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Troubleshooting Database Problems from Inside the Library or Outside the Library

Are you trying to use a database from outside the Library...
1. Can you access the web?
If you can't access the web (when you were able to in the past) there is probably a browser or physical connection problem. We know you won't be looking at this page if you can't access the web, but we hope you have printed this out for when you get into trouble. We didn't think so. 

If you cannot access the web from home or work, check your phone line, modem, or cable. Did you change any browser settings recently?

If you are coming in from an outside Internet Service Provider (ISP) such as Harbornet, Click!, etc., contact their help desk.

2. Can you access frames, javascript, pdf forms, etc.?
These databases usually require frames, Javascript, PDF display, image transfers and other features in commercial databases that may cause trouble for older browsers.
Each database supplier will usually have a specific description of the minimum browser requirements to successfully use their product. Look at the links from their search page or listings of databases for browser or technical requirements, or information about the database, which may list specific requirements.

If you are coming in from outside the Library you might want to consider upgrading your browser if you can afford it.

3. Are you having problems entering your Library Card number?
Some Library databases are restricted to Tacoma Public Library card holders. You must have a valid Library Card to use those databases from outside the library. A label on the description of each database should indicate whether you need a Library Card to use the database.

Some Library databases are restricted to use only within the Library. A label on the description of each database should indicate whether you can use the database from home or work.

If you are prompted for a Library Card you must enter it exactly the way it appears on your plastic Library card. The format of a Tacoma Public Library card is the letter "P" followed by a series of numbers. You must enter any leading zeroes (0's) after the letter. If your Library card number has a different format you may be using a Pierce County Library card or a King County Library card. Please use the databases from the appropriate library.

4. Are you being prompted for the Library card by the Library or by the commercial database vendor?
Normally, you can find the URL address of the web page that is prompting you for a Library card number near the top of your browser screen. If will start with "http://". If this address is from the Tacoma Public Library it will begin with "http://search.tpl.lib.wa.us/db/ippid.asp" or "db/ippid.asp". If this is any other page then you are bypassing the Library login page.

You must enter your Library card number at the Library web site before going to the commercial databases which are licensed for your use by the Tacoma Public Library. You cannot bookmark and return directly to a search screen or a database without selecting the database each time from the Tacoma Public Library web page.

If you are prompted for your Library card number at both the Library web site and the database vendor web site, then you have other problems which may be addressed below.

5. Are you logging in through AOL?
It is hit-and-miss whether the AOL browser will work with any given database. If a database does not work through AOL please use AOL to get online and then launch a web browser from outside AOL to use for database access.

6. Are you logging in through WebTV?
It is hit-and-miss whether the WebTV browser will work with any given database. The latest version of WebTV does work better than the older versions.

Try the database using someone else's computer with browser software installed and see if that fixes the problem. If it does then it is likely that the database does not support the WebTV-level of interface.

Please report databases that do not work with WebTV on the Database Problem Report Form on the web. That form should work with WebTV. Please include your e-mail and we will try to see if we can give you access to an older version of some of the databases which might work better with WebTV.

7. Are you accessing the Library databases through a firewall or proxy server?
Many commercial databases licensed by the Library for your use are unable to keep track of your individual session when you access them through some (but not all) proxy servers or firewalls. If you are trying to use the Library databases from work you may be encountering this problem without knowing it.

There is no specific error message that you will see if you are encountering this problem.

Please talk to the Systems Administrator at your work to see if you are accessing the Library through a firewall or proxy server, and if they can offer a work around.

8. Have you turned off ALL cookies?
Library databases require being able to set a session-only cookie in order to validate your Library card. This cookie contains no personal data, and is automatically removed when you turn off your browser.

Some Library databases, such as the Northwest History databases and the Photo Archives database require session cookies in order to track and complete your search. If you turn off session cookies (as in turning off ALL cookies) you can enter a search term and click on the [Search] button but you will never see your search results. You will be returned immediately to the same screen to enter a new Search.

In Netscape 4, select Edit, then Preferences, then click on Advanced and ensure that session cookies or all cookies are being accepted.

In Netscape 6, select Edit, then Preferences, then click on Privacy and Security and then on Cookies and ensure that session cookies or all cookies are being accepted.

