Sunday, December 07, 2008

Anonymous again

It will come as no surprise to most of you that I have decided to stop updating this blog, since I haven't updated the damn thing in a month, anyway. When I began using Twitter to post my more entertaining refdesk moments I thought it would free the blog for incisive commentary. Obviously I have none to offer.

However, I am going one step further. I will no longer post to Twitter under my current name. Oh, I'll probably invent a new name and keep tweeting (It's fun!) but I'll only let a few people know.

I want to be anonymous again. Ref Grunt was an anonymous blog until the book was published (though word had got out sooner than I thought: I subsequently learned that one admin had already been talking about my blog in seminars, which I find discourteous to me. Surely I should be the one who outs my blog). When the book came out I was worried about the reaction here, but the only thing my library did was buy a copy. I'm grateful that no one here has ever told me to stop, or tell me what I could or could not say on Ref Grunt. No one's even grumbled. The only reaction were coworkers telling me how funny they think it is. I know well that in other places I could have easily been warned or even dooced by now.

But they ARE reading it. More and more it's making me uncomfortable.

The original Ref Grunt was a way for me to laugh and comment on my refdesk absurdities, and to my surprise it struck a chord with other librarians. Maybe because I was just another reference librarian, somewhere, doing the same chores, scratching my head over the same odd questions they got.

I'm beginning to think I can't do that anymore if my library knows it's me. So it's toodle-oo to Ref Grunt and "Peterburd." I'll be tweeting again soon. Hope you figure out it's me.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

In the Evening

I know I've twittered this information, but for the rest of you I'll say that our new reference desk setup, stuck amongst the public terminals, sucks. I repeat, it sucks.
Deaf sentence, by David Lodge.
Ranma #13.
The verbally abusive relationship, by Patricia Evans.
Guest pass.
Shut up!
Websites to help kids move up to their grade level, in Spanish.
At least it's quiet tonight, apart from three kids I repeatedly tell to shut up.
Printer advice.
Quit horsing around (the kids from before).
Do we participate in NetLibrary?
She lost her library card.
Wow, it's TOO slow tonight ... It was hardly worth posting. Sorry.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I suppose you have to take it somewhere. Some guy I never saw figured that a corner of our quiet library stacks was the perfect place to ... release.

But I, weeding the biographies, heard his desperate shout:


Nothing more.

He sounded really pissed.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Importance

I thought I worked the evening, so came in at noon, but I had misread the schedule. In other words, I wasn't at work this morning when I should have been.

No one noticed.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Busy Afternoon

Friday afternoon was tough. Not only were we working with the local community college's new influx of naive students, new to serious research and often new to computers, but the schools had a half-day so loud kids were filling the place up early. And it was raining, so people who might have wanted to leave chose not to. We were running all over the place.

At 3:15, a surprise: the Head Techie came out and told us that we have a major network issue, so we'd be shutting down the public computers in fifteen minutes. No news on whether we'd be back up soon. We went to each table and told everyone, apologizing, "Save your work," etc., and the computers went down at 3:30.

The library emptied out. What had been an annoying, humid stressful afternoon turned quiet and peaceful. Big noise to near silence, except from the cries of disappointment when newcomers came in and found us down. I tracked down the occasional book. Dark fantasy stuff. Gang stuff. That was about all.

It was a relief, especially since I was on my seventh straight day of work! But I feel kind of bad for being happy. Yes, it could not be avoided and we still helped people, but we might have screwed over someone's work big time, though no patron had a crisis I know of.

Hell with it. I was relieved. Sorry if some patrons weren't.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

In the Afternoon

Salesmanship books.
Crying baby.
"From rage to reason," by Janet Langhart Cohen. (Over the phone. "I ... just ... can't ... find ... my ... card ... anywhere ...")
Computers are over there, sir.
She calls back with her barcode, but I've already found it.
"Yes, or no," by Spencer Johnson.
Some year's best horror anthology series.
I can't notarize that, sir.
Coworker: "My husband started making fun of me because I hit like a girl. So I kicked him in the nuts."
She has a lot of bees in her backyard, and she wants to "contain" them.
His computer froze.
"We are not forgotten," by Joel Martin.

