Beating the Yankers

The library provides headphones for students.

The students, over time, destroy the headphones. After all, it’s not like they own them, is it?

Now, to reduce the likelihood that the headphones will be attractive enough to entice thieves, I get big clunky “school” style units, which are also tougher (to some extent).

Still, the biggest problem seems to be that users “yank” the cable out of the computer using the cable, and not by grasping the plug. Enough of that and the wiring starts to come loose, short out, and “these don’t work.”

So I’ve seen some tips (Lifehacker post) which offers a reinforcement. It’s a little different, using zip ties and a flexible adhesive called Sugru. [This is not an endorsement, merely a report on actual use. YMMV]

The idea is to first, wrap the zip tie around the cable right before it enters the plug, very tightly. This provides a good grip on the cable rather than the plug. Instead of the flexible cable, the adhesive is going to grab onto the zip tie.

Then, wrap the plug and cable, embedding the zip tie inside the adhesive.

When the adhesive dries, it has some minimal flexibility but is not sticky.

Pulling on the cable, in theory, also pulls on the adhesive which pulls on the zip tie which also pulls on the plug. It should cause the plug and cable to react as one unit instead of pulling the cable out of the plug. Or so we hope.

We usually purchase a dozen headsets annually, and attrition reduces the number over time. Let’s see if this increases the life span of at least the cables on these.





I needed to replace my vertical mouse.

I had one for several years, one of the earlier Evoluent models which was very effective although very expensive.

At that time, vertical mice were rare creatures so they could cost more.

It’s finally wearing out, so I went looking for a replacement. Now, however, vertical mice have become very popular and lots of brands and configurations are out there.

I liked this look:

but unfortunately, that’s just a design version. I had to settle for the final production model:

While that looks like a track ball for the scroll, it actually works like a wheel. It’s also lighter.

It cost less than a quarter of what the Evoluent did several years ago, even with shipping and tax added.

Amazon, billing, and shooting feet

(updated 2017.5.17, 2017.8.9)

For those who are boycotting Amazon for other reasons, you may skip this.

I feel I have to use a cost-effective vendor, despite other factors. Up until recently, Amazon has worked well for us. People could make up lists, share them with me, I could use those to create orders, I could use a credit card which saves me from doing as many Requisitions/Purchase Order approvals myself, and it used to be pretty straightforward. They had a huge number of items in stock and accounted for when orders would arrive, for the most part.

Then, they shot themselves in the foot. Maybe both feet.

It’s not just me. I’m hearing (from a competitor, granted) that a number of libraries are dropping Amazon, at least as a primary vendor. (The competitor normally handles academic libraries, but now has public libraries asking them for service. The traditional wholesalers have changed and reduced a lot in the last few years.)

It seems we are going to have to join the exodus, and it’s not political or other high-minded reasons; it’s pure bookkeeping practices.

Amazon has become non-cost-effective, due to their new credit card charging methodology. This has been going on for several months, but it’s become, frankly, untenable.

Lemme ‘splain this. (tl;dr*)

Amazon has taken to combining charges from their Printable Order Summary.

amazon For example, you see multiple charges on here. The total will be $276.17.

However, despite what it says on the page, that IS NOT WHAT AMAZON CHARGES to the credit card.

The Order Summary has three shipments listed, for $105.61, $37.16, and $133.40.

They add up to $276.17, true. But this IS NOT WHAT AMAZON CHARGES to the credit card.

Look at the summary of charges at the bottom of the Order Summary. Not the same as the shipments.

Now combine them to get the actual charges on the credit card statement.

$14.99 plus 79.84 = 94.83, and the rest add up to 181.34. We were actually charged $94.83 and $181.34. The total is still $276.17. We haven’t been treated dishonestly as far as the amount charged; only in how it was actually stated on their (digital) paperwork.

However, the only one of those charges on the order summary for a shipment matches $37.16 for the middle shipment of three on the Order Summary. And that one was combined with others to get a charge of $181.34 on the credit card. The amounts on here do not match the shipments or the credit card charges.

