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


Reference Question of the Week – 1/20/13

   January 26th, 2013 Brian Herzog

Jumper cables on a car batteryIt's been really cold in this area this week, so this question is quite timely. However, it doesn't exactly have a happy ending.

When I came in to work on Wednesday, a coworker related this incident from the day before:

A patron's car wouldn't start in the parking lot, so she came back in the library to ask staff for help. She asked at the circulation desk, and they sent her down to reference. Apparently she didn't have AAA or anyone she could call to help, so she was kind of stuck*. However, only one staff person in the area had jumper cables, and he said he couldn't do it for liability reasons. The patron left reference, and by the end of the night her car was gone from the parking lot, but no one is quite sure how she got it started.

The coworker who relayed this story to me was basically asking if staff handled it correctly, and should the library help someone jump start their car. It's something we've done in the past (I personally have), and I think she felt bad this patron was turned away (especially with our "getting to yes" policy).

We don't have any kind of formal jump starting policy (I mean really, who does?), but because it happened once, I thought it was worth exploring. The Director and I discussed it, and ended up posting this on our staff blog:

Patrons and Jumper Cables

Last week a patron’s car wouldn’t start in the parking lot – she didn’t have AAA or any other way to deal with it on her own, so she came into the library and asked if staff could help her.

The Town cannot accept liability for Town workers to jump cars for people (so it’s okay to say no). However, any staff person that is willing to help on their own (with their own car and jumper cables) is free to assist the patron (but they need to know that you’re doing this on your own, not as a library employee).

Instructions on how to jump start a car using jumper cables [pdf] (from Car Talk)

If this happens at closing time, and there is no way to start the patron’s car and no one else they can call for help, please call the Chelmsford Police non-emergency number 978-256-#### to let them know there is a car stranded in the library parking lot.

This seemed to be a good compromise - the Town can't be responsible for untrained staff jumping someone's car, but if a Good Samaritan staff person knows what they're doing and is willing to help, they can. I always feel a little bad when a limit to what a public library can offer is hit, because I still want libraries to be able to do anything.

Also, a note on the instructions: I know different people have different ways of jump starting a car, so I searched around online to see if there was a safe consensus among experts. The guys at Car Talk are expert enough for me, and their method was backed up by other places too.

 


*I recently had major car problems too, so I can empathize.



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YouTube Shortcuts

   May 18th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Fast Forward buttonI am by no means a YouTuber, so the tips I just figured out might be common knowledge, but I thought I'd share anyway.

Do you ever want to link right to a specific spot in a YouTube video? Say a video is five minutes long, but the part you want to highlight starts at 3:14 - I knew there must be a way to start the video right at 3:14 so people didn't have to sit through the beginning portion.

After a bit of web searching, I found two ways to do this - one for a link, and one for an embedded video. And to give my examples some context, here's our situation: You have a video of ten book reviews, and the review you wanted to link to (for Neil Gaiman's Interworld) starts 1 minute and 11 second into the video.

Link to Video
To create a link to start at a specific spot in a video, just add #t=0m0s to the end of the regular link url. Then, change the 0's to the minute and second you want to link to.

Embed a Video
Starting a video embedded in your webpage at a specific spot is a little more work.

  1. Grab the embed code from the video's YouTube page and paste it into your webpage where you want the video to appear. The code will look something like this:

    <object width="640" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ep9MI5Mc7tU&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ep9MI5Mc7tU&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="640" height="385"></embed></object>

  2. Put &start=71 at the end of both URLs shown in the code:

    <object width="640" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ep9MI5Mc7tU&hl=en_US&fs=1&start=71"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ep9MI5Mc7tU&hl=en_US&fs=1&start=71" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="640" height="385"></embed></object>

  3. Update 2/2012: YouTube also uses <IFRAME> to embed videos. In this case, the code will look like this:

    <iframe width="550" height="330" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/yyy8gYkU2TY#start=227" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

  4. Notes:
    • You have to translate the start time into just seconds - so 1 minute and 11 seconds becomes 71 seconds
    • A lot can happen in 1 second, so the content you want might actually start in between 1:11 and 1:12 - I don't think you can fine-tune any more than seconds. Another hiccup could be the way video files are encoded, so the start point might not always be exactly split-second precise every time
  5. Enjoy:

The next logical step for this example is to also set a stop time. YouTube doesn't seem to have a native way to do that, but both Splicd.com and Apture.com's Builder provide this feature. Neat.



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