In the Evening

Kama Sutra.
How we do faxes.
Community service.
Dog breeds.
I replace printer toner.
She gets upset because I won't let her jump in the Internet queue.
Bathroom's over there, sir.
And another one gets upset because her reservation expired.
A third one wants a specific machine.
A fourth one begs for more time so she can finish filling out a form, but her machine crashes anyway.
Copier's over there, ma'am.
A child screaming in the stone stairwell resonates and sounds like a bad horror movie.
The first Chronicles of Narnia movie.
The Bluford High series.
Printer jam.
Get off that machine, kid.
"Exit here," by Jason Myers.
Sure you can use the computer, kid. Just get a library card.
Chicken soup for some kind of soul or another.
Click, don't double-click, kid.
I clear up a half-dozen computer problems.
Our computer class schedule doesn't fit his, and it's our fault.
And a half-dozen more.
"I STILL can't log in."
Purple Loosestrife, killer bees, European black currents and some species of moth that hung out with Mennonites.
Sorry, I don't know how to download music to your MP3 player.
That's a library catalog, kid, not a place to visit Myspace.
Magnifying glass.
"Chocolate chip cookie murder," by Joanne Fluke.
The kid is BACK on the catalog trying to get to Myspace.
I let a guy use my machine to get his school notes off email.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

In the Evening:

She's never used a computer before. She doesn't know how to use a mouse, type, or "spell," as she puts it. So I go and print her credit report for her. "What am I supposed to do with this?"
He's astonished I've heard of Ben Hecht.
Where is area code 817?
Videos on the Justice Department.
WOW Gospel 2006.
1991 Honda Civic repair manual.
Does she need to be here for tonight's book club drawing?
Sitting by the circ dept I hear way too much about a woman's pregnancy.
How to get a library card.
A toddler starts wailing. I smile and say "Shh, quiet." He shuts up! I love this kid!
Now it's a wailing infant.
Sorry, lady, we haven't seen your keys.
It's apparently "Screaming Child Night" here at the library. I can't say I like this promotion.
All the Zane books are missing again.
ILL pickup.
The big group of girls with screaming babies have finally left. Ah, the silence!
Sorry, lady, we haven't see your phone.
A guy is looking at porn, but we just can't quite catch him.
"The coldest winter ever," by Sister Souljah.
Don't run!

Friday, July 25, 2008

On a Lovely Friday Afternoon:

Request for Jordan Sparks and Phil Stacey CDs, from a coworker.
What on earth was the title for the second Star wars film?
"Once a king, always a king," by Reymundo Sanchez.
She's entering high school. Can't she get an adult card? Sure, and so can her mother.
Oops, I'm not supposed to be here right now ...

(One hour later)

"Authors like Zane."
We don't own a copy of Perelandra. I'm a little embarrassed. We have the other two ...
Six Sigma, then statistics.
Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk.
I explain that we're closing in fifteen minutes and that's why he can't log in, three times. Each time he just stares at me, mouth open.
Nope, you can't use my phone, kid.

Monday, June 30, 2008


I was reminded of this at a meeting today. A couple months ago I decided to give Stephanie Meyer's Twilight a try, since so many people were reading it. I was on desk glancing at the first chapter when I hear:

"BWA-HA-HA-HA! You're reading 'Twilight!' That's a sissy book. You must be a big girlie!"

I looked up and saw a girl with glasses, probably in middle school, whom I had never seen before. She was pointing at the book.

"I thought I'd give it a try," I said.

"Ha-ha-ha! You're a girlie!"

I wound up getting about a third of the way through it before deciding it I wasn't its target audience. A week after that the girl spots me again.

"You're the one reading that sissy book."

"For your information, I gave up. It was too girly."

"What's that you're holding?"

"Er ..." It was volume 6 of Love*Com.

"BWA-HA-HA-HA! You always read sissy girlie stuff!"

And so on ... I wish I knew who this this girl is.

