Posts Tagged ‘Receipt Printers’

OMR (March 26, 2007)

Monday, March 26th, 2007

What I Did On My Spring Break!

As you can imagine, the highest priority for my household over Spring Break was to unpack and get settled.  Well, one out of two isn’t too bad, right?  We ran out of week before we ran out of boxes.  Be that as it may, life in one home, as opposed to two, is decidedly more settled! 

Catch a Synopsis of the De Lange Conference on Emerging Libraries

I mentioned in the last edition of OMR that I’d be blogging during the conference I attended.  If you didn’t read it then, you still may at http://www.tcwhq.com/wp/.  I have one more session to summarize and I’ll be adding some thoughts of my own after having digested the content.  My colleague and friend, Pat Ensor from the University of Houston Downtown, also added her take on the conference to the LITA Blog (http://litablog.org/2007/03/08/de-lange-conference-on-emerging-libraries-notes-part-1/).

Highlights of Current Activity

  • Preparing for Voyager upgrade.
  • Finalizing circ receipt printing project.
  • Configuring and testing ExtremeSearch (UA Libraries Webfeat implementation).
  • Planning for the Gorgas Learning Commons.
  • Participating in space planning activities.
  • Working with Cynthia Miller to migrate the streaming music reserves from pilot to production.
  • Supporting the Courier Service Pilot Project.
  • Budgeting for IT expenses.

Short and Sweet This Week

I’ve been in a variety of meetings this past week.  Next week I promise some meatier issues!  Until then, ….

OMR (March 5, 2007)

Monday, March 5th, 2007

On the Home Front(s)

Everything is packed and loaded, the truck is on the road.  Soon my house in Tuscaloosa will become a home with Janet joining me in a week and our worldly possessions arriving all neatly boxed and padded.  It was a busy week sorting, deciding, tossing, giving away, and saying goodbye.  We have been fortunate that our house sold fairly quickly.  The closing was on Wednesday; it is now in the hands of a nice couple who appreciated the work we had done to make it livable.  And now, we open a new chapter in our lives.  

Did You Miss OMR Last Week?

Well, not to worry, this week I have a special edition, portions coming live from Houston where I’m attending the De Lange Conference on Emerging Libraries.  I will be adding comments to my blog during the conference (http://www.tcwhq.com/wp/).  I also hope to create some brief podcast interviews with people at the conference.  While I’ve done the backroom work on podcasts previously, I’ve not actually created or guided the content for one.  So, this will be a learning experience for me as well. 

Seasons for Change

I’d like to clarify two areas in which we are adjusting our practice: cycles of computer replacements and procedures for handling computers at end of the day/week. 

Replacement Cycles

For some time the Libraries have attempted to replace computers on a three-year cycle.  While this is a laudable effort, as the overall number of devices increases, it is becoming more challenging to devote resources just for replacement, and it is not clear that replacement is truly needed at that frequency. 

There are a variety of arguments that can be made concerning the optimal replacement cycle length, but no standards exist in the industry, other than a general notion that we should do it as we are able—the shorter, the better within reason.  Two guiding principles are common in large organizations: (1) make sure that people are able to use the tools they need to fulfill their responsibilities, and (2) balance cost of replacement with cost of maintenance. 

As processor speeds have exceeded 2.0 GHz (technical measurement of the clock speed of a computer’s main chip), most desktop application needs are met.  Performance bottlenecks occur at other places in the computer that are not as affected by prolific generations of processor improvements.  That is to say that holding onto a computer for another year would not likely generate a noticeable performance loss and would support applying our IT resources more evenly and predictably over four years.  In the event that there are an increase in failures in the fourth year, we will have spare computers and parts on hand to keep everyone up and running. 

By moving to a four-year replacement cycle the Libraries will be able to budget a similar amount each year for these replacements, approximately $188,000.  Consistent budget amounts support better planning.  As we plan to replace a similar number of computers in each of four years, we will need to adjust how we select computers for replacement.  In the past the three categories were: public, staff, laptops.  With the new plan we will be selecting computers based on relative age.  It will take once through the new cycle to get the process completely on track.   

To Leave On Or Not To Leave On, That Is The Question

OLT has asked in the past that you shut down your computers at the end of your work day.  Our needs have changed, and now we ask that you change your procedures.  We now want you to logout at the end of your work day, but not to shut down.  At the end of your work week, we want you to continue to shut down your computers. 

The rationale: There are times when we need to update the computers on your desks at off-hours so as not to disrupt your work.  If your computer is off, we cannot access it.  By having them on, we are able to keep the computer configurations up-to-date.  At the same time, computer performance benefits from completely cycling off from time-to-time (electron deprivation therapy).  Thus, we want you to shut down your computer once a week. 

