Okay, so, in no particular order …

My computer keyboard at home died.  Long story.  Anyway, since I’d been using a wireless keyboard/mouse combo, that meant that I had to replace the whole kit & kaboodle.  So my boyfriend and I split the cost of a new set (YIKES!), and I went to install it when I came home from work.  I unplugged the old equipment and gave it to him to throw out.  I started setting up the new equipment, carefully following the steps in the instruction manual.  First I had to put in the CD-ROM with the wireless device software.  Check.  Within a minute the first popup appeared; it was my security software asking me if I wanted to trust this strange new software.  Which I did … except I couldn’t do a damn thing about it because my boyfriend had followed my instructions and had already thrown the old mouse / keyboard / wireless doohickey down the incinerator chute.  Oops.  Anyway, my remaining brain cells finally rubbed together and made a spark, and I borrowed the wireless mouse that my boyfriend uses with his laptop to get the job done.

The main computer on the Children’s information desk died.  You know when you turn on the computer and it makes a roaring noise like a jet engine but nothing else happens that things aren’t going well.  Anyway, the thing was no longer under warranty (go figure), so it will be taken away and will not be replaced.  Kind of the same thing that happens to librarians, now that I think about it …

I think that our snow day closure has turned our catalog system all kerflooey (That’s a technical term.  Look it up).  Multiple patrons have been complaining that they’ve been getting their notices late.  I mean REALLY late.  Which is a big problem when you only have a week to pick up your book, and you get the notice five days late.  Yikes!

And on a possibly related note, when I went to print out the list of holds to be cleared  this morning, I was very surprised to see my name on the list of patrons next to the title of the new Dean Koontz book that I was 100% sure I’d already checked out, read,  and returned.  So I looked at the barcode, walked over to the New Books section, and there it was on the shelf.  Exactly where I put it when I checked it back in yesterday.  Curiouser and curiouser.

Yesterday morning I got out of bed, took my shower, and then staggered semiconsciously over to the coffee machine that we keep by the living room window (the kitchen has too much stuff in it, and plus this way our guests don’t have to miss whatever we’re watching on TV to make a cup of coffee).  So I put in my K-Cup and waited for my coffee to brew.  Suddenly I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye.  I turned to look out the window at the fire escape and saw … my cat.  On the fire escape.  Staring at me.  My first thought was — oh my God!  How did he get outside?  My second thought was — wait … he COULDN’T have gotten outside!  I ran back through my apartment, and found my cat lying peacefully on a rug.  I ran back to look at the cat on the fire escape.  It put its front paws up on my windowsill and started meowing at me.  As I noticed the differences between this strange cat and mine — this one was a little younger and a little leaner, but otherwise IDENTICAL — Logan came up behind me.  He jumped up on the windowsill and started walking forward, staring intently at his younger clone.  They had a standoff for a few moments, at which point the younger cat started hissing at my poor shnoogums.  The two cats stared at each other through the security gate, and I watched nervously.  My cat is FIV-positive, you see, so I had to keep them apart.  If the other cat hurt Logan, Logan would need antibiotics to heal.  And if Logan bit the other cat, the other cat could become FIV-positive.  I ran to the phone and called the super.  I explained the situation, and he told me that all he could do was knock on the door and give the tenants a message that their window was open and that their cat was on the fire escape … if he could figure out which apartment it was … and if they answered the door.  After I hung up the phone, I watched the strange cat walk back across the fire escape and over a narrow little windowsill (my heart was in my throat) and go into an open window on the other side of the building.  Then I had my coffee and went to work, and worried the entire day about what happened to the cat and what, if anything, had happened to its owners.  Were they dead?  Injured?  Or had one of them just left a window open by mistake before going to work?  And what was I supposed to do?  Call 311?  911?  I spent the whole day stressing out about it.  Anyway, I asked my boyfriend if he could go home earlier than usual and check things out (I didn’t think I’d be able to handle it if there was a dead cat lying in the courtyard).  Anyway, he texted me with updates on my way home (window was still open, no sign of the cat anywhere), and I went to talk to the super.  The only answers I have now are incomplete; we’ve seen the lights going on and off in the apartment, so apparently no one was dead or dying in there.  And we haven’t seen the cat again, so we assume it’s in good health and safely indoors.  But they keep leaving that same window open, and that makes me absolutely mental.

