Archival newspapers and COVID-19

I've posted cool search tips I've read about on the SearchResearch blog before ("Drag and drop for Google Image Search", "Searching with emojis", and "Some Google Image search tips"), but it's been a while and I'd like to give the blog a shout-out again. Daniel Russell, a senior research scientist at Google and author of The joy of search :a Google insider's guide to going beyond the basics, writes the SearchResearch blog and covers helpful search strategies. The usual format is first a post with a search puzzle which you can try to solve. Blog readers will comment on the challenge post with what they think the answer is and how they found it. Then Daniel writes a post about how one might find the information to solve the challenge.

1918-10-25-Portage-Daily-Register
It was fascinating to read some of the articles in local papers -- here's an example from the Portage Daily Register, Oct 25 1918

Recently, he posted this search challenge:

SearchResearch Challenge (4/22/20): The Future Through the Past - Using archival news to see what's next in COVID

which included this question:

  1. Can you find articles from the news archives of 1918 and 1919 that will show us what happened back then, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, give us a clue about what might happen in the months and years ahead?

He also noted, "You'll also have to figure out what questions you might like to see answered about the future course of COVID. Here are some thoughts:

  1. How did your nation recover from the economic downturn caused by the Spanish Flu? What articles can you find that tell us what to look for?
  2. How well did the protests against mask measures work out? Were the protesters successful? What happened to the number of flu cases after people stopped wearing masks?
  3. Was the course of the Spanish Flu pretty simple, or was it (as some have predicted about COVID), fairly up-and-down for quite a while after the initial outbreak?
  4. Why did the Spanish Flu finally go away? (Or did it?) Did someone develop a vaccine for it, or why did it stop being a pandemic?"

You can find the answer to the challenge and additional commentary in these follow-up posts:

They contain some helpful tips for searching archival newspapers, and his research notes for this challenge are a fascinating read. I'd highly recommend the blog challenges if you want to practice your search skills and learn new tricks.

Videoconferencing – how to improve your experience

Video-conferenceWhether you are using Zoom, BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, or any number of other products, videoconferencing has become a part of our everyday lives.  I don’t know about you, but I found it a little disorienting switching from in-person meetings to videoconferencing exclusively in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  After over a month of conducting professional meetings online, I have found some tips that may help you improve your videoconferencing experience. 

  1. Test your hardware and internet connection before the meeting is about to start. Troubleshooting is difficult during a meeting and it’s better to spend some time getting used to the software before you have your first meeting.
  2. Mute yourself if you are not speaking. Background noise is often magnified by microphones and it can be disruptive to other participants.  Know how to use the mute button before the meeting starts and only unmute yourself when you plan to speak. 
  3. Use the chat feature for questions. This is especially helpful for larger groups.  This way participants can still ask questions as they come to them, but you can wait until there is an opening to answer them.
  4. Assign roles for your meeting. Assign a meeting leader that will display the agenda and keep the group on task during the meeting.  Assign another person to monitor the chat in case participants have questions or trouble during the meeting.  It is also very useful to assign a notetaker so an accurate record is kept of the discussion.     
  5. Know when videoconferencing is appropriate. Is this a topic that could be handled more easily by using email, Slack, or another venue?  Do you need to use video?  The video portion often uses up a lot of bandwidth and it can lead to individuals having problems accessing the meeting. 
  6. Present yourself well. If a video meeting is necessary, remember to dress appropriately and smile.  You want to appear just as professional as if you were in person.  You should also pick a well-lit area so that other participants can see you. 

What other tips do you find useful when videoconferencing?  Please share in the comments!

Begin Where you Left Off in Acrobat Reader

I recently had to read a lengthy document in PDF form.  It was over 30 pages long and I read it over the course of three days.  What I found really frustrating was that Acrobat Reader would always open the document at Page 1 the next day when I’d resume reading.  Microsoft Word has a feature built-in that let’s you resume where you left off the last time.  When you reopen a Word document, a Welcome back message appears at the right-hand side of the window.  Just click the Welcome back message and Word automatically takes you back to where you left off. 

