Friday, August 16, 2013


Hello again. This week I went to the PNLA conference in Boise. I must say I enjoyed it. Well done you conference organizers! As usual I asked the attendees what new things they are going to take home and use. One commonly cited theme was improved signage. Here is a librarian who stopped by and agreed to have her picture taken at our HPCS booth.

Thanks E.J.
Here's the scanner used with our self-check. A few folks noticed the signage (false barcode) on the metal base plate. It says "Step 1 - place your library card here" in English and Spanish. They wanted to know if they could buy that, meaning just the scanner with that stand. "Of course" I said and took their names.
Here's me. Do I really look like that?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

How to plan space for a small self-checkout system

When planning space for a self-checkout system there are two things to consider: Height and Workspace. For the system to be accessible by children, wheelchair users, and short folks I would suggest using a table or shelf about 30 inches or a little higher above the floor.
As for workspace, it needs to provide the patron with a comfortable area to set down their items. The sample cabinet below is about 32 inches wide and 2 feet deep. This also allows room for future peripherals such as an RFID pad antenna.

Comments and inquiries are always appreciated. contact page

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Introduction: Makerspaces is a library buzzword to describe an area in the library set aside for learning some hands-on skills. They can be technical skills such as building robots or a bit more earthy like learning to tie dye tee-shirts.

Thinking about makerspaces makes me think of my Dad's awesome work shop. (He passed away last summer.) As a child growing up in Rhode Island, I knew my Dad could build anything! He had very little formal education but was a good reader and became an expert with all things mechanical and electronic. A lot of his learning came from working at Cottrell's in the 1960s, building printing presses.

As a young boy it was such fun watching my Dad work on things in his shop. There was always some project that required some work on the bench. When I was five he would let me hold the solder and push it onto the circuit board as he applied the heat. So naturally today I love electronics and it's a major part of my work.

I think I'll try to set up my own makerspace at home so I can work with my daughter to make an Arduino controlled robot, with blinking LEDs for eyes.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Attending WLA-OLA Vancouver WA

Pictured: Carol McGeehon of the Douglas County Library stopped in to see us.

Well this week Roy and I are attending the combined WLA and OLA conference in Vancouver, WA. It's been beautiful weather. The conference at the Hilton is being well managed. The free wifi is working great, which is pretty impressive considering the large number of folks using it.

We spoke to a manager for a consortium of 75 libraries. It was interesting to hear her account of trying to keep the Linux/Postgresql servers responsive under such a large load. They are hoping to improve responsiveness by adding solid state drives and more memory.

more later...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Attending the MLA Conference

(This is a picture we took on our way back home)

This week we attended the Montana Library Association (MLA) conference in Missoula. We had a wonderful time. We met Jim Semmelroth, Brett Fisher, Allen Seelye and many other hardworking volunteers who made all the technical stuff work so efficiently! It was a wonderful conference. I was glad to see that electricity and good quality wifi was made available to exhibitors without extra cost!

We took some pictures, but they are on Chaney's smartfone. (Chaney is the wife of my partner Roy Hicks.) I hope to add them to this post later.

We met many of the hardworking librarians who take seriously their service to small rural community libraries. Many of these wonderful people serve communities of less than 2000 people, and some work at school libraries with just a couple hundred students. Most are connected to the Montana state catalog in Helena. The state catalog is a consortium with an IBM AIX work-horse super-powerful computer system running Sirsi-Dynix software.

Well this coming week we will attend another conference in Vancouver Washington. I am kind of excited about it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A lesson in RFID

Today I visited Kristynn Johnson at the Eugene Public Library. This library was an early adopter of RFID technology. They started doing RFID in 2002. They have done an awesome job implementing this awesome technology.
Here is a picture of their automated material handling system made by Tech-Logic. It is super cool and works great!

The conveyor system "talks" to the Polaris ILS to check-in items and get their collection code to determine which sorting bin to put them in.
Kristynn gave me some pointers on applying RFID tags to library items:
On the vast majority of items RFID tags can simply be applied without concern. Occasionally though to achieve the best results, one must understand the technology. For example RFID tags may not work at self-check if obscured by a significant amount of metal. The metal is sometimes found in a book jacket, especially a shiny one, such as Guiness World Records, popular with young people. (btw I googled that and found lots of really amazing/gross pictures!) It is best to position an RFID tag on an item that contains metal in a way that the self-check readers will have clear access and read the tag information clearly at check out. In a box set of CD/DVDs it is advisable to only tag one item. Otherwise the "noise" from multiple labels will not give a good read.
Some items may not work well with self-check for what ever reason and these will need some sort of visual indicator like a special sticker to indicate that they need to be checked in and out manually to assure that they are posted and removed from the patron accounts accordingly. There are very few cases of when RFID cannot be utilized.
Thanks Kristynn! I appreciated the tour!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Go away Winter blues.

Well Winter is finally releasing it's grip. I get pretty depressed in the winter. Here in Southern Oregon the sun seems to disappear from November to March. Being surrounded by mountains adds to the feeling of being caged in. So I am very happy to have a bit more sunshine.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Haley in the Self-check

Thank you Haley for stress testing the hardware.

This is how Daddy really feels about it:


Sorry for shamelessly showing off some family pics.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Patrons are camera shy

Brenda in Paradise

Wylendia in Richmond
While visiting one of our customers last week I wanted to take a few photos of patrons using the self checkout. Wow was that hard. Hardly anyone wanted to have their photo taken, much less a short video clip, which was my preference. I was visiting the library on a Thursday and a staff member on duty suggested I would have better success on a Saturday when a lot of young people come in to use the library. Anyway I got a few pictures. The people in the above pictures are librarians.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Library Geniuses

When you associate with library people, you start to realize, in general, that these are the smartest people around. It's amazing how humble and quiet most of these men and women are, given the vast knowledge they have acquired. I recognize a large talent in some of these folks that could have been used for great personal enrichment. There are quite a number of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs type of brainiacs, who seem to find more fulfillment simply helping an elderly neighbor, or a child to use the library effectively.

This makes me feel confident about the future of libraries. Even with societal changes caused by tight budgets and rapidly morphing technology, libraries and the geniuses in them are inventing brilliant new ways to serve people.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Learning from Libraries Part 1

Hi this is my first post to our new blog. The blog title is borrowed from the Twilight Zone "To Serve Man" episode. I hope to share what I learn about serving library people here.

Libraries are fun places. Most librarians seem happy and unstressed. Not always of course, but generally they are. I think stress does come with change. And libraries are changing. Budgets are tightening due to the long term affects of the recent recession. And of course technology is changing the core services of libraries. I hope to spend a lot of time in libraries observing the changes and report back to you weekly. Probably on Tuesdays.