What's embarrassing is that I actually *like* "Love*Com."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Since Twitter has been Absolutely Useless Lately:

In the Evening:

Four straight faxes.
The fountainhead on CD.
Copier advice.
Word has resume templates, sir.
"Can you tell me if Venus has a ring around it?"
I think the weird hippy guy is hitting on Librarian K.
Competing in analytics, by Davenport and Harris.
Sorry, we don't loan out Windows operating systems, sir.
Could you turn your IPod down, please? Thanks.
A whole bunch of Rochelle Alers books.
The girl telling the kid to shut us is louder than the kid.
Printer advice.
Phlebotomy exam guidebooks.
Books on cults leads to books by Cathy Burns which leads to books on Freemasonry.
I kick a kid off an internet machine.
Today's paper.
A kid turns a table of computers off and I deal with the consequences.
The autobiography of Malcolm X.
More computer reservation mixups. I hate this system.
Today's paper.
Travel books.
Statistical Abstract of the United States
He's going from employee to employee to try to get a library card, when the rules say he can't have one ...
... He finally gets a card, but we can't find any of the books he wants ...
Copier advice.
She drops her travel books and can't pick them up.
Printer advice.
We try to figure out if Herbert's Dune trilogy was originally intended to be a trilogy.
More computer reservation screwups.
And the print queue is strangely empty, annoying a patron.
ESL tapes.
A patron has lost his keys.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In the Evening:

Twitter seems to be down.
"You got any history movies? ... You know, civil rights movement or slavery?"
Don't run!
I don't know why they transferred you here, sir. We don't renew items.
Yep, we have WIFI.
The so-called "stimulus" forms.
DVD loan policy.
I swear that patron looks just like Popeye's dad Pappy.
Encyclopedias are over there, kid.
A whole bunch of ILLs by Brenda Jackson.
Stuck paper in the printer.
It wants your email address, ma'am. "I don't have one."
Lots and lots of printer advice.
Don't run, dammit!
The catcher in the rye, by J. D. Salinger.
Transfer pricing.
A patron wants How to win friends and influence people but hangs up before Librarian P can get his name.
The hollow, by Nora Roberts.
Printer advice.
Men's tailoring.
Other stuff.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I come back from a vacation, refreshed, ready to tackle the new extraordinary challenges that have cropped up while I was gone.

And I find everything exactly the same. The same patrons, the same questions, coworkers and gripes. I am disappointed. I wanted a fresh start. I wanted something new. I wanted to find the kids section crawling with alligators. I wanted to learn that Bin Laden had been hiding in one of our study rooms. I wanted alien priestesses. The only difference around here is that they changed the parking garage rules again.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The most important librarian anime since Read or Die has started its run in Japan!

Apparently in the story the government has begun to crack down on what the citizens can read, and the only the librarians can stop them! And they're serious. Look! Angry librarians with guns!

If they actually gave us guns, we librarians might choose to shoot other things besides censors. And I don't care much for the uniforms. But still ...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Roughest Week at the Desk I Can Remember, Sorry if I Ramble and get a Little Pissed Off, but ...

It was spring break. This meant the kids didn't come pouring in after school, but all day. Usually this means the evenings are more quiet, but ...

The head techie was on vacation and things broke down.

The copier's debit card slot got something stuck in it. It still took coins, but that meant telling the patrons that, over and over ...

Then the public computer network stopped sending print jobs to the server. This meant that patrons had to save their documents onto floppies or thumb drives and bring them to us at the desk, where we happily printed them, no charge, sorry for the inconvenience. It was an added hassle, but workable, but ...

I learned again how many people do not know the meaning of "save." I guess they were used to typing their resume or school report and then simply pressed Print. They lost stuff they had spent a couple hours writing. We explained the concept of saving, but ...

They didn't have any way to save. We handed out floppies left by previous patrons, showed them how, but ...

Many of the floppy drives no longer work, or they also have things stuck in them. We're phasing them out and encouraging thumb drives (Yeah, tell a kid with no money who just wants his English paper printed out that he needs to buy a thumb drive). We have a generic one at the desk we use to save patrons' work in a pinch, but ...

Some of our computers' USB ports are recessed, so wide thumb drives (like, sigh, the generic one we use) don't have room to plug in, and a few of our computers have no spare USB ports at all.

When it comes to this I would tell them "Save it on the hard drive before your session runs out, and email it to yourself," but ...

Many patrons have no email accounts.

This week we at the desk learned how many there were.

It's late. Enough. It was rough.

