Monday, November 30, 2009

Why, in my day

I don't remember getting much help from my parents when it came to doing homework. I remember asking my father for some math help once. It was Algebra, which I found very hard. He put down his newspaper for a minute and said something like, "I had to do that once and I passed. I'm done. Now it's your turn," and back to the paper. I don't recall even getting rides to the library when I was a kid and needed to find books for school. I say this because I am astonished how often I see kids come up to the desk with their parent to ask for reference help. Usually, the parent will encourage the kid to talk. The kid stands there, like a monument to noncooperation. After a few prods, the humiliated parent will talk about what the child needs for his/her paper. Sometimes, they cut out the middleman altogether, and the parent and I do the research without the pesky kid interfering. I often hear about how many activities the kid has and how it's impossible to do all that and get the homework done. I'm no Oprah, but my guess is that the kid needs to shed some extracurricular engagements. It's not that I had such a crappy childhood and am just feeling all resentful; I emerged reasonably unscarred and I never lacked for clothing, shelter, bus fare, and bland but relatively wholesome food. I even had extracurricular activities including being the absolute worst baseball player on several little league teams, in spite of the fact that I was a switch hitter. (Or as my ever-supportive, newspaper-reading dad liked to put it, I had the ability to strike out from either side of the plate.) But sheesh. Unless you plan to accompany the kid to college and do their library chores, I don't think you're doing them a favor by doing their high school homework. Hey! I got it! Maybe mom should take up the flute and stand in for the kid in band while the kid is at the library! That makes way more sense to me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Even when He gets left in a book

I should write this one thousand times


Longhand. In blood. My blood. From a self-inflicted wound.

A patron, armed with laptop, enlisted me in the quixotic quest to find the document she had just spent an hour (or maybe it was two, yes definitely two--or three) typing. I should have said that I could not help her, but it seemed like it would be, if not a no-brainer, then maybe a half-brainer. Pop into Word, look at the Recent Documents, life is fine. It was a no-brainer alright, but only in the sense that I wanted to blow my brains out at the end. By now I should know this: as soon as you touch somebody's computer, any problem, even ones that were already there, are a) your fault, b) done deliberately out of a feeling of malice and hatred, and c) your obligation to remedy to the owner's satisfaction even if the remedy takes vast amounts of time and violates various laws (civil, criminal, physical). I never find myself thinking "I need a drink," but the thought did occur this time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Step One: Build Time Machine

I bet you dind't know

That "that's goofy" is a substitute for "thank you" when you run a patron through the not-exactly-intuitive printing process?

Didn't think so.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh, so that's what it means

I was helping a patron place holds for knitting books. While running the catalog through its paces, she mentioned that one of our knitting books that she had taken out recently had had pages cut out of it. We talked briefly about the barbarity of cutting up library books. She said that she thought that, to her, cutting up a library book was like vivisection. Then she leaned in and, all sotto voce, told me that vivisection meant "when they cut up animals." By the way, sotto voce means when you talk in a low, soft voice that unlikely to be overheard by others. And condescending means when you talk down to somebody.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ironic author name of the day

In case you can't read it, the author of this book (which I am certain is an important contribution to the field of DBT which has benefitted many, many people) is Moonshine.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Weaned on a pickle

