Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Making Brochures with MS Word

While this has been covered in several training sessions and has been available on a staff training document, I transferred this set of instructions to the SlideShare tool I have been using.

You will see why some time soon.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Frayser PDF Asking For a Default Printer

Dean Moore from Frayser submitted this question to the Ask the Technical Trainer today:

Hi Kevin, this morning we had a customer attempt to print from a PDF, and the message said to access the default printer via the control panel. As you know we cannot access the control panel on the public computers. Is there some way to enable customers to print from these files? I know many of these are applications/forms that cannot be copied and pasted into word as well.
Has anyone else received a message such as this when trying to print a PDF?

How do we troubleshoot this? Adobe provides a list of troubleshooting techniques that you can use. After scanning those techniques, I have a couple of suggestions:

1. Try printing from another computer.

PDF Printer2. When the Print Dialog box appears, what does it say toward the top left. This is where it says what printer it will be using (see picture). Does it say "Xerox..."? If it does not, then this is probably our problem. It would be time to notify the Help Desk. If it does say "Xerox..." then we can move on.

3. Does the same message appear when you try to print another PDF? You can use the Public Computer Class Calendar as the test PDF. If the message does not appear, then we have narrowed the problem down to the one PDF (skip to step 4).

If the same message does appear, then it is safe to assume that all PDFs are having problems. At this point you would need to print another type of document (Word, Web, Excel, anything but PDF). If the same message appears, then it is not a PDF problem, it would probably be a network printer problem (time to call the Help Desk). If the message does not appear, then we can safely assume that the problem is isolated to PDFs.

4. Try any number of these measures to see if it fixes this temporary problem:

4A. Print the document as an image:
1. Choose File > Print, and then click Advanced.
2. Select Print As Image.
3. Click OK to close the Advanced Print Setup dialog box, and then click Print.
4B. Save the document to the local computer. Using File>Save As... will rewrite the file.

4C. Download the file again (if retrieved from the Web in the first place). Perhaps something happened in the download process.

PDF Snapshot5. If all else fails, you can always use the Snapshot Tool on the PDF toolbar to copy and paste the image to Word. The Snapshot Tool looks like a camera. Click on it and click and drag over the entire page. This automatically copies the page as an image. You can then paste the image into Word.

Hopefully we can find some way to help the customer receive a print version of the PDF. If this is a recurring problem, the HelpDesk would need to be notified.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Just Because It Is On The Web Does Not Make It True

Today, I celebrate this blogs 10th birthday. Back on December 13, 1996, the MPLIC Tech Train was born and I have since seen over 1,000,000 visitors.

Is this true?

Well, over half of us would say, yes, it is true. Why? Because it is on the Web.

Stephen's Lighthouse points out a report that states that 55.2% of respondents say that most or all of the information found online is reliable and accurate.

This goes hand in hand with our survey on Wikipedia. It may have seemed like we were picking on Wikipedia, but really, verifying information is nothing new.

About 10 years ago when I was being trained in LINC, we had to answer some sample questions. A couple of questions in this long list were "trick" questions. They were trick questions because it was known by the trainer that LINC housed two sources that provided different answers to the same question.

Or there was the time a customer asked how someone could get a specific type of hepatitis. I ended up checking two sources (both books). The first source I checked stated that this certain type of hepatitis was contracted mainly by blood transfusions. The customer knew something was not right. He asked what the copyright date was on the book. The copyright was 1996. I checked the second source (more recent copyright), and it stated that procedures in blood transfusions had changed in the late 1990s and this type of hepatitis was now mainly contracted through shared needles. OUCH. Quite a difference. And this involved very reputable book sources.

However, the Web has greatly increased the number of sources available to us. The more sources you have, the higher the chance that the sources will provide different information, especially when these sources are updated in different time intervals and by different people with varying degrees of validity (or intentions).

Because there is no Collection Development Manager for the Web, we have to be our own individual Collection Development Managers.

  • Who is publishing the information?
  • Why are they publishing it (are they selling something)?
  • When was the information last updated?
  • What does the web page look like (seriously, if a web page is using bad color selections or plays annoying computer music when it is loaded, I tend not to trust it)?
  • Is the site organized and managed well (do all the links work)?
In the end, finding two reliable sources that say the same thing is a sure fire way to guarantee success. And, in case you were wondering, I believe Wikipedia counts as one.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Few of My Thoughts on the Wikipedia Survey

I recently released the results from the survey we took on Wikipedia. Creating surveys is tricky. You can't just slap a few questions together and send them out. This survey is a good example of why survey creation is harder than it seems.

For example, while 16 people said they have used Wikipedia as the "sole source to answer a customer's question", 30 people said they have found answers to customers questions on Wikipedia that they could not find elsewhere. If you could not find an answer elsewhere, was Wikipedia not your only source? Perhaps there was some level of intention included here (I did not intend to use Wikipedia as the sole source...).

Another example is question number 4, "If you have used Wikipedia to answer a customer's question, did you offer the customer an explanation of Wikipedia's nature as an open-content, collaboratively-authored encyclopedia?"

Out of 80 returns, 32 people answered "Yes", 37 people answered "No".

Due to the beginning of the question ("If you have used Wikipedia to answer a customer's question..."), by answering the question, a person admitted that they have used Wikipedia to answer a customer's question. And 69 out of 80 people answered the question.

However, looking at the other questions, 64 people have not used Wikipedia as the sole source. Thirty-Five people have not even used Wikipedia as a "starting point". And 50 people have not found answers on Wikipedia that they could not find elsewhere.

It appears people who have never used Wikipedia selected No to this question, thereby making it appear that nearly half of the time Wikipedia is used, we are not providing a disclaimer to its unique environment.

Compare 32 (the number of people who provided a disclaimer) to 16, 45, and 30 (the number of people who have used Wikipedia in some fashion) and you realize that we are indeed giving customers a brief description of Wikipedia's structure.

We could talk more about Wikipedia (and we will), but this is good for now.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fundamental Skills: Saving and Opening Documents

If you are not comfortable with Saving and Opening files, please view the presentation below (readers using an aggregator will need to access this original post to view). This is a vital skill that is needed in order to do other fun things like insert attachments, uploading resumes, etc.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wikipedia Survey Results

I recently sent staff a survey about Wikipedia. Eighty staff responded. Here are the results:

1. I have used Wikipedia as the sole source to answer a customer's question.

Yes - 16 (20%)
No - 64 (80%)

2. I have used Wikipedia as a reference "starting point" when answering customer's questions.

Yes - 45 (56.2%)
No - 35 (43.8%)

3. I have found answers via Wikipedia to customer's questions that I could not find elsewhere.

Yes - 30 (37.5%)
No - 50 (62.5%)

4. If you have used Wikipedia to answer a customer's question, did you offer the customer an explanation of Wikipedia's nature as an open-content, collaboratively-authored encyclopedia?