We know that you may be concerned about additional electricity consumption.  By leaving your computer on, it will, of course, consume more electricity than if it were turned off, but in sleep mode, which will be achieved over night, the amount is negligible.  In order to minimize electricity consumption, please turn your monitor off when you leave for the day. 

As we should with all things we do, OLT will be assessing the effectiveness of these changes over time to ensure that needs are being met.  If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Todd or me.

Highlights of Current Activity

  • Expanding availability of the SciFinder software.
  • Testing receipt printing for Circulation.

OMR (February 19, 2007)

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Nurturing My Inner Historian

One of the things I love about being part of an academic community is the opportunity to attend various colloquia.  As you may recall, most of my academic background is in ancient history, so I was thrilled to be able to catch a couple of the lectures in this year’s Robel Lecture Series, “(Mis)interpretations East West: Representations of China, Japan and the West.”  While my own specialization was in the 5th century BCE Greek interaction with the Ancient Near East, I had the good fortune of being required to study other regions and times as well.  So, I chose China through the Qing Dynasty, Japan through the late 19th century, and Russia roughly 1820 through 1970. 

I cannot convey all the subtleties of these fine scholars in just form, but I came away with a greater appreciation of the relationship between self-identity and the definition of “the other” as a decidedly multi-cultural phenomenon.  Our representations of “the other”—the foreigner, whatever that may mean in a given context—reveal much about us and are just that: representations, facsimiles, approximations, used for some purpose.  Whether the tension is between Chinese natives and foreign missionaries, eastern and western memes, or modern individuality and traditional culture, demonizing occurs in all directions in history and in our lives. 

So how does this relate to libraries in the twenty-first century?  I can’t help but wonder if we often think of students and faculty as “the other”—people unschooled in the finer library arts, unaccustomed to the ways of information, those unfortunate souls who have not been acculturated into the library ethos.  And more to the point, how then do we treat them?  Or plan services around them?  If, as has frequently been the case in the histories outlined in this symposium, we seek limited, prescribed, or no contact, do we not fall prey to Kipling’s ironic “never the twain shall meet”?  How do we represent the libraries to the campus?  How do we talk of the campus amongst ourselves?  How does the concept of “the other” play out in our daily work with each other from different library departments or units?

Although it is difficult to get to know “the other,” Mark Unno, one of the visiting scholars at the symposium, reminded us that we need to be epistemologically aware, to be about building bridges, not just theories.  That contact is our hope, and that contact is transformative. 

Congratulations to Jeremy Tillis

Jeremy has been promoted to a Computer Support Technician II.  We are grateful for the excellent support that Jeremy has provided and look forward to working with him in this expanded capacity.  Next time you see him, give a pat on the back. 

Extended Warranty on Motherboards

As some of you may know, we have experienced an unusual amount of motherboard (the innards of a computer) failures in a certain Dell computer model.  Dell had been replacing the motherboards as they fail, but some of these systems will be going off warranty soon.  As this failure is a known problem, Dell agreed to extend the motherboard warranty on the remaining computers of this model until 5 years or January 31, 2008 whichever comes first.  Thanks to Todd for working this out. 

Try First, Adjust Later

Somehow it seems a bit risky to suggest that less may be more when it comes to planning…at least in technological terms.  We want to be efficient, save money, maximize utility, get the most bang-for-the-buck: all worthy goals to be sure.  But what if in developing or implementing some new technology we could not know what we needed to know or how to plan for it unless or until we had some experience and feedback?  Unless we risked failure in order to discover what works and what doesn’t?  Ever design something, and nobody used it?  Some times when we build it, they don’t come! 

Libraries in general have a long history of creating important resources and services to connect people with information, knowledge, experience, and culture.  Over the past century, libraries have reinvented themselves many times to meet the needs of contemporary users.  And until fairly recently, libraries in many cases have been lead organizations in providing access to resources and services to the communities they serve. 

We now face a particularly vexing challenge: We are being asked to keep pace with competitors who have access to much greater resources than we have.  The Amazons and Googles of the world have hundreds of millions of dollars to throw at a variety of problems that we may not even know exist.  And here we are at the University of Alabama Libraries with slightly more modest means at our disposal.  What’s a good librarian to do! 

One of the most significant resources that we can possess to the same degree as the largest of other organizations is the attitude implied in the heading for this section.  If we let go of the need to get a project right the first time out the door and allow ourselves the opportunity to tap into the demonstrated needs of our constituents, we will have access to a resource much more valuable than mere money.  (You think I should be on late night TV, right?)

