Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The ToonLibraryBox : setting up

As mentioned in a previous blog post, as part of my Carnegie Library Lab project Commons are forever one of the ideas was to set up a LibraryBox at Newcastle City Library.  I thought I would share here my experience of doing just that - as a kind of "LibraryBox for the only-mildly-techy people" (like me) heads-up. So it's not an how-to guide but just some notes about stuff I encountered, which are going to make the "people in the know" smile while reassuring the others that they're not alone!

Newcastle Libraries present... the ToonLibraryBox

Set up a - what??
Oh, sorry - you've never heard of LibraryBox? It's a portable digital file distribution tool mainly composed of a router and a USB stick; to use it people just connect to the LibraryBox on a wifi-enabled device, open a browser window and can start downloading whatever documents are stored there. These documents are often either in the public domain or shared under an open license, and obviously carefully chosen by the librarian.
It may not have made it into the Oxford Dictionary yet, but the plural of LibraryBox is LibraryBoxen.
For more information on how it can be used, what you need to do to set up your own and how to customise it, there are two wonderful resources out there: the US LibraryBox Project original website and the French BiblioBox [in, well, French!]
CC BY-NC Jason Griffey (Source: LibraryBox)

What FAT32 really means (or how to nearly fail before even starting)
We are at the beginning of the story set-up. After reading thoroughly the instructions on both websites mentioned above (I am the kind of person who re-reads twice the recipe), I have ordered my MR3020 router and my USB stick. I know I need my USB formatted in FAT32 (whatever that is). I am spending a quiet evening in the library - I crack my knuckles, look up how to format in FAT32 when my work computer runs Windows, and start.
And I wait. And wait. And wait (well, to be honest I did other things in the meantime!) and it doesn't work.
I am the stubborn type. I try again. Error message again: "volume size too big". Erm, what? As it turns out, you can't format in FAT32 something that's bigger than 32GB. My USB (because I'm greedy ambitious) is a 64GB. Oops.

Thankfully, all I need to do is partition the thing to obtain 2 x 32GB to be formatted. But I cannot do that on my work computer because it's all locked and as a librarian I don't have that kind of permissions. Thankfully, I'm friends with the IT guy (more on that later) and he's kind enough to do it for me. Phew! First thing learnt.

Does your library have a predatory wifi network?
At this point, I have managed to set up my LibraryBox. I test it with my phone: it works! It's fantastic. I am so excited I want to show my friend the IT guy. I go over to his desk. Tell him what to do. It doesn't work anymore. *panic*

Sensing my dismay, my IT guy asks: "Oh, so this thing is its own wifi network, right? Have you had it white-listed?" "Erm, why?!", I ask.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, Newcastle City Library has a wifi network - for members of the public to access the Internet of course. But this network cancels out every other wifi network in the building. So when I connected to my LibraryBox, its wifi network had just been born and I managed to use it. But a few minutes after it was too late for my LibraryBox: the library's predatory wifi had noticed it and blocked it!
Needless to say, my friend from IT made the necessary calls to get the LibraryBox network unblocked.
Tip: be nice to your IT people - not only because it's a good thing to do, but also because you're probably going to need them anyway. (Honestly, if my favourite IT guy wasn't diabetic I'd have bought him chocolates)
The ToonLibraryBox homepage

While I was waiting for my LibraryBox to be "allowed" at City Library, I took it home to continue tweaking it. Also I wanted to "play" with Putty and FileZilla - and as you can imagine, it was much easier to do this on my own laptop than asking to get these installed on a work one.

My trusted old laptop did surprise me a bit as it just didn't pick up the LibraryBox, though it does recognise other wifi networks. I had to go in Control Panel / Network and Internet / Network and Sharing Centre / Advanced Sharing Settings - and turn on the network discovery.

The Box goes ever on and on
So now the ToonLibraryBox is set up, what is left to do? Just a couple of "small" things...
  1. Find it a permanent home. There are some great examples of LibraryBoxen being "staged" to make them more visible / tangible in the library, attract customers' attention to it, indicate where the signal is best, etc. I'd like to do something like that. I have a display case, just nowhere to put it! (or, if I'm honest, nowhere I would like it to be) So at the moment, the ToonLibraryBox is hidden somewhere on level 3 of City Library (but it works).
  2. Promote it. It's been in "test phase" for several months - it's now high time to properly launch it and make its presence more widely known to customers (and, yes, staff).
  3. Curate it. Change / add to the content regularly, develop themes, get people (both staff and customers - maybe even artists and authors?) to contribute to it. I have already spoken to my Local Studies colleagues (they have some interesting digitised material) and to the Library's publishing house but I am hoping to get other teams on board too.

I'm also chuffed by the fact the ToonLibraryBox is listed on the "France map of LibraryBoxen" (thanks to the guys over at BiblioBox). I know, claiming on a map of France a LibraryBox located in England - wars were started over that sort of thing!!! But I'm also looking forward to hear from colleagues in the UK (and beyond) interested in LibraryBoxen - so, over to you!