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


Organize Your Desktop with Fences

   June 27th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Desktop with FencesAt a meeting last week, a colleague from my consortium's central office showed off a free program he found called Fences. Its function is simple: group desktop icons together in labelled boxes.

Of course I like organization, so this appealed to me. This was the first time I'd seen something like this, but it wouldn't surprises me if a similar function was native to OS X or Windows 7 (Fences looks like it's Windows-only).

I don' t know that I'd actually use this on my personal computer, but I've been thinking about using this on my library's public workstations.

We deliberately limited the number of desktop icons on the public computers to keep things from being confusing and overwhelming. But, if we organize things with Fences, and label each group, we might be able to present more options while still keeping things understandable.

I could see Fences for Microsoft Office programs, Browse the Internet (with a variety of browsers to choose from), Local Websites (maybe the local news sites, Town Hall, the schools), and then perhaps also some to highlight library tools or pages on our website.

I obviously haven't finalized things yet, but I like that this got me thinking about a new way to do things. Thanks Tracy!



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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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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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An Anecdotal Experiment With Privacy

   March 15th, 2011 Brian Herzog

For the last few years at my library, our public computers all looked the same - Windows XP with a custom wallpaper displaying instructions on how to print. Our setup looked like this:

Wallpaper with printing instructions

A month or so ago, we upgraded to Windows 7, and thought we'd also change the wallpaper.

Our goal in this was to improve patron privacy. The timer software we use is Time Limit Manager (TLM), by Fortress Grand (the little "Time Remaining" clock at the top of the screen above). I like this software because it is very customer service oriented, and patrons don't need to log in with a barcode to start their session - they can just sit down, click "I Agree" to our policies, and go. The timer is basically a courtesy reminder, and for the most part we can get away with using the honor system (TLM does offer additional features for when push comes to shove).

But the main problem we were seeing wasn't that people wouldn't leave the computer - it was that patrons weren't ending their session when they left the computer. This set up the scenario where a second patron could come along and just continuing using the session of the previous patron.

This never caused a real problem in my library, but the potential was there, so we thought the upgrade would be a good time to address it.

With the Windows 7 rollout, we designed new wallpaper, hoping to prompt people end their session when they were finished with the computer. The new wallpaper looks like this:

Wallpaper with privacy reminder

The result? Absolutely no change whatsoever.

I didn't do a scientific survey, but just from the number of times staff has to end the session at an abandoned computer, the privacy reminder didn't seem to affect anyone at all.

I can't believe people aren't seeing this message, so it's tough not to conclude that, at least in my library, most patrons don't care much about their privacy.

So, I wanted to ask the question here - what do other libraries do to get patrons to end their session?



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Spy-Tech Devices Found in Library

   February 15th, 2011 Brian Herzog

USB KeyloggerDid you read the story about a library in England that found two devices, designed to steal patron information, plugged into their computers?

It almost sounds like an urban legend, but even if it were it's still a good remind to all of us that this could happen anywhere.

The devices are USB keyloggers - someone would unplug the keyboard from the computer, plug the keyboard into this device, and then plug it back into the keyboard's USB port. With this device between the keyboard and computer, it can record every keystroke made on the computer - including websites visited, username/password combinations, credit information, etc.

The best defense against this is for library staff to check for these, or anything attached to a library computer that shouldn't be there. The article also suggest plugging keyboards into the front of computers, to make spotting them easier.

To notice something like this, of course, library staff must be familiar with what should and what shouldn't be there. I don't mean to be all preachy, but this is a good opportunity to familiarize staff who may not be really tech-savvy with library equipment. And another thing: take a few minutes today and check all of the computers in your library.

Thanks Dale for sending this to me, and it was also on LISNews.



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Reference Question of the Week – 6/13/10

   June 19th, 2010 Brian Herzog

pron computerOne of the complaints I have with my library are the questionable architectural decisions made when the building was designed - lots of glass, so even small sound echos a great deal, aisles that are blocked because fixtures stick out to far, not enough meeting space, etc.

Another quirk is our Quiet Study Room - it sits at the end of the Reference collection, next to one of our computer areas. Half the computers face it and half face away, and whoever is in the Quiet Study Room could look up and see a lot of computer screens (but so can anyone walking by).

One afternoon, the phone rings, and the patron says,

Hi, I'm in your study room right now. I can see the computer screen of the first guy right outside the room, and he's been looking at graphic porn for ten minutes.

Most of the time we get porn complaints, it's after the porn viewer has left, so there's not much we can do about it. When we're able to "catch someone in the act," I print our Computer Use Policy and hand it to them saying something like,

Another patron objected to something they saw on your screen. This is a public building, so please remember that anything appearing on your screen must be suitable for children who might accidentally see it walking by.

I did that in this case, and then went back to the Reference Desk. A few minutes later, the phone rang again:

Hi, this is me, in the study room. Thank you for talking to him - he stopped looking at porn.

Her calling back made me laugh, but I hope she wasn't continually monitoring what the guy was doing.

Lots of porn stuff recently - to read what other libraries do with porn offenders, check out Unshelved Answers (my answer is there, too), and of course the Foolproof Porn Filter from earlier this week. Also, check out the Blackbelt Librarian's tips for handling difficult patrons.

Hmm - maybe we should just install a hotline in the study room for people to report porn offenders.



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