Some weeks ago, I got to attend an actual cultural event, a rare occurence in the life of a deskslave. Classical music performances are an expensive habit, so I don't get to go very often. It was a great performance, marred only by one of my least favorite patrons who just happened to be sitting behind me. I was polite enough, but tried to make it clear through subtle body language that I wasn't up for small talk. It didn't work of course, and she leaned forward to deliver her critique of each piece. Then, next time she was in the library when I was there, she wanted to talk about the performance again. Only not quite. She started with that, and then went into her own classical training in voice and piano. This might have been an actual conversation, only it was clear that I could have been anybody and she had absolutely no interest in me. She cared not for my opinion of the performer (much rosier than her own) or any training I might have had to get me to that opinion (not much, really). This alone might have given me reason to dislike her.
I think I already had good reasons, though. She constantly needs help on the computers. She is clueless, which is fine, but belligerent, which is not. She is a nasty summoner of help who expects you to fix things for her, not show her how to do things.
But the thing that put her in firmly in the despised column was something else. Like most libraries these days, we offer computer classes. Pretty basic stuff. Nastly lady has taken them all, many times. In classes she is nasty, barking out angrily when she doesn't understand something. We started offering classes in Spanish, too. We're all very proud of this, and the classes are well-attended and greatly appreciated. One day, nasty lady walked up to the desk with a bookmark in Spanish for the classes. She had her nastiest expression, her "weaned on a pickle" expression. Waving the bookmark, she said, "I see you're offering classes to the Mexicans. What about us?" Like we have no classes in English! Like she hadn't taken each one several times!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm not sure the kids are your target demographic

I found these on top of the fiction shelves in the Juvenile area.

At last a new poll

Have you ever seen books by authors Katie or Jasper Fforde? I have always wondered how to pronounce their last name. Now you can weigh in.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Can we please go analog on this?

Every day I see somebody playing solitaire on one of the public access computers. Theoretically, nobody's computer use is more important than anybody else's, but I'd like to make an exception for this one. Maybe we could have a pack of cards in reference that people could use. I can't imagine the online versions are that much more amazing that the redoubtable pack of Bicycles. Then again, we'd be missing a card or two in short order. When the deck checked back in from its two hour reserve, we'd have to count the cards just to make sure. And we'd have to have backup decks to plunder when one went missing. Maybe we would have to have a stat sheet at the desk to see how the decks we circulating and to see how often people needed help dealing out a proper hand. Then there would be meetings about how playing cards fit into the mission of today's public libraries and one person would be constantly and sourly pointing out that we don't have cribbage or a double deck for canasta. The inevitable counter-argument would, of course, be that we have the cards for individuals, not for groups and then we'd have to have a workgroup to explore the possibility of providing cards for groups of people, how many people could use them at one time, should we provide poker chips, etc. And since we try to be multicultural and inclusive, they'd have to look into providing some other culturally appropriate games, like Mah Jong, perhaps.

OK. Never mind. You want to play solitaire? Fabulous. The computer is right over there.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I wish I could take credit for this one

In the half hour before we close, we do several sweeps of the joint to remind everybody that we will soon close and that the intercom announcements were in earnest. There are several places that are off the beaten path, and people seem to collect there. These are the people who pretty much have to be shooed out of the building when we close. It's almost like they feel that if we don't escort them off the premises they get to spend the night here or something. So we check all the little nooks and run people off. A clever colleague came up with a name for those who must be sought out: Easter Eggs. So pardon me while I conduct the last Easter Egg hunt of the night.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

...but jerkitude is timeless

As I never tire of telling you, your humble deskslave is a middle-aged guy. As such, I am seen as an authority figure by the young, who calibrate their nastiness toward me accordingly. It should not come as a surprise to me that other middle aged guys might not have the same attitude towards me. I should know better--middle-aged white guys can be kind of a problem. Anyway, a guy my age walks up and asks if we have a DVD called "Musical Instincts."
I key the title in, making sure that the thing I'm typing is what he wants. If he has the title wrong, we can figure it out later. No luck, so I start asking questions about the DVD. Using my finely honed reference interview skills, I determined that he had seem something called "Musical Instincts" on PBS the night before and expected that, because it had been on TV in the distant past (14 or so hours ago), we would not only own it, but have it on the shelf. I was still trying to see if we had the name right, so I was poking around the PBS website. I suspected that if it was just on TV, it might not yet be on DVD. While I plunged through the labyrinth of the PBS site, I asked,
"Is it new?"
"Whatsa matter," he sneered, leaning in, "Dontcha have new things? Only old things?" It was an actual sneer with the full complement of contempt. I'm not sure I have been sneered at as an adult. It's something you see in movies. Perhaps even in "Musical Instinct." I was really taken aback. I had asked a legit question. I have an acronym that pops into my head at moments like this: TOFTS, which stands for Too Old For This Stuff, only I use a saltier word than stuff. So, I was getting no more mi casa es tu casa from my demographic equal than I would from a disaffected youth.
"Sorry," I smiled in a manner I was hoping was beatific or at least winning, "we have nothing by that title." I busied myself with something else. He stood there for a moment. I was done asking questions, and eventually he figured this out.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Meaning of Kvetch

