Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Why do they tell us to ask you for help, when you can't?"

I've put in my first two days as a "Technology Docent" at our local library.  That's the official title of the position in the library's job system.  The staff at the library simply call me the computer docent.  I call myself the IT Help Desk - and try not to remember how I and my work colleagues used to refer to IT support as the "Helpless Desk."  What goes around DOES come around.

It's been fun so far and I was able to answer every question posed to me.  Even turned an "angry" customer into a satisfied one by the time she left yesterday.  

In order to protect the library computer system which runs throughout our 11 locations, many functions have been disabled on the library computers.  Functions such as right-clicking to bring up shortcut menus (which I live by!) are not available.

While I understand and appreciate the security precautions, I have to "regroup" in my brain to find a "workaround" when a function I normally would use has been disabled. Here's the opportunity to "use my brain" as I've been telling people I need since I retired. Come on, KK - step up!

Having to explain to users why they can't do something at the library that they might have done on a home or work computer takes a bit of finesse.  This is compounded by the fact that users have a time limit of one hour of computer usage from the time they sign on .. and that's for all day!  Watching that time limit visibly ticking away on the screen as I explain why they can't do what they want to do doesn't make them happy.  And add to that, more lost time as I try to figure out how they CAN do it and you might understand the circles of sweat appearing under my arms (actually I don't sweat very often, so that was an exaggeration, but, trust me, inside I was sweating!)

The aforementioned "angry" user who left happy came in yesterday and was simply trying to  print a set of directions from Mapquest, but the print preview kept showing a very garbled document.  Oh yeah, one other factor .. users have to pay ten cents a page to print a document, so she wasn't about to spend her money only to get a "garbled" set of directions.

After spending a few minutes trying to "ungarble" the document, while listening to her tell me how she has " ...done it a million times before and knows it can be done," the user finally said, "Why do they tell us to ask you for help when you can't help?"  Secretly, I was wondering the same thing.  

After some sleuthing on my part, I figured out how we could do it within the limits of the library system, and the woman left happy, even telling me her name and that she was up there "all the time" and had known all along there was a way to do what she wanted! "Watch for me.  I'll be back," she said.  No doubt.

Helping a gentleman from Korea figure out how to save and print an email from someone in his home country so he could share it with others at his local residence here gave me a small sense of pride in my "global outreach."  I'm probably not ready for the Peace Corps yet (is that even still around?), but I felt positively cosmopolitan!  When he left, he smiled, nodded and tipped his cap to me. I am going to like this job!

I've already noted that there are regulars who know how to move around on the computers to get the most time possible.  Without being at all invasive, I have to keep an eye on what people are viewing on the computers ... surprisingly, I've only seen Facebook visited by one or two very young people ... and assist folks trying to print or copy documents.  In my spare time, I'm allowed to read a book, use my own computer, help the staff "shelve books," straighten DVD racks, etc.  I'm certainly not taxing my cerebrum, but I'm feeling pretty darn useful, something I've been looking for since the day I retired.  I think I've found it.

See you at the library.  By the way, there's still a lot of summer left.  Time to enjoy a good book or two.  Here's a few suggestions.  Given the theme of this posting, the Number One Bestseller is aptly named.    New York Times Fiction Bestsellers.

1 comment:

Michele said...

You couldn't pay me to do this job... and here you are doing it for free!