Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do I know you?

A teen girl walked up to the desk. "Where's my sister?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"That's right."
"But she was just here!"
The little lightbulb went off (one of the bulbs they used in those horrid Itty Bitty Book Lights, by the way, only not as powerful). I had helped a girl log into a computer to type a paper just a little while before. "Check the Children's Room," I said authoritatively, gesturing to the Children's Room mere feet away.
"The Children's Room," I said patiently, resisting the temptation to add, "You know, the room 15 feet thataway. The one that has one and a half foot high letters over the entrance that say "Children's Room." But I didn't. She'll be back for printing help, mark my words.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The late lamented Dewey Decimal System

Our library catalog is maybe not the easiest one to master. So I look up a lot of books and movies for people, which is fine. (Except for the Djooguysguts and other miscreants.) And some people just don't like computers and don't want to learn, which if fine, too, unless they want to complain about how stupid computers are, which, even if true, is like getting mad at self-check at grocery stores. Some people even talk about missing the old card catalog, which I miss, too, and can be roped easily into a conversation about the good old days. But I got a different spin on that today when a patron asked for help finding the Jewelry Making section.
"I wish you guys still used the card catalog and the Dewey Decimal system," she opined. We were standing in the 700's by then.
"Um...we still use the Dewey Decimal system."
"No you don't."
I gave her a weak smile and asked if she needed anything else. I was dismissed.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Official: I look really stupid to teenage boys

I began suspecting this since I began shaving, back in the early 17th Century. Anyway, two teenage boys whom I had earlier chided for horseplay (or perhaps it was hijinx, I forget) came to the desk with an elaborate story of how I really needed to page their friend over the intercom. It involved confusion and danger, though the specifics are already fading in my mind. I reminded them that the library was relatively small and on only one floor, but they persisted. For some reason, most likely to get them away from me, I relented. I picked up the phone and asked what their friend's name was.
"Jack Meehoff," the sincere-looking lad before me said.
To be fair, it took me at least a twentieth of a second.
"Do I look that stupid?" I asked. I was honestly offended. Not that they'd tried to prank me, but because it was such a pathetic and transparent attempt. I wished I'd been a little faster on the draw. I would have said, "You know, I think I saw him with your friend Heywood Jablome."
Oh well. Next time.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

At least once a day

We have a print release station for the public InterWeb computers. If you want to print, you go to the little computer at the printer, log in and print your jobs. It's not entirely transparent, so people often need some help. No problem there, but there is this big button on the screen that says in big letters "Print Your Job."

When I point this out to people and tell them to click on the button that says "Print Your Job." When I say this I point to the mouse, which is right next to the keyboard which is below the screen that has the button on it.

About ten times a day, the person I say this to will jab the (delicate, expensive, new) screen with their finger, since we are all used to touch screens now. "Uh...you need to click on the button. With the mouse," I say. Most of the time this is sufficient to get them to try the Old Skool Mouse Thang. But at least once a day, I get a rejab of the screen. At least once I have gotten a rerejab.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


This will come as a surprise to longtime readers (all two of you), but our public InterWeb computers have been acting kind of hinky lately, so for many hours a day for the last week or so, the boys from IT have been spending a lot of time at them. Tweaking, installing, deinstalling, praying, the usual what-have-you. There are two of them. We'll call them Sam and Dave to protect their identities. Sam is the boss. Dave the young guy. They are both very nice and diligent. While Dave was at one of the computers, I used the software that controls reservations and printing to pop up a little window on his screen that said something like "No porn, sir, this is a library" or something like that. Good clean, harmless fun and Sam, who was standing next to me, got a chuckle. It was funny in the way professors' jokes in college are funny, which is to say not really. But you aren't in class for the humor, so when anything remotely amusing comes your way it's funnier than it would be outside the classroom.
Later on, Dave came up and asked me to send a message that said "Stop Cussing" to Computer 12. No problem I thought and quickly sent a message that said something like, "Quit cussing for F#¢k's sake." Or something equally classy. Without the nice swear-hiding characters I just used. I looked up at Dave who had a kinda funny look on his face. Not understanding, I looked over at Sam at Computer 12. Only it wasn't Sam. It was the crazy mom of a feral child that I do not like. She is loud and disruptive and I have kicked her out of the library several times. She looked a bit freaked out and quickly left.
I shrugged. Dave shrugged. It turns out that he just didn't like the fact that she was using bad language. We both got back to work.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Etiquette: an udpate

If you are scolding your child over your left shoulder and decide that you must move quickly off to your right and you bang into a DeskSlave who happens to happen by, be sure to give him a dirty, "if-looks-could-kill" sort of look. Thank you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't

We have these spiffy "atomic" clocks here at DeskSlave Central. The clocks aren't really atomic, actually, no plutonium to worry about, but they do have some sort of fancy satellite uplinks that connect them to the atomic clock in Colorado.* Or so they say. I really have no way of checking. It could just be some old cheapie quartz clock like I have in the kitchen of stately DeskSlave Manor, repackaged with an impressive-looking atomic logo and a hefty upcharge. In any event, some of the clocks here have adjusted themselves to Daylight Savings Time, but some have not. It has been more than 24 hours since the putative switch, yet the clock at the circulation desk is still unaware. I am told this several times a day by helpful patrons, so I just have to shrug and give them the "shortcomings of technology" spiel.

* Question for you: why does the Navy had an observatory in landlocked Colorado?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Let me clarify

Patron asked for her husband's death certificate from another state. I said I could print a form she could send to get a copy of the certificate. She insisted I could print the actual death certificate from my computer and she additionally insisted that the librarian yesterday printed her son's death certificate (so why couldn't I?!).

