November 30th, 2020
Miss Honey uses Activity to keep track of how many patrons are coming to the library for book clubs. But when there's a long line of patrons, signing everyone in can take a while... Enter Activity Express! This new mode makes Activity sign-ins faster and—if necessary—hands-free.
With Activity Express, librarians can pre-set an activity so all patrons need to do is scan their barcode. Make it hands-free by setting up a scanner in a stand near the kiosk. That way, patrons can simply hold their library card (Library Cards 2x5 report) or phone (Patron Status mobile barcode) underneath the scanner.
See our updated Activity page for information on this new mode, including...
- setting up Express Mode,
- using Express Mode as a patron, and
- customizing activities (reasons patrons visit the library).
November 23rd, 2020
When students aren't allowed in the library, how can you help them—especially younger kids—pick out items they want? We are proud of the creative solutions librarians continue to develop, including this cool idea from a fellow Alexandria user, Deanna Contrino! Since her students aren't allowed in the library, she created reusable library cards with "book menus."
Here are some photos of an example card from Deanna.
On Deanna's cards, one side has a "book menu" and the other side has the student's name and barcode. The book menu lists different categories of books that students can choose from. For younger kids, there are also options for information vs. fiction and read alone vs. picture books. When Deanna visits classrooms and passes out the cards, students circle the type of book they'd like with a dry-erase marker. She can then pick out an appropriate book for each student, check it out to them with the card, and then drop off the books in the classroom.
How can you use these in your own library? Follow the steps below!
Create the cards
Materials: postcard paper (or other sturdy paper), printer, Alexandria labels, laminator or page protectors, scissors
- Make a book menu for each grade or age group. Deanna used an online program called Canva, but there are many others you can use!
Print one book menu onto each postcard.
Remember to print the book menus at the right size!
- Use an Alexandria report to print labels with each student's name, barcode, and other information you want to include. Attach these to the other side of the postcards.
- Laminate and cut out the cards or place them in page protectors.
Use the cards
- Visit a classroom. Deanna talks about the book categories or "big ideas" and shows examples of each. She likes to make sure students understand that the image representing the category isn't necessarily the book they'll get.
- Pass out everyone's library cards and dry-erase markers.
- Ask each student to circle the kind of book they would like.
- Collect the cards.
- Choose a book for each student depending on their preferred category and reading level. Once you have chosen a book, tuck the card into the book with the barcode side up.
- After you've selected all of the books for a class, scan them all at once in Circulation.
- Deliver the books to the classroom. Once each student has their book, collect the cards and store them in folders labeled by class.
And there you have it! Feel free to adapt this idea to what would work best for your library. If you give it a try, let us know how it's going in the comments below. And thank you to Deanna Contrino for sharing this awesome idea!
November 16th, 2020
Do you still have a lot of lost books? When schools and libraries had to close suddenly, students may have lost or forgotten about their books. If your patrons need a little reminder to return them, simply send out the Lost Items Charge Notice report!
The Lost Items Charge Notice report will go out to all selected patrons who have unpaid charges on lost items. We recommend you set up a scheduled report that will automatically send notices on a regular basis:
- Go to Reports > Circulation > Notices > Lost Items Charge Notice.
- Click Create Saved Report in the bottom right-hand corner.
- Type a name for the report and click OK.
- The report will move to the Saved tab, where there are additional settings. Fill out the Overview, Selections, Options, Schedule, Notification, and FTP tabs as necessary.
- Be sure to fill out the Schedule tab to determine the report frequency.
- If you would like notices to be emailed directly to students, choose the Email format on the Options tab.
- If you use paper notices and want to be emailed a link to the downloadable PDF each week, check the Enable Email Notification checkbox on the Notification tab and add your email to the Email Notification and Download Link To field.
If you want a confirmation each time the report runs, check the Enable Email Notification checkbox on the Notification tab and add your email to the Email Notification To field.
- Click Save.
You can also use the Send Patron Details Email report to remind patrons about lost books they have already paid charges on. That might incentivize them to look for those lost books and get their money back!
You can also notify your patrons about lost items in v6 with any Circulation Notice report. Choose the report with your preferred format and change the Transaction Type to Lost Item. If you want to schedule the report, use the Schedule tab.
Whether you're on v6 or v7, check out our 5 Library Notices to Lighten Things Up blog post for some fun ideas on spicing up your notice text!
