Archives for Reference Question:
September 12th, 2015 Brian Herzog
I work with little kids every day, but it's slightly unusual for me to help a kid over the phone. On Wednesday night this week, a little girl called about 8pm, and asked to be transferred to the Children's Room. No problem.
A couple minutes later the phone rang again, and it was the same small sweet voice. She said she'd tried calling the Children's Room twice but no one answered, so asked if I could help her find a book. Again, no problem.
We looked up the two Dork Diaries books she wanted, and placed holds on them. That didn't take very long, and when we were finished I asked her if there was anything else I could do. She said,
Well, yes. I've never called the Children's Room before and they didn't answer. I'm kind of worried something happened to them, so could you check to make sure they're okay?
I tried not to laugh, and explained that there was only one staff person in the room tonight and maybe she was helping someone else on a big project and couldn't make it to the phone, but that yes, I would check. She said thanks and hung up.
It turned out the Children's Room person was just getting back from her break when I checked on her, so all was well.
Another funny thing about this call was that when I said the books were checked out, so we'd request them for her and call when they were ready to pick up, she asked if that was the only option. I thought she meant email or text instead of calling, but no, she meant could we bring them to her house or school instead of her having to come here to get them. Not unreasonable, but I've also never been asked that by a six-year-old sounding voice before.
It's hard to say no to that, but she understood and said she'd ask her mom for a ride to the library.
August 30th, 2015 Brian Herzog
A patron called one morning to say she that our printer had given her laptop a virus. Huh.
She explained that she had been in the library the day before. Her printer is broken, so she came in to use our Print from Anywhere service. It all worked fine, but now when she opens Chrome, our printer page comes up and she can't get rid of it. Previously her browser always opened into her email, and she wanted me to get that back.
She described the page to me, which turned out to be the print confirmation page. And while telling me everything she tried to do to fix "the virus," she kept mentioning she right-clicks to close tabs. I don't use Chrome very often, so I thought she may have accidentally clicked "set this tab as my homepage" or something like that.
While she was talking I opened Chrome to check, but that was not a right-click menu option. However, in the settings, I found Chrome does default to "Continue where I left off" - which means it just opens the printer page because that was the page she was on when she closed her laptop.
After I explained this might be the issue, she was willing to test my theory, but was clearly skeptical that it could be that simple. However, she typed in her email url, close Chrome, reopened it, and sure enough, it worked.
I told her if she unchecked that option, we could force her email to come up every time she opened Chrome, no matter what she was doing before. She made it sound like that sort of wizardry was unnecessary, thanked me for fixing her virus, and hung up.
She really was kind of upset - well, overwhelmed by the arbitrary whims of technology, more like - so I was happy we could get things back to normal for her. Hopefully this doesn't sour her on the library or the Print from Anywhere service. We shall see.
August 22nd, 2015 Brian Herzog
A patron came up to the desk with a flash drive and said she needed to print a file, but was told she needed a Windows 8 computer to print it.
I thought that was odd - I've heard of files requiring certain versions of Microsoft Office to print, yes, but never a certain version of the operating system.
So I plugged it into our desk computer, which is Windows 7 and Office 2010, and sure enough, it didn't work. While I was doing that, the patron explained,
I live in [town nearby] and tried this in the library there, but couldn't open the file on their computers either. It didn't occur to her to ask the staff for help. Then a friend then told me that the Chelmsford Library was good with computers, so I thought it was worth another shot. I tried it on my own here first, but my friend told me to make sure I asked someone for help.
Well now I really can't let her down.
The file was an .oxps file, which she had generated while on the Fidelity website when she wanted to print some account information. I tried forcing Word 2007 to open it, but no luck. The computer just didn't recognize the file extension.
So, I grabbed my laptop from my office (which is the only computer in the building with Windows 8, as I am the Library guinea pig) and plugged in the flash drive. Sure enough, the file this time had a real icon, and when I double-clicked it, it launched "successfully" in one of the Windows 8 apps. I say "successfully" because even though it opened, we were still only in a Windows 8 app, but at least it was progress.
After some left-clicking, right-clicking, and general blind bumbling (I hate those apps), I managed to find the print function, which let me print to a pdf file. Now we're talking.
I saved that to patron's flash drive, and moved back to the desk computer (which would be quicker to print from), and was able to print it no problem. The patron was happy, and even said that librarians are her favorite people in the world. I hope she remembers that the next time she's in a library and unfortunately can't get what she wants.
By the way, if this hadn't worked, or if I hadn't had a Windows 8 laptop handy, my fallback would have been to try Zamzar.com or some other online converter - usually those work surprisingly well.