So I went to the Ancestry database and found a listing for the record of his death in california's death index. I printed it out for her and she basically said, "Told ya so." Well, let ME tell YOU, lady! Printing out a page from the Ancestry Database that lists your husband's name, birthplace, and date of death is not the same as having an image of his actual death certificate. So there.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Speak softly and don't get any coffee

As we all know, deskslaves need caffeine. Lots of it. It helps us type important phrases like "Jackie Chan" and "Stephenie Meyer" quickly. I usually try to tank up before coming to work and then switch to the antioxidant-rich and much cheaper green tea. But yesterday, I needed a boost, so on my way in to DeskSlave Central I pulled into a Starbucks drive-through. (I know, starbucks=$tarbu¢k$=evil, but I was late)
"Hello, welcome to Starbucks! What can I get started for you?" came the voice of the cheery young man over the intercom.
As you may recall, this deskslave is a boring, middle-aged man. The coffee beverage of choice for my demographic is NOT a double tall mocha frappaccino with non-fat soy whip cream and a pineapple slice. It's just boring old coffee. Black coffee, in fact. Putting the drip back in drip if you will. You are what you drink, so make mine dark and bitter. I sometimes get funny looks like I could not possibly be ordering something with only one ingredient. But there you have it.
I try to cooperate with the sizing conventions at places like Starbucks. The sizes, in a rational world, would be small, medium and large. But of course we have the grande and the venti. I forget what small is. Probably like "diminuto" or maybe "miniscolo." So I piped back in an equally cheery voice, "Hi, I'd like a venti* coffee, please." Always polite, never demanding: we know what that is like. I think I may be the most polite person when I am on the other side of the counter.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
I'm a little soft-spoken, it's true. Years of working in the hushed atmosphere of the library have turned my deep, booming baritone into a pathetic rasp. "Venti coffee, please."
Another pause.
"Could you say that again? Toffee? Do you mean Mocha?"
"No! Coffee!" I stretched out the second word so as not to leave any doubt. I was definitely overmodulating my voice, too.
"Coffee! COFFFEE COFFEE COFFEE!! CHARLIE OSCAR FOXTROT FOXTROT ECHO ECHO! It's the second word on the Starbucks logo! The one that's not 'Starbucks!!'" OK, I admit it, I was raving. I was late and undercaffeinated. This guy was probably fucking with me.
"I'm sorry, sir, could you pull around...we can't understand you."
I just wanted to leave at this point. But that's not easy to do at a drive through; I was hemmed in. SUV in front of me, SUV behind me. For the very first time, I cursed my diminutive, gas-sipping Subaru. If I had an SUV, I could go over the curb and get back on the main road. Maybe even take out a few benches and a bus shelter on the way. Instead, I meekly advanced to the window. A young woman comes to the window and looks at me in much the same way as I would if a car had pulled up and there was a talking dog in the driver's seat. "What did you want again?"
"Umm...coffee? Venti coffee?" I was a little embarrassed. The mild mannered deskslave had briefly become a maniac.
"Oh." Over her shoulder to her coworker: "He said coffee. A venti."
The coworker with the headset sighed, and gave the ceiling a Lord-give-me-strength look. This was clearly my fault. I could have left then, I guess. Pulled away. But I almost had the darn coffee, and it had only cost me my pride and whatever a venti goes for. A non-deskslave made of sterner stuff might have demanded it for free. Instead I overtipped.

* The sign says Venti, so I say Venti. I have been corrected by staff who pronounce it like the Spanish word for the number twenty. Don't ask me why.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A day late

Actually, a week and a half late, young man. The Man has decreed that the deadline to register to vote is long gone. I'm sorry. No, really, I have nothing to do with it. I'm quite certain your reason for waiting so long to register is both true and compelling, but I have about as much control over the deadline as I do over the Tide Table.

My question: do the people at the Elections Office get complaints about fines?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

From the Little Known Fact Department

If your library computer is slow or if the mouse is not behaving the way you would like it to, smacking it up and down on the desk will help, evidently a lot.

Monday, October 20, 2008

No I do not wish to see you dance, or anything else for that matter

There's a guy who is probably Native American who only comes in when he's bombed. I only bring up the Native American part because of what he did yesterday. On Sundays, we show an old movie in our sumptuous Community Room. The guy had been around most of the afternoon, chatting up staff members about Elvis Presley. (Personally, I learned that The King had a twin who died and that his mother's name was something, but I forget what it was, but I'm pretty sure he said that she had one. Sorry, I'm too lazy to do my job as a reference librarian and look it up for you right now.) It was all well and good: I'll listen to just about anybody for a little while, including the inebriated, and when I've had enough, I just say that I have to get back to work.

I had the DVD in the player in the Community Room and was about to go up to the front of the room and do my little Masterpiece Theater schtick about the movie when the guy came in. Maybe he wants to see the movie, I hoped. But, no, I was wrong.
"I wanna do a dance for you," He told me, "a traditional dance." Only he slipped up on the word "traditional."
"Actually, it's movie day here," I said brightly, trying to sound all chipper and somehow give the impression that people came in all the time wanting to dance for us. "If you'd like to have a seat I'm about to..."
"No, man," he slurred, "I'm a do a dance!" and proceded to start what might have been a very moving dance, only he was, as I mentioned, several sheets to the wind. So when he lifted one foot, he began to lose his balance and stumble backward. Upon recovery, I wanted either get him into a chair or get him out of the room, so I told him again that it was movie day, and not dance day.
The dance, he informed me, was a gift of the Spirit and I had no right to prevent him from dancing. I offered to give him the card of our programs specialist so that he could do an entire dance program or he could do his dance outside the library, or he could have a seat and enjoy a film noir classic. I was hoping he'd take the card, but he actually sat down and lasted through the opening credits before getting up and tottering off.
If he'd dry out, I'd actually like to see the dance.

