Archives for Technology:
January 16th, 2016 Brian Herzog
My library subscribes to OCLC's QuestionPoint service, which is a 24/7 chat reference resource our patrons can use anytime. We've had this for years, and it's been great - not only being able to offer patrons 24-hour assistance, but also the quality of the answers they get is just as good or better than they would have gotten from our staff.
Every month I total up our database usage stats, and also read the transcripts of the chat questions asked. Sometimes though, when the chat librarian can't answer the question for whatever reason, the chat librarian flags it as "followup by local library" and I'm notified by email that a patron needs more help.
One of these followup notification emails was waiting for me when I got to the library this past Monday morning, after a chat session on Sunday. I logged into QuestionPoint to see what the question was, and found,
I had just put up the blog post in question the previous week, with the link to the contest application. I didn't have an electronic copy of the application, so I had to scan one of the print forms and make my own PDF.
So I was surprised to read the patron say it didn't work, because I remember opening it to double-check the margins of the scan looked okay.
Knowing that it worked, and thinking the patron must just be doing something wrong, I kept reading the chat transcript - confident that the chat librarian would have my back and set the patron right. But then this happened...
What? Well, maybe something was actually wrong, if the chat librarian was seeing a blank page too.
So of course, I immediately go to the blog post and try the link again - and sure enough, it works just fine. So, I create a new PDF of the form, and email it directly to the patron (email is included in the chat transcript), apologizing for the problem and asking him to let me know if this one doesn't work.
The patron emailed back to say thanks, and a little more. After getting my message saying that it worked for me, the patron kept experimenting with the PDF link, and explained what he found:
OK - here's the scoop in case you get any others with this issue. This looks like a Google Chrome browser issue, and it may be unique to my computer, perhaps a settings problem. The PDF document opens fine in IE, Firefox, and Edge. It even opens fine in Chrome if I save the file first. But when I try to link to the file via the web it opens but with blank content. [...]
Thanks again for your follow up. I hope I haven't wasted too much of your time.
Wasted my time? You just did my job for me!
I'm glad it worked for him, but I was curious to see if this issue was just this one patron, or a Chrome thing. A quick search for Chrome blank PDF turned up a lot of relevant results, including some on Google forums. It seems like this is indeed a Chrome problem. And not exactly a new one at that, so I'm surprised that this is the first I was encountering it.
It also explains why the chat librarian had the same issue, while everything worked fine for me in Firefox.
It's not very often that I outsource my job, but in this one instance, I outsourced it twice - first to the chat librarian, and second to the patron.
October 21st, 2015 Brian Herzog
Recently, my Library bought a Roku to start circulating to patrons. I loved this idea, because it solved a problem that has been annoying me for years.
Awhile ago, sometimes when we bought DVDs, they would come with an "ultraviolet" version in addition to the physical disc. The ultraviolet version was a digital copy - which of course the library couldn't really use, because it could only be downloaded to one device. So we'd get the codes for ultraviolet copies, and just throw them away. It wasn't really costing the library money, but I did not like that we were just throwing away a resource.
Then another nearby library got the idea to use a Roku to offer these videos to patrons. Their method was to create a Vudu library of all their ultraviolet movies, and then connect the Roku to that account. That way, patrons could check out the one Roku device, and use it on their home wi-fi network to have access to all of the movies we had ultraviolet licenses to stream. Nice.
Since they already had worked out the details, we just bought our own Roku and copied what they did. We're also adding all the ultraviolet titles to the catalog record, so the Roku shows up if someone searches for Still Alice or Paul Blart Mall Cop.
Our Roku circulates for one week, cannot be renewed, but can be requested. We're also circulating it in a padded case that comes with a remote control, various cables to connect it to the patron's television or digital projector, power supply, and instructions:
We, and a few other libraries, are only using it to stream our ultraviolet titles. But another library paid for a Netflix subscription with a gift card, so patrons can stream anything from that Netflix subscription. They've set up additional channels as well, which we haven't done (yet?).
We need to do a better job of promoting it's available, but I don't know that any patron would check this out just for the sake of watching movies on a Roku. Unlike checking out a telescope to use the telescope, I see this as more like a Playaway - patrons will check it out to get access to the content it contains, not for the experience of using this format. And at only $50 for the device, it's a great way to stop throwing away the ultraviolet titles.
Tags: libraries, Library, movie, movies, public, roku, streaming, ultraviolet, video, videos, vudu
October 10th, 2015 Brian Herzog
Here's an answer to a question that I haven't been able to use yet. It's a question I've gotten numerous times, but only just recently looked up the answer.
For whatever reason, it is not at all uncommon for patrons (or staff who is helping one of these patrons) to ask me,
Why can't I open my resume here? I need to make changes and email it to someone.
and when I look at their file, it is named something like "resume.pages" - bleh. One patron said they got it from the Career Center, so maybe that's why it always seems to be resumes saved this way.
"Pages" is (I think) the latest format for Mac word processing, which does not, naturally, open on our Windows computers with Microsoft Office. My go-to solution in these cases is to use Zamzar or some other online converter, which always works well enough (except for patrons having to wait for the email to get to their converted file).
In the back of my mind I kept meaning to search for some converter plugin that might let Word open these files directly. I finally had a chance this week to look for such a thing, and ended up finding a different solution entirely.
More than one website gave these steps:
- Save a copy of the .pages file to the Desktop (or somewhere easily accessible)
- Right-click on the .pages file and choose "Rename"
- Replace the ".pages" extension with ".zip"
- Open the newly renamed .zip file, and it will contain a file you'll be able to open with Microsoft Word or WordPad
That's a neat bit of a trickery that I'm sure will confuse many patrons, but I'm also sure they will be delighted to see their resume open on the screen at the end of it.
I haven't been able to try this trick myself yet, but now I am looking forward to the next time someone has a .pages file. Hopefully today!
October 3rd, 2015 Brian Herzog
This interaction actually happened a couple months ago, but I just now found that I had saved it as a draft.
A patron called in one day saying he needed help opening an ebook. Of course I was thinking Overdrive, but after a bit of a discussion, I learned the real story.
He had bought an ebook directly from some self-publishing website (not Amazon), and was trying to open it on his Samsung Android tablet using the Kindle app. And it wasn't working. He had downloaded it on his PC and was trying to transfer via USB to his tablet, but the computer wouldn't recognize the device.
The patron gave me the URL so at least I could see what he was talking about, and learned it was a .mobi ebook. I had hoped the website would have some instructions on opening their ebook, but no such luck. Since I wasn't getting anywhere over the phone, I told him to stop by the Reference Desk next time he came to the library and we'd figure it out.
Please Note: I say this to people all the time. I truly mean it and want to help them, but at the same time, often I need time to research whatever the problem is because I just have no idea. Generally it gives me a couple days to a week to prepare for them, so I look much smarter when they do finally come in.
There happened to be a lull at the desk right then, so I did a quick search on how to open .mobi files on Android and found a very helpful website. Nice, now I'd be ready if this patron ever does come in.
Which was good, because not fifteen minutes later this patron walks up to the desk.
The first thing we did was redownload the ebook directly to the device, instead of using the PC > USB > device route. Next, we followed the steps outlined on the website I found - and it worked perfectly.
The patron was thoroughly impressed - and of course happy. So that's all well and good, a librarian job well done. But, it's what the patron said next that really made my day:
Thanks. Now I can call the company and tell them how to do it. Ha, I would have thought they'd have known this if they are selling these ebooks.
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.