Since I am helping patrons less than before, the relative number of reference and tech support questions I get from staff have gone up. This is one of those.
One day right as I was getting ready to leave for the day, someone working at the Circ Desk called down to say that Evergreen (our ILS) wouldn't open. That's weird, but important enough for me to stick around a few minutes to try to fix it.
When I got upstairs and asked for details, my coworker said,
Well, something bad happened to the computer and it froze, so I forced it to shut down and then restarted it. When it came back up and I clicked on Evergreen on the desktop, it wouldn't open.
Now that is odd. I had no idea what "something bad" might have entailed, but at least the computer was on and working, so that's a good sign. I double-clicked the desktop shortcut and sure enough, it didn't work - I got that "cannot find target" error. Thinking just that shortcut got changed somehow, I tried the icon in the Start Bar, and then the one in the Start Menu, but kept getting the same error.
Hmm. So I looked at the target of the three, and all of them were the same. Also odd. I browse out to that directory, expecting to see the evergreen.exe file they were pointing at, but it's not there. I check look at that directory on a different computer that is working, and sure enough, there is an evergreen.exe file.
Now that is weird. This was far enough down into the directory structure that I didn't think any staff would have accidentally deleted it, but I couldn't think how else something would have happened to this single file and left everything else in the directory.
The immediate fix that comes to mind is to completely reinstall Evergreen, which is a pain, and I'm still trying to get out the door to go home. So, I figure what the heck, I'll just copy/paste the evergreen.exe from the good computer into that same directory on the problem computer and see what happens. This is like Windows 3.x stuff, and figure it's an incredible long shot.
But holy smokes, it actually works! I copied that file to the network and then pasted it in from there, and when I clicked the desktop shortcut on the problem computer, it opened right up as if nothing ever happened. I don't really understand it, but I'll take it - at least as a temporary fix to get Circ through the evening.
In the morning I asked our IT guy to reinstall Evergreen on that computer for real, because I figure what I did was fragile and didn't address whatever the "something bad" was that started this whole thing. Before he did that, he did some checking on the computer and then got back to me:
Symantec classified Evergreen as a virus yesterday. I didn’t check but I presume that Evergreen.exe was moved to the Quarantine area. When you copied it back to the original location you resolved the issue. There should be no need to reinstall.
Sort of an unusual thing. I modified our Symantec policy to exclude this file. It shouldn't happen again.
Wow. I have no idea why Symantec suddenly took an intense dislike to the most important application we use every day, but there you go.
Just about everyone who works in a library is a de facto tech support person - whether it be for your own work station, or helping a coworker or patron. So instead of an normal reference question, hopefully this post will help in answering reference questions.
10. Disable Crap You Don't Need.
Helpful in the way they intend, but also relevant in patron support in terms of "focus on one aspect of the problem." For instance, if a patron says, "I can't download books from Overdrive," you have to go through a mental checklist every single time: is their computer connected to the internet, are they getting to the Overdrive catalog, are they checking out the book properly, is their any kind of block on their account, are they getting the right format for their device, etc. By ignoring extraneous details and deliberately going through the process, you can usually fairly quickly identify whatever the problem may be (fixing it, on the other hand, is a different matter).
8. Talk It Out with a Troubleshooting Buddy
This is good for any type of reference question - if you get stuck, ask a coworker. Any two people will probably approach a question differently, and someone else might think of something you haven't. Relying on colleagues is a great way to provide excellent customer service (well, provided you have excellent colleagues).
7. Make Sure It's Not Just You
I actually use downforeveryone.com frequently (and am always oddly delighted when I find someone else who does too). Patrons seem to be less upset about not being able to get into their email if you can show them that the problem seems to be with their email provider, not the library's network.
3. Use Alternative Search Engines When Looking for Help
Definitely. It's good to be come very familiar with your standard tools, but don't be locked into them. And not just search engines - remember to use the library's print resources, databases, vertical file, local resources, etc, when looking for an answer.