Yes - 32 (46.4%)
No - 37 (53.6%)

5. Please rate the effectiveness of Wikipedia as a source for answers to customer's questions.

Excellent - 7 (10.4%)
Good - 27 (40.3%)
Good/Fair - 17 (25.4%)
Fair - 9 (13.4%)
Poor - 7 (10.4%)

6. Do you have any comments regarding Wikipedia?

1. I was unaware that Wikipedia was an open-content encyclopedia until very recently. Now I only use it if I can't find the information anywhere else. I do warn customers about its validity.

2. Saw recently that entries can be changed by outsiders. CNN said it is not very reliable.

3. I would say Wikipedia makes a pretty good source when used in conjunction with other verifiable sources.

4. Wikipedia is usefull to quickly find references to authoritative sites which can provide the information sought. Wikipedia articles are often among the first results when searching for difficult to find subject matter. Rather than use the Wikipedia content as the sole source, it does provide very usefull clues and starting points, especially in the references it provides that often lead to authoritative sources that answer the question. So I do not tell the patron that it was Wikipedia that provided the link to the site which actually provided the answer. I would never cite any thing in Wikipedia as the sole source for any question, but would include it as a good source of references to more authoritative sites.

5. I have not personally used Wikipedia to answer a customer's question. However, I often see students at our public PCs researching things for school; they tend to use Google to search for their topics, and they get Wikipedia hits and use those sites themselves.

6. The times that I used Wikipedia I was pleased.

7. never used Wikipedia to answr customer questions

8. none

9. I understand that Wikipedia's accuracy is often questioned but it shouldn't be completely dismissed as a tool that reference staff can use. It can be a starting point to more accurate sources, especially for customers with obscure questions or unusual requests. I have a regular customer who likes to write long lists of different things like fashion magazines, telephones, and dog breeds. Wikipedia is a site that I use and he uses to find information that we could not find in our branch. He isn't concerned with accuracy, he just wants answers and he wants them to appear a certain way. Wikipedia has helped me and him to find what he wants, the way he wants it. I wouldn't recommend using Wikipedia for students or the public but it can be a helpful source --to a point--for reference staff.

10. It is my understanding that Wikipedia answers are not researched.

11. Have looked at it but never used it with customers.

12. I have never relied on Wikipedia as a reference tool. Customers have used it, but answer aren't always complete

13. It's a quick place to start when I have no clue. From there, I can go to more reputable sources for fuller information.

14. I have not had the need to use Wikipedia to answer a customer's question. I DID find it helpful while writing CKB questions.

15. From what I can tell, information on this source can be altered or added to. There seems to be little or no control with regard to content. I don't trust this "source"--using the term VERY loosly-- at all.

16. cannot rate it because i have never used it before.

17. I've found that Wikipedia is very resourceful, but it often has too much information for one topic. Meaning a customer is usually looking for summaries of information. Also, you have to follow so many links to get a full scope of the information.

18. no

19. It is not totally true that I used Wikipedia as a starting point for my Reference question. I used it as one of many reference tools in searching for information. I also am not totally comfortable with reliability ofthe content of Wikipedia. As they say, "Caveat Emptor."

20. I have used wikipedia to look up things from Jack Sparrow to JFK to radiation. The terms and examples used are very understandable to parents and the children they help.

21. It's accessible, up-to-date, and offers entries to an unbelievable array of topics!

22. I feelmore secure when there is a second source to support/go along with the wikidedia source.

23. Wikipedia would be a great online source if the content was varifiably true with documented proof.

24. I'm still learning about it, so I haven't felt confident in using it yet. I plan to spend more time exploring it.

25. I have found wikipedia to be useful with popular culture type questions.

26. It can get you going in the right direction, but I am not so sure about it as a citable source.

27. no

28. I'm amazed at the subjects that I find in Wikipedia that I can't find elsewhere--especially biographical and recent info. Their information is also well-organized and often more intelligible for students. I feel able to make judgments myself on the degree that a topic is controversal or the information a matter of opinion rather than accepted "fact." My only negative feeling about using it is based on the thought that students may not be able to make that distinction, that is, which topics are more likely to have other points of view--which comes from years of experience and my own awareness of disputes on a subject. I don't really like modelling it as a source because of this, even when I explain the nature of the content. I feel relatively secure that the content is regularly overseen and edited for accuracy by the wiki design. Also, people who do understand the nature of the authorship may gain more understanding of a topic by following the history of an entry. (I haven't actually tried this myself, but it could happen.)

29. Wikipedia has my support 100%.

30. I have found Wikipedia to be an excellent starting point, especially when the customer cannot really give enough information during the reference interview. It is much easier to confirm a fact found there than to start from scratch elsewhere. But in its current form, I refuse to offer Wikipedia as a source, unless no other source can be found and only with full explanation about its operation. Thanks for being on top of this!

31. It is so easy to use that I often forget that we should try a second source for accuracy.

32. I used this source for a customer only once. I did suggest a book source from the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, History Dept. The book source had more information than Wikipedia. The information from Wikipedia was correct but it wasn't enough information. Thanks.

33. I do not trust this as a credible resource for customers' questions. When I have accessed it for personal use, I have been disappointed with the incomplete information.

34. I think that because of the nature of Wikipedia as an open collaborative source that it is essential that we tell our customers what it is. I also think that it is important, as with all sources, to try to find a couple that match in the answer.

35. I do not consider it a reference resource, because: 1). Anyone can make or edit an article. 2). No bibliographical references as to where information was found. Bibliographical references are helpful to users. 3). Articles can be edited at anytime.

36. In my library duties (Circulation Services Manager), I have not found it necessary to access Wikipedia to answer a customer's question.

37. The times that I have used Wikipedia as a sole source to answer a question has been when the customer was satisfied and didn't want any other answer. They were either in a hurry or felt that that answer was sufficient. I always let them know the nature of wikipedia. I am a hesitant to use Wikipedia at times, because you don't really know when the information is really correct without going to another source to verify it. Then you wonder if you are going to have to go to another source, what is the use of using Wikipedia?

38. I have never used Wikipedia.

39. I think Wikipedia is very helpful and it's a good source when answering questions. I've pretty much used it for personal research and for assisting my niece with homework.

40. I've never used it as a sole source. With staffing shortages, I don't have too much time to explain to anyone about the nature of any information on the internet... sometimes I do try to point out that .com is a commercial site and anyone can make one saying anything they want, .gov is a government site, etc.

41. I have never used Wikipedia as a source for informaion.

42. I seldom use Wikipedia due to its open source format which may not be otherwise documented.

43. This is not my first choice as a source. However, there have been times when staffing is short and customer needs are high that I haven't had the time to find a better source to a difficult or unusual question.

44. Excellent start if you're unfamiliar with a subject.........

45. I have only used wikipedia as a starting point. It has been especially helpful in locating obscure information and individuals. For example,one can get information about Constitutional Acts to gain a little understanding about the nature of the act, then have a subject to search in our database.

46. I have not used it as a source at work. I understand that we are not supposed to do so. I have mentioned it when teaching Internet Basics because it often comes up in the top 10 results for example searches, but I do warn customers that it is volunteer based.

