Quick ‘n’ dirty how-tos with MS Paint

When I need to show somebody via email how to do something on the computer, and I need to do it quick, I use Paint rather than GIMP.

If you have a PC with Windows 7, you should have Paint available under the Accessories menu. (All Programs -> Accessories -> Paint).

For each important step or set of steps on a given window, you will want to do the following:

1) Make a screen capture of the window with any options or drop-downs showing. Use the “Print Screen” button on the upper right side of your keyboard. (If your “Print Screen” button isn’t on your keyboard, you’re on your own). Print Screen copies the current screen into the clipboard as an image.

2) Open Paint and press CTRL-V or right click-paste. The screen capture should appear.

3) On the View Tab, click Zoom Out.

4) Click the Home Tab again. Now you should see enough of the window to crop it effectively.

5) Click the Select button. Drag the box to cover the part of the window you want to show, excluding the things you don’t want (like your Windows toolbar and other extraneous stuff). If you don’t get it right the first time, just click anywhere on the image and try Select again.

6) Click Crop. If you don’t like how the image looks, you can Undo by pressing Ctrl-Z or clicking the left-hand arrow at the upper-left part of the screen.

7) Use Paint’s shapes and colors to circle important steps, show arrows, etc. Simply select a color and then a shape, and experiment. Remember you can Undo your experiments.

7) Click on the arrow under Select and click “All”; or, right click on the image and click on Select All.

8) Press Ctrl-C or right click -> copy

9) Go to your email and press Ctrl-V or right-click -> paste to insert the picture into your email.

10) if your email doesn’t allow pictures in the body of the email, you may save the image in Paint and attach the file.


The rising cost of journals and journal packages

Here’s a common woe of academic librarians.  Many of our large journal packages increase in price from 8-11% a year.  There’s similar pressure on the individual journal subscriptions, especially the science ones.

When library budgets are flat, declining, or only increasing by a few percent per year, how are libraries going to sustain these increases? Are we supposed to raid the book budget to pay for an outrageous 25% increase on a suite of psychology journals?  Is the college really going to sell the climbing wall to allow “unnamed university press” to tack on exorbitant new journals we never asked for?

Here’s a chart I ran in Excel, assuming a starting cost of $2,000,000 for library materials budget, $900,000 for electronic resources.  Library budget increases at 2% and electronic resources increasing at a very modest 5% over 20 years.


Notice how the electronic resources overtake the library’s material budget – gradually at first, then quickly gobbling up the overall budget.

At a liberal arts college, there’s still some commitment to the book — as a book in any format, and the book as printed word.  We are not about to eliminate the vast majority of our books so the journal publishers can profit more.

In the past few years I’ve been hearing that big publishers are snatching up journals left and right, leading to a feeding frenzy and price inflation.  Well the sharks better settle down because we just. Cannot. Sustain. 8% increases.

Make your own beautiful bullet points for posters and more

I did a poster session with another librarian on team teaching.  To design the poster, I used MS PowerPoint with one slide set to the dimensions of the final poster.

I decided to make the poster colorful and visually appealing.  To create the bullet points, I used GIMP. Once you know the steps, it’s easy to make colorful spheres that can be resized to your particular needs.

Start up GIMP and create a new file of square (equal) proportions.  For high quality prints, choose 300 x 300 pixels.

Go to Filter -> Render -> Pattern -> Qbist.


You should see a screen similar to this, with randomly generated thumbnails:


Click on one of the thumbnails to see more images that are related to the one you chose.  When you’re happy with the one in the center, click OK and GIMP will render the full pattern to the dimensions of your image window.

To turn the image into a sphere, go to Filter -> Map -> Map Object.


From the Map to menu, select Sphere.


Play around with the settings and click the Preview button to see what they do. Here’s my finished product, which can be resized as needed.


Creating flyers

A few years ago I was asked to create a flyer advertising our electronic resources that were added in the past year or so.  Sounds simple.  Actually, deciding on content may be the easiest part. Here are some steps in the process, if you’re new to “desktop publishing.”

1) Investigate your printing options.

Can you use the college/university print shop? A copy shop? An in-house printer? Is cost a consideration? Paper type? Color or B&W? Figure this out first before proceeding any further since the options may have a great impact on the finished product.

2) Determine your audience

Is it “all the patrons”?  In that case you’re going to need to simplify jargon. A student-targeted publication might be a little breezier and more light-hearted than something aimed at just faculty.

3) Decide what software to use

Ask your printing crew for advice on what to use.  In my case, the college print shop advised using MS PowerPoint to create the publication and then convert to PDF so the print shop could print without accidentally changing anything.

4) Determine layout and style

I used the style of our library web page as a guide, incorporating similar fonts and colors.  Then I used text boxes to divvy up spaces for electronic resources.

