Library Donations Workflow revisited

I work at a small library where I have had the privilege of being the interim director for the last 8 months. Which means that I have had the opportunity to modify some of the existing workflows.

One of these “modifications” was of the book donation workflow which I altered in conjunction with the cataloging librarian.

Originally we would take in books from different sources and determine if the books should be added to our collection. If not then they would be put out on a cart at the front of the library as a book sale for a few weeks every so often. These books would all be priced at .50

Some of these books would be snatched up very quickly, while others would languish and eventually we would box them up and send them to Better World Books  (BWB) Which is a pretty good workflow in the sense that we make a little money to go towards purchasing other books for our collection, and we don’t have to recycle the ones that are leftover.

As of last semester we had been making a little bit of money from the in house sale, but not very much as you might imagine. BWB had not sold enough of our books yet to reach the threshold at which they would write us a check. I believe this is because our in house users were buying all the books that could have been sold by BWB more easily.

I had prior experience selling my own books through Amazon, and I thought it was a relatively easy process so I suggested that we try doing it ourselves on a trial basis. The new workflow looks like this

  1. Books Donated (but not added to our collection) or Discarded
  2. Books Checked by students against Amazon’s Database to see if they are being sold for more than $5
  3. If they were then they would go in a pile to be entered into our Seller Account’s inventory
    1. I only list a book if it is not being sold for less than $5
    2. After I enter a number of books on a given day I will go through the inventory and make sure that our books are priced at least .10 less than anyone else’s
    3. If the book falls below $3 I’ll remove the listing and send it to the in house book sale
  4. Otherwise they would go straight into the book sale and then on to BWB as before

That is the basic workflow and the one that I worked on with the Cataloging librarian. It is pretty straight forward and easy to follow.

I started entering books in to Amazon and quickly discovered that the information on the slips in the books from students (that I had asked for) wasn’t actually useful. I had asked them to print on an old catalog card the lowest price, the general condition of the book, the seller’s rank, and I had them color code it by the range it was in the Amazon Seller’s index (by the Millions).

I pretty quickly found out that this information wasn’t actually useful when trying to put the books up for sale. I more often than not couldn’t find the same entry the student was referencing, and the seller’s index wasn’t providing a terribly good indicator of whether it would be sold. It turned out to be much easier to put everything online and take books off if they haven’t sold within a predetermined amount of time. So instead I was able to figure out which chunk of code in the URL was persistent and started having them write that down.

Pretty soon after I started putting books up for sale we actually sold the first book. This was exciting because I could actually show my coworkers that we were receiving a good price for the book (more than .50) and that there were people out there who wanted these books. I realized that we needed to receive the money so I had to figure out where the money could go, and then be transferred back to us. We don’t have our own checking account, and that is the only way that Amazon will send you money (trust me I have checked). Campus finance was able to work with us and we were able to have Amazon send the money to them, and then we would send Finance a monthly email detailing how much money should be sent to which account (postal fees, revolving collection fund). As long as we don’t mind the wait then this setup works out fine.

For the future:

Now that I have a good setup for how to wrap the books up to be shipped I need to transfer that responsibility to a student. I’ll consult with the cataloging librarian and determine which of the students




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Google Plus Circles: How to get the most out of sharing

This post is dedicated to anyone who has indicated that they don’t see enough involvement in Google Plus or that they don’t know how to set up their circles, or if you are broadcasting everything to everyone you follow (Stop it)

I initially created a circle for every group of friends that I belonged to. Then I started making circles for my interest groups. I kept my interests pretty limited. At first it was only “library” but recently I have expanded to a new interest “homebrew”

When I would post items in Google Plus I would create the post and then decide who my audience was and go through selecting different relevant circles that might want to see the post. This only worked for me for a few months until I realized that I was posting essentially the same content across the same circles. I needed a simpler way to do this.

To that effect I created new macro circles. In the Selective circle I included all of my friends and in the General circle I included people I didn’t know in my interest circles.

This works pretty well for simple posts without a targeted audience. I did experiment by creating an “active” circle that included everyone who had commented on a post since before the creation of the circle. The purpose of this was to include them in all postings and encourage more engagement. It was an experiment that didn’t end up bearing much fruit because people only want to engage with you on topics that they share an interest for.