November 9th, 2020
Miss Honey is ready to run a Coming Due Items Notice report for books due next week. But... what if she wants to schedule it to run every week? Sending out notices for items that were due from November 15th–21st won't be helpful in the future. Luckily, you can use date ranges or relative dates.
When inputting dates in Alexandria reports, you have the choice between two types:
- Date Range: The time in between two specified dates (i.e. 11/15/20–11/21/20).
- Relative Date: A generalized time period, such as a week or a month, rather than specific dates.
You can use the little dropdown to the right of a selection involving dates to switch between Date Range to Relative Date.
In Miss Honey's case, she'd use a Relative Date combination of "Next 1 Week" for the Patrons with Items Due selection. Then, once scheduled, only notices that are relevant to the following week will go out!
In v6, you can use Adaptive Dates for similar purposes.
November 2nd, 2020
Pumpkin spice and everything nice is in the air, and Miss Honey just got a bunch of new holiday books. These will be perfect for storytelling time, class activities, and more! But... how can she shorten check-out periods for just these books? They're sure to be popular, so everyone should get a turn. With Alexandria, the answer is simple: policies.
Policies allow you to customize transaction periods, fine rates, renewals, and more for different types of items. So, we recommend you create a holiday policy for your library!
Create a holiday policy
- Go to Preferences > Policies.
- Click Add or Duplicate at the bottom of the Item Policy pane.
- Fill out your new policy's name (e.g. Holiday), short code, statistics group, and defaults. Click Add when you're done.
- Make any necessary modifications to your new policy. Here are some specific preferences you may want to change:
- Check Out tab
- Maximum Renewals for Item
- Transaction Period
- Overdue tab
- Fine Rate
- Other tab
- Allow Hold Requests
- Maximum Reservation Days
- Check Out tab
- Click Save in the top right-hand corner when you're done.
Make any necessary exceptions
You might want to make exceptions to these new rules. For example, you may want to allow teachers to check out holiday books for 14 days instead of the standard 5 days for patrons. This can be done with the Exceptions tab in Policy Preferences.
- Make sure the patron (Teacher) and item policy (Holiday) combination that needs the exception are selected in the Patron Policy and Item Policy panes.
- Click the Exceptions button (it will turn red).
- Make any necessary changes to the Patron Policy or Item Policy panes. For example, you could change the Transaction Period to 14, so teachers can have holiday books a little longer than patrons.
- When you're done, click Save in the upper right-hand corner, and then click the Exceptions button to return to normal settings.
Give books the holiday policy
Change the policy for a group of items all at once with either the Change Title Policy utility (if your policies are the same across all sites) or Change Copy Policy utility (if your policies differ by site).
Alternatively, you can change item policies through Circulation:
- Gather all of your holiday books and items that need their policy changed.
- In Circulation, use the Change Item Policies command by entering UI + holiday policy (e.g. UI Holiday) into the command line and pressing <Enter>.
- Scan the barcodes of all holiday items to change them to the Holiday policy.
- When finished, type a period (.) into the command line and press <Enter>.
At the end of the holidays, return those items to their original policies by using the same utility or by following the Circulation instructions but with the original policy (e.g. UI Fiction).
Need to keep certain books in the library for activities? Check them out to the For Library Use (3) system patron. Then no one else can check them out!
October 26th, 2020
In Alexandria, it's easy to catalog items whether you understand MARC tags and subfields or not. However, if you can't find a spot for the information you want to add in a title record, you may need to switch to MARC View and add it that way. So... where can you go to find information about what each tag and subfield represents?
The Library of Congress (LOC) website has a special section devoted to MARC tags and fields, which shows what each tag and subfield represent and examples of how each is used.
To get to the Library of Congress MARC webpage:
Go to http://www.loc.gov/marc.
- Click on Bibliographic under the MARC Formats section or Bibliographic under the MARC LITE section.
- Use the Table of Contents to select a portion of MARC information you would like to learn about.
- Use links from the resulting page to view specific tag information.
You can also click Read About This Tag when looking at a specific tag in MARC View to go straight to the relevant LOC page.
MARC LITE is a subset of the full MARC 21 Bibliographic Format. It includes all essential data elements that are needed to create bibliographic descriptions of information items. Records using only those elements are valid MARC records and may be integrated with fuller records without alteration.
October 19th, 2020
For cataloging purposes, Miss Honey's library uses the Resource Description & Access (RDA) format for their mediums. But this makes filtering searches by medium difficult... how are patrons supposed to know that "text-unmediated-volume" actually means it's a book or "spoken word-audio-audio disc" is an audiobook on a CD? With Alexandria, you can have the best of both worlds!
