Monthly Archives: May 2008

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.” ~Pogo

A few folks at MPOW were recently looking to book meeting rooms for a recruiting tour of the area. I suggested they contact the local public libraries in the cities they were planning to visit.

Now, I just came from working at the regional consortium, so I’m pretty familiar with the public libraries in the region. I’m also pretty familiar with the library directors. So it came as no real surprise when the person booking the rooms reported that reserving the room at one of the public libraries was “a piece of cake!” The other two libraries in question had hoops through which we were unable to jump: the one required that we hold a library card from their library and the other required that we sign a contract. (As we work for a behemoth organization, anything involving a contract also involves legal council and lots of time.)

I can’t say that any of this is a surprise. The first library in question is one of those places you love to visit. The staff are warm and welcoming, the place is open and colorful, and the director is one of those librarians who is innovative and works very hard to make her library the place that it has become.

The other two can be…..well, prickly.

Now, which library do you suppose my new coworkers have a better feeling about? And how many people are they going to tell about their new swell contact in this particular city? And, once they actually visit the place and see how lovely it is, how many people do you suppose they’re going to refer to that library?

And as for the other two….no amount of marketing will erase cranky and difficult.

Beware of the barriers that you’re erecting to customer service. Are they really necessary? Really?


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I admit it.  I’m a baby when it comes to pain.  I’m even worse when it comes to blood, which is why I didn’t follow my mother into nursing.

There is some pain I can tolerate.  But I managed to inherit the Rock Teeth from my paternal grandmother that means I have had relatively little dental work done in my lifetime.  I still have some of the fillings that were installed when I was 13 years old.  I have two brothers who have never even had a cavity.

And so here I am, with a cracked molar, facing at the very least a crown and possibly root canal.

I. Am. Not. Happy.

Of course, I have friends who would find this all too funny, having Teeth Of Chalk.  One high school buddy had root canal work done when we were in high school.  Even DH isn’t too sympathetic, as he has a fair amount of problems in the dental area.  He faithfully brushes for an eternity, flosses, rinses with mouthwash…..and meanwhile, I’m at the adjacent sink, doing my usual quick brush-and-out.

So, I’m whining.  I just visited my dentist for another application of some stuff that will keep the worst of the pain at bay until I’m able to go in for my temporary crown.  (Friday morning, for those keeping score.)  In the meantime, I’m popping Excedrin every four hours.  Thank God for the power of aspirin.  There’s something about tooth pain that seems almost unbearable.  (I swear, the pain I felt after abdominal surgery was no big deal by comparison.  Why is that?)

Anyway, thanks for listening.  I’ll stop whining now.  Or, soon.

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 I recently started following Gen-Y blogs in an effort to understand where this generation is coming from.  I think I have an idea, but I figured learning from the actual demographic would be better than listening to fellow Boomers make assumptions.  There was an interesting post this week on Our American Shelf Life.  One of the blog’s contributors visited the Boston Public Library and was confronted by the dual realities of her own impatience and the non-immediacy of print resources. 

I found this post particularly interesting in part, of course, because of the library connection.  I also was interested in a number of the telling statements the author made.

It may seem odd, but about two weeks ago I went to theBoston Public Library for the first time in the course of my entire college career. I had been there before as a tourist, but this time I was there with an actual academic purpose.

Wow.  Judging from another post about this author, she’s graduating this year.  It took until her senior year of college to visit the public library.  We obviously have some work to do in reaching this demographic.

Anyway, she needed specific magazine articles for her thesis, and had researched the library’s collection and had determined they had the issues in question. 

I made my way to the library early on a Wednesday morning. I stood in line for 10 minutes while other people requested what they needed. Then, after making my request, I waited another 20 minutes for them to find my magazines. When they came back with the wrong volumes, I waited another 15 minutes for them to find the right ones. I waited for almost an hour! You have to understand, an hour during finals is like an eternity! I could’ve used that hour to sleep, to study for something else, take a nice long shower, you name it, I could’ve been doing that.

It’s unfortunate that it took so long to get the materials she needed – and I wonder why?  I’ve never been to the Boston Public Library and I assume it’s behemoth, so that might be the problem right there, if remote storage is really, well, remote.  She continues (emphasis mine):

Instead I was sitting there, at the Boston Public Library, waiting for someone to bring me the materials I needed from the basement. I couldn’t help but think that if only advertising content was available online like regular magazine content was I wouldn’t be sitting there wasting my precious time. It was then that I realized that as a digital native, I had become accustomed to having any information I wanted a click away and it never took longer than five seconds.

As a digital native the concept of waiting for information is quite foreign to me. Even more foreign, is the concept of having to move myself away from my own computer to get it. As long as I have access to the Internet practically everything is at the tip of my fingers, literally. I guess that’s why the Internet is so convenient and why I have become so impatient.

There’s the crux of the matter.  Back when I was in college (cue old woman in her porch rocker) the idea that you would have to wait a few minutes to retrieve information from the library was normal operating procedure.  You planned extra time in your library visits because you assumed that it would take a bit of time.  And to some extent, the time you spent in the library was in itself enjoyable because of the search.  Wandering through the stacks was half the fun, hoping for that serendipitous discovery that would make your research paper sing.  It’s sad that students today don’t have that same experience.

I’m not sure how to address this issue.  We have a new generation for whom instant is the norm: instant news, instant information, instant communication.  The idea that retrieving information might take a few minutes is something that this generation doesn’t completely understand because it’s something they’ve rarely experienced. 

