Archive for the ‘ Library ’ Category

Laptop rage

Some people think of me as very calm.  Others, who know me a little better, think I’m always tense or worried about something (or some things, or possibly everything), but I doubt many of the people I know would see me as angry.  As a rule, I don’t do angry.  I get cross with myself.  A lot.  Or I get frustrated about world events or uncooperative inanimate objects.  But I just don’t get angry.  Very few people have ever seen me shout for any reason other than audibility or theatre.  A few unfortunate souls have experienced the moment when I grow icily cold, and my voice becomes even quieter than usual as I simmer.  Recently, though, I experienced laptop rage.

In the shiny new(ish) learning centre, we have a laptop loan scheme.  This involves cabinets housing a couple of hundred mini laptops which can be used in the building by anyone who needs them, vastly increasing the computing capacity of the space.  The laptops are  cute little things, which sometimes start to smell a bit when too many students have carried them around under their arms.  They are a much valued resource, but they can be irritating from time to time.  There is a tendency to leave them in strange places around the building.  On shelves, under chairs, out on the terrace (in the rain) and so on.  This is irritating because each laptop can only run for a few hours before needing to be plugged back in to a cabinet to recharge.

You can imagine, then, my joy when I found a laptop abandoned on a desk at the end of a day and took it to a cabinet, to find that said cabinet was almost full.  People had been returning them to their little house rather than leaving them to fend for themselves.  Wonderful!  Except…  I noticed several dangling cables.  Pulling out one laptop after another, I discovered that they and the cables that recharge them were only united in terms of proximity, not in terms of carrying out any useful function.  In the whole cabinet, containing a couple of dozen laptops, only one had actually been plugged in to recharge.  For some reason, this really irked me, beyond my usual levels of irritability.  Technically, this showed more thoughtfulness than the usual trick of abandoning the laptops as soon as they were finished with, but it seemed to show less sense.  Did they assume that the whole cabinet functioned as a powermat?  If so, what on earth did they think all the dangling cables were for?  By the time I had plugged each cute little laptop in to a power cable, sitting cross-legged on the floor like a 21st-century gnome, I would have been quite happy to strangle the next student that came along, preferably using one of the remaining charging cables.  Thankfully, as it was the end of the day, there were no students sufficiently near by to carry out this desire.

In theory, a failure to plug something in to charge is no great crime, but on this day I must have been tired, or caffeine-deprived, or otherwise unable to cope with the daily ups and downs of library life.  Whatever the reason, I now know that some of our student body do not understand the concept of charging (one can only assume they replace their phones every time the battery runs out) and that this is one of the few things in life that makes me genuinely angry.  The Singing Librarian suffers from laptop rage.  Who’d have thought it?

A decade

On the weekend before Footloose, I passed a rather significant milestone: 10 years of working at the Library of Doom and its successor, the Shiny New Learning Centre.  In that time, I have held four different positions, starting as a library assistant before moving up to senior library assistant in charge of inter-library loans (later taking on responsibility for electronic forms of document delivery as well).  For a few months, I was seconded into an assistant librarian role, looking after a team of people with responsibility for front-line services, and for the last year and a bit I have been in charge of cataloguing.

Even with four different roles, it seems rather strange that I’ve been there for ten years.  Rather a long time, and nearly a third of my life thus far.  I have colleagues who have been there far longer than I, and are probably there for life.  I don’t see myself working in the same place for life, but who knows?  Maybe a decade is long enough to be thoroughly immovable.

Over these years, I have accumulated many memories.  Of lovely co-workers and silly students, of political disputes and lovely students, of excitements and disappointments, of vibrations and fire alarms.  There was September 11th 2001, which I will never forget (and which I will, one day, blog about).  There was the strangeness of S Club Library.  There was the flood in the foyer which was the first time the place got called the Library of Doom, and the time a shelf tried to kill me.  There was the day we all dressed as characters from books, and there was the summer we spent moving books around in the shiny new building.  My fellow workers have become something of a fan club (even waiting outside the dressing room door and screaming when I emerged after Rodgers With an H). There have been many frustrations, but also many joys.  I have no idea what the next ten years will hold in career terms, but I don’t regret the last ten at the (former) Library of Doom.