Risky, you say.  You bet your sweet bum it is, but much less risky than continuing to design things in a vacuum or according to what people say they want, never delivering until the outcome is perfect…which it never will be.  Always a day (or decade) late and many features short.  I’m talking revolutionary thinking and approach.  Consider: Norman, D. A. (1990).  The Design of Everyday Things, and stay tuned for more. 

Highlights of Current Activity

  • Upgrading CONTENTdm.
  • Experimenting with receipt printers.
  • Planning for Gorgas Learning Commons.
  • Planning for production level streaming music reserves.
  • Planning for Eugene Smith digital library grant project. 

OMR (February 12, 2007)

Monday, February 12th, 2007

Guess I’m Here for Real

Well, I am now a proud owner of an Alabama driver’s license and tags.  Although I ended up visiting three locations to complete the process, all of the people I encountered were very pleasant and helpful.  It was a good reminder that life is just too short to be rude!

Coming Soon to a Circulation Desk Near You

To assist our users in tracking their checked-in items if they so wish, we will soon be installing receipt printers at each of the Libraries’ circulation desks and turning on the option to print receipts.  Once in there are in place, anyone returning items to a circ desk may request a receipt for each of the items returned.  People may still return things to any of the drop boxes if they do not wish to obtain a receipt.  This new service is for users who wish to have the ability to prove they returned an item to the Libraries.  Appropriate notification signage will be created for each of the drop box locations.  Stay tuned for more info.

Need to Know Basis

Did you know that OLT requires termination and job change information for Library employees?  Yes, it is true, here’s why: When we create accounts for Library employees, they are able to access resources (e.g., shared network file space, Voyager modules, Intranet, software, etc.) according to the permissions granted to them.  If they leave the organization, they should no longer have access to these resources.  Keep in mind that access to these resources does not necessarily require one to be physically in one of our libraries on a staff workstation.  Even if a person moves to a new department, we would likely need to adjust what s/he has access to.  And we would not want to inadvertently delete someone’s account by thinking that s/he had left the organization, when, in fact, s/he has simply moved to another unit.  Help us stay on top of our accounts.  We’re really not trying to make life more difficult by requiring the use of the “Security Delete Authorization Form” which is available on the Intranet.  Thanks for your assistance. 

New Intel Chip Design

Intel has announced their work on a massively multi-cored processor.  You may have heard of “dual core” technology; that’s when there is the equivalent of two processors on one chip in a computer.  Today Intel is demonstrating an experimental chip with 80 separate processing engines on the computer chip.  Technology marches on!  In a nutshell, this means that much more computing power can reside in an increasingly smaller area.  You may be thinking, “So what?  Hasn’t this been happening since the dawn of technological time?”  And you would be correct, except that recently some concerns have been expressed about reaching the physical limits of our ability to manufacture higher densities of transistors on a very small scale. 

So, this event, on the one hand, is really nothing more than a confirmation that Intel has successfully devised a new manufacturing technique which was announced last month.  But to limit our understanding to just that, would be to miss something else important.  While I don’t know that this step forward would qualify as a quantum leap, it is significant in that the process ups the number of transistors by at least two orders of magnitude which in itself probably breathes another five to ten years into the process of continuing to reduce the size of transistors and to increase the computational power of chips.  In essence, Moore’s Law continues.  What’s more, these chips consume less power (a green idea) and, in this particular case, can operate as air cooled, rather than requiring special coolant (another very green idea). 

But, as with most good news in life, there are also challenges.  For example, this demonstration, while impressive, is not a complete system ready to tackle real computational work.  That will come in time, however.  The biggest challenge is figuring out how to program these chips for applications that will perform worthwhile functions.  That, too, I suppose will come in time. 

So, what does this mean for us today in Tuscaloosa?  Well, don’t plan on performing 3-D weather simulations on your desktop just yet.  And more processors will not make the catalog run any faster…well not much anyway.  This progress does, however, at least in theory, move us ever closer to being able to work on computationally intensive functions such as image, sound, and video processing at lower price points.  No, not better home movies, but automated video editing, digital motion capture, blending real-time and synthesized video, recognition systems, data mining applications, and correlative analysis and synthesis. 

OK, what about library applications?  Well, increasingly these types of functions will be part of what libraries do.  Imagine being able to set a computational process loose on a collection of digital objects (any kind will do: text, image, video, etc.) and returning later for an accurate accounting of the questions answered therein.  Granted library applications are usually several yards downstream from this kind of activity, and traditional library vendors are not likely to be jumping on the computational bandwagon, but WE need to be present for what is unfolding before us to be aware of what is possible and to participate in making the benefits of such power available to the people we serve. 

Highlights of Current Activity

  • Upgrade to latest version of Voyager is being scheduled for May.
  • Todd Hildebrand and Doug Boyd are at an Alabama Digital Preservation Network meeting, a grant project in which UA Libraries are involved.