For those forging ahead with the latest 2.0 innovations, singing hosannahs over this or that new widget that will allow the patrons better access the great User-Heaven Librarysphere, please remember that there are millions of library patrons who don't even know how to save a document.

And I'm not even going to start about how we help the ones who don't know how to use a mouse.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Big snowstorm today, but we thought it not big enough to close early.

At 3:45 I was taking a 15-minute powernap in my office when Librarian J phoned me. "You ARE aware that we're closing in ten minutes because of the snow?"

Uh, no, I wasn't. Thanks.

I imagined myself waking up in 15 minutes, coming out to the ref desk and finding the lights out and everyone gone ...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An Admin Guy approaches, holding a copy of A companion to wolves, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear.

Admin Guy: Someone complained about this book.
Me: Huh! I read her blog.
AG: (flipping through the pages too quickly to actually read them) I don't see anything wrong with it ... (Shrugs)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Never mind, I obviously decided to do it. Now the daily reference stuff will be Twittered on the side.

This gives me the main blog space to write what I want, if I can think of anything to write.

Though Twittering the ref desk is a novelty for now, I'm sure it will wear off, though it's easier than how I used to do it. I don't have to cut and paste from a notepad, and I've now lost (I believe) most of the linking capabilities, which is a load off my mind.

I stopped daily reports five years ago because of burnout. I don't intend for that to happen again. We'll see.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

General Question

I'm thinking of continuing this using Twitter in some way.

Or is someone already doing it?


Saturday, March 08, 2008

An Actual HARD Reference Question

Name the battleships used for heavy bombardment in the Battle of Saipan. Not the first batch of ships. He wants the eight pre-Pearl Harbor monsters they brought in the next day, commanded by Admiral Oldendorf.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? No, it was a tough question, and I loved working on it.

But it took forever because of the other questions: printer advice, how to open a file on a dead floppy, tax forms, Pelzer books ...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

In the Morning

Paper and pencil.
Go ahead. Use the computer.
She tries to scrounge up the money to print out a Project runway application.
Yet another person asks permission to use the self-service computers ...
Loading Flash.
Dreamers of the day, by Mary Doria Russell, The blue star, by Tony Earley and The rain before it falls, by Jonathan Coe.
Of mice and men on DVD.
A loud family comes in, each of them demanding library cards so they can fill out online tax forms. I give them a little help, and now they can't even press Enter without calling me over with needy looks.
Be a real estate millionaire, by Dean Graziosi.
She needs copier help ... no she doesn't.
William F. Buckley books.
Friday after next.
Income tax forms are out in the lobby, sir.
Out in the lobby, sir.
Zig Ziglar and Og Mandino
Shut up!
Push the Request button, sir. That one there.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

In the Afternoon

Part of the city blew up! We watch streaming helicopter footage.
The importance of being earnest on DVD.
She left a USB cable here last week. I remember someone turning it in, but it's gone now.
Clashes of cavalry, by Thom Hatch, and Robert Fulghum books.
More streaming footage. Several stores trashed. I'm glad I took a different route to work today.
"Why this computer keep going off?"
Midwives, by Chris Bohjalian. "Don't take grand avenue. They blocked it off for some reason." We know.
A patron says the explosion occurred in the beauty shop.
Microfilm advice.
Printer advice.
Notarization. Sign where my finger is, ma'am. My FINGER.
A patron waves to me as he leaves. I do not remember who he is.
We rescue the contents of her floppy.
Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, and Papillon.
Two faxes.
I replace the computer reservation printer roll.
The perfect storm.
Public computer reboot.
Sorry, sir, the only newspaper on microfilm here is the local one.
Yes, sir, that class begins Tuesday.
Another reboot.
Phone books.
Two-sided copying.
That's not the patron password screen, ma'am, it's the Windows boot screen.
Shut up! (School is out)
"I need a county clerk's office number. My wife's in prison, it's a long story."

