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


Reference Question of the Week – 10/16/11

   October 22nd, 2011 Brian Herzog

Typing Tutorial mascotSometimes, it's not the difficult questions that are the most engaging - but then again, I can be entertained by very little (remember, I'm the kind of guy that is content reading the phone book).

A patron came to the desk and asked if we had any typing tutorial software she could check out. I knew we had books on learning to type, but no software, so I just did a quick search for "typing tutorial" online and the first result is exactly what the patron wanted.

She was happy, and I set her up on a computer to work on it. But then of course I was curious, and started playing with the website myself - and it turns out it is a very fun and addicting program. It gives a live words-per-minute speed indicator, so my game was to get that up as high as possible (also remember, I only use three fingers when I type).

This is also another example of "everything is on the internet, but it took asking a librarian to find it" - but then, I wouldn't expect someone learning to type to be good and online searching. And in this case, I was happy she asked, because not only could I show her how to do an internet search, but now I also have a fun new game that might actually improve my own typing.



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Handout of Basic Keyboard Shortcuts

   September 6th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Fortune Cookie fortune: There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.Thanks everyone who contributed their favorite keyboard shortcuts. I picked what I thought were the most helpful for someone fairly new to computers, and put together a little handout:

It's for new users, so I stuck with, basic, simple, and common. I hope it'll be helpful, but depending on the person, it might still be overwhelmingly complicated. But if it is well-received, I'll do a second one with the more advanced helpful shortcuts that people submitted.

Feel free to use or adapt it - I made it so it was easy to change the letters on the keys, so feel free to modify and expand.

And please let me know if you see any mistakes, or thought of a way to make it clearer or more helpful - or if you have an image better that the Microsoft clipart I used.

Apple Command KeyMac Users
I added a note at the bottom about how to use these shortcuts for Mac, and I wanted to show what the Command key looked like. While searching for the image online, I also came across the origin of the Infinite Loop symbol, which I had never really wondered about before. Interesting.

Update 10/11/11
Thanks to Adam Van Sickle of the Teton County Library - he worked to have the handout translated to Spanish, and allowed me to post the English/Spanish version here [pptx] for anyone to use. Thanks Adam!



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90 Percent of US Doesn’t Know CTRL+F

   August 23rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

I [heart] Ctrl+FI was surprised when I read a recent article reporting that 90% of people don't know how to use CTRL+F.

I don't expect most patrons I work with to know keyboard and mouse shortcuts, but it's obviously more widespread than that. I use shortcuts a lot, and will sometimes get stopped during a meeting or presentation and asked what the heck I just did. Which might be the best way to teach shortcuts - in context and with a demonstration*.

But of course, my first impulse when reading the article was to make a list of common and helpful shortcuts to hand out to patrons - so I added that to my to-do list. There already are lists of available shortcuts, even a list of lists, but I like BoingBoing's approach - make a short-list limited to ten (or three) that can improve everyone's computer experience.

So here's what I've come up with so far (which are Windows-centric) - do you have any more to add to the list?

Shortcut Description
CTRL+C Copy highlighted text
CTRL+X Cut highlighted text
CTRL+V Paste highlighted text
CTRL+Z Undo last action
CTRL+Y Redo last undo
CTRL+P Open print window
CTRL+F Find on page
CTRL+H Find and replace
Right-click With mouse; provides useful menu on just about anything

A little more advanced shortcuts...

Shortcut Description
CTRL+TAB Go to next tab (in Firefox and other tab-based applications)
CTRL+SHIFT+TAB Go to previous tab (in Firefox and other tab-based applications)
ALT+TAB Tab through open applications
ALT+SHIFT+TAB Tab through open applications backwards, but it's awkward (for me) to press these keys
WindowsKey+E Open Windows Explorer File Manager (I wouldn't add this one to the list for patrons, but I didn't know about it so just wanted to share it here)

Again, these are primarily for Windows, since that's what we use in the library. I'll work on making up a handout for patrons and post it here in case anyone else would like to use it too.

It'll be handy for the library, but since most new devices don't use physical keyboards, we'll also have to learn a whole new crop of shortcuts and methods. For instance, a patron wanted to copy/paste something on her iPad, and we had to look it up on YouTube to figure it out.

via Slashdot

 


*When helping patrons, I always point out the shortcut codes on the right of menus - almost everyone misses those. I tell them not to try to memorize all of them, but if they find they're going back to the same menu item often, see if using the shortcut is easier. Of course, Office 2007's ribbons don't display the shortcut codes, so that has changed things.



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Reference Question of the Week – 2/22/09

   February 28th, 2009 Brian Herzog

zoomtext large print keyboardThis question actually took place months ago, but was only recently resolved.

An elderly patron came to the desk and asked about email. She said her grandchildren all wanted her to get an email address, but she didn't know anything about computers.

I took her over to a computer, intending to help her sign up for an email address. However, when the patron said her eyesight was too bad to read the computer screen, I decided to move to our large print workstation.

The "large print" workstation is more or less the same as our regular computers, except that it has a much larger monitor, and it has the Zoomtext software to make reading the screen more comfortable for people with low vision. The other difference is that it is located in our large print room, so the atmosphere is more quiet and calm than the computer area.

We sat down, and I fiddled with the mouse and keyboard to adjust the screen text so it was at a size she could read comfortably. At that point, I sat back and started saying things like "okay, now use the mouse to point the arrow there..." and "type mail.yahoo.com in the white bar..." I could tell the patron was understanding what I was saying, but was still having trouble.

I asked her if the screen was clear enough, and she said,

I can see the words on the screen just fine, but I can't make heads or tails of the keyboard.

It turned out, even though we tricked-out the software, we neglected to make one very important piece of hardware "large print." The keyboard was the same type we used on the regular computers, and the small white-on-black keys were just not something this patron could read.

I brought this up with the library's IT person, and she asked our Friends group to purchase a real low-vision keyboard. It took a few months, but they came through, and we have a new Zoomtext large print keyboard hooked to the large print computer.

It's kind of an embarrassing oversight - at least it was for me when I was trying to help this patron. I don't expect to be able to anticipate every need and requirement, no matter how hard we try - that's why it's important to get feedback from real patrons (and pay attention to it and act on it).

I've seen some patrons using the new keyboard, and the few I've talked to are extremely happy with it. They'd been making due with the old one, and it never occurred to them to ask for something else. I feel better knowing there is one less barrier for these patrons, but one older gentleman summed it up perfectly:

It used to be that typing was a struggle, but now email is actually fun. Or rather, it probably will be when I understand what I'm doing.



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