47. I consider it an unreliable, nonprofessional source and would not consider using it for our customers.

48. #3 I haven't found answers to questions we commonly get in Children's that I couldn't get elsewhere, but for personal use, I have found answers- particularly about technology and music. #4 I explained the nature of Wikipedia to a customer who had latched onto one of its articles as her only source, and helped her find one with more authority. #5 It's a good source for me, but maybe not so good for customers who rely on us to help them discriminate reliable sources from spurious ones. I've met folks who would use The Onion as a source (not of comedy) if we'd let them. #6. I like it, and maybe it will evolve into something we'd use as a primary source someday.

49. I cannot give an honest opinion, however, what I have heard about Wiki, sources tell me not to depend on Wiki as a reliable source.

50. The great strength of wikipedia is its hyperlinking, which I think helps to overcome some of the accuracy/verification issues.

51. Not so much a comment about Wikipedia itself, which I feel is just another good resource for us to use, particularly in the areas of popular culture. I do, however, have an objection to Question 4 because it strongly implies that Wikipedia is a "questionable" and very likely inferior source. I would suggest this question be reworded, since none of our other reference resources are completely reliable (which, by definition, means "error-free").

Save Time with LISZEN Trends: The Digg of the Library World

Previously, I have passed on thoughts on how to keep up with the library universe when time seems to be sparse.

LISZEN, a library blog search engine that I wrote about here, offers another solution (still in beta) called LISZEN Trends. Click here to see LibraryZen's summary.

The setup is similar to Digg in which articles can be submitted for inclusion. Once submitted, the article is in "queue". If an article receives 4 votes, it is published. You can subscribe to both the published or the queued feeds (or to both).

This is a great way to know what is going on, especially if you do not have time to immerse yourself in the blog world.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Creativity and Technology

As I think about ways the library can use technology to extend our customer reach, it is important to have the right frame of mind. And this applies to other aspects of this Strategic Planning process and, well, to everything we do here.

So when you see a new tool, envision how it can be applied to best suit your needs. You don't have to implement some predetermined notion of what the tool should be used for. The growing hatred of PowerPoint can be directly attributed to numerous people who use the built-in templates as a background to dump their paraphrased speech. But when someone uses PowerPoint to extend their message instead of replace, it is a truly beautiful thing.

When librarians came across flickr, it was not long before they started using this tool in ways that one would not think was intended. How could a photo-sharing site be used as a tool to advertise the library?

It is this sort of creativity that is required for libraries to adjust and impact future citizens as they have impacted present and past citizens. And this is nothing new. When Memphis Public Library made the decision to force women and men to mingle in the same room so that children could have a dedicated place, do you think it was seen as the obvious thing to do?

So for a decent visual as to the sort of thinking required for us to move forward, let us watch a recent "presentation". This person had the opportunity to do the same sort of presentation that had been done hundreds of times before, and he chose to do something completely different. Enjoy. It's Friday.

How To Email Documents Without Having an Email Account

YouSendIt allows you to email files without actually having an email account.

Just go to YouSendIt. Enter the email address you would like to send the files to. Click on Browse... and locate the file to be sent. Click on Send It.

So how would this be useful? What if someone needs to send a resume but they do not have an email account? What if someone without an email account wants to send pictures to a relative.

Of course, in many situations (especially with job hunting), the customer probably just needs to go ahead and get that email address. However, there will be times when a customer will admit that they have absolutely no need for an email address except for the current situation. Perhaps this would be a viable option in those situations.

Found on Library Zen.

The New and Improved LINC 2-1-1 Database

In case you haven't noticed, the LINC 2-1-1 database received a major face lift recently.

Refinements are currently being made to a training document that will be shared soon. Also, I will be demonstrating this database at the January 2nd Adult Services Group so talk to your ASG representative if you are interested in learning more.

Help Me Integrate Technology to Increase Customer Reach

As a member of the newly formed Strategic Planning Group, I am charged with researching ways our library can integrate technology to increase customer reach. We already have a number of initiatives in place, the most obvious being the ILS upgrade.

Another future initiative is the concept of a "smart card", one card that customers use to check out books, make copies, register for computers, etc.

Another way to integrate technology to increase customer reach would be to increase our online presence. I have gathered a number of ideas under the tag "Online Presence" (found on the sidebar). What are some of these ideas that other libraries have been implementing? MySpace accounts, Flickr accounts, Wikipedia entries, and more.

Do you have any other suggestions on possible ways to use technology to increase customer reach? Let me know by adding a comment.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Public Libraries as a Nuclear Threat?

Here is an article from msnbc about news staff secretly videotaping themselves retrieving government documents from public libraries. Here is a quick response from LIS News.

Luckily for us, I checked our catalog and we apparently do not hold any of these documents. Nothing we had before 2001 seemed to be of interest unless you were interested in the NRC's fee schedule or their involvement with the EPA about a radiological survey of sewage sludge.

Although, now that I think about it, I would be extremely terrorized if someone unleashed a serious amount of radioactive sewage sludge in my city. But now I'm just giving ideas to the bad guys...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Another Library Search Engine

LibWormLibworm is another search engine devoted solely to library-related blogs feeds. The main difference between this one and the other library search engine I wrote about is that LibWorm offers RSS feeds of searches.

So, if you are interested in a certain topic and you want to know when someone in the library world blogs about it, perform a search and subscribe to it. You will be notified when a new result appears.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Commercial Appeal Job Listings and Yahoo!

Yahoo hotjobsIt was announced in yesterday's Commercial Appeal (registration required) that they (and 150 other cities) are teaming with Yahoo! to sell classified advertising. The biggest impact of this agreement is that all Commercial Appeal job listings will appear in Yahoo's HotJobs service.

Currently, all Commercial Appeal job listings appear in CareerBuilder, but listings will be moved to HotJobs next month.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Series Searching

ILS Series Mitford The Memphis Reads blog talks about a series searching tool in their latest post.

That reminded me of a feature of Sirsi Unicorn (the new ILS's version of Circle). An advanced search option allows you to search the catalog for Series. For example, type in Mitford in the Series text box. Click on Search. Your results will show all books in that series.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Outlook Web Access Mailbox Over the Size Limit?

This is for you OWA folks out there. If you receive a message that you have exceeded your mailbox limit, then you need to do a few things to get your mailbox under control.

While Outlook 2003 folks have a built-in tool to help them do this, OWA does not have this functionality. However, there are a few actions you can take to quickly lower the size of your mailbox.

Since I am loving this new SlideShare tool, take a look at this slide show to find out what those actions are:

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I Wonder if a Librarian has Reviewed This Book?

RevoogleIf you ever find yourself asking the above question, well, first you would want to check our very own Memphis Reads blog.

If you don't find a review there that you need, well, one, you may consider creating one yourself.

Or, two, you can see if another librarian has done a review. Enter the Librarian's Book Revoogle.