The Consumption of Alcohol: an Observation

When a patron feels the need to tell that he has not been drinking, he's probably pretty ripped.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Where am I?

Interaction of the day:

A young woman comes up to the reference desk and says she can't locate a book that says it's on the shelf. I ask for the title. Type it in. Its not in our collection. I tell her this and tell her which branches it is at, offer to place a hold in order to have it shipped to our library.

She looks at me blankly and says, "But I'm in T____d. And you said its in at T____d. Why isn't it on the shelf?"

I explain that she's not in T_____d, but rather T_______n.

No she's not. She's in T____d.

I explain that T_____d is just down the road from us, but she is indeed in T______n. Which is not T____d.

Then I draw her a map of how to get to T____d.

She looks at it and says, "That's like a half a mile from my house. How did I get here?"

I don't know. But take yourself off to T____d. Please.

Monday, October 6, 2008

OMG! An actual reference question!

They are so infrequent sometimes. So often it's just "do you have this" or "my computer is doing that." But today, a man came up and asked about a symbol that's used in the Code of Federal Regulations. The symbol: §. Put on your thinking caps! The answer will be revealed some day.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I'm almost as surprised as you are

Usually when people aren't sure of the author's last name and don't know the first name and don't know any of the author's titles and aren't even sure of the genre, the titles just pop right up in the catalog.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Your What?

A guy needed a little help getting on to the Interweb. A little bumpy, but I got him to Yahoo and after a few tries he got into his email. I sat back down at the DeskSlave perch, job well done and all that. A few minutes later I was summoned back to his computer. "Where's my I drive?" he asked.
"Your what?"
"My I drive."
Sophisticated readers know that on Windows, your hard drive is the C: drive, the floppy, if you've still got one, is the A: drive, and so on. (The Mac is a bit different: when you turn on your computer, angels guide the data to the right place. No need to worry about anything.) I remembered that there was a website called idrive.com that allows you store items remotely, so I asked him if that was what he meant. He gave me the sort of look I would give somebody if they walked up and started speaking in tongues.
I started from zero. "How do you usually access the I drive?"
"It's right here! It's always right here!" he said, his patience running out, waving the cursor over the left side of the desktop where all the shortcuts for browsers and programs live.
"Do you use it on our computers?"
"No, just at home."
"But not here."
"I've never been here before."
"Do you need to go on to get to it?" I asked, trying to edge my way back to the idrive.com idea.
I got the sort of "Oh, I'm talking to an idiot look" that I like so much.
"Do you know where your I drive is physically located?"
He admitted that he had no idea. I explained that I thought it was either something that he accessed online or it was something attached to his computer at home.
"So I can't get at my documents?" He demanded.
"I don't think so."
Deep, angry sigh, complete with the "Fine kettle of fish" look that Oliver Hardy perfected in the 1930's.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Good parenting requires

that after your child cries for 15 minutes and a DeskSlave has asked you to take a break from the Internet and take the kid outside that you go over to the new video section and browse.

I think that's in this book:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Damn you, Mario

Two days ago I got a call from a kid who wanted biographies of Mario Lemieux. The catalog said we did, but I like to check the shelf and pull the books and place the hold just so everybody knows that the books will be on the holds shelf and not at some desk someplace. I told him I would make sure they were actually on the shelf before he came all the way in. He said he'd wait. So I went over and got them and by the time I got back, the kid had dropped the call. So I reshelved the books. Of course, an hour later, the kid with dad in tow were in, looking for books about the man known, apparently, as "The Magnificent One," "The Great One" having been taken already by Gretzky, and "The Greatest" kinda owned by Ali. So back to the shelf I took them and handed off the books. (Evidently, Mario's parents brought snow into their Montreal home and packed it down on the carpet to turn it into ice when Mario was a baby and stood him up on skates on it. And I think he kilt him a bar when he was only three.) This should have been the end of it, only this evening I was helping a youngster look for the Catwings books by Ursula LeGuin and there were the Mario biographies jammed in the midst of the Madeleine L'Engle books. Cretinous hockey fans!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Trick Question

This one just in:
Woman walks up and asks, "Are you the Reference Desk?"

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Narcoleptic Computers

A coworker was urgently summoned to the Children's Computer area shortly after opening. The computers, she was breathlessly informed, were not working. Not at all. Quickly applying her finely honed troubleshooting skills, she bravely reached over and jiggled the mouse on one of them. It sprang to life, as did the others in their turn.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A feeling of impending dread

A young couple just had a "situation" involving who had their laptop and whether it was in the library someplace (i.e. stolen) or in the car. I really hope it's in the car. If it's not, I will be grilled about whether I have seen it and how we can allow people to steal things. I'm holding my breath.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Thank You: an Update

Many people still think that "Oh, OK," is a good substitute for "thank you."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sure it's a three-day weekend

and I'm at work on the Saturday and the Sunday. But there was a bit of blue sky today when I opened the doors to DeskSlave Central. As I unlocked the first one and held it open for a boy of about 10 and his younger sister, the boy burst through and shouted "Yahoo!"

A little later a toddler was lead by a parent toward the kids' area. As they approached, the toddler broke into a run and shouted, "I'm ready!"

I know, not much, but we take what we can get.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Maybe you can explain?

I was unlocking the front doors at one minute before official opening time today. I like to do that, give people that little "extra." Anyway, there were the usual type of MUST GET ON THE INTERNET RIGHT NOW people there, who invariably shove past as soon as the door opens a crack and who dash in to get their Information Mainline fix. There was a guy who would go right for the Classifieds in his neverending search for employment. And there was this other guy I had never seen. He was not young, but he was dressed in clothes I typically associate with the young. As the of six doors was unlocked and I beckoned the assembled in, he said, "Very nice, you get a cookie."

