Damage Reduction

Every hour, we have a changing of the guard. The staff at one area will leave to another area. It happens every hour, on the hour. At the same time, we must log off the computers we are leaving and log back on at the computers we are coming to for security reasons. It takes roughly five minutes to log into the computers, wait for the scripts to run, and log onto the library system.

During the change today, a patron came by and was in a hurry. We directed him to the self-checkout machines, which are ready to go, all the time.

He responded that he was alumni and thought that people should do their jobs.

He's lucky he said that to one of our students or he would have gotten an ass chewing from the rest of the staff.

We have a name for the self check out machines. It's damage reduction. The library has the second highest injury rate after the office of the physical plant. That's right. The library. My unit alone sucks up half a million a year in worker's compensation doctor's and physcial therapy bills.

As an alumnus of the university I work for, I'm getting tired of all the other alumni acting so damned privileged. Unless you are donating a million or more a year to the university, I don't care that you once had classes here. Having paid to be taught here ten years ago makes you squat. The only reason you have access to our library is the land grant and the grace of the board of trustees. Both of which could change in a New York Minute.

As pissed off as I am by this attitude, I take some small satisfaction in knowing that most of the tuition he paid way back funded the physical therapy of someone who worked before me.

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a great holiday!

At the university, you can get a painted wood block of any of the buildings on campus. I know there are alumni out there with full sets of these blocks set up to look like the campus so that they are never far from 'home.' The library is actually three seperate blocks. The excuse for that is that we are three different builidings. While this is techniquely true, the truth is that we are just that damn big.

My sister in law, Holly, gave us a block for the eastern part of the building. The block has a description of the building, the fundraising involved, and a history of it's name on the back. On the front, along with the building are painted little tiny people. They aren't any specific people. (Hell, they don't even have faces.) But I'll probably name them after historical university figures so I can mock them without leaving home. ;)


Gripe, Bitch, Moan

It's the end of the semester and so begins the phone calls from international students who cry on the phone because we close for Christmas. Sorry, kid. I know you can't go home, but all the international student groups have tons of holiday stuff for you to participate in.

Today, I got the usual 'when are you open during the break?' call when it diverged into weirdness.

Caller: So the break is only two weeks in January?
Me: Yes. (For future reference, it has always been two weeks. No more, no less.)
Caller: I'd like to leave a comment with you. I think it's a shame. How are the kids going to get Christmas jobs if they only have two weeks to work. (President's Name) really isn't concerned about the students and the university should do something about it.


Okay, when I was an undergrad, I always had a Christmas job (which I hated working), no problem. Hell, I had Christmas ruined one year because I had to work. If a student wants a job during break, they can find one. It's not hard in a university town.

But as for bringing the President of the university into this: slow down. He doesn't set the calendar for the year. The calendar is set according to how many days the students must have class and how much expansion of summer semesters need. It's got nothing to do with him.

But, you know, I know why our caller was angry. He was angry that we (as in the library) was closed at all. God forbid that we get a well deserved break after the end of a semester to relax, recover, and see family. Geez. How terrible of us!

So here is a tip to everyone who has a complaint or comment to file with anyone: Tell it to the right person. Don't call a library to complain about a science lab. Your efforts go no where fast.


More Java Problems

After testing for weeks and the promise of going live with Java Sirsi in january, it has been indefinitely put off. Thank God.

But why has it been put off?

It takes 12 seconds for slips to print.

This doesn't sound like much until you see us work. In twelve seconds, we can charge or discharge between 10 and 15 books. We already process materials faster than the system can handle. Slips that print too slow is a no go and must be fixed before we can go live.

Sirsi always has this brilliant ability to fix something only to break something fundamental. Try our new interface! It can do anything!

Snake oil salesmen.


Vista on the Horizon

Look out libraries, we are in for a large hit to our donation-funded wallet!

Even though Vista has an interface so easy to use a caveman can do it (pardon the expression), there are a couple things that will cause libraries forced to use it some problems:
  • Upgrades - All previously usable computers, if not upgraded within the last 6 months, will need to be replaced to run Vista. Though you can upgrade from XP, it takes some serious computing power to handle Vista.
  • Vista rates the system software you have so it will run appropriately on your computer. It takes a minimum of 512 MB of DRAM to run Vista. This minimum only rates a 2.9 out of a score of 5.9.
  • You need a high-powered graphics card, such as the Nvidia 6800 Ultra, to run the Window's Aero experience. The new graphics are pretty, but current Linux looks just as pretty.
  • Vista will not install peripherals it doesn't consider 'good enough' for the system. Which means another equipment upgrade for printers, speakers, and, if you are a big university library, media equipment.
  • Parental controls, and therefore content controls (important for public libraries attempting to keep pr0n from kids) is based on language. You can block English language sites but not anything in another language.
Even though Vista installs quickly and easily, it doesn't do much more than XP already does with a little fiddling. The problem arises in that many libraries have deals that let them get new Microsoft products at a discount so long as they get those products as soon as they are on the shelf. Vista is not only going to cost a lot of money, but a few jobs as well as libraries try to pay for the new software.

