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


Reference Question of the Week – 2/7/16

   February 13th, 2016 Brian Herzog

IIA patron walked up one afternoon and asked if I could show her if she was "typing in Roman Numeral two."

Sometimes, I figure I'll better understand the question once I see their computer screen, so I just said "sure" and got up and walked down to her computer with her.

When I get there, I see that it looks like she's started typing a term paper - heading, professor name, date. I think maybe it's an outline or something that needs Roman Numerals, so right where the cursor is blinking, I just type two capital I's and tell her that that's Roman Numeral two. It doesn't look very impressive, and I glance up onto the Word ribbons and notice the font is Calibri size 11.

The patron wasn't really impressed either, and said,

That's it? I don't know what she meant, but my teacher said we needed to type in Roman Numeral two.

Ah, now that, for some reason, made more sense. I deleted the two capital I's I just typed, Ctrl-A'd to highlight the entire page, showed the patron how to change the font to Times New Roman - while at the same time explaining that I have heard of some professors requiring a particular font, especially a serif font like Times New Roman, because supposedly it's easier to read. The patron indifferently acknowledged that I had just formed words, and said,

Well, that could be what she said. I was rushing at the end of class, but that looks fine to me.

Okay. She had her assignment sheet next to the computer she was working on, and I glanced down to hopefully see a font requirement spelled out as part of the project. I didn't see it, but noticed ironically the assignment sheet was printed in Calibri.

Towards the end of the night as the patron was leaving, she smiled and waved. Hopefully Times is what she needed, but I'm not sure I'll ever find out.



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Reference Question of the Week – 6/21/15

   June 27th, 2015 Brian Herzog

there was a little girl coverThis question actually happened in February - I had forgotten about it, but I think it's still interesting:

A patron called in and asked for the large print edition of There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me. We didn't have that in our catalog, so I checked Amazon, which said it was being published on March 11th (over a month away at the time).

I told him we'd be happy to order the large print edition for him, but then he asked something surprising:

Patron: I've noticed that different publishers have different size large print, and sometimes it's not that much larger than regular print. If it's not going to be much bigger than regular print, then I don't want to wait a whole moth for it. Can you see how big the type will be in that book?

Uhh... that is something I've never been asked before. I have noticed over the years that some "large print" books definitely have larger type than others, but never thought much about it. And certainly have never considered trying to find out how large the print will be before a book is published.

However, being Amazon, they do have the "Look Inside" feature - unfortunately in this case, a message said, "This view is of the Kindle book. A preview of the print book (Hardcover edition) is currently not available."

Well, since size varies by publisher, I offered to go to our large print room and grab some other books also published by Thorndike Press Large Print, and try to describe to him how large the type was. Or pull those as well as a book he'd read recently and relate the size of the two, but the patron felt it wasn't worth it. He said to put him on hold for the regular print copy, and when it came in if it was too small, he'd call back.

He never did, at least not to me, so hopefully he enjoyed the regular print edition comfortably.

After we hung up, I looked a little further and did find some large print publishing standards listed conveniently on Wikipedia:

The National Association for Visually Handicapped (NAVH) provides the NAVH Seal of Approval to commercial publishers for books that meet their large print standards.[3] (Lighthouse International acquired NAVH in 2010).[4]

The standards[5] call for:

  • Maximum limits on size, thickness, and weight
  • Minimum limits on margins
  • Type size at least 16 point, preferably 18 point
  • Sans serif or modified serif font recommended
  • Adequate letter and word spacing
  • Flexible binding recommended to allow open book to lie flat

It's remarkable that I've worked in libraries for almost 15 years now and don't think I've ever seen these standards. I suppose I always knew there must be some, but never went beyond that. And I know the publishers want a balance between the comfort of low-vision readers and keeping printing costs low, but even 16pt seems a little small to me.

However, I suppose this is the single greatest advantage of ereaders - sure they can hold a lot of books, but being able to adjust the type size depending on your reading conditions is something print book just can't do. Large Print audiobooks, though, are a different story.



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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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