2. Hit Up Helpful Q&A Web Sites
I do this all the time, both for answering patron questions and IT support within the library. Patrons think up some pretty weird things, but chances are someone else on the internet has already figured that weird thing out. Look for help forums, and don't be afraid to interact on them. And tell the patron you've asked their question, just to give them a heads-up that the answer might not be immediately forthcoming. Also, any time I get a strange error code, or try to do something slightly counter-intuitive (like read Kindle books on an iPad), searching web forums is a quick way to pick the internet's collective brain. Likewise, calling other libraries, relevant organizations, or real-life experts can be a good idea, too.
This applies to so many things - from literally restarting a frozen public workstation to taking a fresh tack on a difficult problem. Turn it off and turn it back on again is the #1 suggestion for a reason - and why Roy always answers the phone that way:
It's good for library staff to know and abide by this information, but it is also very useful material for building a online safety program for the public.
Another of my favorite security-related posts is the Email Scam Competency Test, to see if you can tell legitimate email messages from scams. At the end of the test, click the "why" links to see the clues for telling the difference.
I'm a member of the IT section of the New England Library Association, and we're holding a workshop on popular CMS software. If you're thinking about redesigning or updating your website, or would are just curious about what CMS' are and what they can do, then this workshop is for you.
CMS Day! Build a better website with Content Management Systems: Drupal, Joomla, Plone, & WordPress
Keynote by Jessamyn West
Date: Friday, June 12, 2009
Location: Portsmouth Public Library, Portsmouth, NH (directions)
Cost: NELA members - $50; Non-members - $60 Registration Fee includes lunch & a NELA USB hub!
10:00 a.m. - Registration & Coffee & Library Tours
10:30 a.m. - Keynote: CMS options - Jessamyn West
12 noon - Lunch (provided!) and Library Tours
12:45 p.m. - Librarians share their real-life CMS experiences:
--Drupal - Darien (CT) PL (darienlibrary.org) & Paige Eaton Davis, Minuteman Network
--Joomla - Randy Robertshaw, Tyngsborough PL (tynglib.org)
--Plone - Rick Levine & CMRLS Librarians
--WordPress - Theresa Maturevich, Beverly (MA) PL (beverlypubliclibrary.org)
3:30 p.m. -Wrap-Up!
Keynote by Jessamyn West
Jessamyn West is a community technology librarian. She lives in rural Vermont where assists tiny libraries with their technology planning and implementation. Her favorite color is orange. Jessamyn maintains an online presence at: librarian.net and jessamyn.info
NELA Program Refund Policy: A full refund shall be granted provided that the registered attendee has contacted the authorized representative of ITS responsible for taking registrations, at least ten (10) business days in advance of the program. In the event that notice is given less than ten days, a refund is not granted, however, they may send a substitute to the program.
For more information, please contact Scott Kehoe at 978-762-4433 x16 / email@example.com
Overview of the National Agriculture Library, and the services they offer. Being a national library, they are a resource for everyone, so check them out.
Library-Wide IT Proficiencies
Why are IT proficiencies important? It's important to get IT support right the first time with the end-user, so front-line staff need to feel comfortable in both doing the support and managing expectations (we cannot "fix the internet").
Keys to success Enable non-IT staff, excellent communications, understand end-users (needs, vocabulary and skills), know where knowledge or information lies within the organization, don't get stressed - we're all working towards the same goal
Expect things to change Technology will change, staff and users needs and skills will change - must expect change and be flexible to accommodate it
Listen to end-users Meet with end-users in a non-threatening way to learn directly from them what they need (although it might be delicate, focus on what is wrong, because no one is happy with IT), and work to get ongoing feedback
Roadmap to creating an IT-Savvy Library Staff
Technology Core Competencies Abilities, knowledge and skill required to do the job - can be itemized based on areas or tasks, such as "printer & copier," "operating system," "email," etc.
