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Archive for December, 2012

Laptops, Tablets and Ultrabooks, Oh My!

December 12th, 2012 No comments

If you love technology it’s a great time to be in the market for a new mobile device.  There are so many new laptops, tablets and smart phones on the market now one could spend every moment from now until New Year’s Day trying to decide what to buy.  Here are some things to consider when buying that new device.

Laptops vs. Tablets: Many people struggle with the decision of buying a laptop or tablet.  “Will a tablet do everything you needed to do?  Do I wanna lug around a full size laptop?  I don’t need a laptop, I love my smart phone, I just want a bigger screen!” These are all things that go on inside our internal dialogue when shopping for that new device.

You’re not alone!

Lately, the decision to buy a tablet over a laptop is becoming easier.  If you’re an Apple user and use your computer for basic functions such as Internet browsing, word processing, e-mail and chatting, the answer is an easy one.  The iPad is a cheaper, more portable, and equally as functional replacement for the old laptop.

However, if you’re not an Apple user and don’t want to become one, you have many options available to you.  Microsoft has recently released Windows 8.  Fully functional, touch friendly, and available in a wide range of new devices, it may just be the perfect choice to replace the old laptop.

New technology from Intel has also brought to market a line of new devices called ultrabooks.  These new devices feature the power of a laptop with the convenience of the tablet in one device. Lenovo, Dell, Microsoft, Sony and many others, have devices on the market with these new features and technologies.

If you have an Android smart phone and are comfortable with its functionality and just want a bigger screen, you may want to consider an Android tablet.  It’s like your smart phone with a bigger screen.

If you still struggle with what to buy, the best advice I can give is to visit your local electronics store.  Usually all it takes is a few minutes with your hands on the device to tell if it will work for you.  You should be able to intuitively use a tablet within 5 minutes without instruction.  If after 5 minutes it is not an intuitive experience, then the device is probably not for you and I would recommend checking out a different device.

There are so many different devices on the market that there surely one for everybody.

Rob Caluori, Director of Information Technology

Delicious Gift Baskets from Dylan’s

December 11th, 2012 No comments

One of my favorite places to shop for the holidays is Dylan’s Wine Cellar in Peekskill. For those who know me well, you know that I am not a fan of clutter – so I try to give gifts that are easily consumable. Gift baskets prepared by Dylan’s are just that – food and beverages that are always welcome and easy!

A gift basket that I bought at Dylan’s for some lucky person in Westchester even comes with a book of drink recipes! You can shop online for gift baskets or visit the store in person at 50 Hudson Avenue, Peekskill, NY. The store’s phone number is (914) 930-8003.

Terry Kirchner, Executive Director

 

WLS Holiday Gift Guide

December 10th, 2012 No comments

The holiday season is upon us, and that means presents! Some people have the easiest time coming up with great gifts for family and friends. While other people need some help finding the perfect present.

This year, our staff decided to put together a 10 day holiday gift guide. Each gift idea truly represents the personality of our staff members!

 

“This year, at least two friends are going to score an Empire Pass, which gives a carload of friends, family, and pets free access to county parks all year long.  Westchester has hundreds, no, thousands of trails that take your breath away – because they are either energetic and/or absolutely beautiful.  Maybe I’ll add in a copy of 50 Hikes in the Lower Hudson Valley: Hikes and Walks from Westchester County to Albany, and my favorite thermos so they don’t forget about winter hikes – and really, what better time for hot chocolate?”

Elena Falcone, Director, Office of Community Connections

 

Westchester Library System 53rd Annual Meeting

December 7th, 2012 No comments

On November 14, 2012, Westchester Library System held its 53rd Annual Meeting at the Historic Hudson Valley Library’s new Headquarters & Library in Pocantico Hills. Even though many were still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, more than 50 people came out to represent our member libraries and enjoy each other’s company.

After the official business, WLS Executive Director, Terry Kirchner, gave a brief overview of the year’s past activities and unveiled WLS’s new logo.  An annual report was compiled for 2011-2012.  Again, due to Sandy, the full shipment of the reports was delayed and enough copies of the report were unavailable at the time of the meeting.  However, a distribution to each library will be made; and copies of the report are now available by contacting WLS Development Director, Pat Braja, at 914-231-2341.

