Ask a Librarian: File management

old files in leather bindings on a shelf

A funny thing happened on the way to this blog post.

From a local librarian:I get to take over the duties of someone very beloved by patrons who recently left us and this includes computer help. I’m trying to create a repository of ‘self-help’ documents both for staff who often need it and for patrons to take home with them when we do something like set up an email address and they need the steps repeated. I’d rather not reinvent the wheel… it occurred to me that maybe you already have some that you can share? If not, can you provide me some pointers on what to include?

I’m also charged with cleaning up the staff file system on our server and coming up with good practices for file naming, document organization, and teaching our staff how to do it…. I’m hoping you know of some examples of local libraries with excellent file management in place or a set of best practices somewhere so I can give more models of what I’m trying to fix. Where might I find something like this?

Those sound like challenging tasks. I am happy to help as I can. Some of it is really going to be moving people to a “digital readiness” place where they feel deputized to do some of this themselves and that is challenging and needs to be as much an emotional task as a physical one. Lots of positive “you can do it” feedback and lots of “ok let’s try this again….” sorts of stuff, patience, etc. Trying to view improvement as improvement, even if it’s ever-so-slight as opposed to “Man, this is just a MESS.” I know I’m not telling you things you don’t know, but I have found that if I reframe some of the “work” as just being supportive and patient, I can feel better about what I do manage to get done.

I’m not sure I have those documents in print, though I have a few that are a little outdated. I often dig around in the NYPL Tech Connect site to look for handouts.

https://sites.google.com/a/nypl.org/techconnect/home

Usually the biggest thing is making sure they know

  • How to go to a URL, any URL
  • WHAT THEIR LOGIN AND PASSWORD IS (sorry to shout but my gosh this one is harder than it should be – I send them home with it written down, privacy be damned)
  • How to troubleshoot if the two things above don’t work

I don’t know a lot about how libraries manage their files but as someone who is basically organized, I usually tell people a few things

  • Make sure whatever system is in place, it works from all computers basically the same (i.e. make sure there’s a shortcut on the desktop or something from every staff computer)
  • Make sure people either can search for stuff (the Google way) or can understand the file/folder system (the librarian way) pretty effectively
  • I’m a big folder fan, putting things either in thematic folders (summer reading, trustee minutes, etc) and then inside those by date, or doing something like file types (images, PDFs, word documents) and going from that. Depends on what people are expecting and how much work they are willing to do on this.
  • Think about whether an offboard solution like Dropbox would be simpler. Doesn’t work for everyone but they have some “version
    control” types of things that can be helpful sometimes

This would be a great question for the VTLIBRARIES list.¬†Happy to be a continuing help with this, I know it’s a process and not a one and done deal.

Ask A Librarian: Tips for Avoiding Online Banking?

banknotes at eh Ottoman Bank Museum
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Context: I wrote a column for Computers in Libraries magazine about practical technology tips. Here is an email from a reader.

Your December 2017 column, “Money Matters” doesn’t seem to contain any information that would advise or reassure a person who, like me, avoids online banking because she is, frankly, somewhat paranoid about identity theft. As you yourself point out, I’m not the only one who worries about that. Would you consider writing a column that specifically addressed those concerns?
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That is not a column I am likely to be writing. Not because I’m not interested in the topic, but because ultimately my column is a tech column and the solutions to not using online banking often involve offline stuff. Which is good! But at the same time, as much as I respect your own personal choice to not use online banking, I feel that it’s not the weak point in the complex system of electronic transactions that permeate our life nowadays. I feel like those are more like

  • debit cards which get stolen with alarming regularity and are used, sold, and traded
  • non chip-and-pin credit cards though most banks have done away with those
  • social engineering to obtain access to bank accounts through phone banking.

While it’s totally true that not having online banking can limit some of the access points, I sometimes feel that having and securely locking down ones online banking (using something like two-factor authentication, a good long password, and not logging in from anywhere other than a home computer) is actually safer than not having it and risking someone else potentially activating it.

All of this is not to try to sway you from your position which is yours and, as I said, I respect everyone’s agency to make the personal choices that work for them. At the same time, a lot of what I do is to slowly nudge people to make better and more secure choices that allow them to use technology, even as I acknowledge that they may choose, ultimately, not to. runetkix.top

Ask a Librarian: How does Drop-in Time actually work?

image from twitter at the link given

 

Excerpt from an email from a librarian in the Midwest: One of the goals for the new [library] strategic plan is that “Patrons will find support and expertise in technology instruction.” I’ve never taught classes before but I do like to mess around with technology.

I don’t know if it is my perception or not, but your drop-ins seem like a great community building atmosphere where disparate characters can come together and learn about tech and get help. I’d love to know how you have designed/fostered their growth.

I do drop-in time work within the context of a technical high school not the public library, just as an FYI. I started there ten years ago after my last library job had ended (it was grant funded) and I was like “I am taking some time off and will not take a job unless I open the paper and there is a ‘teach email to old people’ job listed…” and well, there was! The vocational school was hiring a VISTA volunteer to help with community tech work. Basically it’s a regional school so all the “sending towns” send kids and money to the school but don’t get as much back as the town that houses the school. So we thought about how to fix that.

2017 reading list and commentary

books on a shelf, from the humor section. Prominent title is KRAZY

I started 106 books this year and finished 102. I seem to have some sort of aggressive attachment to reading serendipitously. Which means no matter what I set out to do, I read whatever the hell I want because I read for fun and can’t really queue up books I want to read. This means it’s hard for me to choose to read more diversely, or read more titles by women. I got some good suggestions from people last year and then watched myself basically ignore them this year. I need to work my actual reading habits in to my aspirational reading life. That said, here’s how the year shook out. It was a good year for reading, but that was also sort of because it wasn’t a great year for me. We muddle forward…