Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Browser Back Button Botching?

Have you ever been searching the Web and come across a web page that will not let you Back up to the previous page?

Here is the scenario: You are using a search engine and are scanning the different sites that appear on the results page. You click on a result. You review the site. You click the browser's Back button to return to the search engine's results page. However, one site keeps redirecting you to itself. You cannot return to the results page because every time you click on the Back button, it just reloads the current page. How selfish!

To return to the search engine's results page, click on the tiny upside-down triangle next to the Back button. You will see a list of all the previous sites you have visited. Select the results page and there you go.

Use this same tool to access a page you viewed several pages ago without having to click the Back button repeatedly.

Will We Be Upgrading to MS Vista and MS Office 2007 Anytime Soon? Quick Answer: No

As you may have heard, Microsoft just released the new version of their Windows operating system, MS Vista. Coinciding with this new release is the new MS Office 2007 product line.

Several staff members and customers have asked recently if we will be upgrading to MS Vista and MS Office 2007 anytime soon. This is not in our current time line. In fact, we will be installing over 150 new computers soon as a result of a Gates Foundation grant, but these new computers will still utilize the Windows XP operating system and MS Office 2003.

So, if a customers asks, let them know we will be using our current setup for a while and do not have current plans to upgrade.

This, of course, effects the content of our public computer classes. We have had several customers requesting training on the new Vista operating system. However, since our trainings are focused on teaching people how to use library computers, we will not offer trainings on Vista and Office 2007 until library computers use them.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What Do "Broken Printers" and MisGuided Zoom Settings Have In Common?

I was working this past Sunday when a customer approached me saying, "Your printer is not working right."

Hmmm. After some clarification, she explained that she had been increasing the font-size of her Word document but the printer kept printing her document in the original smaller-size font. I asked to look at her document, so we went to her computer and sure enough, the words in her document were very large on the screen.

I instantly knew what happened, and if you have taken the What's Wrong With My Document? class, you may know what had happened as well. View the prensentation below to find out what happened and how to fix it.

EPS Results: Keeping Items

Go Live 2When looking at a results list, you will see Keep and Hold at the top-right of each item. Customers can click on Keep to "mark" a record for future reference. For example, if someone is doing research on several topics, instead of writing down the call number or title of each item that they would like to check-out, they only need to click on Keep. The button will then change to Kept.EPS Keep Hold

At any time, a customer can click on Kept Records to view all the items they have selected. They will have the option at that point to place a hold on all items.

NOTE: I have noticed that the availability of this service has been inconsistent on the test server.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

EPS Results: A Look Inside

Go Live 2The new EPS will provide additional material about our collection than our standard catalog. Customers will have access to reviews, summaries, excerpts, and more.

From the result list, you will see little symbols for each item (if available). Some items have more symbols than others, that is because more reviews, summaries, etc. are available for certain items. Placing your pointer on top of a symbol will let you know what type of material is provided. This is necessary as the symbols really do not give a clear indication as to what they represent.

EPS ReviewsOnce you click on a symbol, you are taken to the review, excerpt, etc. Some of these appear as new windows. Others are listed on the item's detailed page, which we will discuss next!

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.).

Can Customers Use Our Printers to Print from Their Laptops? Quick Answer: No

Someone recently asked this question:

I have a customer who asked about bringing his laptop to the branch and wanted to know if he could print from his laptop onto our computers?? Can he?

Unfortunately, technological limitations prevent us from allowing customers to use our print system with their laptops.

So how do we help this customer that wants to print something on their laptop?

If the customer wants to print a document (Word, Excel, etc.), then we need to find a way to move the file from the laptop to one of our public computers. If the customer has a flash drive, then we are in business. Of course, you can always have the customer e-mail the document to their own e-mail account. The customer can then access the attachment from their e-mail account via a public computer.

If the customer wants to print a web page, you can ask them to access the web page on a public computer and print. HINT: If the URL is extremely lengthy, they can copy and paste it into an e-mail message.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Using the Address Bar in Internet Explorer to Access Customer Files

A new comment from Doris on this post states:

Is it permissible to use Internet Explorer to access the contents of the compact disc. In the address bar, typing D: and pressing enter will display a directory of contents (E: or F: for flash drives)?

Historically, we have dissuaded staff from using the address bar in Internet Explorer to access files on a drive (A:, D:, E:, F:). However, recent improvements to our Desktop security now allow us to offer this sort of assistance to the customer without fear of customers using this to access files on the C: Drive.

Previously, we had to follow the lengthy instructions that I posted here. Now, if someone has a CD, a floppy disk, or a flash drive, and they would like to view all of their files, just follow these instructions:
  • Open Internet Explorer.
  • In the Address Bar, type either A: for the A:Drive, D: for the CD Drive, E: or F: for a Flash Drive.
  • The contents of the drive will appear. Double-click on the file you wish to open.

EPS Results List: More Human than Machine

Go Live 2When customers view the results of their searches in the new EPS, they will not be viewing something that looks like it was spat out from a machine. While the basic search was a step towards "googlefication", the results list is a step towards being "Amazonified".

First, the results list will show a picture of the book cover when available. And second, only the most pertinent information is shown in the first brief results list. Customers are given the author, title, publication date, and a brief holdings list.