Others laughed like this was a good joke, but I'm not sure what he meant. Maybe it was just I was a dog who performed a trick? But that doesn't seem enough for such merriment. So is there some cultural reference I'm missing? I don't watch a lot of TV, so generations of catchphrases sail right by me. Help? Anybody? Beuler? <--there an elderly pop culture reference proving that I am current up to about 1986.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I don't know anything about it, but I still want it

Years ago I worked at a small college library. One evening, a very nice young woman came in and told me about a friend of hers who had found this great math book that really helped him get ready for some test that she now had to take. It was a great book. It was orange. She thought. Did we still have it? I gave it a shot, taking her over to the math area and scanning spines for things in the red-orange part of the rainbow. No dice. I asked her to ask her friend for a little more information and we could try again. And that was the last I saw of her.

Today, a young man came up looking for a book he had read himself, though it was a very long time ago. All he could remember was that one of the characters was named Lenny. He couldn't remember if it was a kids book with pictures, an adult book or something in between. He didn't remember when in his life he read it. In fact, when we got right down to it, he wasn't even sure if the guy's name was Lenny. It might have been something else.

"What the heck," I thought and did a title search on "Lenny." Of course the Dustin Hoffman film, which I did not like back in the day, came up. Lots of kid books with Lenny in the title, but he gave up before I did. So we will never really know.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hey Book Nerd!

Here is an interesting article from abebooks about the strange an interesting things found in used books. People after me own heart. Interesting stuff. My fave:

“Once I found two business cards carefully taped together. I picked at the edge and they came apart revealing a three-foot long accordionfolded panorama of 1970s pornography. I also once found a chocolate chip that was wedged down between the book cloth and the mull of the spine. The chocolate chip was dusty and dented, but otherwise unsullied. I wondered how one wedges a chocolate chip into the spine of a book, and how long it had been there. The book’s copyright was 1889.”

I just get junk from doodlers at the Internet. Oh Well.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Another question for you

When the Christian homeschooler makes multiple photocopies from the children's religious book, is it a sin, or merely copyright infringement?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A question for you

Guess how good a morbidly obese teen looks in form fitting bike shorts.

About as good as you'd expect.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

We have three signs...

that say that the Internet computers are down. One is at the front of the library. It's 11x17 as are the others. You have to walk within a foot of it to get into the library. One is on your way to the computers. The last is in front of the computers. My question to you is: how many times will people approach me after they try to use the computers to ask me if they are working?

When people ask me what is wrong or when will they be back up I am always tempted to say that if I had the answer to that one, I would be making a lot more money (and incidentally not talking to YOU).

The response to the signs has been fairly underwhelming. However, the response to not being able to get on the Internet has been pretty intense. I have even been asked to vacate the DeskSlave Turbo Workstation so that people can check their email or post to craigslist. Really. Or SRSLY as the texters say. I thought it was going to be peaceful and quiet, too. Silly deskslave.

Monday, July 21, 2008

You're not fooling me

Nice try. To the casual observer, you look like you have your fingers draped over your nose, like maybe you were just resting your hand there. But the wily deskslave noticed a bit of movement and immediately deduced that you were not an innocent, resting your digits on your schnoz. You know what you are: a nosepicker. With a thumb, no less.

Attention Library Patrons: Stay away from the latest issue of Glamour!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Well is it?

The Scene: Elderly male patron walks up to the deskslave, brandishing a large Sunday newspaper.

Elderly Male Patron. Is today the 13th?
Deskslave. Ummm...no, it's the 20th. (He's pleased; another successful reference interaction)
EMP (rebrandishing paper). Then how come the Sunday paper from the 13th is there and not the 20th?
DS. Uh...it's not out yet? (He's hot, he's batting 1.000.)
EMP. Hurmph!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Here's Your Porn, Have a Nice Day!

It's been awhile since I've posted. Hi everyone. Nice to see you again. This story happened several weeks ago, but it is one that must be shared.

So I'm working on the Info Desk and a man my age is fiddling with the copier (which also prints stuff from the internet computers). The patron can't get his pages to print, so I go over to help. I see his print job is pending, and he simply needs to push one last button. Keep in mind...print jobs from ALL the internet computers are held in the copier, and I was just assuming that this particular, half-released print job belonged to him, since he'd already been fiddling with the machine.

Also, it's important for you to know that I have a personal policy about not looking at people's print-outs. I walk them through the process of printing their documents, and once the pages come out, I hand them to the patrons without looking at them. It's their private business (bank statements, resumes, etc.) so I don't want to see it.

Phew. Okay. So here we go.

I'm standing at the copier with the patron, I release the print job, and three printed pages come out. Each page was covered with about 12 pornographic pictures. Not knowing the content, I hand them directly to the patron and say, "Is that all you needed?"
He throws his hands up in the air, to show that he doesn't even want to touch them. "Those aren't mine!" he cries. I was so mortified I couldn't even look him in the eyes. I said, "Oh, I am so sorry." He asked, incredulously, "Are people ALLOWED to print that stuff out?" I said, "No, no no no no no NO. I mean, they're not supposed to view it or print it. Something is wrong with our filter. I'll figure out what's going on. Again, I am so sorry!"

It didn't take long for this story to spread among the library staff, and for the rest of the day, they were coming up to me at the Info Desk and asking if this was where they could pick up their free porn.