WelcomeBack
Welcome Back message in Word

If Word has this feature, you would think Acrobat Reader has something similar.  A quick Google search pointed me to instructions for enabling a similar feature in Acrobat Reader.  To configure Acrobat Reader to open a document where you left off, please follow these instructions:

  1. Open Acrobat Reader DC
  2. Click Edit
  3. Click Preferences...
  4. Click Documents
  5. Check the box for Restore last view settings when reopening documents
    Restore

Now your Acrobat Reader will open PDF files where you left off and at your previous Zoom Level.

Searching for Census Tracts? - replacements for American Fact Finder.

For many years LINKcat libraries in SCLS have used the U.S. Census Bureau's "American Fact Finder" address search tool to determine the Census tract and/or the legal  municipality of patron addresses.  The U.S. Census Bureau has discontinued access to the American Fact Finder tool as of 3/31/2020.  Here are some options for library staff to use to help determine the Census tract or municipality for patron records.

The U.S. Census Bureau is now providing an updated digital Census Tract map that can be found here: https://tigerweb.geo.census.gov/tigerweb/ You have to enable these options in the left sidebar - Census Tracts, Blocks layer and the Places and County Subdivisions layer - to indicate the type of information you are searching for. Enter the address in the Address Search bar along the top to find where a particular residence falls within these areas.

Another resource is My Vote WI - this works well to determine smaller incorporated places and townships. The exception to this is places like Village of Brooklyn which is in multiple counties, because the My Vote site doesn't distinguish which county an address is in.

AccessDane provides county subdivision-level info via address searches for Dane County addresses only.

Wisconsin Hometown Locator:  https://wisconsin.hometownlocator.com/maps/  Address Based Research & Map Tools.
 
Wisconsin Statewide Parcel Map:  https://maps.sco.wisc.edu/Parcels/   After you enter the address you need to right click the map to get the info.

Big thanks to Alicia, Joe and Rachel for compiling these resources!

 

Getting started with the NVDA screen reader

Automated tools for checking website accessibility (such as WAVE, AChecker or the aXe Chrome extension) are often the starting point to find and correct accessibility violations. Another important option to include in your accessibility testing toolset is a screen reader and keyboard, to help understand how a visitor with visual or motor disabilities might experience the library's website. A free choice for this is NonVisual Desktop Access (usually abbreviated as NVDA).

To get started using NVDA, download it to your Windows computer. It can be installed and used without admin rights (though enlisting an admin for the install let me use it without having to accept the terms of use every time) or even saved to a portable USB flash drive to run on different computers. When you start it up, it begins reading what you have on screen out loud. Switch to a web browser, and it will read the web pages you visit. This video includes how-to's and some demonstration:

NVDA has a Help menu and highly detailed user guide, but WebAIM's "Using NVDA to Evaluate Web Accessibility" is the quick-start guide I wish I'd started with. I use these tips a lot for testing web pages with NVDA:

  • F5 refreshes the page and starts reading from the beginning (in case you get lost).
  • The Insert key is the default special "NVDA key" for using the keyboard to navigate with NVDA.
  • NVDA key + S lets you toggle between having speech mode on, off, or "beeps mode" (so you can have NVDA on for a website you're testing, but turn it off to type an email where it would be distracting for NVDA to spell out what you're typing letter by letter).

With a little practice, you'll be able to test how your libary's website performs with a screen reader and keyboard. Despite the learning curve, it's a solid step you can take to identify problems, obstacles, and annoyances that can be fixed to help all patrons benefit from the services your library provides.

Common Sense Media

Call of the wild movie quick review from Common Sense MediaIf you are looking for reviews of movies (both in theaters and available via streaming/DVD), as well as video games and apps, I am putting in a plug for Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media provides information about media content for families and educators. I have used it to help choose apps for my kids, in addition to figuring out whether now is a good time to watch say, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, or whether we should wait a year or two.

The site also has book reviews and does research into children's use of media and technology. If you have some time and are interested in these topics, I encourage you to check it out.

Conditional Formatting Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets can be used for so many things, and one of my favorite features is conditional formatting. Basically, you can tell the sheet to do something if something else is happening in the sheet. If you like to use spreadsheets but want to take your spreadsheet experience to the next level, try looking into conditional formatting. A search can bring back a lot of helpful results and ways to use it.

