Tuesday Teleworking Together

Katie Greenleaf MartinDiscussion Starter

We’ve learned that the original period of PA public library closure has extended through at least April 6.

During the first closure, which was announced more suddenly, if you hadn’t taken action by Saturday morning (closing as soon as possible was advised), PaILS applied a SPARKwide setting and implemented the Emergency Closing Handler with settings that we saw as a best practice to extend access, stop fines and overdues, and to extend the dates of items on the hold shelf.   If you had already applied the feature, your settings were not changed.  If you hadn’t applied it, PaILS staff took initiative and applied it from 3/2 – 4/6, which allowed forgiveness of a few accruing fines and pushed due dates to April 7 for library items to be returned without penalty.  We also turned off major patron facing notices and added a message to your catalog about the closing.

Now, there is more time for your location to apply the Emergency Closing Handler on your own to determine the best practice for your own organization. It’s a great and easy feature to apply.

Screenshot of Emergency Closing Handler in Action

Emergency Closing Handler in action


PaILS staff can provide support for your use of this feature, OR, if you haven’t applied it on or before April 5, the setting will be applied for you beginning with the date of your last closing end and extending until April 21.  We suggest this time frame because it’s a midweek day (Tuesday) and allows additional leeway for your patrons to get time to visit your library for material return and replenishment.  We probably don’t want to require all items to be returned on first day of opening–no matter how excited we all are to get back to working with the public.  If dates change, or closures extend, and libraries need to go longer, that’s easy to do.  It’s harder to reverse due dates to an earlier time.  Communicate your needs to us and we will continue to support your efforts to serve the public without contact.


In other news:

  • This morning, the Committee who had planned a great lineup for the Annual User Group Meeting will have a conference call to discuss alternative plans.  Many who had planned your stay at the Penn Stater for the event have already received a cancellation of your hotel reservation.  Will the Annual User Group Meeting go virtual this year?  Let’s see what happens next.
  • Today, PaILS will facilitate and host a Together at 2p.m. Time in the regular online meeting room!  Join us if you are working remotely and want to talk about the Emergency Closing Handler, remote work projects, or anything in the Evergreen software.
  • Again today, the PaILS Online meeting room is open for you to visit anytime.  The virtual meeting room isn’t constantly watched, and staff sometimes abruptly leave for phone calls, but if you need some together time in the room or to talk about a feature of the software, a data project, a workflow, or just to connect, the room is open.  Connection details and meeting information are available in emails sent to our membership listservs.

Cheer and best regards to you during this strange time.  Share more; have more.




Katie Greenleaf MartinTuesday Teleworking Together

Monday Motivation Moment

Katie Greenleaf MartinDiscussion Starter, PaILS

Hello SPARK Libraries,

I’m glad you are participating in the open source Evergreen software shared platform with many of your PA neighbors.  It’s better because we’re in it together.

If you have questions about your library settings in the software, reach out.  There are adjustments right now so items aren’t due, fines don’t accrue, and holds lists don’t populate.

The regular online meeting room I sent links to last week via the listservs will be open as much as possible this week for virtual gatherings and software support questions or group cleanup projects when you need it.   Jump in to say hello or ask questions.

Continue to use the Submit a Request link to submit your support needs during this time.

Some practical ideas for today:

  • Make a carousel of digital items in your collections.  The way to do this: Make a Record Bucket of the digital items in your collection that you want to feature.  Create Carousel from bucket.
  • Make a video or instructions for patrons that help them understand the baskets and lists features of the catalog.
  • Experience library service like a patron and try to update your account username and PIN and email.  Write instructions.
  • Email the teachers in your network and remind them of the online resources available.
  • Pick a few popular resources that are in POWERLibrary and consider creating/finding MARC records for them.
  • Promote your neighboring libraries online programs–people can choose to login to ALL the virtual story hours.
  • Run reports to analyze your collections, your records, your items, your users.
  • Make sure you heeded advice from others about how to suspend packages/deliveries and incoming ILL requests.
  • Write up a procedure or workflow from memory–document each step and how it is done at your location to make sure staff have consistent practices.
  • Plan big for a new future.   Maybe you can make time to review and revise policies/procedures in use at your location.  If you are thinking about Fine Free or Auto-renewal or a new policy for issuing online cards, start drafting new ideas so you can get your board’s approval on the changes.

