently have suspended requests in your account, they will be activated automatically when we move to the new software on 3/31.  You will need to either re-freeze the items or move them to your reading list.
  • Currently, if your account is not in good standing for any reason (too many fines, too many overdue items, expired card, etc.), you are blocked from checking out physical items and using our computers.  In the future, you will be blocked from ALL functions, including downloading digital items, placing requests, registering for events using your library card, and using online resources that require you to enter your library card number.  We would have preferred to keep the old policy, but this is one way in which the new software is inflexible.
  • If you have an email address configured in your account, you can have your checkout receipt emailed to you rather than printed.
  • Items currently saved in patron accounts under “My Lists” will NOT be moved to the new system.  If you save items there, print or email yourself the list prior to 3/27 in order to preserve it.
  • There is a chance that you may need to reset your PIN on the new system.  In the future, library staff will not be able to see patron PIN information in plain text in a patron account.  Staff will be able to reset a PIN, but not determine a current PIN.

Important Dates

  • 3/16/15 – We will pause taking requests for materials until we go live on the new system (3/31).  This will help us minimize errors with items in transit and on hold for patrons during the move.  Traditionally, this is where most of the errors in transition would be.
  • 3/27/15 – We will pause taking new patron registrations and item renewals.  We will resume registering patrons and renewing items on 3/31.
  • 3/30/15 – All UHLS libraries will be offline.  Patrons will be able to check out physical materials (with library cards only – no Driver’s Licenses will be accepted on this day), but digital downloads will not be available.  Also, other online resources that require a library card number will not be available.  Item check-in, fine/fee payment, card signup/replacement, and any other in-person or online account management services will need to wait until we go live with the new system on 3/31.  There will be a procedure in place so that public computers can still be used, and our “old” catalog will still be available for reference at http://vufind.uhls.org, though item status will be out of date.

Questions?

If all goes smoothly, the libraries will be live on the new system when we open for business on 3/31.  It is unlikely that online services will be restored before that.  Of course, with a project this size we expect some glitches, but we will do our best to keep our users informed of any changes in the plan along the way.  If you have questions, let me know in the comments and I will do my best to find answers for you.

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Ch-Ch-Changes

street sign labeled change aheadThough this blog has been quiet for a while, big changes are happening behind the scenes in the Upper Hudson Library System.  UHLS includes all of the public libraries in Albany and Rensselaer Counties, and we are all working together toward a giant change in how our system is managed.

Currently, the libraries use a software named Horizon to manage all of our patron and item data.  This software is at the core of all of our online functions and sharing capabilities.  We are excited to announce that last year, the system voted to move to a new library management software – Sierra and its public-facing catalog Encore. Sierra/Encore is a newer system with a much more robust set of features for both staff and patrons.  The change is currently set to happen at the end of March, though that may change as the deadline gets closer.

While migration from one software to another happens fairly regularly in libraries, it is still an enormous undertaking.  Because terminology and functionality differ between the two programs, you would not believe how many things need to be considered, planned for, tested, and checked over and over!  We are doing our best to think of everything, but there are bound to be some glitches along the way.  Even if the transition is completely smooth, the new software will probably need to be tweaked for a few weeks while we get it customized just right.  Whenever possible, we will alert patrons of outages and issues as soon as possible on our website, Facebook and Twitter locations.  Your patience is very much appreciated.  As always, we welcome your feedback on the new system once we get it in place.

Here are some new features that will come with Sierra:

  • OverDrive integration – checkout and download our online materials right from the catalog
  • Option to email receipts/date due slips instead of printing
  • Option for SMS (text) notifications [edit 3/5: This feature will not be available when we go live on 3/31, but will be implemented soon thereafter.]
  • More reliable electronic notifications
  • Option to save your checkout history
  • Option to tag catalog items and search by tag
  • Better mobile interface
  • Enhanced account security – this will likely require a new PIN, but we are not 100% sure.

Please note: patrons who use the My List feature in our current catalog will need to print their list(s) or email to themselves before the software change happens.  My List items will not be transferred to Sierra.

If you have questions about the new system, please post them in the comments below.

 

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Device Chargers Have Arrived!

These days, we depend on our portable devices for just about everything.  When they get low on juice, panic sets in.  Even if you can find an outlet, do you have your charging cord?  You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this often happens to people at the library.  Now we have a solution!

Thanks to a generous grant from the Friends of the East Greenbush Community Library, we were able to purchase two device charging stations for the library that include charging cords that will fit most mainstream devices (Apple Lightning, Apple 30-pin, and MicroUSB).  If you have your own cord, you can also plug into a USB port or one of the additional electrical ports on the box.

If you would like to try out one of the device chargers, here is where you can find them…

Youth Services:

Charger on counter

Playroom in Youth Services

Adult Services (main area):

Device charger on laptop cart

Current location: laptop cart behind reference

ASfuture

Future location: seating area near music

In the main area of the library, we were hoping to put the charger near the music area.  Unfortunately, we discovered that the outlet is dead.  Until we can get that fixed,  the charger temporarily lives on the laptop cart behind the reference desk.  [Update:  The charger is now located in the music area.]  As a reminder, please do not leave your device unattended while charging.  The library is not responsible for lost or stolen items.

We hope you find the new service useful.  Let us know what you think in the comments!

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