I was asked these two questions back-to-back one day this week:
I want to sell my car on craigslist, and I want to be able to email people an info sheet. I've already created an Excel spreadsheet with mileage and other statistics, including a couple pictures pasted in. Can you show me how to put arrows and text on the pictures, and how to convert it to a pdf file?
I've been on Yahoo for a few months now. I know that I can get letters from people, and I can reply to letters people send me, but, can I send people letters too?
Of course, both of these are legitimate questions. I was just struck by such different technology experience levels from two patrons who walked up to the reference desk at about the same time.
And the answers are:
Excel's Drawing Toolbar (View > Toolbars > Drawing) allows both of these things. Click the icon that looks like an Arrow to draw an arrow on a picture, use the Line Style to make it thicker, and the Line Color icon to change the color. Then, click the Text Box icon to create a text box wherever you want words to appear. Use the Fill Color and Line Color to make sure it's legible against the picture.
To create a pdf version, we installed PDFcreator on our public computers. It shows up in the printer selection dropdown box, and creates a pdf file patron can then save to disk
Just click the "New" button in the upper left corner of the Inbox.
I was wrong. I was 10 when this book was published, but I still use many of the resources author Agnes Ann Hede recommends.
Each chapter in the book is devoted to different types of resources, and describes the best books in each area. As you would expect, most of the book focuses on print:
Dictionaries: 31 pages
Encyclopedias: 23 pages
Indexes, Serials and Directories: 26 pages
Bibliographies: 32 pages
Computer Sources and Services: 5 pages
I did get a laugh from the page comparisons, but it was certainly appropriate for 1984.
However, when I read the Computer section, I was amazed by how relevant it still is. There was no "computers are a difficult fad we just need to humor" mentality. In fact, the language she used is exactly what is commonly used today. She speaks of "getting into" databases, and casually refers to online searching (not on-line searching or "online" searching).
And her characterization and advice concerning balancing print and online resources is as true today as it was then:
[T]o be today's "compleat librarian," you must add to those [print] sources the increasingly abundant resources offered through computer technology.
The sad part is that this advice, 25 years later, is still not being fully embraced by the profession.
I debated, but ultimately weeded this book. As much as I liked it, it certainly was outdated, even though we do have the current copies of many of the print resources it recommends. But take a look to see if your library has this book. And weed your reference collection!
In this funny video, replace "dad" with "library patron" and it's a reference question many librarians know all too well. At least, for the first third of the video - after that, it gets kind of weird and definitely violates the appropriate library behavior policy.
This question actually took place months ago, but was only recently resolved.
An elderly patron came to the desk and asked about email. She said her grandchildren all wanted her to get an email address, but she didn't know anything about computers.
I took her over to a computer, intending to help her sign up for an email address. However, when the patron said her eyesight was too bad to read the computer screen, I decided to move to our large print workstation.
The "large print" workstation is more or less the same as our regular computers, except that it has a much larger monitor, and it has the Zoomtext software to make reading the screen more comfortable for people with low vision. The other difference is that it is located in our large print room, so the atmosphere is more quiet and calm than the computer area.
We sat down, and I fiddled with the mouse and keyboard to adjust the screen text so it was at a size she could read comfortably. At that point, I sat back and started saying things like "okay, now use the mouse to point the arrow there..." and "type mail.yahoo.com in the white bar..." I could tell the patron was understanding what I was saying, but was still having trouble.
I asked her if the screen was clear enough, and she said,
I can see the words on the screen just fine, but I can't make heads or tails of the keyboard.
It turned out, even though we tricked-out the software, we neglected to make one very important piece of hardware "large print." The keyboard was the same type we used on the regular computers, and the small white-on-black keys were just not something this patron could read.
I brought this up with the library's IT person, and she asked our Friends group to purchase a real low-vision keyboard. It took a few months, but they came through, and we have a new Zoomtext large print keyboard hooked to the large print computer.
It's kind of an embarrassing oversight - at least it was for me when I was trying to help this patron. I don't expect to be able to anticipate every need and requirement, no matter how hard we try - that's why it's important to get feedback from real patrons (and pay attention to it and act on it).
I've seen some patrons using the new keyboard, and the few I've talked to are extremely happy with it. They'd been making due with the old one, and it never occurred to them to ask for something else. I feel better knowing there is one less barrier for these patrons, but one older gentleman summed it up perfectly:
It used to be that typing was a struggle, but now email is actually fun. Or rather, it probably will be when I understand what I'm doing.
One of the nice programs my library offers is One-on-One computer training. Patrons can sit with a librarian and get help with any computer issue - searching library resources, setting up email, learning Word, etc.
It's a very popular service, and the appointments are often booked weeks in advance. It's not unusual to make appointments over the phone, but a phone call last week wasn't the typical "help with Word" request:
Patron: I read that you guys do computer classes there? Me: Yes we do, what would you like help with? Patron: I know how to use regular computers, but I got a Mac laptop for Christmas and don't know how to turn it on. Can you teach me how to use it?
Now, granted, if I were a Mac person or used Macs with even the most infrequent regularity, I might not have balked at this request. However, as it stands, I explained to her that I didn't know much about Macs, but I would show her what I did know and then we'd use the library's Macbooks and learn the rest together.
By the time she came for her appointment, she had figured out how to turn her Macbook Air on. I showed her how to use the AirPort to connect to the library's wireless network, and then showed her how to launch applications from the icons on the bottom of the screen. We went through each of the application icons, and eventually she was getting the hang of it.
Then came her next question:
Patron: How do I get to the games?
Ha. I told her I was pretty sure Macs didn't come with games, but showed her how to use the Finder to search the computer. After going through that a few times (which is probably as much as the average person needs to know about using a computer), we moved on to using the internet.
Her nephew, who had given her the Macbook, had also created both Yahoo and Gmail accounts for her, so we practiced getting to each and logging in. Then came another surprising comment.
Patron: How do I get to the people in my Yahoo address book from my Google account? Me: I don't think that's something you can do. Patron: But my nephew said that you can do anything on a Mac, so why couldn't I do this?
Hmm. The rest of the appointment was spent managing expectations of the Mac and just practicing logging into things. Before she left, she made another appointment for the following week, but then called a few days later to cancel it. She said she had been using the computer on her own and felt she didn't need anymore training. Maybe Macs really are easier to use than PCs.