Lovely Small Irony

I was just checking the cataloging on a new cookbook:

The author's last name? Goodbody.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Origins of Vegetariansm

I try not to look at the ongoing Friends of the Library book sale in the foyer of the library. I have enough stuff in my life...I'm really trying to cut down, even on books. But I peeked through today and found a great Microwave Cookbook from Kenmore that looks like it was from the Seventies. I'd give you the date, but there was no publication data, just a part number. Probably came with the microwave. Anyway, check out the lovely, mouthwatering pix of these delectable items:

MMMMM.....me like fishy.....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Modern Scholar, an ongoing series

Found by the printer. I'm hoping it was a first draft.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Your Tax Dollars at Work

My job is not all being oppressed or mean. Tonight I got to show a woman who needed to find news items from certain days how to use our newspaper databases. Her boyfriend wanted Chiltons, but I showed him the car repair database. They were both pretty psyched (in a subdued library sort of way). At moments like that, I like to remind people that the cool databases are things they paid for with their taxes.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Please Don't Die

I don't mean to be overdramatic, but there is this guy in the Men's room just across the hall from the DeskSlave's office (part of a shared desk in an unbelievably croweded room, actually, but I like to think of it as an office) making a noise that sounds like


I suspect that it has something to do with expectoration* but part of me fears that the sufferer is going to fall into some sort of unfortunate cardiac episode. I fear that not just because I wish all humans well--such a nice fellow, the DeskSlave--but because I think I have probably forgotten all that CPR they made me learn and even if I remembered it, I don't think I'd want to do it on some hacking guy on the floor of the oft-mentioned skanky Men's Room.

So please, sir, get well soon. And get out of here


The DeskSlave

* This is the only time you will ever see this word not on the side of a cough syrup bottle, BTW.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What I learned today

If you want to make your cell phone quiet and private, leave the main area of the little library, go down the dank hall toward the skanky restrooms and stop right in front of the little holding pen where the DeskSlave and his compatriots huddle at computers when they aren't at the Magical Reference Desk. Then hold forth over the phone in a tone most people use to hail ships across vast expanses of the sea.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's Official

It's love. Found by a InterWeb Thin Client thing.

Monday, June 2, 2008


In my day, said the curmudgeonly DeskSlave, we had a perfectly good phrase: On the Shelf. If we had your book/CD/Movie/What-have-you, it was said to be "on the shelf."
"Do you have the Sue Grafton book G is for Gotta Get Me a New Gimmick Goddammit?" the patron would say.
After consulting with the catalog and finding it in the Checked In status, we would say, "Yes, that should be on the shelf. Let me show you where that is."
No any more. Now it's more like, "Is M is for Making Many More Millions in stock?"
In Stock? What are we, Blockbuster? Well, sadly, for a lot of people, yes, I reckon we are. So they wouldn't call and ask for a book, come to think of it. It'd be some horrid movie.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Reason # 5,328 Not to Use Our Internet Machines

As part of my DeskSlave duties, I wander around the library, looking for people to harass help. I also occasionally look up from my internet shopping expeditions important research just to see what's happening in my immediate environment. Part of that environment, sadly, is the Internet computers. So I just looked over and saw this guy picking away idly at his nose while he surfed. Not just picking, either. Major excavation. Spelunking. Treasure hunt. I'm amazed that it didn't dislodge an eye. So: DON'T GO NEAR THOSE DURN INTERWEB COMPUTERS. Thank you.

Friday, May 30, 2008

And I thought our patrons were unique

OK, I promise not to whine about our patrons for--oh, I dunno--eight minutes now that I have read this. If you are too lazy or preoccupied to follow the link, here is the Pervert's Digest version: a University of Cincinatti library patron named Dwight Pannell allegedly crawled beneath a library table and sprayed a substance from a syringe on a woman’s shoes and then the result. He claimed that he was just checking out his new camera. So thank you library gods for not sending this man our way.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

But it's still my fault

It's hard to find something nice to say about our InterWeb stations. I'd call them computers, but they really aren't. They are "Thin Clients," which are just little boxes that can take input from the user, send it to a central server (in our case across the county), get it processed and send it back. From the average InterWeb user's standpoint it walks and quacks like a computer, though. Thin Clients can be nice since they are harder to tamper with and easier to upgrade software, since one upgrade on the server side upgrades all the clients. But since it looks and quacks like a computer, people have rather exaggerated notions of what they can really do and what we poor deskslaves can do with them. Case in point: When you sit down at one of these sweet babies and log in, you get one hour. That's it. Sixty minutes and not a second more. It tells you that on a sign before you sit down and tells you that when you log in and 6 or so minutes before it boots you off it will remind you of this fact and THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT. It doesn't matter to the server on the other side of the county how important it is, the horrid little box is kicking you off after sixty minutes exactly. I am regularly petitioned by frantic users who need more time. But time is not mine to give. Even if I desperately wanted to, I could no more extend your time than I could extend your life.

When people come up to the desk frantic and upset, I try to be compassionate (and you can probably guess just how hard that is for me), but some people are just too angry to get much sympathy. I had one such person today. The peabrain pseudocomputer had already restarted itself and she needed somebody at whom to blow off steam. Or something equally hot but more toxic than steam. I was the lucky recipient. Even though she was not nice about it at all, I was still being being sympathetic until she told me that it wasn't "just writing, it was creative writing." I had to hear that several times. It was creative writing. It was creative writing. It was CREATIVE writing. This seemed to imply that a) the writing of others was of the non-creative variety; b) creative writing has special properties denied to lesser kinds of writing sparing it from the oblivion suffered by such lesser writing (scribbling, really); and c) the creativity of this writing would empower the deskslave to perform a task beyond his previously and exhaustively elaborated (lack of) capabilities. But the precious writing, creative though it was, went into the bit bucket, and now the world is less. And I am less because I had to stand here and take it while the crappiness of our equipment was drilled into me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

To Ash from Tashy

This was in a YA book. It didn't make any sense to me until somebody pointed out that it was a conversation between two people.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Oh Boy, School Projects

I have two current gripes about elementary school science reports. Let's discuss them, shall we?

