Blogging Reference

Working w MF today.  Azaleas are in full bloom.  It's overcast w a chance of rain.

10:00  Open.  Not many waiting.

Which way to do income taxes?

Just the regulars take PC's:  Freestone, Myrna.

Lady in motorized chair, "Where is the tax assistance?"

Older couple, "Where they doin' the tax help?"

Phone:  What Color is Your Parachute?  She wants at branch.

Where is Henderson room? (tax help)

Can't find his PC, point him to it.

PC's for Homer and Peter.

PC for Jerry.

Why doesn't copier work?  Is "asleep", wake it up.

Jerry having trouble w #36.  It's sluggish.  Give him another and test it.  It's got the browser hijack bug.

Copier needs paper.

Now another person has complained about #36.  I guess I'd better shut it down, put in a call.

Couple want to renew interlibrary loan, The Man God Uses by Henry and Tom Blackaby.  Send renewal request to lending library, tell them to check next week for new due date.

Where is Downtown Market?

Woman on #58 has got virus, restart PC to wipe.

His music download window is frozen, restart PC.

Where can he search for warehouse jobs online?  Show him our Job Search Center.  He says he'll just buy a newspaper.

Wall Street Journal.

Today's Democrat.

Phone:  When is today's FSU baseball game?  What was the score from last night's game?

He's new in town, on unemployment, living at the Shelter, wants to get job training.  Give him info on Lively Technical Center.

Where is PC 63?

Tax help man says hi, says it's been slow.

L. is here, time for lunch.

Tuna sandwich & Kristin Lavransdatter.

Back, M. goes.

Edwin wants to see what we have by Joyce Meyer.  Reserves Power Thoughts:  12 Strategies To Win The Battle Of The Mind.

Returns copies of Democrat.

Man is being sneaky about printing, sending jobs to printer, walking away to reading area, coming back to get them.  I catch his eye to let him know I'm on to him, and take the paper from the printer feed tray.  He packs up and leaves.

Lit crit on Harry Crews?  Show Literature Resource Center.

M. is back from lunch, going to clean off her desk, I'll stay out here.

Phone:  Gators are playing Butler in NOLA today, where is Butler University?  Who named for?  Is in Indianapolis, founded in 1855 by abolitionist Ovid Butler.

Different Seasons by Stephen King, take to shelf.

Mom and son: have we received Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz yet?  Not yet, on order.  How will they know?  Is first time they've reserved a book.  Set her up for e-mail notification.

1:52  Cloudy and breezy out.

Can she check out DVD's up here at the self-check machine?  No sorry, books only.  Says they won't check her out downstairs, she's already got her limit of DVD's checked out.  Sorry, can't help her, what they say goes.

Man wonders if I can name a song if he sings a bit of the melody.  Doesn't ring a bell.  I tell him I'm not much help with current music, unless he knows a line of the lyrics I can search on.  He says he had the iPhone app that can identify tunes, but he accidentally deleted it.

When he leaves, another man tells me the man was following him around.  He seemed a little manic, but was friendly enough.  He's gone now.

Last Sunday's real estate section from the paper.

Phone:  Eat Right 4 Your Type by Peter D'Adamo.  Find on cart, put on hold for her.

PC's for Josh, Carol.

Today's NYT.

Returns Democrat.

He can't find Final Exit by Derek Humphry on the shelf.  Only copy at this location is in Large Print, take to shelf.  He says that will do.

Books on meteorology?  Take to shelf.

Phone:  It's Not Me, It's You by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor.  Is in transit to main from a branch, where it was turned in today.  She doesn't want to reserve it, will come in Monday.

Where is public phone?  Make change for a dollar.

PC for Antoine.

3:00  L. leaves.  Her last day with us as a volunteer!  She got a position at one of the branches.  We'll miss her!

C., a tax help volunteer, leaves us some Krispy Kreme donuts on her way out.  Give them to M. to take down to Circulation

"Something's wrong with this computer, I can't get the Internet to go!"  She wants to go to Google.  Get her to Google.

Books on personality types.  Find him several based on Myers-Briggs test.

3:30  Somewhat quiet.

NADA Official Used Car Guide, will use at desk.

Help her open and print an e-mail attachment.

Do we have a pen?  Hers ran out of ink.

PC for Cheryl.

Where is stapler?  Attachment woman thanks me.

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  Take her to shelf.

3:58  Thunder.

Phone:  Wants to know about calcium silicate, an anti-caking additive to salt.  An older man with a "New Jersey" accent, he goes on to talk at length, comparing local health food stores, asking about my work,  It's quiet, so I indulge him for ten minutes or so.

It's raining, 30 min. to closing.

PC for Kashika.

Rain has stopped.

PC for Ruby.

Help man w e-mail.  "Send" in his courseware e-mail launches a spell-check window that instantly minimizes to taskbar.  He needs to reopen it, approve or skip changes before he can send.

Help woman w self-check station.  Use library bar code, not bar code on back cover.

Help woman print PowerPoint handouts.  When opening .ppt in browser, rather than natively in PowerPoint, File>Print will not offer PowerPoint
options like handouts, (6 slides per page).  She needs to right-click on slide and choose Print to get those choices.

15 min. to closing.


Books That Disappear

I ran across a story at Mainstreet.com, a personal finance portal, The Most Stolen Library Books, by Jeanine Skowronski, whose informal survey of librarians is pretty accurate.  My only quibble is that the books in question are not so often stolen outright as they are legitimately checked out and then not returned.  In our system they are more often marked "assumed lost", rather than "missing".