The takeaway being: Post to the groups who will be interested in what you are saying. Don’t try to force participation.

The biggest change that has occurred since I set up this strategy was the creation of a new circle for homebrewers. This circle was growing very slowly until Google introduced the ability to share circles. All of a sudden users were sharing their circles of users filtered by interest. I added one of these homebrew circles all at once and there was a sudden explosion of new followers and new posts that directly pertained to my interest.

There was a problem however. The circle that had been shared and named “homebrew” actually contained quite a number of people who were not homebrewers. Many only had an interest in beer, and others had no discernible link to beer at all. I’ve tried to go through and filter out the users who should not be in the circle, but this is a time consuming process.

The next time I cam across a shared circle I was more selective about the process and went through the users in the circle first and examined potential people to follow from the list individually.

While grabbing that initial circle might have seemed like a big mistake, actually it led to a very large interest circle that is active and very knowledgeable about a topic that I am interested in.

I have filtered out many of the ‘love beer but don’t homebrew’ people and created a new circle simply called “beer” My next step is to move the entire homebrew circle into the beer circle. That way when I post a specific ‘how to’ question about beer production I will post to the “homebrew” circle and when I create a “I just made a batch of this kind of beer, or I bought this beer and loved it” post I will share it to the “beer” circle.

One parting word of wisdom. If you add people to Google Plus make sure that you are adding them to a specific circle where they will see information that will make it clear why you have added them. Also make sure that your profile clearly indicates interests you have so that the person you have added can use this information as a guide when adding you to a circle of their own (or at all)

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Attn: GOOGLE… RE: top links in the toolbar of Google pages

*This is a letter writing campaign*

Google moved the ‘Reader’ link off the top of the toolbar on the Gmail page. They tried to do this earlier in the year but it got moved back. As of now you have to click on the ‘More’ dropdown to get to the link.

For some reason the ‘Reader’ link still shows up in the toolbar when you are on the Google Plus page just not on the Gmail or (ironically) the Google Reader page. These links should be consistent across pages obviously, and we would like them to move the ‘Reader’ link back to the top.

Ideally we would like them to give users the option to choose their
top 5 or so sites that they would like to always appear in the Google
toolbar when they are signed in.

Please email everyone you know who works at Google so that you can
help make this happen.

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A Case for Universal Borrowing

I was using the redbox app on my android phone this weekend to lookup available movies in different boxes across town so I could go directly to the box I needed to and pick up the movie I wanted.

I narrowed it down to two movies, and then used rotten tomatoes to decide on which one to rent. No more lurking at the box scrolling through a list of movies while the next person anxiously waits for you to pick a movie and go.

Many libraries have movies and check out popular titles to patrons for free (yes I know it is not really free…we pay taxes etc…), but the $1.07 is worth it for many reasons.

1. Open 24 hours (not many libraries can compete with that)
2. One step process to access a complete list of (available) movies
3. Universal borrowing (all you need is a credit card to rent a movie. No application necessary)

Most libraries cannot stay open 24 hours a day. So… no way to compete there.

Libraries could simplify the way to get to a list of movies, but it would still involve finding the local library web page etc…

But…The biggest obstacle is that you need a library card to check out movies, and a lot of *my* movie browsing/renting is done on the go when I am traveling. Even if I found a movie at an open library that I wanted to watch it would still mean needing a library card to check it out. Getting a library card is not an easy process, and might be impossible if you don’t live in the area.

I remember in my previous hometown (Gainesville, FL) you had to physically bring in your ID and mail (real mail) you had received from a utility showing that you actually lived in the area and could be tracked down if necessary. This gets harder and harder to do as mail is delivered electronically in an increasing number of circumstances.

I know a number of companies have floated the idea of a single library card that could be used in multiple locations across the country but, I haven’t heard a good explanation of how this would work and who it would work for.

To prevent it from being dependent upon the Integrated Library System (ILS) that a particular library uses I think there should be a standard developed outside of that space that could fit on top of it. Then all the different ILS vendors could develop ways to integrate it into their own products. The incentive to do so would be an increase in patron activity and excitement to use libraries.

