“The following would be the best job ever for a rollergirl/librarian type.” Director/Curator, National Museum of Roller Skating. [pubhist]
The New York Times has a nice article about David Smith. His official job is “officially a supervising librarian in the Allen Room and the Wertheim Study at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street” but friends and others call him Librarian to the Stars.
Some authors refer their friends to Mr. Smith, but David Nasaw, a biographer of Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst and a history professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said they met entirely by chance.
â€œHe was standing behind the main reference counter fielding questions from the masses,â€ Mr. Nasaw said. â€œI had difficulty understanding an entry in one of the big catalog books, so I waited on line until my turn came. He answered my question and then told me that he knew and admired my work, and that if I ever needed help to contact him directly.â€ Mr. Nasaw did.
I sometimes feel that people look at me and my laptop and my typa-typa routine and think I don’t have another life outside of computers. This can be the good news — when they need a computer expert, I’m there — but also the bad news because my life is deeper than just computers and libraries. In fact, I’m certain that’s true for all of us.
Just recently I was delighted to read Karen Schneider’s piece that was in Nerve. I heard about it on Twitter, but she also talks about it on her own blog. It’s called Range of Desire and it’s about guns and sex. It’s great. If you like Karen’s bloggish writings you’ll love it when she’s less (or differently) constrained by form and gets to tell a long story. Karen used to be in the Air Force; it’s part of who she is. Similarly the librarian I worked with today is married to a farmer and I saw her carrying around a bag of maple syrup containers. For my own part, I have a sculpture/welding background back before library school, and a huge coin collection in the attic.
One of the things I like so much about meeting other librarians online or elsewhere is a chance to get to see a bunch of other parts of them, not just their “work faces.” I think it helps the whole reference and information exchange if our patrons see us as people first and librarians second, or maybe they just see us as librarians and people at about the same time.
I have a month pretty free of travel and speaking stuff so I’ve been doing more little library work in August. Here are a few things I’ve done this week both here and online.
- Stopped by the Tunbridge library in Monday to help a woman who is re-entering the workforce brush up on her Excel chops. I had to tell her that while Excel hasn’t changed much, the amount Excel tries to help the user has. That is, there are all these wizards and auto-widgets that try to make Excel easier but have the end result for novice users of making Excel harder. The main problem my student was having, however, was trying to figure out where her missing Word toolbar went and no matter how many times I said I pretty much couldn’t troubleshoot a personal computer problem remotely (and offered alternatives like a good manual or the help files) she sort of couldn’t stop talking about it. I see this fairly often. I suggested that she buy a USB drive so that I could give her homework assignments that she could take home.
- I talked to the Tunbridge librarian about a Photoshop problem she was having which was actually a much more complicated problem. She has taken photos of flowers for the library’s flower sale, but the way they show up on the screen and the way they print doesn’t reproduce the colors accurately. I showed her how to do some color adjustment in Photoshop but said that tweaking the printer to get things just right was likely overkill for what she was suggesting. Explained how color calibration works. Sometimes good tech support involves telling people that what they want to do is going to take significantly more time than they have budgeted, and suggesting an alternate plan. This sort of time estimate thing is fairly easy for me and seems to be a big difference between someone who is really comfy with computers and someone who is still in the early stages of getting to know how they work.
- The lady who lived next door to the library brought her laptop over to see if it had any “network card” in it so that she could use the library’s wifi instead of her dial-up. Answer: no, but I explained to her how she could buy one if she wanted to.
- Visited the Royalton Library to help the librarian figure out why the computer keeps asking for some sort of HP Setup CD when it starts and pops up a zillion messages, sometimes freezing the computer. Figured out how to turn off the thing that requires it. The staff computer also has some sort of virus file (according to AVG) that throws up random pop-ups but we couldn’t remove it even following Symantec’s instructions. Switching to Firefox at least made the pop-up problem go away and bought us some time.
- No one came to my Tuesday drop-in time. The network was down anyhow, for unknown reasons. The IT company who has the school contract wasn’t sure what the problem was and could give no firm ETA so I went to donate blood instead of waiting to see if anyone would show up just to tell them that our Internet was down. Even though my drop-in time is just “computer time” 90% of the people who come in use the Internet in some form or another.
- Wednesday I went with my friend Stan to the Tunbridge World’s Fair office. They are using some sort of Fair Management software that doesn’t play nice with the network. I knew I was in over my head so I brought my pal Stan in for a consult. He mostly hammered the software into shape while I cleaned up the office, organized things, and hung up a few years’ worth of ribbons. One of the library trustees who also works part time for the fair bought us lunch and offered us free tickets when the fair starts next month.
- I stopped by the Kimball Library in Randolph before drop-in time on Thursday. I’ve been working with the librarian who works on the website, helping make the site more functional for the staff as well as for patrons. I showed her how to get her web log files and run them through Webalizer and we looked at he traffic the site has been getting since we added the online catalog a few months back. I also helped her get a Kid’s Page started in the hopes that it will inspire the (very busy) kid/ya librarian to give us suggestions of what to put there.
- Thursday I had one student at drop-in time, a teacher from the high school who was trying to make a list of donors for the Crafts Center Restoration project in town. Someone had typed the list up originally and she needed to know how to add a name to the list she has on the disk. She wanted to use her computer at the school but it didn’t have a disk drive. So we muddled through that and I asked if she had any other questions and showed her how to make a mailing list using her ISP’s webmail program and also how to attach a photo to an email message.
Meanwhile this week, I’ve been going back and forth with some folks from VLA about changes we’re planning for the VLA website, bought tickets to Nova Scotia for a few talks I’ll be giving there in September, accepted an invitation to join the Steering Committee of the MaintainIT Project, made plans to do some work with Casey and the Scriblio project, firmed up plans for a talk in Rhode Island, passed on a talk in Delaware that conflicted with a talk I’m giving in Kansas, and started making plans for my next week of library visits and my next month of travel/talks. I have a friend who is another local librarian who is working possibly switching her library to an open source OPAC and we’ve been scheming about that. I got my inbox down to single digits by replying to almost everyone who had written me after the NYT/WSJ articles. If I haven’t replied to you yet, I swear I will this week.
That’s the report for now. Today is a day for guests and swimming in the pool and maybe some grilling in the backyard if the weather holds.
The Orange County that I work in is very different than the Orange County library Scott LaCounte reflects on in this column
When the patron told me members of the international community were watching her because she had knowledge of secret documents in the governments possession and not to be surprised if federal investigators soon questioned me, I knew it was going to be an interesting night.
Working in a public library, I have come across a number of strange things and even larger number of strange people.