But in more positive surreal news … the Mega Python vs. Gatoroid movie is debuting on the Syfy channel tonight.  Monster vs. monster?  Tiffany vs. Debbie Gibson?  It doesn’t get more surreal than that!!!

That would be 116 ways, to be exact.  Since we were “allowed” to come in early this morning, I was able to get an extra two hours of weeding done.  That means I had the time to identify and pull all of these books from foreign locales off of my shelves in order to make them less congested.  I also had time to grab some books of MINE that were in poor condition / out-of-date / etc. , but there were only ten of those.  I also had time to reshelve most of what was on my book truck, and to pinpoint problem areas that our page and volunteers could work on (I’m pretty sure that whoever last shelved my 900’s section must have been suffering from an eye infection that day, because they’re completely jumbled).

I’d like to say that my efforts this morning mean that my interaction with these books, at least, is over and done with.  And yet most of them are still with us, waiting patiently on a truck for me to reassign them and send them back to their respective branches.  Because if I dropped them in an outgoing bin now, they’d just take a scenic tour of the city for a week or more and then wind up back on my shelves, no matter what their property labels said.  The steps I have to take to reassign these items back to their original branches in Millennium are labor-intensive, to say the least:

  • Check in all 116 items to see if any of them are reserved for patrons in our system (cross ten items off of the list).  And then …
  • scan barcode
  • double-click highlighted item (out of the list of all copies of that title in our system)
  • wait for the record to open
  • double-click “location”
  • scroll up or down to find the location you want to send it to (this takes longer than you might think, because the locations are not in the most logical order, and once you find the right location, you must also pinpoint the name of the collection within that library where you want the item to go)
  • double click the branch/collection that you’ve chosen
  • ETA: change status from “available” to “in transit”
  • click “save”
  • wait for the record to be saved
  • click “close”
  • click in the barcode field
  • delete the previous barcode
  • and THEN start the process all over again, repeating as many times as necessary (in this case, over 100)

I never realized how much I would miss the Dynix system.  It was so … INTUITIVE!!!  *sob*

And this task is going to be even more difficult in the future, because we’re switching over to “universal” property labels now.  So in the future, if I find a few books (or, say, a hundred of them) that are in perfectly good shape but I just don’t have the room for them … how will I know where to send them???

You know, all this thinking is making my brain hurt.

ETA: I just added the “in transit” step after I had an epiphany today.  I realized that in the Dynix system we would change each item’s location and then check it in, which would automatically change the status of the item to “in transit” from our location to the new location.  But we can’t do that anymore — now that floating collections are in place, if we check it in, it automatically belongs to us again.  So what I realized was that if we only changed the collection code and put the item in a bin, for the week or more that the item was in transit it would say it was “available” when it might not even be in the same borough.  It also might explain why I have been going out of my mind lately looking for books and DVDs that Millennium claims are checked in, but which I cannot find AT ALL.  Anyway, one of my quick-thinking clerks suggested the “in transit” solution, so this is what we’re going to try from now on.  Hopefully it will reduce our clutter, as well as the chaos.

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.

Thursday and Friday my lungs were so congested that they felt like they were filled with cement.  After tons of herbal tea (laced with lemon, honey, and echinacea), water, and over-the-counter expectorants, by Saturday my lungs felt like they were filled with sand and I started coughing green stuff out of my lungs.  By Sunday I was strong enough to leave the apartment without keeling over.  And today I went back to work.

For the most part things went well today, but on several levels I felt like I was moving underwater.  The main reason was that everything I tried to do on the computers took FOR-FRIGGING-EVER.  Here was a typical example:

scan barcode

wait

stare at the screen

look at the barcode on the book in my hand

double-check that the barcode on the book is the same as the barcode on the screen

watch the hourglass appear on the screen

stare at the hourglass

stare at the hourglass

stare off into space

tidy up papers on the desk

stare at the hourglass

see the record for the item finally appear on the screen

verify that the information is correct

click on “Close”

REPEAT

After scanning item after item this way, I eventually started checking my watch and seeing how long these transactions were actually taking.  The record was 17 seconds from the initial barcode scan to the actual results that I was looking for.  And it was bad enough when I was working on books by myself; it was much worse when a patron would come up to me with a typical question (like “Do you have this book?”) and we got to enjoy those long awkward pauses together.

The second reason that I felt like I was underwater was because it was gruesomely humid today.  When I walked out of the library at the end of the day, it felt like a wet dog was sitting on my head.  And the atmosphere wasn’t doing my lungs any favors, either.  Ugh.

