The Library on Hold

If you follow my Twitter, you know I’ve been consumed with coding the OPAC for my public library these past seven days. Also, I pissed off greatly angered my Dad recently. I’m constantly negative / patronizing around him. It’s like a subconscious force. So much for trying to be personally developed.

The library is looking really great now; check out this search for example. I’m putting it on hold starting right now. I won’t work any more on it for one month. Hold me to that promise, okay?

The problem with it is that it’s not the best way for my to contribute to the world at the moment. The world starts at home, so it doesn’t matter how much you’re contributing if you’re leeching at home. I have some work to do.

I listened to a lot of back episodes from Uncontrolled Vocabulary. Fascinating talk show on librarianship. I didn’t know that people talked about things like taxonomy schemas and Library of Congress subject headings en masse.

I’m going to take and post some new photos. Maybe I’ll even write something. Or if I’m feeling lazy, I’ll take a photo and then write a short paragraph about it. It’s all good.

I wrote three posts on Daytona State College News a few days ago. That thing gets tons of search traffic. Must be because of it’s high ranking.

I’m counting… I have 18 days till the return to college. 10 days till birthday #17. I still have time to make some progress.

I replaced the $20/day plaque with one that says $1/day. That’s more reasonable. My online ventures are averaging 60 cents per day this month. It’s in reach, I say!

See y’all around. Actually, not around. Right here.

How to Create a Public Library

I’ve disappeared for the last few days because I’ve been working on The Thripp Public Library. While I can’t open it to the public yet (Dad won’t open our house to the world), I’m working on it now because I have time off and Dad’s generously donated lots of his books. Though I wanted to use Evergreen or Koha, I picked the simple and obscure OpenBiblio as my library system, because it’s the only thing I could find that would run on shared hosting. I was disappointed by the lack of features to start, but I’m starting to like the power and control with it, especially since the database makes sense, so adding new features is easy.

Before I even got started, the first step was to choose a barcoding format, classification system, and spine labeling format.

I don’t like Library of Congress (LC) classification because it’s arcane and confusing, so the Dewical Decimal system (DDC) was the default choice. But what to use it for? You can use it for everything, but I decided right away not to use it on fiction items, instead opting for “FICTION / *last name*” as the spine label and call number, which is the same as the Volusia County library system. It may not be ideal, but it’s much easier to use. Biographies are tougher. I chose DDC, but I put two lines above that say “BIO / *subject last name”. The DDC part is always “*numbers* *first three letters of the author’s last name*”. Large type items get “LT” at the top of the spine label. Spine labels == call numbers, always. I created a template file for spine labels in Writer, which I add to as I catalog books. Then when I get to twenty or thirty, I print out the whole sheet and start cutting them out with scissors and taping them to the books. Here’s part of a recent sheet:

Lots of spine labels

The numbers after the dot are sometimes six or more in Dewey Decimal classification. You can truncate (cut off) them, but I let them stay and just wrap the label around the book.

The next big step is barcoding. I don’t have a reader yet (too expensive), but it’s good to be ready ahead of time, and it gives a unique identifier for each item. Many libraries, including Volusia County, follow the format F LLLL XXXX XXXXC, where F is the flag, 2 for patrons or 3 for items, LLLL is the system identifier (2417 for Volusia), XXXX XXXX is an incremented number, and C is the check digit. The symbology is Codabar. This is nice, but the institutional identifiers are only useful if your part of a larger organization. I can’t find who oversees them, nor a list of each county / system and it’s code. If I picked one for my library, no one would respect it, plus it makes the barcodes unnecessarily long. So “normal” barcodes are out.

Codabar is old, and there’s no reason to use it if you aren’t follow the 14-digit format. So I picked the more robust Code 39. I looked in vain for open-source or free software that makes it easy to print up sheets of barcodes while generating the check digits, but gave up in disgust. I’m just doing it in Writer with this free Code 39 font. No check digits. My barcodes are only eight digits, and check digits aren’t needed anyway because the symbology is self-checking (so I’m told). Plus, forgoing check digits makes things much easier. I have a template of 5 pages with 20 barcodes each, numbered 1-100. When I want to print new ones, I can just find and replace every instance of “300300″ with “300301″ and it’s all done instantly. Here’s what that template looks like:

Lots of barcodes

This is awesomely cool, and it is a robust solution, even if it seems too simple. I invite you to use this template to print similar barcodes. Make sure you have the font installed first, as this .odt document expects it. I just print these on card stock, cut them out with scissors, and affix them to the books with clear packing tape. I thought I had to decide to put the barcodes on the outside of the books or the inside… but I have the best of both worlds! I printed two copies of the template and put a barcode in both places. This way, I have the convenience of outside barcodes, but my items can still be identified if the barcodes peel off or the covers are destroyed. Clear tape over the barcode won’t matter for any scanner worth its salt. These barcodes are big and easy-to-scan too. I don’t know why most libraries use ones so small.

My numbering format is eight digits; two groups of four. The font doesn’t allow a space between them, but they are visually separated by the zeroes. I start patrons with 2 and items with 3 like traditional library barcodes. The format is 2001XXXX for patrons and 3003XXXX for items. So far I have 5 patrons and 81 items, so the highest patron barcode is 20010005, and for items, 30030081. When I get to 9999, I’ll go up to 2005 and 3007. There’s no reason the last 7 digits of patrons vs. items need to ever clash, and no overlap makes it easy to use abbreviated barcodes for internal memos.

A record number is created by OpenBiblio when you add an item. It’s just a numeric counter starting at one. The record number is used in OpenBiblio’s URLs, and is an easy identifier for my patrons to communicate to me. Barcodes are good too, but the problem is that they are transient, while record numbers are static (as long as I don’t delete the record). Also, the record number stands for the whole record, while a barcode is just for one item. There could be 10 copies of one item, but there still is one record number. So it makes sense to divorce barcodes from record numbers.

Of course, since I’m printing barcodes myself on a home laser printer, there’s no reason for barcodes to be transient. If a patron loses his library card, I just print up a new one on the spot with the same barcode. Same for damaged barcodes on books. But I can also replace the code with a new one if that’s quicker or easier for me, if I use record numbers as the unique identifier for the record (instead of the first barcode or nothing). While OpenBiblio makes similar numbers for patrons, mainly to distinguish them in the MySQL tables, I see no reason to use them. Each patron will only ever have one barcode. Even if I offer keychain library cards, they’ll have the same numbers as the big versions.