Take care of yourself and your co-workers.

Reach out if you need any assistance during this strange time.  PaILS / SPARK Support and your vendor are used to working remotely to help with your ILS needs.




Katie Greenleaf MartinMonday Motivation Moment

Friday Fearless Focus on the Future

Katie Greenleaf MartinDiscussion Starter, PaILS

The most recent announcement about the closing of non-life sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania did not have a stated end date.  It’s a good time to take a deep breath, and relax.  Take care of yourself and all those around you.  Be kind.

SPARK Libraries have shifted quickly, and are now providing different services to communities via online tools and resources and telephone.  Some staff are working from home, some are working in mostly empty buildings, and others are taking time to re-group while next decisions are made.  Many SPARK libraries are offering expanded digital resources and new ways of connecting with streaming story hours and programs.   As always, SHARE your ideas with others on the listservs, the forums, to fellow User Group and Committee members, in the online meeting room, or by submitting to SPARK Support for inclusion in the Knowledge Book.

Here’s a little re-cap of the last week:  And an update in our support book.

  • PaILS worked with our vendor to put a standard message about the closing, using the Maintenance Message portion of the public catalog.
  • If your location hadn’t applied the Emergency Closing Handler feature before Saturday on your own, it was applied for you.
    • This feature adjusted due dates and extended hold pickup time.
    • Overdue fees will not continue to accrue during closed days.
    • Patrons can place holds in your online catalog, to be queued up for when we return, but your daily hold shelf pull list will not populate unless you change a setting.
  • Standard patron facing notifications were turned off; an overdue or hold pickup notice isn’t useful to your patrons right now.
  • To increase digital access, patrons who were in a window of expiration had their expiration date pushed forward.  Many locations requested even more batch patron expiration date updates and those are being processed.
  • If you want to adjust your Group Penalty Threshold to increase it to allow those with higher fines to access digital services, ask Support.
  • Software maintenance was completed and many bug fixes were applied.
  • Library staff who are working have begun data analysis and cleanup projects.  We’re talking through ideas and continuing to make progress.

Thank you for all of your support and courage.  Embrace the future with your fellow SPARK Libraries together.

Katie Greenleaf MartinFriday Fearless Focus on the Future

Thrive on Thursday

Katie Greenleaf MartinDiscussion Starter, Evergreen, Opportunity for Community, support

Many library staff aren’t used to working remotely or in a building without the public visiting.  PaILS is keeping the online meeting room open as much as possible for remote worker support and as a gathering place if SPARK Libraries want to chat, walk through a workflow, or ask questions about our shared hosted software and its settings or capabilities.

Thrive on Thursday:

  • Explore Evergreen features, settings, and the roadmap for what’s next.
  • Export data via the reports module and plan a data normalization project.  If PaILS can help, reach out.
  • Document a bug or join in Bug Squashing week.

    Manage Columns

  • Learn something new: Configure your workstation settings to match your workflow. Highlight the Manage Columns feature.
  • Write documentation (then share): How should that process for patron registration work?  What are the steps?  Can you streamline?
  • Make a carousel for your catalog: You probably have a Newly Cataloged Titles carousel, now try creating a manual subject specific carousel from a Record Bucket


Katie Greenleaf MartinThrive on Thursday

Wednesday Work Update

Katie Greenleaf MartinDiscussion Starter, News, PaILS

Hello SPARK Libraries,

If you are working today in an environment with social distance and no in-person public services, you are one of many library workers engaging remotely.  You are appreciated and your work matters.  Thanks for being a SPARK Library.

What can you do this Wednesday?  Here are some ideas:

