Many libraries have one reference desk, where adult, teen, and youth services work together to provide service for the public. This is a great way to provide consistent access to an expert, but can be disorienting when you are forced to use default computer browsers.

One tool my colleagues and I have been using to fix this is portable USB drives.

Using a service like Portable Apps we’ve each loaded a USB drive with our version of Mozilla and other programs we frequently use. It has the bookmarks and add-ons we select, in the order we want, so we know exactly where to go when we get the deer in the headlights look. All you need is a Flash drive or USB Drive.

Over time I’ve added bookmarks to resources that answer frequently asked questions like the DMV. It is also useful for that website that is hard to get to quickly, but you use all the time. Lastly I use it to mark resources colleagues have shared with me, that answer common questions about subject areas I don’t know very well.

I know many online bookmark websites will let you save links like this, but there is something reaffirming about having them right there at your fingertips without having to log into delicious or yahoo.

What I’ve found most helpful, beyond the access to my bookmarks, is that I can also install a service called Read It Later, which allows me to browse ya blogs and articles, when the library is slow, but quickly mark the article when someone comes’  into the library so can focus my attention on them without worry that I’ll loose what I was doing. Read it Later works on my mobile phone, so I can continue reading these articles when I have down time in my personal life. You might also want to use Instapaper which is a similar tool.

Also did you know in Mozilla, if you need to use another staff members computer to look up something online, you can turn on private browsing in the Tools drop down menu (Ctrl + Shift+ P) to use the browser without closing anything they currently have open. It gives you a fresh browser you can use,’  but make sure you turn it off when you finish or you risk confusing the computer’s owner.

About Jami Schwarzwalder

Currently a teen librarian with the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA.She is passionate about technology, making, and learning. See what I'm up to at

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