more librarian at the library escapades

My boyfriend and I wanted to go to a museum this weekend so we called his local library to see what museum passes they had available. The woman on the phone told us to check the website. We did. The library uses Library Insight which I’ve used before and like decently. There were passes for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum available for Sunday. We tried to reserve them via the website’s system and kept getting an error message saying that my boyfriend’s password was wrong. I glared at him saying “You don’t have any overdue fines, do you?” He said no. We called the library and it turns out that you need to have your card “set up” by them to get museum passes via the web site. They set up his card and reserved the passes for us over the phone.

Now, getting Sunday passes involves picking them up at the library on Saturday. We headed over to the library to get the passes. When we got there, the librarian said that someone else had reserved the passes and sorry but that was how it went sometimes. We asked if she was sure that it wasn’t us who had reserved them [she had scanned my boyfriend’s card and showed no passes reserved and the passes we wanted weren’t available according to her computer] and she said she was. She was sure. I put on my politest voice possible and said that we had called and done this whole routine twenty minutes ago and how unlikely it was that someone else had reserved the passes and would she please check that the passes that she showed as reserved were not, in fact, reserved for us? I probably do not need to tell you how this story ends. The museum was delightful, marred only slightly by the fact that bad software, wonky library policies and erratic customer service nearly stood in the way of us getting them at all.

This is just a big lead up to tell you that Brian Herzog has written a nice post with Rich Boulet reviewing calendaring and room reservations software and you should go take a look at it. Maybe there’s a better alternative to the software that you use?

“open to the public” != public library – a day (almost) at the Newberry

I had a free day in Chicago today and was planning some library visits. Usually when I’m in Chicago I just go to the downtown library and then complain. This time I wanted to go someplace different, and out of the CPL system. I decided to go to the Newberry Library, whose website says “free and open to the public.” I took a picture of the exterior and walked inside to the lobby. There was a guard there.

me: “Do I have to check my bag?”
guard: “Well you’re not allowed inside unless you’re here for research.”
me: “Oh, sorry, I had just heard that reading room was lovely, can I just walk upstairs and look inside?”
guard: “You have to be doing RESEARCH to go upstairs, on something in the library’s collection.”
me: “Can I just use the third floor reference collection, maybe talk to one of the librarians?”
guard: “No. You’ll have to wait for a tour, tours are on Thursdays. The only places you can go are the gift shop and here in the lobby.”

At this point I walk over to the brochure stand to see if maybe there is some library interest area I can claim a research interest in. While I’m there, the guard turns two more people away. I decide I’m sick of the stupid secret-handshake routine — it seems fairly obvious that I just have to make up some sort of research objective and they’ll let me go up — and decide to leave.

guard: “Do you have some RESEARCH you’d like to do?” (clearly the emphais on the word, to me, implies “hey dumbass, it’s the most obvious password in the book. Here, I’m giving it to you”)
me: “No, I just wanted to look at the reading room, but I think I’ll go home instead.”

I really try to not use this space to complain about customer service incidents unless I think they can somehow be useful teaching tools, but I just was floored here. I had done my homework and read the website where it said “The Library asks that they have research interest in areas supported by the collections but will give one-day passes to people are who are uncertain and just want to explore.” but at the point at which I was not given that option, I quit.

It’s been a long August and I’m a little overtired perhaps so I didn’t have the strength for either the “Please let me talk to your boss” or the “This is what it says on your website” routines. I was spending the day alone in an only-sort-of familiar city and I just wanted to look at a pretty library for a bit, just like I did in Baltimore where the nice lady in the cardigan showed me around before leaving me to wander around on my own.

co-browsing: why use software that you can’t use and patrons don’t like?

The Librarian in Black has a few more things to say about co-browsing in her post How much is co-browsing really helping our users?

I stopped trying to use co-browsing a long time ago. It’s bad customer service to give something to someone that has a good chance of not working. Period. Everyone touts co-browsing as the cat’s pajamas, and it is kind of cool A) when it actually works, which is rare and B) when the user’s question actually warrants it…. I am not a co-browsing fan. At all. If the big-name software companies can get to work on a Mac with a firewall and a dial-up connection running Firefox, then rock on. I’ll be a fan.

the plural of manifesto is?

I’ve liked the idea of manifestos since I started rattling the idea of an OPAC Manifesto a ways back [it was a wiki before everyone had a wiki, and I didn’t like being a wiki-mom so now it just has a page]. Michael makes the link between the ILS Customer’s Bill of Rights and Jenny’s new proposal the Online Library User Manifesto. For anyone who considers the Cluetrain Manifesto essential reading — my copy is the only book in my boudoir currently — this is a logical extention. If, as they say, “markets are conversations” then libraries are big loud boisterous and lively conversations, and we’re all part of it. Jenny’s manifesto delightfully contains links to people who are getting it right, behind her no nonsense declarations like “I want to know how your library works.” I’d even bring this out further and change it to “I want to know how our library works.” Who wouldn’t?