Wednesday, October 08, 2008

OPAC Enhancement: No Results???? Is That All I Get?

Previously, if you performed a search on our online public access catalog (or OPAC) and your search retrieved no results, you received the message "No results". However, digging around the configuration files of our OPAC, I found the source of this message and altered it. Now, if you perform a search and retrieve no results, you receive this message:

No Results. Please 1) check your spelling above; 2) resubmit your search as a Browse Search below; or 3) feel free to contact us for assistance in searching our catalog.

The third suggestion is a link to our contact page.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The PrtSc Key (or Print Screen)

Here is a link to some helpful instructions regarding the PrtSc key on your keyboard. You can use this to create a screen shot. Screen shots are great for notating odd error messages that may appear on your screen. That way, when you report the problem, you don't have to say something like, "An error message came up that said something about referencing a control issue or siphoning off a cable gear... what does that mean?"

Monday, June 09, 2008

Basic Mail Merge Assistance

By staff suggestion, I have created a page on the Technical Trainer wiki devoted to the basics of mail merging letters and envelopes.

Friday, June 06, 2008


I just received this email:

"As a Firstbanks customer, your privacy and security always come first. We have been dedicated to customer safety and protection, and our mission remains as strong as ever.

We inform you that your Firstbanks Internet banking account is about to expire. It is strongly recommended to update it immediately. Update form is located here.

However, failure to confirm your records may result in account suspension. This is an automated message. Please, do not reply.


Firstbanks administration"

This email is an example of phishing. From Wikipedia, "phishing is an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication."

Unfortunately, there are enough people in this world that would see this type of email, get worried because they do not want an account suspension, and follow the link and enter their bank username, password, etc.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

More About Online Job Applications

Robert from Randolph commented on the Job Application post from May 5. I was adding a follow-up comment when I realized that it would be better to create another post.

Robert's comment:

"I've noticed an increasing number of patrons who want to fill out an online job application, but their computer skills are often minimal at best. I'm wondering if we could offer a computer class at Central once a month that would help people with the online job application process?"

First, I appreciate the comment and would like to see more from everyone.

We offered a class called Job Searching on the Web. We set up monthly classes, recruited trainers, distributed flyers, and we could only get one or two people in a class (and canceled others due to lack of registration). And the few people that did attend already had the skills necessary to fill out an application. Their questions were more focused on the entire job searching process (not necessarily technically-related). Meanwhile, we have people banging the door down in order to register for our existing classes. Therefore, I removed the class from the rotation so that we could continue to focus on the existing classes.

Why did this class fail? Unfortunately, the online job application is one of those customer needs that is immediate and fleeting. Also, as the previous post pointed out, if someone cannot fill out a job application, then it suggests a larger lack of computer skills that needs to be addressed appropriately.

The online job application requires basic computer knowledge (filling out text boxes, using drop-down menus, etc.), basic internet skills (entering a URL, following links, not getting overwhelmed by the Web environment, etc.), as well as Email skills. All of these skills are addressed in our existing classes. If a customer went through our entire class program, I have no doubt that they would be able to fill out an online job application. But one class will not successfully address the issue at hand.

I believe the online job application is the single most important battleground inside the Digital Divide, which exists partly due to lack of desire to cross the divide. Nothing else has continually pushed unwilling participants into the online world. As stated in the previous post, I think that some companies use it as an unofficial screening process. If you do not know how to fill out an online job application, then they probably do not want to interview you. If that is not the case, then these companies will need to find out ways to simplify their online job application process so that first time computer users have equal access.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Databases Special Access

A while ago, a staff member suggested the creation of a list of databases with special access features. As you know, most of our databases include remote access with the username m* and password e*. (These must be in lowercase letters. If you do not know what m* or e* stands for, just ask a fellow co-worker. They will know.) And many allow for unlimited log-ins.

