Friday, August 10, 2018

That's Google calling

Today I had a computer help appointment to help a patron sign up for an email. This is a really common thing because the local public housing authority requires you to have one for some unfathomable reason, and we are just down the street.

This guy was a real beginner, as in 'didn't know what the mouse is' level. He was also just having a rough time in life at the moment--he was caught in the awful web of the housing authority because he was trying to get emergency housing. Fortunately, he had a buddy with him (possibly a relative but, from the way they interacted, they didn't seem related).

The buddy brought the guy in to make the appointment and then came back with him and sat through it with the two of us. He didn't know a ton more about computers, but he knew more than his friend and he would helpfully point out where a letter on the keyboard was or repeat my instructions in different words if his friend was struggling. However, he always waited a few moments to let his friend try it himself first. For the first three quarters of the session, I was thinking that if the buddy knew more about computers he could teach the session just as well as I could and I'd be totally obsolete.

As I said, the applicant was really struggling, like, a lot. I think he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer to begin with, or maybe it was just because he was under a lot of stress, but he kept forgetting what he'd chosen as his email and password, even though his friend had written it down, stuff like that. In contrast, the other guy was picking things up really quickly, but again held back to let his friend try things on his own.

Anyway, we got to the point where the applicant had to get a verification code on his phone from Google, and he said he didn't have text, so I showed him the "Get a phone call instead" option and got him to click the button. His phone immediately rang, and he stared at it in confusion for a few seconds, causing his friend to finally snap. The buddy yelled "That's Google calling! Answer your god-damned phone!"

He had to go stand in the lobby and cool down for a couple of minutes. It was like watching my own id work alongside me.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Owl pellets

Today I got to help the children's librarian with a very special STEM program: dissecting owl pellets. The setup was a bit involved: each kid had to be handed a paper plate, a mini-skewer, some plastic tweezers, and the owl pellet itself, so it took a while to pass everything out. There were a lot of kids because the rec center's summer camp had come over for the program, and they were getting kind of loud and fidgety, so I tried to distract them:
Me: So, where do you think we got these owl pellets from?
A kid: Amazon!
Me: basically, yeah. We ordered them from a company online and they mailed them to us. Who do you think collected the owl pellets? How would you like to be the person who has that job?
Kids: Eeeew! Nooooo! Grossssssss!
Rec center lady, with a completely deadpan face: What if I told you that that person makes a hundred thousand dollars a year?
Kids: [absolute, wide-eyed silence]

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Never send a librarian to do a page's job

(EDIT: Sorry the pictures are so tiny! I tried keeping the original size but they really mess up the site formatting!)

I can't remember if I mentioned that Mystery Library has a New Manager. New Manager is pretty cool but also lets me/wants me to do more things, so I've been just as busy as I was under Old Manager, who wasn't as good at managing but also shot my (work-making) ideas down on a regular basis.

New manager wants everybody to be doing things so that we all become empowered employees who love our jobs, or something like that. Accordingly, she came up with a bunch of smallish workflow changes and improvements and asked each staff person to work on one. Since the staff at Mystery Library isn't used to being allowed to do things and New Manager knows that, she started with baby steps. The task she gave me was this: She'd like us to do more pre-sorting of returned items before we take them out to shelve, and wants me to find a way to label our shelving carts to facilitate that.

Simple, right? Here's what she got...

I started by making a list of every single collection in our library and which shelving cart (out of the 6 we have) we currently sort them onto. My listed looked like this (sorry for the not great formatting--I've found that Blogger doesn't handle spreadsheets well):

Noticing that some of the carts had way more collections on them than others, I tinkered around with other possible distributions over the 6 carts that would be easier, and found an arrangement where no individual shelf would have to contain more than 2 distinct collections (this took a little while since I also had to account for the fact that some collections are much larger than others and thus need proportionally larger space). Then it occurred to me that since we shifted the collection around last year, some of the shelving cart groupings no longer match up well with how things are laid out on the floor, so if you take out one cart you might have to go to three or four different areas to shelve the materials on it. That seemed sub-optimal as well, so then I rearranged the groupings again to take into account the physical proximity, or lack thereof, of each collection. Of course, I couldn't completely go by that, since I still had to keep the size and number of each collection in mind as well.

I finally settled on the following distribution:

I emailed my proposed solution to New Manager, but New Manager worked the weekend and is off today, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow to see what she says. It kind of reminds me, though, about how people joke that if you don't want to do a chore, you should do a really bad job, such a bad job that you will never be asked to do it again.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

New question

People ask a lot of questions that reveal how little they know about the library, but today was the first time I ever had someone ask if it was okay for them to bring their own book from home to read in the library.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Self help

I finally got access to some decent analytical tools for the collection, so I can belatedly present:The most popular Dewey numbers at Mystery Library!

You'll notice they have more of a theme than at other libraries where I have worked.

1. 248 How to get your sh*t together, from an explicitly Christian perspective
2. 158 How to get your sh*t together, from an implicitly Christian perspective
3. 650 How to get your sh*t together by getting a job
4. 332 How to get your sh*t together by managing your money
5. 305 How to get your sh*t together as a black person 
6. 921 How other people got their sh*t together and you can too
7. 364 True crime--what will obviously happen to you if you don't get your sh*t together

Welcome to the (cowboy)bootstrap society, y'all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Our teen librarian had the idea of hosting a mixer for all prominent people in our neighborhood, where they can eat snacks and talk to each other about the work their organizations do. The idea is it would put the library top of mind, and introduce everyone to our underutilized meeting space. We brainstormed a guest list and here are our top 3 VIPS:

1. A guy who opened a bank down the street and was interviewed on our local NPR station about wanting to develop small businesses in our neighborhood
2. The manager of the section 8 housing complex across the street
3. The retired principal who comes to the library every day to read the newspaper and seems to know everyone in the community

Thought leaders, one and all.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Serious weeds, serious Legos

I have been inventorying our non-fiction collection and finding a lot of junk. Today I weeded:

Image result for star trek companion book 

Image result for hispanic firsts book 1997 

Image result for how to find anyone anywhere 

In better news, I covered a Lego program (maybe 'program' is a strong word for dumping three boxes of Legos out on a table) and spent the whole hour listening to/chatting with a kid who had to update me on everything he was building, 100% in Spanish. He was into everything being cute and little--in Spanish, you can add "ita" or "ito" to the end of a word to mean it is little and cute, so instead of a casa (house) he made a casita, instead of a carro (car), he made a carrito, etc. I love talking to kids in Spanish because I can be really un-selfconscious--they don't care about my bad grammar or the fact that I can't roll my rs. Also, I learn a lot about the imperative tense from preschool age children.