This is another Google Co-op tool that was used to make the LISZen Search Engine that I wrote about here.

The Librarian's Book Revoogle allows you to search numerous book review blogs by librarians. And, yes, the Memphis Reads blog is included.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

MapLib Google Map Mash-Up Test

I'm testing a new tool, This allows you to create your own Google Map; however it doesn't have to be a map per se. You can upload any image. Then, you can add markers with descriptions at various points, just like on Google Maps.

Then you can embed the map in your blog. Let's see if this works. I have created a "map" of a screen shot of our future ILS. I added several markers that explain the process of searching for a periodical.

Formatting MS Word Templates with Styles

I have written about Resume Template Styles before, but this is a hard concept to understand through text alone. Therefore, I made this quick visual description:

Which Engine Should I Use Today?

Phil Bradley has an excellent resource that poses various search-scenarios and offers you the best tools to complete that search.

Click here to see it in action.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Find Books Totally Different Than the Books You Hate

LibraryThingHere is a unique reader's advisory tool that LibraryThing offers (what is LibraryThing?)

It is called Unsuggester. Here is LibraryThing's description:

It analyzes the seven million books LibraryThing members have recorded as owned or read, and comes back with books least likely to share a library with the book you suggest.

This could be used two ways. 1) If a customer really needs to shake things up, they have lost all inspiration in their current readings, and they want something new, enter a book they have read recently into Unsuggester. 2) If you know of a book that is totally something you would never read, ever, enter it into Unsuggester.

Unsuggester will then return books that are completely different from the book you searched for.


Of course, Library Thing offers a Suggester, too.

Found via Stephen's Lighthouse.

Resume Pre-Survey

Participants for Wednesday's Resume class, please click here to take survey.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bloglines Presentation for Managers, Nov. 9

Here is the slide show for the presentation at the Manager's Meeting for November 9.

Additional assistance in getting started using can be obtained by viewing the Bloglines Video Series.

If You Want to Help Your Customers with the Rosetta Stone Database, Then You Need to Read this Post

Rosetta StoneOne of the many databases we offer to the public is Rosetta Stone, a tool that provides audio and visual elements in order to teach foreign languages. The beauty of this program, since it is audio and visually based, is that pretty much anyone (no matter what language they speak) can use it to learn another language.

For example, to navigate through the program, you never really encounter specific words to perform functions. If you want to exit a particular part of the program, you click on the picture of someone parachuting (they're bailing out!). The reasoning behind this is that anyone across numerous cultures can eventually understand that the parachuter is the Exit button. This is confusing at first, but you eventually get the hang of it.

There are a few things to note about our Rosetta Stone subscription:

  • While Rosetta Stone offers several introductory lessons for each language, the main purpose for our subscription is to provide an English as a Second Language service. Therefore, you will notice that ALL lessons for English are offered, compared to 2 or 3 for all the other languages.
  • Another important note, found on the Library Databases page under Rosetta Stone's description, is that "the program is available in the Humanities Department at Central Library, the East Shelby, Parkway Village, Raleigh, and Randolph branches, and the InfoBus." Rosetta Stone requires Shockwave 10.1. Previously, it required only Shockwave 10.0. Automated Services technicians upgraded all public computers to Shockwave 10.0. The Rosetta Stone database promptly upgraded the requirements.
  • Access to MPLIC's Rosetta Stone subscription requires a library card. However, the free version of Rosetta Stone is available on their website (no library card required). The only difference is that MPLIC's subscription has ALL English lessons (as noted above). Therefore, if someone who speaks English wants to use it to learn French, then they really do not need to access it through our databases.
Rosetta Stone is a fun tool. If you would like to learn more, read this training handout and give it a whirl.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sunday Service Tech Assistance

I worked in LINC yesterday so let me pass on the type of assistance I provided.

I helped a customer arrange their paper according to their teacher's specifics. This involved changing the margins to 1" all around (covered in our How Do I Format My Document? class) . Then we had to access the Header so that the customer could insert their last name and a page number. This had to be aligned to the right so I got to show them how to set a right-aligned tab (covered in our What's Up with Bullets, Numbers, and Tabs? class).

Another customer called me over in a panic because all of his page numbers he had inserted in the Footer had disappeared. I noticed his View setting was on Web Layout. This view setting does not show Footers and Headers. You always want the View setting in Word to be Print Layout. Once I changed the View setting (via the View menu), the page numbers re-appeared (not that they disappeared. They just were not being displayed). View settings are covered in our What's Wrong with My Document? class.

I helped numerous customers copy and paste from the Web. These customers were familiar with the process but they were used to accessing the copy and paste functions from right-clicking. I explained that right-clicking is disabled, then showed them how to access those same functions from the Edit menu (also from What's Wrong with My Document?).

Another customer approached me because the printer was Off Line. I quickly fixed the problem by following the instructions I described in this past post.

One customer had sent about 10 print jobs to the print station over the course of two hours. Her print jobs were scattered across the queue, yet she asked me how much it was going to cost. By following the instructions I described in this past post, I quickly showed her how she could have the print station total the amount for her. She had enough money on the card and since all print jobs were already selected, one click on the Print button was all that was needed to print all 10 print jobs.

One customer wanted to print a small section of a 5 page document. We accessed the Print Preview and found the page with the content she needed. Then I showed her how to print that one specific page (explained on step 3 in this document that should be displayed somewhere in your library).

So, I always try to keep an eye out for new training topic opportunities when I work on Sundays, but it appears that our current training topics are right on the money.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Tag Clouds

Tag CloudI have mentioned tagging before, but I haven't really discussed a "tag cloud".

Tagging allows users to give something a subject heading, whether it is a video, picture, book, whatever. On the sidebar, you will see a tag cloud of various articles that I have found on some topics, ranging from "trainingstaff" to "wikipedia". The larger the word, the more articles under that topic.

A tag cloud does not necessarily have to be associated with a tag (or subject heading). Sometimes a tag cloud can be created by the words in a speech or a book. For example, here is a site that produces a tag cloud of the 100 most used words in major Presidential speeches from John Adams to now. This quickly gives you an idea as to what was important to these Presidents at the time of their speech.

Also, a long time ago, I wrote about the Amazon Concordance tool that does the same thing with books. You can quickly decipher what a book is about and who the main characters are by simply looking at a group of words in various size.

The alternate to tag clouds is something like my Index on the sidebar. This lists the various subject headings with numbers next to them, the numbers being the amount of posts about a topic. This is fine for a small list, but a larger list would leave you scanning back and forth looking at various numbers and memorizing their priority.

Or, you could arrange your topics by the amount, but then you lose the alphabetical order that allows you to easily scan all topics.

The tag cloud allows you to quickly see all topics in alphabetical order while at the same time giving you an idea as to what topics are more important.

Search for the Format You Want

Google Format Someone recently passed on a Google search tip that could be useful when creating a quick First Responder display. This tip could also be useful for customers wanting to print something basic on a broad topic. For example, you would like to display a fact sheet and some of your books about Manatees. You need to find something that can be printed quickly and easily.

