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

Reference Question of the Week – 10/14/12

   October 20th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Official Green Hornet Agent badgeThis was the entirety of a call that came in Wednesday afternoon this week:

[ring ring]
Me: Reference desk, can I help you?
Patron: Yeah can can...can you tell me what...what's on green tonight Green Lantern...Lantern...I mean Green...you know...the other one...Green Lantern...Green...Arrow...Arrow Green...Green Arrow yeah Green Arrow no... Lantern Green...Green...um...it's not Green Lantern, it's not Green Arrow...um...HORNET Green Hornet can you tell me what's on Green Hornet tonight oh wait it's Wednesday nevermind [click]

We have a patron who frequently calls to find out which episodes of his shows are going to be on that day. He usually ends up watching them all anyway, regardless of the episode, but he just wants to know in advance.

In this case, I think he had just woken up from a nap, and only eventually realized his show wasn't on that night.

In general, my favorite "what's on TV" resource is Zap2It.com, because it usually provides better descriptions of "local programming" than TVGuide.com. Although for some of this patron's shows, we have to go right to the MeTV Channel's website for schedule and descriptions.

This patron calls with this question so much that I've bookmarked both of these websites at all the reference computers. It kind of makes me laugh that we have ready reference resources devoted to just one patron, but it certainly is worth it.

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Navigating NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

   October 25th, 2011 Brian Herzog

SF Signal presents A Guide to Navigating NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy BooksThis isn't new, but I read on Slashdot last week that NPR listeners voted for the top 100 science fiction & fantasy books of all time.

But the website SF Signal saw a problem: the 100 science fiction & fantasy books were from all over the genres, and had basically no rhyme or reason. So they created a readers advisory flowchart, to help readers select which of the 100 they'd be most interested in reading by answering a few questions.

A 100-book flowchart graphic is massively huge (see below), so they also made an interactive version - it's great, and worth a look:

Flowchart for choosing science fiction and fantasy books

Does anyone know of other interactive "choose-your-own-adventure" type readers advisory tools out there?

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Back to the Future: Migrating to Office 2007

   May 20th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Office 2007 logoWe finally decided to bite the bullet at my library and upgrade from Office 2003 to Office 2007*.

Office 2007 is being installed on all the staff computers first, so that when it's rolled out to the public we'll be able to help them with the new Ribbons menus. And thanks to a heads-up from Dean Baumeister (Memorial Hall Library, Andover, MA), we're going to use some great interactive tutorial guides developed by Microsoft to help make the switch easier.

The neat thing about these guides is that you use a standard Office 2003 menus to do the task you want, and then it shows you exactly how to do that same task using the Office 2007 Ribbons. We're going to put shortcuts to all of these on the desktops, to have easy ready-reference for locating Office functions:

I've only played with Office 2007, so I've been poking around with these guides to see where all the tools and functions I use every day have ended up in the Ribbons. The trickiest thing to find so far has been Word's options. It used to be at Tools > Options, and now it's oddly hidden up in the big round button.

Ah, the joys of learning new software (and trying to make it work as much like the old software as possible).


*Yes, I know Office 2010 is due out this summer, but lets not get ahead of ourselves (read more, see more).

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Wireless Network Handout

   May 26th, 2009 Brian Herzog

wi-fiHere's a new little handout to show patrons (and staff) the basics on how to connect to the library's wireless network. Feel free to modify* and use it if you like.

The handouts are designed to be a third of a page, with Windows instructions on one side and Mac instructions on the other:

Since the beginning of the year, I've been noticing more and more people asking for help connecting to the network. It wasn't that our network was problematic - the patrons just seemed like first-time laptop owners, and had no idea how to connect.

We have a more hardcore troubleshooting handout, instructing people to use ip config to release and renew their ip numbers, but that was definitely overkill for these patrons. They needed something plain and simple, that showed the basic steps to search for and connect to networks.

But of course, plain and simple is tricky, since there are so many brands and operating systems out there. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on making this better, or post a link to your own handout in the comments section.

And thank you to Jessamyn for writing the Mac portion - it would have only been half as useful without your help.

*I usually do little handouts like this in PowerPoint, because I already have templates setup - sorry for the amateur desktop publishing

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Information Underload

   December 18th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Empty BookshelvesIn addition to this blog, I also write a weekly post for my library's blog. I don't feel like I'm spreading myself too thin, but sometimes I have to wonder if there is any connection between my online and real-life activities.

Last week's post for the library was a Holiday Book Guide. It contained a list of kids books suggested by our Youth Services Librarians, and also links to other websites with end-of-the-year book recommendations. The list of other websites is short, but I tried to find a good mix. However, apparently, I wasn't reading them very closely.

A couple days ago, I was going through a cart of new books with a coworker. He held up three books and said "hey, I saw all of these on that Boing Boing list of books." It was then that I realized that, although I had read all of the lists I linked to, apparently I had retained nothing because none of the books he was holding looked familiar.

This must have been a case of me working faster than I was thinking, trying to get a useful blog post up by the (self-imposed) deadline. But it's also a reminder that websites aren't just something to link to as information for other people - I need to read them, too.

I guess I need to remember to stop and smell the roses - or in this case, stop and read the blogs.

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Guide to Hiring Women

   May 29th, 2008 Brian Herzog

1943 Guide to Hiring WomenSince I mentioned recently that it's staff review time in my library, I thought it'd also be appropriate (although I use that term loosely) to post this 1943 Guide to Hiring Women. Originally published in "Transportation Magazine," I found it over on the studio twentysix2 blog, and I agree with Tom's commentary.

As a male in a traditionally female-dominated field, of course I found this interesting. I work for and with women, and have women who report to me, and I'm happy to report that this is not at all applicable to 2008. All of my colleagues, professional and paraprofessional, have their jobs because they are good at their jobs - not just because they fit the uniforms we had on hand.

Times change. That's a good thing.

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