  • Check the links on your catalog.  Is your POWERLibrary link working as it should?  If not, go find the link you want it to point to and then submit a request telling us your catalog site and what you want it to be changed to.  While you are there, if you want to change any navigation links on the top or bottom bar of your catalog, let us know.  We’ll queue up requests for customizations and update them as the resources of the people who took our recent training allows.
  • Watch recorded Reports Trainings and learn more about reports.
  • Patron data cleanup projects.  Assess to make sure patrons are all in the profile groups used by your location.  Remove alerts or messages that have been on accounts since your migration.  Make inactive or create a plan for what you would want done in batch for expired accounts.  Check to be sure your zip codes are properly formatted, find and fix those accounts where you may have entered the wrong data in a field.  Make a plan: If you have large batch projects, let us know and we’ll queue up big projects for help from our vendor.
  • Catalog cleanup projects:  Have you looked at the fail file to see which records aren’t being accepted by AccessPA?  Do you have items without cover art?  Do you see multiple records for the same magazine or DVD or book title in our shared catalog?  Do your Digital Bookplates on production need some edits for consistency?  Make bibliographic records in our shared catalog great.  Reach out to the Cataloging listserv if you want to schedule a time to engage with others in a virtual meeting room for a Cataloging Party.  A shared catalog is a shared responsibility.
  • Create documentation for local workflows.
  • Engage with Evergreen.  Add some heat or supporting information to Evergreen bugs using your Launchpad account.  Show the community what is most important to SPARK Libraries, see our Bug Tracker.

The PaILS/SPARK online virtual meeting room is open for you to gather with other SPARK Libraries or to request support or chat about solutions all day.  Or engaged with the forums.

See listserv emails for connection details for the meeting room and username password details for recorded trainings.

Cat picture for attention.


Katie Greenleaf MartinWednesday Work Update

Two Idea Tuesday

Katie Greenleaf MartinDiscussion Starter, PaILS, Tech Tip, Training

The recent closing of public libraries in PA for this short period means you are not be serving the public in traditional ways right now, but there are many great things you can do to keep engaged if you are empowered to work remotely.

Visit the PaILS/SPARK virtual meeting room to chat about ideas.  The room is open for SPARK libraries to use for collaboration or support.

Here are two ideas for Tuesday:

  • Update your staff accounts.  Add an email, a phone number, and make sure that all account information is accurate.  Assess your permission levels and make sure that your staff have the right levels.  The right level is the lowest needed to do the work.  (This will help to get us prepared for the upcoming Permissions project that the Cataloging Committee spurred at their last meeting.)
  • Create a piece of documentation.  Have a workflow you want to share?  Write it down so that someone else could be trained to do the work if you weren’t there or if staffing changed with short notice.  If it is documentation related to Evergreen, like how your staff process Pending Patrons from your Request a Library Card link, share it forward and we can add it to the knowledge books.



During this period, PaILS staff will keep the online meeting room open for virtual community and support for SPARK Libraries.  Drop in if you wish.

Working remotely doesn’t have to be isolating–support is available online–find the address and connection details in the meeting room.  There’s so much we can do when we work together.

Katie Greenleaf MartinTwo Idea Tuesday

Emergency Closing Features

Katie Greenleaf MartinPaILS, support

Per Office of Commonwealth Libraries, advice was to close libraries for routine, in-person public library services until March 29, 2020.

SPARK is working to implement this via our shared open source ILS to assist all members and will work toward this plan:

  • Extend all due dates on items currently in circulation to April 7.   We can reassess this date at any time.  To accomplish this, PaILS staff will use the emergency closing handler on your behalf if you haven’t done so yourself.
  • Shut down all notifications for all locations.  No emails or text messages will be sent to patrons from that are generated in Evergreen.
  • Message on your catalog:  No Items are due; no fines accrue.  Keep library items at home with you.  Stay tuned for updates.

Bonus:  To ensure access to digital resources:   We will be doing a batch update early next week as well: Extend expiration dates of patrons.  All patrons who expire between January 1, 2020-June 30,2020 will get a new expiration date of July 1, 2020.


We will keep the online meeting room available for virtual support as much as possible: Call for fastest attention.

PaILS / SPARK Meetings

We are working to implement plans.  Please give us time, likely until Monday to have all in place.


Katie Greenleaf MartinEmergency Closing Features

2019 Reports

Katie Greenleaf MartinDiscussion Starter, Reports, support, User Groups

2019 was an active year for PaILS members. 

Check out this list of top circulating collection titles from the combined SPARK libraries using Evergreen catalog in 2019.

Did your favorite title or author make the list?

Note: This list excludes circulation counts for things like the bathroom key or public computers that some libraries track use of using records and items.


Data accessed via the Reports Module of Evergreen is just one element that helps to tell our success stories.

Today, I ran and compiled 2019 reports to organize SPARKwide data to demonstrate the impact PaILS makes with our offering of open source software to members.