What does a librarian actually do all day?

It is quite clear that librarianship is one of the most misunderstood professions out there.  People really have no idea what librarians spend their time doing, why they might want to do it or even what the point of librarians is.  Our image has been improved in recent decades thanks to characters such as the Discworld’s Librarian and Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Rupert Giles, but still the overriding image is of a severe-looking lady with her hair in a bun, grumpily stamping books and telling people to be quiet.  Not always accurate – if nothing else, I’m no lady!

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Bad vibrations

I’m picking up bad vibrations.
They’re giving me palpitations:
Bad, bad, bad, bad vibrations!

Yes, the sparkly new learning centre has turned against me, clearly determined to drive me away.  For the past few weeks, the floor in my office has been vibrating, sending shudders through my desk, my chair and my body, and sometimes causing the shelves behind me to rattle.  Some of my colleagues have also been experiencing the vibrations, though some of them are only aware of the phenomenon when it visibly affects an inanimate object, such as causing water bottles to shake or computer monitors to jiggle from side to side.  And those who are aware of the vibrations react differently.  Unfortunately, I seem to be particularly sensitive to them.

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In/out/in/out, shake us all about…

Last year, I wrote about the general inability this country has to cope with snow.  It appears that we have learned little, if anything from the experience and our recent attack of the frozen white stuff has caused even more confusion and problems than the last.  Partly this is down to a lack of snow-related infrastructure  and contingency – unlike places where heavy snow is a frequent event, our train tracks can’t cope with ice, our cars lack winter tyres and even main roads can quickly become impassable.

Just like everywhere else, the shiny new learning centre was affected by the turn in the weather.  On the first day of snow, a number of staff left early in order not to miss the last busses and trains to their various home towns, then many of them found themselves unable to get in on either the second or third day due to the public transport system running away and whimpering in a corner somewhere.  However, a large number of staff did manage to attend, and services were able to run as normal.  But the general air of panic which seemed to sweep the country (even in areas like mine which were not so seriously affected) meant that before long, services could not continue as usual after all.  The whole university was closed at 12 noon on the Friday (the third day of snow), to reopen after the weekend, much to the surprise of the throng of library staff who were merrily getting on with our various tasks.  Still, we didn’t complain too much, to be honest – I, for one, loved the snowy walk with the dogs which the free afternoon allowed me to take.

Then the confusion set in.

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The blonde factor

Moving from the Library of Doom to a state of the art learning centre has been an interesting, exciting, tiring and sometimes frustrating experience.  The new building has been open for 10 weeks now and everything is beginning to settle down.  We understand the technology, we no longer forget which floor everything is on and we are adjusting to the open plan office etiquette rules and the students’ newfound freedom to talk, eat and drink almost anywhere in the learning centre.  One thing, however, has not settled down, and that is shelving.  In any library (sorry, learning centre), shelving is a major logistical issue involving more trolleys and members of staff than you could ever imagine.  In fact, the task seems to consume as many trolleys as are available – you can purchase a couple of dozen extra trolleys, but within a week you will find yourself needing more.

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Show the librarians some love!

Sometimes you find the most surprising things in the book return box.  First thing on a Thursday morning, this is one of my tasks, carried out as part of the routine of getting the temporary library up and running for the day.  Gone is the hideous wooden thing lurking in the corner, replaced by a much older, but more aesthetically pleasing blue metal drop box.  Given previous form and stories of drop boxes across the world, you might expect to find bacon rashers, dead squirrels, old underwear or hastily stashed contraband in there.  However, the only item I’ve found in there so far which wasn’t part of library stock was much more unexpected.  This:

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