shoe's blog

one computer in the hole

The more I think about it, the more I am acutely aware we're one computer in the hole now that mine is on the blink... Honestly, I don't hold out much hope of it coming back, unless it obviously tripped a switch somewhere. I think something may have sizzled. And the assistant director was right, giving someone something means never taking it away. I gave our spare computer to the workroom, and there's no getting it back. So my computer gets swapped with special collections, and special collections goes without. Budget cuts suck. Suck suck suck.

So I'm looking at computers, although I don't hold out much hope either way, and I think we'll be limping along until at least June. Here's hoping that nothing poops out in the meantime.

I am just so glad my iPaq wasn't hooked up at the time. Jeez oh man.

So today I get the unfinished business of yesterday, mainly emailing the lady telling her I couldn't find the obit of the person in question (I went over and above looking, too) but I'll see what I could do for her on the directories. I honestly don't see how the directories are going to help her, but hey. I also get to give one patron mixed news about her lost book. This should be interesting. I do expect a fight.

I wonder if the gentleman who threatened to call the mayor on me will be in today. I'd be interested to meet him.

I zorched the hard drive on the previously unfiltered terminal, and intend on putting it out on the floor either today or tomorrow. Zorching was the only way I could be sure to get all the crud that was downloaded (spyware, adware, and otherwise) off the hard drive on that baby. In order to simplify things when Timed Access comes, I decided to make that box Windows (boo!). My email terminals will be Linux (yay!). I could try to set up printing on it now, but I'm feeling lazy. I'll get around to it. I know it can be done.

Problem with the Windows box is I can't get the antivirus to activate. I might try uninstalling and reinstalling, while I set up the special collections computer on my desk.

I awoke with a whopper of a headache. It smacks of an oncoming migraine (I get those on occasion). I would call in today to nip it in the bud, but after the day I had yesterday I don't want them to think I'm quitting or avoiding anything. (Can you tell I'm horribly driven by what other people think?) No, I just hate using sick time. I like to see all those hours on my pay stub.

If I can just put it off till Friday... well, a migraine on my day off would be in keeping with the week, I guess.

The Prius will cost about $400 and take three days to fix (boo!) but the other lady's insurance will pay for it (yay!) and they don't think there's been any damage to the foam under the bumper (yay!). If there is, it'll cost more (boo!). On the plus side, it's just a buff and paint and reseal and coat sort of deal, not a whole new bumper sort of deal, which would have stunk.

tell it to the judge

Today was one of those days I had to repeatedly wash the "bullseye" off my forehead.

I cut myself on the Compaq. Not badly, but enough to discover my hand covered in blood when I was covering info. Then the alarm company decided to test our fire alarms -- all day, I might add. Then some very nice man called, said he didn't feel well, and that because of this he wanted me to waive his late fines. I told him I couldn't if it was just a minor illness. Had he been calling from the hospital, sure. He could have renewed them, if he hadn't had them out the maximum number of times. I talked to him for twenty minutes, consisting, in a nutshell of him saying, "Pleeeeeeeeeeaase? Why not?" and me saying, "No. No, really, no."

Horizon went down. The power went out, which seemingly, um, fried my computer. No hard drive noises. No A drive noises. No POST beeps. The light goes on, but that's about it.

The woman in the balcony was on the phone. She turned it off when I asked. An hour later she was on it again.

I was told we sent out a flyer with misinformation (we never sent it). I was also told (very helpful information alert!) that the obituary isn't always run in the paper the day the person dies. Thanks. They don't teach you stuff like that in common sense-- I mean, library school. Of course, because I am too nice, I went to local history to look up this information, and the information just doesn't exist. At least, not in our collection.

Stolen cards, one legitimately so, one probably not legitimately so. Misplaced books, which turned out to be damaged books, taped together. The serendipity of it was that I was searching for a damaged book that a gentleman had a gripe with, and though I never found his book, I did find a book that another patron thought was missing.

People erasing other people's names on the internet sign up sheets.

On the up side: I helped a young lady and her mom find books on the 1840s. They thanked me and said, "This is the first time I could find something at this library!"

How I needed to hear that today.

no user serviceable parts

How many librarians does it take to take apart a Compaq?

Besides making the Torx (star shaped) screws, so that getting in to the case is a difficult enough task (I have my geek swiss army knife that has a screwdriver with Torx bits, though), Compaq puts together their computers much like they are puzzle boxes. It took me and the former systems guy quite a bit of time to deconstruct the box... all to switch out a floppy drive!

blowing gaskets

Arg! Too much to think about.