Before we go on to cataloging, let’s take a look at library cards. I took what I learned from item barcodes and applied it here. I made a cut-out template in my graphics software, which I’m using to overly text onto in A sheet of library cards looks like this:

Lots of library cards

Here’s the library card template (font required). To change things, I right-click the background image, click Wrap > No Wrap, go to page 2 and change the numbers or other text, then go back to page one, right-click the image again, choose Wrap > In Background, then print. This is in 2.2.0. I haven’t upgraded to the new version, but it should be the same. To use them, I print them on card stock (a.k.a. matte photo paper), cut them out with scissors, then laminate them with packing tape (carefully). Of course I enter them into OpenBiblio too. I created custom fields under Admin > Member Fields, for alternate library cards, driver’s licenses, notes, and dates of birth. Those look like this:

OpenBiblio custom fields

The logic with the alternate cards is this: a patron can get a card and add his Volusia and/or Flagler cards, so he can use those instead if he forgets his Thripp card. If he does that, I look him up by name because OpenBiblio won’t allow searching by custom fields (I may fix this later), and then approve the alternate card if the numbers match. Primary Card Origin is different; a patron can choose to use only his Volusia, Flagler, or other library card to identify himself in the Thripp system, in which case I can use the built-in barcode search on the third-party card, and the patron doesn’t even need a Thripp card. In that case, I type in the origin of the primary card in that special field (i.e. “Volusia”, “Flagler”, etc.).

Now that we have labels, barcodes, and cards out of the way, the next step is cataloging. I didn’t want to do all the work myself; instead I get some of the cataloging data from the Library of Congress. The problem with this is the LoC Lookup Patch won’t work with SYN Hosting because they won’t enable the PHP YAZ module because of security concerns. I tried the alternate LoC SRU, but I get this error:

Warning: fsockopen() [function.fsockopen]: unable to connect to (Permission denied) in /home/richardx/public_html/lib/catalog/locsru_search.php on line 98

Notice: Socket error Permission denied (13) in /home/richardx/public_html/lib/catalog/locsru_search.php on line 125

I gave up on direct import and went to USMARC files. This was hard to figure out. The way to do it is to get MarcEdit 5.1. In the software, go to Add-ins > MarcEdit Z39.50/SRU Client, go to Modify Databases, click Add Database > Import from Master List, click the second in the list (Library of Congress), click Select Resource, go back to Search Mode, click Select Database, double-click Library of Congress, search for something, and double-click the item you want to import from the results. Then, click Download Record. Rinse and repeat, using the “Append” option. After you have, say, 30 records, go to Cataloging > Upload Marc Data back in OpenBiblio, and upload the files. It should say that 30 records are added, and then you can polish the data by searching and editing under Cataloging > Bibliography Search, book by book.

I edit the data to format the title my way, clear junk from the ISBN field, make the extent field a page counter, add the cover price as cost, and create the call number based on the Dewey Decimal code. Unfortunately there’s a lot of junk like “BOOKS” and “Copy 1″ in the LoC Marc records, and I haven’t found a way to filter them out. I went through the MySQL database and cleared a lot of them recently.

This still saves me a lot of time, because coming up with the information myself would be too much work. The search doesn’t work well. If ISBN fails, I try title or author, or I go to the online search and get the control number to search by as “Record Number” in MarcEdit.

Sometimes there is no Dewey Decimal classification; just Library of Congress. I hunt down the item at another library in WorldCat to see what dot code they used. It’s easier than coming up with it on my own, and I wouldn’t get it right anyway.

As an alternate for when the Library of Congress has nothing, I installed the Amazon Lookup Module, which actually works. It just gets a few things like title, page count, publication date, author, and sometimes DDC code, but it helps.

Note that when I say “install,” this isn’t your typical WordPress plugin installation. This is getting down and dirty adding and editing pieces of code. Some modules are even distributed as hard-to-use-on-Windows .patch files, which scamper about editing two-dozen files in the OpenBiblio core. I’ve changed so much stuff, that when I upgrade to the next version, I’ll be merging the author’s changes with mine rather than mine with the author’s. It’s a completely different mindset.

Cataloging constructs are yours to set. Unfortunately, it’s rather inflexible because you have to work on a per-record basis, but this is expected with ILS’s. The standards are lower than with photo-cataloging software, because librarianship is considered a full-time job (time is cheap) and most libraries have fewer books than I have photos. I try to get things right the first time, meaning I use consistent formatting like putting a period at the end of the extended title and after the author’s name, keeping the ISBN field clean, using consistent capitalization, etc. This is a typical record. I let a lot of the Library of Congress’ stuff stay the same to save time, but the fields that I’m picky about are the ones that are shown in search results. Speaking of which…

This is the default search system:

OpenBiblio old search

And this is mine:

OpenBiblio new search

And mine has this, too:

OpenBiblio scoping

I realize no one knows what “federated” and “scoping” mean, but they’re such cool words I don’t care. You’ll learn it if you use my OPAC. OPAC stands for online public access catalog, for those of you not familiar with LIS jargon. LIS is library information science, and the OPAC is part of the ILS, or integrated library system. For scoping and federated search, I applied the Advanced Search by Title, Collection, Material Type .patch file using TortiseSVN, then modified it to fit my needs by removing the material type field (because it’s the same as collections in my library), changing “Search All” to “Federated,” and adding barcode and call-number search to it. This is an easy MySQL query addition, because the barcodes and call numbers are stored right in the biblio table in the database.

I like how the search works, because it matches partial words. I can type in “mel” as an author search, and I’ll get Typee by Herman Melville, which is the only book by him in my catalog right now. The Call Number search is good because I put useful data in the call number: “LT” for large type, “BIO” for biographies, “J DVD” for kids’ movies, “FICTION” for fiction, etc. So you can search by it. I haven’t figured out how to implement boolean queries yet, but what I have is pretty good.

This is the code behind the search. It’s in opac/index.php and shared/biblio_search.php, to be displayed below the search results so you can search again right from there. If you use it, do it after applying the patch I mentioned. This ASSUMES that you’re using mod_rewrite to change shared/biblio_search.php to search-results. Change action=”../search-results” to action=”../shared/biblio_search.php” on line 1 if the assumption is false.

