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SWON News: The Low Down

The Missing Email Inbox

Friday, March 13, 2015  
Posted by: Nathan Swartzendruber
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  • Recovering from an email breakdown
  • Try humanitarian map-making at SWON
  • Summer Reading Program Workshop: next week!

When we couldn't connect to our OPLIN email account last Friday, it made for a quiet day in the office. Then OPLIN announced that its email database had gotten corrupted during an upgrade and that they would no longer provide email to Ohio public libraries. That day, as we jumped to a new email provider (we chose Fastmail), was a little louder.

We've talked to libraries whose staff lost all the email they had received and sent over years of work (though there may be hope). They had only used the webmail interface to get to email. It was all stored on OPLIN's server, and now it's all gone. Data security is hard. These systems keep getting bigger and more sophisticated, and so do spammers and other trouble-makers. To keep services like email up and running, all your staff need to be involved. Make this into an opportunity to improve the way everyone operates.

Create stronger passwords

Help people create better passwords by learning about diceware. The diceware website has a long list of words and five-digit numbers. Roll five dice, and look up the matching word. Roll five or six words this way and you have a strong password that's memorable because it's strange. Explain this at your next staff meeting, or create a password station for staff, and help them through the steps.

Remember those stronger passwords

Give your memory a break by using a password keeper like 1Password or Lastpass. These store your passwords and are protected by a strong password that you set.

Use a desktop email program sometimes

When you use a desktop program like Postbox or Thunderbird (which is free) and connect with IMAP, not POP3. When you use IMAP, it syncs the online emails to your local computer. If you read emails or move them into folder, those changes are also synced. So whether you connect through webmail, Thunderbird or your smartphone, your changes are always up to date.

If you opened Thunderbird once a week—even if you didn't use it to read or send emails—it would sync your emails. If your email provider disappeared in a puff, you would still have that local copy. At SWON, we use Postbox, and that kept us from losing all our emails.

For added safety, export emails from Thunderbird and save them to external hard drives.

Yes, it's a lot of work

Time is money, some of the software mentioned above costs money, and email addresses have their own costs. But losing your data is costly too, in ways that can be hard to calculate. A lost email account can cut off access to other accounts (especially if you need to reset your password), and email address changes are frustrating for staff and customers.

We're glad to help. Invite Nathan to your library and he can lead a hands-on session on passwords and Diceware, and introduce Thunderbird and email management, for staff or patrons. He'll gladly field questions too. Email nathan@swonlibraries.org or call him at (513) 751-4422x11.

  • Nathan Swartzendruber, SWON Technology Educator

Mapping humanitarian crises around the world

Humanitarian workers across the world need accurate maps to do their jobs. What towns did these refugees come from? What buildings were here before the storm hit? How can we get truck-loads of aid to the people that need it?

You can help! Come to SWON's Level-Up Lab: Teaching Patrons Humanitarian Mapping on May 6th and Nathan will teach you how to contribute. We'll provide the laptops, they'll provide the satellite images. You provide the willingness to learn, and together we'll assist a high-priority mapping project.


Summer Reading Program: Last call!

SWON's Summer Reading Program Workshop is next Wednesday, March 18. We'll have engaging speakers, technology to try out, predatory birds (you won't have to share your lunch with them), and lots of ideas to take back to your library with you. Be the Summer Reading programming hero at your library with this flurry of ideas.



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