However, some do not allow for remote access, some do not use m*/e*, and some only allow for a limited number of log-ins. Here is a list of those that do not have remote access, or do not use m*/e*, or have limited log-ins. This can also be found on the Technical Trainer page on the MPLIC-Wiki under Databases Special Access.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Alternatives for Customers When Saving Files

Many times, customers may begin working on a document, but they fail to bring anything to save the document to. Their allotted time on the computer passes, but they cannot leave the computer because they are not done with their document and they have no means of saving it so that they can complete it some other time. How can we help these customers?

First, I would heavily suggest that each agency have a floppy disk that they can use as a conduit to move customer files from one place to another. The customer cannot obviously take that disk with them, but many options below require that you first save the file somewhere. And many public computers do not allow you to save to the My Documents on the computer; therefore, you have to save it to a floppy disk or flash drive first.

Now, the first question I would ask a customer is whether or not they have an email address. If they do, then you can save the file to your agency disk. Then the customer can log onto their email account and email themselves the attached file. We can then delete the file from the agency disk and a copy is available in the customer's email account. They can access it from any other computer that has internet access.

If they do not have an email address, Andy in History points out that you can use the same site I talked about earlier regarding sending faxes from a computer ( You can upload files to this site without an email address or without registering:

  • First, you save the file to your agency disk.
  • Go to
  • Create a unique url (ex.
  • Upload the file from the agency disk.
  • Create a password if you want.
  • Select an expiration time.
  • Customers can then access the files later by going to the url that they created in step 3.
Give it a shot. Thanks Andy!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Browsers, Plug-Ins, Media Player Versions

Do you receive questions from customer regarding the capability of our internet browser? Example: How come this video can't play? Or, how come this website does not work?

It could be that the lack of capability with our computers is related to the plug-ins installed on our computers. For example, do we have the most up-to-date version of Flash Player? If not, this could affect videos or websites that require the most up-to-date version of Flash Player.

For more information, see this information found on the Technical Trainer wiki page.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Send a Fax from a Computer

I just tested this out and it works. If you have an electronic version of a document (Word, PDF, etc.), then you can use a website to send that file to a fax machine. The website is and it is probably best to suggest to the more tech-savvy customer. For more information, see this blog post from Reference at Newman Library.

And technically you can receive a fax from this site as well, but it looks extremely complicated. And that is usually not what our customers ask for. They usually want to send a fax, not receive.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Printing Excel Spreadsheets On One Page Width

One annoying thing that happens frequently when attempting to print an Excel spreadsheet is the fact that it is sometimes difficult to fit the contents onto one page width. What do I mean by this?

Have you ever printed a spreadsheet in which the main contents will appear on, say, the first three pages; however, you get three more pages of random contents that spilled over onto separate pages due to the fact that your table was too wide to fit on one page? (wow, what a long question).

If this has ever happened to you, then here are a couple of quick fixes. First, make sure that your Page Orientation is Landscape instead of Portrait.

  • Click on File on the menu bar. Click on Page Setup. The Page Setup dialog box will appear.
  • Make sure you are looking at the Page tab.
  • Select Landscape under Orientation.
If this does not fix the problem, then you can automatically shrink your worksheet to one page wide.
  • Click on File>Page Setup again.
  • Make sure you are looking at the Page tab.
  • Under Scaling, see where it says Fit to ??? page(s) wide by ??? tall.
  • Select that option and make it such that it will be one page wide. This will automatically shrink the text so that it appears on one page wide.
  • Seeing that we do not necessarily need the table to fit on one page tall, you can change the number tall to anything obtuse (like 500). Excel will not stretch your document so that it is 500 pages long; but if your worksheet is longer than 500 pages long, then it will shrink the text. We don't really want to shrink the text this way, which is why I suggest entering in a large obtuse number that you will hopefully never approach.
So, next time you are helping a customer who can't seem to get their Excel table on one page width, just show them this handy-dandy trick.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Customer Question About MSN Messenger

A customer recently requested use of his MSN Messenger, which is an instant messaging service provided by the same people who provide Hotmail. However, MSN Messenger requires you to download software in order for it to work. Since you cannot install anything on library computers, customers cannot use MSN Messenger.