EPS Book CoverHow can a holdings list be brief? Generally, a customer does not need to know the whereabouts of every single item we have for a title. The customer just wants to know who has a copy and how they can get their hands on it. The EPS does that by quickly listing all branches that have an available copy of the title along with the branch's phone number. So this brief results list is not only brief, it is also ever changing, dependent on our current availabilities.

Of course, customers can view the entire holdings list for a title in the complete listing for each title. That is one of the features I will discuss in the next Go Live post.

For more information, see Viewing Results on the Go Live Training Wiki.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.).

Public Librarians: e-Gov Officers and Corporate HR Reps?

EGovA Library Journal article (found via from August 2006 titled Drafted: I Want You To Deliver E-Government discusses the impact of e-government on public libraries. E-Government "refers to government’s use of information and communication technology (ICT) to exchange information and services with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government." (wikipedia)

How does E-Gov affect public libraries? "Government agencies now refer people to public libraries to receive both access to and assistance with online services." We helped people when they had to sign up for the mandatory federal Medicare prescription drug coverage plans. We helped people apply for hurricane assistance. We help people find tax forms online. Immigrants use our computers to complete forms vital to their immigration process. Students use our computers to apply for loans.

They often ask for assistance in filling out those forms. The type of assistance needed can fall under two main categories. First, many people who are using public library computers to fill out government forms do not have a computer at home. If a person does not have a computer at home, the percentage is higher that they do not have the computer skills needed to fill out an online form. Second, even if someone was an expert with the computer, they may have questions regarding the forms themselves. These questions have historically been directed towards the government officers that worked in the office that provided the forms.

The authors suggest that public libraries have been "drafted" into a new role without proper funding and training. And while we have a history of providing Government Publications and forms, there is no doubt that this role has expanded exponentially.

JobAppParallel to this theme is the recent trend of businesses placing their applications online. Many people are being directed to public libraries in order to fill out job applications. Many of these people are not familiar with a computer. Also, these customers will ask us questions that have historically been directed towards the company's Human Resources staff.

This is also a new role that we have acquired.

Without delving into whether or not we are being properly funded for these new roles, how do we prepare ourselves to better assist these customers?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Operators, Records, and Fields...

Go Live 2When using the EPS, you will notice a search box near the top/center of just about every page (see image). This gives the customer quick access to our catalog. With the drop-down menu, you can apply a quick limiter to your search. But can you just type whatever words you want into the search box? Yes and no. While this is a step towards a "googleified" search process, this does not work quite the same as a search engine. You still have to use boolean operators and such.

EPS Catalog 2While you give up a little simplicity, you gain much more control. For example, searching for chicago and history with return all records with the words chicago and history anywhere in the record.

Searching for chicago same history will return all records with the words chicago and history within the same field.

Searching for chicago with history will return all records with the words chicago and history within the same sentence within a field.

Searching for chicago near history will return all records with the words chicago and history next to each other within a field.

Confused about the terms Record and Field? Visit this page.

For more information about boolean operators and other search strategies, visit this page.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.).

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

EPS: Our Face on the Web

Go Live 2So all of the posts from the Go Live Series thus far have pertained to Holds via WorkFlows. But I am going to shift gears a bit and talk about something other than WorkFlows. Why? Well, all staff do not have access to WorkFlows, yet. Eventually, we will have WorkFlows installed at each location with a connection to a "Test Server". This will allow staff to use the product without affecting real data. So it would be nice if you could read something here and then go try it out on the Test Server. So, until that is available, I will focus on other tools that you can currently get your hands on.

For instance, the Enterprise Portal Solution (while still in the works) has a sample version that you can currently take for a spin. Although not all customizations are in place yet, you can begin to get an idea of the enhanced experience in store for MPLIC customers and staff. But first, what is the Enterprise Portal Solution?

The ILS Blog had a series almost a year ago(!) about the Enterprise Portal Solution. It would be worth it to go back and review those posts. Here they are:

In short, the Enterprise Portal Solution will be the new public web page. Next, I will talk about item searching via the EPS.

Here is the link to the EPS page on the training wiki.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.).

Is a Zip Drive the Same as a Flash Drive? Quick Answer: No

Zip-disc-backA customer called us recently asking if we had Zip Drives. Knowing that Flash Drives have all sorts of different names, it is not surprising that we informed the customer that we did have Zip Drives. However, they are two different things, and unfortunately, a customer came to the library with the expectation that we could assist them with their Zip Disk.

I have spoken about Flash Drives before and included a discussion about Flash Drives in the Library Computers: When a Customer Asks... training that all reference staff received last year.

I have not talked about Zip Disks and Drives before. A Zip Disk looks like a 3.5 floppy disk but it is thicker (see image). This disk requires a Zip Drive in order for someone to retrieve the files. We do not have these type of drives. These disks hold more data than a typical 3.5 floppy; however, they never really took off in the marketplace and have now been superseded by the Flash Drive.

Customers can already use Flash Drives on our computers because they do not require the purchase of a separate piece of hardware (like the Zip Drive) in order to work. You just stick the Flash Drive into the USB port.