Friday, May 13, 2011

Minute Miseries...I Mean Mysteries

Here's a little mystery for you to solve. I was walking away from the Ref Desk toward the tastefully and sumptuously appointed employee break room to enjoy a simple repast of the plain but nutritious peasant fare of my people.* A youngster of maybe 12 intercepted me. I was crestfallen: I could already smell the heady aroma of coffee that had been on the burner for 3 or 4 hours.** But I was stuck.

"Hey, where's the computer thingie?" he inquired.

I had no idea what he was talking about. Do you have any guesses? I'll post an answer to this in a future post, provided somebody actually makes a guess. Maybe there will be a prize.

*OK, I was staggering toward the skanky break room to get more horrid coffee and microwave some leftover pizza. Sheesh.

** Every now and again, I try to popularize a word that I make up or reassign. Some years ago I thought up a good one that totally did not catch on. What is the cognitive equivalent of a typo? A thinko. Yeah. Didn't fly. But here's another one that I have been championing for about 5 years and may yet achieve escape velocity in the culture at large: what do you call coffee that has been sitting on the coffee machine burner for hours and hours and is now thickening through evaporation and smells like it's had machine oil dumped in it? Smelted coffee. I like the industrial sound of smelting, which I imagine smells bad. C'mon--start using it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Let's Play "Name that Book"

The patron told me that she was looking for a book. The title, she thought, was something like future shock and the author was something like Alvin. I'm pretty old, as I never tire of telling you, so I remember when the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler was a big deal back in the 70's. I even vaguely remembered the futuristic cover, which looks pretty quaint now:

So I piped up cheerfully about the Toffler book and quickly figured out that we even had a copy, since people at my library are notorious for never weeding any book, no matter how outdated it may be.

She gave me funny look and informed me that it wasn't Future Shock, and the author wasn't Alvin Toffler, but the title was similar, as was the author. But it wasn't about that at all.

I pressed on, asking questions about when she thought the book came out (last year? when she was in high school?), where she heard about it, and the like.

She said that it had been a bestseller maybe a year ago. Maybe less, maybe last fall. She seemed pretty sure it was nonfiction. I asked her if she could remember where she heard about it, hoping that it was an Oprah sort of thing that would be fairly easy to track down, but she remembered nothing.

More questions revealed that it was an exposé of some sort.

So, to recap:
maybe last year
probably non fiction

Definitely not Michael Pollan
definitely not Malcolm Gladwell
No way it was Jonathan “Safran” Foer

It did not, in fact have food or eat in the title.

What do you think? Any ideas. The woman is long gone, having grown tired of my fruitless searching and endless questions, so no time pressure.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Question for You About WiFi

Before I get started, just let me say that I’m glad we have wifi in the library. I wouldn’t get rid of it even if I could. However, every once in a while a patron will come up to the desk looking for the thing they just printed from their laptop. I don’t think I astonish very easily, at least not about how people use computers, but I cannot wrap my head around the thought that there are people out there who think that all they need to do is push a button on their laptops and some printer out there at an unknown location, whose properties can only be guessed at, will automatically perk up at their summons, determine that it is the correct and only printer for the job, and print the document. Like Lassie finding Timmy at the bottom of the well and digging him out. Wait, not even that clear—at least Lassie knew Timmy.

So I had a Timmy-down-the-well printing experience today. A woman wanted to know where the print jobs came out. I took her over to the pay-to-print station and began walking her through the process like I do a dozen times each day. But there were no jobs on the print server. I asked her what number computer she was on. She told me that her computer did not have a number. She really hit the word “number” kind of hard. I could actually hear italics in her voice. It was as though she had said, "My computer doesn't smell," or "My computer doesn't have cancer." I started to explain that all of our computers had numbers. You can see where this one went, so I'll skip the dialog about determining that she hadn't been using one of our powerhouse computers.

She steadfastly refused to believe that our printer wouldn't print from her laptop. He printer at home, which she did not set up, prints just fine, therefore.... She wanted to talk to somebody about getting her document printed. I tried to be gentle, explaining that the wait for IT help was breathtakingly long. I tried to get her to email her document to herself and then pick it up on one of our computers and print it from there. She looked at me like I'd just told her to get up on the Reference Desk and do a little dance for me. She stalked off. Another satisfied customer.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What With All That's Going On These Days

We were talking about the death of What's-His-Face before we opened today. Somebody mentioned, with eyes rolling, that because of his demise and the fear of retaliation, various government agencies are encouraging people to report suspicious activity.
"If we called the FBI every time we saw something suspicious here," one circ clerk pointed out, "they'd block our number because we'd be calling so much."

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Somewhat Sad Passage

I'm a little bit sad that the brief fashionability of the undersized fedora in the under 40 male set appears to be over. I see fewer and fewer of them and predict confidently that by summer, they will have gone the way of chain wallets, Doc Martens and Flashdance-inspired casual clothing. I'm not sad because I liked the darn things. Indeed, I found it more than a little ridiculous that young men would just add this decontextualized bit of headwear to the flip-flops and board shorts they had on. And I really hated the fact that none of the hats properly fit anyone over the age of eight.

(For Example:

Your honor, I rest my case.)

No, I'm sad because I had gotten used to seeing it on certain young men as they walked up to the desk and it acted like a little flag. "Tread carefully," it said to me, "you are about to interact with a preening, self-absorbed douchebag." Farewell, fedora, farewell.