<form name=”phrasesearch” method=”POST” action=”../search-results”>
<table class=”primary”><tr><th valign=”top” nowrap=”yes” align=”left”>Search the Catalog</td></tr><tr><td nowrap=”true” class=”primary”><select name=”searchType”>
<option value=”all” selected>Federated
<option value=”title”>Title
<option value=”author”>Author
<option value=”subject”>Subjects
<option value=”barcodeNmbr”>Barcode
<option value=”callnmbr”>Call Number
<input type=”text” name=”searchText” size=”55″ maxlength=”256″>
<input type=”hidden” name=”sortBy” value=”default”>
<input type=”hidden” name=”tab” value=”<?php echo H($tab); ?>”>
<input type=”hidden” name=”lookup” value=”<?php echo H($lookup); ?>”>
<input type=”submit” value=”Search!” class=”button”>
</td></tr></table><br /><table class=”primary”><tr><th valign=”top” nowrap=”yes” align=”left”>Advanced: Scoping (Optional)</td></tr><tr><font class=”small”><td nowrap=”true” class=”primary”><script type=”text/javascript” language=”JavaScript”>
function selectAll(ident) { var checkBoxes = document.getElementsByName(ident); for (i = 0; i < checkBoxes.length; i++) { if (checkBoxes[i].checked == true) { checkBoxes[i].checked = false; } else { checkBoxes[i].checked = true; } } }</script>
<input type=”checkbox” name=”selectall” value=”select_all” onclick=”selectAll(‘collec[]‘);”>Flip<br /><?php $dmQ = new DmQuery(); $dmQ->connect(); $dms = $dmQ->get(“collection_dm”); $dmQ->close(); foreach ($dms as $dm) { echo ‘<input type=”checkbox” value=”‘.$dm->getCode().’” name=”collec[]“> ‘.H($dm->getDescription()).”<br />n”; } ?></td></tr></font></table></form>

I compressed some of it to one line, to make it really hard to read, because I like making things harder than necessary. :cool: It makes it easy to scroll through in the file, and I shouldn’t need to change that part. If I do, I’ll just look through it carefully. It seems to make more sense to my brain than regular, fluffy code.

In shared/global_constants.php, I have this:


The beginning of the search function in my classes/BiblioSearchQuery.php file looks like this:

function search($type, &$words, $page, $sortBy,
$collecs=array(), $materials=array(), $opacFlg=true) {
# reset stats
$this->_rowNmbr = 0;
$this->_currentRowNmbr = 0;
$this->_currentPageNmbr = $page;
$this->_rowCount = 0;
$this->_pageCount = 0;

# setting sql join clause
$join = “from biblio left join biblio_copy on biblio.bibid=biblio_copy.bibid “;

# setting sql where clause
$criteria = “”;
if ((sizeof($words) == 0) || ($words[0] == “”)) {
if ($opacFlg) $criteria = “where opac_flg = ‘Y’ “;
} else {
if ($type == OBIB_SEARCH_BARCODE) {
$criteria = $this->_getCriteria(array(“biblio_copy.barcode_nmbr”),$words);
} elseif ($type == OBIB_SEARCH_AUTHOR) {
$join .= “left join biblio_field on biblio_field.bibid=biblio.bibid ”
. “and biblio_field.tag=’700′ ”
. “and (biblio_field.subfield_cd=’a’ or biblio_field.subfield_cd=’b') “;
$criteria = $this->_getCriteria(array(“”,”biblio.responsibility_stmt”,”biblio_field.field_data”),$words);
} elseif ($type == OBIB_SEARCH_SUBJECT) {
$criteria = $this->_getCriteria(array(“biblio.topic1″,”biblio.topic2″,”biblio.topic3″,”biblio.topic4″,”biblio.topic5″),$words);
} elseif ($type == OBIB_SEARCH_ALL) {
$criteria =
} elseif ($type == OBIB_SEARCH_CALLNMBR) {
$criteria = $this->_getCriteria(array(“biblio.call_nmbr1″,”biblio.call_nmbr2″,”biblio.call_nmbr3″),$words);
} else {
$criteria =

And finally, this is the code that interprets the posted data, in shared/biblio_search.php:

#* Retrieving post vars and scrubbing the data
if (isset($_POST["page"])) {
$currentPageNmbr = $_POST["page"];
} else {
$currentPageNmbr = 1;
$searchType = $_POST["searchType"];
$sortBy = $_POST["sortBy"];
if ($sortBy == “default”) {
if ($searchType == “author”) {
$sortBy = “author”;
} else {
$sortBy = “title”;
$searchText = trim($_POST["searchText"]);
# remove redundant whitespace
$searchText = eregi_replace(“[[:space:]]+”, ” “, $searchText);
if ($searchType == “barcodeNmbr”) {
$words[] = $searchText;
} else {
$words = explodeQuoted($searchText);
if ($searchType == “author”) {
} elseif ($searchType == “subject”) {
} elseif ($searchType == “all”) {
} elseif ($searchType == “callnmbr”) {
} else {

// limit search results to collections and materials
$collecs = array();
if (is_array($_POST['collec'])) {
foreach ($_POST['collec'] as $value) {
array_push($collecs, $value);
$materials = array();
if (is_array($_POST['material'])) {
foreach ($_POST['material'] as $value) {
array_push($materials, $value);

Notice that I added CALLNMBR and BARCODE search, the logic for which was enumerated in classes/BiblioSearchQuery.php. It’s a good feature for my patrons to find an on-hand item in the OPAC, and for me it’s especially helpful.

I revamped OpenBiblio’s search results. A typical result looks like this:

OpenBiblio new search result

Compare to the old style:

OpenBiblio old search result

Notice all the new stuff in the top image? The link is bold. The extended title is below. No more small text. Material is gone (my collections’ titles make it self-evident). The record number is shown. The call number is important, so it’s bolded purple, and on the same line as the collection to save space. On Shelf status is bold and green; a great visual cue. It’s not “checked in” anymore, it’s the more sensible “On Shelf”. I changed that right in the database, in the biblio_status_dm table. Most importantly, do you notice the wonderful info line? Everything you could ever want to know is right there. It’s year / ISBN / pages or minutes / cost / link / # of circulations. That really puts a lot of power into the hands of your patrons.

