Friday, March 24, 2017

Supplies I have wished we had at the reference desk

  1. A cell phone jammer
  2. Emergency cake
  3. Text-to-speech translation software
  4. A megaphone
  5. A baby gate
  6. Air freshener
  7. Nose plugs
  8. Ear plugs
  9. A taser
  10. Just one god-damn pair of scissors that actually worked

More on the New Downtown

Not only did we not get gender-neutral restrooms, as I was really, really hoping would happen as a result of our renovation, for some mysterious reason the men's bathroom is now on the left while the women's is on the right, which was the opposite of what it was in December. I flinch at the drama that is sure to ensue.


The circulation department staff, with whom I now share a desk, are much more interested in monitoring the patrons' computers for pornography than I have ever been.


"I was told I could get a home heating tax form up here. Also, I just got on social security; do you know if there is another form I need?"


An adorable girl in the world's tiniest pea coat runs behind the reference desk while her dad and I are trying to figure out the name of a movie.


Man whose headphones are blaring "Don't Stop Believin' " would like to know where he is on the hold list for the movies Fences and Jackie.


Patrons are no more happy with how we divide our DVD collection now than they were pre-renovation. No, sorry, we don't have an "old movies section." No, sorry, we don't have a religious section.


In the new setup, the last row of computers is a little closer to the print release station than it used to be. This morning a man coughed while releasing his print job and the woman seated at the nearby computer snapped "Get away from me with your cough!" Of course no one could just let it go right away, so on his way out the cougher said "That's not very polite" in acid tones as he was passing, to which the computer user responded "I'm sick of people coming near me with their colds!"


New patron wants to know: If I print up there, does it just come out back here?


I have to shush two guys chatting in the newspaper area. On his way out, one of them shushes me in revenge. Being shushed by a patron is probably on my top ten list of work annoyances.


Janis has made it back in. She's still a little confused about which elevator buttons to push, but seems to be adjusting fine to the new layout.


A foot fetishist needs help with a website. The people in the pictures are clothed so I just try not to think about it and don't treat it as a porn issue.


"Do our library cards still work the same to get on the computers?"


Two different people need to be shown how to allow popups in Google Chrome, a process that requires six clicks, which I feel is three too many. Poorly designed websites are probably number one on the aforementioned top ten list.


"Excuse me, are you computer savvy? I want to print the pictures from an email, but when I click print it just wants to print the email. Can you help me?"

Friday, March 17, 2017

Regulars

Ms. Opp called three times within the first 20 minutes of my first shift back at Downtown Library. I also saw Mr. Timmons the same day but he didn't bring me any candy. I must have taken him too much by surprise, or maybe Seamus the Boss of Security has cracked down on food in the library now that it's all nice and clean (someone already spilled beer on the new carpet, though).


The first question my husband asked me when I got home from my first day back at Downtown was "Was Janis there?" She was not. I might have to email one of my new friends from West Side Branch and make sure she is okay.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dowtown is different

Both staff and patrons are adjusting to the reconfigured Downtown Library. Here are some comments from patrons so far:


"It looks bigger!" (It's the same size)


"It's like a completely new building!" (It's the same building)


"I didn't realize you were going to open again. I thought this library was just shut down."


"Is it still the same process to get on the computers?"


"Good, you're open. I hated North Side Library." 


"Can I still go up to the second floor?"


"There's a second floor now!?"


(As I am looking for a gosh-darned sharpie because I don't know where anything is in our new desks, and my arms are aching from carrying my laptop around during two hours of 'roving reference':) "You must love it!"


"I thought it would look more different. It pretty much looks the same."

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Renovation blues

My library life is crazy right now because this is my last week at West Side Library before Downtown Library reopens. I got to see it in February and it's like a completely different building! Not necessarily a great building, but different.


Three times a day I tell Downtown patrons who, like me, have relocated to West Side Branch, that the Downtown Library will be opening again on Monday. Most of these conversations are identical, but then I had this conversation with Janis:
Me: "Hi Janis!"
Janis: "Hi Emma!"
Me: "I thought you would want to know that the Downtown Library will be open again starting on Monday."
Janis: "Oh wow! That's great, Emma!...And then when will this library be closing?"
Me: "This library will stay open. You can still come here after the Downtown Library opens, if you want."
Janis: "Really!? Oh wow! I'm going to come to the Downtown Library and come to this library too, Emma!"


I think she is probably my favorite patron. Recently there was an incident where she sat down at a computer that someone else had reserved and he got kind of shirty about it, and the whole staff got very protective of Janis.


I have mixed feelings about going back to Downtown (I really like my colleagues at West Side) but if people are going to be as wound up as they are today, I am ready to leave.


A grumpy man who is some kind of Republican political organizer comes up to complain: "This computer should be doing what I tell it! Not telling me what to do!"


A man can't get into the Facebook account he just signed up for because when Facebook asked him for an email address, he just made one up instead of giving it an address he actually had access to.


A different man needs help formatting some document to print. On accidental closer examination it's something about a sexual assault case. I don't want to know.


I have to break the news to two different people that they can't get on the computer because they have too many fines. Then, someone else has an expired card. When I ask if she has a few minutes to renew it, she says "Actually, this is my mom's card. She's dead."


A man feeds a five dollar bill into the print machine for a 30-cent print job. Jackpot! Later, I come over to see that he has fed back in the remaining $4.70, but hasn't realized that every single coin has just fallen through to the coin return.