Keep your RDA mediums and simplify them by using aliases, or alternative names.
Simply go to Authority Control > Medium and select the medium to which you want to give an alias. Click Edit Alias at the bottom of the screen and type it in; then click Save when you're done.
And presto! Now your patrons will only see the alias in Researcher, and librarians will see both the alias and RDA term while in Librarian.
Medium Dropdown in Librarian
Medium Dropdown in Researcher
How else can you improve searching for your patrons?
Check out our new article on Researcher Best Practices, which contains a bunch of tips—like this one—on making searching easier. We have a bunch of other resources you may find helpful as well:
October 13th, 2020
We've got another recent improvement for you to check out! If you haven't already, take a look at the new Copy List. This is where you'll go in Circulation to see a list of all copies belonging to a title (including their sites, locations, statuses, and details) as well as that title's holds queue.
- Author's name. Performs an item lookup by author.
- Open item details: Pulls up that title's Item Details.
- Patron names: Makes that patron current. This will happen in the background; cancel out of the Copy List to see the new current patron.
- Copy call numbers and barcodes: Makes that copy current. This will happen in the background; cancel out of the Copy List to see the new current item.
Want to give feedback on upcoming features? Join our User Research Group!
October 5th, 2020
Have you tried out the new and improved Item Details yet? Just like Patron Details, we've reorganized things and added more helpful information. Take a look!
Now it's even easier to get to know the books in your collection. Item Details contains reviews, links, genres, subjects, all study programs, awards, publisher information, and the item's summary. It's also interactive! Here are some thing you can click on now:
- Author's name. Performs an automatic item lookup by author.
- Star ratings. Opens Reviews Management so you can approve pending reviews.
- Open copy list. Opens that item's Copy List.
Quickly pull up Item Details for the current item with the QI command or by clicking Details in the current item's Actions menu.
Where did the copy and holds information go?
All copy and holds information for a title and its copies has been moved to the new Copy List, which is also easily accessible from Circulation. Stay tuned for more information on this in next week's tip!
Join our User Research Group to give your insights on coming changes and new features like this! We value the input of our users.
September 28th, 2020
How long has it been since you've cleaned out your Z39.50 servers? ...months, years, decades? Don't worry, you're not the only one. Let's go over the basics of maintaining your list!
Keeping your collection of Z39.50 servers up-to-date allows you to use Title Assistant more effectively, which assists you in adding or updating title records. Clean out your list by testing and removing servers that no longer work.
Test Z39.50 Servers
First you'll need to test servers to see if they're currently working.
- Go to Preferences > Z39.50.
- In the list of servers to the right, highlight the Z39.50 server address you want to test. Hold down SHIFT while clicking to select multiple server addresses at once.
- At the bottom of the Z39.50 Servers pane, click the Actions menu and select Test Selected Server.
- The server will either show as Available, Offline, or Unknown.
Remove Z39.50 Servers
Once you know the status of various servers, choose whether or not to remove them.
- Go to Preferences > Z39.50.
- In the list of servers to the right, highlight the Z39.50 server address you want to remove. Hold down SHIFT while clicking to select multiple server addresses at once.
- At the bottom of the Z39.50 Servers pane, click the Actions menu and select Remove Z39.50 Server.
- If you're absolutely positive that you want to remove the server address from this set, click Remove. This cannot be undone.
In 20.4, we trimmed down the COMPanion Default Set for improved maintenance. The updated set includes OhioLINK and Library of Congress. You'll need to manually remove servers that no longer work because restoring to defaults will only add back OhioLINK and Library of Congress if they were removed. It will not remove any servers you currently have.
Since each library's needs are different and servers are constantly coming and going, we encourage periodically testing your servers and using the resources outlined on z39.50 Preferences to bolster and customize your own list.
Which servers do you use that have been useful? Share with us in the comments!
September 21st, 2020
As Miss Honey checks in a copy of The Hunger Games, an in-stock hold notification pops up for Darla Anderson. And it just so happens that Darla's in the class currently visiting the library. What's the fastest way for Miss Honey to immediately check out this book to Darla so she can just hand it to her?
There are a couple ways to quickly check out a returned book to the next person waiting for it. When you check in the book and it becomes the Current Item, either...
- Go to the Holds tab > Item subtab. The patron with the in-stock hold should be at the top of the list. Double-click and they'll become the Current Patron.
