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Mobilizing in Juneau

I’m off today to the annual conference for the Alaska Library Association which is in sunny Juneau this year.  I will presenting a session call “Mobilizing your Website”.  You can  download the presentation slides as well as some coding examples:

Camping in Our New Yurt

Yurt on my in-laws property in the Valley

My wife and I just bought the Hilleberg Altai UL, a lightweight yurt that is ideal for winter camping. Years ago I bought a Black Diamond Megamid, a floorless pyramid tent often used by groups as a cook tent or shelter. We added a small, portable wood burning stove from Kifaru by sewing a fireproof jack for the stove pipe into the tent canopy.

The stove (3-4lbs) and Megamid (4-5lbs) combination is lightweight, but the set up is too cramped. The Megamid measures 9′ on each side for 81 sf of area, but the sloping walls really cut into the usable space. Add a small, intensely hot stove (nicknamed “the beast”) in the middle of it  and you can barely sleep two people much less hang out comfortably.

So a few weeks ago, we started searching for an upgrade.  There are a number of manufacturers of ultralight teepee-like shelters that can accept a wood stove,  but they still have the problem of the sloping walls.  Wall tents are great in terms of livable space, but weight too much.  And thus we finally stumbled on the yurt.

Checking out the stove insert

The Altai is an octagon that measures 11′ across, provides about 100 sf of area, and is 6.5′ tall in the center.  But the real difference is the side walls, which are 3.5′ tall.  You can comfortably sleep 4 people with gear and the stove.  And a lot of people can sit inside to hang out, this thing is a palace.  The Altai weighs 6-9lbs depending on the number of poles you bring (its designed so you can use ski poles in place of the side poles and a pair of skis in place of the center pole).  It takes about 30 minutes to set up but the Altai is actually easier to pitch than the Megamid, despite all the poles and guylines.

Fixing a Zip Code Problem in WorldCat

We have a funny problem with WorldCat.org and at our library.  When you are in the library or on campus and search Worldcat, our library appears to be 257 miles away when trying to find copies in a library nearby.  It works fine if you are off campus somewhere else in town.  So what gives?  OCLC is looking a the IP address of the browser and doing a lookup to determine zip code location.  Unfortunately, the lookup for our IP addresses on campus thinks we are in Fairbanks because that is where the statewide university system connects to the broader Internet.

We reported this to OCLC  3 years ago when we first noticed it.  They had no way to specify or customize how IP addresses were associated with zip codes since they used an unspecified external service for their geo mapping.  They offered that when WorldCat Local came it might be fixed.  Turns out that’s not true.  A couple of months ago we came up with a work around, not sure why it took so long for us to think of it.  When we link to WorldCat on our website, we include the Ezproxy prefix so the site is included in the proxy server.  We’ve configured the proxy server to automatically authenticate users on campus so they don’t have to login but to continue proxying the WorldCat website.  Since Ezproxy is a URL rewriting proxy, we then use a search and replace command to insert the correct zip code:

Title Consortium Library WorldCat Local
URL http://consortiumlibrary.worldcat.org
DJ worldcat.org
Find &referer=
Replace &loc=99508&referer=

It’s not perfect.  It only works when users access WorldCat from the library website. If users on campus go directly to WorldCat or end up there from GoogleBooks they will have a Fairbanks zip code.  Since OCLC seems unable to offer a real fix, my colleague had the clever idea of contacting geo IP services and getting them to correct the zip code for our IP ranges.  Maybe we will get lucky and fix the one that OCLC uses.

Bookin’ Librarians had a great weekend

This past weekend, the Bookin’ Librarians completed the MS Challenge, a 74 mile ride from Hope to Seward on Saturday and then 74 mile ride back to Hope on Sunday. The ride is a fund raiser for the National MS Society. I hed done the ride in 2008 and 2009 as an indivdual, but this year was joined by some fellow librarians and friends.

There were six of us riding–Drew, Judy, Megan, Mike, Paul and Scott–plus my wife Ruth came along to provide moral support and a cold beer at the finish line each day. Unlike previous years, we had wonderful blue skies and sunshine on both days. As usual, the race volunteers were great and there was plenty of good food and variety at the rest stops–pancakes, soups, grill cheese sandwiches, pizza, etc. I think I gained 5 pounds during the ride.

The really neat thing is how many people made donations to the MS Society on behalf of the team. We raised over $5300 which put us in second place among the friends and family teams and Scott was the second place fundraiser overall.  Many thanks to our generous colleagues, friends, and family!

More Mobile (and text)

Last week we debuted a mobile version of the library website using the techniques we developed for the mobile library catalog.  We automatically redirect to the mobile site for a selection of mobile browsers  (iPhone/iTouch, Android, Palm WebOS, Blackberry, Mobile Opera, Mobile Firefox, and Symbian s60) that covers a broad segment of the smartphone and high-end feature phones.  In addition, we have a link to the mobile site on the front page so users of mobile browsers we may have missed can make their own choice.  Also, low bandwidth users might prefer the mobile site.

The mobile home page is laid out with a set of icons to selected resources on the library website with an emphasis on those that might be more useful for mobile users.  However, we took a different approach than some web developers which only make a selection of pages available via the mobile version.  Instead we make every page on the main website available in the mobile version.  Mobile users also have the ability to toggle to the full website if needed.

Another nice feature is that we link to the mobile version of  library resources when possible.  For example, we link to the mobile version of the Ebsco databases like Academic Search Premier.  We will keep our eye on other vendors and link to their mobile versions when they become available.

Finally, the work we did to make a mobile version of the website allowed us to easily add a text version for screen readers and non-graphical browsers.  We had  text version before but only for the home page, now the entire website is available in a text version.  A link to the text version displays at the top of the page for screen readers and non-graphical browsers but is hidden from regular web browsers.