1. It's the same old story: it doesn't matter how many books you have on giraffes or zebras or echidnas, the first kid through will take them all so kids 2 through n get nothing. Then they can't believe that we don't have any books on giraffes or zebras or echidnas. Since the report is due tomorrow there is no time to have a hold sent over. Rinse, repeat.

2. Some local teacher with a great sense of humor has assigned obscure birds to her students and has told them to go to the library and get a book or two on their semi-mythical creature. Since the teacher said "go to the library," the students, or most likely the parents, have a hard time believing that we wouldn't have a full shelf on their little birdie.

Modern Research Methods. A Play in One Scene.
Scene opens in a small library. A Deskslave (middle-aged man with graying hair and hunched shoulders)is busily typing away at an elderly computer. Patron (12-year-old boy dressed like a skater, permanent sneer etched on his young face) approaches the Deskslave.

Patron. I need a book on the Reticulated Pie-Belly of Borneo.
Deskslave. Kinda doubt we have a complete book on it. Let me see if...
Patron. My teacher said you'd have a book on it.
Deskslave. We might--I'm checking the catalog. Uhhh...sorry no Reticulated anything. Let's see...
Patron. My teacher said you'd have a book on it. I want the book.
Deskslave. I don't doubt that the teacher said that we did, but we don't. I doubt there is any book on it anywhere. Let's check in Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia and see if we can at least get some information about habitat and...
Patron. I'm supposed to get a book. Doesn't another library have a book on the Reticulated Pie-Belly? A bigger library...a real library?
Deskslave. When I checked it was the whole County system. How much time do you have? Maybe we could do an interlibrary loan.
Patron. It's due tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A View from the Other Side

I went to my neighborhood library today which is in a different town and different county system than DeskSlave Central. I understand that the branch scheduler there has a rather eccentric understanding of the schedules that most of us patrons keep, but even I was surprised to see a big line of people in front at ten minutes before noon. I took a seat on a low wall a few yards away and leafed absently through all those novels I was bringing back unread. I had given these books their fair chance and they had let me down. They only had themselves to blame for their upcoming trip to the shelving cart. But there was a fat pile of hopefuls waiting for me inside, so a trip to the book return slot around back wouldn't be enough. I was lost in a reverie about how many of the two dozen or so people waiting with me were going to race for the Internet computers the second the doors opened when a woman near the door snapped. "Come on! Come on!" She bellowed, pounding on the glass door a good ten times. I looked at my watch. Seven minutes to go. She turned to the people around her, neck stuck out, hands palm-out at her side in a gesture universally understood to mean "gimme a break, willya?"
"I can see them in there! They're right there!" Angered by this mainifest injustice, she gave the door a few more pounds before giving up. When the clerk came to unlock the door (three minutes early by the way if my cheap Casio is to be trusted) the patron swarm pressed closer. At least twenty people were clustered there, scarcely able to contain themselves. The lock turned and the poor clerk barely had time to push the door open a few inches before it was grabbed and thrust open and people streamed in. She still had the opposite door to unlock, but had to wait until the deluge went downstream before she could do it.
Being a good deskslave, I politely waited to enter.

Several things that are not my fault

Dear Sir:

There are many things that are my fault, but they are chiefly in my home or in my children's psyches and are therefore of no concern to you. There are many, many (MANY!) more things that are, most assuredly, not my fault. Among these are:
1. The speed of our Internet service. This is determined by wind speed, bends in the cables*, biorhythms, and new developments in Mood Ring technology, all of which are out of my hands.
2. Hotmail. If Hotmail was my fault, I would have killed myself a long time ago. If I owned Hotmail, I'd be Bill Gates and I wouldn't be here, catching heck from you. I'd be doing whatever it is that Bill Gates does all day, which I don't want to think about not that I think of it.
3. Software. If I could program stuff, I would also not be here. The fact that Internet Explorer cannot open that attachment is a mystery to me, too.
4. Printers, copiers and the like. Honestly. Just because something consumes electricity doesn't mean I know anything about it.

And while we're at it, let me add that just because I sit at a desk near the computers and wear glasses does not mean that I am capable or even interested in doing tech support. Thank you.

* All digital information, as you have no doubt learned by now, consists of ones and zeroes. This can cause problems when this information travels through cables with loops, bends or kinks. The zeroes can usually make it around such obstructions, but the ones can get stuck when their pointy tops hit them. We dedicated Information Professionals here at DeskSlave Central go into the Giant Control Room that has the Internet Speed Selector in it and smooth out all the cables every single day before we open. But we can't do anything about it once it's outside the Control Room. My guess is that there are some bends and twists at the porn site's server. Maybe some kinks, too, if you know what I mean, sir.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Desperately Seeking Literature

I would have been happy enough with this little piece of paper that a colleague retrieved from near an Interweb computer, but the back story made it even better. She had approached an Interweb patron to kick him out for looking at inappropriate images on our delicate equipment. In between his enthusiastic excursions to the nether reaches of the Interweb, though, he had been searching for and downloading stories from a website called Literotica to his USB drive . Presumably this note contains his literotic preferences in order. Anyone have any thoughts about the meaning of #1? Let's applaud him for #2 and #3, though, and hope that #4 went unwritten due to something other than shame.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Secret?

I noticed a dog-eared and tattered copy of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne in the Book Return. I looked up its circ stats and saw that it had made about 25 trips in the last year, putting it right up there with the bestsellers. I really don't care about what people read, but there is something a bit sad about the books that make pretty extravagant promises that couldn't possibly be delivered. Part of me (the mean part that patrons don't usually see) wants to contact all the people who checked this out and ask if they are stinking rich yet, or if attractive people are throwing themselves at them. The rest of me wants to order this book for our collection:

Monday, May 5, 2008

Peace & Quiet

We had a double helping of quiet yesterday thanks to beautiful weather and an InterWeb outage. I could spend the time I usually spend riding herd over the adolescents at the computers helping parents do their kids' research/homework for them.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Modern Scholar

I probably wasn't much better. Found at the printer.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Re: Taxes

There used to be two signs at every quick print shop in the country. Maybe they are still there. One said
Cheap. Fast. Good. Pick two.
the other said
Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on ours.

