Posted tagged ‘computers’

Twitter Talk

July 16, 2009

Once again I have cleverly scheduled one of my computer workshops opposite Third Thursdays here in Pittsfield.  But that’s OK because people have signed up anyway, we’re actually on track for this to be my largest workshop to date.  Very exciting.

But there are still a few seats left.  So people of Pittsfield, the forecast tomorrow is calling for rain, you don’t want to be outside for that.  Instead, come to the Berkshire Athenaeum at 6 p.m. and learn all about Twitter, the hottest site on the internets.

And for any Twitterers out there, I’ll be giving a live demo.  So follow me between 6 and 7 and contribute to the conversation.


July 6, 2009

My laptop’s fixed!  My laptop’s fixed!  I love Dell’s tech support, it was actually a pleasure to go through them, with the exception of them being closed on Friday for the holiday, which is fair I suppose, just annoying.  But they really were amazing, the first time I’ve ever gone through tech support where they bipassed the “are you stupid” questions.  No “have you rebooted?”  No “have you checked the cable?”  No BS.    

Anyway, now that I’ve written the testimonial I’ll try to get back on track tomorrow, but right now I’m still in recovery mode, both in getting my system up and running and just resting up from a packed weekend.

Maybe we should just spray paint them pink

May 29, 2009

One other holdover topic from the planning committee meeting this week.  Our catalog computers are not getting enough use aparently.  Now there are two schools of thought as to why this is the case.

On one side people feel we don’t call enough attention to them.  The solution if that’s the case is fairly simple, more signs, more training, more prominence.

But I’m on the other side that feels we made a mistake back in the day when it was decided to ensure that noone used those computers for more than a few minutes at a time.  To accomplish this, in a fairly subtle way the computers were made difficult to use.  They’re the oldest in the building (a few are going on 10 years), they’re locked down so they can’t be used for anything but searching the catalog, and they’re on desks that are uncomfortable and lack any extra room.  Thus amazingly, when you make something people don’t like to use they won’t use it.

The solution there is far more expensive, and thus sadly a bit more unfeasible right now.  But I think it’s also the way to go.

Would You Like to Take a Survey?

January 5, 2009

Five years ago (before my time) my library conducted a survey of our patrons, and the number of responses was not great.  Now we’re doing it again, but we’re providing an online option via Survey Monkey, and the response has been a bit better.  

However, the results are a bit skewed.  The people filling out the survey online seem to be doing it from home.  As a result, the responses are all from patrons that don’t use the library’s computers because they have their own, and we’ve even got one that is from a person who says they’ve never been in the building.

Now we have paper copies of the survey available as well, and it will be interesting to compare the two data sets when we’re done.  But it would be nice if we could get some of our regular computer uses to fill out the survey as part of their hour long sessions on our public pc’s.

Computer Hogs

December 17, 2008

Yesterday I went to a roundtable for the users of our computer management software and was very disappointed to hear a growing anti-youth trend.  Quite a few libraries have instituted polices to curb teens from monopolizing computers.  But what really disturbs me is that their reasons for doing so are because of a feeling that adult activities are more valuable.  And in particular what I heard from a few people were that gaming was the key activity that inspired these feelings.

So, a few things.  One, in my library at least adults use the computers for gaming as much if not more so than the teens.  And while the teens are usually playing various flash games, the adults are hanging out in online casinos, and while we don’t prohibit that it’s hardly the sort of activity we really wish to promote. 

Two, why do teen activities lack value.  I’m pretty sure what we’re talking about here are social networks, games, and other sources of entertainment.  I think we’re now at the point where checking your facebook wall is no different from checking you e-mail, so that’s passed.  I’ve spent plenty of time here talking about the value of gaming, so just search the archives for that one.  And as for entertainment that’s one of our key roles so why treat our computers different from the rest of our collections.

All we’re doing here is ostracizing our teens, who we’re supposed to be attracting to the library.  And this happens all the time, I’ve heard some murmurs in my own library from staff members that during our video game nights there are too many teens wandering around.  That’s a good thing isn’t it?  We want them to use the library, and we get that by making them feel welcome, not treating them like second class citizens.

Confronting Technology

November 13, 2008

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about technology in the library and the relationship staff members have with it.  Don’t get me wrong, us librarians are pretty techno-savvy, but I don’t think we’re fully comfortable with the tools at our disposal.  We use the technology, but we never play with it, and there’s often a subconscious need to coddle it.

My number one rule where computer are concerned is that you shouldn’t be afraid to break something.  Hardware is replaceable and software can be reset.  So stop worrying!

I think there’s also a worry about the lack of familiarity staff members may have with some programs.  It’s impossible to be an expert at everything, and every now and then a patron is going to come up to the desk and throw you a curve.  But even then you might be able to fake it.  It’s taken some time but developers finally seem to have worked out that devices ought to be user friendly and follow some standards.  If you know your way around something like Word you can probably figure out how to trouble shoot 90% of the software out there.

So to repeat, my advice is to start playing.  Find an excuse to sit down behind a workstation, not because you have to do accomplish something on it , but because you want to see what it’s capable of.

Computer Lock Down

September 16, 2008

On the e-mail list for the consortia there’s been quite a few people recently asking about whether libraries should allow patrons Flash drives/portable hard drives/floppies/cd-roms on public workstations.  Yes there’s a security consideration to be had, yes you could be opening up your computers to viruses.  But if you’re online you’re already at risk.  

Locking down the machines to such an extent is just crippling the computer to prevent the computers from getting crippled.  Besides we’re supposed to be providing the best service possible to our patrons.  Preventing them from being able to work with our equipment is not that.

Two Days of Angst

September 12, 2008

This week had a really rough ending for me.  On Thursday we were without internet for about 4 or 5 hours consortia wide.  Then today 4 of our computers that are configured slightly differently than the rest only had intermitant access, with no discernable explaination.  So I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two days talking to tech support people and network administrators (who still seem to feel that our problems today were due to 4 simultaneous network card failures).

Frustration abounded.  The network people had no idea why things weren’t working, I couldn’t find anything wrong on my end, and everyone else in the building, both staff and patrons, were annoyed that there were no explainations to be had from any of us (and no idea when things would get fixed).

And then I saw this great little article on how to talk to your IT person, and it just sumed up an awful lot of the last two days for me.


Chrome Fails

September 5, 2008

I had a great opportunity to install a round of upgrades on our public computers, and while I was at it thought I might as well put Chrome on them (I’ve been using it regularly and am quickly becoming a convert).  However, I hit a really annoying stumbling block.

Chrome installs in the following directory:

documents and settings/[user]/local settings/application data

This is a hidden folder, not to mention one that limited accounts (which we use for patron logins) do not have access to.  I’m sure there’s a way to alter the permissions, but I haven’t worked it out yet, and until there’s some more demand for Chrome I’m not convinced it’s worth the effort on my part.

On the other hand, the couple other staff members who have switched to it seem to love it.

Pushing the Boundaries

August 27, 2008

The recent release of III’s Millenium 2007 (not a typo) update has come with one fairly large problem, but it’s one that probably should not be corrected.  Namely that the online catalog no longer functions with outdated versions of internet explorer.

Now it’s one thing to demand that libraries keep up with technology, but it’s another to ask our patrons to do the same, and we have had quite a few complaints because of this.  III clients are libraries, and despite the fact that the catalog is a product designed for the patrons, they are a step removed from the catalog’s designers, and I doubt their voices are ever really heard except for when it’s second hand.

It’s rough because we should be teaching our patrons a bit of computer know how as part of our jobs (in this instance, start using Firefox), but we can’t expect everyone to have the ability to keep current.