On The Fly Tech Support

"Hey, this isn't my job!"

Jessamyn West


What Are We Up Against?

tell Burning Man/WTO anecdote
"Something funny happened on the road to the digital library of the future, though.

Far from becoming keepers of the keys to the Grand Database of Universal Knowledge, today's librarians are increasingly finding themselves in an unexpected, overloaded role:

They have become the general public's last-resort providers of tech support."
(Salon 02dec97)
tell Department of libraries anecdote

Getting our Ducks in a Row

You provide the computers, patrons use the computers.
What else do you need to know....?
the best defense is a good offense!
DOCUMENTATION -- where is it?
INTERNET POLICY -- where is it?
PASSWORDS -- where are they?
FOUR THINGS: 1) setting expectations 2) communicating the current state of affairs 3) hopefully fixing whatever's immediately broken 4) working to fix the meta problem in the future tell bill of rights anecdote, health insurance

Setting the Stage


Appearances matter.
- computers tell the right time
- flat screens = modern! OLC anecdote
- clean keyboards and mice
- enough room for book/writing/whatever
- headphones or place to put them
- USB plug or place to put them
- make sure you have current: operating system, browser(s), plug-ins (flash, shockwave, adobe), drivers, office tools

Who are we dealing with?

Sometimes it helps to model "types" of patrons
each of these types of patrons has to be dealt with differently and causes different problems for the librarian/library staff. You may have some, or none of these patrons in your library but your technology planning should acknowledge their existence. Remember for people with little computer experience, your computer may be the only one they know how to use, they may be coming to the library because other people got tired of helping them

Let's Start Getting Our Hands Dirty

It happens to all librarians. You're having a nice day and then

Now what?
[this is where it starts, patron is thinking
"Did I lose my work?"
"Is my disk/thumb drive broken?"
"Can I get more time to finish?"

You are thinking "is this going to take all day"
"is this patron going to flip out on me?"
"can I actually fix this?"]

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?

The tech support equivalent is hardware, software or PEBKAC?

How do you decide?

[pebkac is not something you ever say to patrons, they tend not to like it]

First Steps

Ask: Think:

Is it time for....?


[command - option - escape for you mac folks]
[task manager is your friend]

Breaking it Down: Hardware/Network

[the basic troubleshoot is to replace each cable one at a time with known working cables until you've isolated the problem, if you can. Do you know who to call if there is a problem outside your immediate area, upstream provider? ISP?]

Breaking it Down: Software

Breaking it Down: PEBKAC


Specifics: The Web

Specifics: Uploading/Downloading

Specifics: MS Word

Specifics: Printers

Note: a lot of this varies depending on the printer


So, now everyone's happy...



«  credits »

Jessamyn West is the editor of the weblog librarian.net and the co-editor of Revolting Librarians Redux. She used to do phone and email tech support at Speakeasy Networks She works as a community technology mentor with people and libraries in Central Vermont. IM her at iamthebestartist.

This presentation was created in HTML using CSS. There was no PowerPoint involved in this presentation except as a nagging bad example. The layout and stylesheet are available to borrow via a share and share alike creative commons license. See source code for details. Thanks to Darren for the background image.

slides version | printable version