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.