Someone puts their money for the copier into the printer's coin box. I really wish they could color-code the machines and their associated payment receptacles.


Tensions rise over who is next in line for the printer.


Woman who picked up a print job that wasn't hers: "I don't like it when I have to pay for things that aren't mine!"
Me: "I don't believe it charged you for that, ma'am."
Woman (nastily): "Well, it's happened. Several times."




And, Small Town Library is also in the midst of renovations. They recently put up a temporary wall all around the circ desk for patron protection, and circ has had to set up in a temporary station behind reference, so now I just have the exact same conversation with everyone there, too: "Are you looking for returns? Right in the bin back here! Thank you!" Not to mention all the jack-hammering.


I wonder how many renovations the average librarian survives in his or her career. I'm already at two, which seems like too many!



Friday, March 3, 2017

So personal

One of the many things that my library 'science' education didn't prepare me for was how intimate a window I would get into other people's personal lives as a public librarian. It really demonstrates how much privacy is a luxury good. If you have a stable life, a good education, and your own computer with internet access, you don't have to deal with this stuff. But if not, well, here's a sample:


I helped a man on a computer for a long time to access a form he needed. When we got the form and went to print it off, he got the standard popup message warning him that he would need to pay 15 cents for his printout. He looked at me and said "Where am I supposed to get 15 cents?"


I have helped several different people photocopy their divorce papers and other court documents (Downtown Library is a few blocks down the street from the county courthouse).


Patron accounts in our computer system have various notes in them--usually insignificant things like "Replaced lost card 4/2016" or "Patron returned X-Men II DVD case without the disc. Called and left message 3/8/14." Not anything embarrassing. Today I pulled up someone's account to check whether any holds had arrived for her and got a popup message "[Patron] has a caretaker, Sally. Phone number on account is Sally's."


A patron needed my help printing off a letter of recommendation for someone. The letter mainly focused on how long he'd been sober and how he was a different, more responsible man now.


A man who wasn't good with the keyboard and couldn't see too well wanted me to type his social security number into a website for him.


I wish our next staff day would have a priest and a doctor come talk to us about how to be a good recipient of people's most intimate information.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

What I've learned from ordering: 000s



As I've mentioned, at Small Town Library I order adult nonfiction for the Dewey Decimal 000s, 100s, and 700s. I've already written about what I've learned from ordering self-help and philosophy for the 100s and arts, crafts, and sports for the 700s, but I've been putting off the 000s.

The 000s are a weird area in the library. They, arguably more than any other class, show how dated the Dewey system is (you could make a pretty good argument for the religion or history sections too, though, among other options). Officially, the 000s are "Computer science, information & general works."

For my small public library, that means that 90% of the 000s are computer help books, things like iPhone 6 for Dummies and so forth. Then we have a small number of encyclopedias, books about libraries, and books about the news industry shoved between the computer books and the beginning of the philosophy section.


I started my work on the 000s by weeding very heavily. Computer books go out of date very quickly. One of the most useful pieces of advice I read about collection management was to remember that, although a 5-year-old device or operating system might still be in use, you probably don't need to have a book on it because that technology is not being presented to new users who are unfamiliar with it--if it's still in use, it's by people who have had it for a while.


This gave me a lot of space to order how-to books on the latest devices, and on programming languages. Our programming collection was weak when I arrived and I'd heard from my coworkers that patrons had pointed this out, so that and devices were what I focused on.


I cannot figure out the pattern of the 000s at all. The good news is that most of the things I bought have circulated well, but it's a complete mystery to me why the few that flopped were flops. 

For example, here are the items I ordered about using different devices:



Why did the Android phones title circulate more than three times as much as anything else, including a book on the same device but a different brand, and a book on the same operating system but different device? Was it just random chance? Are Android phones really hard to use for some reason? Did some patron evangelize about it to all his friends? I have no idea.

The situation is similar with programming books. The book I bought on Drupal and the one on SQL are just sitting on the shelf, along with the ones on app development, but the two Java books are getting on like a house on fire. And, for some reason, the two books I bought on Photoshop went out a combined 13 times in their first 9 months.

Lessons

I think the main thing I have learned is that you need time to master the 000s. Because the collection becomes outdated very quickly and thus weeding is heavy, you don’t have a lot of circulation history data to work with. And if you haven’t been weeding, you can’t use the demand for outdated titles to predict demand for current titles on the same subjects. You need time to talk to patrons and learn what they ask for, and time to make some acquisitions and see how well or poorly they do.

The one strong feeling I had about this collection turned out to be right. That was my belief that I should keep the collection to just computer books as much as possible. Anything else that fell into the 000s would not be very discoverable by browsing. The few things I bought that fit that description bore out my worry: Robert’s Rules of Order (which I bought because it is the system that governs our library board’s meetings), and The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market were big shelf-sitters. I can’t do anything for Robert’s, but I think I will try to convince my coworker to adopt the Market into her 800s (Literature and Writing), where I think it will get much more attention.

I also ordered the latest Guinness Book of World Records for the 000s, and it was borrowed immediately and never brought back. I run a report of items that are long overdue every few months, and when this one showed up on my list I ordered a new copy. That experience definitely influenced me to run that report more frequently. Losing the Guinness Book was bad enough (they’re expensive!), but what if it had been some blockbuster fiction title that our library had been missing for two months without me noticing?

Conclusions

Maybe I’ll revisit the 000s in another year and see if I’ve got a better handle on them. In the meantime, if you have any collection management tips, I would love to hear them!