Welcome to iHCPL: The Next Generation. This site was created as the next step in Harris County Public Library's iHCPL Learning 2.0 Program; a discovery learning program designed to encourage staff to explore new technologies. The original iHCPL program was adapted from The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County's Learning 2.0 Program.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Maps #31: Have Map, Will Travel

Many of us have used Mapquest, one of the first online mapping applications, to reach a particular travel destination. It was one of the first and best ways to get from point A to point B. The four weekly exercises in the Maps modules will let you explore and have fun with the exciting ways in which online maps are developing. We will use the maps to plan a travel route, track current events, gather information for relocation, and learn about the new sport of geo-caching. Completion of all four units will be worth two hours of training credit.

If you haven't tried some of the new map applications such as Google Maps, Yahoo Maps and Live Maps, the following exercises will give you a chance to see just how much online maps have progressed.

Google Maps is a very versatile mapping site. With Google Maps, you can map almost anything.

View some helpful video tutorials on Google.

Yahoo Trip Planner helps you build an itinerary for any travel destination in the world. There are reviews available for hotels, restaurants and even entertainment spots. Once you plan a trip, you can view it in either schedule view or map view.


1. Watch the Google Create a Map Tutorial. Learn how to add place marks to your own customized map. These could be place marks of your favorite places to shop or travel, places where your family and ancestors have lived, or any other places you want to display visually.

2. Create a customized map using your own place marks.

3. Embed your map onto your blog or write about your experiences creating a map with Google Maps, Yahoo Maps or Live Maps. List creative ways you could use this feature.

Below is an example of all the Harris County Public Libraries on one map:

HCPL Locations

View Larger Map

You can find more than just directions with new interactive maps. Use Google Maps to act as both a yellow pages and a map. Do all or some of the following activities to learn more about traveling with online map applications.

  1. Put in an address.
  2. After you get to the map of that address, search for businesses by typing them in the search field. For example, once you've found your location, look up pizza, libraries, schools, etc.
  3. Zoom out and in to see how the search expands and decreases according to the map area.
  4. Use the street view when available to be able to see your destination before you get there.
  5. Get directions to one of these locations.
  6. Modify the directions by dragging the direction lines to the streets you want, or dragging it away from streets/highways you want to avoid.

This post was brought to you by members of the Barbara Bush Branch iHCPL Team: Jennifer Jones and Jennifer Nandlal.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring Cleaning #30: Take a Load Off Our Drives

Now that we have honed our organization skills and cleaned out our email it is time to move on to the computer drives. We all have access to the P: drive, Z: drive and S: drives. Each one has its own purpose and requirements. The following is a brief explanation of what they actually are.

P: drive.
The P: drive is a shared location for a branch or department to store communal files. It's possible that this drive may have a different letter for your department, especially at Library Administration (e.g. Marketing is an M drive). To get to the P: drive, open up My Documents and in the address bar type P:\ and press Enter.

Z: drive. The Z: drive is a location where you can keep your documents to which other staff members do not have access. This is not a location to store personal photos and files. To get to the Z: drive, open up My Documents and in the address bar type Z:\ and press Enter.

S: drive. This is a space on the central file server which allows staff members to temporarily share large files. All staff members have access to a community drive referred to as the "S" drive, which stands for scratch drive. You are encouraged you to use this drive for transporting large files from one user to another. Instead of sending large files, such as Publisher or PowerPoint formatted files, you can copy the original file to the S: drive then notify the intended staff member(s) that the file is available on the S: drive. The staff member(s) will then copy the file to their local computer or network resources, which ever the case may be. To get to the S: drive, open up My Documents and in the address bar type S:\ and press Enter.

Staff members are encouraged to delete their own old data off the S: drive to help prevent clutter.

This is not permanent storage. All Files stored on the S: drive that are over 14 days old will be deleted. Original files should never be stored on the S: drive.

The majority of files should be kept for two years unless you are still using them. If you are in doubt or suffer from angst in deleting files, you can burn them to CD. See instructions from Microsoft or the instructions available through Harriet for information on burning files to CD. Personal photos should not be kept on the P:, S:, or Z: drives - they should be moved to free online photo storage, such as: Flickr, Photobucket, or Imageshack. Also, photos and other personal files can be saved to disc, or put on a personal USB drive.


  1. If you have never used the S: drive, place a file there. Then go back and delete the file.
  2. Look over the P: drive and see if you have created any and determine what can be deleted/moved and if need be combine into a new folder for better organization. Photos of library events should either be moved to Flickr or saved to CD/DVD. Personal photos should not be kept on the P:, S:, or Z: drives and should be moved to a USB drive or to free online photo storage.
  3. Repeat step 2 with your personal folder on the Z: drive.
  4. Write an entry in your blog about what you found. What was the oldest file you were able to delete or move to another location? Did you find you were more organized than you thought?

