Tag Archives: computer users

The Regulars (2.0): Academic Library

Something is wrong here. 
Reading in a library?
You get some different patrons in the academic library.  For one thing, there are few children, except during the summer when the various junior high and high school camps terrorize the campus.  Even most of them know better than to eat the books, though I did have one student ask me where the “C” section was, since he was doing a report on the Civil War.
Regular users are once again in the computer lab – although most of the computers are downstairs in the Reference area.  There is one small pod of four computers up in the Special Collections area.  There is a student who routinely comes with his pals and camps at the computers for a few hours.  My officemate and I like to call them “Beevis and friends” because they laugh like them.  Heh heh, heh heh heh, heh heh.  What’s sad is that they are probably too young to get the reference.

Ancient Librarian Technology
Speaking of “Electric Youth” we also get college students doing work for their classes.  As part of their Speech classes, they are forced to use the Microfilm machines to look up their birthdays in the newspapers.  You know, back in old  . . . 1992???  WTF?  If you weren’t feeling old already, these students look at these machines like they came out of the 1800s, and comment on how “old school” they are.  You must show them how they function, over and over and over, until you can slip a reel of microfilm in that dumb machine and repeat the instructions even in your sleep.  Of course they can’t figure it out by themselves, and you don’t want them to try, seeing as how they can’t figure out where the Microfilm room is (big sign over door saying MICROFILM).  They usually mistake the office I share with my coworker for this room, just because it’s basically an enormous storage room with two desks.   And lots of stacked up newspapers.  One student asked me if it was the Washington Post.  Yes, yes, of course, the north Texas division.
After this assignment, they will never use the machines again.  Most likely, they won’t even make it back to our area, because not only do they have to enter a library, they have to go up the stairs and all the way across the building to get to us.  It’s a relatively safe place.  But of course college students are not the main ones wanting Special Collections services.  Here again come the very old.  These people come from Timbuktu, show up at about fifteen minutes till closing, and want some esoteric detail about a family member who might have gone to this school in 1922.  Or maybe 1940.  And it might not even be this school, or even this town.  But you look anyway.  They will probably need access to the monstrous bound newspapers with just a hint of mold that crumble at your touch, and of course they will want copies.  This is done down in the scanning room, or “cave” as I like to call it.  For quite a while we dealt with a rather finicky big mama scanner that sometimes worked wonderfully and other times just showed a white screen to screw with us.  It could take half an hour to get a single scan.  Now we have a new big mama scanner that doesn’t show a white screen, but does decide for you how to do certain scans.  The new printers and copiers are in league with it.  I suspect a takeover soon.
Sweet Old Library Patron
Another patron is the rich and/or influential patron that gave lots of money to the library, or perhaps is related to someone who did.  Often these people are old, so they have two things going for them.  They give a lot, and they’re sweet and harmless and elderly, so they get away with anything.   Many of them are on the Friends of the Library board.  If they plan a luncheon, they can change the time of the luncheon, the day, what is served, how many people are coming, how the room is arranged, and anything else that strikes their fancy on a whim, sometimes multiple times, up until the actual date, if it ever occurs.  If they have something of “value” they may donate it, but you have to keep it just so, and be sure to have it right where they can see it whenever they visit, etc.  I so want to live to be old so that I can be a pain-in-the-ass and people will still think I’m cute as a button!  That sounds awesome.
So that’s my evil plan.  Live long enough to get old and annoying, retire, and become a Library Regular.  I will have so many questions to ask those helpful librarians!

The Regulars: Public Library

I often say my job would be so much easier if it weren’t for those pesky customers.  Patrons: can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without . . . their stats.  Seriously, most patrons are not a problem, and some are even fun to get to know.  And boy do you get to know some of them.  In every library, there are the regulars.

If you’ve never seen one
 of these, I hate you

A lot of business at the public library comes from the very young, the very old, and the computer lab users.  The very old are desperately seeking the past, whether in actual history or books on tape – you know, cassette tape.  If you haven’t ever heard of these, I hate you.  Anyway, old people also love to chortle when the electricity goes out and our card catalogs go down, as well as our ability to check out books.  In their day, there were card catalogs with actual cards in them, that didn’t disappear with the pulling of a plug.  If you don’t remember these either, see above.

