Get Arrested @ Your Library!

We've had a series of cop visits the past few weeks (not initiated by calls from our security). Two to three cops will stride in, divide up and case the joint. This morning, there were three who fanned out and found the alleged back at a table. He was someone I had never seen before, and went quietly.

finding that line and crossing it -- @ your library

First off, Jessamyn West, who always has good stuff at has her nice take on a talk at CiL. I agree with her wholeheartedly. Our patrons neither seem to be clamoring for wireless, nor do they seem to care about rss feeds, and yes, it is all I can do to keep up with our public access terminals as is. Sometimes I feel like reference gets neglected. Sometimes I feel local history gets neglected. Sometimes I feel like it's all about treading water. Sometimes I feel like it's all about the computers. Computers are important, and necessary to offer, but they aren't the heart of the library.

For instance: yesterday I was talking to OCS about our machines. They wanted to know why we had such a mix of computers and OSes. Funny, for a company that deals with public libraries. I don't especially think we're unique in that we just can't afford the latest greatest most whiz-bang OSes (not that I'm recommending XP for much of anything. I am quite happy with Win2k for the Windows route.) I explained to the nice tech a little bit about what libraries face. He was amazed.

As are a lot of patrons, I find.

The other day, I once again had a moment where I saw a couple of young patrons crossing what I would say was my line in the sand... The kicker: they were dealing with another librarian, and whereas I would have kicked them out for their transgressions, which I would have called downright racist and abusive, she tolerated it a bit longer. She did (with two of us as back up) kick them out eventually.

It really bothered me to hear them make fun of her, right in front of her. I wanted to get up and throw them out, but I also sort of felt like it was her prerogative as well, as she was dealing with them expressly. So what do you do? Do you throw out a patron in the middle of transaction with another librarian? I suppose I should have.

Still trying to find my library legs. Certainly if they weren't working directly with her, and were doing it behind her back and she weren't so involved, I would have had them out so quick.

I'm eager to see how day three of the timed access trial goes. I haven't received a call this morning, so I'm assuming they printed the one time numbers out all right. The real test will be Saturday, when I'm not there all day.


Today I am going for the second course of acupuncture for the treatment of migraines. I have been to the neurologist and quite simply, the medications he gave me did not work. Fellow library workers suggested TCM (traditional chinese medicine) and someone even found me a really good deal that only charges $30 per session.

One of the great things about working in a library is the access to a myriad of great databases. There are some really interesting articles on acupuncture. If anyone is interested please e-mail me and I will forward them to you.

Get Out of My Drawers

Get out of my drawers!

As librarians, we know that we are giving up a certain amount of privacy and personal space. Anyone has access to our stapler, Scotch tape, and Can ‘O pencils. Some of us are lucky enough to have an office and even a phone, but even that is not sacred. I have a staff member who helps herself to everything. I find her sitting at my desk, talking on my phone all of the time, even though there is a phone in the storage room two feet away. She opens the locked equipment cabinet and helps herself to scanners, digital cameras, and projectors. She opens my drawers behind my desk while I am standing there and rummages through!
Well, I know. I am part of the problem for letting it go on. I am only there 2.5 days, so I thought I could put up with it. But, just because her tutoring room is in the library does not mean, “What is mine is hers.� I am also her personal librarian. When she needs help with any piece of equipment, she wants me to drop what I am doing to help her. I don’t mind helping, but most of the time my help would be just messing around and plugging things in and trying again. It aggravates me this much because many of these times she is without students (she is an ESL teacher and has 2-3 students in a day) and I am taking care of two libraries and am pressed for time. I also feel miffed because she closes her door on a regular basis to be alone when she has no students. She can sit in her quiet room and use my stuff and me whenever it is convenient?
I have been thinking. Just saying something to her will not be effective. I have to illustrate it. Here are some ideas.