We all know the Web is not the best format to print from, but the Web also holds many PDFs. PDFs are wonderful in that the documents remain the same no matter what computer you are on, hence the name Portable Document Format. For example, if the IRS did not use PDFs for their tax forms, different computers would arrange the text in different ways. Not what the IRS wants. So whenever people want to place their documents online and they also want to ensure that the format of those documents is not changed, they will place them online as PDFs.

To perform a search from Google for only PDFs, click on Advanced Search. Enter your search terms in the first text box. Then, about the sixth line down, you will see File Format with a text box that lists several different file formats. Select Adobe Acrobat PDF. Your search results will return PDF files only. These are all files that are "ready to print".

Blog, Wiki, Aggregator Training for MALC

Aggregator Benefit Last week, Damone and I conducted a training on blogs, wikis, and aggregators for the Memphis Area Library Council. Participants did not receive a paper handout for the training. They did receive access to a wiki and a blog that explains everything we covered in the class and more.

Using a wiki to explain a wiki, and using a blog to explain a blog just reinforced the material. Participants also had a chance to add content to the wiki and create their own blog posts (We used "pre-made" training blogs that participants could use in the class).

We then had everyone log into "pre-made" training aggregators so that they could see how easy it is to subscribe to web feeds.

One of my favorite moments of the training was showing a table that explained the difference between a blog and a wiki. I had added that table from a presentation at the Internet Librarian 2006 conference that was still going on at the time of our training. (I just recently wrote about these conference bloggers)

Through blogs, information that was shared in a conference in Monterey just the day before, was now being shared with the participants of this training. Also, since our "handout" was a wiki, I was able to add the content quickly. Had we used a paper handout, I would have been able to mention the new content, but I would not have been able to add it to the handout as we would have been required to turn in our final copy about three weeks before the training.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Computer Frozen???

ComputerSo, you have been working on a Word document for the past hour and suddenly, your computer freezes. What do you do? Perhaps you have more than one program running and perhaps that other program is the one that is causing problems. If we could find a way to close that program, you could possibly avoid losing all of your work.

How do you do that? Well, it's time to give the computer the old "Three Finger Salute" (no not the one finger salute. That accomplishes nothing substantial and probably gives you some negative karma in the computer world). The three finger salute is also known as pressing CTRL+ALT+DELETE on the keyboard.

This brings up the Windows Security window which has six buttons. Click on the Task Manager button. You will see another window that lists the name of all the open programs. This also lists the Status. The status will either say Running or Not Responding.

Click on the program that says Not Responding and click on End Task. Hopefully the program causing problems is not the one you are working on.

Once you have ended the problematic program, you should begin experiencing a smoother operation.

P.S. One of life's complexities... the computer froze when I finished typing the first version of this blog post. I lost everything and had to re-type. It was the first time that had ever happened to me when blogging.

Pre-Training Survey

Attendees of today's What's Wrong with My Document?! class, please follow this link and complete the quick survey:

Click here to take survey.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Library Blog Search Engine

LISZen OK, so this is pretty cool. Recently, Google began a new service called Google Co-op, in which you can create your own search engine.

Well, the Library Zen took full advantage and created LISZen, a library blog search engine. It currently searches over 500 library related blogs (wow...).

Are you starting a new project? Or are you hatching a new idea? Looking for inspiration? Try it out and get results created by other librarians.

"I Could Care Less About the Web"

Hate ComputersAccording to the Toward Equality of Access report, 42% of Americans do not use the Internet. Why? Lack of interest. Phil Bradley states that the same thing is going on over in the UK.

However, what if one of these 42% needs to apply for a job and the company only accepts online applications? Or what if one of these 42% needs a tax form and the IRS has stopped providing paper copies of that form? Their interest greatly increases for the time being.

Yet, when they are finished completing the task, are they now converted Web users? Probably not. On the other hand, perhaps they now see the benefit. Once you assist them with their immediate need, you can mention the library's computer classes in case they would like to make the leap to the online world.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Go to a Conference Without Leaving Your Agency

Internet Librarian
So, going to conferences these days has been tough. However, I have been "attending" the Internet Librarian 2006 conference in Monterey, CA all day today.

Thanks to the many volunteer bloggers (click here to see a list) who are dutifully sharing their notes and thoughts on the programs they have been attending, I get to digest the knowledge that is being dispersed over in Monterey without the hassle of visiting such a desolate part of the country (ha).

All kidding aside, there is no way I could have attended this conference. However, it does not mean I cannot gain a part of the knowledge that is being shared. I have already gathered ideas on staff technical training as well as found a wonderful addition to the MALC Blogs and Wikis training Damone and I will be conducting on Thursday.

I have discovered than some people are better "note takers" than others. So if you find yourself wondering what someone is talking about, try another blogger.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Public Library Association Needs Your Help

The PLA Blog has been discussing the roles of public libraries. Do you have any thoughts concerning their proposed roles? Check out their post and add your thoughts.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Custom Google Search Engine Test

What is Important to Our Customers?

One of the questions on our customer survey last year asked this question:

When deciding which library to use, please rank the following eight factors in order of importance, with 1 being the highest and 8 the lowest.

The eight areas were:

  • Attractive Exterior
  • Attractive Interior
  • Comfortable Furniture
  • Computer Access
  • Convenience
  • Knowledgeable Staff
  • Materials
  • Safety

An area received 8 points for a 1 vote, 7 points for a 2 vote, 6 points for a 3 vote, and so on. The points were tallied to create these final numbers:

  • Convenience, 8557 points
  • Materials, 8548 points
  • Knowledgeable Staff, 7300 points
  • Safety, 6280 points
  • Computer Access, 5047 points
  • Attractive Interior, 4082 points
  • Comfortable Furniture, 3892 points
  • Attractive Exterior, 2759 points

One important aspect of this survey is that people could access the survey in paper form at any of our branches. They could also access an electronic version of the survey on our website. We received 1105 surveys online and 457 paper surveys.

The above overall ranking does not change when you compare paper vs. online survey results, however, a couple of things grab my attention.

Of the 1105 online surveys, 632 people (or 57%) gave computer access the highest rank of importance. Of the 457 paper surveys, 352 people (or 77%) gave computer access the highest rank of importance.

And, overall, paper survey participants ranked computer access and knowledgeable staff slightly higher in importance than online survey participants; whereas the online survey participants ranked Materials, Safety, and Attractive Interior slightly higher in importance than paper survey participants.

Here are the final point totals if you would like to take a look. Click on the picture to see enlarged version:

Survey Importance Final

Also, if you want to see the whole question, get your magnifying glass:

Survey Importance

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Refinements on the SideBar

I have made some improvements to the sidebar.

