[minervacirc] Notices, hold shelf dates, and email issues

Alisia Revitt alisia.revitt at maineinfonet.org
Wed Jan 25 15:37:29 EST 2017

Hi, all.

Read on for everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about
notice and hold related problems!

There are two separate, widespread issues with notices of various types.

First, there is the problem with the holds architecture generally, which is
causing the sort of stuff Andy described with notices not appearing and
wrong due dates.  Also the incidents of the wrong date on slips, or items
coming off the hold shelf on the wrong date.  This has been happening on a
smaller scale for quite some time, but it definitely seems to have ramped
up since our most recent upgrade in early January.

The fix for this has been literally over 2 years in the making, as we--and
many other library systems--have reported to III about the impact on
everyday functioning.  The fix for this was supposed to be in 3.0 release
(which just became available last week).  Now the documentation pushes it
to 3.1, which is disappointing and frustrating.  In the mean time, we're
getting in touch with III to find out more specific dates, which is why I
delayed replying as I tried to get more specific info to share.  What I
know for now is that 3.1 is supposed to start beta testing in mid-February,
so I would predict that a general release would come around mid-March.

In terms of what we can do in the mean time to mitigate this, the answer
is: not a lot.  It needs a lot of coding changed in the background by III
engineering, which is why it has taken so long for III to complete, and
hopefully it means that they are making sure it's a good stable upgrade.
When the upgrade is ready, we will install it right away.  Until then, it's
hurry up and wait, which is frustrating.  The only suggestion for now is to
set up autonotices for hold pickups, so that these notices are run multiple
times a day. Currently, we have autonotices set to run 3 times a day
(approx. 8am, 11am, and 3pm).  Multiple times a day increases the odds of
all the notices going out in a timely fashion if they're skipped by the
previous batch.  Autonotices (with the print-only notices being sent to a
circ email address) allow you to have the multiple times a day without
taking staff time throughout the day, at least.  If you're interested in
that, send in a ticket and we will work to get that set up for you.

Second, there are widespread cases of emails (gmail, microsoft, hotmail,
aol, and others) treating emails from the system as spam.  Although the
reason for this is straightforward, a solution to it is not.  The reason is
because these email systems see that the email is coming from one address,
but pretending to be from someone else.  The emails are sent from the
minerva.maine.edu server, but the reply-to information says @
thomas.me.lib.us or @belfastlibrary.org.  This allows patrons to reply via
email and get the right circ desk.  However, a side effect is that it looks
spammy to the increasingly tight restrictions that various email providers
use.*  If it's any consolation (probably not), this is a problem for many
retail and service providers who use email heavily.

We are caught in the crux of our multi-location setup and the
ever-increasing security measures of nearly all email providers.  There
doesn't seem to be a system solution to this problem that doesn't cause
other issues.  If there were not individual emails for each library, then
patrons would have no way to reply to notices via email.  This is not a
popular fix, because flaky email is better than no email at all.

99% of the time, having the patron add your circ email to their address
book solves the delivery problem.  I know that's cold comfort to know that
the patron has to realize the problem and take action themselves or with
your prompting, but it does nearly always work.  Possibly a cheat sheet of
"How to add us to your contact list to keep receiving emails" that could be
handed to people could work--has anybody out there made something you could
share?  There are so many providers it would be hard to cover them all, but
the most common ones?  There are a handful of cases where adding to the
address book/contact list doesn't get the emails flowing.  In those cases,
a dedicated user could create a rule so that incoming emails from your
address always go to the inbox, which should override.  If they're still
not arriving beyond that, I'm stumped for things to do from the sending end.

That is where things stand with these two issues.  Both happen to be around
notices, but they're coming from different sources and unfortunately have
different fixes.  We're doing what we can, but at the present it's a matter
of waiting for the upgrade, tweaking, and mitigating the effects of these.


* Optional nerdy additional info for anybody still reading: Interestingly,
as the algorithms for email are tweaked further and further for finding
even just "useful" email (like gmail's multiple inbox), a patron's own
behavior could flag emails from the library as junk.  If I always see the
subject line of an email and delete it without opening it because the
useful info "something is ready at the library" is clear without opening
it, then a clever algorithm will think "Huh. She deletes these without
opening them every time.  Must be unwanted."  And then start sending the
messages to junk/spam/whatever.  I suppose someone out there finds that
helpful... I just get annoyed to realize reminders to pay my electric bill
have been sent to spam for months.

 Alisia Revitt  |  Library Systems Manager  |  Maine InfoNet  |
alisia.revitt at maineinfonet.org
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