“On-the-fly Tech Support”; ILA Annual Conference 2009

Bunny Ears

(some good advice from Jessamyn West: “put bunny ears on your headphones so no one will steal them”)

It was so much fun to hear Jessamyn West, one of my all-time favorite library bloggers, give her talk on On-the-fly Tech Support at the 2009 Iowa Library Association Annual Conference in Des Moines.  Being the awesome techie librarian that she is, she has already made all of her notes and slides available on the internet, so all I have to do is tell you about how fun she was.

So way  back in 1997, Salon.com wrote up a neat feature called “Are We Ready for the Library of the Future?“, explaining that librarians have become “the general public’s last-resort providers of tech support.”  Yet twelve years later, lots of librarians still don’t have a clue how to troubleshoot.  Never fear librarians, Jessamyn West to the rescue!  Here are some key pointers for the on-the-fly tech support librarian:

PEBKAC:  at first you will be tempted to say that the “Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair.”  Once you have quietly acknowledged this to yourself. . .

Become the centered Buddha who is not attached to this problem or this person.  Ask: “what is this person trying to do?  Are they trying to do something that a computer can do?  Do they have enough time to do what they want to do?  Are their expectations reasonable?”  If you answered “no” to any of these questions, tell them!  But if you answered “yes” to all of them, then you can. . .

JFGI:  “Just F***ing Google It”

Troubleshooting:  Jessamyn mentioned that she loves the evil and hilarious BBC tech support comedy, The IT Crowd, which is about a group of mean techies whose catch phrase is: “The IT Department, have you tried turning it off and on again?”  So this is not only funny; it is also actually a really important question.  “Is everything plugged in?” is also important, as are  “Am I connected to the internet?”  and “Are they typing a real web address?”  Finally, do not underestimate the power of Ctrl-Alt-Delete (or Command-Option-Esc for Mac).

Techno-Stress is real.  Maybe their problem isn’t a tech support issue but is actually a fear problem.  Don’t tell patrons that they’re idiots; be decent.

Finally, the wise on-the-fly tech support librarian will recognize when she can’t fix the problem.  A good rule of thumb is: “If your computer has a scent, there’s probably something wrong with it.”  Put a sign out with detailed information about when the problem will be fixed; people like to know the plan.  Just do your best, and ask yourself how you are going to do better next time.

You will never totally fix everything.

(click here to see more links for ILA Annual ’09)


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