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.