However, they CAN use MSN Web Messenger. This is a basic instant messaging tool that customers can use WITHOUT installing anything on the computer. This is just one of many web-based instant messaging services. You could do a web search for web instant messaging.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Online Job Applications

A new report released by ALA titled Internet Connectivity in U.S. Public Libraries points to a study which states that "77 percent of Fortune 500 companies do not give job seekers the option of responding offline to job positions posted to corporate careers Web sites".

Many people do not have access to a computer except at a public library. And many people do not have the basic computer skills necessary to fill out an application. So what can we do to assist these customers with the limited time that we have?

  • Does the customer have an email address? Filling out applications online almost always requires an email address. Customers without an email address should register for any free web-based email first. If a customer is interested in taking an Email class, feel free to give them the information on our free public computer classes. Keep in mind that this will not satisfy their immediate need.
  • Does the customer know how to use a mouse? Some people can pick it up quickly while others cannot. If the customer is having difficulty with the basic skill of using a mouse, then the customer may need to ask someone that they know for assistance. You may refer them to our Computer Basics class. This class explains how to use a mouse, but it does not satisfy their immediate need.
  • Does the customer know some basic keyboarding skills? I have assisted customers that did not know how to create a capital letter, how to add a space between words, or how to use the backspace key. A quick demonstration of these three key skills may be necessary. Our Computer Basics and Word Basics class can assist these customers, but it does not satisfy their immediate need.
  • Does the customer know how to work with text boxes, drop-down menus, buttons, scroll bars and other graphic-based interface tools? If someone is familiar with a mouse, but not familiar with some of the common interface tools, then a quick demonstration may be beneficial. For example, "To enter text into a text box, just click on the box and type. To enter text into another text box, click on it and type." Our Computer Basics class can assist these customers, but it does not satisfy their immediate need.
It just so happens that filling out an online job application requires someone to possess just about EVERY basic computer skill in existence. Customers with no experience will have many hurdles with every step. That is why it sometimes seems that the customer wants us to do it all, because every thing they have to do requires a new skill that they do not have.

The online job application can be seen as a great divider between the "have"s and "have not"s of the digital divide. And as you see above, our computer classes do not fulfill their immediate need of filling out that job application. Unfortunately, the online job application just exposes a larger problem that needs to be addressed. The customer needs basic computer skills.

In reality, the employer probably moved to online job applications to screen out those without basic computer skills. And while many jobs will not require daily computer use, employers would probably rather have someone with basic computer skills than someone without basic computer skills, no matter the position.

And to gain those basic computer skills almost takes a change in lifestyle, much like dieting. Your mindset has to change. Your daily routine has to change. Your time commitment has to change. You have to want to change. And addressing only the immediate needs while ignoring the larger picture will catch up to you eventually.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Website Research Tool

Over a year ago, I mentioned the fact that just because something is on the Web does not make it true. This forces each of us to evaluate the information we find on the Web.

Part of Day 3 of our Search Strategies training covers Web evaluation. UC Berkeley has a great site with lots of suggestions for Web evaluation.

You can also try out this new Google feature, a "whois" search. Go to Google and search whois [name of website]. Your first result will be a link to a whois search which provides all sorts of information about a website, such as who owns the domain, how long it has been active, etc. For example, click here to see the search results for whois

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Library That Is Our Databases Page

Imagine walking into a large room filled with bound volumes of current and back issues of thousands of magazines and journals, current and back issues of hundreds of newspapers from around the nation, hundreds of reference books on various topics, genealogical records, legal forms, sample tests, literature criticisms, and more.

By visiting our Databases page, you are essentially doing just that. And would it not be great if you could search all of those materials and find related articles within seconds? You can.

As more and more information is found online, it is helpful for us to envision the magnitude of this information if it were still being offered via paper. We would probably have to build a couple more floors here at Central to accommodate the material! Or, we can look back at the way it used to be when we did not have computers.