I wrote/modified the code for my set-up, so you’ll have to change some things if you want to use it. This goes in shared/biblo_search.php, above the footer. Here it is:

<td nowrap=”true” class=”primary” valign=”top” align=”center” rowspan=”2″>
<?php echo H($biblioQ->getCurrentRowNmbr());?>.<br />
<a target=”_blank” href=”<?php if ($tab == “cataloging”) echo “e/”.HURL($biblio->getBibid()); else echo HURL($biblio->getBibid());?>”>
<img src=”../images/<?php echo HURL($materialImageFiles[$biblio->getMaterialCd()]);?>” width=”20″ height=”20″ border=”0″ align=”bottom” alt=”<?php echo H($materialTypeDm[$biblio->getMaterialCd()]);?>”></a>
<td class=”primary” valign=”top” colspan=”2″>
<table class=”primary” width=”100%”>
<td class=”noborder” width=”1%” valign=”top”><strong><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchTitle”); ?>:</strong></td>
<td class=”noborder” colspan=”3″><strong><a target=”_blank” href=”<?php if ($tab == “cataloging”) echo “e/”.HURL($biblio->getBibid()); else echo HURL($biblio->getBibid());?>”><?php echo H($biblio->getTitle());?></a></strong>
<?php $bid = HURL($biblio->getBibid());
$getxtitle = mysql_query(“SELECT title_remainder FROM biblio WHERE bibid = ‘$bid’”) or die(mysql_error());
$printxtitle = mysql_fetch_row($getxtitle);
if ($printxtitle[0] == “”) echo “”; else echo “<br />$printxtitle[0]“; ?></td>
<td class=”noborder” valign=”top”><strong><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchAuthor”); ?>:</strong></td>
<td class=”noborder” colspan=”3″><?php if ($biblio->getAuthor() != “”) echo H($biblio->getAuthor());?></td>
<td class=”noborder” valign=”top” nowrap=”yes”><strong>Ref. #<?php echo HURL($biblio->getBibid()); ?>:</strong></td>
<td class=”noborder” colspan=”3″><?php echo H($collectionDm[$biblio->getCollectionCd()]);?> / <strong><font color=”#640064″><?php echo H($biblio->getCallNmbr1().” “.$biblio->getCallNmbr2().” “.$biblio->getCallNmbr3()); ?></font></strong></td></tr><tr><td class=”noborder” valign=”top”><strong>Info:</strong></td><td class=”noborder” colspan=”3″>

<?php // RXT 20080723 code:
$bid = HURL($biblio->getBibid());
$getyear = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ’260′ AND subfield_cd = ‘c’ AND bibid = ‘$bid’”)
or die(mysql_error());
$getisbn = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ’20′ AND subfield_cd = ‘a’ AND bibid = ‘$bid’”)
or die(mysql_error());
$getpages = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ’300′ AND subfield_cd = ‘a’ AND bibid = ‘$bid’”)
or die(mysql_error());
$getminutes = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ’20′ AND subfield_cd = ‘c’ AND bibid = ‘$bid’”)
or die(mysql_error());
$getcost = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ’541′ AND subfield_cd = ‘h’ AND bibid = ‘$bid’”)
or die(mysql_error());
$getamz = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ’970′ AND subfield_cd = ‘a’ AND bibid = ‘$bid’”)
or die(mysql_error());
$printyear = mysql_fetch_row($getyear);
$printisbn = mysql_fetch_row($getisbn);
$printpages = mysql_fetch_row($getpages);
$printminutes = mysql_fetch_row($getminutes);
$printcost = mysql_fetch_row($getcost);
$printamz = mysql_fetch_row($getamz);
if ($printyear == “”) echo “Year Unknown”;
else echo $printyear[0];
echo ” / “;
if ($printisbn == “”) echo “ISBN Unavailable”;
else echo “ISBN: “.$printisbn[0];
if ($printpages == “”) echo “”;
else echo ” / “.$printpages[0];
if ($printminutes == “”) echo “”;
else echo ” / “.$printminutes[0];
echo ” / $”.$printcost[0];
if ($printamz == “Not on”) echo “”;
elseif ($printamz != “”) echo ” / <a target=”_blank” href=””.$printamz[0].”/brilliaphotog-20″ title=”See this item on”></a> / “;
elseif ($printisbn != “”) echo ” / <a target=”_blank” href=””.$printisbn[0].”/brilliaphotog-20″ title=”See this item on”></a> / “;
else echo ” / “;
$getCircs = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(bibid) FROM biblio_status_hist WHERE bibid = ‘$bid’”) or die(mysql_error());
$getCircsRes = mysql_fetch_row($getCircs); if ($getCircsRes[0] == ’1′) echo ” (1 circ)”; else echo ” ($getCircsRes[0] circs)”; ?>

if ($biblio->getBarcodeNmbr() != “”) {
<td class=”primary” ><strong><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchCopyBCode”); ?></strong>: <?php echo H($biblio->getBarcodeNmbr());?>
<?php if ($lookup == ‘Y’) { ?>
<a href=”javascript:returnLookup(‘barcodesearch’,'barcodeNmbr’,'<?php echo H(addslashes($biblio->getBarcodeNmbr()));?>’)”><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchOutIn”); ?></a> | <a href=”javascript:returnLookup(‘holdForm’,'holdBarcodeNmbr’,'<?php echo H(addslashes($biblio->getBarcodeNmbr()));?>’)”><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchHold”); ?></a>
<?php } ?>
<td class=”primary” ><strong><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchCopyStatus”); ?></strong>: <?php $status = H($biblioStatusDm[$biblio->getStatusCd()]); if ($status == ‘On Shelf’) echo “<strong><font color=”#009900″>On Shelf</font></strong>”; elseif ($status == ‘On the Shelving Cart’) echo “<strong><font color=”#FF8000″>On the Shelving Cart</font></strong>”; else echo “<strong><font color=”#FF0000″>$status</font></strong>”; ?></td>
<?php } else { ?>
<td class=”primary” colspan=”2″ ><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchNoCopies”); ?></td>
</table><br />
<?php printResultPages($loc, $currentPageNmbr, $biblioQ->getPageCount(), $sortBy); ?>

This code assumes you’re using mod_rewrite to create friendly permalinks, in the format of YOURSITE/BIBID and YOURSITE/e/BIBID for the cataloging section. I’ll tell you how later in the article. It also assumes your site is and your affiliate code is brilliaphotog-20. Change the first one definitely. Leave the second alone if you want to donate to me. :cool:

This code also makes the assumption that your using my cataloging methods I defined earlier (year field, ISBN, pages are clean, etc.). For DVDs to show the minute count instead of pages, the number MUST be in “Terms of availability:”, which is the field I chose. You can change it easily if you examine the database structure and modify the code to fit your methods. The code defines the ASIN as the text in the ISBN field of the record, so your ISBN fields MUST be ISBN-10 and MUST be clean (no “(pbk.)” after the numbers). I’ve defined a contingency method: create a Marc field with tag 970, subfield a, with the ASIN if it differs from the ISBN or there is no ISBN. That will be used instead. If you enter “Not on” as the Marc field, no link will show even if there is an ISBN.

“On Shelf” statuses are shown in bold green, “On the Shelving Cart” is bold orange, and everything else is bold red. Make sure to change the statuses to those in the biblio_status_dm table, or do the opposite in the code. The number of circs includes checkouts and renewals for all copies attached to the record, past and present. Links open in new windows (I added target=”blank”). This is because the search results page uses POST data instead of URL parameters, so opening in the same window and clicking back prompts a warning. I wish it used URL parameters instead.