  1. My constant battle with creating a decent index to this blog continues. I began to realize that I was creating a new index term for every blog post. That sort of defeats the purpose. So I created a few broad categories. This should make it a bit easier to navigate and digest.
  2. If you are not an index-type of person, I added a search box. Just type what you are looking for and search.
  3. If you are interested in knowing where I get many of my ideas, you can look at my Blogroll. This lists all the blogs I subscribe to via bloglines.
  4. If something on the web grabs my attention, I add it to my account. Eventually, this knowledge will creep out somewhere (blog post, meetings, trainings, etc.). So if you are interested in seeing this information before I skew it to fit our needs, take a look at the articles and such in my tags.
  5. Finally, I added the neon sign, too. Why? Just because.

Friday, October 13, 2006

What is a Library Worth?

Library Stuff points out a neat calculator that tabulates how much the library is worth to you.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bloglines Video Series

Since blogs show the newest stuff first, the videos appear in reverse order. However, I'll list the links to the posts in chronological order here. As a recap, for those of you who were interested in attending one of my aggregator workshops but cannot because of whatever reason, you can view these videos.

I. Bloglines Registration
II. Finding and Adding Web Feeds
III. Reading Your Web Feed Articles
IV. Saving Articles from Your Web Feeds

Here is the "handout" used during the training.

If you are having difficulty finding things you are interested in, you can take a look at all of my subscriptions. They are listed on the right side bar of this blog. Just scroll down and bit and you will see them. And, no, I won't make a video showing you how to do that!

IV. Saving Articles from Your Web Feeds

The final video (for now, at least) about getting started with Bloglines. This one shows you how to save an article in case you want to read it later.

III. Reading Your Web Feed Articles

Here is the third video for the Bloglines series. This shows you how to read your web feeds once you have subscribed to them.

The Library as a Human and Local Destination

An opinion piece in Lawrence, Kansas stated that libraries are inefficient, limited and obsolete. It goes on to state that rather than building a brand new central library (which is being proposed in Lawrence), that the money should be spent providing internet access to the entire community.

To see the library response, see the many links in the post from This Week in LibraryBlogLand.

On a related note, Stephen Abram of SirsiDynix has just released the second part of a three part series about libraries adjusting to Google and its ilk, called Waiting for Your Cat to Bark.

The first part of his series lists all the things Google does well (and poorly). This second part lists all the things that libraries do well (and poorly).

One of the things that libraries do well is a reference interview. Google and other search engines are trying their best to guess what the customer needs. We have the benefit of looking the person in the eye and finding the real need behind a vague question.

As the Reference Highway pointed out, a couple of sites exist for the sole purpose of connecting a caller to a real, human company representative. If people do not like talking to machines, then why does there seem to be a push to replace librarians with search engines? The fact that anyone can walk into one of our libraries and ask an actual human being a question seems to be more fascinating than ever.

Another thing that libraries do well, according to Stephen Abram's article, is "local". We are in our communities. We know our communities and we know what they need. While our Collection Development has a strong history of purchasing materials that suit the community's needs, MPLIC's new First Responders program is taking it a step further and finding ways to push certain parts of our collection (at a moment's notice) in order to respond to a need in the community.

Perhaps we could also learn something from the independent record and book stores. As mentioned in this TechDirt article, these places are adjusting to the fact that anyone can purchase books and music on the Web by offering something more, a destination. Our situations are similar. If I can buy a book on the Web, why do I need a bookstore? If I can find an answer to a question on the Web, why do I need a library? By adjusting and adding emphasis that the library is a destination (a place that offers more than a stack of books), we automatically trump the online world in that aspect.

So, while MPLIC (and libraries in general) need to continue to improve their online presence and offerings, at the same time, we need to focus on our qualities that make us different from the online world. We're human. We're local. And we're real.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

II. Finding and Adding Web Feeds

Here is the second video on getting started with bloglines. This explains the basics of identifying and adding web feeds to bloglines. Enjoy!

I. Bloglines Registration

OK, for you folks who were not able to attend any of the aggregator workshops I am conducting, here is a boring video on registering for bloglines. I am going to do some follow-up videos on the fun part of bloglines but wanted to start from the beginning.

Mainly, though, you will see just how darn easy (and quick) it is to get started.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I.D. the Creep Game!

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a website called Don't Believe the Type. The goal is to educate teens about online sexual predators. This site has a lot of useful information about online behavior, including a game called I.D. the Creep.

It simulates messages one can receive from E-mail, Chat, or I.M. For example, if you choose I.M., you receive messages from 5 individuals. You have to I.D. the creeps to get points.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Changing OWA Password Assistance

The Helpdesk recently notified me of an ongoing situation related to staff having difficulties changing their Outlook Web Access password.

After reviewing the statistics, it appears that staff are requiring assistance from the Helpdesk because of two main factors:

  1. Staff forget their password, thereby requiring the Helpdesk to manually reset the password.
  2. Staff abstain from changing their password during the 14 days that they are notified that their password is about to expire. When this happens, the Helpdesk must manually reset the password.

A document is available on the Intranet that explains the process of changing the password. Click here to see that document.

I have also created this video that explains the process as well!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Public Libraries and the Internet Report

A report title Public Libraries and the Internet 2006 was just released and ALA (one of the funders of theh report along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) has a brief summary here (probably more our speed).

The ALA Techsource blog has a summary of that summary that may be even easier to digest.

Find What You Are Looking For

Using the Find tool can greatly increase efficiency when searching the Web. For example, if you are performing a search for "french revolution aristocracy", you will receive numerouse results. These results will probably be fairly lengthy. If your interest is only in the section of the result that mentions aristocracy, you do not have to scan the entire document. Let the computer do that for you. It is a lot faster!

Click on Edit>Find on the Menu bar. Type the word you are wanting to find and click Find Next. There you go!

This also works with PDFs and Word documents.

Watch this video to see this blog post in real life!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Library Youth Services Newsletter

The Idaho Commission for Libraries puts out a bi-weekly newsletter called The Scoop. While some of this focuses on stuff over in Potato-Land, much of it includes ideas for Youth Services that would be applicable in any public library.

You can subscribe and they will send new versions through e-mail. Or, just go to the site and access their archives.

via Library Success Wiki

Survey for Today's Trainees

Attendees for today's Formatting session, please follow the link below and fill out this pre-evaluation. Thanks!

Click here to take survey

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fundamental Tech Skills That All Staff Should Have: My Documents and Drives

It is vital to understand the various drives and folders on our computers. This will allow you to easily place and retrieve documents without the constant fear of losing something.

Briefly, the C: Drive is the computer itself. The A: Drive is the 3 1/2" floppy disk. The D: Drive is the CD/DVD. And now, we have the E: (sometimes F:) Drive for USB Flash Drives.

The C: Drive has a LOT OF STUFF on it, so it is crucial to have a special place on the C: Drive for user documents. This place is called the My Documents folder. Inside the My Documents folder, you may find other folders called My Pictures or My Music.

Look for the My Documents folder when saving to your own or workroom computer. Public computers do have a My Documents folder, but they are not for public use as we do not necessarily want people saving documents to our computers. This will give customers the false impression that they could then retrieve the document at a later time (which we all know is not possible).

