For Public Libraries and Large Computer Centers
Finally . . . a system to automate the sign-up process for using public computers !
Librarians ! . . . If your library has public access workstations -- consider this program !
People sign themselves up with their library cards, using SignUp Center !
Signup Package: including Quality CCD Barcode Reader, Software, Laminated Sign, Menu and Instructions!
SIGNUP CENTER v.1.5 Software Package
This barcode-driven program was written by a front-line reference librarian frustrated by the large amount of professional time consumed in just signing people up to use public computers. SignUp Center handles this task for the librarian. It lets the public sign themselves up using their own library cards. A patron chooses from the menu which type of computer he/she wants to use, then scans in his/her barcode and that's it. The computer assigns the patron to the next available computer of that type, shows this on the screen, and (printer versions) prints out a receipt which includes the patron's name, computer number, time period, and also includes a statement of the library's policies and rules regarding computer use (printer versions).
Signup Center leaves the reference librarian free from a time- consuming task and permits spending more time answering reference questions.
Signup Center was written to meet the problem that librarians encounter as more and more public access computer terminals are installed in our branches.
One public library recently had 19 public access computers installed (and no increase in staff hours).
Too much staff time was spent on the sign-up process. This was cutting into librarians' ability to provide professional reference service. A stand-alone computer system was donated by the Friends-of-the-Library group for Signup Center.
The guiding principle of Signup Center is to minimize the necessity of librarians' involvement in the sign up process. The menu is as simple as possible. There are as few choices for the library patron to make as possible. For example, originally there was an additional menu choice which would enable the patron to sign himself/herself up for a particular future time (for example, a patron at 11:00 am could sign himself up for later that day, say, 6:00 pm). However, this was removed because the number of questions for the librarian generated by this additional option outweighed the relatively few times the feature was actually used. (Note that this option can still be accomplished, but only from a report off the password-protected Staff Menu.)
Signup Center Concept:
Computers are scheduled interactively by users via a database. User identifies him/herself with barcode card to be read in by a CCD reader. Computers are scheduled on regular intervals (1/2 hour time slots - two half hour time slots can be scheduled at user's option for word-processing).
Any number of time slots can be combined with any number of computers. Computers and time slots can be added or deleted. Computers can be declared out of use at any time. Dedicated computer use (e.g. for internet use instead of for word processing use) can be changed at any time. Statistics about computer use can be run. User is asked to identify him/herself via barcode. User is assigned next available computer (and time) for the computer use selected.
Process (User Interaction): User selects type of computer use desired from a menu (see illus. below). This starts a report.
There are four versions of SignUp Center: SIGNUP2G.EXE and SIGNUP3G.EXE are Printer- and No-Printer versions, respectively, which include the "KidsPath (Games)" option on the menu. When the program is started by typing "SIGNUP3G" at the DOS prompt, the menu below appears. Click here to see the menus for the No-Games versions of the program.
Alternatively, people can scan in their choice instead of typing it and never need to touch the keyboard (see "Computer Signup" sheet below:
Instructions for the public:
Here's how the system works:
The user first chooses menu choice "1", "2", "3", or "5" depending on the computer use desired.
After choosing, say, "1", the user is prompted for his/her barcode:
A first-time user is prompted for his/her first and last name (this is skipped after the first signup).
In either case, the report then assigns the user to the next available internet machine:
The above message appears on the screen in the "No Printer" version.
However, in the "Printer" version, a ticket (receipt) is printed out for the user. See below:
Menu choice "8" shows the current schedule:
It shows (for the public to see) only the first name and the initial of the last name.
An option to using the keyboard for choosing what type of computer the patron wants is the optional Barcode Menu, by which the user scans the barcode for his/her choice, then scans his/her library card barcode and is then assigned a computer (without the user ever having to touch the keyboard). See below:
This is taped to the desk in front of the computer. Some of the "old hands" use it because it's quicker than punching keys on the keyboard.
To enter the Staff Menu requires password entry:
Above is the Administrator's Menu.
Item "1" is a menu of all panels of the program:
The patron panel allows for lookups by first name, last name (see below), by barcode number, or by date of creation. It also shows signups for that person (this data is deleted when the transaction panel data is deleted).
Below is the Signups Panel (transaction panel).
Nearly all the fields you can see have lookups on them.
The Computers Panel stores data regarding each computer.
In its window (lower portion of screen) can be seen the most recent items from the Computer Problem Log panel (see below). A record here is automatically created whenever the "Computer Down" and the "Computer Back Up" reports are run.
Reports "4" and "5" on the Administrator's Menu operate on the "out of order" field which is looked at (through a link) by the transaction panel at the time of signup. The fields for Description of Problem and Ticket Number can be entered if desired (report "4") if you wish to collect this information. Below is the Time Slots panel.
Below is the Registration Panel:
In the Registration panel are entered the barcode strings that the program will accept. For this library, the first 5 digits must be "27244" or "37244" for the program to accept a barcode for signup (also it must be exactly 14 digits long). Otherwise the following message is given (where an invalid barcode number of "22222222222222" was entered:
This avoids patrons trying to use, say, another library system's barcode or some other number to sign up.
It also avoids the problem of a crooked scan which only picks up part of a complete barcode.
The Registration Panel also allows for entering a particular staff card barcode number that will override the restriction on signing up for only one machine at a time.
The signup report looks at this barcode and unless that staff barcode is entered it gives the following error message if a patron attempts to signup twice for the same time period:
In the Registration Panel you also enter the maximum number of signups (i.e. the maximum number of ½ hour time slots) per day per patron. Here, four per day (i.e. 2 hours per day) is the maximum. If a patron attempts to sign up for more than this the following error message appears:
The Registration Panel also contains the text field for entering a library policy statement. This appears on each ticket (receipt) printed (for the Printer version).
Below is the Statistics Panel:
These statistics are collected each time the Daily Startup report is run (before the source data is deleted).
Below is the Troubleshooting Panel which contains information useful for the librarians who use the program.
Entering this panel from the Main Menu librarians can enter their own tips or comments as they wish.
At any time during the day you can see the Current Statistics for the day (menu choice 14 from the Staff menu)
Note: these screen captures are from a test copy of the program.
Item "8" from the Staff menu allows the librarian to go directly to the transactions panel to sign up anyone for anytime.
Item "15" from the Staff menu goes to the same panel but plugs in the designated Staff Card Barcode into the slots selected by a quick lookup. A librarian would use this method, for example, as the quickest way to, say, reserve 10 computers for a particular time (say for a class visit to the library).
Item "3" from the Staff menu shows the current status of all computers. An example of a printout of this report is below. In the "No Print Version" it shows up on the screen.
Item "2" from the Staff Menu is the Startup Report:
This can be run at any time, any date, before the beginning of the day for which the program will next be used. After it is completed it provides the following information:
One problem we experienced was that of small children coming up to the computer and playing by hitting the ENTER key. This would cause the program to exit to the DOS prompt. This problem is solved by creating a loop in the autoexec.bat file to restart the program whenever the program is exited. Click here to see the AUTOEXEC.BAT file we use. In other words, the only way to turn off the program is to turn off power to the computer. How then does the librarian get to the DOS prompt to set the system time or date or to run scandisk or to make backups of patron information?
Item "11" from the Staff menu runs a report which permits access to the DOS prompt. It creates a dummy file which the autoexec.bat file looks for before looping.
Item "16" from the Staff Menu allows for changing the Computer Use (e.g. from Internet to Word Processing) of a particular computer. If one of two designated word processors goes down the librarian would first go to item "4" to prevent that machine from being assigned to anyone and then possible go to Item "16" before setting up another (internet-designated) machine as a word processor.
Item "17" from the Staff Menu is a "Special Reports" menu;
Click here to purchase Signup Center Package available from Neuton Data Systems
(c) 2002 - 2012 Neuton Data Systems, Laurence Neuton