In Internet Explorer 5, select Tools, then Internet Options, then click on Security and then on Custom Level work your way down through the list and enable session cookies or all cookies.

In Internet Explorer 6, select Tools, then Internet Options, then click on Privacy. A setting of Medium seems to work.

9. Are you accessing the Library databases through internet security software?
If you are using internet security software such as Zone Alarm, Norton Internet Security, BlackICE, or other products, you can accidentally (or intentionally) set your computer up so it cannot be used with Library databases.

The Library software that verifies that you have a valid Library Card hands your browser session off to the commercial database vendor's web servers in such a manner that the commercial vendor knows that you have been successfully verified as having a valid Library Card. This is done either through cookies (addressed above) or more commonly through what is called a "referring URL".

A "referring URL" simply means that the commercial database vendor knows that you are coming to their web site directly from a Library web page that verifies your Library card number. If you make your browser so secure that the commercial vendor does not know where you are coming from then they will not know that you have a valid Tacoma Public Library card.

10. Are you accessing the Library databases through "anonymizer" sites or software?
If you have set up your browser or system in such a manner that you are completely anonymous when using the web you cannot use any of the commercial database products licensed for use by Tacoma Public Library card holders.

As discussed above, the commercial database vendors must be able to track that your Library card number was verified by the Library web systems. If you repress this "referring url" and all ability to track what was the last web site you came from then you will break the ability to use these databases.

Turn off any anonymizer software or access until you have entered your Library card number and actually connected and begun to use the database. You may encounter other problems as well with these databases if you turn anonymous mode back on at that point.

11. Are you having problems viewing fulltext images from Magazine and Periodicals databases?
Most of these images are delivered as Adobe pdf files. Upgrade to the latest Adobe Acrobat reader software for your browser and computer.

A problem can occur with Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 (or higher) interfacing with Adobe Acrobat 4. If you have this combination open Adobe Acrobat (from your Start -> Program menu), click on File then Preferences then General and Uncheck the box next to "Web Browser Integration"

12. Can you get to other databases?
If you can get to other databases then there may be a problem with the database you have chosen. Check the page that lists known database problems to see if we already know about your issues.

If this is a new problem please report it to Library Systems staff. You can fill out the Database Problem Report Form on the web, or you can call Telephone Reference at (253) 292-2001 to report the problem. If you call, be prepared to state the database name, a description of the problem including any error messages, the browser name and version you are using, when the problem occurred, and how we can get back in touch with you (telephone number preferred) to discuss the problem. Be aware that Systems staff are very busy and we cannot guarantee an immediate response. We will begin work on your problem as soon as we can.

If you are inside the Library...
1. Reboot and Try Again!
If you are using a station in the Library, reboot the station and try again. Since these are shared public computers the person who used the internet before you may have changed things to the point where you will have trouble making the computer work.
 
The library computer software is designed so that it generally clears itself when it is powered off and started up again. If the problem persists after that, please report it in detail to someone at the Reference or Circulation Desk. They will contact the Library Systems staff to repair or replace that computer.
 
If other library public computers are working please move to another station and try again. If you want to try to determine what the problem might be you can continue with the following steps.

2. Can you access the web?
If you can't access the web there is probably a browser or physical connection problem. We know you won't be looking at this page if you can't access the web, but we hope you have printed this out for when you get into trouble. We didn't think so.
 
If you are using a station in the Library, reboot the station and try again. If the problem persists please report it to someone at the Reference or Circulation Desk. They will contact the Library Systems staff to repair or replace that computer. If other library public computers are working please move to another station and try again.

3. Are you being asked to enter your Library Card number?
All Library databases should be accessible from within the Library without entering a Library Card number. Please tell Library staff what database you are trying to use if you are being asked to enter your Library Card number or other identifier.

4. Can you get to other databases?
If you can get to other databases then there may be a problem with the database you have chosen. Check the page that lists known database problems to see if we already know about your issues.

If this is a new problem please report it to Library staff. You can also fill out the Database Problem Report Form on the web, but that will not recieve as fast a response as reporting the problem to library staff.

Last Updated 22.01.2012
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Tacoma Public Library · 1102 Tacoma Ave. South · Tacoma, Washington 98402 · 253.292.2001
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