The reality of storage of materials in a large library is that sometimes getting the stuff takes some time.  So how do we prepare the students/patrons for that fact?  And that it’s OK that it takes a bit of time? 

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Oh, enough.

I don’t tend to wander into political issues here, but after reading this article, I couldn’t resist.

Obesity Contributes to Global Warming.

Oh, for crying out loud. Frankly, I’m not all that sure that global warming is a real phenomenon. (Folks who suffered through our recent winter here in the upper midwest can attest that a bit of global warming would have been welcome, thank you.) And I absolutely believe that we should make every effort to stem the flow of pollutants and toxic junk that destroy our ecology. (Don’t even get me started on the carbon footprint thing, however.)

The article says,

Obese and overweight people require more fuel to transport them and the food they eat, and the problem will worsen as the population literally swells in size, a team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine says.

This adds to food shortages and higher energy prices, the school’s researchers Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts wrote in the journal Lancet on Friday.

“We are all becoming heavier and it is a global responsibility,” Edwards said in a telephone interview. “Obesity is a key part of the big picture.”

So now I’m being told that not driving an SUV and reducing my “carbon footprint” aren’t enough. I need to lose the weight I’ve been struggling with all my life in order to save the planet.

You know, if these folks want to be taken seriously, they really need to stop with this kind of…..nonsense. (Another, less polite word comes to mind, but you get the idea.)

They go on:

Because thinner people eat less and are more likely to walk than rely on cars, a slimmer population would lower demand for fuel for transportation and for agriculture, Edwards said.

This is also important because 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions stem from agriculture, he added.

The next step is quantifying how much a heavier population is contributing to climate change, higher fuel prices and food shortages, he added.

“Promotion of a normal distribution of BMI would reduce the global demand for, and thus the price of, food,” Edwards and Roberts wrote.

Unfreakingbelievable. How far is this sort of thinking going to go before it becomes truly dangerous?


Filed under Me and mine, Things that make you go, "Hmmm..."

Citricon, Library Defender

The folks at the Orange County Library System have done it again. I love these guys; they’re always finding ways to draw people into their web page. You may remember a while back when they created a program that allowed the kids in Florida to build their own snowman.

Now, enter Citricon, Library Defender. It’s not available until May 15th, but I can’t wait to see what they’re developed now!

H/T The Shifted Librarian.

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If you build it…..

It’s been a whirlwind here at MPOW. While we’re part of a major research university, in many respects we’re a start-up. This presents us with myriad possibilities, and with myriad issues, as well.

I met with my colleagues on the Big Campus this week, and it was terrific to touch base and get to know my peeps. They were all interested in what’s happening on our campus and were very forthcoming in offering assistance, which I gratefully and eagerly accepted. There were also instances of genuine surprise and slight dismay when a few of them realized just what sorts of things we would be needing here – like an automation system. (!)

As I’ve mentioned, we’re the first new campus for the university in 50 or 60 years. In the cases of the other campuses, they were assumed into the university as existing schools with existing libraries.

Things have changed a bit in 50 or 60 years, both in higher education and in the library world. The campuses and their libraries changed as they needed, adopting library automation, adding online databases, offering 2.0 services. Now we come along and need everything in one fell swoop.

Think of it this way – I hand you a key to a building and tell you, “Build a library. Go.” What do you need? Where do you get it? Who will you need to help you? How do you interact with your patrons? What technologies are needed for the students? The researchers? What are the things that would be nice to have and what are the gotta haves?

I’m still sorting through the possibilities.

In the meantime, I’m trying to get as involved as possible. I’m attending meetings and becoming a part of the team. It’s a wonderful opportunity to have the library as an integral part of the design of a curriculum, not just as an afterthought. I’m relishing the planning and the discussion, and am delighted that library services are being considered as essential to the success of the institution.

Stay tuned. Things are getting really fun.

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Oh, My

Superturbo alerted me to this wonderful story today:

Frustration for authors as students hog British Library reading rooms

Oh, heavens. Surely not that. Students hogging reading rooms? What is the world coming to? </sarcasm>

Although there are 1,480 seats in the library, the author Christopher Hawtree was last week forced to perch on a windowsill while the historians Lady Antonia Fraser and Claire Tomalin have swapped horror stories of interminable queues. Library users complain that the line to enter the new building in St Pancras, central London, has recently been extending across its enormous courtyard.

Lines of people waiting to get into the library. How fabulous. However, some don’t agree:

Of the long queues she [Tomalin] said: “It is absurd. It’s access gone mad. Access has many good points, but making the British Library, which was for specialist readers, into something for general readers seems to me terrible.”

They’re letting the peasants in! Alert the authorities! Good God, how obnoxious.

The article ends with comments from the library itself, rather than cranky patrons who feel their unofficial social club has been usurped (emphasis mine):

The British Library does not deny that there is overcrowding. It has even produced leaflets listing other recommended libraries. But Phil Spence, its director of operations and services, said: “There are currently no plans to restrict the numbers of users.(Way to go, Phil. You tell ’em.)

He added: “We understand that busy periods can be frustrating for readers, but we are dedicated to delivering excellent services and carefully managing the increase in reader numbers during vacation periods.”

He confirmed that the library’s directors received performance bonuses depending on the number of visits.

Good for you, British Library. We should all have such problems.

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