In 1887, The U.S. War Department attempted to transcribe their medical records onto index cards, which were stored in Ford Theatre. This worked until supposedly the accumulated weight of the index cards "brought down the house", literally. Twenty-two people were crushed to death when the front part of the building collapsed.

Back in 1910, two Belgian lawyers set out to gather all the worlds knowledge by using index cards. The result is the Mundaneum, an archive of more than 12 million index cards and other documents. Nearly 100 years later, we now have the Internet and the Mundaneum gathers dust and decomposes in a converted department store in Belgium.

Until about 10-15 years ago, these index cards would still be seen as serious methods of data collection. Now, it is a farce! So if you ever feel like you are having a difficult time with information overload, just know that it is better than being crushed with index cards.

some via

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

10 MPLIC Online Services You May Not Know About

Here are ten online services that we offer to our customers that you may not be aware of:

  • Children can read reviews or write their own review of children's books. [link]
  • Teachers can fill out a form that alerts us of any assignments. This will allow us to prepare and ensure we have the best materials ready for that assignment. [link]
  • Customers can read instructions for researching the history of your house. [link]
  • Customers can donate to the Foundation for the Library or become a Friend of the Library online. [link] [link]
  • Customers (or aspiring authors) can request us to purchase certain material. [link]
  • Customers can browse through various award lists that describe each award-winning book and also link to the item in our catalog. [link]
  • Customers can find what books are being read over the air on WYPL. [link]
  • Customers can find a list of all the things one must do to start a business in Memphis/Shelby Co.. [link]
  • Customers can access full-text reference books, magazines/journals, legal forms, practice tests, book reviews on our Databases page. [link]
  • Customers can fill out a volunteer application online. [link]
OK, so there you go. Ten online services you may not have been aware of. Do you have a favorite online service? If so, leave a comment and let us know what it is.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Watching TV on Library Computers

The Shifted Librarian poses some interesting questions in regards to TV programs on library computers. In the past year, we have seen several new online services that allow for people to watch television programs or movies online. For the most part, these services require you to register and download certain software, which would eliminate library computers as a possible avenue to use these services.

However, it may not be too long before a special download is not required. Customers currently access YouTube-type videos and music videos with our computers. Will we be seeing customers sitting back and watching their favorite TV show, or their favorite movie? Are we already seeing this?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Performing Reference Interviews Works!

A recent study, The Effects of Librarians’ Behavioral Performance on User Satisfaction in Chat Reference Services, explains that library chat customers have a higher satisfaction rate when librarians conduct a reference interview. How about that!

And I also just read David Lee King's summary of a presentation at the PLA 2008 National Conference that is going on right now. This presentation by Joseph Janes was called "What Does it Take to be Good at Reference in the Age of Google?". One point that the speaker makes is that one thing librarians can do to separate themselves from Google is to conduct a reference interview, regardless of the way the question was received (in person, over the phone, chat, etc.).

So we have two different sources stating the same thing, "Reference Interviews are Good". And in order to satisfy our customers and to stay relevant in the age of Google, we must conduct them.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

MyiLibrary Introduction

We recently announced a new service called MyiLibrary that provides e-books, of which we have currently purchased about 50. This is a great way to ensure that we will always have an electronic copy of certain titles that disappear quickly and frequently (ex. computer books, study guides, job/career, health). Customers can access these titles via the Catalog and the Databases page. Each book can only be viewed by one customer at a time.

I have added an introduction page to the Technical Trainer wiki. Please click here to access the MyiLibrary page.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

March Madness

March Madness is in full force. Add to the fun by reading When March went mad : the game that transformed basketball by Seth Davis. Or how about Last dance : behind the scenes at the Final Four by John Feinstein. Then, in between games, teach some children how to play basketball.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Consultant Helping Companies Tap the Web

An interesting article in yesterday's Commercial Appeal highlights a local consulting company. They are helping companies use free social networking sites to create an online presence. A couple of sentences jump out at me:

"Because such sites thrive on human connections, common interests and personal recommendations, businesses believe that they are potentially powerful tools to drive word-of-mouth traffic to products and services."