I know what timer software I want to go with, just for compatibility issues. The question is the Horizon integration... do I want to go with it. I'm thinking it's probably a good idea. The thing is, I definitely want to play around with the demo, and it's going to be a little hairy between here and there. Here's the thing: the one time use numbers I'd use between now and Horizon integration time would require sign up (still). And I hate to have circ deal with it, but it looks like they might have to.

No, not our Prius!

The first ding is always the hardest. When it's some woman smacking into the back of your car with the front of her car a week after you got your new baby, it's harder. When you discover that her license plate is embedded in your bumper, it's very hard. When you consider that these things (Prii) are in such short supply that if you need a new bumper you could be waiting till next year... Well, today just sucks.


Some nice gentleman on Tech Report wrote a brief script for me showing how to keep Safari from shutting down in OS X. I know little of scripting. I should probably learn, because on more than one occasion in the past few weeks it would have come in right handy.

Another person was very nice on the Opera group and suggested how I can get the damned "Opera was not properly shut down" dialog to go away.

What is it with the public and shutting down browsers anyway? I had three people come to me last week and ask me how you shut Opera off... Their history was gone, their webpages were gone, the browser was ready for the next person with no indication anyone had ever been there... and they wouldn't leave till the browser was shut down. They wanted a desktop. Silly rabbits.

The timed access software is looking more appealing. The OCS stuff can do a lot, and I know it works with our hardware. I think I'd opt for the cheapest iteration, which is a ten seat license, no ODBC interfacing with Horizon (I don't see why at this point. Why spend the money till we're sure how well this is going to work?) and no sign up software. That should bring us to well under $1500, I think. We can upgrade later. My question is really what staff computer I should hook up to the server. Logically I'd want to do reference, since that's where the computers are, but the reference desk isn't always staffed. Then I'd logically want to do circulation, but I fear that would bog down the circ computers with too much software that they don't really need. So I guess that leaves information.

This I'm not thrilled about for a few reasons. The most significant of which is the computer is slow enough. I think I might take the extra stick of memory I get from Crucial and stick in the info machine instead of the registration machine (which rarely gets used, except for logging in new patrons). Then, perhaps, the software will all run a little more smoothly.

The pros: Information will know who's over there. We'll have their card information. We can give them their one time use numbers, and see their faces, and know how long they've been over there. This way, if there are any arguments, well... we know.

OCS is also making the software Mac compatible in the next few months. Yeee haaaa! This means Linux gets delegated to ten minute email (no one, I've found, except a true computer geek, likes to spend much more than ten minutes on the Linux box). Sigh. What am I saying about myself?

The Prius is a week old. We love it. Getting 400 miles to an 11.9 gallon tank of gas. Lovely.

A day of triumphs and silliness

Well, not much was done in the computer department yesterday, being that the young adult librarian was ill so our half staffed day was chopped to even less than half staffed.

Most people were good. I did a little shushing, woke a lady up (twice) and had a very nice gentleman say we had a beautiful library and he'd be coming back. The good news: he said it right in front of my boss.

Doing some thinking (smell the neurons burning?)

Perhaps I'd do better (gulp) to stick Win98 back on the old unfiltered box, find a way to really lock it down, and set it up to run our Time Access software. That would be one less burden for the circulation staff to deal with.

I'm getting ahead of myself. People seem to have a hard time with our high tech sign up sheet (a grid with computer numbers on the top, and times on the side, where you put your name in the appropriate time slot for the appropriate computer... difficult, huh?), so the more I think, the less I hold out any hope they'll ever figure out the Gatekeeper software. That means the burden falls on circ and info. To make it easier, I'd probably hook the circ registration computer to the print server, and install the staff control software there. That would make three, maybe four if I can get Win98 to work with it, computers that allow for time access. I suppose we could do our Macs the way we do our old unfiltered and word processors... Take a placard you sign up for at the circ desk and put it on the computer. I think that's the only way to make it fair.

It's like being in first grade again... It's all about being fair.

Then ten minute email could be the no-fun (I mean, Linux) box. No one likes to play with that one much. It has no Flash, so no games, no nice displays of eye candy. Great for email.

My worry is signing people up and people fighting about who's next in line. I'll have to see exactly how the one time use numbers work. We could do it by card, I suppose, but I think we'd run into the same problem. It might be better if someone at circ can physically see who's going to what computer.

One person complained about the Mac and the Linux box dumping her out yesterday. I just visited the site she was talking about in my beta version of Opera with no troubles. I did discover the Mac frozen on a porn site (pics never loaded, froze just before that point), though, so I wonder about the veracity of the site she was looking for. Unless someone snuck in after her (also very possible).