On this year's tax day, I would like to tape that to all the monitors here. Maybe staple it to a few foreheads.

For the record: No tax advice shall come from my mouth. Here are the forms. Here is the extension form for the state and here is the Federal. I don't know how the efiling doohickey works, nor can I help you apply for an extension online. I don't even do my own taxes. We* give all our info to helpful and well-remunerated professionals.

* We is actually my partner who gathers up all our financial information. It is we only in the sense that I benefit from it. I do only slightly more work on our taxes than does our 5-year-old son.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

It's not pug

I just helped a patron who is either speech impaired or I'm suddenly hearing impaired. He came up to the desk and I heard, "I would like some books on pugs". I said "Pugs?". "No, hugs." "Hugs?", I said. "NO, HERBS" he yelled "H-E-R-B-S!"

How did we get from pugs to herbs. Speech impaired.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Best Tax Question Yet

A guy wanted tax help. I gave the usual demurral. He persisted. His question was about the "money back thing," by which I think he meant the big stimulus check-o-rama* we're all supposed to get. He wanted to know if there was some form he could fill out to get it. I told him that I am not allowed to give out tax advice, but thought that he had to file his taxes first and then it was an automatic thing. "That's the thing," he said wincing, "I don't, like, you know, pay taxes and stuff." I told him that I wasn't sure he was going to get one.

*If somebody goes to WalMart with their $600 and buys a TV made in China, does it stimulate the economy? In the US, I mean. And if somebody uses their check to pay down their credit card, does that stimulate anything? Just asking. Don't get me wrong, I fully intend to stimulate the economy with mine. Promise.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Horrible Restroom

So that you will no longer have to listen to me whine about how awful the restroom is here at DeskSlave Central, I have decided to take a page from the early days of the Dept. of Homeland Security and issue a color-coded alert based on the following system.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

You Guys

I don't think I got the email...since when has "you" been replaced by "you guys?" I hear it at the desk many times wach day and not just from ill-mannered children. I also hear it at restaurants, even the nicer ones we can sometimes go to. "How are you guys tonight?" even though my partner is not a guy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Probably from the same artist

An Open Letter Concerning Erotica


Your interest in erotic images featuring the elderly is, in its own way, commendable for its ecumenical and broad-minded approach to the subject of human coupling. However, kindly have the decency and common sense to conduct your research into this subject at an Internet computer that is not THE MOST OUT-IN-THE-OPEN ONE IN THE ENTIRE BUILDING. That way, no small children (or large children, or adults for that matter) will be forced to share your little hobby as they head down the hall to the Restroom, vile-smelling though it is. Also, if you take pains to shield your activities from the semi-wary eye of the DeskSlave, you may get more than 10 minutes before he strides over, turns off your monitor and asks you politely, yet firmly, to leave.

Also, kindly consider pursuing certain hobbies at home.


The DeskSlave

Bronco Update

The Bronco is gone. Maybe its rightful owner claimed it. I fear it may have been boosted, though. Boosted. That's cool librarian talk for stolen.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lost and....still lost

I have mentioned the horrendous, hostile-to-life Mens Room before. I get a feeling that you will be hearing more about its vileness soon. But today, while trying to beat my record for breath holding (under 2 minutes: I'm very disappointed in myself), I saw a children's toy truck on the floor. It was a Bronco-ish thing missing a door, but some kid probably misses it. Ordinarily, I would pick it up and give it to my colleagues at the Circulation Desk, but it held the taint of the Mens Room. So I left it parked and abandoned.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'm sure it's a generational thing

A boy of about 11 just asked me if we "had a printer that could, like, take a picture of a paper and like print out a new picture of the paper." He was unfamiliar with the whole photocopier phenomenon. It's no big deal, though. I'll bet anything that in the early days of cars you'd get young people asking stuff like "do you have like a car only like it's a total animal and you ride on top of it and not in it?"

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ummm...we kinda do

I was just asked if we have "CD Cassettes." We did get rid of our Record CDs some time back, though.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

At least she cared to write

I kicked a teen out last night. The usual...noisy, annoying, resistant to reminders of library rules and simple decency. A little later, I cruised by the computer area and this was at the computer she'd been using.

Such a sweet girl.

It's Official

The Men's room in our temporary library is officially too skanky to enter. Even the hold-your-breath method no longer works.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Choose Your Own Adventure (WiFi Edition)

You bring your brand-new, whiz-bang DellWay laptop powered by the much-ballyhooed Vista operating system to your local public library. You sit at a table with a bunch of other laptop-using InterWeb enthusiasts who are happily browsing porn, finding dates, gambling, gaming, chatting and whatever else the modern InterWeb surfer does these days. You fire up your laptop and attempt to connect to the library's unsecured wireless InterWeb connection with Vista's deceptively easy connection tool. Nothing. For some reason, the invisible waves of surfing pleasure do not splash playfully on your desktop.

if you decide to berate the desk slave for this problem, go to paragraph #2
if you decide to ask the other surfers if they are having the same problem, go to paragraph #3

Paragraph 2: You summon the deskslave with a "come here, you" finger gesture after noisily clearing your throat. Pointing to your browserless screen, you inform the knavish deskslave that the "wireless is down." The haughty 'slave, who clearly does not know his place, turns to the other surfers. "Is anybody having a problem connecting to the InterWeb?" Nobody else reports having a problem. He turns to you. "Doesn't look like a problem with our InterWeb connection."

