or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



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Reference Question of the Week – 5/24/15

   May 30th, 2015 Brian Herzog

family feudWednesdays is my night shift, and mid-way through the evening one of our regular patrons called. He's actually one of my favorite patrons because he is extremely nice, his questions are usually interesting, and he's very passionate about whatever he's asking. This time it was Family Feud:

Patron: Brian, you've got to help me. You know how you can get TV shows on the computer, right? Can you find last night's Family Feud? I was watching it but then lost the signal, and by the time I got it back the show had just ended. But I need to see it because the lady who went first at the end got 194 points! Can you believe that?

This is actually just the abridged version of his question.

He's not very tech savvy, so I told him that it's always up to the network to put shows online, and I didn't know if Family Feud did this or not. I checked their website, but didn't see any full episodes. I checked the station's website too, but again, no luck.

The patron was getting discouraged and lamenting that he'd never see this moment, when I got the idea to try YouTube. I figured that if this was as sensational as it sounds (I've never seen someone get that many points at once before), someone may have uploaded the clip.

So I did a YouTube search for "Family Feud" limited to "Today" (since the episode just aired the night before) - but again struck out. I felt like someone must have uploaded it though, so I told the patron I'd keep looking and call him when I found it.

I tried a few different keyword combinations with the YouTube search, but still couldn't find anything. So then I switched to Google, searching for "Family Feud 194" figuring the score would be mentioned in the metadata. And low and behold, the third result was a link... to a YouTube video of that clip, uploaded less than 24 hours ago!

Why that didn't come up when I was searching YouTube directly, I don't know. Maybe it was too recent? I watched the clip quickly to make sure it looked like the right thing, and then called the patron.

He was so happy he came right down to the library. I showed him how to find it on a public computer, gave him some earphones, and he very happily watched the clip of this moment. You can enjoy it too:

The patron and I talked a bit more before he left, and it felt good to make someone that happy. Plus, The Family Feud has always been one of my favorite game shows, although I haven't watched it in years, so this was fun for me too.



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Libraries Circulating Wi-Fi Hotspots: Now That’s Cool

   May 28th, 2015 Brian Herzog

internet access here signI've been quiet lately because I've been just flat-out busy at both work and home, but here's something that has me excited: patrons checking out wi-fi hotspots from their public library.

Last month's article about the NYPL's circulating wi-fi got me interested. I brought it up at a recent meeting, and a colleague (thanks Anna!) sent me some more background info:

The idea is simple enough: have a mobile hotspot for patrons to check out, that can create a local wi-fi signal using a 4G data plan. And surprisingly, not very expensive for non-profits: $15 per hotspot device, and then $10 per month for the 4G service. Cheap!

I'm going to be exploring this for my library over the coming year. This community is pretty good about mostly being able to afford their own internet access, but there are still plenty of patrons in the library every day to use our computers and wi-fi. A service like this would be critical in rural or poorly-covered areas, but will still be a benefit here.

Not to mention, staff could take it with them to the farmer's market to provide wi-fi on the common, and also so we can have a live ILS connection and check out cookbooks and gardening books on the spot.

If you have any experience with these, please leave a comment. And I'll post again once we make some progress.



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Reference Question of the Week – 5/17/15

   May 23rd, 2015 Brian Herzog

accept and decline buttons on iPhone screenI thought this was actually an interesting question, but the real punch line comes at the end.

Yesterday at the library, one of our volunteers came out and asked me if she could ask me an iPhone question.

Me: Of course. [despite knowing very little about iPhones*]

Her: Okay, good. Sometimes when I get a call, I get the Accept and Decline buttons - but sometimes, I don't. Why does that happen?

Me: Huh, I've never heard of that before - let me see what I can find and I'll let you know [because the volunteer was going to be at the library for a few hours, I knew I could get back to her on it]

Her: That's fine. I tried it with someone else in the back - she called the first time and the buttons weren't there, and when she called a second time they were.

A search for "iphone not showing accept decline buttons" was all it took - I checked two of the results, and they had the same answer: if the phone is unlocked, you get the buttons; if the phone is locked, you get a "slide to answer" option.

She didn't mention getting a slider, or having her phone locked or unlocked, so I wasn't sure if this information would actually help. She happened to be sitting with the person who had done the test calls when I went back and told her what I found. Happily, she said she did get the slider the first time, which she slid, typed her code, and answered. Then the second test call, with her phone now unlocked, showed her the two buttons.

Since everything they saw seemed to line up with what I found, we decided this must be the case. Which was an interesting discovery, and she was going to watch and see if it kept happening this way in relation to being locked or unlocked.