Okay, enough thinking for now. Have to get ready for work and put it all into practice.

when is the best time to come to use the internet?

That's my favorite question I get at reference. Even over "Do you have any books?" and "Where's the photocopier?" The fact of the matter is, there is no good time. There's always someone waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

The idea of time management software is back on the table. The other librarians didn't like the idea of shutting down the computers from 2-4 so that kids would be encouraged to do other things for that time period. Like read. Ride a bike, go pogoing (outside, preferably). Do homework... like, real homework, not the line I got the other day, "I'm doing a report on shoes. I need to go to Google images, and then to" Sure.

The fact of the matter is, the kids might want to use the computer for legitimate research during that time period, but there's so many people using it for other stuff (innocently or otherwise) that those kids never get a chance to. That's hardly fair either. So if I do get this software, perhaps I should set up an hour in the morning, and a half hour in the afternoon. The problem being, everyone wants to print.

Right now we have three computers that print. I am trying to rig a Mac so that it can, but it's just not happening, not till I get OS X on there and configured. The Linux box has the capability, but not with our print station. I sense musical computers in my future. Perhaps with the Linux box going email only, and two OS X boxes running with the print station? You know... that could work.

Money's tight. Mondo tight. That makes it hard. There are two P4 chips in this room of my house. That's one more than is in my library. There is a pocket pc in my kitchen that is more powerful than the 486s in the basement of the library. It's tough. We have no funding for hardware. People are telling me how it sucks they don't have this terminal or that word processor working.

My assistant director nicely took me aside and said "You only have two hands." I am glad he understands. It's true, and I know it, but it doesn't always stop the pressure. I really would like everything working for people. There are priorities, I guess. There are also alternatives. There is a cyber cafe twenty yards down the street, after all. A librarian who shall remain nameless mentioned to me that s/he wouldn't be adverse to charging a small fee for internet access. I don't particularly like the idea, and I don't think s/he really did either. But we've got to keep running somehow.

Didn't mean for this to turn into a whine fest, but it sort of did. My apologies.

Tried to install SuSE on the old unfiltered, and alas, it didn't have enough memory to run YaST. So I've ordered, out of my own pocket (so I can play with it too, on my own time), Peanut Linux. It should run fine on limited memory. It'll be something to play with. In the meantime, I'll throw OS X out as a card only terminal. I feel the need to get something out there.

pogo sticks @ your library

Yes, there were young men pogo sticking in the lobby of the library. These are the same young men playing hide and seek in the basement the day before. Today, if they pull any crap, I call the police. I feel guilty calling the police (they must have better stuff to do), but obviously the kids aren't impressed by us.

So yes, I fully expect to be calling the police today, or more likely, tomorrow. Sigh.

Crazy Talk

In my efforts to make the internet less fun, I am pondering filtering and putting either a) the OS X Mac on the floor as a card only terminal or b) sticking SuSE 8.2 on the old Win98 box that used to be unfiltered. Here's how old the Win98 box is: it has a serial mouse. The good news: our serial mouse wielding word processor gave up the ghost yesterday, so I can bulk the memory some by stealing from Peter to give to Paul.

The day of the Penguin

Today the Linux box went live. Except for a slight problem (which I think is memory based) of lines appearing all over the screen when the box goes to "sleep" for more than a minute or so (that's nicely fixed by a ctrl-alt-backspace), it seems to be working okay. I played around with the filter some, and got it to at least block naughty things.

I will be interested to see how this goes. I think it will be spurned like our Macs. Hey, it's not designed to be fun, it's designed to be functional. Which it is.

I also discovered some disturbing things on our unfiltered terminal. I can not take the time to maintain it unfiltered. Besides, a good seventy percent of the cookies on that machine had "XXX" in the URLs or things that were otherwise... well, simply not what one should be viewing @ your library.

If I ever had the crazy idea to put my credit card number into a public access terminal, I sure as hell wouldn't do it after today.

The unfiltered terminal is going away without a squeak. The first person who comes to circulation (and ultimately to me) and says, "I can't view my porn!" is going to probably throw me for a loop, but hey. I just don't want to see us get burned. I could have spent hours working on that machine. And that's silly.

It was actually rather fascinating to watch people react to the "no internet today" concept... I put up signs on all the machines that they were being upgraded. And people bounced from machine to machine like pinballs, looking for one that didn't have the sign on it. Then they started, after I had them down a few hours, asking whether or not it would be up by a given time.

To paraphrase and otherwise modify an earlier journal:

Dear Public,

Don't tick off the systems librarian, for ultimately she decides when you get your internet access back.