$105.61 and $37.16 and $133.40 (the amounts on the shipments in the Order Summary), cannot be combined to get the two charges on the card, and yet those book titles are on this order.


To sum up: The charges listed as charged to the card on the Printable Order Summary DO NOT MATCH WHAT IS ON THE CARD CHARGES: 14.99, 79.84, 90.62, 37.16, 53.56 are NOT charged; $94.83 and $181.34 are charged for these books. Where does it say that? On the spreadsheet.


Spreadsheet? Yes, I managed to get a customer service person for corporate accounts on the phone (their people are usually fine to deal with but are stuck with this). They now have a spreadsheet that you can download (not listed, at this time, among all the services they show for accounts). I was sent a special link to it. Then I have to download it. Then I have to go searching. The spreadsheet has columns out to AE (over 30). This, apparently, is a kludge made available for all the squalling customers demanding to know what charges equal what.

First, you find the total amount (in this example, 276.17). Then you slide over (about a page and a half of columns) to see how it’s broken down to — not the charges they claim on here — the actual charges on the card (94.83 and 181.34). This is the only place where they tell me what they are actually charging to the card, so I have no regular packing slip/invoice/order summary to show my receiving person or my business office or the state auditors. How are we expected to match the shipments and charges up to what is on the credit card statement, without a research project to decipher this spreadsheet?

Aside from this spreadsheet, I have nothing to show my people here or the state auditors, who want specific amounts that match. The only comfort I can take is that this is going on all over campus, and probably all over the state and nation. So at least the state auditors cannot blame just our library.

Now, I understand that Amazon is probably having to adjust their bookkeeping so they can pay the new taxes that states have been demanding they begin to charge (and starting March 1, here in Arkansas) but we already pay that on our own. I suspect this may have something to do with how they handle bookkeeping for that, or maybe an attempt to reduce credit card fees by reducing the number of transactions. I can allow for changes.

End Result

BUT: you cannot do business this way. It takes far too much time for the customers to account for this, and it does not correspond to any acceptable accounting procedure to claim you made these charges when you actually made those charges, even if they add up the same on the spreadsheet. Spreadsheets, especially ones like this, are not intended to substitute for proper customer notices — spreadsheets are primarily for internal use, and cannot substitute for showing correct amounts on the (digital or print) paperwork. The additional time it takes to track all this down is just dirty icing on a very unpleasant cake (pardon the unappetizing metaphor). The fact that it is not technically dishonest in the amount being paid does not excuse the appearance of something being off, somewhere.

We’ll still use Amazon for creating want lists, but I never used those just for ordering via Amazon in the first place, if I wanted prebinding, or a complete set of a multi-volume set. Rush items can still go through, or items from associates (which are somewhat more likely, but not always, to end up on separate shipments/charges), or anything only Amazon seems to have. I may try shifting back to a personal account to see if that works better, but the customer service person thought it was all going to be the same. The bulk of the business they once got from us is going to have to move to somebody else, at least until they straighten this out.

Amazon is welcome to contact me to explain, correct, show me an easier method, or whatever, assuming anyone there ever reads blogs like this. I’ll be happy to post corrections or recommended methods (working or otherwise, from my point of view).

Update as of May 17, 2017:

The higher ed rep for Amazon has been in contact several times now, and agrees with the need to fix this. He’s been working at his end.

He called today with the discovery that the information we need does exist and if you want to burrow down some, it can be found, with some limitations. Thanks go also to his colleague – she found a way to dig this out from the screen.

On the printable Order Summary, go down to the bottom:






Click on the link for “To view the status of your order, return to Order Summary.” That sounds like it would just loop you around to where you came from, which is why I never used it (and the rep didn’t expect it either), but instead you get this:









Okay, now click on the Transactions link under the address.






AHA! The long-missing actual charge amounts that were not visible (except in the cockamamie spreadsheet).

Click on the amount you want, and get:








There, finally, is the list of titles that went on the actual charge made on the card for $94.83. Ta and da!

Of course, as I pointed out, we really need a subtotal for each shipment as well, and ALL of this needs to be out front, easy to find, preferably on the Order Summary. Instead of the charges listed as being charged, which are not actually being charged.

