Monday, June 18, 2007


At my new job I'm slowly becoming a master of scheduling. Well, not a master. And not really anything I set out to do. It's more of a dragged kicking and screaming type thing.

You see, we're essentially open 7am to 11pm most days. I have people who work Mon-Fri, Tues-Sat, and Sun-Thur. If everyone's here, then everything is great. However, since we like people to be able to take vacation (and come back refreshed and rejuvenated etc.) or feel like when they're sick they can stay home and get better, there are times when we need to find coverage.

I'm extra on the coverage front. If we're one person short, I can fill in (it's actually part of my job description, so while technically I have to fill in, it's better when it feels like a choice) and again, no problem.

However, sometimes we have more than one person out.

Take today for example. There are six employees plus me to run the circulation desks. (yes desks, one on the third floor--where my office is--and one on the second floor) Today, four of those employees are out.

Yes. Four.

The good thing is that this is the first day of summer break. There are no classes. There are no faculty in the building. As I type, it's 9:15am. I've been here for more than two hours and I've seen one patron. He came in, checked his e-mail, and left.

So, we're not exactly bustling with activity. Still, there are breaks and lunches to cover, so with three of us here (one only in until 3:30pm, and one not in until 9:30am; and I'm working a split shift...oh it's too complicated to explain quickly) it will be quite the juggling act.

Which means most likely we'll be pulling someone out of collection development to cover breaks and lunches.

Not ideal, but not the end of the world. It's not something that I like to do a lot of, since the collection development people have their own job duties (and breaks and lunches) and interrupting them is not the best.

Normally we don't have this many people out at once. But having two out (particularly when it's night shift people) can be a major pain. If it wasn't summer break we would have never approved so many people being off. We can run a little thin since we won't have as many people needing our services.

The next two weeks are a little sketchy. This is the end of the fiscal year, so everyone's trying to use up their vacation before they lose it. They can carry over some to next fiscal year, but then they have to use it in July or lose it.

I don't feel that I'm very good at managing schedules and time. It's a constant battle to keep myself on top of what's going on. All the departments have to coordinate together so that we know who's covering what and that we have enough coverage for the desks. We only cover internally, i.e., we don't have substitute librarians or temp workers. We have student workers, but they're quite limited in what they can do (e.g., they can't watch a desk).

What does your library do?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More Technology

Today we'll talk about Google Reader. I was very reluctant to use Google Reader as I don't like putting all my eggs in one basket. I feel very uncomfortable whenever a company wants to be my everything. IMO, it's impossible for one company to provide every service I could want to the same level of quality.

Sure, Google is a great search engine. Yes, I use Google Maps over other map services. Yes, I'm using Google's website analytics (but I'm also using two other company's web statistics tools, and from the three of them I feel I get a nice view of what's happening with my website). But, I do not like Google's calendar feature. I have a gmail account, but I don't use it since I have something like six or seven other e-mail accounts (some of which I've had for more than 8 years and I'm reluctant to give them up since there are some people who only use that account to contact me).

So, whenever I read about how Google has word processing, or spreadsheets, or an RSS reader, or what have you, I just don't buy that their product is as good as a company who's spent their life making a word processor. Sure, this may be short-sightedness on my part. I try lots of things that Google puts out there, and I use the ones that I feel are well made, and I discard (like Google calendar) the ones that are awkward to use and implement.

I do not like Google Reader. There are a few things about it that I really dislike. There are some functions that Bloglines provides that Google Reader does not that I wish it had. And yet...

About a month ago, none of my LiveJournal feeds were updating in Bloglines. This is a huge problem as I read scores of author feeds, and a lot of them are on LJ. There is some problem with how Bloglines retrieves information that violates LJ's terms of use. So, I decided to try Google Reader since many people recommended it and Google was updating LJ feeds.

First, what I like about Google Reader.

One of the big things is that I use folders to organize my feeds. In Bloglines, when I click on a folder, everything in it is marked as read. If I get interrupted or I accidently click another folder/feed, I cannot retrieve those messages. Google doesn't do this. I have to actually get to the feed's post before it's marked as read.

Also, I like the keyboard navigation functionality. I like being able to use the space bar to scroll slowly through a long post, and I like using the 'j' and 'k' keys to move back and forth through posts (although this sometimes doesn't work; anyone know why?).

I like the starring function of saving posts better than Bloglines version of saving posts as Bloglines keeps them in the feed list (which can be problematic when you 'save' as many posts as I do for later reading or later posting). Google moves them to their own area that I can access easily.

Hey, look at that. Google keeps track of trends in my feed reading. Cool! And kind of invasive at the same time. Hmmm. It does give me a sense of who's posting the most and what I'm reading a lot of. But it seems to only confirm what I already knew.

Second, things I dislike.