"Feedback has been good, but it is hard to measure the results of the effort".

These two sentences jump out at me because they parallel the experiences of us and other libraries throughout the world.

MPLIC has been blogging for a couple of years now and we are always looking for other types of similar services that may suit our needs. These services have the possibility of becoming extremely useful in connecting with our customers. Or they may not. There is really only one way to find out. And do these online services translate into higher attendance at programs or higher circulation numbers? That is difficult to measure.

But as more and more companies and organizations begin to offer more and more online services, how do libraries keep up?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Claims Returned Dilemna Solved

As reported a couple of months ago, we had a problem with our "Claims Returned" items not being obviously marked as such. Paul's departing gift to us is a solution to this problem. (If a customer has claimed that they have returned an item, but it is still checked out and cannot be found, the item is "Claims Returned".)

Circulation staff will need to do a few extra steps, but items that are "Claims Returned" will now say "LOST-CLAIM" instead of "CHECKEDOUT". These items will also not be holdable or viewable via the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC).

This affects nearly 7000 items and should decrease the number of items on your pick list that are not available.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What Type of Information Technology User Are You?

Pew Internet & American Life Project has broken down the general population into 10 different areas as it relates to users of information technology.

  • Omnivores - 8% of general population
  • Connectors - 7%
  • Lackluster Veterans - 8%
  • Productivity Enhancers - 9%
  • Mobile Centrics - 10%
  • Connected But Hassled - 10%
  • Inexperienced Experimenters - 8%
  • Light But Satisfied - 15%
  • Indifferents - 11%
  • Off the Network - 15%
Basically, half the population is not connected to technology. Of those, you have a few who are wanting to experiment and learn how to be connected to technology. The other half are connected to technology and a few of those wish that they were not.

Where would you fit? No need to guess. Take this quiz and find out. I am a "Lackluster Veteran". Leave a comment and let me know where you fall.

via Library in Black

Friday, February 22, 2008

Using the Find Tool with the Tax Help Site

The Tax Help Site is arranged by zip code. However, you may have a customer who is looking for help by a certain day. For example, you have a customer who can only receive assistance on a Wednesday. How can we quickly scan the list in order to find the places that assist on Wednesday?

Click here to find out.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Popular Catalog Searches Now on Public Website

I recently wrote about the creation of popular library catalog searches. We have added this functionality to the public catalog so that customers can access these searches. Just go to the library's home page and click on the "Catalog" tab towards the top of the page. Scroll down the page and you will see "Popular Catalog Searches" with a drop-down menu. Select the type of search and click "Go!".

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Feel Good When You Search the Web

Here are a couple of alternatives when searching the Web that allow you to feel like you're contributing to the greater good.

Whenever you search the Web, you are not only retrieving results from their search engine, you are also retrieving advertisements. These companies that appear under the sponsored results give the search engine a tiny amount of money each time that their advertisement appears. What if a certain percentage of that money went to charity?

You can use GoodSearch, powered by Yahoo! to do exactly that. You first search for and select a charity. Then you can perform your searches. Fifty percent of advertisement revenues will be sent to your selected charity. Please note that if you do not select a charity, then the funds will not be dispersed to any charity.

Just brainstorming... We could add the library as a charity. Then, each day we could set our search engine so that we are donating money to ourselves. It appears that an organization receives about $.01 per search. As many times as we search the Web each day, this would have to be beneficial for us.