- Open the Copy List by clicking Copy List in the Current Item pane or by using the Q= shortcut. If the list isn’t long, you should be able to quickly spot the patron with the in-stock hold. Click on their name to make them the Current Patron.
With the item and new patron current, then—while in Check Out mode—you can use the = shortcut to check the book right out to them.
And there you have it! Using these shortcuts will save you time and sanity.
September 14th, 2020
You told us, and we listened! With your feedback, we updated Patron Details to be more efficient and helpful than ever before. Have you given it a try yet?
Along with the reorganization, we've made Patron Details interactive! Say you want to renew an item or forgive a charge for the patron whose Details you're viewing. Simply click on that section's heading (i.e. "Items Out" or "Charge Summary") to be taken to the right place in Circulation. You can also click on a title to make it the Current Item.
Take a look at the When are my books due?—Send Patron Details to everyone tip to learn how to use the Send Patron Details Email report.
We'd again like to thank all of those who took our survey on Patron Details. Your insights were integral to its redesign! If you'd like to regularly give feedback on what's coming next in Alexandria, consider joining our User Research Group.
September 8th, 2020
Miss Honey has a new procedure for picking up holds, but patrons keep forgetting to only come during certain hours. How can she remind patrons of the new pickup hours each time they have holds ready? Well, with Alexandria, she can customize the text of her automatic in-stock hold notices!
While Alexandria comes with default text for various notices, we realize you may need to change the text to suit the needs of the moment. You can change the text for the following notices:
- Circulation Letter
- In-Stock Hold
- Recall (v6 only)
- Reservation Notice
- Overdue Suspension Notice
- Patron Suspension Notice
- Account Access Information
- Email Signature
- Circulation Notice
- Circulation Notice Email Subject
- Refund Letter
- Damage Letter
- Subscription Claim Letter
Whether you use v7 or v6, here's how you can edit the text of a notice:
- Go to Preferences > Circulation.
- Click on the Letters tab.
- Select the letter you wish to edit.
- Edit the text.
- Click Save in the upper right-hand corner.
And voilà! Now your patrons will be in the know on what's happening at your library.
August 31st, 2020
Is your library now running remotely? If so, you'll probably need to set up some email notices. Overdue items, unpaid charges, coming due items... Learn how to schedule notices for all of these with Alexandria!
With email notices, you'll be able to easily give patrons important information without needing to see them or individually email everyone.
Which notice reports should you set up? Here are a few we recommend:
- Use the Coming Due Items Notice to increase the chances of getting your items back on time.
Let patrons know they have a hold that's ready to be picked up with the In-Stock Hold Notice.
Set up multiple scheduled In-Stock Hold Notices to give patrons more than one chance to see it (immediately after it becomes available and a few days before it expires, for example). The In-Stock Hold Expiration Date selection with relative dates makes this a breeze!
- Periodically send out the Overdue Items and Unpaid Charges Notice / Overdue Items Notice / Unpaid Charges Notice so patrons are never surprised by charges.
Check out our full list of Circulation Notices Reports for more.
Here are some email notices you may want to schedule:
And there you go. Get those notices scheduled and enjoy the freedom!
August 24th, 2020
Has it been a while since you've ventured into Alexandria? If so, you might need to brush up on some things... but no worries! Here's a quick refresher on checking in items.
Checking in items from Circulation is easy peasy!
You'll have to use Bookdrop mode (B). "Bookdrop" is another word for "check in," and you'll find it's sometimes used in Alexandria and our documentation. Once you enter B into the command line to start Bookdrop mode, you can continuously scan or type barcodes to check in items.
If your library is focusing a lot on holds, we suggest you don't use Inventory Bookdrop Suppressed mode. This disables notifications that let you know if an item being checked in has a hold on it.
There are a few preferences related to check-ins you'll want to review:
- Circulation Preferences > Circulation Rules > Overdue. Choose whether or not to automatically fine patrons (without requiring operator interaction) when an overdue book is returned.
- Circulation Preferences > User Interaction > Check Out. Customize Bookdrop mode behavior (allowing books to be checked in during check out and more) as well as alerts.
- Policy Preferences > Item Policies > Overdue. Consider increasing grace periods if you need to quarantine returned items.
Want to quickly review a few other essentials? Take a look at our Alexandria Refresher!
Before you go...
We want to hear from you! Which tools and resources—both within and outside of Alexandria—have you been using to get your library through the pandemic? Let us know in our survey.