That is why we sell 3 1/2" Floppy disks to customers. Many customers are now bringing in the more powerful flash drive for their document storage.

For more information on D: Drives, see this past post.

For more information on Flash Drives, see this document.

New Calendar Feature

If you scroll down a bit and look at the sidebar on the right, you will see a calendar of upcoming tech events at the library. This is using a free web-based RSS calendar tool called... RSSCalendar.

Whenever I add anything to the calendar, it automatically updates my listing on this blog. I saw this tool on one of my favorite blogs, Information Wants to Be Free, and knew I had to have it for myself.

Library Blog Land Summaries

With my bloglines account, I subscribe to numerous library blogs from across the land. This keeps me in touch with trends, ideas, concepts and services like never before. But I can see where it would be problematic for some folks to keep up with the reading.

Enter the blog LISNews, a blog about numerous topics, one of which is This Week in LibraryBlogLand. Each Monday, they post a summary of all the major topics that many library bloggers have been talking about with links to the actual blog posts.

This is a wonderful way for "time-limited" or "interest-limited" folks to keep up with the trends being addressed in the many library blogs.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Compact Discs in the Library

CDMost, if not all, of our public computers have CD Drives. However, it must be noted that none of these drives are currently capable of "burning" (or saving) anything to a customer's discs. Customers can read data on the discs just fine, they just cannot add anything to them.

Problems arise when someone brings a disc that is actually a software program that must be installed onto a computer before it can be used. We cannot assist them with a disc of this nature as we do not allow people to install things on our computers.

I have noticed some difficulties in locating documents on a CD as well. UPDATE: UPDATE: See this post regarding accessing files off of drives.A customer will insert the CD, but our security settings will not allow the customer to access the disc directly. When this occurs, I ask the customer what type of document it is that they are trying to access. Is it a Word document, PowerPoint, or what? If they tell me it is a PowerPoint, I then ask them to open PowerPoint and access the file by clicking on File>Open. They will then probably need to change the drive to the D: drive. All PowerPoint files on the CD should then be viewable.

If per chance the type of document is something other than Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc., just follow the advice from this previous post.

How Do I...?

Phil Bradley has a nice collection of "How to" sites for the Web. So if you want to use the Web to manage a project online, or to discover music, books, or movies, or to discover many other ways the Web can help you do things, check this out. Look on the right sidebar under Categories to see a list of topics.

Libraries in Transition

Here is a nice article from the Kansas City Star about how their local libraries are dealing with the new "wired" world. They are experiencing an increase in circulation and customers since the introduction of computers. It appears their customers that arrive for computers also grab a book or two on their way out the door. However, the "accidental" discoveries are not occurring because more and more people come to get exactly what they want and do not wander.


NOTE: I was able to read the article just fine the first time, but after that, the Kansas City Star asked for me to register.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Is Your Public Printer Offline?

I worked this past Sunday, and it was a similar scene from the Cooper Young Festival the day before. Except replace beer, shopping, and music with computers and printers. On the second floor, I noticed an Out of Order sign on one of the public printers (there are 2 public printers on the 2nd floor).

I had a sneaky suspicion that there was indeed nothing "wrong" with the printer. I grabbed the LINC courtesy card and put it into the card reader for the printer. Sure enough, it was just as I thought. The card reader was "Offline".

To fix this, press CTRL+ALT+DELETE on the keyboard. This brings up the Windows Security box that has several buttons. Click on the Log Off... button. The Print Station will log off and then automatically log back in. The Pharos printing program will load and the station is ready to go.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Phishing Defenses May Confuse Customers

When users of Yahoo Mail sign in, they may be tempted to follow a link that says "Prevent Password Theft". This is a new process that Yahoo and other sites are using to help prevent phishing. Basically, phishing involves frauds sending spam with links to websites that look identical to trusted sites. These spam messages ask that the recipient follow the link and fill out the provided information. Someone gets hooked when they follow the link and unknowingly give the fraud their SSN or passwords or more. This new defense involves customizing your sign-in screen. The thinking is that if everyone customizes their sign-in screen, then phishers cannot duplicate the sign-in screen in mass.

The only problem with the Yahoo defense is that it only applies to the computer you are currently on. If you are at home, that is fine. However, with our public computers, it is not advisable for customers to implement this new defense as it will probably be erased when Clean Slate returns the computer to its original state.

Other defenses may not work the same way. My online banking site began utilizing a similar security measure; however, it is not localized to one computer. From the beginning, the bank asks for you to create a "trust word". If you do not see that trust word on the sign-in screen, then you are not to sign in. However, to see the trust word, you have to answer a question that is taken from your profile (ex. what are the last four digits of your SSN?) This initial question changes frequently.

So, if our customers ask us what on Earth is going on, you may be a little more prepared.


So I understand a school recently had an assignment that called for the students to create a calendar in another language. What was needed was some sort of template for MS Word that the students could use. The students could then replace the English words with the language of their choice.

I do see that MS Word has a Calendar Wizard that creates a document with a pre-made table. The only problem is that many, if not all, of our public (and staff) computers cannot run wizards. So we need to find another option via the Web.

Now there are many online calendars that are just that, online. These calendars are online versions of the calendar found in our Outlook accounts. They are meant to help people manage their time. So while these are useful in their own right, they do not help the students who are wanting to create a customizable document for a project.

The best site I have found is this one:

You have a number of calendar options to choose from. Once you make your choice, you are taken to another page. From that page, you select the month and year. You can also choose another language (French, German, or Spanish). You then click on the button "Download MS Word Calendar". There you go!

I tried this on one of the public computers at Central and everything worked.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fundamental Tech Skills That All Staff Should Know: Minimizing, Restoring/Maximizing, Closing Windows

This begins a new series of posts aimed at some basic skills that everyone should know. As I add more and more of these, you can use the "Fundamental Tech Skills" link in the Index to see all of them.

The use of the Minimize/Maximize, Close buttons, the three buttons found at the top right of most all windows is paramount to the success of a positive Windows experience.


When you want to "minimize" a window, click on the "minus" button. Your window is still active, yet it is removed from your view. If you want to access that window again, click on its box on the Task Bar.

If you are in a situation where you have multiple windows active, yet you need to access the Desktop, you will have to minimize window after window after window. This can take some time. Pressing the Windows Key+M will minimize all windows. The Windows key is found in between the CTRL and ALT key to the left of the keyboard. It is also found between the ALT and the Menu key to the right of the keyboard. This could be useful in situations where a customer has many, many Internet Explorer windows open, yet they want to open Microsoft Word. Just minimize everything in one fell swoop and open Word.


If you are working on a window that is "floating", you can click the "maximize" button to increase the window to its maximum extent. This button looks like a square, or two squares, depending on the state of the window. A window can either be maximized (covering the whole screen) or floating (not covering the entire screen). You use the restore/maximize button to toggle between the two.


When you want to close a window, click on the "X". If you are closing the window of a program such as Word or Excel, the computer will ask you if you want to Save the document.

