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

Reference Question of the Week – 10/4/15

   October 10th, 2015 Brian Herzog

mr zipHere's an answer to a question that I haven't been able to use yet. It's a question I've gotten numerous times, but only just recently looked up the answer.

For whatever reason, it is not at all uncommon for patrons (or staff who is helping one of these patrons) to ask me,

Why can't I open my resume here? I need to make changes and email it to someone.

and when I look at their file, it is named something like "resume.pages" - bleh. One patron said they got it from the Career Center, so maybe that's why it always seems to be resumes saved this way.

"Pages" is (I think) the latest format for Mac word processing, which does not, naturally, open on our Windows computers with Microsoft Office. My go-to solution in these cases is to use Zamzar or some other online converter, which always works well enough (except for patrons having to wait for the email to get to their converted file).

In the back of my mind I kept meaning to search for some converter plugin that might let Word open these files directly. I finally had a chance this week to look for such a thing, and ended up finding a different solution entirely.

More than one website gave these steps:

  1. Save a copy of the .pages file to the Desktop (or somewhere easily accessible)
  2. Right-click on the .pages file and choose "Rename"
  3. Replace the ".pages" extension with ".zip"
  4. Open the newly renamed .zip file, and it will contain a file you'll be able to open with Microsoft Word or WordPad

That's a neat bit of a trickery that I'm sure will confuse many patrons, but I'm also sure they will be delighted to see their resume open on the screen at the end of it.

I haven't been able to try this trick myself yet, but now I am looking forward to the next time someone has a .pages file. Hopefully today!

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Single Serving Site: Is The Library Open?

   June 6th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Aaron highlighted a great tool on Walking Paper - a single serving script that shows whether the library is open or not:

Is the library open? screenshot

Great job Durham County Library for coming up with it, and thank you very much for making the code freely available.

This is definitely going on my library's website (when I get a chance) - but of course, with 24/7 Library Anytime, the answer is always YES!

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Reference Question of the Week – 12/7/08

   December 13th, 2008 Brian Herzog

I Assure You We're Open sheet sign from Clerks movieDue to the ice storm that came through the area on Friday, there is a tie for most popular reference question today:

Hey, are you open?


Do you have internet?

My answer all day has been, "we're open, we have lights and heat, and everything is working normally except our internet connection is down*."

Needless to say, it's been a quiet day: not unbusy, just quiet - most of our work tables and all of our comfortable chairs are filled with people researching and reading, which all but goes unnoticed on a regular day. And because lots of area residents are still without power, there's even a couple people napping in the corners, just happy to be someplace warm.

The next most popular reference question has been:

Do you know how I can keep my pipes from freezing?

Most area residents lost power on Friday, 12/12/08, and although many homes are now back on, there are still plenty who are looking at two or three days without power. Temperatures are predicted to be in the teens and twenties for the next few days, so freezing pipes is a major concern.

The best advice came from Home Maintenance for Dummies. Before loaning it out to the first person who asked this morning, I photocopied the necessary page to keep a "reference copy" at the desk. It recommends:

A faucet left dripping at the fixture farthest from the main water inlet allows just enough warm water movement within the pies to reduce the chance of a freeze...

Insulating pipes that are above ground (those that are most susceptible to freezing) prevents them from freezing during most moderate-to-medium chills - even when the faucets are off. This includes pips in the subarea or basement and especially any that might be in the attic.

If your kitchen or bathroom sink faucets are prone to freezing, leave the cabinet doors open at night. This allows warm air to circulate in the cabinet and warm the pipes.

The last tip won't help much for a house that is at 39 degrees, but it's good to keep in mind anyway.

Hopefully the power to my house is back on by the time I get home, otherwise I might sleep at the library tonight.

*I'm sure you're asking, "No intertnet? Then how'd you post this?" As a reference librarian, I know the laundromat up the street has great wireless internet.

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On Open Source

   February 18th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Site Made With Recycled Code logoI meant to post this last week, but better late than never, I guess.

I read on Slashdot that Saturday, Feb. 9th was the 10-year anniversary of open source. The hows and whys of are explained well by Bruce Perens in his State of Open Source Message: A New Decade For Open Source.

But when it comes to open source, I'm more interested in the end result, the applications other people built that I can use; I just take for granted that Open Source is alive and well and will continue to be (I know this is a dangerous assumption, which is why I try to contribute in any meager way I can).

Which brings us to another post I saw last week, this time on iLibrarian, highlighting 50 open source alternatives to propriety software. It's amazing when you look at them all together, but there seems to be an open source option for pretty much any computer-based task. The category list is:

  • Basics
  • Office Suites
  • Office Tools
  • Productivity
  • Graphic Programs
  • Web Editors
  • Publishing
  • Communications
  • Media
  • Utilities
  • Security
  • Financial

Using open source isn't just about using free software; it's about being able to build on and customize software according to how people work, and about sharing with people instead of profiting off them.

Without open source software, you wouldn't be reading my blog right now. As my little icon above says, this is a site made with recycled code. Thank you, open source developers.

update: And to bring this all back around to libraries, Tame The Web just linked to LibLime's Open Sesame blog, devoted to using open source software in libraries.

update 2: This has appeared in a few places, but I thought it fit in with this post, too - Open Minds, Open Books, Open Source describes library using (actually, embracing) open source tools.

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