Wisc-onlineAre your patrons looking for a free, self-guided, basic computer skills course?

Basic computer skills are just some of the offerings of Wisc-Online, a digital library of Web-based learning resources called "learning objects" developed primarily by faculty from the Wisconsin Technical College System.

The Basic Computer Skills course requires a sign-in (anyone may register for an account, or log in using their social media account), and covers these topics: 

  • using a mouse and keyboardWisc-online_word
  • navigating an operating system
  • creating documents using word processing software (Microsoft Word)
  • demonstrating basic email functions
  • performing basic file management techniques
  • using the internet
  • exploring social media
  • managing personal dataWisc-online_filebackup

Each learning activity ranges from about 10 to 30 minutes long and includes narrated video and interactive exercises.

Note to Self

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to listen to the final keynote session of The Digital Shift 2016 online conference* which featured Manoush Zomorodi. I hadn't heard of her or her podcast, Note to Self, and after her presentation, I immediately signed up and started listening.

What I found fascinating about her talk and her podcast is the focus on the human side of technology. A quote early in her talk captured my interest: "If we understand more about how we use our technology, we can understand ourselves better..." I like the focus on us as humans and how we can utilize technology to live better lives and not letting technology rule our lives.

BoredBrilliantAs part of her podcast, Manoush has done two projects - Bored & Brilliant and Infomagical - about the effect technology is having on our brains and our lives. For each project, she enlisted the help of her listeners and they really helped! 20,000 for Bored and Brilliant and 30,000 for Infomagical. Next fall, a book titled Bored and Brilliant: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Spacing Out will be released.

When I talk about building relationships as part of leadership or customer service, I often share an example of how we use our phone. Many of us use our phone as a watch and have it in our pocket or in our hands all the time. However, the perception of others when we get out our phone is that we're not engaged or present in the conversation. Listening to this keynote and reading about Manoush's book and projects reinforced this idea. It's a good reminder that our technology is a tool to help us and it's up to us to be purposeful in the use of it.

I love my phone and use it a lot and it's scary to think about changing how I use it on a daily basis. I'll be trying out the Infomagical challenges to see if I can get a handle on my information overload. Join me!

*If you missed the live broadcast of the 2016 Digital Shift conference, you can view the archives by selecting View Archive and registering. There's no cost to register and you can watch the archives at your convenience.

Gail's Toolkit for technology training

What do you get when very motivated librarians teaching lots of technology courses wants to standardize their course templates to make life easier for everyone (and have a grant to do it)?
Gail's Toolkit, built by staff at the Gail Borden Public Library.

From their website:  "Gail's Toolkit is a project funded by an American Library Association Publishing Carnegie-Whitney Grant that runs from 4/1/15 through 3/30/17. This free, online portal—sponsored by the Reaching Across Illinois Library System—offers lesson plans, presentations, handouts, and surveys that librarians can use to teach classes ranging from Microsoft Word to LinkedIn. The portal also offers an online bibliography of training resources for those who want to learn more about instruction."

I heard about Gail's Toolkit at WiLSWorld this year (presentation, handout), and I thought it had a lot of potential to help libraries everywhere with technology training. The Gail Borden Public Library staff have already developed a collection of courses that are free for anyone to use. For those interested in developing their own courses, the course templates are designed to make the courses so standardized that in the case of staff illness or other unexpected changes, any staff person could step in and cover the class.


Tracks & Classes: http://www.gailstoolkit.com/tracks-classes (templates to design your own classes are also included on this page)

As of September, there are already-developed classes for computer and internet basics, Microsoft programs, Google tools, resumes, and LinkedIn. Not a bad start!

Coding in Libraries

Have you ever found yourself thinking about coding in libraries and wondering,

  • "What role does the public library have in learning and use of computational thinking?"
  • "What resources are available to libraries?"
  • "Are there nearby community organizations and/or schools that are doing similar projects or have resources libraries can use through partnerships?"

If so, take a peek at this post from WI Libraries: "Coding Initiative in Wisconsin Public Libraries - Update."

The official roll out of the Coding Initiative in Wisconsin Public Libraries will begin fall 2016, and will kick off with a screening of the documentary film CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap at 20 public libraries around the state.

The initiative is a DPI-managed project using LSTA funds. You can find out more about it in the blog post and on the webpage where they will be posting updates and information in the next couple of months.

Cranky, kinky cables, oh no!

Kinky-cableAt one time or another, most of us have had to deal with a cable like the one pictured here; snarled, twisted, knotted, kinky.

A cable so messed up that it actually fights back when you try to untangle it. Let's look at why this happens, and how to stop it.

This happens when a cable is wound up tightly around an object, whether a device it connects to, one's hand, or for longer cables one's hand and elbow. We've all done this at one time or another, because it's fast, effective and intuitive. But also... wrong. Don't do that.

What happens is that we grip the cable while turning our winding hand around and around, like turning a crank. Every time this crank goes around, a twist is imparted to the cable.