The main point is, the information is there and already, for the most part, extracted – they just didn’t make it easy to find and the link terminology is vague. That means, IMHO, that it should be possible to pull that out, with some reprogramming, and put it on the Order Summary so we can provide that to our people for reconciliation with the credit card statement.

The wheel that squeaketh doth receive greasing.

Oh, and BTW: the more places that complain about this, instead of just quietly changing vendors, the more push we have to get this fixed at Amazon. SPEAK UP! The phone for the corporate accounts at Amazon is 866-216-1072 (if you are on a business account). Call and gripe!

I also lost them some more business today with a potential new account (juvenile correctional facility) that wanted a source for buying books. They have to account to the state auditors as well, so I had to warn them off dealing with Amazon right now. Which I, of course, reported to the rep as additional ammo for doing something about this. Squeak, squeak!

Update 2017.8.9

Amazon has updated their view to make this a bit easier.

Click on the Order link in the email and you now get:







Below the shipping address is the “Transactions” link which takes you to the actual credit card charges.








Compare the actual Transactions to the Order amount to see what Amazon is really charging on the card.

In this example, they match. For larger orders/shipments, that may or may not be true, but this makes it more convenient to tell, at least. I will give Amazon that.

I’ve had no other information from Amazon; I just noticed this when I tried an actual order. I don’t know if they are matching Transactions to shipments or whatever.


*tl;dr means Too Long, Don’t Read unless you want to.

Things you didn’t learn how to do in library school

There are a lot of things I didn’t learn in library school that I’ve come to use in libraries. Many librarians probably do.

I’ve never worked in a library where I didn’t need to bring in my tools to do something. In fact, I have a toolbox under my desk, and we have some tools that the library owns as well. I’ve built monitor and printer stands, rolling carts, assembled and/or modified furniture, and other things.

I know a librarian who took classes in architecture so he could help design library buildings.  He knew something about how buildings go together, and what was needed, and could use that to communicate library needs to architects.

I took business courses, and bookkeeping and accounting, as well as programming and web design, to do the behind the scenes stuff that libraries need.

I also, as part of my sordid past, spent time selling office supplies, furniture and equipment, back in the ’70s. (Yes, just after the Civil War, so clam up, kids.) So I know something about that kind of thing.

Today I assembled a sign holder, the first of two I ordered for our first floor restrooms.

We’d been having troubles with small freestanding floor signs, which we need for one end of our restrooms on the first floor. You see, the way this building was designed, the architects didn’t want somebody being chased into the restroom from our 24 Hour Zone and being trapped with no other exit, so the restrooms on the first floor are open to the library (when we’re open) and lock on the Zone side, and then are unlocked on the Zone side but have alarms if opened on the library side (when we’re closed). So the potential escapee can run into the library and set off the alarm, and the noise will alert people and campus police. So, we have to (a) do lock and unlock on opening and closing, and (b) have the signs near the library side doors to tell people why that alarm just went off (and I wish I was kidding about that).

So, we need small, easily movable signs to put out the easily visible message that if you go through the library side doors when the library is closed, an alarm will sound. (And yes, I worry about being on the road with people that pay so little attention to signs that they go through the door anyway. But some do.)

So, we had signs something like this (only in black):


This looks pretty functional, or it did when I bought them. The problems began to appear upon extended use. The sign itself, in many of these designs, is held onto the post by one screw, and if that strips or breaks away, that’s the end of that. The telescoping post (which comes in pieces to save on shipping) gets loose and then you lift the whole thing (holding the post right under the sign, maximizing strain on the screw connection) and the post comes apart (not what I advocate, but I’m not available 24/7 to tell people what not to do). Now you have two pieces to move and put back together. It just wasn’t working out when various people took various levels of care (if any) to move them. Frankly, anything that has to be moved has to stand up to various stresses from the different handling that inevitably occurs.

The answer, as it often is around here, is quite simple: tell Dennis to find a solution.

So I think I did.


