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Mr. Mustache, another librarian blog

I am a reference librarian with experience in both the public and state government fields. I am doing this on a whim, sort of like the mustache I grew when I was 19 and still have in my 50's.

Location: New Jersey, United States

I am a state worker and a librarian.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Typewriters in libraries

The young librarian takes a position on the reference desk of a public library. Equipped with knowledge and enthusiasm of her new profession and ready to explain Flikr, YouTube, Ebsco and Linux to the eager patrons she gets her first question. "Where is the typewriter?"

Typewriters? She has to run to the circulation desk. "Does this library have typewriters?" The answer is that way in the back, between the potted palm and the men's room, is an old IBM Selectric. A vestige of an earlier age, but alas, people still ask to use it.

There they sit. Old, fat, expensive to maintain. It's difficult to load ribbons, it's horrendously difficult to load the correcto ribbons. The typewriters. Every library director would like to throw them into the trash. But, alas, people still come into the library to use them. And if they are not working correctly they will let you know.

The library typewriter stands as an example of the dilemma of what libraries should provide. Some say give the adults their Rachael Ray cookbooks and their "how to beat the odds at the casino" books and the kids their books on pit bulls and numb chucks. Others say the library is a place where the public should be encouraged to gravitate to higher things, ie. haute cuisine, the stock market and Japanese Reiki.

Typewriters are a classic example of recycling. Technical services dump their typewriters and the better ones go in the public area. Then those break down and people donate their old typewriters. Typewriters are constantly being recycled partly because it is woefully difficult to find
people to repair the contraptions.

I remember one day after spring cleaning, opening the storage room in the basement and there was a convention of a dozen old typewriters. I guess they were waiting for the word processing fad to pass.

Today I work in a government library. I am amazed how many people want to use our typewriter. It is one of the hottest commodities in the library. Admittedly, it is perfect for filling out forms with carbon copies (yes we still use those). I have gotten to be a good typist. Last week the correcto ribbon broke and I am now typing "without a net". Just like the time I saw Miss Dizzy Heights at a Rolling Stones concert. Well, not exactly.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

An attitude

Many of us have attitudes. Having an attitude is one of the pleasures of work. Like wine, however, it must be rooted in genuine grievances, and must be aged and corked sufficiently to be justified and respected.

New employees, especially pages, who walk into the library with attitudes should be avoided. Many of our younger friends who have attitudes from day one are like the six month old wine being advertised as fresh fruity reisling in the liquor stores. No depth, no true resonance.

The doctors on MASH had attitude, and deservedly so. Civilians giving up lucrative medical practices to work in the field at twenty hour shifts saving lives. Just let some general try to take away their still.

Children's librarians sometimes have attitudes because they usually do more work than the rest of the staff and they know they could leave on Monday and have five job offers on Tuesday. At higher salaries. At least that's what they believe.

Clothing can be used to express attitude. An invaluable employee who wears a t-shirt and jeans tells his supervisors not to mess with him. The rest of the goody two shoes envy the t-shirt wearing employees but stick to their ties and heels because they lack attitude.

Computer specialists often develop attitudes in libraries. Surrounded by staff who think bios is a term used in civil rights cases they can solve your problems but they will do it if and when it suits them. I knew one librarian who smirked "I'm the only one on this staff who knows beans about Windows. I'll feel sorry for this staff if I ever leave." When he left they replaced Windows with Linux.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

January statistics

Now it’s January and all the Christmas stuff is being stuffed into boxes or thrown out. I have a crummy storage closet in the basement of my building that I have to use my flashlight to maneuver in. Today I deposited two bags of Christmas stuff. A similar process is taking place in the working world.

I remember one Christmas we had some extra kids in the house and we all sang Christmas songs backwards while we disassembled the tree. “Night Holy…Night Silent …..yaw eth lla elgnij slleb elginij.. Well you get the idea. That was when the Beatles were doing songs backwards.

But there’s nothing remotely funny about the horrible thing awaiting librarians on January 2. Year-end statistics. Year-end reports. State required year-end statistics. Yuck. Even the head of the tiniest department or the tiniest library has to fill out perplexing and difficult forms or at least compile some form of statistics.

Conversations at statistics time:

How come if you take the total of books in the collection last year and add your totals for last year, it’s off by six hundred books? Oh that’s supposed to be volumes not books. How many volumes do we have of Newsweek? Is a year a volume? No, because they start a new volume in July.

Computer stats are even more fun. Does a search on Google mean a reference question? Why are the Ebsco figures so high? Do we count hits that were rejected? Is a dedicated OPAC computer a computer even if it can’t get the Internet? Then why were those kids playing games on the OPAC last week? Should the square footage of a library count the garage?

Library directors also finagle statistics. A patron session with the VITA volunteer becomes a library program. The children’s library is a branch library because it is in a separate building and has it’s own furnace.

One fun thing about compiling on-line statistical forms is understanding the difference between hard and soft errors. A hard error is rejected by the program and can not be entered. A soft error seems suspicious to the program and can be entered but you should know why you are giving a weird answer to a question.

The results are posted in things like
Annual library statistics of Ohio. Yuck. Not nearly as much fun as singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" backwards.