Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Large Print Hobo Glyphs

There is a certain subset of library patron that apparently cannot remember which books they read, compelling them instead to make a mark inside the front cover of the book to identify where they have been. Like a brand, or one of the hobo glyphs that showed up on gateposts and in boxcars around the country during the Depression. Most of these books are in the large print collection, meaning they are mostly checked out by patrons of a certain age.

A lot of these symbols are a person's initials, but some people get downright artistic. I've seen pine trees, circles, triangles, things that look like cattle brands... Some even have a small stamp for this purpose.

The thing is, we have a floating collection, meaning books that are requested by our patrons come from other libraries and, once returned, stay on our shelves until they are requested by a patron from another branch. So if Joe Schmoe from the other side of the county checks out a book from his local branch, puts his mark in it, then Jane Doe requests it be brought to our branch, then the copy of the title Joe Schmoe read and marked is now halfway across the county. Perhaps, then, while Jane Doe is reading that copy, someone else from Joe Schmoe's library requests another copy from another branch, then it is returned there. There is now a copy of a book Joe Schmoe has read, but not the copy he has marked, meaning he might check out something he's already read. Quelle horreur!

Long story short, the library version of the hobo glyph is pointless. Better to invest in a little notebook and write down what you read.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

PhD in Douchebaggery

We get all kinds of people in the library. Young, old, poor, rich, black, white, yellow, orange, green. S-M-R-T and not so S-M-R-T. Occasionally we get a real superstar, though. Take Mr. PhD in Geophysics.

Mr. PhD in Geophysics comes in the other day with his son. Son goes off into the Children's Room to browse while Mr. PhD in Geophysics fills out an application for a library card. Upon presenting his application at the circulation desk, Mr. PhD in Geophysics is informed that, since he lives in a neighboring county, he needs to first procure a library card from that county and then we can add him to our system. Mr. PhD in Geophysics then states that he and his family will be moving to our county soon and he doesn't want to get a library card for the county in which he currently lives. The staff member at the circulation desk then offers him the nonresident card, which costs $25. He proceeds to puff up like a great indignant balloon and is sent to the Information Desk to speak to a supervisor.

My colleague, who is also a Librarian and is also at the Information Desk with me, fields him first. She reiterates what the circulation staff member has already told him. He says he has a PhD in Geophysics, and this is the only library he has ever been to where he could only get a card if he paid. She explained that he can get borrowing privileges for our library for free, but that first he would have to get a card for his home county.

He continues to bluster that he has a PHD!!! In GEOPHYSICS!!! And he has library cards from all over the country!!! Like Boston!!! And I stepped in at this point and said that that is all fine, well and good, but he was not going to be checking out a book from our library until he brought in a card from the neighboring county, coughed up $25, or moved to our county. At which point he is still arguing that he has a PHD IN GEOPHYSICS and that NO WONDER EVERYONE IN THIS STATE IS ILLITERATE. I gave him the number of our administrative office and he collected his son, saying the "Book Nazis" weren't going to let them check anything out, and huffed out.

PhD. And the D stands for Douchebag.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

JFGI, People!

I staff a virtual librarian desk, which means that the people who are asking me questions are people on a computer with Internet access. The vast majority of the not-library-specific questions I get are questions that are quickly and easily answered with a trip to your best friend and mine, The Google.

I wonder every time I am logged on to virtual reference why these people, who are skilled enough to find a link to or navigate to our virtual reference chat site, are not s-m-r-t enough to GO TO THE GOOGLE and search for the answer there first.

Really want to send them to this site. Really. All the time.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Donations, A Caveat

Patron: "My wife and I are cleaning out our house and downsizing and I have a lot of books to donate."

Me: "Great!"

Patron: "I have one requirement: the books must be added to the collection."

Me: "Well, unfortunately I can't guarantee that items donated to the library will be added to the collection. We will certainly consider any that are appropriate and will sell the others in the Friends' book sale."

Patron: "Well, these are rare books and some of them are quite valuable. I have had dealers interested in buying them, but I wanted them to benefit the library."

Me: "Well, we'll be happy to take them but again, we can't guarantee what will happen to them after you donate them."

Patron: "Okay, that's fine. I'll donate them. But you should check online to make sure you ask a fair price for them."

Me: "Okay."

Patron hands me a box full of Readers Digest and Time-Life subscription series books from the 1980s.

Me: "Thanks!" [Interior monologue: Yeah, real rare and valuable.]

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Technophobes Unite! And Drive Me Crazy. Part 2 - The eBook Edition

It seems like everyone in the entire world (except me. Um, hello, husband?) got an ebook reader for Christmas. And none of them know how to use it. So they call their friendly local library to get instructions on using their new toys and downloading free books from the library. I do not have an ebook reader (see sentence 1, above), but I can walk them through downloading from our ebook provider online. Why is this? Why do I know how to operate a piece of technology that I've never owned or played with for any substantial length of time and these people can't figure it out?

It's because I'm a Jeeeenyuuuuuus! Just kidding. It's because I have futzed around with enough gadgets to know the basic lay of the land and because I am NOT SCARED. The Nook is not going to suck out your soul if you don't push the right thing. (Or WILL it?) It just confounds me, how these people are so afraid to play! Or afraid to read directions, apparently, since our catalog of digital downloads has an extensive help and troubleshooting section, as well as a very handy "Getting Started" presentation, not to mention I'm pretty sure that the manufacturers make user's manuals, if not in print then online. Come on people! Read and experiment a little!

Also, my birthday is coming up at the end of January. I would like a Nook Color, please. Thanks!

Technophobes Unite! And Drive Me Crazy.

So not only do I man the reference desk, but I also teach computer classes. It boggles my mind how many people still don't know how to use a computer. I have taught many MANY people how to turn the computer on, how to use the mouse, what all those weird buttons are on the keyboard. Satisfying? Yes, of course. It's always nice to empower someone to use or do something new. Frustrating? You betcha.

The main thing that frustrates me is the fear that most of these people have of the computer. I am in my mid-thirties, so I learned computers as they were coming up through the MS-DOS phase, through the introduction to the mouse and now with the touchscreen tablet computers and smartphones. I never took a class, I've just learned new technologies as they have emerged. And yes, a lot of this has to do with my age and the fact that computers have been around for all of my adult life. But my parents both are computer-comfortable, if not completely savvy, and they roll with the punches as new things come out. My dad has a Droid and a Macbook, for crying out loud!

Some people are just afraid of technology. They are afraid of breaking something. A lot of my computer students feel more comfortable when I assure them at the beginning of class that a computer is just an appliance and that they can't break it unless they really really try. I am only frustrated when they stop dead in their digital tracks, frozen like a deer in the headlights because they can't figure out how to get out of a screen or return to the previous page. Try something, damn it! Look at the screen and see what looks like it might get you where you want to go! That big "back" arrow, when clicked, may just take you back to the previous page! And the big red "X" in the corner? May close that screen altogether! PLAY, people! Click around, that's really how you're going to learn and be comfortable.