I wanted something sturdy, lightweight but stable, and not too expensive. The one above was well under $100; I had to go above that to about $120 (price plus shipping) for the new one. It’s one piece (once the base is assembled, but the screws should hold well in this design, and when you lift, all the weight is not on those screws – just the base). It’s aluminum, so lightweight (just under 17 pounds). The design is stable and it has rubber feet. It’s small enough to not get in the way, whether set to one side facing the wall (when the library is open and the door alarm not set) and can quickly be put within view but out of the path, when the library is closed and the alarm is on.

Naturally, the sign (11 x 17″) will not be what you see but one warning that the door alarm will be set off if you go through it. It also looks very modern yet graceful, which is in keeping with our 21st century building.

This is not an endorsement of a product; I avoid doing those. But this is in the nature of an experiment – will this design work well enough to use elsewhere in the building? We shall see.

Media Obsolescence, VHS style

[updated 2016.7.8 and 22]

The last VCRs are being made in July 2016.

Some technical info on VHS indicates a lot of problems with the format.

And so it continues….

Over the years, I’ve withdrawn 16mm and Super8 film reels, U-matic videocassettes, phonograph records, and audio cassettes.  Oddly enough, good old “obsolete” print books usually stay on the shelves, with only occasional repairs.

Our I.T. department has removed VCR (VHS format VideoCassette Recorders) from the classrooms, and any wiring for them.  So, there is no way to play VHS format in the classrooms, even if a desperate faculty member brings in their own VCR.  No place to hook up to the projector.

The library has a TV with VHS built in, but that’s it.  About 4 or 5 people could huddle around it, plugged in with headphones to a splitter box (it’s in a public area), but that’s not really useful.

We can check them out, but frankly, fewer and fewer people have VCRs at home (not including faculty, who retain such things indefinitely — hey, I can talk, I still have one!).

“Be Kind – Rewind!”  Anybody remember that?  It was most certainly not kind — by high-speed rewinding the tape tightly, it put more strain on the tape and made it more likely to flake off the magnetic oxide, and perhaps bleed data over from part of the tape to another.  Video stores changed tapes often, but libraries would be better off if people just waited until they were ready to actually play to rewind. The slow winding during regular play was easier on the tape, I always heard from experts.  Time will also deteriorate the tapes until they became a hazard to your VCR to play (get the cleaning tape out…).

So, I’m moving to withdraw this format.  It’s a time-consuming process, and I began it several years ago, contacting faculty and getting updates in DVD format if requested.

I realize that DVDs are hardly permanent (unless you record them yourself on those special long-term discs, assuming the copy protection/copyright law permits).  But at least the format is more current and can be used in our classrooms and on individual computers with DVD drives.

That leaves me with several categories for VHS videocassettes:

  1. ON RESERVE – we have 29 titles still on reserve, all sociology/anthropology.  They can be checked out.  I will try to get DVD versions of these if available, but quite often, it’s not possible.
  2. REPLACE – I can/will get DVD versions.  These are/were in heavy use (or somebody just wants a DVD if possible) and are replaceable.
  3. WITHDRAW – sorry, either no DVD or not used enough lately to be worth replacing.
  4. ARCHIVE- these would (if digitized under the law) be in-library-use-only, so only on that TV I mentioned. We may or may not actually try to digitize these to DVD; most of them are not getting much use already as VHS.  There’s a few Arkansas-related ones which are not possible to obtain anymore (done by local agencies of one kind or another).

So, how should we decide how to categorize these?

No DVD available, it’s dead.  Sometimes a DVD has been redone from much the same material, but in that case, was the VHS used that much and recently (within 5 or 6 years), and is there a faculty member who can decide if the new version is what they want?  Category: WITHDRAW or ARCHIVE or RESERVE.

In some cases, it’s been used so little/so long ago that I might not bother to look for a DVD, and there is no advocate for keeping it. Category: WITHDRAW

Big rule: if this is one of those early VHS productions that was actually a remake using an old filmstrip — no way should we be buying it, even if they have a DVD version of the same outdated stuff. Find something new on the subject. Sometimes we have to push faculty to update their acts, frankly. Category: WITHDRAW or REPLACE with new title.