--the Library

People were getting demanding: "Can't you make one work for me?" I wasn't about to tell them I could make them all work. Bwahahahahaha! Theoretically, they were all working. That's what "upgrade" means, folks. Read the signs. They work, but not as well as they could. These people complaining we were down would be the first to complain that the computers aren't fast enough, too.

They still aren't blazing fast, but at least they're defragged, updated, virus scanned, and have all sorts of fonts on them. Not silly fonts, international fonts. Fonts that are actually useful. Not wingdings.

oh, the humanity

Funny how certain people make the humanity level in a room go way up.

After a very nasty remark about our Black History Month display by one patron, we got hit with some kids that seemed to think it was totally appropriate to play hide and seek in the basement of the library. I got them out quickly. Somehow when this happens, it blurs the lines of what's appropriate in a library for me again.

floor plans

I posted on Opera's forums asking how to alter the ini file so that I could go through my proxy server (and hence get filtering software). I was told (by mods, no less), a method which I knew would work to enable the proxy server, but didn't tell me exactly how to do it from the ini file. Being a wannabe Linux geek, I like to see how things work under the hood. Of course, it dawned on me, like the mods said, that I could re-enable the GUI and use that. But I wanted to try it the hard way first. It must be a New England thing.

The hard way is not working, alas. I typed in various strings of code, hoping that they'd work, to no avail. So tomorrow night, if I get the chance, I re-enable the GUI and test it that way. Of course, if the GUI enables it correctly, this will also require a quick view of the ini file to see what exactly the code is. Now I have to know.

I think if this doesn't work, I may call Boston just to verify the IP address hasn't... um, moved. That scares me just a little. I fear we are often out of the loop. Although I think that I saw a site get blocked the other day on someone's computer. I'd like to just take the internet down completely if I had an afternoon free. It might be a morning free thing, though. Usually afternoons are spent doing crowd control.

Where are all these kids coming from? Many are well behaved, but exuberant. Some (and this number, though fewer than the well-behaved kids, is still substantial) are less than desirable. They went downstairs and whipped a bunch of books off the shelves the other day. Then they decided the library was boring, so it was better to go the Y.

Of course, they came back the next day. And the next.

I do need like three solid hours to do computer maintenance at the internet terminals. Coming into it on Monday isn't good, and Wednesdays are out. This leaves me Tuesday being my best bet, methinks. And I do so want to take it down in the afternoon. This sounds horrible, but there are certain people I'd like to get off the computers if only for the afternoon. I'd like to open their eyes that there are books, other people and other things in the library besides the damn internet terminals.

The internet terminals are part of my job. I keep them going, and I like people to use them. I like kids to come in and do homework with the internet's help, I like people to come in, get books on health conditions, and then do some research on the internet as well. I don't mind people checking email. Or filling out forms for job applications. It bugs me when the glassy eyed woman goes from computer to computer, literally taking seats out from people as they're sitting down, swearing at the librarian who gently reminds her she's signed up for a total of eight half hour turns that day (and it's only two o'clock). There is flagrant abuse of the system, and that bothers me.

Things the library should give out

    Things the library should give out as needed:
  • staples
  • golf pencils
  • scrap paper
  • breath mints

Man, did I have a patron today with bad oral hygiene.

decidely non-library post

I drove by a library today, but alas, there was a super-white (as opposed to plain-old-white) Prius in Bennington, VT with our name on it, so we stopped not.

We hit the road at five-thirty five in a green Saturn this morning, and returned this evening at seven in our Prius. We got 52.6 MPG in less than optimal conditions (it was cold as hell as we passed over the mountains in central Massachusetts) and reached 0-60 without a hitch in less than ten seconds.


I got to play with the filter today. Or that is, I got to play with the last obstacle in getting the Linux terminal out. It's on the floor, it's ready to go. It's beautiful. But I can't get the filter to work with it. It shouldn't matter what browser I use, but it's not blocking a thing. I've been testing it. Now everyone thinks I'm a pervert.

No, they don't. They know why I'm doing it. I'm not liking it much though. It's sort of embarrassing. I always forget about the filter... I put the whole computer out on the floor and set it up for public consumption, and wham! I thought, "Shoot, the filter..."

So if anyone knows how to alter the Opera.ini file to get the proxy settings working send me the bit of code. The nice folks on the Opera board tried, but I'm still getting some nasty stuff when I type in "full frontal nudity". Our filter software is housed in Boston, in front of the firewall. I'm beginning to wonder about how well it all works anyway.

Oh my god, my head is going to explode! Too much to take in.

