Houston, wrap up

I went to several libraries when I was in Houston. Continuing with the visit06 list, here are the libraries I visited:

  • Houston Public Library, Central Branch, closed for two years as of two weeks before TLA. Damn.
  • Houston Public Library, Downtown Express branch, oddly enough in the old library building which is lovely but looks a little sparse and triage-y for a library that is going to be the main downtown branch for two years.
  • Holocaust Museum Library, quiet and clean with a lot of things to look at.
  • MFAH Hirsch Library where I met a really nice woman, a UNT student, who took me on a quickie tour of the stacks and told me all about working in a special art library.

I have nothing but high praise for the smoothly-running machine that is TLA. It’s the second largest library conference in the country — second only to ALA — and I might argue it runs even better. All of my arrangements were made, checked and double-checked well ahead of time. I hear the “speaker handlers” have a thick manual filled with checklists and procedures. There were friendly tech guys in every room making sure the IT/AV was functional. When I had a last minute schedule change and needed to stay an extra day at the hotel, it was handled literally within minutes. Minutes!

Speakers got adorable goodie bags, rides from the airport, and general good treatment. The only way I could even think to improve the experience would be 1) maybe a few fewer emails (we swapped maybe 40-50 in the months before the event) and 2) maybe some smaller gifts for speakers who are travelling distances. I hate to be ungrateful, and the purple coffee mugs really are actually attractive and functional, but they put me over my carry-on limit causing me to have to engage in a bit of subterfuge to bring them on the airplane. You know how we librarians hate subterfuge. My mother would always offer to mail me my Christmas presents, when I came home to Massachusetts from Seattle for the holidays; this was always a great part of the gift. Also big thanks to Karen Coombs and her husband Michael for coming to fetch me and putting me up in their lovely house for my last night in town. I’m always torn when I travel for work between staying at friends’ houses and staying walking distance from the Convention Center and usually wind up splitting time in some awkward way. This time it worked out well and mazel tov to Wandering Eyre on her wedding that happened that same weekend.

Now I’m on the plane and notice there is a network available called Free Public WiFi. What are the chances, do you think? This is a total tangent, but one of the skills that I think is important to being a good librarian in a technologically complex world, is being able to play the probabilities off of the possibilities and say, in this case “What are the chances that there is free public wifi on this plane?” When a patron needs to know if something in their email from CitiBank is legit, or whether downloading a shareware application will give them “a virus” we need to not just say “Well, maybe….” Sometimes the right answer isn’t a yes or a no or an encyclopedia article, but an explanation of a context, an introduction to a culture, a range of likelihoods. This goes against the typical librarian here’s-your-resource grain, but as we go from a post-industrial culture towards a pure information culture, just saying “No that email isn’t really from an eBay user.” doesn’t really solve the problem. We should be solving the problem.

Engaged Patrons

There is no reason not to try this. EngagedPatrons.org “provide website services connecting public libraries and their patrons. We handle the programming; you reap the benefits of being able to offer your users a more engaging and interactive web presence.” The head honcho, Glenn Peterson, has been working on the Hennepin County Library website for a decade. A decade! Free to qualifying public libraries. Do you have a single thing to lose? No, you do not. [thanks rick]

my talk from TLA

I’m sitting in a meeting room in Houston Texas listening to Jenny Levine and Michael Stephens talk about wikis and blogs and rss. I just wrapped up my talk, which is online: Revolting Librarians Redux Review. It went well. The next talk (on paranormal romances, no joke) started in ten minutes so I didn’t get to sit around and gab with people like I usually do. Thanks very much to people who came by and said hello, and especially Jeffrey Levy for handling all of my arrangements and being a thorough and capable host/handler.

sometimes the news is all good

I’ve had a hectic weekend preparing for TLA and a few short trips after that. In the next three months my partner is turning 30, graduating from law school, and prepping for and taking the Vermont Bar exam. We are also probably moving. My job ends in September. My partner is looking for work.

But, on the library front here, I just heard from the librarian at the library-without-a-bathroom, Roxbury Free Library. They will be getting DSL this week to use with their Gates Computer. I helped with that. I also had a student last week who brought me flowers for helping him get online and email his elected representative. Every librarian or library worker should be so fortunate to have a note like this gracing their cubicle wall.

cautionary OPAC tale

You know how gamers like to sometimes memorize button sequences that will enable them to get out of tricky situations or basically cheat? Well, let’s try to figure out how to recreate the code that caused this Sirsi ILS to automatedly order one copy of everything. Anyone from PSU in the house?

On the day of the time change to daylight savings time earlier this month, an unknown someone at my library went to change the time in our Workflows system. Somehow this action triggered a sequence of events in the program that led from point A to point B, the latter point being that the system emailed out to the vendors an order for every item that had ever been ordered by any branch of our library since May of 2001. We are talking about millions and millions of items ordered overnight. Some orders to large vendors, like Yankee, consisted of tens of thousands of items.