DVD available, but not used much/not within last 5 or 6 years.  Faculty change what they teach and how, and some faculty have left/retired. Perhaps they had to adjust their class when the VCRs left the room and the VHS version couldn’t be used — is it worthwhile to them to adapt to the DVD version now? Category: WITHDRAW

Hardly any of these have had a request for a new DVD format version so they could be used in a classroom.  If that’s the case, and they are not otherwise in use, are they worth replacing? Category: WITHDRAW

Some or a lot of use, fairly recently, and DVD available. Sometimes I can find an alternate that will fulfill the same function. Category: REPLACE

Titles still on RESERVE or ARCHIVE category will remain a while longer.  To some extent, this falls under my “out of sight, out of mind” technique — after everyone forgets we have these, they will work their way out.

There are some exceptions. Sometimes somebody thinks that since we’re the last library to hold something, we should hang on to it.  Why?  We don’t loan VHS. It’s obviously so unpopular that nobody else wants to keep it (if they ever bought it in the first place) so nobody is likely to drive here just to view it. Nobody is using it here.  And usually it is so old that it is or will be deteriorating. But, I pick my battles and this isn’t worth it at this time.




Voyager 1202g wireless barcode scanner

[updated 2016.3.22, 2016.4.5]

So, we needed to replace our wireless bar code scanner since the irreplaceable (believe me, I checked!)  battery was going out.  Again.

Since we do inventory runs in short sessions of an hour or so (student workers availability permitting), we use up the battery recharges faster than many other owners, I suspect.  That’s meant replacing the entire unit.

Fortunately, the new model of this is the Honeywell Voyager 1202g.


Fairly stylish, actually.  Slimmer than the older model.

The base runs off a USB cord to charge.  On the front are two lights; the left is green and the right is red (so far).

The battery in this one is replaceable!  So the $200+ price isn’t as hard to eat, assuming the battery costs less than replacing the entire unit, as we did in the past.


While it claims to read bar codes right out of the box, for our purposes, some setup was needed.

The manual is online at our wiki: if that’s of any use to anyone else.

For the Innovative Interfaces old text-based inventory, we need a prefix for each number of n: (lowercase letter n followed by a colon), but that’s possible to set using bar codes from the manual (which is NOT included, but available online as a PDF).

After that, we put it in Inventory Mode so it works out of the range of the base, and we set it to hold collected data until we tell it to upload.  It does not have to be in the base to upload, just in range.  Since we’re using it with the base plugged in, the Bluetooth capability is not required to send directly to the computer.

And we’re back in business.

New Development

So far, the charging function seems to have used up/burned out/something on my tech’s front USB ports (both of them).  The red light (connection) stays on, but the green charging light won’t work and the charging is not happening.  This took several weeks to happen, so it might be just pulling too much juice over time.

We tried a direct-to-outlet USB charger, and that won’t work at all.  Maybe it expects a computer connection or nothing.  Granted, her computer is several years old.

My computer is newer, and it worked there, but we wanted something on her desk.  She’s now plugged into a USB splitter, so perhaps that will last a while.  I finally found (hidden underneath the cradle) the AC power input, so I may get an additional power charger.

Further development

I got the charger but the adapter didn’t work.  I notified the company, and they came through quickly with a couple more possibles, one of which worked and we have been able to charge (steady green light).

I’ve notified the company as to which adapter worked.





Weeding a.k.a. deacquisitions

Since we’ve moved to having liaison librarians specifically responsible for funds, purchases, and such in their subject areas, we haven’t really done any weeding except to replace older editions with new ones automatically.

We have old stuff dating back to the 1920s (the university began in 1928, and some of what we have wasn’t current then).  Some of it was put into the collection way back when just to bulk out the volume count, or because big name (while cleaning out the basement/attic) or big faculty member (while cleaning out their office upon retirement or leaving) donated it. A lot of it was retained in the past just to make sure we had enough volumes counted to be accredited, quite frankly, but since that’s not an issue any more with accreditation teams (apparently), we may as well weed.  Or “deacquire”, if you prefer.