August 15th, 2015 Brian Herzog
Modern Reference work includes tech support too.
One afternoon, a patron came in and asked to use a study room. I signed him up for one, and after he got about five steps away from the desk, I got distracted with other things and completely forgot about him.
About twenty minutes later, I was walking in the direction of the study rooms, and notice he was sitting in his room, in the dark, using his laptop (which of course meant his face was spotlighted by the screen). I thought it was odd, but really it's not entirely unusual for someone to have the lights off when they're in a room, so I just chalked it up to "patrons are funny" and kept walking.
But then, as I walked past the windows of his study room, I heard him shout out, "sir! Sir!! SIR!!!"
I opened the door and said something like, "can I help you?" His response was to sit back in his chair, wave his arms around, and say,
I've got no lights!
This is an easy fix - our study rooms have motion sensors that turn the lights on when someone enters a room, but in this case the rolling white board had been pushed in front of it. As soon as I started pushing the white board over, the lights popped on. The patron thanked me and I left.
But my disbelief in this whole situation stems from that fact that it was twenty minutes - twenty minutes - from the time the patron came in to the time I happened to walk by. I wonder how long he would have kept sitting in the dark, instead of coming back to the desk to ask for help. Or, look around the room for the light switch that must be there somewhere.
Patrons are indeed funny.
August 8th, 2015 Brian Herzog
Patron interactions like this are one of my favorite parts of my job.
On Wednesday this week, late in the afternoon, the phone rang. It was just a patron calling to ask what time we closed that night, so I told him, and hung up. No problem.
Then, not two minutes later the phone rang again. When I answered it, the patron asked,
Hello, do you recognize my voice?
Of course it was the same patron who just called minutes before. I said I did, and he continued,
Well, I've already forgotten what time the library closes tonight. Can you tell me again. [I tell him 9:00 pm.] Okay thanks. I'll try to remember this time, but don't be surprised if I call back. You know, you should put your closing time in your phone number, because I have that memorized but I can't remember your hours.
It must have stuck with him this time, because he never did call back. However, what a neat idea - our phone number could be 978-930-2100 because we're open 9:30 - 9:00 (and 24 hour time for 9:00 pm is 2100). Of course, we'd need a different phone number for Fridays/Saturdays, and Sundays, so I guess that idea breaks down quickly.
Still though, it's fun when patrons are creative.
August 1st, 2015 Brian Herzog
I think I've already done a question like this one before, but I don't mind repeating it just because this tactic delights me.
A patron called about an hour before closing on a Friday afternoon. He said,
I want to know if you have a book on the steps used in the phonics method of teaching someone how to read. I'm writing an article about how to teach writing and want to use an analogy involving the steps for teaching reading, but I want to make sure I'm using the phonics steps correctly.
I don't know anything about the phonics method for teaching reading, but the question seemed straightforward enough. I told him it'd take me a bit of time to research it and find a book with the steps, and I took down his email address to send him the answer.
I did a few different "phonics" searches in our catalog, but couldn't find a book in our library that listed the steps. However, other libraries had promising titles - namely Phonics for the new reader : step-by-step and Get back to phonics : a step by step approach : how to improve your reading skills.
Normally I'd call the the libraries that had the books, ask them to check the table of contents for the information, and then either fax or scan and email the relevant pages to me. However, since this was at the end of the day and I was pressed for time, I tried the tactic of using Amazon's Look Inside feature to read the table of contents right from my desk.
And in this case, it paid off. Instead of sending the patron the link and trying to explain how to use Look Inside and hoping he gets it, I did the extra work of:
- open Look Inside and view as much of the first page as I could
- hit the Print Screen key to take a screenshot
- paste the screenshot into Paint
- crop to just the words I wanted
- copy/paste that cropped image into Powerpoint
- repeat for the rest of the relevant sections of the Table of Contents
- once everything is pasted into Powerpoint, print using CutePDF to create a PDF version of just those sections of the Table of Contents [pdf]
That's definitely a quick and dirty way to accomplish this, and probably not the best way, but it worked for me based on the software we have on our desk computers.
But since I don't know anything about these steps, I thought I'd double-check by finding some other resources too. A quick web search turned up two websites, one that I couldn't verify the expertise of, and then a Word document from the National Right to Read Foundation [doc] (which I would tend to trust).
All three were different, but I hoped between them the patron would get what he needed. I sent all of this to the patron, thinking that the PDF would be the best resource. Within a few minutes he replied,
Thank you, Brian. Very quick work. The Word doc was just what I needed. Appreciate it.
So, go figure. I'm glad it was helpful for his article - that's definitely the important thing.