Archives for Reference Question:
January 10th, 2015 Brian Herzog
A patron came up to the desk and asked for me specifically (I was in the office at the time). She said she needs help with her computer, and hoped that I could fix it for her.
The abbreviated version of the story is that her laptop was having problems, so she took it "to the shop" to have them fix it. They said they did, and she never tried it to make sure - she just put it on a shelf and didn't use the computer.
For a year.
Now, a year later, she wanted to use her computer again, but can't remember the password. And can I help?
At least she knew that she had Windows XP, which is something. She didn't have the computer with her, so she said she'd come back the next day.
Which gave me a day to research how to reset or bypass a Windows XP user password, because I had no idea - and it sounded like something that should not be an easy thing to do. However, I found all kinds of websites with all kinds of complicated methods of discovering or resetting the password, including putting password recovery software on a boot disk. Then I found this kid's video:
That seemed easy and straightforward, so I figured I'd try it first - too easy in fact, but, as much as I wanted to help the patron, I didn't think we could really offer support beyond this. Downloading hacking software to a boot disk seemed a bit drastic.
So she came in the next day, and I was shocked that the kid's technique worked flawlessly. Partly because I didn't expect it to be so easy, and partly because it doesn't seem at all safe that it is that easy. But then, this was on a very old laptop with XP.
At any rate, the patron was happy she had access to her computer again - and of course thought I was a genius. I gave her a little talk about updating the anti-virus and getting a year's worth a security updates before she use it normally online, and also told her that XP is no longer supported and maybe think about getting a new computer. She said she got along for a year without a computer at all, so she'll see how it goes.
With a little luck, she may still enjoy XP for years to come.
December 13th, 2014 Brian Herzog
This one took me by surprise.
A patron called in and ask if she could request some books. No problem. And usually when a patron tells me right off that they'll be requesting multiple books, I'll grab a pencil and paper to write titles down and look for after we hang up. If they're requesting just a few items, I'll type them in and request them as we go, but when there are a bunch of titles there's no need to make the patron wait while I do them all one at a time.
So this patron gives me her list of items, which are all yoga books with titles like Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual. After about six titles, she gives me the punchline:
Okay, that's all. And I'd like all those as audiobooks.
A yoga practice manual on audiobook? I'm not familiar with this book, but it sounds like it would be mostly photos of poses, which doesn't seem like it would work at all in audio.
So I conveyed my uninformed skepticism to the patron, and she was in complete disagreement. She was as uninformed as I about the actual existence of these audiobooks, but she was far more confident that they should exist.
Which they might, and I said I'd look for them on audio and request them if I could find them. I checked our catalog, the rest of the state, WorldCat, and Amazon, but unfortunately didn't find any of them with an audio version.
At least, so far - this is one of those questions where I'll end up keeping that piece of scrap paper for years and periodically checking and rechecking various sources to try to locate the item. We'll see, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
December 6th, 2014 Brian Herzog
This is a hard question to relay. What you're reading below isn't necessarily what the patron asked, it's just my understanding of what the patron asked - and I'm really not sure I ever understood correctly just what he was trying to do.
A patron came to the desk and said he had a pair of stereo earbuds, which were only playing sound on one side, and the guy at Radio Shack said he'd need to buy an adapter to make both sides play when he plugged into a mono jack (which he said our computers must have because he was only getting sound on one side). But instead of buying an adapter, the patron thought he could just go get another set of stereo earbuds and then plug one into the headphone jack on the front of our computers and the other into the jack on the back of our computers, and put whichever two of the four buds that worked into different ears and listen that way.
Most of this only marginally made sense to me. For one thing, the library headphones we offer for people to use all play sound out of both sides. I had no idea if our computer audio jacks were mono or stereo though, so we proceeded to do a little experimenting:
- First I plugged library headphones into the front, and both sides played
- Then I plugged them into the back, and again both sides played
- Next I left them plugged into the back as he plugged his earbuds into the front - and he had sound on only one side and the headphones had no sound
- Finally we plugged the earbuds in the back, and again he only had sound on one side
Since using the front jack shut off the back jack entirely, that shot down his idea of two simultaneous separate earbuds - which kind of deflated the whole situation. So after he sat down to work, I went back to the desk to try to figure out if our workstations had mono or stereo jacks. However, I poked all around inside the Control Panel and on the Dell website for our model PCs, and could not determine this one way or the other.
But what the internet did teach me is that you can tell from the plug if your headphones/earbuds are mono or stereo:
Huh - that seems so obvious, but I never knew this. I checked the library headphones, and sure enough all of them had stereo plugs, not mono plugs.
So knowing that, I decided to take a different tack - find a recording that was in stereo and see if the headphones play it correctly. A quick YouTube search found this:
Besides this being my new favorite YouTube video (the guy is so nice and polite!), it also told me that our computers definitely play in stereo. But, sadly, by this time the patron had left.
So now my working theory on what was happening is that the patron actually had mono earbuds, which apparently will only play one side when plugged into a stereo jack. Maybe this is what he was asking all along and I was just confused. He's one of our regulars though, so I'll watch for him and hopefully catch him before he buys some kind of adapter. It won't help with mono earbuds, but at least it'll save him some money. And I can also thank him for prompting me to learn all this stuff.
Tags: audio, earbuds, headphones, jack, libraries, Library, mono, plug, public, Reference Question, stereo
November 22nd, 2014 Brian Herzog
This question definitely took me by surprised and I don't think I did a great job of answering it.
A patron, who I would guess was in her sixties, walks up to the desk and says,
Do you have a book to tell you what to do in case of an emergency? I've been taking care of my mother but no one tells you what to do if something were to happen.
