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.