If you are in a situation where multiple windows need to be closed, the process of locating the "X", moving the pointer to it, and closing it can collectively take some time. In a situation such as this, you can use the keyboard shortcut, ALT+F4. This combination closes the current window. Holding down the ALT key and pressing the F4 key quickly will remove windows in a flash.

Wiki Wars Friday Fun

Click here if you want a keen insight on the creation of some Wikipedia articles. This provides links to various articles that have spawned some wicked arguments from the people who are creating these articles. Once you follow a link to an actual article, click on "Discussion" at the top of the article. There you will see a history of the many discussions (or arguments) that people have had about the article. This is democracy in action, folks.

Click here for another Wikipedia funny.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

OWA and Plain Text

Someone recently asked if they could send a plain text message with their OWA account. Unfortunately, our OWA does not allow you to send messages in plain text, just HTML.

Click here to see an extensive list that compares all the features between Outlook Web Access and Outlook 2003. This list shows two types of OWA, Premium and Basic. We use Premium.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

More on Online Books

Here is a link to a Library Journal news item about some new Google Book Search features. Again, we need to be prepared for these new services. Speculating what impact they will have on our library will make us better prepared.

Microsoft vs. Google and the Future of the Web

Here is an interesting article from the New York Times. This could have an effect on customer assistance in the near future.

In short, Google and Microsoft are currently riding out a "battle" that may change the way people work with computers and the Web. Google is beginning to offer free web-based versions of Microsoft products. For example, Microsoft has Word, Google has Writely. Microsoft has Excel, Google has Google Spreadsheets. Microsoft has Outlook, Google has Gmail and Calendar.

Will some of our customers prefer to use the Google products? What sort of products will be available in the future? We once could control the types of programs available on our computers, and the Web was used exclusively for finding information and communicating with other people via e-mail and chat. But the Web is everchanging (recently by leaps and bounds). As we have witnessed in the past year, our customers now use the Web to apply for jobs (more so than ever before), to organize their pictures, to listen to music, to create their own blogs or MySpace pages (for now), to interact with other people (not just communicate). Pretty soon, they will also use the Web to write papers, create presentations, establish spreadsheets.

As the Web grows, and as we continue to be the only access to the Web for %10 of the online population, we will continue to be responsible for providing some basic assistance to these customers. And as the Web changes, the definition of basic assistance will continue to change as well.

That is why I write this blog, and that is why I hope you read it.

Search Engines of the Future

Here is an interesting article about some new search engines (or search engine concepts) to look for in the near future. Here is an excerpt:

First-generation search ranked sites based on page content - examples are early and Alta Vista.

Second-generation relies on link analysis for ranking - so they take the structure of the Web into account. Examples are Google and Overture.

Third-generation search technologies are designed to combine the scalability of existing internet search engines with new and improved relevancy models; they bring into the equation user preferences, collaboration, collective intelligence, a rich user experience, and many other specialized capabilities that make information more productive.

The article then provides descriptions and links to several active search engines utilizing this third generational technology.

OWA Attachment Difficulties

Some staff have encountered difficulties opening certain attachments in their Outlook Web Access (OWA) accounts. OWA requests that they right-click on the attachment, then click on Save As... on the menu that appears. This allows the user to save the attachment to a desired drive. The user can then open the document from that point. This occurs because OWA is run through Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer does not know how to open all attachments.

If you cannot right-click, use the Tab key to change your link selection (If you Tab too far, use SHIFT+Tab to move backwards). Once the attachment has been highlighted, press the Menu key found to the right of the Space Bar (in between the CTRL key and the Windows key). Then click on Save As... and save the document to the desired drive. Once saved, you can open the document from that drive. NOTE: Never open attachments from unreliable sources!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Utility Manager for Accessibilty Assistance

Someone recently reminded me of an issue that a previous Technical Trainer worked on. While we currently do not have any high tech accessibility tools to assist some of our customers, Windows does have a few built-in tools that are decent. To access these tools, hit the Windows key and U at the same time. The Windows key is located to the left of the Space Bar in between the CTRL and ALT keys.

This brings up the Utility Manager that has three options on it. Here is an overview of those three options:


Magnifier is a display utility that makes the screen more readable for users who have low vision. Magnifier creates a separate window that displays a magnified portion of your screen. Magnifier is intended to provide a minimum level of functionality for users with slight visual impairments.


Narrator is a text-to-speech utility for users who are blind or have low vision. Narrator reads what is displayed on your screen: the contents of the active window, menu options, or the text you have typed.

Narrator has a number of options that allow you to customize the way screen elements are read.

  • You can have new windows, menus, or shortcut menus read aloud when they are displayed.

  • You can have typed characters read aloud.

  • You can have the mouse pointer follow the active item on the screen.

  • You can adjust the speed, volume, or pitch of the voice.

On Screen Keyboard

On-Screen Keyboard is a utility that displays a virtual keyboard on your screen and allows users with mobility impairments to type data using a pointing device or joystick. On-Screen Keyboard is intended to provide a minimum level of functionality for users with mobility impairments. It is also useful for users who do not know how to type.

Here is a link to Microsoft's overview.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

You Mean I Have to Learn How to Use Another Word Processing Tool

Some day soon, a customer may ask for some word processing assistance. You had taken the various Word trainings that I have offered so you approach the customer's computer with confidence. But when you arrive, you see something quite different than Word. Did we change word processing software and not notify anybody? No, we would never do that.

Chances are, the customer is using This is an online word processor that Google now owns and it is free with registration. Click here to take a tour.

You can also use this if you ever need to collaborate with several staff in various branches. Instead of sending attachments back and forth, just create the document on Writely and anyone can update the document from anywhere. You can assign who can see and edit the document, or you can make it available to the whole world. Once the document is complete, you can transfer it to Word easily, or just print it directly from Writely.

If you want to give it a shot, I have created a document that anyone can edit. Just click here and type away! You will need to Sign Up, which is super quick.

NOTE: Make sure you are using the right browser (click here to see a list of supported browsers).

Friday, August 25, 2006

Search with Google (or other search engines) in the Address Bar

Many of you know that you can search the Web by typing words in the Address Bar. The browser will understand that you did not type a web address and will perform a search with a search engine.

You may not have known that you can select the type of search engine the browser will use. To do this, click on Search on the Internet Explorer toolbar (same toolbar with the Back and Home buttons). A search pane should appear on the left side of your screen. Click on the Customize button on the top of that pane.

A dialog box will appear and you will see an option to "Choose a search provider for address bar searches". Select the search engine of your choice and click OK. Now, your random words you type in the address bar with use the search engine of your choice.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Toggling Between Open Programs

I was recently conducting a presentation in which I was toggling between Internet Explorer and PowerPoint. Someone asked after the presentation how I did that.

To toggle between open programs, press and hold the Alt key and then hit the Tab key. In the middle of the screen, you will see icons of all open programs. Each time you hit the Tab key (while still holding down the Alt key), you move to a separate program. To go to the selected program, let go of the Alt and Tab keys.