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




Reference Question of the Week – 2/26/12

   March 3rd, 2012 Brian Herzog

Wooden chair at public workstationThis isn't a reference question, and I usually don't name names when it comes to other libraries, but this entertained me. A patron came up to the desk and said,

I just wanted to say that your chairs are hard.

I automatically prepared to handle a complaint, and tell her our wooden chairs were designed to be light and sturdy, and that she's welcome to move one of the more comfortable chairs over to a computer, when she says,

It's so nice, because it makes sure you don't sit there too long. Those chairs they have at Westford let you sink in and before you know it you've wasted your whole day in front of the computer.

So good on the J. V. Fletcher Library in Westford, MA, for having comfortable chairs. And maybe good on us for not?



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Most Popular Computer Ebooks (at my library)

   September 22nd, 2011 Brian Herzog

Safari Computer EbooksSince getting back to work this week, I've been trying to get caught up on emails and feeds.

Stephen's Lighthouse linked to the top 25 most downloaded titles on Overdrive - which reminded me that I had recently done our year-end database usage stats, and compiled highest-access titles for our Safari Computer Ebooks database.

Our top 12 most-accessed books were:

Title, Author Accessed
Sams Teach Yourself Java in 24 Hours, Fifth Edition, by Rogers Cadenhead 706
CISSP Exam Cram, Second Edition, by Michael Gregg 684
CISSP Study Guide, by Eric Conrad, Seth Misenar, Joshua Feldman 677
The Green Screen Handbook, by Jeff Foster 577
Java: A Beginner's Tutorial, by Budi Kurniawan 462
Adobe InDesign CS5 On Demand, by Steve Johnson - Perspection, Inc. 358
SAP MM HANDBOOK, by Kogent Learning Solutions, Inc. 356
Microsoft Excel 2010 Step by Step, by Curtis D. Frye 340
Sams Teach Yourself Android Application Development in 24 Hours, by Lauren Darcey, Shane Conder 305
Beginning iPhone and iPad Web Apps: Scripting with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript, by Chris Apers, Daniel Paterson 278
Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial: Learn Rails by Example, by Michael Hartl 270
IT Systems Management, Second Edition, by Rich Schiesser 220

The Safari stats interface doesn't make it really easy to identify this. Finding the number of sessions isn't too bad*, but we have to report the total number of "circulations" for these ebooks - which to me means the number of times each one was accessed.

I was able to run one report that seemed like a master total usage report, which I think indicated that 433 of our ebooks have been "hit" a total of 12,256 times.

Also interesting, if I'm reading these reports right, those 433 books are only about 1/8 of the collection, meaning 7/8 never got touched even once. Also, of those 433, 250 were accessed five or fewer times (totaling 410 circs), and the top twelve books (which all had >200 "hits") have a combined total of 5233 circs. Which means that 12 books account for a little under half of our total activity.

That is shocking, but also should be a fairly good indicator of what the leading technologies are right now (at least for my patrons, and among the selections available in our Safari catalog) - and a good reason to supplement our Safari access with print copies.

 


*Incidentally, we had 963 patron user sessions for FY11



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Handout of Basic Keyboard Shortcuts

   September 6th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Fortune Cookie fortune: There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.Thanks everyone who contributed their favorite keyboard shortcuts. I picked what I thought were the most helpful for someone fairly new to computers, and put together a little handout:

It's for new users, so I stuck with, basic, simple, and common. I hope it'll be helpful, but depending on the person, it might still be overwhelmingly complicated. But if it is well-received, I'll do a second one with the more advanced helpful shortcuts that people submitted.

Feel free to use or adapt it - I made it so it was easy to change the letters on the keys, so feel free to modify and expand.

And please let me know if you see any mistakes, or thought of a way to make it clearer or more helpful - or if you have an image better that the Microsoft clipart I used.

Apple Command KeyMac Users
I added a note at the bottom about how to use these shortcuts for Mac, and I wanted to show what the Command key looked like. While searching for the image online, I also came across the origin of the Infinite Loop symbol, which I had never really wondered about before. Interesting.

Update 10/11/11
Thanks to Adam Van Sickle of the Teton County Library - he worked to have the handout translated to Spanish, and allowed me to post the English/Spanish version here [pptx] for anyone to use. Thanks Adam!



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LISNews Series on IT Security in Libraries

   August 30th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Everybody Cooperate for Safety First signOver on LISNews, Blake has a series of posts on IT security in libraries, and it's absolutely worth checking out. So far there are five parts:

  1. IT Security For Libraries
  2. Practical Tips For Online Privacy
  3. Practical Advice On Choosing Good Passwords
  4. Staying Safe Online
  5. 20 Common Security Myths

It's good for library staff to know and abide by this information, but it is also very useful material for building a online safety program for the public.

