Dear Tom Jackson, when economic times get hard, people use libraries more, not less. ALA’s request for stimulus money from Congress at a time when “73 percent of all libraries nationwide provide the only free Internet access in their communities” is not at all the same as bailing out the big three US auto manufacturers. It would be great if we could unite as a country and set priorities so that, yes, urgent medical care for children was possibly higher on Congress’s “what to fund” list than library’s electric bills but our economy doesn’t work that way. Access to good information is as important, if not more important, than it was six months ago and libraries provide critical services for these tough times. Sincerely, a rural librarian [thanks nicolette]
So today my task at the library where I am employed as the nominal “systems” librarian (a very part time job mostly concerned with the eventual automation of the card catalog) was to decipher the procedure for using WebJunction’s TechAtlas (Â© Powered by OCLC) to do an inventory of our four public access computers. This inventory is mandatory for those applying for funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Here is how my day went.
Our library had gotten a letter from our state librarian including a letter from the TechAtlas people explaining the steps we needed to take to do this. The first step which was strongly suggested but not required was to sign up for a webinar that explained, I suppose, how to do the inventory. My boss wanted to arrange a time where she and I could both be present for the webinar. I got as far as the Wimba set-up asking me to disable my pop-up blocker (do not get me started on the 2.2 MB door card again) and then said I thought we could figure out the process (for our FOUR computers) without it.
So, on to the mandatory inventory. This was the first thing that greeted me, a browser incompatibility message (some language nsfw there). What this means, in a more polite fashion is that TechAtlas has some nifty IE tools that can make the inventory process a lot simpler. Firefox users need to do more of the process by hand. You know, that’s fine with me. I don’t like it, but that’s okay. However, acting like this isn’t a series of choices that were made by designers and program managers seems somehow odd. Odder still, when I went home this evening to grab some screenshots, the site now gives me a similar “Browser Incompatibility” message and yet displays that I am using a compatible browser. Apparently Firefox got compatible within the last few hours. I guess this is good news? The part they left out is that my browser is incompatible because I’m on a Mac, not because I’m using Firefox.
So we have four computers and it’s not that difficult to fill in the blanks. For each computer, there are twenty-two fields to fill out, but only five of them are mandatory. We have four identical computers so this was actually pretty simple and you can edit the entries if you get anything wrong. Oddly, one of the questions: “Opportunity Online Grant Funds?” which is asking whether you used this certain grant to get the money to buy the computers originally (a question our librarian wasn’t totally sure about, but was pretty sure) isn’t actually editable after the fact. I hope I chose correctly!
So, it didn’t take terribly long. Most of my time at work today was spent cursing at Overdrive and having to do Windows Media Player updates on computers that are locked down via Centurion guard. What I told the librarian — who is a very nice lady, and sympathetic to my muttering in a “There but for the grace of god go I” sort of way — is that this time around, if they let us, maybe we should get Macs.
I often refer to the Roxbury Free Library when I’m talking about the digital divide. It was easier to get this library set up with wireless internet access — which they’ve had for years now — than it was to get them a bathroom which they just got this week. Yay! Here are a few other photos I’ve taken of the library.
Thanks Dan Chudnov, for saying what many of us have wanted to say.
The Unshelved Pimp My Bookcart winners are up and available for the looking. Unlike the Bookcart Drill Teams where bookcarts have to have a semblance of structural integrity, some of these fanciful creations seem to have almost no functionality at all. See all the entrants here. My faves: Food for Thought (and handsome book vendor), Jetson’s Skypad Apartments, Spookmobile, and Research Help Five Cents!