(Later) Happily, no fatalities. A few injured. That's kind of a miracle. It's a busy street.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Yesterday, in the Snow

Every other library and every school in the district is closed today, but us? We're open.
"I am too allowed to use the computers! My library said they would tell you about the change! I walked all the way in this weather to use the computers here! I have a consitutional right to swear! I'm going back and I'm going to sue you!"
The next patron is equally loud. He's from a rich suburb and in a friendly chatty way refers to our town as the "Armpit of Illinois" and adds "I'm sure there's a few good things about this town," in a very loud voice.
Sorry, ma'am. We still don't have the IL-1363 forms. I know the state's hotline told you otherwise.
Computer signup advice.
Do we have a certain flyer?
I am described as a "computer maven."
His Blackjack needs tethering to a Mac.
We're closing at 11:00!
Everyone is so impatient today. Circ is understaffed, and people are whining and complaining about what a hurry they're in.
Today's paper.
One True Friend, by Joyce Hansen.
Breaking Point, by Martha Beck.
He's desperate for wireless, so much so that he's willing to sit outside in the winter storm to use it.
Time to go, folks! We're closing! ... Uh, folks? Ahem! Folks?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Selected Transactions from Today:

"I have a book title. It's in German. M-E-I-N ... K-A ... Your copies are checked out? Do you have any Noam Chomsky?"

She inhaled the Princess diaries series in three weeks, but will have to wait months for the final volume.

I figure out what "sopa de pollo para" means through sheer repetition of titles.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Yesterday Morning:

Library cards over there, sir.
"I'm completely computer literate." They storm off when I tell them about the signup
Hepatitis C. "Want to see what I'm up against." I didn't need to know that he has it ...
Tax forms are out in the lobby, ma'am.
Study room signup.
Night, by Elie Wiesel. The patron hangs up before I can grab a copy. She calls back and hangs up on my coworker.
Computer signup. "How come we gotta go through this?"
Today's paper.
I locked the woman out of the study room!
Help in filling out the meeting room request form.
The spelling of "Iroquois."
Super Mario brothers.
Computer signup advice.
Estimated tax form.
Discussion over the cost of the thumb drives we sell now.
Two for the dough, by Janet Evanovich.
You have to go into your email account to send email, ma'am.
Bathroom's over there, sir.
Why don't we offer daytime computer classes anymore, and why didn't she get a flyer in the mail like her friend did?
Blood brother, by Anne Bird.
The religion, by Tim Willocks. Mad dash, by Patricia Gaffney. Bone Lake, by Drusilla Campbell.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

In the Afternoon:

Er, Happy New Year.
Terry McMillan books.
The best Christmas pageant ever, by Barbara Robinson.
How to put money on her print card.
"I've been to four libraries and your's is the only one that doesn't allow ..."
Computer class signup.
Maus 2, by Art Spiegelman.
Computer class signup.
Where can she get her birth certificate?
Don't run!
Computer class signup, and you get a library card over there, sir.
I confuse a patron when describing the difference between our library cards and print cards.
How to put money on your library card, or print card ... whatever.
Sorry, we don't have headphones.
Chibi vampire 7 and 8.
Renewing a late ILL? I can't, sorry.
Lorenzo's oil.
Computer class signup.
"Urban authors."
Damn, it's busy.
How to upload a resume.
More urban authors.
"All the computers are reserved, but no one's at 'em."
Another urban author.
Printer advice.
I can't register you to vote until I get a current address, sir.
A recording of Taps.
They'll make change over there, ma'am.
Well, I didn't call you, lady (Librarian V did).
It's the slowest machine in the library, ma'am. Nothing I can do.
Back issues of the paper are over there, ma'am.
Wiccan books.
That class is booked up, ma'am.
"I can't log in ... Sorry, I did after all."
They'll renew your card over there, ma'am.
We had our run of Huckleberry Finn audio tapes and movies last year. Every student who wants it now is going to get the book whether they want it or not.
Herbal healing. They're so buzy jabbering at each other that they lose me when we reaach the stacks.
Sheet music with some harmonies, maybe doo-wop.
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson.
No, Librarian M isn't on desk today.
Another patron amazed that we can't set up our computer classes for their convenience.
How would he buy a book online?
The man just stares at the copier until I help him out. Twice.
The age of turbulence, by Alan Greenspan.
MORE copier advice for that man.
You need a library card to use the Internet, sir.
How to put money on a library debit card.
Parkinson's disease.
The computer reservation station is over there, ma'am.
"what county is Matteson Illinois in?"
"You show me how to print?"
The computer reservation station is over there, kids.