Another of my favorite security-related posts is the Email Scam Competency Test, to see if you can tell legitimate email messages from scams. At the end of the test, click the "why" links to see the clues for telling the difference.



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90 Percent of US Doesn’t Know CTRL+F

   August 23rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

I [heart] Ctrl+FI was surprised when I read a recent article reporting that 90% of people don't know how to use CTRL+F.

I don't expect most patrons I work with to know keyboard and mouse shortcuts, but it's obviously more widespread than that. I use shortcuts a lot, and will sometimes get stopped during a meeting or presentation and asked what the heck I just did. Which might be the best way to teach shortcuts - in context and with a demonstration*.

But of course, my first impulse when reading the article was to make a list of common and helpful shortcuts to hand out to patrons - so I added that to my to-do list. There already are lists of available shortcuts, even a list of lists, but I like BoingBoing's approach - make a short-list limited to ten (or three) that can improve everyone's computer experience.

So here's what I've come up with so far (which are Windows-centric) - do you have any more to add to the list?

Shortcut Description
CTRL+C Copy highlighted text
CTRL+X Cut highlighted text
CTRL+V Paste highlighted text
CTRL+Z Undo last action
CTRL+Y Redo last undo
CTRL+P Open print window
CTRL+F Find on page
CTRL+H Find and replace
Right-click With mouse; provides useful menu on just about anything

A little more advanced shortcuts...

Shortcut Description
CTRL+TAB Go to next tab (in Firefox and other tab-based applications)
CTRL+SHIFT+TAB Go to previous tab (in Firefox and other tab-based applications)
ALT+TAB Tab through open applications
ALT+SHIFT+TAB Tab through open applications backwards, but it's awkward (for me) to press these keys
WindowsKey+E Open Windows Explorer File Manager (I wouldn't add this one to the list for patrons, but I didn't know about it so just wanted to share it here)

Again, these are primarily for Windows, since that's what we use in the library. I'll work on making up a handout for patrons and post it here in case anyone else would like to use it too.

It'll be handy for the library, but since most new devices don't use physical keyboards, we'll also have to learn a whole new crop of shortcuts and methods. For instance, a patron wanted to copy/paste something on her iPad, and we had to look it up on YouTube to figure it out.

via Slashdot

 


*When helping patrons, I always point out the shortcut codes on the right of menus - almost everyone misses those. I tell them not to try to memorize all of them, but if they find they're going back to the same menu item often, see if using the shortcut is easier. Of course, Office 2007's ribbons don't display the shortcut codes, so that has changed things.



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Reference Question of the Week – 7/17/11

   July 23rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

Speed Limit Infinity signThis questions wasn't at all difficult, but I thought it was interesting because it was something I thought I knew how to do, but it turns out I didn't.

A patron walks up to the desks and says,

I have some software at home I want to install on my computer. However, there are two install disks - one for computers with a 32 bit processor and one for computers with a 64 bit processor. How do I tell what processor my computer has?

The patron had an XP computer, which is also what I was on at the desk, so that made things easier.

My first instinct was to go to Device Manager, so we did, but no matter where we looked, nothing I could find gave the processor speed. I sure there are multiple ways to find this out, but in the interest of time I searched the internet for is my processor 64 bit or 32 bit xp. The first result was titled What operating system Do I have? A 32bit or a 64bit? | Computer Tips - perfect.

The site itself looked a little suspect, but as we read the page together, the information seemed okay. It gave instructions for both XP and Vista - and the XP instructions guided us to somewhere I never would have even thought of:
Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Information

Menu path to System Information

When that window opens, look for the Processor line:

System Information dialog box

Here's how the site says to read it:

If it says x86 then you have a 32 bit operating system. If the processor area mentioned ia64 or AMD64 then this means you have a 64 bit processor. If it said Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Version then this means it is a 64 bit operating system. However as you can see from above, it says Microsoft Windows XP Professional and the processor starts with X86 so therefore this is a 32 bit processor with a 32 bit operating system.

This answered the patron's question, and since we both learned something, it was a good exchange. The funny part (to me) is that the patron said he was right in the middle of installing the software, and came to the library because it was the only place he could think of that would give him free computer information. He was happy I found the answer so quickly and he apologized for rushing out.

Free is questionable, but quite timely on people thinking of the library as genius bar - all the more reason reference staff need to also provide some degree of technical support.



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