  • Hide the equipment key to the closet
  • Install pad locks on my drawers
  • Lock my office door
  • Rummage through her drawers
  • Rummage through her purse
  • Install shock device on my phone

I think I will abstain from action for now. Just a few more days (literally since I split my time between two schools…) until the school year is over. Our district is cutting and who knows if either of us will be there next year. Grin and bear it.

singing the praises

Yea, verily, let me sing the praises of timed access software.

This stuff rocks. The staff loves it so far (granted, it's only been two days) and the patron response has been largely favorable... with less people objecting to getting booted off than objecting to needing a library card. A few people have complained about our hour limit per day, even if no one is waiting. The fact of the matter is, someone was waiting at the time this patron complained. Go figure.

Only temporary glitch was that we lost printing capabilities for awhile. I was dumbfounded as to why it worked last week and not this week. Last night, mid-dream, it occurred to me -- Fortres. I buttoned up Fortres extra tight, and it wasn't allowing the server to throw up the print spooler. Best cold sweat I ever woke up in, I decided, when my printing worked this morning.

The custodians hate me. People keep leaving their one time use numbers everywhere. Tables, floors, inside books. Everywhere but the trash can. Certainly the library cards would lend more finesse to the whole operation, and people do seem to want to enter them.

The learning curve is pretty reasonable. If a computer's free it's downright easy. Most people are on and off so routinely the reservation software isn't used terribly frequently, but it's good it's there as word gets out. I forsee there might be some troubles as the reservations are more frequently used.

Even got some "regulars" to sign up for library cards. Heh heh, my evil plan is working.

I tried to install the OCS software on a Win95 machine, but the version of Fortres on there wasn't real happy with it. Some Fortres .dll was causing a stack error. I honestly wasn't thrilled enough with the box to actually try to fix it. I am going to try to install 98 on another donation box and get on with my life.

Today we discovered, with our noses, that a mouse must have died somewhere in the professional offices, where my desk is located. The assistant director came in to find us all crawling on the floor looking behind our file cabinets to see if we could find the offending rodent corpse. No such luck. I even looked through my big box of computer parts. I keep snakes myself at home, and have a freezer full of frozen rodents as (snake) food, but I wasn't real intent on finding some dessicated little corpse next to my LAN cards, thank you. We never found the little guy. My guess is he's in the ceiling.

Name Calling

OK, so its the lunch period. I'm walking down the hall with my newly short hairdo. Some wonderful redneck teenager with severe homophobia shouts "Who's the dyke?" at me.

How do I know its me, you may well ask. Well, I am on a 10 year hair cycle: hack it all off and then let it grow until I need another change. Therefore, the last time I had short hair was about 10 years ago. And at that time, a couple of high school boys drove by in a pickup truck and shout nearly the same thing. BTW, I was wearing a leather skirt with leopard print stockings at the time.

Promoting from Within

Some kids from our broadcasting class came to me this morning with a request to run a 30-second spot to promote library use on their next program. Of course, I was thrilled with the opportunity, and suggested that we incorporate TV Turn-Off week into the voice-over.

Anyway, the whole project is the kids' baby, even down to selecting which books they'll spotlight.


This is for all you tech services people out there... I've been working on some books on cassettes today and have seen some wacky orders. There doesn't seem to be a consistent pattern to how these things were ordered. (I'm not even going to go into the extraneous notes placed in the order records. Yikes!) I have multi-part titles that are each order differently. One title gets a single order record, and another gets individual orders for each part. Whee. Now, this is a HUGE order... like takes up the shelves on the back wall huge.

Change to LBC

The Librarian's Book Club (LBC) is now on a two month reading schedule. Previously a new book was selected every month. Now books are selected bi-monthly. This is to give people more time to read and discuss the book. Several people have recommended this change and I have seen the need for it myself as I struggled to keep up with the reading.

Are There Any Moderates Left?

I find that because the the current politically polarized climate I have become a Conservative. I am not and besides I find some of the conservative comment and dialogue extreme in the other direction.