Puppet Master

The very young, and their harried mothers, are the public library’s next most popular customers.  They come for story time, because that is fifteen or so minutes out of their day that the children’s attention is focused on something other than them.  Even if it is the children’s librarian.  At the library I once worked, we called her “The Puppet Master” for reasons that went beyond her job description.  Every once in a while, you’d hear her talking to the puppets.  Not for practice, just because.

How far can I get
 this into my mouth?

Anyway, the children are a great help.  They weed the shelves (by yanking out books and destroying them), they shelve (the books just about anywhere, backwards, and upside down), and help decorate (once they made a new carpet entirely out of books).  Not that they are that interested in the books, because there are two computers in the childrens’ area.  They aren’t connected to Internet, so no porn.  Instead there’s Barney’s ABCs turned up to full ear blasting volume, which I will argue is even worse, at least for the people forced to shelve nearby.  These people are newbie staff, and the children’s section is what we like to call “Boot Camp”.

The third group consists of those who regularly fill the computer lab every day.  They are limited to one hour a day, and because of their happy cooperation with this rule, we came up with ways to force them to get off when their time is up.  Basically, they put in their card number and after an hour – whoosh, the computer shuts down.  I can’t begin to describe how wonderful this is for staff.  No more trying to get someone off a computer, getting informed that we can go do naughty stuff to ourselves, and finally being forced to actually UNPLUG the computer.  Now this program tends to make the computers a little screwy, but is totally worth it.  For staff anyway. 
There’s a few different computer user types.  There’s the old people who ask for help with the simplest things (What is this clicky thing with the cord on it?)  There’s the mothers who get online and leave their children across the library in the children’s section, completely oblivious to their one year old wandering out the front door.  And then there’s the just plain weird ones, like the cowboy who would come in wearing hat, boots, and even spurs, jingle jangling all the way to the computer lab.  I used to picture him tying his horse up to a post outside the library.
Yeah, tell her you’re 25
and a professional wrestler!

The only time the usual regulars change is during Summer Reading Time (a special hell that deserves it’s own blog entry) when the school children are released from their cages and set free on the library.  So the normal library users often head for the hills for their own protection.  For the “tween” generation, not quite old enough for a driver’s license, but old enough to make their parents want to strangle them with their I-Pods, the library is their playground.  Lots of free fun.  There’s the computers that they, with their endless youthful patience, will manage to hack despite our best security measures, downloading bizarre stuff that can take us weeks to get rid of.  Yet these same little geniuses would leave their MySpace profiles up on the public computers detailing every last detail of their lives for their future stalkers.  If they get bored with the computer, there’s always chair races up and down the library.  Thankfully, these patrons are temporary.

My favorites were the older people, retired for years, who remembered when libraries were THE entertainment.  They appreciate us like no one else does, or possibly ever will again.  And I love to talk to them, especially the old men.  Flirt with them a little, and they love it.  One man even brought us a chocolate cake.  Twice!  Yes, I have no shame.  But really, they loved it, and so did I.  We are losing this older generation everyday, and the world will truly miss them.  Even the most fragrant ones.  (I never could figure out how people could afford a DVD player, but not a shower.  But I digress)
I could identify with the SAHMs (stay-at-home-moms), but only to a point.  I only stayed home a few years, after which I was willing to pay someone else to let me out of the house for a few hours.  Some of these ladies were great, but others had definite entitlement issues.  What did I mean they couldn’t check out more than 50 books at a time?  Or that maybe junior should stop emptying the shelf.  Or that they should shout into their cellphones in the lobby instead of the middle of the library.

There were others, like the guy who tried to convert us to Jeezus (he slammed his hand on the desk and said Jesus was there – I was like, on the Circ desk?) despite the fact that my coworker was already Catholic.  And the woman who plowed her car into the side of the library.  And the one who swore that was not her son’s library account with the overdue books, but the account of her sister’s son, who happened to have the same name, birthday, age, and residence as her son (the coincidences!).  But these people were not, thankfully, regulars, just more of the spontaneous fun you encounter at the library.

Now I’m at an academic library, and the regulars are a totally different breed.  But that’s another story.