Someone has gone to the trouble to get a library card to check out the one book that they need or want, and when they don't return it, they forfeit their library privileges.  I've always felt that this is a class issue.  People who are living hand-to-mouth, with little disposable income, and more chaos in their lives than the well-off would believe, will accept their loss of library privileges before they will pay for a lost book.  I often sense that this is the real story behind the "I have a card, but I left it at home" excuse that we get from people asking for a computer guest pass.

This is borne out by Skowronski's selection of test prep books as one of the most stolen classes of books.  In fact, the test prep books that go missing are the ones for low-level entrance or certification, for the GED, the ASVAB, and the TABE.  Higher level test prep books, for the GRE or the LSAT, do not get lost nearly so often.

The article mentions Zane, an author of explicit black erotica.  These titles disappeared so quickly that we simply gave up buying them.  And Dave Peltzer's A Child Called It: yes, I am always looking for donated copies for replacements.

We had students from a local university, FAMU, repeatedly asking for David H. Jackson, Jr.'s A Chief Lieutenant of the Tuskegee Machine: Charles Banks of Mississippi .  We don't take requests for university course materials, but inevitably one got through to interlibrary loan, and was then lost, which cost us dearly.  Our solution was to purchase a copy, held at the reference desk, for use in-library only.

Another title we had to purchase for in-library use only, after many lost copies, to forestall interlibrary loan requests, is Behold a Pale Horse, by William Cooper,  a conspiracy book about the "New World Order".


The Domes of Baggins End

I visited an old friend in Davis, California in 1981, but I never heard of this cooperative community on the UC campus there until I read about it in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week.  There is a struggle between the student residents and the school over the future of the domes, which are showing their age.  They were built in 1972.

Yes, a vintage hippie commune, still here in 2011!  It seemed so sweet and pure to me, with it's vegetarian pot-lucks and government by consensus: a rarefied idealism that thrives best among care-free students or the highly committed.

Back in the '70's, when these domes were built, choosing an intentional community was a serious option for people who identified with what Theodore Roszak named the Counterculture.  And I guess it still is.  For myself, when the '70's came to an end and I married R., I no longer cared for such togetherness.

Still, reading about the domes brought back good memories of coming together with others, of sharing all in common, of the magic of a simple life, experiences that left their mark on me to this day.  There are more pictures here.


Virtual Reference: Behind The Curtain

If you have been following this blog, you will know what we do at the reference desk, where I spend most of my work day.  It is when reference librarians are in the workroom that our work is specialized.  One will process requests for materials, another will work with books to be mended, discarded, or sent to the bindery, and so on.  I am our library's coordinator for a small crew of IP's, (information professionals), who help with a statewide virtual reference service called Ask a Librarian.

Ask a Librarian started as a project funded by the State Library of Florida with a nucleus of community college libraries, but our library joined early on, in 2003.  The idea was to establish an online presence for trained information professionals who "can guide you to the answers you need in minutes rather than your wasting hours navigating hundreds of unhelpful and irrelevant web sites."  Today, Ask a Librarian has 119 participating community college, university, and public Florida libraries.

Virtual reference was conceived as a screen-sharing experience.  The user and the librarian would share a browser window and a chat box, with the librarian "escorting" the user in a search for answers on the Web, while conducting the "reference interview" with chat.

From the beginning, this approach presented problems.  The shared browser window did not work reliably, owing to the great variety of operating systems and browsers in use.  Many librarians were uncomfortable "escorting" users while they searched the Web for good information for them, (a sometimes uncertain and time-consuming process).  They preferred searching outside the shared interface and pasting worthwhile links in the chat box.  Some users were uncomfortable with librarians sharing a window on their computer.  It felt invasive to them.

Ask a Librarian initially used a console called Docutek VRLplus.  The only screenshot I have is from an error report.

Do you see?  There was a problem with the shared browser window on the right.  Docutek in the end made browser-sharing optional, and enabled posting hot links in the chat box.

In 2008 Ask a Librarian migrated to a new product, Instant Service, which added an e-mail feature for libraries without their own reference e-mail arrangement.  Screen-sharing was still an option, but pushing links in chat continued to be the overwhelming preference, and now Ask a Librarian has dropped the screen-sharing component entirely.  Instant Service has since become  ATG Live Help.

Here you see a frivolous request.  Details show neither a user-name nor an actual question.  It's not unusual to get empty or idle requests from bored schoolchildren.  We were once bombarded with silly questions from a classroom in New Zealand.

Here is a chat session in progress.  Roberto from Miami asked, "How can I borrow books that are not in the system?" (We can see which library web site they have come in from.).  I had to go to the web site of the Miami-Dade Public Library and figure out where patrons can request new materials and interlibrary loans.  I found a link under More Library Services, Suggestions for Purchase, which takes you to a web form that doubles as an interlibrary loan request form if you check a button and agree to pay $2 per request.

 I had a good hour at the Collaborative Desk this week.  I was able to help Roberto find out about interlibrary loans at his library.  Another man who came in through the State Library's site needed to know how to get a copy of his Florida birth certificate.  When I found out that he was now in Tennessee, I sent him a link to the Florida Vital Records Office in Jacksonville.

Users going to Ask a Librarian from their library's web page see a notice that their question will not necessarily be answered by staff from their library, but often they think that we are in their library, and can help them with reserves and patron account issues.  Sometimes we have to suggest that they use the e-mail option, (which goes to their library), but we do the best we can, helping them navigate their library's catalog or databases.

You can see the address box and "Push" button above the chat window that lets us send the user a link which opens a new window on their desktop.  This shows in the transcript as Sending:  http://www.mdpls.org/catalog/suggestion.asp.

Ask a Librarian added the functionality to receive and reply to text messages last year.  I haven't seen many yet.  Testing our library's texting address was comical.  The reference staff are all too old to have any experience with texting, and it took some asking around before we found someone who knew enough to send a test text message on their mobile.