This might be fine if the twist were undone when unwinding it. But the copper in a wire can hold onto the twist, imprinted like a traumatic memory. One might as well try to uncrumple a sheet of foil after it's been balled up. It can be smoothed out, but those wrinkles persist.

Instead of winding tightly with a cranking motion, try gently coiling. For this method, hold one hand with the palm up, to use as a tray, and put one loose end of the cable under your thumb. With the other hand, scoop the dangling cable, lifting it up and over the tray hand and dropping it under the tray thumb to form a loop. Repeat, repeat, repeat, trying to make each loop the same size.

The key here is dropping the cable. After each new loop is trayed, the scooping hand lets go before the next scoop. Because you're not holding the cable, wrist rotation is not transferred to it. Overall, instead of a circular cranking motion, the scoop hand moves more like an orchestra conductor, gently waving back and forth, up and down.

When finishing up, do not tie up the cable coil using its own loose end, again because you'll tend to impart a twist to it. Seal your tidy coil with a nice Velcro strip or a separate wire twist tie.

There is also an alternate alternate method. Like the coiling method, use one hand as a tray, but instead of scoop/drop, scoop/drop, move the gathering hand back and forth over the tray, imparting a U-turn to the cable every time you reverse direction.

The cable takes on a "ZZZ" shape overall, like an accordion or snake in motion. Tie it off in the middle to make a bow tie shape. This method has the advantage of being pretty fast, but the cable bow may be somewhat unwieldly. Also, you should be careful not to pack it up in any way which might crease the folds.

No more kinky cables, no more cranky users.

How to save as a PDF on patron PCs

Do patrons ever come to you and say that they want to save something as a PDF, but they don't know how?  Well, let me tell you about a couple of ways that they can do this.  If they have a webpage or web-based email that they want to save as a PDF you can have them use the Chrome browser.  Once you have the item up in a Chrome browser press Ctrl+P to open the Print dialog.  Then click the "Change..." button found to the right of "Destination".  Then under the "Local Destinations" section choose the "Save as PDF" option. Then back in the Print dialog click the "Save" button.

If they have a picture they can paste it into a Word document.  Then click File and then Save As.  Then click the drop down box to the right of "Save as Type" and select the PDF option.  Then click the "Save" button.

These two methods should handle almost all requests to save something as a PDF file.

Cleaning up out of control Excel spreadsheet cells

I use Excel spreadsheets to manage projects.  Format tool
Sometimes when the spreadsheets get big and the cells have a lot of information in them, they end up with empty space at the top of a cell. I wished for an easy way to clean this up and there is one! Here is how you fix it.

  1. Highlight the column with the messy cells.   
  2. Click on the Format option and a drop down box will appear.   
  3. Click on AutoFit Row Height and each cell in the column will automatically adjust its width.

Below you can see the before and after pictures. If the adjacent cells are bigger than the one you are trying to adjust, it won't get any smaller. But, you can see that this simple command made a big difference.





Excel before


Excal after

Removing Duplicate Entries in Excel

Say, for example, you had a program sign up and now have a spreadsheet with a list of people to subscribe to an email list but first you want to make sure you're not trying to subscribe the same address more than once.  Sure, you could sort the list by email address then manually pick out and delete the duplicates.  You could even use Conditional Formatting to highlight the duplicate entries to make them easy to find first.  Or you can use the Remove Duplicates function and get rid of them in just a few clicks.

Before you do this, a word of caution.  Removing the duplicates will change how many rows display.  It will either shorten the column you selected making it not line up with other columns in the spreadsheet or it can delete the entire row if you have all columns selected.  Depending on what you need, you may want to copy the data you want de-duplicated to another worksheet.

  1. Select the column where you'd like to remove the duplicates.
  2. Click on the Data tab
  3. Click on the Remove Duplicates column.
  4. If you have other information in the spreadsheet that's not selected, you will get a "Remove Duplicates Warning" pop-up box asking if you want to expand the selection or continue with the current selection.
    1. If you only want to remove data in the selected column, choose "Continue with the current selection and click on "Remove Duplicates".
    2. If you want to remove data from all columns, choose "Expand the selection" and click on "Remove Duplicates".
  5. The "Remove Duplicates" window will open.  There will be a list of the columns and a checkbox in front indicating which columns you'd like to use to compare for duplicate entries.
    1. If you've selected a single column, there should be a checkmark in the box in front of your column (or column name if your data has headers) and you can just hit "OK".
    2. If you've selected multiple columns, choose which columns need to be duplicated for the entry to be removed and click "OK".  For example, if you had a spreadsheet with the first name, last name and email address in separate columns and wanted to remove any entries for the same person, you'd need to have a checkmark in front of all three columns.  That way only an entry with all three the same would be removed.  If you just used the last name and email columns, you could delete other family members using that email address. 
  6. Another pop-up window will appear telling you how many duplicates were found and how many items remain.  Click "OK" and you'll be at your now cleaned up spreadsheet.