Types Can be task-based (skill: refill printer paper) or descriptive (knowledge: know how to surf the internet)
Get involvement from everyone Everyone should be involved in defining them and what is needed to achieve them (management, professional staff, front-line staff, etc)
Plan implementation Everyone knows what's happening and what to expect, and how competencies can be met
Why have them? Promote customer service, increase motivation, address fear/threats of technology or people with limited skills (and don't be afraid of providing incentives and praise)
IT Liaison Program Designate one person from each department to be the lead liaison with the IT department - hopefully someone interested in IT, to be the first point of contact
Ideas for training Experts in the library leading sessions, creating fact sheets (your own knowledge base), online training/webinars (free and fee), weekly tips. mentoring programs, regional trainers, keep track of what library staff don't know (FAQs)
Topics for training Evolving technologies, real-world issues (spam, phishing, flash drives, etc), tour the library website, Google labs, digital rights management, RSS, media formats (flash, audio, interactivity, etc), hardware petting zoo (new gadgets, gizmos and games)
The reason we're switching is a simple one - Firefox is just cooler. It lets us have more control over how the browser functions, and lets us offer more tools integrated right into the browser. Better for us, better for patrons.
Here's a list of the customizations we're making:
Public Fox - this is designed to make Firefox a public web browser, as opposed to being used and customized by a single, private person. We're using it to lock down add-ons, preference, about:config, and a few other things, as well as control what file types can be downloaded
Menu Editor - also for the control freak in us, this one lets us remove menus from the tool bar (we're getting rid of bookmarks, help and history)
Greasemonkey - one of my favorites, this lets us embed custom coding on webpages, such as a link from Amazon to our catalog, and helpful links on our catalog's "no search results" page (more info on those on our Tech Tools page)
Add To Search Bar - this fun one lets us easily add our library catalog right to Firefox's search bar. The other searches we chose to include are Google, Yahoo, Amazon, the Internet Movie Database, Answers.com, Wikipedia, and Merriam-Webster
IE Tab - For all of those "Best viewed in Internet Explorer" websites, this one lets you toggle back and forth between the Firefox and IE rendering engines, so IE-only pages and scripts will load in Firefox
Image Zoom - just like what it sounds, this adds zoom controls to the right-click menu, to make images bigger and smaller. This one is most useful to patrons who get emailed digital photos at 1024 x 768 resolution, which is too big for our screens. This lets them zoom out so they can see all of their grandchild's face at the same time
Update 5/30/08:Print Preview - We realized that we had forgotten to put the Print icon on the toolbar, and then that Firefox didn't seem to have a native Print Preview toolbar icon. This Add-On gives us the Print Preview icon
Turn off all automatic updates - we use Deep Freeze, so we do our own updates
Turn off all warnings, except when redirecting from secure to an unsecure page
Don't remember anything, delete cookies and clear private data when Firefox closes
Disable mailto: links - one repeated tech question from patrons is "I want to send an email but I'm getting some connection wizard." This happens when someone clicks a "mailto" link on a webpage, and Outlook launches as the default email program. Since patrons need to log into their own web email to send messages, making nothing happen when someone click a mailto link is actually an improvement
We also took whatever steps we could think of to ensure computer security and patron privacy - this means not keeping any history, and making sure that when Firefox is started, it does not restore from a previous session
Update 5/30/08: Add the Print and Print Preview (see Add-Ons above) icons to the toolbar (we chose to use icons only and not text because it used less room)
Update 5/15/08: I've had a couple questions about Public Web Browser, so I thought I'd elaborate. It is a great product that works with Internet Explorer (or other browsers, I'm guessing) to lock it down and make IE more applicable for a public library computer. It has always done exactly what it was designed to do, and the librarians who developed it provide wonderful service. Our switch to Firefox has nothing to do with PWB - we just prefer Firefox to IE.
Update 5/30/08: Added an Add-On and toolbar setting to make it easier for patrons to use Print and Print Preview.