Thursday, March 24, 2011

Newsflash: Librarians have the power to change the internet because you want them to

Today has been a weird day for service requests. It all started this morning when an elderly lady pointed at me and said her computer wasn't "acting right." I followed her over to take a look - she was trying to fill out a job application online and a red text box had popped up saying she had attempted to login incorrectly too many times and was now locked out. In big read letters it said "Please see your administrator."

Me: Oh, looks like you will either have to email the company or go in person and have one of the employees there help you.
Old Lady Who Likes to Point: See? Make it work. *wild finger jabbing at the screen*
Me: Unfortunately, I do not have the power to go into this website and reset your password or change your login. You will have to contact X store.
OLWLP: *points at me* Isn't this you? Make it work.
Me: No, I am not the administrator for this website, I am unable to reset your login. You'll need to contact them.
OLWLP: It was working yesterday, make it work again. *more frantic pointing*
Me: *sigh*

Around lunchtime I was approached by a middle-aged woman, clutching a notebook to her chest. She announced that she was looking for a journal at the library and didn't know where to locate it. I asked her what journal it was.

Back to School Lady: It's the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, from 2010, volume--
Me: *interrupting her* -I'm sorry ma'am, this is a public library and we only subscribe to a few journals and that definitely isn't one of them.
BSL: I'm willing to take microfiche if you don't have it in print.
Me: We don't have it period and this library does not have microfiche readers either.
BSL: Could you check?
Me: *does a check for her benefit* Nope, not even close.
BSL: *leaning in close to the desk and slightly in my personal space* Maybe I'm not making it clear. I can see the article abstract at home on the internet, but when I'm searching here at the library on my laptop the full article won't open. I still only get the abstract.
Me: *goes to journal's website* Yes, see they want you to buy a subscription to view this article and that's something we don't have.
BSL: B-b-but you're the library!
Me: Yes, but we're a public library with a limited budget and that is not one of the journals we subscribe to.
BSL: You should be able to get it to come up, this is the library! The library's internet should have it!

Here I restate the obvious, but offer her the possibility that we may be able to get the article for her through an interlibrary loan, but when I tell her she won't be getting it today she stomps off.

Then an elderly gentleman approaches the desk.
Old Man Who Knows How the Internet Works: I'm looking for a magazine, it was Newsweek...unless it was Time. Anyway, I was reading it last week while I was here and now it's gone and I need to get that article.
Me: Sure, do you recall what issue it was? Or who wrote the article? What the article was about?
OMWKHIW: *thinks and shakes his head* No, no. The only thing I remember was that it was last week. And it was about money.
Me: Last week's issue?
OMWKHIW: No, I was reading it last week...but it could've been two or three weeks ago...Anyway, there's a hand on the cover of the magazine. It's like pointing or giving thumbs up or something.

I spend the next ten minutes trying to search for his mystery magazine. Old Man Who Knows How the Internet Works seemed to have a problem staying seated, he kept jumping up and leaning over the counter trying to twist my screen so that he could view it. I kept saying, "Sir, the database I'm searching in has no pictures...sir, I can't see the results if you do that" to which he would reply, "Find the hand!" I even went to both magazines websites and amazingly enough Time did have a feature to search covers but none matched. I did a search for articles on money in Newsweek , which of course brought up a hundred things that were not it.

Me: I'm sorry sir, it doesn't look like I'm going to be able to locate that article right now. Maybe if you go home and think about it you'll recall which issue it was or who wrote it.
OMWKHIW: It was some foreigner. Or someone with a funny sounding name. *thoughtful chin stroking* Can you search Newsweek for articles about money?
Me: Sir, we just did that search and none of the articles matched the one you were looking for.
OMWKHIW: But I want this article today. *he twisted the monitor back around so he could see it, then taps the screen* You tell the computer to search for a picture of a hand and it will find it! I know how the internet works!

Oh, I had a picture of a hand for him alright, and it was flipping the bird. What more might the day have in store for me?!


  1. We've had a run on people like that at my library lately too, and it's driving me nuts. One man had searched a site the previous day at his sisters, and then the next day at the library that site was down. I told him TEN TIMES that when you see a 404 error, that's not the library's computer. He kept saying, "if I go back to my sister's and find this, can I come back here and print it?" Even though he had a printout of the previous session and we typed in the exact address.

    Then there was the man who wanted to print facebook, and couldn't understand why it wouldn't work, but kept logging out, coming up to the desk and saying "It's not in the printer." So I finally said, "I can't come and help you with it if you're not signed in, I do have to see what you're doing."

    Then there was the woman who blamed our printers because a website wasn't formatted to print correctly and got cut off.

    I'm all riled up these days. Plus, in a strange way, I'm offended when people blame our computers and I can't convince them that it's operator error.

  2. I have fingernail divots on my screen from it getting finger jabbed.