All a potential library user would need to do is sign in with a credit card, enter their email address, and check a box indicating they have read/understood a EULA, and they would be on their way. People who do not have access to a credit card could sign up in an alternate fashion at a local branch.

This is not a post advocating that libraries should develop active popular movie collections. Instead I am just trying to make a case for facilitating potential patron use, and advocating a simplified way to get more people to use the library

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using a friendfeed widget to embed an rss feed into your website

To create an embeddable RSS feed for your website using friendfeed’s widget’s

1. Create a group (standard, not private)
2. Name the group and import the RSS feed
3. Create an embedding widget for that feed. (
4. Copy code and insert it into your website

Here it is:

View my FriendFeed

*Thanks to Barbara Fister for the idea 😉

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busy busy

A lot of people ask me how I have time for X after I tell them that I am the father of 4 month old twins. I usually shrug, but my answer should be “..because I don’t do Y”

You can have all the time in the world to do the things you want if you aren’t doing something else.

A lot of my chores I have to fit in to my daily routine wherever I can, and it usually involves a fair amount of negotiation.

For example, today I had a Dr’s appt at 1:30 so I wanted to get some things done before hand like taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, making breakfast, sorting some laundry, doing some laundry, taking a shower etc…

At some point we decided to try and fit in a run to the grocery store as well which meant leaving around noon instead.

So.. right around 10:43 I asked how long I could mow the backyard for. My wife asked for the current time and gave me a fifteen minute window after telling me that she would need to get ready as well, and both babies would need to be fed. I agreed and took the four year old down with me, and made him a sandwich and a couple snacks. I then prepped the backyard and mowed just enough of the lawn to give the dog a good amount of room to maneuver within when doing his business later on that night.

So, I guess what I am saying is that you have to accept the partial completion of some tasks at times. The really important goal is trying to remember which baby fed last when. If you can get that down then you should be good to go.

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#homebrew My experience

I just started brewing beer at the beginning of the summer. I have thought about doing it for years but this year I put it down as the number one thing I would like to receive for my Birthday.

My wife and I went to American Brewmaster to get the necessary equipment, and we bought their Deluxe starter kit. This included all the buckets, tubes, thermometers, capping equipment etc… *and* your first beer kit.

I was torn between a Hefenweizen and an Amber Ale, but ultimately decided to go with the American Classic Amber Ale.

Once we had a guest in our home (Thanks Amanda!) to help take care of the twins I carved out a couple hours to rush headlong into the process.

I read over the instructions and followed the only piece of advice anyone has given me regarding homebrewing… I sanitized everything.

I steeped my grains (This smelled so good!), added my malt extract and hops, and boiled the wort (that’s what they call it) for a good long while.

Remember how I said steeping the grains smelled good? Well once you add the hops and boil it for an hour it stops smelling so good. Not bad really, just intense.

Then I added cold water to the 5 Gallon mark and cooled it all down as quickly as I could. Then I added the yeast, sealed it (mostly), and shook it for a couple of minutes. All I could do from this point was put it out of sigh and wait for 14 days or so.

At that point fermentation was complete and I just had to carve out another couple of hours so that I could put all the beer into bottle. This time my mom was visiting so I enlisted her help. I prepared the bottling bucket, and siphoned everything into it (with sugar for carbonation)


part of the bottling process

I added the beer to the bottles, and my mom did all the capping.

bottling complete

Everything went pretty smoothly considering I had lost my directions at this point.

Once we were done we put them away in the closet and waited another 10 days or so before it was ready to drink.

At that point I put a couple in the fridge to cool down and then poured one for my wife and myself to try. I was very relieved that it tasted good.

I couldn’t wait to get back out there and try something new. My coworker (Thanks Steven!) said he had some grains I could use so I scoured the internet for a recipe that would fit with his ingredients and would make a decent Wheat beer. The benefit to doing it this way was that I gained the experience of shopping for my own ingredients and I bought a new 5 gallon pot to boil everything in.

I bottled last Friday (Thanks Bob! for your help (FiL)) and can’t wait until next week to see how it came out.

#boulevard wheat clone

Next up is a brown ale that I am going to brew next week with my dad.

Unfortunately I have to wait until someone grows some pumpkins before I can make a Pumpkin Ale.


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