Hi. It’s my Mom’s birthday today. Happy birthday Jessamyn’s Mom, the woman who instilled in me an early and eternal love of reading, helping people, and learning oddball trivia and other wacky facts. You can go check out her web page and learn where I got a lot of my general chutzpah and above-average writing skills. Her contributions on Flickr put mine to shame. I must note in the interests of fairness that I also get my bizarre sense of humor and my [insert adjective here] fashion sense from her as well.
I went to one of my many libraries yesterday to check out some books for my Mom’s upcoming visit that I thought she’d like. She gets up at the crack of dawn so I figured good reading material might be in order and my library has a great photography collection. Turns out that, like many librarians, I am a terrible patron and had a book that was way overdue. I had just returned the book but there was still a “block” on my card and the software wouldn’t let the desk staffer check a book out to me. The woman there couldn’t remove the block (“They won’t give me the override password”) and couldn’t let me check out any other books. This was not a fines issue since the library doesn’t have fines. I asked her how long it would take to remove the block and she didn’t know, “Maybe a week?” I asked her what the policy was on blocked accounts and she didn’t know and didn’t seem to really care. She wrote my home number down on a piece of paper and said the librarian would call me and let me know how to unblock my account. I checked out all my books on my boyfriend’s card. I wonder if there will be some sort of essay component to this unblocking procedure?
The only reason I bring this up is that I keep thinking about this photo that Jenny Levine put on Flickr. When I was a student library worker, I was on the other side of the desk in this transaction. The software would do something that I either didn’t understand or wasn’t deputized to fix. I’d have to make a difficult decision about whether this was worth calling the librarian at home. The patron would be told that their problem couldn’t be handled until the next day, or if it was the weekend, Monday. I know this isn’t true for all libraries, but many libraries have these arrangements where there are times the library is fully staffed by people who have the authority to solve problems, and there are times it isn’t. At one library I used to work with, whenever the director was on vacation we weren’t deputized to fix many problems. If the systems librarian was on vacation, we couldn’t fix anything that went wrong with the OPAC. Both of these women got four weeks of vacation, at least. At many libraries the web site can’t be changed to reflect current conditions at all, though this has been changing and changing rapidly in many cases.
As a librarian and library patron, I don’t expect to be treated any differently than anyone else in someone else’s library. However as someone who goes to many libraries both for work and not for work, I’ve seen systems that work, and systems that don’t work as well. When the systems don’t work, I often ask a lot of questions: is this a software problem? is this a staffing problem? is this a policy problem? is this a failure of imagination problem? is this a problem of one person who just needs to retire? is this a communication problem? is this a problem money can solve? As I’ve said before, I can handle slow change, but I’m often curious as to whether some of these interactions are seen as problems at all?
Hi. I’ve upgraded to WordPress 2.0 which you probably didn’t even notice unless you spend a lot of time messing about with my tags which are ever so slightly broken. The upgrade was incredibly easy and WordPress 2.0 has a lot of nifty features in it like a theme viewer, some AJAX-y bits, and better user administration. I’ve also decided to really go to town and edit the stylesheet in the admin section so that I could avoid some of the logos, cruft, bad colors and dashboard “features.” Here are a few screenshots in Flickr:
If you’re really WordPress curious, I have a bloggish page that outlines the modifications I’ve made to WordPress to make it work the way I want it to work.
Hi. I gave a new version of an old talk today to about 40 people at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. It’s gotten to to the point that many of the librarians and library students that I speak to in big cities have now heard of blogs, wikis, wireless and RSS. So, instead of just giving a “ten tech tips” talk, I changed it to something a little different Tech Trends in Libraries, the Good News and the Bad News. I’ve been to visit seven libraries in the past two days, apologies for being a little lax on updates here. I’ll be back early next week.
Hi. Anyone who reads this site at its web address instead of via an RSS reader will notice that the default stylesheet has changed. I modified a freely available theme because I wanted something with different levels of navigation. Thanks to another freely available plug-in you can choose the way you would like this site to appear to you. Just check the list of options under the Themes heading in the sidebar. If you’re interested in the other modifications I’ve made and plug-ins I’m using, feel free to check out this page about WordPress on librarian.net. Feel free to pick the stylesheet you like the best, or if there isn’t one that does what you want, let me know.
In other fancy design news, you’ve already seen it but I thought I would show it off: Michael’s Tame the Web blog has broken out of its default stylesheet thanks to the help of the Movable Type Style Generator and some little extra haxies, including the last.fm listing on the righthand column of the ipod blog and the custom sidebars on a few other pages. We’re still bringing the old URLs into line with the new ones and a few other things, but overall I’m really pleased with how it turned out.
Hi. Posting has been a bit sporadic here because my old iBook had its fourth logic board fail. So, this is a short story about technology for you. My iBook had left me in the lurch three times thanks to its faulty logic board. This is a known flaw and has been repaired for free each time it has happened. This last time, when I started seeing signs of impending logic board death, I called Apple and said “I have put up with this long enough. Please send me a laptop that will not need replacement of vital parts every eight months” To my suprise, they agreed to send me a new G4, one G faster than my last laptop. I mailed back my old laptop, after wiping the drive. This meant that I had to backup my entire hard drive locally before getting a new laptop. Fortunately in this household that is not difficult. Since so much of my personal data is online, this was less onerous than it would have been maybe a year or two ago. Calendar, contacts, booklist, websites, bookmarks, are all backed up redundantly online in various places.
I got the new laptop about two weeks later, which is longer than I would have preferred, but I can’t see Apple being really gung-ho on sending me a new free laptop. Yesterday I began the long process of re-downloading and re-installing all the software on my old machine. It took about 4-6 hours, including system updates. If I had dial-up it would have taken weeks, literally weeks. Backing up my home directory meant that I saved my system preferences, my desktop images, my email configuration information and yes, my bookmarks. Being tech savvy meant that all this took me was time. The few times I stumbled in my file restoration [I accidentally removed the mechanism for keyboard entry and couldn’t type on the thing for a little bit, ha ha!] I had the know-how to straighten it all out. I know sometimes listening to my “But what about the information poor…?” harangues can be tiring, but a situation like this which was complicated but manageable for me might very well have been the end of someone’s online life in the community that I work in. For every senior that is happily clicking away at some AARP websites, there are others with computers and Internet subscriptions who have hit some sort of wall, usually just a know-how wall and don’t have a solid plan B. In my librarian utopia, libraries can help be that plan B.