I hate...HATE HATE HATE...that Google caps the feed count at 100+. This is asinine. You know how many posts I have to read. And 101 versus 500 is a huge difference. If I have ten minutes, I might be able to look at 101 posts; but I doubt I can look at 500. This is just bad programming. Lazy. Bad. Awful. Stupid. Fix it.

I also hate that the posts aren't dated. They get timestamps like '10 minutes ago' and crap like that. Again, you know when you accessed the feed and retrieved the post, give me the date. Sometimes, people update an old post, and it shows up as '10 minutes ago.' If I had a date, too, I could see that: yes it was posted 10 minutes ago, but it was originally posted four weeks ago. Sheesh.

Um, blogroll options? Yeah, not there. I use the blogroll function from Bloglines, since I like to have a list of other read-worthy blogs out there, and I'm too lazy to input several hundred feeds by hand. And I don't feel it's worth the effort to select just a few and ignore the rest that I read. I want my blogroll to represent what I'm reading. I can share individual items, which doesn't seem as helpful.

Built-in weather function? Also not there. This is one of the great features of Bloglines. Put in your zip code, and get a nice, constantly updating5-day weather forecast. Simple. Effective. Handy.

Package tracking? Not there either. I cannot tell you how often I've used this. I'll keep my Bloglines account for this alone, even if I drop all my other feeds.

If not for the LJ problem, I would drop Google Reader and never look back. Its strengths don't outweigh its problems. Since I started using Google Reader about three weeks ago, I've read almost 6,000 posts. I've starred only a few dozen items for further reading.

Contrast this to my Bloglines account. In the same amount of time, it says that I have just 3,300 unread posts. That's about only 55% of the posts that I saw through Google Reader. Where did those other 2,500 or so posts go? That's a lot of stuff I would have missed.

Of course, the reality may be that I'm reading too much, right?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

An Introduction and some navel-gazing

Hello Library Angsters - I'm the newest contributor on LA, and I've been somewhat remiss in doing my first post. I'm here to rectify that situation post haste! (sorry for the terrible pun)

I come from a (fairly typical) undergrad in English literature and History. But the majority of my time has been spent as a secretary in one form or another. I've been a file clerk, a receptionist, marketing assistant, customer service manager... in each, there was a strong emphasis on customer service - but only as far as it could be provided while still keeping the company profitable. One of the greatest draws to librarianship for me has been serving the public instead of working them over for a buck.

I understand that libraries need to be "profitable" in their own way, but there's a distinct difference between a library's successful operation and a business. For a business to be considered successful, it must make more money than it spends. The more money it pulls in, the more successful it is. For a library, success is measured in customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is measured in participation in library programs and use of library resources. We receive funding based on the perceived success of our programs and resources, but that funding is a simply a tool we use to achieve our goal.

Being able to focus on service instead of profit has changed the way I look at business. I now read RSS feeds from over 20 marketing blogs every day, and instead of recoiling in horror at the marketing tactics described there, I can evaluate them openly and see if they could be turned on their head to suit the library's purpose. That's a wonderful thing.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Where I Work

Since many people have asked, here is a quick photo of the library where I work. If you click on the photo, it will take you to a Flickr set where you can see more photos of my current place of work.

Palmer Health Sciences Library

My follow Angsters need not feel that they make a similar post, but no one is stopping you if you so wish.

Friday, June 01, 2007


serrefine - n. - A small spring forceps used for approximating the edges of a wound, or for temporarily closing an artery during surgery.

Another word that I don't think I'll be able to use in every day conversation. Other than today, when I can say things like, "Did you see Even O'Dorney win the Scripps National Spelling Bee last night with the word 'serrefine'?" Ah, the spelling bee. The inspiration for my anthology Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories. It's now become a standard at the end of May for my household to watch the bee.

My wife and I shout at the kids who keep asking for definitions and alternate pronounciations. Sometimes I feel bad for the kids, though. You can tell they're trying to suss out the spelling, and they're just asking questions without thinking about them so they don't feel the pressure of silence. Like the one boy, Prateek Kohli, who got a word (oberek) for which the definition was "a Polish folk dance" and then he asked the country of origin. Not surprisingly it was Polish. Without the pressure of the spelling bee, I suspect that Mr. Kohli doesn't ask that question.

Nice things said about Logorrhea:

"Delightful.... A treat for dictionary hounds and vocabulary-challenged word lovers everywhere."—Booklist

"This book is a logophile's dream—a left-field collection of stories inspired by winning words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Anyone who has ever spent an hour or two happily browsing the pages of a dictionary will find something to love here."—Kevin Brockmeier, author of A Brief History of the Dead

"Your book pays a beautiful tribute to the beauty, potential, versatility and history that lie within so many words and the English language as a whole. In other words, it encapsulates what it was that drove my competition in spelling bees and what drives my passion for language today."-Nupur Lala, winner of the 1999 National Spelling Bee (winning word: logorrhea)

"Buy it immediately."-The Agony Column