As an occasional listener of NPR's Fresh Air and somebody who can't bring himself to delete anything off iTunes, I heard a good interview with Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch. In illustrating the meaning of the verb to kvetch, he told a joke that went something like this:
A man gets on the train for a long trip, sits down and begins reading the paper. At the other end of the train, a little old man sits down and immediately begins complaining. "Oy, am I thirsty." (the joke teller did it in a yiddish, lower East Side sort of accent, but I'll spare you the creative spellings) Every few seconds, "Oy, am I thirsty." The man realizes that he will get no peace with this going on, so he goes to the water cooler at one of the train car, fills up a couple of the little conical, paper cups and carefully carries them up the aisle to the little old man. The man looks up, utterly delighted and gratefully downs the water. The man returns to his seat, picks up his paper and thinks he's heard the end of the matter. Seconds later, he hears the old man.
"Oy, was I thirsty. Oy, was I thirsty."
So, that's kvetching: complaining long after the injustice or problem is over or solved. I bring this up to tell you about about a guy who has to whinge about something unjust to him personally pretty much every time he's in. I've gotten earfuls about library hours and the speed of the FREE WiFi from this guy. I have had to sit through long harangues about lighting, heating and noise with him as well. We are in the process of upgrading (or at least changing)our WiFi, which, I believe I may have mentioned, is FREE. Somehow, he had gotten it into his head that with the big change, users of the FREE WiFi would now be limited to two hours per day. It was news to me, not that I'm especially in the loop. Not just the library loop, by the way. Any loop. If you want to find me, don't look in a loop--you'll just be wasting time. So he treated me to a bitter jeremiad about this horribly unjust policy. After I had absorbed the major points several times (policy sucks, people who set the policy suck, he's a voter only too happy to withhold his support, blah blah blah), I politely interrupted to tell him I would check with the management to make sure I knew what the real deal was. I left him and asked the kindly library manager who assured me that there were no plans to restrict WiFi. So: bring your laptop to DeskSlave Central, log in the moment we open and stay connected until we 86 you. I reported this to the patron with a smile, happy that the dreaded and anger-producing policy would not be implemented. The patron, who will henceforth be know as The Kvetcher, said that it was a damn good thing that we weren't going to restrict access, because if we were going to restrict access--and then he went back to restate his original pile of resentment. It was kind of spellbinding in a boring, depressing kind of way. He couldn't drop it. He had worked himself up to a full head of steam over this one, and damned if any reality was going to dent his dudgeon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Book Titles, If They Were Written Today

Then: The Wealth of Nations
Now: Invisible Hands: The Mysterious Market Forces That Control Our Lives and How to Profit from Them

Then: Walden
Now: Camping with Myself: Two Years in American Tuscany

Then: The Theory of the Leisure Class
Now: Buying Out Loud: The Unbelievable Truth About What We Consume and What It Says About Us

Then: The Gospel of Matthew
Now: 40 Days and a Mule: How One Man Quit His Job and Became the Boss

Then: The Prince
Now: The Prince (Foreword by Oprah Winfrey)

From the always awesome Your Monkey Called

Friday, November 6, 2009

I need a new look

Not that I'm trying to look fashionable--I gave up on trying to look fashionable a long time ago. I use the Easter Island Monolith look to put off potential chatterboxes who might wish to take an hour or two of this my only life which I shall never see again to tell me about something fascinating. But, as alert readers may remember, there is this one guy who mistakes my scrupulous lack of interest for rapt interest.