Man, it sucks to be us.


Overdue Notices

With the advent of widely available internet access, many libraries have instituted the service of sending you a notice, via emial, when your books are due. This didn't really kick into high gear until 2000. Before then, you had to be responsible and pay attention to when your books were due.

Today, we had a faculty member come in, complaining about his fines. He had several books that were overdue from 1996 and 1997. He complained that he never knew they were overdue. It's 2006I If your books were checked out ten years ago, they are overdue! It doesn't matter if you get a notice or not. Your books are due when they are due. When we pointed out that the books were ten years overdue, he started complaining about his grad students using them, which still doesn't make any sense.

Even with returning the books, which significantly reduces your fines at this library, he still owed over a $100. My library, as well as every other library in the U.S., has written into their policies that email is unreliable and therefore you are responsible for knowing when your books are due, regardless of whether or not you get a notice.

So let's review the lessons we have learned:
1. Pay attention to the date your books are due.
2. If the book was due ten years ago, it is overdue.
3. If you are a tenured professor, you are obviously not a moron. Don't hide behind excuses, grad students long gone, spouses, or the tenured faculty 'god-complex.'
4. Be responsible about your library books.


Things People Say

Besides it being inappropriate, private conversations held in public bathrooms can be entertaining. Inbetween the many conversations over heard was this slip: "The library should re-do their bathrooms."

I'm going to ignore the fact that she was using a restroom for staff convenience (and therefore very small) and I'm also going to ignore that she could easily have walked out the door and gone twenty steps to a bigger bathroom.

Instead, I'm going to talk about money. She obviously believes that the library has a money tree growing in a super secret, force field protected green house on the roof.

Just because a library is attached to a university or college, doesn't mean they actually get funding from said college. Sure, employees get paid from the university, but nothing happens in the library without donations from an increasingly less generous public. State funds often find their way back to the state through several 'One-Time Give Backs.' Technology updates and student abuse of the system lead to million dollar hemorrages.

And somehow, somehow, we are supposed to fix the bathroom that you shouldn't be using in the first place.

Well, sweetheart, cough up the dough and we'll name it after you.

Java (of the Workflows Variety)

At work, we've been getting into the habit of gently reminding patrons that they must bring the appropriate materials to pick up holds, i.e. their ID card and the call numbers of the books. We've also been making a habit of thanking people who do bring in the required items. The positive reinforcment has been working. So long as it isn't sabotaged by the administration, we will soon have a large set of our patrons using the library more actively and responsibly.

We've found that this 'patron training' will be vitally important when we switch to the new Java version of Workflows.

In our current client, we have only have to click the mouse twice to locate the call number of a book on hold. It can take as little as 15 seconds. In Java client, it takes two minutes or more just to find out what books are on hold let alone the call number, which is hidden.

Call numbers are a serious problem in the new java client. You'd think that a company that builds systems for libraries would think that call numbers (the thing by which you locate a book in the library) are important. Apparently not. It can take five to ten frustrating minutes to coax a call number out of the Java client for any book. It sucks and will seriously impair our ability to serve our patron community.

After complaining about this, we got an email from a rep with a screenshot of the new checkout, showing us how to get the holds from just that screen. It took two seconds to figure out that the rep was using a different version of the test client. I hope that when we go live, we will get what the rep was using. Of course, that screen didn't have call numbers either.

So library computing problems aside, we will have another problem altogether just on the administrative side. Java is implemented in a whole slew of online video games. In an effort to curb 'play time' at work, most office computers are stripped of both Java and Flash. Both of these programs are vital to the office and marketplace. It took months to convince the admin that they were necessary just for the websites we use everyday to do our job. Our online training facilities use Java and without it, most of the work force cannot complete their annual reviews. And most of the computers here don't have either program.

With a new Java version of our system coming online in another month, even a caveman (pardon the expression) can figure out that Houston's going to have some problems.