January 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog
This reference question started off normal enough. A patron called and asked if I could email her a picture of the Eustachian tube (a part of the inner ear).
While I took down her email address and got the correct spelling of "eustachian," she explained that she had an Eustachian tube infection, which was causing an echoing in her head. This was a bit more information than I needed to know (and you as well, probably), but she made light of it saying "it's like hearing voices when I speak, but there's nobody else in there."
Finding an answer was easy enough, too. I first checked our subscription database, Magill's Medical Guide. It had an informative entry and a diagram, but as I described it to her, she said it wasn't what she wanted.
She said she really wanted an image that showed where the tube was located in the ear. I switched to a Google image search for Eustachian Tube site:.gov. I described to her a couple images that I found, and she became positively jubilant.
This is where it got a bit unusual. She explained that she wanted the picture to hang on the wall, so every morning and night she could concentrate on clearing the infection through focused attention. She confessed it might sound odd, but said it worked before for a herniated disk.
Patrons never need to justify to me why they're looking for some particular piece of information, but the back story is usually worth listening to. I emailed her the image, and she replied saying that if it worked then I deserved "xoxoxo." As it happens, staff at my library is not allowed to receive tips or gifts, so I'll just be happy to hear she makes out.
April 5th, 2008 Brian Herzog
I enjoy working with little kids at the reference desk - especially kids who are enthusiastic about whatever it is they are doing.
A little girl (maybe a fifth grader) came to the reference desk and asked if I could help her find a picture on the internet. She said she had found it at home using Google image search, but their printer is broken. However, now that she's at the library and can print it, she can't find the same picture again.
She was looking for pictures of the characters from the Ivy and Bean books to put in a school report. She couldn't remember her exact search terms, so we first started searching Google with just "ivy and bean."
We looked through the first four or five pages, but she didn't see the pictures she was looking for (drawings of the characters from the stories, and not just the book covers). We then tried a variety of other phrases, like "ivy and bean" pictures, "ivy and bean" annie barrows, and even criss cross applesauce, which apparently is what the character says in one of the pictures she saw.
But after five or ten minutes of trying various keywords, we still had nothing, and my little patron was getting discouraged.
LibrarianInBlack often reminds people not to rely on just one search engine, so I switched over to AllTheWeb's image search. The patron was reluctant, because she knew she had seen them in Google images search, but she went along with it - and we were rewarded quickly.
On the first page of a search for "ivy and bean," we found one of the pictures she had seen. Every search results page after that had additional images, and she got more and more excited with each picture we found.
She wrote down the URL and raced back to the computer she was using - overjoyed to continue with her homework.
Tags: alltheweb, bean, image, images, ivy, ivy and bean, libraries, Library, public, Reference Question, search
December 15th, 2007 Brian Herzog
A high school student walks up to the desk and asks if there are any "picture programs" on the computers.
After a bit more questioning, I realize he's looking for a photo editor, like Photoshop. It turns out he was joining some online group, and needed an image for his avatar. He wanted to crop a picture of himself from his friend's myspace account, and use just the t-shirt he was wearing in that picture to be his avatar.
(Quite the far cry from helping a student find information on European explorers for a homework project, but you answer the question you're asked.)
Unfortunately, my library doesn't have any kind of photo editing software on the public computers (not even MS Paint). Perhaps because of this, I've been paying attention to mentions of online photo editors, so I had something to offer this kid.
I personally have used Pixenate (or, PXN8) a couple times. It allows most of the basic photo editing functions, and doesn't require you to create an account to use it. This is what I showed the student, and we were able to save the photo from myspace to the harddrive, crop it accordingly, resize it, and upload the result as his avatar.
I like to think that this high school kid has new respect for the library as a high tech mecca, but since I need to tell this particular kid regularly not to swear in the library, "respect" might not be the right word.
Anyway, here's a roundup of online photo editor posts I've seen recently (along with a few other image-related posts, for good measure):
I'm sure there are more out there, and that everyone has their favorite. I'm going to keep my eye on Splashup, and in the meantime stick with Pixenate for the simple stuff.
image, libraries, library, online photo editors, picture, public libraries, public library, reference question, tools, web-based