For whatever reason, my first thought was that "if something were to happen" was a euphemism for "my mother dying" - but then I thought, no, that can't be right.
We do have books on first aid and emergency preparedness, but just to be on the safe side I asked the patron what kind of information she was looking for. She said,
Like who are you supposed to call or what are you supposed to do? I mean other than a funeral home.
Oh, so we were talking about that.
I don't know for sure, but I suspect we didn't have any books that would tell her who to call when her elderly mother dies. Obviously the police would be a good choice, although I don't think I said that. I think ultimately it's the coroner that needs to be informed of a death, but I don't know if anyone can just call them directly. I'm also not sure why she ruled out a funeral home, and I'm sure if arrangements are made ahead of time, they'd know exactly what to do at every step of the way.
I was still thinking along the lines of some kind of resource to give her, but anything like this would probably be more of a pamphlet than a book. I don't think we have any "preparing for end of life" pamphlets like that, but it occurred to me that the senior center might. I mentioned the senior center and she kind of lit up, saying,
Oh, that's a perfect idea. I was going there next anyway to drop off knitting. My mother has a lot of projects started and yarn that I don't think she'll ever use again, so I was taking it there for other people to work on.
Okay. I gave her the name of the senior center's Director and explained how to find the office, and hopefully they'll have what she needs.
After the patron left I felt bad that I didn't have a better answer. I could have called the senior center, or maybe better yet the town nurse, to get an idea of the protocol for when someone dies. But hopefully the senior center staff will be able to give her the information she needs and help her through this time.
November 15th, 2014 Brian Herzog
This was kind of a funny question, right up until I realized I had created a monster.
A patron, who is somewhat new to email, walked up to the desk and said,
Patron: I think some of my friends' email accounts have all been hacked by the same person, and he's sending me messages.
Me: Oh really, why?
Patron: Because at the end of a lot of messages - not all of them, but some of them - it is signed with just the initial J. Someone named J must have hacked their accounts and is sending messages to me, but they don't know they've been hacked because sometimes the messages really come from my friends.
I love a good conspiracy, but in this case I explained what emoticons are and how people sometimes use them in email to display smiling or frowning faces. Some people just used keyboard characters, some use a special font, and some use images.
In this case the patron's friends must be using Outlook, which uses Wingdings font to display emoji. If other email programs don't use that technique, it will just show that character in the default font, which is usually a J for a smiley face.
We then went back over to his computer which still had his Yahoo mail up, and I showed him how he could add emojis to his message. He was thrilled, and I think now all of his friends are going to get sick of it very quickly.
Even though the patron was happy, I still much prefer the idea of a mysterious person named J hacking all his friends' accounts just to send him messages.
November 8th, 2014 Brian Herzog
I like reference interactions where the initial question really just ends up being an ice-breaker for a series of bonus tangents. Well, sometimes I like those.
In this case, a patron came up to the desk carrying a back issue of the Wall Street Journal and asked,
Can I check this out? I want to take it home to compare it to the online version, because I think they're not giving me everything online that they are in the newspaper. I cancelled my newspaper subscription and just do the online now, but an online subscription is the same price as the newspaper and I don't think they include all the articles that are in the real paper.
I don't know the specifics of the WSJ's pricing structure, but I suspect that this patron is correct. I noticed this years ago with our online subscription the Lowell Sun database - articles people swore they saw in the print paper were not coming up in the database (and it wasn't hard for me to verify).
At the time, I called Newsbank to ask them about it, and they said that yes, that is correct. They only have the rights to put Lowell Sun-generated content into their database - so, any syndicated content like AP articles, comics, puzzles, etc, will not appear online. This was a few years ago and in a different context, but the Newsbank person said we'd never see an online version of anything that has everything the print edition has.
I relayed this to the patron, and he appeared to feel vindicated.
He also was extremely interested in the previously-unknown-to-him fact that we had online access to the Lowell Sun - and the Boston Globe, and the New York Times. I showed him how to log in from home with his library card, so that was a happy little tangent. Then he had another tangent for me:
Well, that's okay anyway about the Wall Street Journal articles. Sometimes what I can do is look at the headlines on the Wall Street Journal website, and if an article I want to read is one you have to pay for, then I just search for that headline in Google and usually it links to the full article for free. I don't know why, and it's not all the time, but usually.
So then we had a little talk about paywalls and Google access, for which I had no good answer. But while listening to him, I suspect that some of the articles he links to from Google weren't actually on the WSJ website, just news articles from other sources that had very similar headlines.
What I did not tell him about was the Element Inspector trick - a method for editing a website's code to remove the "sign in to read the full article" blocking mechanism. However, after the patron left I did try out both that trick and his search-for-the-headline-on-Google technique, and I couldn't get either of them to work for WSJ.com articles. Which isn't too surprising - if anyone is going to put a lot of effort into making sure casual circumvention can't be used to access their content, it'll be online newspapers.
Anyway, so instead of taking the back issue of the newspaper home, he just sat down at one of our computers and spent some time comparing the print headlines to the articles available on WSJ.com. I didn't talk to him again though, so I don't know what he discovered.
But another delightful bonus from this question is the idea of letting patrons take home old issues of newspapers. We don't catalog them at all, so all our newspapers are in-library only. I've never been asked this before, but it's certainly a good one for our No Log, to see if we get to yes on it. We already use the honor system for our collection of Cliff Notes, so it might work for old newspapers too.
Tags: access, content, database, libraries, Library, newspaper, online, public, Reference Question, wall street journal, wsj