Today a woman accused a man of staring at her while she typed her email. She's right, he was. Like everyone there stares at each other on the computers. He was keeping his distance, though, so I didn't say anything. Well, keeping his distance more than most patrons. Then she got in a tussel with him, and I went over. She said that it was so loud in the library she couldn't think and that for the last twenty minutes (at the ten minute email terminal, I might add) she was getting stared at. She told me how uncomfortable that made her...

...then she touched my arm. Okay, I have this thing about being touched. You don't do it. That makes me uncomfortable. So whereas I could relate to her discomfort, and I can relate to her lamenting that people were staring, somehow I lost some sympathy. I told her I understood, and when I came over the guy backed off.

Being new, not only to this job but to the library field in general, I have little to go on as to where to draw the line at behavior. I don't want to stop kids from talking in the library if they are legitimately studying as well.... I don't want them to be loud, and I don't want to turn them off libraries forever. I do taking being stared at and being touched or any unwelcome approaches seriously. I do. It bugs the bejeebies out of me. But I also realize it's a public place, and people do have the right to sit there and... well... look at things. Preferably books, but if someone wants to look at the scenery and they aren't bothering anyone, then I'm not going to say anything. But I haven't gotten enough experience to really know where to draw the line.

Moreso, it's a relatively close public space. You're never really far from someone else. And people don't seem to realize that internet terminals are like ATMs... there's a code of conduct as to how close you stand. There is one particular chronic offender, who got mad at us yesterday and left in a huff. .

I am the systems librarian. I like technology. I like to share technology. I like people to benefit from technology. But boy, do I dislike people fighting over computers. For whatever reason. It's just silly.

There will be rioting when the access is card only. But that's the way it's going to be.

One day, I'd like to see two patrons get in a fist fight over who gets to take out War and Peace next. Sigh.

GUESS WHAT???? Tomorrow... we get a Prius! We found one in Vermont and will be there at nine tomorrow to pick it up. It's a white one, AI package. Almost exactly what we wanted. We wanted that particular package, in silver. White was our third color choice, but hey. Time to see if I can put Linux on it.

children's room

Somehow I ended up in the children's room last night to cover while there was a book group. I don't mind once in awhile, but let's go on record that I'm not fond of kids. I choose to be kid free. That being said, I appreciate that parents and teachers (and school librarians) have probably the most difficult jobs in the world. Although it was a bit of a refreshing change to unite kids with Clifford rather than throw out adults for having spent the last five hours hogging the internet.

I looked at our internet sign up sheet, which seemed to have the same six or seven names all over it. That worries me some. When the time management software is implemented, it really is going to be an hour a day. I mean, I know damn well people are going into chat rooms and that's what's sucking up the time. I don't know what to do though -- it's kind of a fine balance between, "Hi, I'm looking at your screen to check up on you" and patron privacy. Some chat rooms look a lot like email boards.

Today I am going to spend time tweaking the Linux box, to hopefully be put out the beginning of next week. The iMac will then be moved either back to Internet terminal #2 or I'll take the second one downstairs to put OS X Panther on it in peace. Linux is getting a warm reception from the staff as I kind of explained what I am trying to achieve with it.

Reference books are mighty expensive. I found we had one version of a series on standing order, when we really need both it and it's companion series on standing order. What a racket. After putting another series on standing order last month, I'm a little worried that this is decimating the budget.

So how late are your public libraries open? Last night I had a patron complain we were only open till nine (computers shut off at eight thirty, or we'd never get out of there). I think that's pretty late for a public library, many of which in the state have limited hours. I also explained we were open Saturdays, which isn't necessarily always the case as well. I don't know... the public library at midnight could be a dangerous place. Things people don't realize.


I have called, weekly, for the past several weeks trying to get toner for our print station. We're not out yet, but I suspect that we soon will be. It gets used a lot. This particular toner cartridge has alledgedly been ordered a billion times, and we have yet to see it.

Today, between local history, reference, and info, I need to devote some time to weeding reference, as a fellow LISnewser reminded me. I hadn't forgotten, actually, I'm just kind of avoiding it. With a passion.

some internet, mostly cop

Librarianism is much like policework. Did anyone notice the word librarianism sounds a lot like a disease? I spent much of my time on information and reference doing crowd control, which went better today than it did yesterday.

Speaking of police, they called this morning, looking for a patron. No Patriot Act. They found his wallet, and in it his library card. They called us so we could look up his number, call him, and tell him to call them. Of course, his number was out of service. And he owed us thirty cents.

The moral of the story: keep your library records up to date.


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