Today he told me all about his passion for water color painting. I sent him DON'T CARE DON'T CARE REALLYREALLY DON'T CARE thought waves which should have melted his cerebral cortex, bu they were, sadly, singularly ineffective.

So instead, I listened for a few minutes about his great love of water color, about which he is passionate. Really passionate. But, it turns out, he hasn't actually done any yet. But he is going to. Soon. He just knows that he'll be great at it. Which is why he will be checking out and studying these three books, all of which I needed to leaf through with him. After a few pages that were accompanied by exclamations of the kind of pictures he would soon be painting, I gave him a hearty, "Good luck with your painting!" and turned back to my computer. Undaunted, he forged on. I further learned about where and when he intended to buy his painting supplies and how much he speculated that they would cost (I'm guessing that there may be some sticker shock in his future.) All this while, I typed furiously at the keyboard, giving him no encouragement. Happily, the phone rang. I gratefully answered a question about the availability of season whatever of that show, even going to the shelves to make sure that it was actually there and, incidentally, the guy was not there when I returned.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Scientific Study Released

Dateline: deskslave Central.
A new scientific study conducted at a small suburban library was released today amid fanfare and not a little controversy. In this study, to be published later this year in the journal Proceedings of the International Academy of Smelly Things, researchers have determined that smoking a lot of cigarettes and consuming a great deal of greasy fast food does not, as many scientists had previously believed, mask the odor of marijuana smoke.
"It came as a complete surprise to me, frankly," said lead researcher Dr. D. Slave of the University of Puttin Up With People. He went on to relate this study to earlier work his team had done on masking vodka odors.
This new study is not without controversy. It contradicts to some degree earlier work published in the Annals of Dodging High School, where studies indicated fast food and Binaca could, under certain circumstances, block both cigarette and marijuana odors.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Batting Average

A woman came to the desk with a list of books that we did not seem to have. Kid's books, she'd looked on the shelf and we were found wanting. The first problem was that they were nonfiction and she had been searching in fiction. Honest mistake, so I was favorably disposed toward her, even though she had a slightly imperious air about her. However, as we went through her list and found that we owned about half of her list and only had one of those on the shelf, she started making comments as we failed her on each. I can understand frustration, but, even if I decided not to order the ones that we didn't own, it's not my fault that somebody beat her to the punch on the books that were checked out. I kept my humble deskslave personality to the fore and did not react to comments like, "I can't believe you don't have that one either."
But eventually we got through her list. She peremptorily refused my offer to help her find similar books, since her titles seemed fairly generic, like Volcanoes and such like.
In lieu of offering thanks, she said, "So what's that? One out of ten?" with a smirk before turning and leaving.
"You're welcome," I said with my sunniest smile, as though she had just sincerely thanked me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"I have a Mac" as an excuse to not learn something

I realize that Macintoshes are very nice computers. I actually own one and have had them for a long time, but since most of the world runs on Windows, I have one of those, too, and use Windows each day at work. I don't think a week goes by where somebody doesn't have a problem with a public Intarwebs computer or with the catalog and, when I try to walk them through the process, they interrupt me and say, "I have a Macintosh."
I'm never entirely sure what this is supposed to mean. On the surface, it sounds and looks like, "Silly peasant, I shan't soil my delicate fingers on this task. You, my minion, shall do it for me." Or maybe it's slightly apologetic? I remember trying to use Windoze when I was a Mac-only guy and hated being, functionally and temporarily speaking anyway, an idiot. But I don't remember hiding behind a claim of operating system superiority as reason not to know something.
So I end up saying something like "That's cool. Here's how you do it on this computer." I try to not sound mean about it, too.