It was kind of cute when the lady asked if we had a book called The Tattoo Maker’s Daughter and after determining that the title didn’t exist, I figured out that she really meant The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  We both had a laugh.  I got a little worried when she said she wanted to reserve the book, because I knew that the Millennium catalog moves even slower than usual when looking up a popular title.  Then when the lady said those fateful words, “Actually, can you reserve the whole trilogy?” I knew that I was going to be tied up for a while.  One of the only advantages (okay, perhaps the single advantage) of the Millennium system over our old Dynix system is that Millennium will remember the last patron barcode you scanned, so if a patron is reserving multiple items, you don’t have to scan the library card every single time.  The specific advantage applied to this patron was that after I went to place the hold on the first book and the lady and I spent several minutes staring at the screen waiting for something to happen, I gave her the library card back and told her that she could leave and I would place the rest of the holds.  Of course, this idea wasn’t entirely foolproof, because a patron record can only be up on one computer at a time or else it locks up.  After the hold on The Girl Who Played With Fire went through, I saw that the lady was about to check out material at the circulation desk, so I had to exit out of her record.  That meant that by the time I placed her hold on The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the lady was already out of the building and on her way home.  By the time that last hold (that had the longest list of people waiting for it) went through, it was about 20 minutes after the patron had first come in looking for that book about the tattoo maker.

One of the exasperating side effects of the slow system was that about five different times yesterday, patrons came up to me at the information desk assuming that I was available because I didn’t have another patron in front of me.  But each of those times I was actually busy trying to find something in the catalog for another patron who had wandered away from the desk because they were tired of watching the hourglass on the screen with me and listening to me saying, “It should just be another minute … the catalog is going really slowly right now … I’m sorry, I’m still waiting to see if we have a copy … it should be just another minute …”

Yesterday was generally lousy because of the aforementioned Millennium nonsense.  Add to that the fact that the Envisionware system kept asking patrons for copy cards to pay for copies even when they were printing less than ten pages.  Apparently this is a system-wide problem that the tech people are STILL trying to solve, but what it means in terms of the info desk is that my line gets twice as long, and I spend my time manually releasing print jobs in addition to answering information questions, dealing with computer issues, staring at that godforsaken hourglass, running off to check the shelves because it’s faster than waiting for Millennium to tell me whether or not the damn book is on the shelf, and answering phone calls.

And yesterday, we had a doozy of a call.

We had an elderly woman call who said that she wanted to know if someone in our library could help her type a letter, because she had lost all her papers (or lost all her money?), and she was having problems with the bank, and the bank wasn’t responding to her, and she was in a lot of trouble and needed help.  As my brain started spinning its wheels, I tried tackling various parts of the problem.  I told the lady that we didn’t have anyone available to type a letter for her, but that we had computers available that patrons could use to type, and that we had books available with examples of complaint letters and other business letters.  I said that she might need to talk to a lawyer who would be able to help her with her problem and who could also write letters for her.  I was going to look up the contact information for the Legal Aid Society, but then she said, “I’ve TALKED to the lawyers” in a rather ominous way.  As this phone conversation was continuing, the line in front of me was growing by the minute, and the guy using the PC over to my right needed help again.  He continued to express this need by a) pointedly checking his watch and b) folding his arms in front of his chest and staring at me.

Since none of the computer pages were in yet and I was the only librarian on duty in the building (Mr. X gone plus a colleague on vacation = short-staffed city), I went into triage mode.  I told the lady on the phone that I had a line of people in front of me, and that I needed to put her on hold while I tried to figure out where I could refer her for assistance.  I gave the guy on the computer some pointers for conducting an online search, but it didn’t help that when I said quotation marks, he thought I meant parentheses, and it also didn’t help that he expected to find the price of his rare book in five minutes when what he really needed to do was speak to an appraiser or go on Antiques Roadshow to get an expert opinion.  Then I worked with the line of people in front of me, and every transaction took twice as long as it should have because Millennium was moving like molasses under water.  By the time I got back to the lady on the phone, she’d already hung up.  I felt bad that I hadn’t been able to recommend my last-ditch idea (I thought the Department of Aging might be able to help her), but then when I spoke with our branch manager during our lunch hour I realized that nothing I said or recommended would have made much of a difference to this woman.  Because apparently when she called, the very FIRST thing she said was, “I need someone to type up ten pages.  Do you have a secretary who could do that for me?”  When our branch manager told her no, that we didn’t offer that service, the lady kept insisting and insisting, and finally the call was transferred to me.

Ugh, what a mess!

Today’s my free day, and I plan to spend my day recuperating, shopping, and not thinking about patrons AT ALL.