Web terms in Spanish

I'm proofreading a brochure for our Spanish-speaking patrons about Spanish-language resources on the web and in our library. It's a document that I compiled, which was then translated by volunteers. I know just enough Spanish to be dangerous, but I've found some stuff that looks just plain wrong. My main question, though, is, Is "the Internet" more commonly referred to as "the Internet" or "la Red" among Latino Spanish speakers.

Distance Learning and Libraries

My former boss managed to squirrel away some professional development funds for us this year (some of the librarians in other colleges in our system weren't as lucky) and I decided to go to the state distance learning association conference instead of a strictly library-related one. I've always been interested in distance learning and think libraries and librarians are an important aspect of the learning experience and need to be better integrated into online courses.

my birthday wish

Today is my birthday. I have my crappy schedule today, which is the 1-9 shift. Also, the YA librarian is on her honeymoon (congratulations to her) so I probably will be on the desk more than I would be. I am sort of hoping that as a birthday present I at least wasn't scheduled in the Young Adult Room. That would suck. That rates right up there with the Children's Room.

Iraqi people optimistic; BBC has the story

If you read Michael Pate's excellent Third Superpower blog (hosted right here on [1], or if you check the Strategypage from time to time [2], or if perhaps you've discovered just how funny Scott Burgess's Daily Ablution can be [3], then you may already know about this poll. On the off chance that someone may not yet have discovered these wonderful sites, and this interesting poll of Iraqi public opinion conducted by Iraqis and "sponsored by several foreign media networks", I'll summarize the results here.

  • 70% believe they are doing well
  • 56% believe life is better than before the war
  • 70% are optimistic about the future
  • 53.3% want coalition forces to stay until there is a functioning Iraqi government
  • 15.1% want coalition forces to leave immediately
  • 75% want a strong, unified state, without special privileges for ethnic or religious subgroups
  • 20% of Iraqis want an Islamic state
  • 49% believe the war was justified
  • 39% believe the war was wrong
  • 41.8% believe the war liberated Iraq
  • 41.3% believe the war humiliated Iraq
  • 17% approve of attacks on coalition troops
  • 78% feel attacks on coalition troops are unacceptable
  • 96% feel attacks on Iraqi police are unacceptable

Iraqi perceptions of the country's most pressing issues:

  • 22.1%: lack of law and order
  • 11.8%: unemployment
  • 9.5%: inflation
  • 4.2%: electricity shortages
  • 4.1%: housing problems
  • 3.7%: quality of infrastructure
  • 1.8%: terrorist attacks
  • 0.2%: religious & ethnic strife

(Emphasis indicates those numbers I feel bode well for the future of Iraqi civil society.)

What I find perhaps most striking of all is that the BBC, which many feel has shown a distinct anti-war bias in its coverage of the invasion, has reported about the results of the survey. Of course, they were one of the media concerns that sponsored the survey. And while the report doesn't overlook the negative findings of the survey, it also cannot overlook the positive. The report starts thus:

An opinion poll suggests most Iraqis feel their lives have improved since the war in Iraq began about a year ago.

The survey, carried out for the BBC and other broadcasters, also suggests many are optimistic about the next 12 months and opposed to violence.

The BBC hosts a PDF summary of the survey as well.

UPDATE: I forgot to include James Dunnigan's comment on the poll results and the press:

One thing the survey makes very clear is that most foreign media reporting on Iraq are reporting what they want to see the Iraqi people thinking, not what the Iraqis are actually thinking. This, however, is not unique to Iraq, although European and Arab media tend to be even more distorted in their reporting than is usually the case.

[1] A Dose of Reality
[2] Shocking Results of Iraqi Public Opinion Poll
[3] 0 - Number of Interesting Posts Today

technology shuffle

Sometimes I wonder where my brain is. It just dawned on me, when I was thinking about the direness of only having two word processors, that the old internet terminals are upstairs. Nothing wrong with them, per se, just kind of old and they were replaced with the newly nicely Friends of the Library donated computers.

So that got me thinking...