I like my search results format. It’s a lot more useful than what I see at most libraries.

I also upgraded shared/biblio_view.php to this:

OpenBiblio new item view

A typical record before would be this:

OpenBiblio old item view

Examples for the old style are from the Frances D. Still Learning Center OPAC. They use a stock OpenBiblio install. Nearing 3000 items. OpenBiblio scales failry well.

The code for the record view page is mostly copied from the search results page, so I won’t copy it for brevity.

I created a robust statistics system on the home page, which goes around aggregating numbers in the database so that it’s always up-to-date. It has one huge flaw: it assumes each record has one and only one item. Mine do, so it isn’t a problem, but I’ll have to re-work it when that changes.

The code requires you to create config.php and global.php in the OpenBiblio root. config.php should look like this:

<?php unset($config);
$config = array();
$config['db_hostname'] = “localhost”;
$config['db_port'] = “3306″;
$config['db_username'] = “yourDBusername”;
$config['db_password'] = “yourDBpassword”;
$config['db_name'] = “yourDBname”; ?>

Replace the database details with your own above, then make global.php exactly as below:

<?php function db_connect() { global $config; mysql_connect($config['db_hostname'].”:”.$config['db_port'], $config['db_username'], $config['db_password']) or die(mysql_error()); mysql_select_db($config['db_name']) or die(mysql_error()); } ?>

Finally, this huge block powers the statistics:

<?php require(“../config.php”); require(“../global.php”); db_connect();
$cCount = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(copyid) FROM biblio_copy”) or die(mysql_error());
$cCountRes = mysql_fetch_row($cCount);

$cPrice = mysql_query(“SELECT SUM(field_data) FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ’541′”) or die(mysql_error());
$cPriceRes = mysql_fetch_row($cPrice);

$cPages = mysql_query(“SELECT SUM(field_data) FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ’300′ AND subfield_cd = ‘a’”);
$cPagesRes = mysql_fetch_row($cPages);

$cNonFic = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(bibid) FROM biblio WHERE collection_cd = ’2′”);
$cNonFicRes = mysql_fetch_row($cNonFic);

$cFic = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(bibid) FROM biblio WHERE collection_cd = ’1′”);
$cFicRes = mysql_fetch_row($cFic);

$cDVDs = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(bibid) FROM biblio WHERE collection_cd = ’12′”);
$cDVDsRes = mysql_fetch_row($cDVDs);

$cOut = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(status_cd) FROM biblio_copy WHERE status_cd = ‘out’”) or die(mysql_error());
$cOutRes = mysql_fetch_row($cOut);

$cIn = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(status_cd) FROM biblio_copy WHERE status_cd = ‘in’”) or die(mysql_error());
$cInRes = mysql_fetch_row($cIn);

$circOuts = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(copyid) FROM biblio_status_hist WHERE status_cd = ‘out’”) or die(mysql_error());
$circOutsRes = mysql_fetch_row($circOuts);

$circRens = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(copyid) FROM biblio_status_hist WHERE status_cd = ‘crt’”) or die(mysql_error());
$circRensRes = mysql_fetch_row($circRens);

$circTotal = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(copyid) FROM biblio_status_hist”) or die(mysql_error());
$circTotalRes = mysql_fetch_row($circTotal);

$pTotal = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(mbrid) FROM member”) or die(mysql_error());
$pTotalRes = mysql_fetch_row($pTotal);

$pTotalAdults = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(classification) FROM member WHERE classification = ’1′”) or die(mysql_error());
$pTotalAdultsRes = mysql_fetch_row($pTotalAdults);

$pTotalChildren = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(classification) FROM member WHERE classification = ’2′”) or die(mysql_error());
$pTotalChildrenRes = mysql_fetch_row($pTotalChildren);

$pPhones = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(mbrid) FROM member WHERE home_phone != ””) or die(mysql_error());
$pPhonesRes = mysql_fetch_row($pPhones);

$pEmails = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(mbrid) FROM member WHERE email != ””) or die(mysql_error());
$pEmailsRes = mysql_fetch_row($pEmails);

$cAllBooks = ($cFicRes[0]+$cNonFicRes[0]);

echo “<strong>Live Statistics:</strong><br />

The Thripp Public Library has <strong>$pTotalRes[0]</strong> patrons: <strong>$pTotalAdultsRes[0]</strong> adults and <strong>$pTotalChildrenRes[0]</strong> children.<br />

There are <strong>”.$cCountRes[0].”</strong> items: <strong>”.$cNonFicRes[0].”</strong> nonfiction books, <strong>”.$cFicRes[0].”</strong> fiction books, and <strong>”.$cDVDsRes[0].”</strong> DVDs.<br />

Stats: Nonfiction books: <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($cNonFicRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong>; Fiction books: <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($cFicRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong>; DVDs: <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($cDVDsRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong>.<br />

<strong>”; if ($cOutRes[0] == ’1′) echo “1</strong> item is”; else echo “$cOutRes[0]</strong> items are”; echo ” checked out and <strong>”.$cInRes[0].”</strong> are on shelf.<br />

<strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($cOutRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong> of the catalog is checked out. The average patron has <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,($cOutRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])); echo “</strong> items out.<br />

There are <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,($cCountRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])); echo “</strong> items for every <strong>1</strong> patron.<br />

The collection is worth <strong>$$cPriceRes[0]</strong>, or about <strong>$”; printf (“%01.2f”,($cPriceRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])); echo “</strong> per item.<br />

There have been <strong>$circOutsRes[0]</strong> checkouts and <strong>$circRensRes[0]</strong> renewals; a total of <strong>$circTotalRes[0]</strong>.<br />

&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; This is an average of <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,($circTotalRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])); echo “</strong> per patron, or <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,($circTotalRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])); echo “</strong> per item.<br />

There are <strong>”.$cAllBooks.”</strong> books with <strong>”. number_format($cPagesRes[0]).”</strong> pages. The average book has <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,($cPagesRes[0]/($cFicRes[0]+$cNonFicRes[0]))); echo “</strong> pages.<br />

The ratio of fiction to nonfiction books is <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($cFicRes[0]/$cNonFicRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong>.<br />

The collection represents <strong>$”; printf (“%01.2f”,($cPriceRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])); echo “</strong> of value per patron.<br />

<strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($pPhonesRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong> of my patrons have telephones and <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($pEmailsRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong> have email accounts.”;


I do know this is all over the place, it’s a mess, it’s inefficient, and it probably should all be cached. It’s working great, so I’ll cross the “I have to fix this now!” bridge when I come to it. Feeding the library address into this speed test, it’s 0.4 seconds; the same as which is totally cached. That might slow down as the database gets bigger, but for now it’s fine.