Before I left, they thanked me, and she said,

Thanks Brian. I could have asked my kids, but they always show you so fast, and just do it once and never explain anything and get mad if you don't get it right away.

So there's another good reason for the future job security of librarians - someone more patient at explaining things than a 14 year old kid.

 


*I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the Reference Librarian's motto is, "you don't have to know everything, you just have to know how to find out everything."



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Reference Question of the Week – 5/10/15

   May 16th, 2015 Brian Herzog

Winston Churchill V for Victory signThis isn't a reference question I received (at least, not recently), but this Reddit thread was too good not to share here:

My mother, despite being in her mid 60's, is awesome with computers. She's a public librarian, and is often at the wrong end of users' questions. I came home for a quick Mother's Day visit and she told me this gem:

User: I can't copy this highlighted section! This mouse must be broken!

Mom: Just press the control and C keys at the same time. Yes, that'll copy it. Now hit the control and V keys at the same time.

User: V?? Why not P?

Mom: V stands for Velcro, so when you paste it, it'll stick.

User: Ooh ok! That makes sense!

TL;DR- My mom is amazing.

I never really questioned if the V stood for anything - I just thought it was chosen because it was next to C (and using P for Print makes more sense). However, one of the comments had a different explanation as to why V=paste:

ctrl+v-meaning

That is a great answer - but still, it has the feeling of creating a sensible-sounding explanation for something after-the-fact, based on context. Like saying that [sic] is really an abbreviation for "spelling isn't correct." I mean, if the V key wasn't next to the C, would they still have used it?

Either way though, associating Ctrl+V with Velcro is a great way to have that stick in a patron's mind.

And someone please help me with this: is there a word for making up a definition for something after-the-fact? Like the [sic] thing? I feel like there should be, but I can't find it. Sort of like neologism I guess, so maybe "Deflogism."

Thanks Chris.



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Reference Question of the Week – 5/3/15

   May 9th, 2015 Brian Herzog

Hitler in Indiana JonesA patron came up to the Reference Desk with a book tucked under his arm. This was odd because usually when someone has a book question, they hold the book up, or out, so I can see what it is - but this time, the patron was definitely guarding it. After I greeted him, he said,

This may sound silly, but I'm serious - if I check this out, I'm not going to get put on some kind of watch list or anything am I?

And as he said it, he revealed to me the book under his arm: Mein Kampf.

I kind of laughed and said, "no; at least, not as far as I know."

I then explained how our catalog is managed by the MVLC network, and what data it tracks. The patron said he'd heard the urban legends of books being tracked - like in the movies Se7en and Conspiracy Theory (two movies I thoroughly enjoyed, so this is clearly my kind of patron).

Then the patron explained why he wanted it: he was working on a project about the holocaust, researching whether a case could be made that it actually started when that book was published, rather than later when the deaths and atrocities of the concentration camps began. I don't think I've really heard anyone talk about the holocaust in terms of prejudice and discrimination, but it certainly makes sense and it was interesting to listen to him.

And I think me listening to him kind of humanized the library a bit too, and comforted him enough to know that he could safely check that book out without fear of No Such Agency taking an interest in him.

But again - that is true only as far as I know. But what I do know, specifically because of things like this, is that it is important to support the EFF, or at least read the information they put out - such as What Every Librarian Needs to Know About HTTPS. Because even if we're not monitoring our patrons, we could still be inadvertently allowing it to happen.



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Reference Question of the Week – 4/26/15

   May 2nd, 2015 Brian Herzog

US ConstitutionAn older gentleman came to the desk one afternoon and asked for a copy of the Constitution. Neat - I don't know that anyone has ever asked me for that.

Since he had a cane and came out of the elevator, I wasn't going to make him walk with me into the stacks, so I told him I'd be right back. I went to the 340s, figuring we'd have something there with the text of the Constitution in it - and that it would stand out on the shelf because I couldn't exactly remember the call number.

Sure enough, we had a Teen book (yay for interfiling adult and teen!) with the text as an appendix.

I took it back to the patron and showed him the text, and he didn't look at all pleased. I asked him if the text of the Constitution was what he was looking for, in case I had misunderstood him initially, but he said yes it was. Hmm.

It then occurred to me that when he asked if we had a copy of the Constitution, he may have thought we have an actual copy of it - either one of the big souvenir rolls like the Declaration of Independence from the movie National Treasure, or an actual original copy.

I didn't ask him this though, and after a second I think he realized that I was handing him a readable text of the Constitution, and he became okay with that. He thanked me and left, but I honestly can't help thinking this YA book was a pale imitation of what he might have expected.

After all, the Dallas Library has an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, so why shouldn't we have the Constitution? Well, the people who know me will point to the food stains on my pants as to why I can't have nice things.



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