Or, you could use Darkoogle, a custom search engine using Google search technology. Basically, it is a dark version of Google; thereby it takes less energy to display on a traditional CRT-box-type monitor. It really makes no difference for the flat-screen-type monitors. You may also find that it is easier on the eyes.

via Phil Bradley and Librarian in Black.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Battling Spam with Outlook 2003

Yesterday, I announced instructions to battle spam within Outlook Web Access. Those of you with the desktop version of Outlook (Outlook 2003) can use these instructions for setting up rules to battle spam.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Use Rules to Battle Spam in Outlook Web Access

I just added a new page to the MPLIC Wiki which describes how you can battle unwanted spam with Rules in Outlook Web Access. Click here to see the page.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Brochure Template

A frequent customer request is assistance in setting up a brochure. Unfortunately, our computers did not have a brochure template. Having this template would have made life a lot easier. Instead, I created instructions on converting a normal Word document into a brochure.

I recently had a eureka moment and realized that we could upload a brochure template to our own servers, thereby making the template available to all via the Web.

I will eventually find a place on the public website for this link, but for the time being, you can access a brochure template here. When asked whether or not you want to "Open" or "Save" the document, you should select "Save" and save it to the customers floppy disk or flash drive. Then you can open it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Journalists Reminded To Check Their Facts, So Should We

Here is an interesting blog post from Techdirt that discusses a recent announcement by the Agence France Presse which states that "reporters can cite any online resources as long as they also refer to other reliable, independent sources to verify the facts." This includes sites like Facebook and Wikipedia.

Techdirt suggests that it is odd that such a reminder needs to be given to journalists who are supposed to "check their facts".

The same could be said about librarians. There is nothing wrong with using Wikipedia as a starting point to your search. It often refers to other sources for validation and will also let you know when a source is lacking. It also gives you a decent overview which is required before you get into the specifics. (sound familiar, World Book?)

And there is nothing wrong with using Wikipedia if no other source can be used, as long as the customer understands the unique nature of the source.

However, would I raise an eyebrow at a report, written solely from information found on Wikipedia, and not cross-checked with other sources? Yes.

Internet Explorer 7 is on the Way

I was just informed that the new public and staff builds (anything we install from this point on) will have Internet Explorer 7 (or IE 7). This may take several months at the earliest to convert all public computers. However, some of you will be seeing these new browsers soon (some already have).

While I have yet to test it out, my advice at this point is limited. However, this Microsoft page has a link to a tour that I found helpful.

Some highlights... IE 7 allows for tabbed browsing. This is a great way to work with multiple web pages without opening separate windows. Each page you have open is displayed as a tab that you can see underneath the toolbars.

IE 7 automatically scales pages when printing so that we will no longer have to deal with browser pages being cut off on the side.

The print preview also works a bit differently.

I will send more information as I have it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

PDF Time Again

As the tax season rolls around, we realize that it is PDF time again. IRS forms are available online in PDF format, so many customers will be working with these forms for the next few months.

To help us out with this, I have created a PDF page on the Technical Trainer Page. From the Intranet home page, look under the Staff Development heading and click on "Technical Trainer Page".

Thursday, January 03, 2008

"I Need A List of All Your Videos"... "OK!"

I have added some content to the MPLIC Wiki in regards to popular searches on the online public access catalog. This page explains how to perform certain, broad searches that are popular with our customers. For example, "I need a list of all of your videos". We can do that.

And, for you added convenience, not only does this page show you how to perform these searches, it also has links that will perform the search in case you are in a time crunch.

If you have suggestions on additions to this page, please let me know. You could add a comment with your suggestion!

Click here to visit the new page. Or, you can navigate to this page from the Intranet site by clicking on the "MPLIC Wiki" link, clicking on the "Online Library Catalog" link, then clicking on "Popular Searches".

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

More Google Maps

I have talked about Google Maps before. This is a wonderful tool that allows you to create your own interactive, online map. Well, John Dooley has created the MPLIC Google Map found here. Not only does it show you each branch location, but you can click on each marker and see a picture of the branch, the address, hours, and a link to the branch site on our webpage.

To find this page from the customer home page, click on the branch information drop-down menu on the right-side column. Then click on the last option "All Locations".

Here are some other examples of Google Maps: