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Title: December 2010 Users' Group Session
Category: Mandarin
Description: Equipment: which database should you use?; Downloading audiobooks; Vacation due dates

1. Equipment: which database should you use?

Most libraries these days have some type of equipment that they want to track: flash drives, DVD players, MP3 players, ereaders, etc.  I see all kinds of different records for these in the standard catalogs, especially at inventory time, and the records tend generally to be "quick and dirty" entries, because the cataloging templates are primarily designed for books.  When you're cataloging one of those records, it's probably an easy decision to make by saying that the manufacturer of the equipment should go in the author's field, and the name of the equipment should go into title, but what about other things specific to equipment model, type, accessories, etc.?

Fortunately, as you may or may not be aware, Mandarin comes with a built-in database specifically designed for cataloging equipment. 
To see it, go to the File menu in cataloging (or circulation) and choose Change Database...

...Then select the Equipment database and click OK.

It works the same was as the standard database, but has some different definitions, so templates, for example, are tailored for equipment rather than bibliographic items.  See the short video below for a demonstration.


So when SHOULD you use the equipment database instead of the standard database?  Well, if you've got more than a handful of items that you need to track, then the equipment catalog is a better bet.  If you're only doing a few things - a couple of flash drives, say, or maybe one or two digital cameras, then it's probably a lot easier just to put them into the regular catalog (but I'd recommend using a standard prefix and/or creating a specific group for them).  If, however, you've got quite a few items and/or serious equipment items (like laptops), then it's better to keep them in a separate database - the equipment database.

Here are some of the pros & cons of using the equipment database:


  • Templates/definitions designed specifically for equipment
  • Can keep separate inventory - items won't come up missing in regular book inventory
  • There are reports specifically designed for equipment (Look in your Reports folder for a subfolder called "Equipment lists and forms."  Those reports won't work with the standard database,)
  • If you have someone in your district or building who is in charge of the equipment sign-out, acquisition, whatever, you can give that person access to the equipment database without giving them access to your standard bibliographic database
  • You have to remember to change the database when you're cataloging or circulating, or else the items will go into the wrong database (cataloging) or you'll get a "barcode not found" error (circulation).
Happily, if you DO put things into the wrong database, you can just export them from the one and import them into the other.  (If you do that, make sure you delete and purge the barcodes from the "wrong" catalog before importing them into the "correct" one!)

A couple of things I haven't mentioned yet:
Both the standard and equipment databases share the same patron table, so your students/staff don't have to be re-entered to take out equipment, too.
You can search the equipment database in the OPAC as follows:

Standard Windows OPAC: Go to the "Databases" tab and change "Database type" to Equipment

Choose the "Preferences" link on the left, then change "Database type" to Equipment.


2) Downloading Audiobooks

It's nice to see that people are using the Recorded Books subscription on NetLibrary!  It hasn't been without its issues, though, and one of those was using the Media Center Manager to transfer items directly to the MP3 player.  Missey brought in one of her players to see if we could make it work, and unfortunately, we couldn't.  The Media Center Manager just wouldn't recognize the device.

We did make some progress, though - I showed how to download the file manually and transfer it to the device.  If you look in your Bright Ideas packet that came at the beginning of the year, you should find a set of pages entitled "Guide to Accessing Resources from the GST School Library System" (or something like that!)  In that set you'll find instructions for downloading manually.  You can also find those directions here.  The trick is to know where the file goes when you download it; we discovered that it went to My Documents\Media Center\eAudiobooks.  Remember, too, that your eaudiobook will likely be in more than one track!

If you're looking to purchase MP3 players and want to know what players are supported by NetLibrary, check out their list here.  I do believe they need to update their lists, though!

3) Vacation Due Dates

We're now in the season where you may notice that all of your books are coming due on January 3rd or some such date.  Why, you may ask, are the books all of a sudden due on the same day?

The answer is quite simple.  If you have put in your winter holidays as dates that your library is closed, Mandarin knows that items cannot come due on one of those days.  The default setting for items that would normally have been due on a closed date is to instead become due on the first date following the closed day(s):

Any items, then, that would normally be due on a day that's closed because of vacation will all become due on the same date - the first one that's available (this year that will be January 3rd).

If you don't want all your items due the same day, you can set the due date manually.  When you first open circulation for the day (but you can do this at any time, really), go to the Settings menu and choose Circulation Options.

Click the Due Date tab at the top, then select "Use Provided Date For This Session."  A calendar will pop up.  Choose the date you want, then click OK.

As long as you remain in this session - that is, as long as you don't close or log out of circulation, the date you provided will be the date items come due. 

4) This month's Websites

...can be found here.  (I particularly like the Crayola drawing canvas.)

Other topics

We got into quite a lively discussion about Nook vs. Kindle (thanks, Judy!) and what our own personal preferences were (it was kind of evenly divided, I think).  I mentioned awhile back, I think, but am reminding you (or telling you, in case you never knew!) that the SLS owns both a Nook and  a Kindle, so if you ever want to borrow one or the other to take a look at it, let us know.  Sonia found us a great review on Amazon in the "Kindle vs. Nook" vein (actually, there are two, but the one on the left is excellent) - look at them here. Someone (I believe it was June) mentioned that you can download ebooks from Overdrive (through STLS - check it out here) to a Nook (or Sony eReader or your computer, for that matter), but not to a Kindle. 

And speaking of resources available through libraries, Judy told us that Steele Memorial Library in Elmira now has Tumblebooks available through their website, too.  Look for them here! (Click the Tumblebooks link at the bottom of the page.)

Whatever holiday you're celebrating, have a happy one - and a terrific New  Year!