Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not work-safe

Our library maintains a blog aimed at teenagers. Today the filtering software on our staff computers blocked access to it with the following error message:

"Access to the web page you were trying to visit has been blocked in accordance with company policy. Please contact your system administrator if you believe this is in error.
Category: adult"


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

To balance out the depression induced by English-only tax forms

I've been bumming out about the lack of 1040 tax forms in Spanish ever since I discovered it on Saturday. (Subsequent investigation confirms the forms don't exist.) I thought that you, dear readers, might be bumming out about it too, so I thought I'd cheer you up by passing on this story from the Swiss Army Librarian, my favorite primarily professional (as opposed to primarily humorous) library blog.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tax forms en Español

Search of the day:

I am working on a Spanish-language display about personal finance. I made a list of books to include and then looked around to see if we had any relevant pamphlets to add to the display. We often get public service pamphlets from the city and various nonprofits so I thought we might have something on safe online banking, managing debt, consumer rights, etc. I didn't find much, but I got really taken up by the idea of having multiple media types on the display. Then it occured to me that, since it is tax season, I could include some tax forms. My library only gets paper forms in English, but I figured I could get permission to print out some Spanish copies from the IRS website if I pulled a minor guilt trip about serving all our patrons equally. I thought I'd do just a few 1040s and 1040 EZs, nothing fancy.

However, even after spending a good 45 minutes on, I couldn't find any major tax form in Spanish. The only Spanish-language instruction document I could find was Publication 17. It seems really improbable to me that the IRS doesn't produce 1040s in Spanish, but it also seems improbable that they do but those documents are so well-hidden that 45 minutes of searching didn't unearth them.

Does anyone have any insight into this? If the IRS doesn't produce forms in Spanish, does anyone know why not?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Will you be here the rest of the day?

“I need you to fax something for me.” As they would say over at Love the Liberry, that’s NASWP (Not A Service We Provide). It turns out she can’t use our fax machine anyway (it only takes credit cards) so I give her directions to a local business where she can pay in cash. Our conversation about it goes like this:
Me: “The closest place where you can pay cash is called the Local Fax Company, and it is at the southwest corner of A Avenue and B Street, behind the McDonald’s.”
Woman: “Okay (pause) what did you say it was called?”
Me: “The Local Fax Company.”
Woman: “And where is it?”
Me: “Just up the street at A and B.”
Woman: “And they take cash?”

I need to give someone else’s speech. Can you find me a speech to give?

I have some prints but I don’t know how…okay, when you are ready to print, let us know and we will show you.

A woman wants the book Unbroken. We have five items in our system with that title and she doesn’t know the author. It turns out she wants to prison one, but the nonfiction WWII prison one, not the fiction young adult prison one. Also she can’t find her interlibrary loan (that’s because we now keep them behind the desk because people were stealing them).

Show the Prints guy how to send a print job to the printer, which consists of clicking “Ok” to a million prompts. I expect to see him a third time when he actually goes to release them at the station where you pay.

Can I borrow a pen?

Different guy needs to know how to print.

Prints guy strikes again.

More printing.

Do you have a copy machine?

The second printing guy comes and says “Thank you ma’am” and SHAKES MY HAND. Then he does the same to the woman at the customer service desk.

Can I have more time on the computer?

A well-known regular, who had been absent for a long time, returns with a vengeance. She has a complaint about the fans in the computer room, which blow down onto the patrons. This is TOTALLY inacceptable and they should blow straight across above the patrons’ heads. I tell her I can consult with someone else, but she says can’t you do it, you are a librarian! Actually, no I’m not, I tell her. So you have to ask your boss? Yes, yes I do, and the fans are up very high so I don’t think I can do anything about it immediately anyway. She says “Well, before I talk to the manager of the whole library can you at least come and look at it?” and I make the mistake of saying “Well I can, but I don’t see what that will accomplish because I can’t actually do anything about it.” But she wants me to go in anyway and I duly nod my head as she explains her objections in detail. Then I have to spend 20 minutes helping her with Microsoft Word! When I finally escape, she says the most ominous eight words a library staff person can hear: “Will you be here the rest of the day?”

Do you have a disinfectant wipe?

How do I get onto a computer?

Have the 1040 instruction booklets come in yet? Do you know when they will come?

More Word help for massively high-maintenance Fan Woman.

Copier help.

Excuse me, I want to see how available this book is. (He wants to place an interlibrary loan request.)

Third visit for Word help to Fan Woman.

