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

Archives for Technology:

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:


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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Overdrive App Adds Option for Dyslexic Font

   April 9th, 2015 Brian Herzog

Overdrive dyslexic font optionA coworker send me this post from the Overdrive blog:

Standard font typefaces are often difficult to read for people with dyslexia as the letters are hard to differentiate and words tend to jumble together. Dyslexic fonts provide greater contrast in letters which solves this problem.

This new font option will make reading easier for students with dyslexia as well as library patrons who struggle with the condition. Determining letters is now much easier, allowing readers to concentrate on the book’s content instead.

This seems like a great enhancement. It also seems like one of things where you say, "now why didn't someone think of this sooner?" I didn't, but it does seem obvious now. And, I think, a very easy feature to implement, since it's just a different font. So that's great - way to go, Overdrive, and way to go science!

Hopefully all devices and apps will add this in order to help the people that need it.

Thanks Jen!

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Reference Question of the Week – 3/1/15

   March 7th, 2015 Brian Herzog

powerpoint-printanimationsThis question wasn't all that difficult to answer, but I thought it was interesting in that, it's something I didn't know before and for some reason feel a little bit better for knowing now, kind of way.

A grad student patron had been at one of our computers for awhile, working on a Powerpoint presentation for a group project. She'd asked me a few various questions over the course of maybe an hour, but then came up very frantic.

It turned out one of her team members had added a bunch of animations to their presentation, and now that she was finished adding her part and was playing the slideshow to see how it all looked, none of the animations were working. She said they had worked for her at home, but our computer was not displaying them.

I don't know if Powerpoint has a setting that would block animations - or if there was one, that our computers set that way - but then in the course of talking about it with her Powerpoint suddenly crashed.

She was surprisingly calm about that. I knew she had it saved so there was no danger of losing anything, but usually when something isn't going well, anything out of the ordinary escalates stress quickly. However, she saw the crash as a positive thing - her logic was that Powerpoint on this computer must be glitchy, which would account for both the crash and not playing animations (as opposed to the idea that something was wrong with the presentaiton and that's what caused the crash). Now this is my kind of patron.

Anyway, here comes the reference question:

At this point she said she no longer cared about playing the slideshow, and all she wanted to do was print a copy for her professor to have during their presentation. However, how do you print slides with animations? Good question (and much more reasonable than the patron who asked how to print a YouTube video).

Apparently her team member created one slide where the animation was four different graphs replacing each other (instead of just creating four separate slides). Only one showed at a time during the actual presentation, but looking at it in normal edit mode, all of them were superimposed over top each other.

It seemed logical that Powerpoint would have a "Print Animations" option, so I went online to look for the solution.

From what I gather, Powerpoint 2007 (which we have on our workstations) does not. However, you can still do it, but it's a bit of a manual process. The answer I found was this:

  • click on the "home" tab
  • go to the far right and click on "select" (it is located in the "editing" box on the far right)
  • (for me, a dropdown box opened and I chose Selection Pane)
  • the "visibility panel" will open up showing you the animations for the [slide] you are on
  • just hide each [animation layer] at a time and print them out

See the image above for this Powerpoint pane (or try it yourself!).

Although a manual process, this worked extremely well. You can show or hide whichever layers you want by clicking the little eye icon, so the patron was able to always show the slide title, and toggle off/on each chart and print them pretty quickly.

She was extremely happy with me - although still annoyed at her team member for making all this necessary.

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Reference Question of the Week – 2/22/15

   February 28th, 2015 Brian Herzog

Blackbeard statueA senior citizen patron came in for a one-on-one session, and had a couple things he wanted help with. I took one the library's laptops and went into a study room with the patron - so far so good.

His first question was replying to an ad on Craigslist. This was fairly straightforward, although I don't know that the patron entirely understood the process. But that's fine - we can go through it again next time, so we moved on to his second request.

He said a friend of his in Florida suggested he go to Blackbeard's Resort, but he didn't know anything about it so he wanted to learn more. Okay, I type google.com into the browser's address bar and hit Enter - and nothing happens.

Google doesn't load, which is unusual. So I try Yahoo.com, but that likewise doesn't load. So I figure this laptop has lost the wi-fi connection, so I try to reconnect. Again, that doesn't work.

Now, this whole process is taking me a few minutes. While I'm messing around, the patron has been talking, and I am just absorbing this all without comment:

Yeah, my friend said this was a good place. He likes that sort of thing. I asked my travel agent about it, and he said I shouldn't go. It's apparently cash only, do you think that's why he didn't like it? What do you think? My friend's a bit odd, and this is his kind of place. He said it's for swingers, whatever that is.

At this point, I have to leave the room. Partly because the wi-fi seems down completely, and partly because... swingers? I don't think I could have responded to that with a straight face.

So I go to the Reference Desk, and it turns out our entire internet connection was down - wi-fi, public workstations, and staff computers. Our IT person is working on it, and it doesn't seem like it'll be back up any time soon.

I go back to the study room to let the patron know we're kind of out of luck as far as his one-on-one session goes, but that we can reschedule for another time. He takes it in stride, reschedules, and leaves without further comment. I feel bad about our network going down, but at least it gives me a bit of time to strategize how to respond before our next appointment.

And for what it's worth, Blackbeards Adult Resort does indeed take credit cards - but they have a 20% surcharge on credit cards so they recommend using cash for all of their services. Their slogan is One visit and you will be "Hooked" - bravo for the triple entendre. Also bravo to them for including the library on their "fun community" map - maybe ALA should plan a conference here.

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Author John Green, Copyright Violator

   February 25th, 2015 Brian Herzog

I meant to post this last week, but hopefully it's still new to some people - it's definitely still interesting to me.

The Copyfight blog highlighted a story on how author John Green came to the realization that a quote that had been widely attributed to him - which he didn't remember writing but accepted because the entire internet said it was his - wasn't actually his. He explains:

My takeaways from this are:

  • Not fact-checking is one thing. But even if you did fact-check and find every source available attributes something to the same source, you can still be wrong. The internet certainly allows for the wild propagation of sources, but it's nice to know that there still is an objective truth that lies beyond the internet zeitgeist.
  • Fact-checking has become exceeding difficult when the author of a novel has to illegally download a copy of his own book to search it. Maybe this is an indication that there is a problem with our copyright system.
  • John Green is a really nice guy.

Also, if you don't follow the CrashCourse YouTube channel, keep an eye out for their upcoming Intellectual Property episode (here's the preview):

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