You can use this code for your OpenBiblio site, by adding it to opac/index.php, but you have to change some stuff. Notice “collection_cd” and “classification”? The arguments there are hard-coded for my database, so change them for yours. Otherwise, you have to make sure to enter the cost for each item, and the number of pages as “###” or “### pages” in “Physical description (Extent):” and nothing else. If you do this, it’s cool because you get the total number of pages in your library.

Right now, the stats look like this:

Live Statistics:
The Thripp Public Library has 5 patrons: 3 adults and 2 children.
There are 81 items: 63 nonfiction books, 15 fiction books, and 3 DVDs.
Stats: Nonfiction books: 77.78%; Fiction books: 18.52%; DVDs: 3.70%.
2 items are checked out and 79 are on shelf.
2.47% of the catalog is checked out. The average patron has 0.40 items out.
There are 16.20 items for every 1 patron.
The collection is worth $1681.82, or about $20.76 per item.
There have been 19 checkouts and 15 renewals; a total of 34.
    This is an average of 6.80 per patron, or 0.42 per item.
There are 78 books with 29,786 pages. The average book has 381.87 pages.
The ratio of fiction to nonfiction books is 23.81%.
The collection represents $336.36 of value per patron.
100.00% of my patrons have telephones and 100.00% have email accounts.

It’s amazing what computers can do, no? In the print age, or even in an out-of-the-box ILS, it would take hours to compile this report, and you’d have to do it every time something changed. If anyone made reports like this, it would be once a month at best, and still it would be a great drudgery and expense. Not so anymore.

The stats are a bit messed up when you have records you’ve just imported from the Library of Congress, but not processed. Nothing fatal; the numbers are just wrong. Once you’ve done all the cataloging, it’s fine, though.

A good OPAC needs good URLs. My URLs are like No titles in the URLs keeps them nice and simple-to-implement. I’m using Linux + Apache, so fixing this is easy. Let me show you my .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^([0-9]+)$ shared/biblio_view.php?bibid=$1&tab=opac [NC]
RewriteRule ^e/([0-9]+)$ shared/biblio_view.php?bibid=$1&tab=cataloging [NC]
RewriteRule ^$ opac/index.php [L,NC]
RewriteRule ^search-results shared/biblio_search.php [L,NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST}$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301]

That does all the magic. Change, of course. This requires changes in opac/index.php and shared/biblio_search.php to match. If you’ve used my code in this article, it’s already done, though. Now, you can jump from a regular view to the view with the edit links by adding “e/” before the bibid. And the OPAC is mapped to the root instead of home/index.php, which is cluttered and has a lot of staff functions. I don’t know why it’s the default home page. Anyway, after the change you can still get there by URL by adding “/home” to your URL. That’s the best way, because not having a link to the staff area from the home page is a bit of security through obscurity.

I’m happy to have started my library, despite being just for family and friends for now. I need to buy a house or a warehouse to host it at, and then open it up to the world. OpenBiblio has good facilities for checkouts, renewals, limits, fines, and even receipt printing, and I feel I can build upon them through my own programming, so on the tech site I’m ready. I plan to have a lending library with a limit of 5 items out per person at a time. You can renew and place holds, but only by phone or by coming in (this is OpenBiblio’s limitation; other OPACs have these features). You get three weeks on everything, except DVDs which are one week. Late fees are 15 cents per item per day.

It might be 5 years before I’m making enough money from advertising on this website to find a space to open the library. I’m not too worried. It’s better to start now than to start later. Here’s a photo of the stacks now:

The Thripp Library shelves

These books displaced my photos, but it’s worth it. I used to have stacks of photos on these shelves, but I crammed them in with other photos on my other bookshelf to make way for the library. If you’re a good friend, feel free to come over to my house, get a library card, and check something out. Make a donation to get this off the ground. If you make a donation, you’re a good friend.

I’m seeing a big gap between what public libraries are… and what they could be. There are no charismatic leaders in librarianship. Most everyone is dull and unoriginal; even the software and basics like online catalogs need lots of work. This is because most libraries are government-funded; even many academic branches are not immune. So the strategy is “let’s waste as much money as possible and leech from the taxpayers,” not “let’s work efficiently and make a real contribution to the community.” More frighteningly, libraries are becoming elitist, discarding old, unpopular, or “offensive” books and rejecting self-published books or anything without an ISBN number. I’ve written a mission statement for the Thripp Public Library to address this:

The Thripp Public Library is founded on a healthy attitude of dissension and skepticism, a distaste for lies and fallacy, and a love of learning from history. To know history and avoid 1984-style revisionism, it’s important to keep old books around. Unfortunately the Volusia County library system doesn’t do this, as I’ve gotten many of my library’s gems right from their book sales. These are my library’s universal principles:

1. Timelessness eschews popularity.
2. The message trumps the medium.
3. Truth is independent of source.

This means that good information can come from any person or organization in any form, be it a book, magazine, CD, DVD, website, etc. I’ve founded the library on timelessness, meaning that I refuse to destroy parts of the collection that are rarely looked at, because they are often the most important. Popular movies circulate more, but are fleeting and unscholarly. I’ll include them if they’re cheap and terribly entertaining, though.

Here’s an example item, with the Thripp barcode:

Thomas Jefferson book

And here’s what a Thripp library card looks like:

Richard X. Thripp's Thripp library card

Cataloging is on hold till I go to the store, because I’ve run out of clear packing tape to affix barcodes and spine labels.

Take a look at the catalog. Just click Search! to see everything. Then come back and tell me you’re not impressed. :wink2:

Fear is Evil

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. It’s been busy for me… mainly because I have school and work (20 hours per week for the summer). And that’s right in the middle of the week (Monday-Thursday), where it keeps me busy.

Anyway, I’m trying now to switch jobs… to move back to the Ormond Beach library from Holly Hill (I’ve written of the two on my about page). My boss isn’t being nice to me. I told her that maybe she shouldn’t go into library service, because she doesn’t seem to enjoy the work. That hit close too home apparently, so now she’s threatening to fire me for being disrespectful. I didn’t know it was so easy to fire a public servant.

I can definitely see her reaction is rooted in fear rather than reason. Now, I have little bias for emotion or reason… half the time emotion is intuition, and that is a great skill to have. For the other half, the emotion is fear. Fear-based decisions are never good. They distract your focus and weaken your resolve. You get stuck in a repetitive loop of non-achievement.