...if one's at least running Win98, which I'm fairly sure they both are, (albeit a little slowly), I can just move the Linux machine (waaaaaah) off the floor, put the old internet terminal 8 downstairs, and make it card access and print capable again.

Our fifteen minute email terminal is a stand up terminal. It's located by our catalogs. Its location does tend to deter most people from standing there all day. Not all of them. But a good percentage. I could transform one of the catalogs in the same location into another fifteen minute email terminal.

It would add an extra half hour terminal to the mix, and keep people from lingering more than their fifteen minutes just checking their email incessantly.

I should talk. I am one of those people that always has to check email.

Putting this in motion should be fairly easy. Just tweak the restriction off one of the catalogs (we have five and they're never all in use), and physically remove the Linux box (it shall return, somehow, some way.)

Then I'll just tweak the old internet terminal 8 at my desk, and stick 'er out on the floor.

The public will be pleased... no more internet down time. Well, till next Tuesday, my scheduled maintenance day.

Rachel Singer Gordon has an article over at the Library Journal site about using the technology we live. (For some reason I've got Jethro Tull's Living in the Past running through my head thinking of our 486 donations.) Generally a good short little piece, but I take exception to the section on IM.

I hate Instant Messaging, from many standpoints. It's insecure. That's the big thing. It's also not really key to the information gathering process, which is really what we want our computers at our library to be used for (I understand that that is not a priority at every institution, and that's fine.)

I hate it for the peripheral reasons too. It's a time suck, most definitely (like the internet is one big time suck). But IM sucks faster. I also hate that it encourages kids to use shorthand. Nothing irks me like... "C u @ 8" or "L8r, k?"

I hate it for personal reasons. I hate it personally. When I am typing at the computer, I don't want you popping up messages saying, "IM me, hav sumthing 2 tell u." If it were something important, like, "I'm getting married" or "Mom is sick. Call her." or "My shirt is on fire" that's cool... but it never is. It's stupid stuff, like, "What are you doing now?" I'm so tempted to say, "Blocking up the phone line, trying to avoid your fricking talking to me."

So IM will not come to our library any time soon. Behind the times maybe, but we're not here to be a social club. When InfoTrak starts IM'ing stories from the Wall Street Journal-- okay, then I'll claim defeat.

Outside! Yes! Loud Cheering!

Wow! What a gorgeous day. I was outside. My husband was outside. My son (6 months old) was outside (either in the stroller or in the PackNPlay). I had a great time using the electric hedge trimmers my husband just bought. The shrubs out front looked horrendous. Now, only half of them look horrendous.

My husband planted a pecan tree, put pine straw in a few spots, used the push mower to clean up a couple of spots, and cleaned the carport closet. Which was gross. Very gross.

Courses to Come

Hmm...Fall 2003:Cataloging and ClassificationBibliography of the Social SciencesIntroduction to the Information ProfessionsInformation Sources and ServicesSpring 2004:Introduction to Research in Library scienceAdvanced Cataloging and ClassificationManagement of Technical and Access ServicesDeveloping Library CollectionsSummer is the interesting conundrum.

oh my god... a thank you!

We had a woman, upon hearing that we put in the time access software, actually thank us for finally taking action. A lot of the older patrons, or more timid patrons, are too shy/polite/intimidated by the "regulars" to come claim their time slots on the computer, and for whatever reason don't bother the librarians to do so. As much as I hate playing internet cop, I hate even worse to think that someone doesn't get their turn. Which is why that software is now in place.

I dreamt about it. I dreamt about some old guy with an eye patch coming in (not that we have any patrons that I know of who match this description) and complaining because "That sort of software records every move you make." We tried to tell him that it didn't, and he left in a huff.

I tried to warn as many people as I could that they would need library cards to use the internet. Some people have actually even gone to sign up for one. I'm going to let circ know once again that if anyone puts up a stink about needing a card, to get me personally. Not that I'm a huge fan of conflict myself (in fact, I usually avoid it all costs) but the circ staff puts up with enough crap with people making big deals over their whopping ten cent fines and such.

