August 20, 2014

Gifts for the Library: Choice gadgets for ramping up service in 2012

This holiday season, don’t forget your favorite library. The following items are easy on the budget and can help your media center do great things in the coming year.

Is your circ desk area a bit staid? Jazz things up with an interactive display, using a digital photo frame or USB-connected monitor. Pandigital photo frames are highly reviewed and range from $75 for a seven-inch frame to $125 for a 10-inch frame. Set up a digital frame for a rotating display of notices and book reviews using PowerPoint slides exported as JPG image files. Or for about $200, you can get a Mimo (pictured) a seven-inch, USB-powered and connected external touch monitor. Now your display can be interactive using PowerPoint slide navigation.

A book-scanning project can benefit the community. Just think of all the local documents just waiting to be digitized. Yearbooks, school newspapers, newsletters, and student literary magazines all can be brought online for less than you might think. Check with local library consortia or academic institutions to see about using their scanning equipment, or consider buying your own. Plustek’s Opticbook flatbed scanner is ideal for handling books. The 3600 Plus model scans directly to PDF and costs $300.

If you’re inspired by Shannon Miller, John Schumacher, and other educators who use Skype to connect with authors around the world via video chat, then see about upgrading your webcam. The built-in cameras that come with many laptops aren’t the best for working with groups or in large rooms. Freetalk offers a Skype-certified HD USB webcam designed for conference rooms. Costing $130, the Freetalk device boasts a wide-angle lens and four noise-canceling mics.

Nothing enhances video calling or podcasting like a quality microphone. Make your library book reviews and announcements sing by using a mic that actually costs more than a book. The $100 USB Snowball (left), by Blue Microphones, has a funky, retro look, with three recording options for great-sounding single or group recording. The Snowball also works on an iPad running GarageBand; simply add the Apple USB camera connection kit and you’ve got a mobile podcasting lab. Blue also offers the smaller Snowflake mic ($60) and the Icicle ($60), which converts a regular microphone into a USB device.

Finally, a little something for you and your circulation staff. Barcode scanners used to be pricey, but now you can upgrade to a new, more accurate device on the cheap. Laser scanners make quick work of circ tasks with faster scan times and more accurate reads (compared to CCD models). For a great, all-purpose device, I like the Motorola LS2208 USB scanner. The cost? About $150, including a stand, which allows for hands-free use.

If you do more heavy-duty circulation, then I would suggest a Honeywell (formerly Metrologic) MS3780 Fusion. Though a bit more dear at $250 for the USB device and a stand, the Fusion is an omnidirectional scanner that emits 20 laser lines to read a barcode from almost any angle. Sure, it may only save a second or two for each transaction, but if you’re circulating 1,000 or more books a day, that adds up. And the savings in time may be the best gift of all.

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Christopher Harris About Christopher Harris

Christopher Harris (infomancy@gmail.com) is coordinator of the school library system of the Genesee Valley (NY) Educational Partnership.

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