Some ways I've used conditional formatting in the past:

  • Cross out an entire row once I've put "yes", "x", "y", etc. in a cell (my favorite!!! great for keeping track of tasks!!)
  • Highlight entire rows with certain words or values
  • Highlight individual cells with certain words or values

Check it out!

Web Browser Terminology

If you've used web browsers for any length of time you've heard the terms cache and cookies. Just what exactly are these and are they the same thing? Well, I'm here to explain these terms for you.

CookiesCookies
No, I'm not talking about Chinese fortune cookies or chocolate chip cookies. I'm talking about the small files that your browser saves on your computer that contain information that the website you're visiting uses to enhance your experience. Every time you visit a website your browser looks for the cookie associated with that website and sends it to the website's server telling it what you did the last time you were there. Cookies will sometimes track information like how frequently you visit, what times of the day you visit, what you've clicked on, and other information that is used to customize your visit. So essentially, cookies are used to store different information about you, the user. Cookies also have an expiration date so they will expire after some time period.

CashCache
This is pronounced just like the word for legal tender. When you visit a website your browser saves on your computer a copy of the HTML pages and images that you view. This is done for your benefit to reduce bandwidth usage, server load, and to make the website load quicker the next time you visit. So essentially, cache is used to store information about the website. Cache does not expire and is only removed if you manually remove it. To remove your cache you can follow these steps:

  1. Open any browser
  2. Press Ctrl+Shift+Del
  3. Select cache
  4. Click the appropriate button at the bottom of the window to delete or clear

Offload apps to quickly free up storage on your Apple device

Apple_logoIf you’re like me, automatic updates to your Apple device are appreciated.  It’s one less thing for me to have to remember or worry about.  However, it has become more of a chore for me because my device storage is always too full.  I then have to choose individual files to delete to make room for the latest upgrade, which is often very time-consuming.  There are more long term solutions such as deleting unused apps and uploading files that take up a large amount of space to a cloud storage service (i.e. photos, videos).  

Offloading your files is an option that I find extremely useful and saves me a lot of time.  It allows you to temporarily disable an app without deleting the settings.  They will remain on your device’s home screen, but you will need to tap to re-download in order to use it.  You can do this by going to your device’s storage list, tap the app you wish you offload, and select Offload App.

2020-01-16_10-14-08

2020-01-16_10-22-19

You can also set up the automatic removal of apps you don't use often. Simply go to Settings > General > Device Storage > Offload Unused Apps and tap Enable.

 

It's not lazy to hit the snooze button (on email)

Snooze
The snooze buttons in O365 and Gmail

Ever use the snooze button in O365 or Gmail? It may seem lazy—it's a SNOOZE button, after all—but it's becoming a helpful habit for me. If you've never snoozed email before, it lets you hide an email from your inbox until a future time that you choose. When it's time, the email reappears in your inbox, nudging Future You to process it in a timely fashion.

I'm definitely no email productivity guru, and what works for me might not work for you. But I've tried using categories (and labels, stars, folders, and color coding) to flag important messages for follow up, and sorting through the backlog later is so overwhelming. Snoozing an email lets me get it out of sight, out of mind, with a built-in reminder to attend to it soon. This is how the snooze button fits into my system:

  1. Delete or archive automated notifications or listserv announcements that don't require attention.
  2. Read anything that looks urgent and respond immediately, or add to the to-do list outside of email.
  3. Read, reply to, and archive anything that can be dealt with quickly.
  4. Snooze messages that aren't urgent, but need more than a sentence or two reply, and set them to reappear soon (like after lunch or tomorrow morning). This lets me focus on the immediate to-do list tasks, rather than getting distracted by time-consuming, but lower priority, issues and projects. (And my rule is to only snooze once!)
  5. Stop looking at email, and concentrate on the to-do list.

With luck, by the time a snoozed message reappears in my inbox, I'm ready to focus on it. I'm more likely to stick to the priorities in my to-do list, and get more done overall. Good thing too, because the emails just keep coming. Happy snoozing!