This post was brought to you by Abigail Buchold, Bruce Farrar, Grace Lillevig, & Sandra Silvey.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring Cleaning #29: Email

All staff members have an HCPL email account. We're all guilty at times of ending up with excess old emails. While some of those emails are important, a lot of them can be deleted or moved to other storage. In this exercise, we'll look at tips and techniques for dealing with email.

Old emails need to be deleted or relocated to another location to save. While it is OK to receive some personal emails, remember that this is not a personal email account and is not private. If you need to set up a free personal email account see the iStar Tip on Email. Do NOT give out your staff email address for anything non-work related. It is recommended that you use your personal email address for personal correspondence.

My email is out of control, what should I do?
Clean Out Your Computer Day Tips & Ideas offers several suggestions for getting control over email:
  • Go through your inbox and delete old messages and spam - then empty the trash. Don't forget to delete personal emails or forward them to your personal email account.
  • Make sure you delete emails with attachments - save the attachment if you need to, but attachments take up a lot of storage space on the email server.
  • Create an email filing system that makes sense to you.
  • When you get a new email, take one of four actions: reply immediately, delete the message, forward - when appropriate, or file in the appropriate folder
While we're primarily talking about cleaning up our email accounts in this exercise, we'd like to mention a couple of tips for good Netiquette (online etiquette) regarding email:
  • If you're sending a large file to multiple people, use the S drive (shared drive) rather than sending it by email. We'll be discussing the S drive in the next post. Alternately, use a service like YouSendIt, which lets you send up to 100 MB files to anyone for free.
  • Don't forward non-work related emails to whole mailing lists of people. In fact, it's good practice to check and see if that warning about the computer virus you got from your Uncle Fred is true using a site such as Snopes.com before you forward an email like that to anyone, even with your personal email account.
  1. If you do not have a personal email account create one using one of the above mentioned options to use for your personal email.
  2. On your work account, create folders (if you don't have them) and clean out/move emails in all folders or forward to your personal account.
  3. Clean out and update your address book
  4. Write an entry in your blog (or send an email to your supervisor) about deleting files and your plan for keeping your email account up-to-date and clutter free in the future.
This post was brought to you by Abigail Buchold, Bruce Farrar, Grace Lillevig, & Sandra Silvey.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Spring Cleaning #28: Don’t Clutter Up Expensive Cyberspace

As Spring arrives we start to think of cleaning out our closets, being organized with our physical spaces and possessions. Nowadays we also need to think about cleaning out our electronic folders and files as much as we do our drawers and closets. We will discuss HCPL’s policy regarding our files and go through three exercises to help us clean and organize! In the first post, we'll look at general organizational tips and techniques. In the second post, we'll look at email organization and deletion. Finally, we'll review files on the P, S and Z drives. This module is required for all staff and is worth 1 training hour (it may take you longer to actually clean up your files and email). Because this is required, if you don't have a blog and don't want to set one up you can alternately do your posts by email to your supervisor. In addition, this module must be completed by Wednesday, April 30.

Let's get to it...

Here’s a Pop Quiz to get your workday started. How much does it cost the taxpayers to store files on library computers?

  1. Nothing, it’s free – the government pays for it.
  2. $9.95 per computer per year
  3. $5,000
  4. $20,000
If you answered d. 20 grand you’re correct. Last year the library spent about $20,000 to enhance backup drives according to Gene Rollins, Assistant Director for Technology & Technical Services speaking at the Administrative Meeting on February 6, 2008.

Before we get to cleaning our email and files, let's take a look at some general organizational tips. There are numerous organization systems and theories, but one that is popular is GTD (Getting Things Done). This article from Wikipedia includes information on how to process your inbox, go through old files and links to other GTD sites. GTD has three models to help you gain control: establish a work flow process, use 6 levels of focus and the five stages of the natural planning method. The primary method is the work flow process:
  • Collect - Capture everything necessary to track and remember
  • Process - Follow a strict workflow
    • Start at the top
    • Do one item at a time
    • Don't put it back into the in-box
    • If it requires action either do it, delegate it, or defer it (Note: if it takes less than two minutes, do it immediately)
    • If it doesn't require action file it, throw it away/delete it, or incubate it for later action
  • Organize - Create a set of lists for items waiting for attention
  • Review - Daily or whenever possible
  • Do - Spend more time doing than organizing
Another site with general organizational tips is Zen Habits, which includes some on Technology.

While these exercises are mostly talking about cleaning up files, you might also want to consider online calendars and to-do lists in a broader organizational scheme. Several options are:

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Read about GTD.
  2. Try one of the online calendars or to-do lists.
  3. Write a post about how you can use GTD or what organizational system you already use.
This post was brought to you by Abigail Buchold, Bruce Farrar, Grace Lillevig, & Sandra Silvey.