Paragraph 3: You turn to the nearest surfer. "Can you access the InterWeb?" He tears himself away from the sexual Help Wanted ads on Craigslist for a minute. "Uh...yeah," he opines.

if you want to demand technical supports services from an employee of a small city who does not also work for the manufacturer of your computer or operating system, go to paragraph #4.

if you decide to try to figure out what is wrong with your computer via time-honored troubleshooting techniques, go to paragraph #5

Paragraph 4: You size up the deskslave. He is clearly stupid, yet, at the same time, he must know what is wrong with this devlish InterWeb thing. Cunning wretch. "Then why can't I connect? There's this little shield thing that says I can't connect." You point to the screen. The deskslave opens the wireless thingie in the System Tray. He points out that your laptop can "see" the library's wireless signal, which is quite strong. Further investigation reveals that your wireless is not currently enabled. "I haven't worked with this kind of computer before, and I'm not a Vista user, but there is probably a button or key combination to enable wireless on your system," quoth the wily 'slave.
"Well, where's the key?" you demand. Your bile is rising and your blood is up. In a simpler time, you would have thrashed this caitiff wretch by now.
"Like I said," the unctuous knave begins, "I'm not familiar with this system. I'm also not allowed to fiddle around with people's computers."
Your eyes narrow. Time to kick some ass. "Let me talk to a manager."
"Sorry, the managers have all gone home for the night." Hah! He thinks he can escape your condign retribution.
"Then who is in charge?"
"Uh," he begins. "That'd be me."
You cross your arms and smile. "But your manager will be here tomorrow?"
"What's your manager's name." This is not a question. The 'slave retreats! He's on the run! He goes back to his pathetic desk and opens a drawer. A weapon? No. A business card is proferred.
"She'll be in at nine." Sure he looks bored on the outside, but he's certainly afraid on the inside.
"You'll be hearing from me," you say as you leave. You know in your heart that this excuse for a human has prevented you from using the InterWeb. You also know that He Will Pay.

Paragraph 5: You try a variety of things: restarting the computer, fiddling with settings, asking the people around you, even reading the help files. You find out that your wireless hardware is not currently enabled. You also learn the key combination to enable same. Once properly summoned, the sweet balm of InterWebby goodness fills your computer. Ones and zeroes fly through the ether and reassemble themselves in the form of liquid crystals right before your very eyes.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Blueberry Girl

Today, a little girl came up to me at work and told me that she was a blueberry. She said her pants were black, so they were ripe, but her shirt was white, so it wasn't ripe, so she was not ready to be picked.

Okay, I said.

How do I attach a picture?

So this is a common question we get from internet users: "How do I attach a file to my email so I can send it to someone?" We gladly walk them through the process of clicking the attach button, browsing for their file on the disk or jumpdrive they brought with them, and clicking "attach".

Well a couple of days ago, a guy about my age asked for help with this process. I showed him how to click on the "attach" button, then I asked him if he had a floppy or a jumpdrive. "What?" he said.

"Your pictures," I said nicely. "Where are they?"

"They're on the computer," he said.

"The computer? What do you mean?", I asked, since it was impossible for the pics to be on the library's computer. The library's computer doesn't have it's on CPU for file storage.

He said, "When I'm at home, I just click attach and the pictures are there."

I tried to explain that his computer at home has all his pictures stored on it. Our computer doesn't have his pictures stored on it. He would need to bring his pictures in on a floppy disk or jump drive.

He didn't want to believe this: "You mean I can't bring them up through my email?!"

Sorry, buddy. I don't make the rules. I just get to explain them over and over.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Condescenscion is when you talk down to someone

A very nice and intelligent girl of about 11 or so came up looking for books on several topics. What we owned seemed to be either for younger children or checked out. After exhausting several topics with disappointing results, she asked if we had anything by or about Martin Luther King, Jr. Sadly, with the recent holiday, pretty much everything was out except for a few little kid picture books. I could tell that my patron was not that impressed with our little library, even after I reminded her about the recent holiday. I hate not having something and was offering the usual menu of choices like copies of an encyclopedia article, prints from a biographical database and holds on a multitude of biographies at other libraries in the system. She thought about it for a moment and then offered to spell King's name for me, in case I typed it in wrong. Thanks, kid.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

You want my advice about what?

On a good day, I feel minimally competent to give advice about books I have read and enjoyed. So I get a fresh shock each year when people come in and ask my tax advice. I try to listen patiently to the question and at the first pause I say something like, "I'm really sorry, but I'm not allowed to give tax advice." Then I try to get out the AARP-staffed FREE tax help appointment book to sign them up for FREE help. (Did I mention it was without cost? Freebie? Comp? Gratis? Not a single simoleon need change hands?) This is usually not good enough. The person (often a twenty-something guy) wants to know which form he's supposed to fill out, the 1040, 1040A or the 1040EZ? What's the difference between the 1040 and the 1040A? I tell him that I am not allowed to give tax advice again, but he doesn't want advice, you see, just to know which form he's supposed to use. And on. It's dispiriting. Even when I tell them that I do not do my own taxes and haven't for many many years because I made such a mess of them, people seem to think that I'm just holding out on them.

The only thing more annoying is people asking where the tax forms are, since they are about 4 and a half feet from the asker.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


That young woman on Internet Terminal #7? As soon as her check comes, she's leaving. That's right: moving to Texas. You heard it here first.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pop Quiz

Q: What do you do if you are a bored teen who isn't into that whole reading thing and who is sick of Myspace and is waiting for mom to come with the car?

A: Annoy the desk slave. I don't want to describe my job to you. Yes I like working here just fine. About 3 years now. No, you can't do this job next summer. Because it's not as easy as it looks, e.g. you have to know the alphabet. Actually, none of us gets to sit around all day reading books. If I got to do that I would be a much more pleasant person.