I’m thankful for the Reports Committee and for all SPARK Community participation.

Your participation helps build library relationships.  Together we increase confidence, understanding of library data, and find ways to save staff time with reports.

The templates you need for data reporting are available, or can be created if the data exists.

Let’s keep working together to find ways to use reports that make your workflows easier:

  • Ask a question by sending a message to the Reports listserv
  • Send in a support ticket detailing what the output you want from a report would look like and we’ll work on it and learn more together.


2020 Reports Plans and Ideas:

  • Project to better organize shared templates.
  • Assistance with 2019 Annual Reports: Help selecting templates and understanding report output.
  • Project to clearly define templates (or create new templates) that function best for your location(s) based on how you are set up in the system and what type of location you are.
  • Creation of new templates for cash/financial reporting sources.
  • Creation of templates for data cleanup projects.  Know that report output can only be as good as your data–some reports can be used to find outliers or errors.  Recurring reports can help meet your workflow needs.
  • Registration for Intermediate Reports Training on January 21 is full; links to attend the training will be sent before the session and the session will be recorded for those who can’t attend live.
  • Trainings, documentation, and one-on-one assistance–let SPARK Support and the Reports Committee know what is important to you.




Katie Greenleaf Martin2019 Reports

Pennsylvania Library Association Conference

Katie Greenleaf Martincalendar event, Opportunity for Community, PaILS

Stop by to see the staff of Pennsylvania Integrated Library System (PaILS) in Erie at the Pennsylvania Library Association Conference.

Come network with us.  Find our exhibitor booth or attend the SPARK Community presentation: SPARKing Relationships & Resource Sharing.

What do we offer?  A shared installation of the open source ILS Evergreen and a fantastic community of libraries and support resources.

What do we need?  Libraries to join us in serving patrons and meeting community needs.

Ask about PaILS Membership if you want to:

  • Embrace change
  • Improve work flows
  • Resource share
  • Network and problem solve with like-minded libraries
  • and Build a community around use of open source library software and technology.

P.S. Lugene will be bringing Mallo Cups.

Art at Ralpho Township Public Library

Katie Greenleaf MartinPennsylvania Library Association Conference

The Networking Game

Katie Greenleaf Martincalendar event, Opportunity for Community, Training

Free Webinar

Prepare to attend the upcoming Pennsylvania Library Association conference, an Evergreen conference, or a Committee, Town Hall, or User Group Meeting by participating in this online training.

The Networking Game:

Engaging with Colleagues at Your Consortia, Professional Associations, and Conferences

Oct 9, 2019 12pm EST

Register here:  attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6357355742617557515

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Even if you can’t attend the live webcast, sign up so you can receive an email with a link to the recording.


Weave your network

Perhaps the most valuable benefits of participating in a consortium, joining a professional organization, or visiting a conference are the networking opportunities.

Are you an experienced “schmoozer” who is comfortable chatting with strangers in hotel lobbies or are you intimidated by the notion of initiating a conversation even with people you work with? The Networking Game can prepare you for that next committee meeting, conference luncheon, membership event, or statewide or national convention, or the encounter with the nice stranger on the buffet line who makes funding decisions for a major foundation.

Learn about networking–information and idea exchange for mutual benefit–the Five Rules, and how to apply them in ways that are effective and respect the other person, regardless of your personality type or the situation.

This is a joint project of the Pennsylvania Integrated Library System (PaILS) and Pattern Research, Inc.

Pat Wagner and her husband Leif Smith ran an international networking service for 25 years and facilitated dozens of networking events, from small salons to international conferences. Pat has been a trainer and consultant since 1978. She focuses on improving productivity and workplace relationships for libraries, higher ed, government, nonprofits, and small businesses.

Key Idea: Mutual Aid Works


  • Introduction: The Benefits of Networking
  • Five Rules and Their Practical Application
    • Be Useful
    • Don’t Be Boring
    • Listen
    • Ask questions
    • Play the Wild Card
  • Next Steps and Resources


  • Be prepared to share what you offer and what you need when you attend your next conference.
  • Build working relationships with new people and maintain and improve long term connections.
  • Build trust and respect with your professional allies.
  • Solve problems and locate new resources.
  • Build “team spirit” through shared experiences.
Katie Greenleaf MartinThe Networking Game