My line is going to be it's for the preservation of the system, and to fairly and equitably distribute access to the patrons. I might put it in simpler terms for those who don't speak English fluently (we have a lot of people who speak foreign languages (very cool!), and a few who just kind of nod, and I've never heard speak).

The software does open up a lot of possibilities. For instance, we will be able to see, in no uncertain terms, how many people are using the resources, and for how long. We can somewhat limit to an hour a day, so our results will be more accurate than they were previously. It won't be as cool as if we were using library cards to actually log in, but honestly, I think a nine digit one time use number is going to be easier for patrons to type in than the huge barcode on the back of their card.

As long as the regular internet hogs don't find out where I live...

I foresee a few complaints and a lot of explaining this week. It should decrease with time. I managed to make my instructions on how to sign in at the reservation station fairly short and sweet.

virtual reference issues

One of the most important aspects of reference work is the development of relationships. Libraries, through the individual actions of librarians, need to form a bond with their patrons. This isn't terribly difficult to accomplish because people coming to the reference desk have a problem to solve. When a librarian helps them solve a problem, there is the potential for a connection to be made. This should be evident through examples from our daily lives: Aren't problem solvers useful people? Do you feel loyal to the last institution from which you received good service? Will you return to the institution when a similar need arises?

Virtual Reference, as conceived by many projects, makes it nearly impossible to create this bond. The absence of this possibility isn't a function of the fact that the transaction is virtual, it is a function of how there's no steady or repeated connection. To get more coverage, one of the VR projects we?re working for has welcomed libraries from very disparate areas. Joining forces makes sense for this reason, but I don?t think it takes into account that it causes patrons to have seemingly random reference encounters. Throughout the week, there are many, many individuals with whom patrons may come into contact. In essence, these transactions are reference one night stands.

Another thing to note is that the librarians working for this VR project, including us, have made it standard practice to use pseudonyms for our online presence. This is a barrier perhaps not recognized by the patrons, but a barrier nonetheless.

Another problem with VR is that current programs still aren't meeting patrons in a convenient place. Simply having *some* presence on the web isn't good enough. Patrons surfing the web either do or do not presently use a major instant messaging service (AIM, YIM, MSN, etc...); this is a fact. Those that are already chatting would find it more useful if libraries were present in one of these services. As simple as it may be, it is still an extra few steps to navigate to a VR website and enter in a zip code to log in. Those that don't already chat are perhaps even less likely to consult a VR service. (Thinking to consult a service, navigating to the site, logging in and then chatting can all be big hurdles).

A possible solution to both of these issues would be to simply meet the patrons where some of them are, the major IM services. Librarians would be at the fingertips of their patrons if they would have an IM program running. There would be no navigation for users. We would be integrated into their lives. Patrons would be familiar with whom they were chatting, and they?d chat with the same library, the library that they visit in person, on a regular basis. A relationship would be formed.

Michael Stephens made a serious but somewhat offhand comment advocating the adoption of using a major IM service for VR instead of expensive vendor software. People took note and blogged about just that one comment because it makes common sense. VR software from vendors is bloatware.

Some libraries are indeed using AIM for VR. I'd love to hear how it is going. Does having an IM name out on the web flood librarians with questions from random netizens any more than having a telephone or fax number out there? I'd guess probably not. Even if it did, imagine the possibilities.

I recently registered a new AIM name, one for the library. Soon there will be business cards with this name to be handed out to the young adults in the library. The name will also go on our website. I bet we'll get more response from this than we have from our current VR project.

Sick but rejuvinated by conference

Blah, bleg, blug. Yep. The mighty stomach virus struck me down this past Saturday. I never get sick. Once a year, I will have to go home with something. I felt ghastly Saturday, Sunday, and called in sick Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday through today I crawled to the South Carolina Association of School Librarian's (SCASL) Conference. Hey, I paid money out of my pocket. But, it was worth it to be there and miserable.


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