So, I did a list of the collection, based on what wasn’t being used, just as a starting point. [sound effect of can of worms being opened]  I created a starting point, and whether or not anyone wanted to use it, I got the book cart rolling.  It wasn’t a perfect search since the in-house counts of non-circulating items are cleared annually, but it was a start.  Since I wasn’t looking just at the Reference collection, it included a lot more, and all the subject areas, but I was proposing we all take a look at everything at that point.  (Sometimes you ask for more than you really expect to get, just to get what you would be happy to settle for.  I found it works with other groups, too.)

If it’s not even being used, it couldn’t hurt to at least look at it, right?  [sound effect of can of worms being ground into my face]  It was not an action entirely without controversy, as it turned out.  Still, it got things moving.

Now, use is NOT my only criterion.  Some things need to be kept in libraries for good reasons.  Some might be better to move to circulating non-fiction.

Also, we have a lot more room in our expanded building, so we could certainly keep stuff if we didn’t care that much about what it was.

BUT — we needed a starting point.  If it’s outdated, we need to update or just remove it.  “Partly” accurate is not good enough — if we need it, we need to have an edition that is completely correct. Preferably in a format that people want to use if they need it.

Things like history, literature and art pretty much keep growing.  Science and technology (mostly my area, aside from biology, chemistry and medicine) should be kept up to date, but some of it outdates faster.  Yes, technically some old texts are still valid in terms of things like math, but are they presented in a manner which today’s users are likely to use and understand?  Will users assume the book is useless because it is old, whether or not the contents are still valid?

Frankly, we were long overdue to discuss it, and badly needed to weed (and update) Reference in the near future to make room for a new group of topical books anyway.

So, after discussion, we agreed to check the Reference collection, at least, and consider pulling some titles, and putting them on carts, and then we could all say keep something, or leave it to be withdrawn.

So, while that was going on in Reference,  I looked in my areas in non-fiction.

How I weed

Now, some librarians prefer to work directly with the shelf.  That’s fine.  That’s their style, and if it works for them, that’s how they handle it.

My preference, since I’m perhaps more familiar with Millennium, is to work from the catalog.  I can’t make all the connections I want to check when I’m standing at the shelf, and I don’t see a need to haul a lot of actual books back and forth just to check them in the catalog.

For circulating materials, I started with age.  Anything older than 1980 was searched in Millennium, and I came out with about 86 titles.  Then I checked through them, using Ctrl-G on the titles and subjects to see what else we had in that subject area, which I couldn’t do standing at the shelves.  That’s my style.

  • Did we have newer material that might be of more use (or just more popular)?
  • Was this a classic work in the subject?
  • Was this an historical work in the subject?
  • Is it circulating? Do we need to update this title but keep it until the newer version is ready for use?

This is why we get paid for our professional judgement, after all. I eliminated some of them for reasons I found good and just.  In some cases, I added to the record so I had something to eliminate them from the next such search, if they should be kept long term.

Then the remainder on my list were pulled by someone else, and put on a cart available to the other librarians, who were told to check them over a couple of weeks for anything they wanted to keep.  Then I removed the keepers, and started the rest in the withdrawal process.  I don’t argue about the keepers; if somebody wants to hang onto something, we have room and there weren’t many — I still had 78 books to come out.

Now, somebody else might say, “you didn’t even look at the actual books until everyone else did, and you only did it to match up records in the catalog!”  Right.  I wasn’t checking on physical condition (that gets done in another manner).  I was comparing them to other materials we had, the circulation counts, the publication dates given the contents, and so on.  I could have cut the date closer, say 1990 when I first arrived, but that’s for a future round.

I’ve also put up a list of standing orders (we have 5 titles, meaning we dropped most standing orders due to unpredictability of arrival).

There’s another of CONTINUATION orders, which are titles we might check regularly to see if we should update them.  In the past, I made the judgement call on updating, but now that is on the appropriate liaison librarians.  [sound effect of buck being shifted] Some of these are test study guides which we’ve agreed as a group to update, and working the funding out is in the future.

And now the original list I created had holes in it where some titles have already come out, so I sorted again and eliminated those gaps.  I don’t really need the list now; it served its purpose.