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


Reference Question of the Week – 2/22/15

   February 28th, 2015 Brian Herzog

Blackbeard statueA senior citizen patron came in for a one-on-one session, and had a couple things he wanted help with. I took one the library's laptops and went into a study room with the patron - so far so good.

His first question was replying to an ad on Craigslist. This was fairly straightforward, although I don't know that the patron entirely understood the process. But that's fine - we can go through it again next time, so we moved on to his second request.

He said a friend of his in Florida suggested he go to Blackbeard's Resort, but he didn't know anything about it so he wanted to learn more. Okay, I type google.com into the browser's address bar and hit Enter - and nothing happens.

Google doesn't load, which is unusual. So I try Yahoo.com, but that likewise doesn't load. So I figure this laptop has lost the wi-fi connection, so I try to reconnect. Again, that doesn't work.

Now, this whole process is taking me a few minutes. While I'm messing around, the patron has been talking, and I am just absorbing this all without comment:

Yeah, my friend said this was a good place. He likes that sort of thing. I asked my travel agent about it, and he said I shouldn't go. It's apparently cash only, do you think that's why he didn't like it? What do you think? My friend's a bit odd, and this is his kind of place. He said it's for swingers, whatever that is.

At this point, I have to leave the room. Partly because the wi-fi seems down completely, and partly because... swingers? I don't think I could have responded to that with a straight face.

So I go to the Reference Desk, and it turns out our entire internet connection was down - wi-fi, public workstations, and staff computers. Our IT person is working on it, and it doesn't seem like it'll be back up any time soon.

I go back to the study room to let the patron know we're kind of out of luck as far as his one-on-one session goes, but that we can reschedule for another time. He takes it in stride, reschedules, and leaves without further comment. I feel bad about our network going down, but at least it gives me a bit of time to strategize how to respond before our next appointment.

And for what it's worth, Blackbeards Adult Resort does indeed take credit cards - but they have a 20% surcharge on credit cards so they recommend using cash for all of their services. Their slogan is One visit and you will be "Hooked" - bravo for the triple entendre. Also bravo to them for including the library on their "fun community" map - maybe ALA should plan a conference here.



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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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With Friends Like These

   November 11th, 2008 Brian Herzog

flickr friends screenshotIf you haven't already, read David Lee King's post about Web 2.0 and friending. It might be hard to swallow at first, but he's absolutely right.

His main point:

When your organization decides, say, to create a Facebook page … who are you trying to connect with? Me? I don’t live in your neighborhood. Another library on the other side of the world? They’re not going to use your services.

He's right in that libraries aren't implementing Library 2.0 tools to connect with other libraries - we need to focus on connecting with our patrons. Any library service (be it a newsletter, a storytime, a flickr collection, or an rss feed) should be directed to the patrons. Those are the people (we hope) who will benefit from it.

Friending other libraries is safe and tempting, but is slightly counterproductive (we don't want it to look like these are library-only tools). But I also agree with David (and commenters) in that it's important to connect with other librarians professionally, and to keep up with what other libraries are doing - there are a lot of good ideas out there that we can adapt for our own libraries.

Hmm. I'm guilty of this myself, but I'm going to keep in mind moving forward.



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