Gone for Soldiers by Jeff “Shira.”

Can you help me get onto this computer?

Can you help me copy and paste? It won’t let me right-click. (Thank goodness for keyboard shortcuts!)

I don’t want these books but I don’t remember where they go.

A kid wordlessly hands me some books. If you want to check these out, you have to go to the customer service desk. Sorry.

Are these bookmarks free?

A book series. All the titles end in “from the black lagoon.” Found!

How do I get on the wireless?

Can you help me with a book? I don’t know if it’s here. Sorry, it’s across town at another branch, but I can call them for you…

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I know the librarians aren't babysitters, but...

The incident that prompted this post actually happened a little while ago. I've just been thinking over what to write about it.

On Fridays our branch closes at 6:00. At about 5:45 I noticed an anxious small kid hanging around by the public phone. I spoke to the adult who was using the phone and she wrapped up her call so the kid could have a turn. At first he couldn't figure out how to use it, and then he was reaching an answering machine, after which he hung up.

I went over to help him. It came across that his mom, thinking the library was open later, was planning to pick him up at 7:30. I got him to leave a message for her, but he said she was at the laundromat and was planning to come straight from there to the library, so she probably wouldn't get it, and she doesn't have a cell phone.

Did he know where he lived? Well, no. More because he was panicking than because he really didn't know, I think, but the effect was the same. Did he know where the laundromat was? Not really.

I got the bright idea to look up his address using his library card, but it turned out that the address was outdated (he didn't know his current address, but he could identify the one I read to him as not it). And he didn't have someone else he could call to come get him.

It was 6:00 at this point and the library was empty except for staff and this little boy (he was maybe seven years old). The jaded circulation supervisor basically said, boot him out, too bad, but we can't be responsible for him.

But it was dark, and he didn't have a phone, and he was going to have to wait an hour and a half in an okay-but-not-perfectly-safe neighborhood. So I decided I was going to sit and wait with him because I just didn't know what else to do.

I thought everyone else had just gone home, leaving the boy to his fate. It turned out that most, but not all, of them had. After 15 or 20 minutes the young youth services librarian came around to where we were sitting. She had phoned the police and explained the situation. In a few minutes, they (in the person of Officer Smith) came to give the boy a ride to the laundromat where his mom was.

It was sort of terrifying to me that there was no better plan than this for dealing with an abandoned child. If my coworker and I had not had cell phones we couldn't even have phoned the police. It was also alarming that we were two of the greenest staff members in the building, suggesting that after years as library staff we might develop the same mentality as the circulation suprvisor who seemed to resent having to stay five minutes late while I looked up this kid's address.

As a taxpayer, maybe a parent, maybe a library staff person, maybe a once-forgotten child left at the library, how do you think out library would handle this situation in an ideal world?

A library classic

We all know this had to happen sooner or later in the history of this blog.

Today a librarian told a woman that she had to "put in her library card" to get on the computer. Although the librarian meant type in her library card number, the woman stuck her card inside the floppy drive on the CPU and (predicatably) couldn't get it out.

The real issue here, of course, is that the library still has computers with floppy drives.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No middle ground

I only got two questions today: can you help me print this (times 50) and, what can you tell me about the red-knobbed starfish?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Annoying Regular Day

Today is apparently Annoying Regular Day at the library. We have Retired Librarian, Inarticulate Catalog Guy, Mr. Take-My-Card, Running Kid, Hooligan Kids, the whole lot. On the bright side, we also have an old man who I have never seen before who could become a great regular. He hasn't asked for any help but I observed him on the computer on a massively ancient news site, reading story after story about whales. He's been there for at least an hour.

 In related news, the White Whale exists.

Edit 2/14: Per excellent reader suggestion, we are naming the whale guy Captain Ahab.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Today's top questions

One heartwarming and one hilarious.

In the "Public" library category:

I was washing my hands in the public bathroom and exchanged looks with an elementary school-aged girl, maybe in 4th or 5th grade. She looked familiar for some reason so I didn't immediately look away like I normally would. This gave her the opportunity to ask "Do you remember me?" I told her that I remembered that I'd helped her before, but I couln't remember with what. "You helped me with science fair," she said, "and I won first place!"

And in the "College" library category:

I was over in the area where the popular magazines are, pulling the oldest issues to toss. The noise I made disturbed a student who was sleeping on a nearby chair. He said "You work here, right?" I said that yes I did, and he asked "Can you tell me if there's a better place in this library to sleep?"