What I told her, is pretty much the same thing I’ve been feeling myself. Librarianship is a public good and a necessary field, but I haven’t been seeing it as my best way to contribute to the world. Why should I limit myself to the narrow medium of reference requests, when I can be helping people everywhere, on a much broader level? I think my photography does that. I give out print copies often, and hear how people find it beautiful and inspiring. Actually, I’ve never heard those exact words… but a lot of stuff like it. Photography hasn’t been profitable, but that’s in part because I haven’t tried hard enough. I’ve said for a while (two years) that I shouldn’t play photography as a career. Because it’s like acting; 1 in 100 make it big, while the other 99 scrape by lifting food from dumpsters and praying for death (okay, it isn’t quite that bad). And of course, a civil service job is more “stable” and “dependable” than anything I could possibly do in photography or on my own.

But when you have someone threatening to fire you for no reason, it sure doesn’t seem stable. No, it seems highly unstable. Like, the dumbest decision I could ever make.

Dad’s going to take me down to the other branch in about five hours, so I can pitch a transfer (4 A.M. here now). I have a lot of old friends at Ormond.

In truth, my whole bias against photography has been rooted in fear. It’s a shame, really. I don’t enjoy going out and trying to sell people print copies, or begging for assignments, or cutting my rates of eighty dollars hourly. But I’m liking publishing my work on my own website with contextual advertising (Google AdSense). And it’s been making money consistently… twenty cents per day so far this month. That’s not much, but I see a lot of potential there.

I can’t believe it’s just six months ago that I started my own website, or two months since I left deviantART. I used to post all my photos there, and only there. Then for four months, here and there. And for the past two, just here. Very nice, having everything under my control, and not being subject to their rules. There’s no future in contributing your work to another website, just like there’s no future in contributing your work to any employer but yourself. Ironic, since just three weeks ago I created, a social network where people do just that. Oh well.

By the way, I have my own ads on my members’ pages. So the 20 cents per day may be coming from here or there; I haven’t been tracking it. I get as many visitors here as on all the other pages, so it’s probably an even split.

The whole idea of having a job, where you have a “boss,” and are “trained” in certain tasks, and you have “policies” to follow, and you can be “disciplined” for having improper “behavior.” This is for training a dog, right? Pets of some sort, surely. No? And using this, as a “boss,” to expect false complimentary treatment, is the ultimate in weakness.

I’m going to find trouble, no matter what job I go to, eventually, no matter how good it seems at first. Because I don’t hold the keys, and I’ve given up my time for a much less valuable resource, money. I do refuse to give up my individuality, and that is a most upsetting thing to any employer.

I like policies like this. “Performance Management.” Every bit of the terminology is meant to dehumanize. I’m glad Volusia County is still using “personnel.” “Human resources” is the new buzzword, and it surely serves to further devalue the sanctity of human life. As if people are a “resource,” to be “used,” to be leveraged, like you would lumber or a reserve of oil.

First you devalue everyone with this sort of terminology. Then you attack the young (abortion), and then the old (euthanasia), and then the sick (euthanasia again), and then the poor, and then the weak. Then you attack a good, mostly wholesome religion (Christianity) by demanding its removal from public view. And finally, you put a wall between the parent and the child through a “public” school system, where you indoctrinate in the dogma of the state. But call it “teaching.” Always call it teaching.

And what do you teach? Stuff like global warming, “over” population, how wonderful the American Indian savages were, and what terrible people we are for having displaced them (it wasn’t us, it was a dozen generations back), how animals have human rights, how we’re killing the Earth and the planet would be better off with us all dead, and how cancer is killing us because we’re producing evil carcinogens. You teach “affirmative” action and reparations as blessings, to reinforce that we are not born free and equal, but that debts can carry over across generations. I refuse to take blame for the evil doings of my slave-owning ancestors. We already know the cure and prevention for cancer (vitamin B17), but it has to be covered up, hidden like a dagger would be hidden from a child. You make us read stories like The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (college for me), to polarize us on the one versus the many. And then you tell us that trumping the rights of the one is in fact good, because he wouldn’t appreciate freedom anyway.

Pragmatism, that’s the name of the game. It takes good people to do bad things, and the ideal of pragmatism is unmistakably good. To do the greater good for the greater number of people. It’s applying the principles of triage to every aspect of life. So if we can kill fifty people to save five-hundred, then that’s the only way to go. Maybe it isn’t kill. It’s just maim. Or injure. Or to exercise eminent domain. Not even bodily injury. Just theft of property. Surely that must be alright?

But it isn’t right, because orthodoxies never work out. An invisible hand is always pushing them further, breaking through a glass wall at the edge of a cliff. Further, further, in the name of courage, of growth, of safety, of freedom. Orthodoxies are always suicidal. We have a government that was founded with a true attempt of upholding the principles of liberty and freedom. We have a Constitution and a Declaration that try so hard to maintain our God-given rights, even in the face of a vocal, unbelieving majority who wants to slay us for the good of the whole. But there is no whole. The whole is an illusion. We are not the Borg. All we are is many individuals. “The greater good for the greater number” is not one versus one, it’s a whole bunch of individuals that are all going to be hurt because other individuals think that causing pain for those few is best for people other than them. It’s never out of direct selfishness. Selfishness does not work as a motivator. The most-evil people really think they’re looking out for the good of others. For their friends. Perhaps they aspire to lofty ideals like standing up for the rights of humanity. But they’re always misguided. Suicidal, if I may repeat myself. Because they’re a part of a suicidal system of hatred and distrust, without even knowing it themselves. You’re contributing to this system, on a small scale, if you work in a “normal” job. I am too.

On 2008 June 5, the Volusia County council passed an ordinance mandating the sterilizations of all dogs and cats. I love this description from a website called News for Florida Animal Advocates.

One breeder, Kathy Lucas of Seminole County, complained to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “We don’t need to lose another one of our rights. Our animals are our property.” Fortunately, this opinion– that animals are not individuals, but objects to be used for profit– was not shared by a majority of the council.

Animals are property. Their our slaves; we can do with them what we please. A dog does not experience spiritual growth. A dog does not aspire to be better than he is. A dog does not invent. A dog is a poor substitute for a child. A dog does not have a soul. You know this; we all know this, yet it is too soon forgotten on the crusade for animal rights.

The kicker, is that Volusia County’s new law is actually a step down for animal rights, if we’re comparing them to the rights of humans. Because we do not forcibly sterilize people. Yet. That’s the path we’re on, sadly. And when you talk like the above quote; that animals as “individuals” have the inherent “right” to be sterilized, then you’re cheapening us too. First your comparing animals (sub-human) to humans, and then you’re saying that we should neuter them; an action base and contempt if they’re human. But it’s for the greater good. It always is.