Tomorrow I begin our summer reading club signup in earnest, visiting local schools every morning for the rest of the week.  This will be an interesting endeavor, since I have NO summer reading club materials.  But we’re supposed to sign up kids for the club, and sign up as many as possible as quickly as possible.  I have already ranted (repeatedly) about the pressure to sign up kids and to increase our statistics, even if we’re basically creating empty numbers.  But it just adds insult to injury to keep expecting us to do more while giving us less.  But, you know, whatever.  I’ll sign up the kids using the 2009 sign-up pads.  I’ll bring the books on the summer reading list to show them, do some booktalks, and tell the kids that the actual book lists will be here “soon.”  And if anyone asks about what prizes we’ll be giving out this summer, I’ll just try to change the subject.

So this morning we get a call from a patron looking for Six Degrees of Separation.  Not the movie, the book.  So I do a search for the title, and that gets me every edition of the book plus DVD copies, VHS copies, etc.  So to save myself a few precious seconds of time, first I limit my search to my branch, so I can see if it’s on my shelves or if I need to look elsewhere.  When I limit it to my branch, I get the “0 entries” message, and I tell the patron that we don’t own it.  Then I do the search again, only this time I limit my results to books to get rid of all of the video entries.  I pick one of the book records, double-click to examine the record more closely to see if it’s listed at any of our local branches … and that’s when I see that a copy is listed as being at MY branch.

Curiouser and curiouser.

So I go to the shelves and it’s there.  Only it doesn’t have our property label; it has the property label from another library in another borough.  Which seems to indicate that this is one of our recent “floating collection” immigrants.  Which begs the question … was this an isolated incident, or is this going to happen EVERY SINGLE TIME we get another library’s item returned to us?  Because the entire point of floating collections is that books and videos are supposed to be more available to patrons.  But if Millennium doesn’t let us know that we have these items on our shelves, then it isn’t going to do a damn bit of good.

And while we’re on the subject of Millennium making me mental, we’ve recently discovered another reason that our circulation and attendance statistics are taking a hit.  Our patrons have been getting so frustrated with “false” hold messages — they come into the library to pick up the reserves that Millennium SAYS are there, only to discover that they wasted another trip — that they are reducing their library visits.  They have been telling us in person and by phone that they will not come into the library until they call and get multiple assurances that their items are actually there and ready to be picked up.  Which I totally understand — why should you pay for bus fare, or pay for parking, and then find out that your books / DVDs / etc. aren’t ready after all?

The copy of Peeps by Scott Westerfeld that I’d reserved arrived in our bins this morning.  Which is odd, since according to our catalog it’s been ready for me to pick up for the last two days.  It’s good to know that the Millennium system treats patrons and staff with equal incoherence.

We’ve been dealing with many irritating issues with our Millennium catalog system for months now.  But the last few weeks have been worse, and today was simply awful.  And when the computers aren’t working properly, the patrons get furious.  And since we’re the ones on the front lines, we’re the ones they yell at the most.  A few highlights:

“This system is awful!  You’re as bad as the US government!”

“I’m never going to bother using this system again!”

“I don’t understand why this isn’t working.  I’ve had enough of this song and dance!”

*SIGH*

So what were the patrons complaining about, you ask?  Here are just a few of the recent problems with our computer system (all based on REPEATED complaints):

  • Patrons are not getting the notices when their reserved items arrive.  But they ARE getting notices when their reserves have expired.
  • Patrons are getting notices that their reserves have arrived … except they’re still in transit …
  • When we try to do anything with a patron’s record — checking in / checking out / placing a reserve — we get a message saying that the patron’s record is “in use by the system.”  Which usually means that the patron’s record is open on one of our terminals … except that wasn’t the case today.  It turns out that there was a slowdown in the system so that processes that were supposed to be completed in seconds were taking upwards of 15 minutes.  So the “song and dance” lady returned a book at the front desk, walked upstairs to place some reserves, and then proceeded to berate me REPEATEDLY because I kept getting the “patron record is in use” message.

I am sick and tired of irate patrons yelling at me about how the system isn’t working.  And they’ve been a lot more irate than usual lately.  Just wait until they learn that we’re starting floating collections next month.  Did I mention THAT new policy???

*SIGH*

Stay tuned for a future blog post about yet another Great Experiment that probably sounded good on paper.