Cyberpunk Librarian: You’re Still Typing That?

cybergirl2465Certain jobs have certain tools which are analogous to the profession. You expect to see wrenches and air compressors at a mechanic’s shop. You aren’t surprised by the size of the knives used by cooks at a restaurant. So it surprises no one that libraries and librarians are known for having computers and little things that shoot red lasers and go “beep.”

Actually, it’s been my longtime theory that everything in a library must go beep, even if only on occasion.

Thing is, watch your mechanic and see what they do with their tools. You’ll see them use their stuff in surprising ways. Similarly, in a professional kitchen, you’d be amazed at what a veteran cook can do with one chef’s knife. So, why shouldn’t we librarians be any different?

Issue: You have to type your password several times per day.

I call this an issue and not a problem because, well, it really isn’t a problem more than it is something you could do better. At the very least, it could be done more easily.

I don’t know how your library works, but at my branch my day goes something like this:

  • Arrive at work, log into my desk computer. Type my password to log in.
  • Log into the ILS (Integrated Library System). Type the same password again.
  • Eventually, head out to work one of two desk shifts for the day.
  • Sit down at desk computer, log in using the same password and then log into the ILS by typing the same password again.
  • Log out and leave the desk and head for a check in shift where I log into the check in computer and then into the ILS, entering my password each time.
  • Leave check in. Head back to my desk.
  • Go back out to the front desk for the second desk shift. Log into…

See a pattern here? With our setup, you have to type your password once to get into the computer. Then, if you want to do anything productive, you’ll need to log into the ILS and type that password again.

Why bother? Especially when you’ve got stuff to do that for you.

Solution: Create a barcode that is your password.

You’ve got all those beeping laser enabled barcode scanners. You do realize those things will scan more than your library’s items, right?

Step 01: Generate a barcode that matches your password.

There’s a dozen ways to do this. Probably the easiest is to use Barcodes, Inc,’s free online barcode generator. The default settings should work pretty well with most scanners so simply type your password into the generator. Remember to put in any capital letters and stuff like that.

Password

Step 02: Print out your barcoded password and cut it out.

Step 03: Put your barcode on something you normally carry with you.

My, I taped it to my keycard/ID badge. After all, I’ve always got it with me at work because I need it to get into the staff areas from the public floor. I carry it on one of those retracting lines that you attach to your belt. When I sit somewhere I need to log in I pull my tag, scan the barcode and I’m in. Given our setup, I only need to type my username once when I log in because the ILS picks it up automatically.

Whenever I need to put in my password to over ride something, I scan my tag. That gets something done a little faster and, as an added benefit, I never mistype the password.

Optional: Programme an RFID tag with your password.

Some libraries have RFID readers and programmers. Using the software that you’d normally use to replace and fix RFID tags, you can take a blank tag and encode your password onto it. Depending on how your library uses RFID technology, this may be just as desirable as having a barcode.

And hey, there’s no reason you can’t do both.

3 comments

  1. Great idea but with one tiny problem; Flo wants to tap into the Library database (She’s got insurance quotas to meet). She seduces you and steals your card while you are not looking. She can get into the building and into the system without knowing the password. No retina scan needed and our user names are formulaic. Mission accomplished.

    1. Sure that’s a valid concern, but I don’t think it’s a very probable one. 🙂

      Thing is, this idea isn’t new nor does it originate with me. Grocery stores have done stuff like this for some time where a manager will have an over ride coded into a barcode so they can turn a key, scan their code to do soemthing, and then walk away. And when it comes to the store self check out systems, they don’t even have a key. They push the store log on, and then scan their code.

      My hope is that librarians are, for the most part, smarter than the ones in your scenario. 🙂

      And, if nothing else, one can carry the barcoded password on two separate things.

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