Maureen Sullivan, President of the American Library Association, was the featured speaker.  Ms. Sullivan is a consultant to numerous libraries and a professor of practice in the Ph.D. program, Managerial Leadership in the Information Professions, at the Simmons College Gradual School of Library & Information Science.  She also was honored with ALA’s Elizabeth Futas Catalyst for Change Award in 1999. During the meeting, she was quick to start by noting how libraries are at the cutting edge of the changes happening in our world and how they are uniquely positioned with talented staff to help their communities embrace those changes.

However, there is a lot of pressure these days to perform differently; yet we must learn as we do.

Libraries are among the most trusted agencies; they value collaboration.  The promise of libraries to transform communities requires not civic engagement but community engagement.  We may not believe we have the skill to do it, but libraries are in a unique position to step in.  Ms. Sullivan spoke of a few of her Presidential initiatives:  one was to re-think ALA’s role as a professional organization and to get them to be more global.  The other is the training of library leaders as effective conveners.  Based on the book The Work of Hope by Richard C. Harwood, this initiative will seek to show library leaders how to identify the needs of their community and how they can step out to meet those needs in a meaningful way.  Some topics to be covered include:  being a coach; embracing the convener role; facilitating meetings; building sustainable personal relationships; and developing plans for follow-up.

In the weeks following our Annual Meeting, Ms. Sullivan announced an upcoming program in April 2013 entitled, “Strategic Liaisons: Game-Changing Conversations.”  This program will be held in conjunction with the Special Libraries Association (SLA) and will be held in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Open Source Software in Libraries

December 6th, 2012 No comments

 

By now most people have heard of source software.  Products like the Android operating system for smart phones and OpenOffice the open source alternative for the Microsoft Office product suite have shown the general public what is possible when the development community maintains software rather than a corporation.  Open source software has also made an impact on libraries.  Several projects have made significant progress and are making their way into mainstream operation in public libraries.  Going beyond basic desktop productivity software such as word processing there are now open source projects for functions such as the integrated library system which is used to manage patron and item data, reserves and bills as well as the online catalog, server and desktop operating systems help desk ticketing systems, self-checkout interfaces  and even phone systems.

So what is open source?  Why is it important?  Is it really free?  These are very important questions and the last one is very rarely discussed.  Open source software simply means that the code used to make the software is available to anyone who wants to see it or change it to better suit their needs.  It used to be that large corporations had no hand in open source software however that is quickly changing.  Companies such as Oracle and Google have embraced open source software, but that is a subject for another day.  Sometimes off the shelf proprietary software just doesn’t do what the organization needs.  Open source software is important because it allows organizations to develop custom solution without having to start at square one.  Oftentimes needing a custom solution is not unique to the base requirements are the same.  An organization can easily use an open source project as their base and develop a custom solution around it.  It’s not really free.  Open source software does not eliminate costs it transfers cost from the acquisition of software to its customization, maintenance and support.

There are many great open source projects that can be used in libraries.  One such project is called VuFind.  VuFind is an open source catalog develop that Villanova University.  The university library there use it as their main catalog.  It was so successful that they released into the world and many libraries and library systems use it today.  Westchester Library System uses VuFind for the catalog that is used to serve the correctional facilities within the county.  There is no Internet access in the libraries in the correctional facilities in Westchester.  The WLS IT department modified the VuFind software to provide an offline, standalone catalog that can be used without an Internet connection.

To another great example of open source software is Asterisk.  This software allows a server to be used as a VOIP PBX phone system.  VOIP phone service is significantly cheaper than traditional phone service and using this software allows the library system to save money on its telephone services.

WLS is also exploring the use of open source self-checkout software for use in our member libraries.  Currently self-checkout solutions are very expensive mainly due to the cost of custom hardware.  The solution WLS is pursuing will use less expensive off the shelf hardware along with the open source self-checkout interface to deliver the less expensive alternative to the libraries.  Due to the fact that the hardware is off the shelf, ongoing maintenance costs should also be reduced.

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