For people, we have abortion already, which is as contemptible as any crime. In fact, if I do apply pragmatic ethics to the murder of a human baby (infanticide), I find it’s even more evil than the murder of an adult. If you must kill, kill someone who has a fighting chance. Not someone weak and defenseless, who is innocent and perfect. But even with better (more Christian) ethics, it’s still a murder, just as killing a ninety-year-old lady is murder. No jury says “Ah, she’s old. Let him go.” Because human life is inherently, consistently, and continually sacred. It does not change with the times. If there is one absolute ideal, this is it.

Continuing on our path, we will be neutering people. Not you or me. Never us. First it’s the insane, the sick, the genetically deformed. They did it in Nazi Germany, we can do it here. Then the invisible hand of good people doing evil will push it further. The United States already did it this time last century. I’m saddened by it all.

Every bit of this is rooted in fear. Fear of loss: of the status quo, of our current, wonderful lives, of “wasted” time (in the workplace), or otherwise. I can’t think of all the reasons for fear at the moment, but there are plenty, and the feeling is the cause of so many inadvertent, yet evil and destructive actions.

Our government needs to stick to what it’s good for—keeping the peace and protecting human life. Not protecting animals, not indoctrinating our children, not even establishing public libraries. But the government isn’t even fulfilling its core mission at the moment.

Courage always comes from within. Courage, growth, safety, freedom, all these are traits that only you can manifest within yourself. No government, no code of ethics, no church, no workplace bureaucracy can instill them within you, nor can you instill them within the collective on anything more than an individual’s level. And you don’t develop these strengths by working in a normal job, or by two decades of public schooling. You don’t even become human.

I’m posting this in a new section called personal development. My first article, retro-actively, is The Irrationality of Apportionment. Hopefully writing like this will help me to develop as a person. Now, I have some photography to get back to.

LIS and more

I’ve been impressed by the progress the LISWiki (library and information science) has been making, so I’ve opened an account and started contributing to articles; stuff like digitization, renew, checkout, and open stacks.

I’m also blogging about library service now; I wrote my first article yesterday, 10 Tips for Reference Dialogues (digg). If you’ve read my about page, you know librarianship is my choice career, so it’s inevitable I start writing about it. This will be mixed in with my photography here, though there will be more photos of books to accompany my entries.

Other news: the spring ’08 semester is over. I got an A in everything but photography, where I got a B+. Do you see the irony there? I did the assignments and missed no classes, and had nice stuff including Wine Bottles, The Rebel, and The Gaze for my presentation, but my teacher is afraid of A’s.

My cousin’s blogging again. I set up my photography archive using Gallery2, but it’s just for family and friends since my family is afraid of the public. I changed all the Google ads here to orange; I like it because they stand out yet complement the olive green links and banner. 2008-05-16 Update: Switched back; orange was getting no clicks. Check out the “printable view” links on each post now, such as the one for 10 Tips for Reference Dialogues. I messed with the WP-Print code so that the footnote markers come after links instead of before, the printed from URI is just the article, and the links are black instead of the default blue or purple (that’s CSS though). What I don’t like about the defaults, is that links are blue, but if you’ve clicked them (a:visited), they’re purple, and this shows up if you print in color. When you print, they should be all the same. I picked black over blue, so in multi-page articles headlined with a color photo, I can print page one on my color laser and the rest on the monochrome, and there is consistency. When I print stuff out, I use Internet Explorer instead of Firefox, because it formats margins and text nicer.

Also, the print pages don’t say “Brilliant Photography” now, cuz it makes no sense for LIS articles. It’s just now, which is short and sweet.

That’s it for now; thanks for reading.

10 Tips for Reference Dialogues

The reference dialogue: books and a question mark

A cornerstone of library work is the reference interview (or interrogation if you’d prefer), as it is the principle persona for the library knowledge-base, and is increasingly the domain of library assistants and para-professionals. These are the ideas I’ve picked up from working in the public library sector.

1. Use the encyclopedias. Many students come in wanting books on obscure subjects. Especially in smaller libraries, there are no books to be found, but an encyclopedia article will do in a pinch, and is an authoratative source.

2. Ask questions. If he asks where the nonfiction section is, don’t just point at it; ask if there is anything in particular he’s looking for. Often there is, but you need to break the ice. If you’re asked for “history books,” don’t ask interrogative questions like “why do you need history books?,” but cooperative ones like “what kind are you looking for?”

3. Quality over quantity. Don’t give the patron a good book on crocheting and then eight unrelated books on knitting; start with one, and then follow up if the resource proves inadequate. Overloading him with information is not much better than doing nothing at all, as it is our job to sift the wheat from the chaff.

4. Leverage Google for the author of a title, the jargon of a field, or even how to spell an elusive word (if the mis-spelling is common, Google will list it with the question, “did you mean?”). This can be useful if you can’t understand your patron’s mumblings; search what it sounds like, and often you’ll get your answer. You can then query your library’s catalog with the details you found online.

5. Keep it simple. When a patron comes in asking how to search jobs or phone numbers online, be sure to put in a good word for the Pennysaver and phone book; they are often the more relevant choice.

6. Be nice. The theory of participation inequality applies to reference requests too. Though we will never have accurate stats, we can assume that 90% of library users who would like to know about something don’t ask, be it because they lack a definite question, feel uncomfortable, or are just quiet in general. Do you want to drive away the 10% that do ask, or make the 90% grow even larger?

7. Take initiative. If that user is staring quizzically at your biographies, or struggling with your public catalog, ask him if there’s anything you can do to help. Often, this will be the catalyst for a question-and-answer discussion that will bring out what he’s looking for.

8. Defer gracefully. For the many patrons who ask genuine questions, there are a few who will bring page-long lists of items for you to find, or expect super-human expertise from you. Offer to find the items or show them how to use the OPAC (“teach them to fish”), but if there’s a line forming, stay firm that their involved requests must wait.

9. Ask for help. If you’re having trouble finding accounts from the Spanish-American War, ask the resident history buff, or go to a reference librarian or the Internet if need be. No librarian is an island.

10. Follow up. Ask if there’s anything else he wants, or if the information you’ve provided works or is off-target. He may be afraid of being a pest, not realizing the core of the library is patron inquiries. By being open to feedback, you make the public welcome and at ease.

When we strive to be genuinely helpful, we are supporting the perpetual education of our citizens, and the library as the heart of the community.

Continued reading:
The Reference Interview by William C. Robinson
Mock Refernce Interviews by Jimmy Ghaphery