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.
This was not a difficult question, and not the first time I've encountered it. But the patron was funny, and I was actually surprised how well this particular tool worked.
About eight minutes after we opened one morning, a woman comes to the desk and says,
You have to help me - I'm desperate.
And then she walked away. It didn't take my librarian-sense tingling to know she wanted me to follow her, back over to the computer where she was working.
She sat down and said (without looking to see if I had, in fact, followed her),
I can't print out this project. My son the poor kid wrote it at home and our printer is busted so I came here to print it for him but your computer won't let me open it and he needs it today so can you print it for me it's in my email do I need to save it to a disk it won't open...
You know, one of those situations when the patron won't let you get a word in edge-wise, even to answer their question. Obviously she was in crisis-mode, but was kind of humorously fatalistic about it, because apparently everything had been going wrong: their home printer broke, come to the library to print but can't open the file, etc.
She had emailed the file to herself (which was good), and I could see the attachment was a .odt file, which is the extension of a document created with Open Office. I thought Microsoft Work was able to open that file type, but when I downloaded her file and tried it (which I think is exactly how far she had gotten), it didn't work.
So first I explain to her why it doesn't work - because she created the file with Open Office (which she knew, and that was good), but that we don't have the right software to open that file type. Then I started to explain that she'd have to go back home and use Open Office to save the file in a format Word could open - .doc, .rtf, etc. She then started in (crisis-thinking again) on whether she should have saved it to a CD (which is never the answer), name the file something else, and all kinds of other options.
While she was talking, it occurred to me that we might just be able to use a file converting website, without her having to go home. So while explaining what a converter website is, I did a quick search for convert odt to doc and spotted a website called ConvertFiles.com.
It was perfect, and easier to use than any other converter website I've found (usually my go-to is Zamzar). You just upload your file by clicking the Browse button, choose the format you'd like to convert to, and then click convert. It took maybe twenty seconds, and then we could open the file in Word.
What I liked about this website was that it let you open the file right away, instead of them emailing it to your account as an attachment.
And boy, when her son's report popped up on the screen, she almost cried. She also tried to print it as quickly as possible, just in case it suddenly went away like some cruel trick.
In my library, printing costs $0.15 per page, and her son's report was two pages. She immediately pulled out a dollar bill, handed it to me and said, "keep the change." But she must have known we can't accept tips, because when I showed her how to use the pay-for-print machine, she took her change back - and then hugged the printed papers to her chest and kept saying, "oh, thank you thank thank you..." all the way back to her workstation.
From start to finish, this entire reference interaction took about three minutes - and in that time, this woman's emotions went from one extreme to the other. It was a very small part of my day, but I think it had a huge impact on her's (and her son's) - which is why I think a converter website like this should be in every reference librarian's toolbox.
However, most of the usual ways require more access to the computer than we allow the public to have. Patrons cannot install software or get to Windows Sound Recorder, so he wanted something easier.
An internet search lead us to the website vixy.net, which is exactly what he wanted. Enter the url of the online video you'd like to record, choose the output file type (mp3 is an option), click start, wait, and then download the audio file. Nice.
The system is still in beta, and lists right on their homepage some of the errors you might encounter (after working with it awhile, the patron said he got an error on about one in three attempts). But when it works, it works, and it gave the patron exactly what he was looking for - mp3 files he could save to his flash drive.
But let me leave you with what I told him: just because something is possible doesn't mean it is legal. It is up to you to check to make sure the copyright on published work allows for this type of recording.
This is a question I've gotten in various forms, and I finally have an answer for it. Usually, the reference interview goes something like this:
Patron: I can't open a file on your computer. Me: Oh; what kind of file is it? Patron: It's just my resume. My sister updated it for me on her new computer, but her printer is broken, so I came here to print it out. But now it won't open. It works fine at her house.
The two key parts of the patron's last statement are resume and new computer. These words almost always indicate a Word document created on a Microsoft Vista computer running Office 2007. My library's computers have Windows XP and Office 2003, which cannot open Office 2007 documents due to the change in file formats.
That is, until now.
Our IT person found a plugin that will allow Office 2003 programs to open Office 2007 files. This plugin is available from the Microsoft download center.
We have installed this on the computers at the reference desk, but not yet on all the public computers (we are changing the profiles on all of those, and this plugin will be part of it). And of course, since installing it, I haven't gotten this question again.