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

Microsoft Clipart Surprise

   July 2nd, 2015 Brian Herzog

Here's a real turkey of an Easter Egg right before Independence Day:

I was searching the Microsoft clipart gallery in Powerpoint because I needed a picture of a Teddy Bear for an event listing on our calendar. And skimming the results, the third one down on the left looked like it might be a good candidate...

Powerpoint clipart gallery

So now click on the image above to share in my surprise at that particular clipart bear's scary costume. Is this an April Fool's joke?

I don't know where Microsoft's online clipart gallery is pulling from, but they are far more prepared with clipart for all types of occasions and holidays than I would have expected.

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Reference Question of the Week – 6/17/12

   June 23rd, 2012 Brian Herzog

W hand signThis reference question can be filed under, "no matter how much you know about something, there's still more to learn."

One afternoon this week, a patron called in and asked for me specifically. She had a question about Microsoft Word, and since I've always been able to solve her technology questions in the past, she knew I'd have an immediate answer this time. Her question was:

How do you make Word automatically indent the first line of every paragraph?

I thought for a minute, and then realized - I had no idea how to do this. Whenever I want to indent, I just hit the Tab key. But she wanted it to indent automatically - which I was sure Word probably did, I just didn't know where this was in the menus.

I figured it had to be a Paragraph format option though, so I clicked the little square in the bottom right corner of the Paragraph box on the Home ribbon in Word 2007. Nothing immediately stood out, so I did a quick web search for word indent first line of every paragraph, and the first result explained how to do it - turns out I was on the right track.

Once you get to the Paragraph format box, you need to select "First line" from the "Special" dropdown box in the middle of the page. Then you can also set how much to indent by.

Paragraph format box

Great. I found all this in a minute or so, making small talk with the patron while I searched. As I started guiding her through how to do it, we hit a snag: she's still using Word 2003, and I'm on Word 2007 (which is also what the online directions were for).

I use this Paragraph format box all the time, but for the life of me I could not remember how to get to it in the Word 2003 menus. So, it was another web search for word 2003 paragraph menu, and again it was the first result that gave me the answer: Paragraph was an option on the Format menu.

Now I can navigate the patron to the Paragraph box and explain how to set the auto-indent feature. It work, she was delighted, and I was able to maintain my perfect record for her tech support - even though I had never done this before in my life.

Which just goes to prove the reference librarian's motto: you don't need to know everything, you just need to know how to find everything.

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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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Reference Question of the Week – 2/24/08

   March 1st, 2008 Brian Herzog

Microsoft Office logoThis is a question I've gotten in various forms, and I finally have an answer for it. Usually, the reference interview goes something like this:

Patron: I can't open a file on your computer.
Me: Oh; what kind of file is it?
Patron: It's just my resume. My sister updated it for me on her new computer, but her printer is broken, so I came here to print it out. But now it won't open. It works fine at her house.

The two key parts of the patron's last statement are resume and new computer. These words almost always indicate a Word document created on a Microsoft Vista computer running Office 2007. My library's computers have Windows XP and Office 2003, which cannot open Office 2007 documents due to the change in file formats.

That is, until now.

Our IT person found a plugin that will allow Office 2003 programs to open Office 2007 files. This plugin is available from the Microsoft download center.

We have installed this on the computers at the reference desk, but not yet on all the public computers (we are changing the profiles on all of those, and this plugin will be part of it). And of course, since installing it, I haven't gotten this question again.

But we'll be ready for the next patron...

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