5)  Add some zazz

Here you can get really creative with images and color.  PowerPoint allows you to fiddle-faddle around with graphics.  You can use screen grabs (PrtScrn button, then paste into a graphics editors) to supply images, or simply copy images from vendor web pages. * Yes I have used many vendor graphics in my flyers. Is it abuse of copyright or trademark? Since I’m not trying to make money off their products, rather I’m promoting them, I’m unlikely to get sued. I’m not a lawyer; Your Mileage May Vary.

6) Print out a draft and have it proof-read

After you’ve been working on something for hours, it’s easy to miss typos or other problems. You don’t want to send it off for 300 copies and have them come back looking wonky.

7) Deliver to the print shop, and check the resulting product before distributing

If this is your first time, you may want to ask for a sample before requesting a big order. It will give you confidence in the final product.  Thoroughly check the finished product “just in case”.  Once I found a word had disappeared from the end of a text box. Since it was a one-sheet deal, I was able to run them through an office printer to replace the word (after a lot of adjustment to get the word looking like it was the same font, in the correct place).

7)  Create a blank template for future use

Supposing you have designed a flyer that people like and want you to do more of, it will be helpful to make a blank or template for future “editions.”  Colleagues may want to borrow your design and you can quickly email the blank to them.

Dog therapy at the library – overwhelmingly successful for the students, overwhelming for the dogs

Stress-reducing activities on campus during finals has been a popular trend lately.  We thought we’d try a dog therapy day near the end of the Block. This was indeed very popular but it may have contributed to my dog almost dying.

Some thoughts for other librarians who want to try such an event:

  1. Consider hiring an outside service run by experienced professionals.
  2. Another alternative is setting up volunteer time with an animal shelter.
  3. If 1. or 2. isn’t feasible, institute measures to limit the visiting time and/or number of visitors. You could require a donation to the local animal shelter or signing up ahead of time.
  4. Only use dogs who are friendly to people and not easily stressed.
  5. Separate dogs if you or the owners think certain dogs will be in conflict with each other — one way to do it is separating by size. Keep locations far-distant to decrease the amount of barking.
  6. Puppies: all our dogs were well-seasoned adults except for one of the corgis, who was more of a teenager. All were well- trained and didn’t have accidents. We got a few student comments expressing interest in puppies.  If you’re going to bring in puppies, either do it outside in a portable pen on the grass, or a surface that’s easily cleaned.

Our story:

Thinking we would only have a few students show up, I set up a 4 hour block of time when staff members would have friendly dogs in two locations, separated by dog size. (Little dogs sometimes attack big ones – to avoid that scenario we kept them separate and the locations far apart.)  This event was publicized in the student listserv and library building “tenants” were also notified.  Six dogs were involved: 2 Labrador retrievers, 1 golden retriever, 2 Welsh corgis, 1 full-sized dachshund and 1 miniature dachshund.

Far from being a slow day, we were inundated with hordes of students at both locations. Some students couldn’t even get into the largish office with the small dogs, because it was already so crowded with students. The human guests greatly enjoyed having dogs around and told us we should do this every Block or even every day at the library.

The easily-stressed dogs were only present for an hour or two hours.  However, even my hyper-social dog (a big yellow Labrador retriever named Brutus) got tired out after the third hour.  There were just too many students and hardly any breaks between visitors.  So it was great for the students but of the dogs it seems only the older, assertive corgi made it unscathed through 4 hours of constant petting and attention.

That night, I woke to hear Brutus crying in a strange, rhythmic way.  An emergency trip to the animal hospital at 1AM and it turned out he had GDV (Gastric Dilation – Volvulus), a condition where the stomach bloats and flips over 180 degrees.  It’s a sure, painful death if not operated on immediately.  GDV is often triggered by stress although the highest risk factor is a large dog with a deep, narrow chest like a greyhound’s (Brutus qualifies). Some days and $3,000+ later, he came through.  Thanks to pet insurance, I was reimbursed for a good portion of that.  Still, it was scary almost losing my dog.  Image

Brutus in his “cone of shame” after major surgery and a 3-day convalescence at the animal hospital. He is now completely recovered.

Tip to dog owners: if your dog has a deep, narrow chest, you may wish to consider the preventive surgery of gastropexy where the stomach is tacked down so it can’t flip during bloat.  This can be done via laparoscope (miminally invasive). Another tip: if your dog is acting strangely, tap his/her abdomen. If it’s stretched taut like a drum, call the local animal hospital to notify them you’re bringing a possible bloat case over and get your dog there as quickly as possible. Immediate care is essential for a good outcome.

Working with graphics part 2

GIMP is a great free program but how do you learn to use it?  For me, I used trial and error, and played around with it until I got to about the intermediate level. I tried every tool and filter, and looked at other menu options.

If you don’t want to use the “stumble around” approach, try the GIMP tutorials.

One very important concept that I didn’t immediately grasp was the concept of “Layers”. Think of layers as transparencies that you can lay one over another. You can work on one layer and add it to another, moving and adjusting layers until you have assembled the picture you want, flatten the image and there’s your picture.

Here’s a YouTube tutorial on GIMP and layers: