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What would YOU tell them? [Need help]

I need some help from all of you, this time round.

If you are an IT professional  in a library, or a staff member who has to deal with technology all day, you have probably had a moment or two when you’ve dreamed of being able to magically insert some nugget of understanding into a colleague’s or co-worker’s head.  (I know I could count those moments by the dozens, myself.)  Maybe you’ve wished that they would just remember that rebooting solves many quirky PC issues.  Perhaps you have wished that you’d been consulted before some decision was made–because it would have saved some headaches or money, down the road.

I’m guessing that all of us have been there–a place where we’ve gotten frustrated because, what is known or obvious to us, is not to someone who isn’t immersed in the guts of the library’s IT infrastructure.    In most cases, our colleagues don’t intend to annoy, but don’t have the knowledge or context to solve their own problem or to understand why something works the way it does.  (After all, if they did, they probably wouldn’t need you, right?)

Now, imagine that you have the opportunity to tell them what you wished they knew.  In a sense, you do, at least by proxy–I’m putting together a presentation called “What Your Tech Wished You Knew.”  This is intended for library staff of all sorts.  If you had a captive audience like this, what would you tell them?

What does this mean to me, Laura?

  • I need tip and tricks. What handy things have you found you tell staff about on a regular basis?
  • Some things come under the heading “It is what it is.”  What are those things you find that staff encounter yet expect to work differently than they do?
  • Help them to make tech-related decisions.  What sorts of things should administrators consider when making decisions about library technology?

 ***Post your ideas, experiences, stories and comments, below.  I appreciate your input!***

There are 14 comments

  1. How about…

    “If you see an email from support, webmaster, or anyone that says we need to know your email password… Delete It! It is most likely a phishing attempt to gain control of your email account to send out spam or do other naughty things. Support doesn’t need your password.”

  2. Tip:

    When sending a email to someone, unless this is a relative or a close friend, it is advisable to include a small signature so the receiver will have a clue who you are and who you are with. Especially if you are writing to tech support and you are doing so from a yahoo or hotmail account which they don’t maintain and have no way of looking to see who you are or who you are with.

    Of course, don’t go overboard with the signature either, see (http://www.meanlaura.com/archives/1478) for guidelines on signatures.

  3. More than anything, I wish my colleagues respected the process of ticketing–I am the librarian in web services, but this would apply for any ticketing system–especially presuming that most libraries’ systems departments are small[ish]. In terms of web content (like a landing page for a special event or a new departmental website or even fixing a broken link), when you submit your ticket it most likely isn’t going to jump to the front of the line – in fact, it is a long, exponentially increasing queue sorted by priority and feasibility. I’m stoked to redesign a new front-end for your department (especially for children’s departments, lots of fun), but please make the request with enough time in advance to meet personally, hash out ideas, develop, troubleshoot, and launch – with the understanding that the web person will not be grinding this site out full-time, but in precisely allotted chunks so s/he can accommodate everyone.

    Just griping =D

  4. * hard drives fail, and it’s more likely than most chance occurrences in life. work with this in mind.
    * take the time to explain your problem. If your explanation is one sentence, it’s probably not enough.
    * patiently answer all of my questions, no matter how bizarre.
    * if you bring a technical problem to my attention, make sure I am thereafter in the loop on all steps you take to fix it, including consulting with someone from your knitting group.

  5. We have a few old computers and I’m constantly reminding staff that they are old, they are temperamental and that they don’t always work the way they assume they will.

    Our one catalog computer has communication issues with the mouse, they constantly ask me to replace the mouse. I unplug it, walk into the store room and walk back out with the same mouse.

    Out lobby monitor shows a power point on loop all day, it takes forever for this computer to shut down. I caught a coworking just pushing the power button. They tell me it takes forever to shut down if they don’t do it that way, I told them to let it shut down properly otherwise we’re going to lose that computer very soon.

    A lot of “It is what it is” stuff comes from issues with our automation system, public computer reservation software and printing software. They ask a lot of “Why does it do that?” and don’t like when I answer “because it does.”

  6. Try looking through the menus at the top. I don’t always remember where something is either and have to look for it. If it isn’t in the first menu you check move on to the next.

  7. Learn enough about the dependencies involved in systems you use to be able to do extremely basic troubleshooting yourself so you can help us help you.

    For example, remember that many things depend on your network connection. If you call to say your email does not work you could waste both of our time on a symptom instead of a problem because you did not check to see if ANY network activity is working. If you cannot get to http://www.google.com then your email problem is a symptom of a larger problem.

  8. Learn to take screenshots. The exact wording of error messages really do matter in many cases. A picture is worth more like 10,000 words in many cases. In many cases technicians and end users make use of very different vocabularies when it comes to technology. A relevant screenshot can seamlessly bridge that gap.

  9. 1. Re-start the troubled PC before calling me. The trouble may just go away like it did the 4000 I re-started it right in front of you.

    2. Don’t say in front of patrons, “I can’t wait until we get new computers” when these are only a year old.

    3. Don’t keep downloading every “scan my PC” scam on the Internet and then ask me why the anti-virus is blocking you. That’s what it does. And besides, I’m the Tech guy, why are YOU downloading programs on the PCs?

  10. Where to start!
    1) JD is right….Error message screenshots!!!!
    2) What you were trying to do when the above error occurred (not what you want me to know but what you actually did).
    3) Keep things simple ….check power, cables, & paper before you call me. I’ll be glad to run 20 miles to your branch to plug in the printer. ;^)
    4)Tell me if what I just said to you didn’t make sense to you & don’t just nod at me. I eat & sleep tech, & sometimes I need your help to explain to you what I’m thinking.
    5) Just because you saw something on TV, it doesn’t mean I have the expertise or equipment to make it happen over night.

  11. Remember when a PDF file is open on a windows computer in the web browser the “file–>Print” or regular print options built into the web browser will not print the pdf file correctly. You must mouse down towards the bottom of the windows and use the print option on the acrobat reader bar that disappears unless your mouse is by it.
    I also discovered a neat tool built into windows 7 called problem steps recorder. Here is a link that tells more about it and has some other useful tips.

  12. for staff, both for troubleshooting and general skills
    • how to recognize spam, phishing, etc. in email
    • how to recognize bogus things on web sites (“scan your computer now”)
    • secure web sites: how to tell if a site is secure, ssl errors you might see and the implications of ignoring them
    • tricks for printing from web sites: printable view, print selected text
    • is the computer frozen or just the program
    • the secret to figuring stuff out is to know that you can
    • mailto links on web pages where you don’t have a mail client installed: how to find the email address and other properties
    • how to give a detailed description of a problem: a little info about the troubleshooting process we go though (is the problem reproducible? consistent? what if we change a variable? what if you try a different computer, a different browser, a different web site, etc.) and how to give info that helps us troubleshoot, including exactly what happened
    • don’t let a technical problem stop you; find a workaround for yourself or the patron (e.g. if a something doesn’t print on a public computer but does on a staff computer, offer to print it for them; ask yourself what am I trying to get done)

  13. Know when you don’t know something.
    Don’t be afraid to ask.
    Remember the answer for the next time.

    If it didn’t work the first time, chances are it still won’t if you try 3 more times.
    Printing something is a good example.
    Learn how to check & clear print queue and the printer’s buffer.

    Don’t try to print direct from email.
    Save the document, then open it and print.

    You usually can’t print a website page with good results.
    Check for a print button on the site.
    If nothing else, use Window’s Snipping Tool.

    Think about received email, don’t just click away on links inside.
    Beware – Not all emails are real.
    When in doubt, use a DeepFreeze’d Patron PC.

    Backup important data.
    It’s not, IF, your computer fails, but WHEN.

    Minor point, but, Laser printers don’t use ink.

    Tech’s are usually not experts in every program that runs on the computer.

    If you leave a note, sign it, make it legible, identify the computer, define the problem.
    Patron couldn’t print from a USB stick on one of the PC’s needs more information.

    Don’t complain excessively about internet speed.
    Remember how many people are using internet and how complex it is.
    And what did you do before Al Gore created it?
    Although,…The U.S. is way behind other countries.

    Same thing for computers. Feel free to use paper and pencil.

    It may take time to ‘clean’ a computer of virus, adware, etc.

    It may take time to diagnose and fix a computer problem.
    If it was always simple, everybody could do it.

  14. Many VERY good suggestions. I only have one to add and for the life of me I never thought I’d say this in a library community.
    Read! Read all of it. Then just in case… read it again.

    If a window opens and it says IF you need to pay with a credit card and you don’t need to, then DON’T.

    If your computer is truly frozen and you can’t get a screenshot of the error message, read it carefully and then write it all down verbatim.

    If your tech person emails you, read the entire email. We don’t tend to email frivolously. Often it’s important.

    Please, please, please read pop-up windows BEFORE you click OK, or Cancel, or even the ‘X’. If you are not 100% sure why you are clicking then contact your tech. He/she should always prefer a dumb “Should I click…” call, to an even dumber “Should I have clicked…” It is FAR less time consuming for all involved to say “For the love of Mike Nooooo don’t click THAT! I’m on my way.” than to say “Shut it down, I’m coming to get it”

    Oh, I guess I have 2. Techs often get the reputation for being dismissive (at best). I would say 9 times out of 10 we are juggling 3 or 4 or 12 things ranging from minor national security issues to that 2 week project that is now 2 weeks overdue. We are probably just rushing from your task to a call from the Secretary of Defense, or giving our input on the cure for… Well you get my meaning. We do care. We do know you’re doing the best you can. We do want you love your computer. Well not hate it is out current goal.

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