Friday, May 29, 2009

In which I meditate on my favorite questions

I have to admit I'm a fan of four-day weeks. Who isn't?

Still, the short week plus the quietude that advances with the summer means there aren't many new developments to report on at the moment.

Instead, I'll regale you with some of the most common questions I get asked as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man -- er, librarian -- and my answers for them, so you're getting a chance to see things from behind the Service Desk. The following questions are divided into two categories, so pay attention; sometimes the context is important!

On the Service Desk
"Where are the DVDs/videos/deaf school yearbooks?"
They're on the row of shelves behind you with the large sign on it that reads "DVDs"/"Videos"/"Deaf School Yearbooks."

"What about the copy machines?"
They're off to your left, just behind the little counter with the large "Photocopy" sign above it.

"Where's the eLearning Lab?"
It's downstairs; there's a large sign on the stairs right behind you that will help point the way. It's okay; we know the building's confusing, so don't feel too badly about missing all these signs. That's what we're here for!

"Do you work here?"
Frequently, yes.

"Does this building have a bathroom?"
I am very happy to say yes!

"I'm just visiting a friend in the dorms, but I lost my pager and I was wondering if I could use one of your computers to check my e-mail?"
Our computers are frequently in high demand, so our policy limits Library computer use to Gallaudet students and faculty first, followed by people performing deaf-related research. We do not allow casual visitors to use the computers. We're generally sticklers about this, so it is probably best to plan your trip well enough to avoid needing to try your luck with us.

"I left my ID at home, but I know my ID number. Can I still check out this book/DVD?"

"Okay, how about to pay my fines/fees? Surely I don't need my ID to give you money!"
Nope. Only when you cross my palm with plastic will the way be opened.

"Well, why not?"
In a word: confidentiality. It's the law. We never, ever allow anyone to do anything affecting anyone's Library record without photographic proof of 1) their identity and 2) their current status as a registered student or employee of Gallaudet University. Some people don't take this too seriously, but it's kind of like the teller at the local bank letting just anyone walk up to her off the street and give your name so they can take money out of your account. Sounds like an exaggeration, but there have been people who let their friends borrow stuff from the Library on their IDs, only to find out the day before graduation they won't be allowed to graduate until they pay close to a hundred dollars for a lost movie that they don't remember ever checking out. That's money out of their bank account. We don't want this to happen, so we do our part to make sure the IDs we see actually belong to the people who give them to us. It's a short-term pain in the butt that'll save you a bigger one later.

"Why do lost books and movies cost so much? Harry Potter doesn't cost $97!"
We don't always collect the full $97; we usually waive some of it depending on what you decide to do. The fines break down like this:
$57 lost book fine: This number isn't arbitrary; it's the average cost of a single book across all eight schools in the WRLC. This number ensures that we're capable of replacing an item when it's lost.
$30 lost book replacement processing fee: This fee is applied because the process of removing a lost item from the collection and adding its replacement does cost money in supplies and time.
$10 overdue fine: The maximum overdue fine you can incur before the book is automatically marked as 'Lost.'
What you can do about it: One of three things: 1) pay the whole thing, in which case we'll waive the $10 and $30 fines; 2) talk to the librarian who's responsible for that book and find out what you need to do to replace it yourself, in which case we'll waive all but $10; or 3) bring the durned thing back! and you'll only pay the $10.

When you put these three options in order from cheapest to most expensive, you'll be able to see what we really want: our own stuff back. That's why that choice is the cheapest -- we don't think anyone would want to pay $57 for Hellboy 2. If the item really is lost, then we do what we can to make the loss as painless as possible for everyone.

In My Civvies (i.e., off the job)
"So, do you actually get to tell people to be quiet?"
At a university for the deaf? Things are kind of quiet for most people by default. When they aren't, we have been known to ask people to settle down, but it isn't usually an issue.

"Do you spend a lot of time putting books on the shelf?"
Nope. That's what we have student assistants for. They're also good for things like cleaning up stray books, reshelving movies, and building pyramids.

"Have you memorized the Dewey Decimal System?"
Have you memorized the periodic table? Good. Now multiply that by 10. Add maybe 300 or so.

"Aren't you supposed to know it by heart, though?"
No one person could. It's hugely complex and to commit it to memory would mean that I have no life, which we all know isn't true ... right? Right? Hello?

"How does it feel to be forced into obsolescence by the pitiless advance of modern technology?"
It feels a lot like a bunch of people asking me questions all at once. Oh, wait ...

"So you just spend all day working on the desk, answering questions?"
No, actually. Working on the desk represents a pretty slim percentage of my work schedule. The rest of the time is spent working on various projects, including talking with faculty, giving presentations, deciding what needs to be taken out of my part of the collection and what needs to be put in, meeting with students, going to lectures and workshops on campus and off with the WRLC, and a million other little things every day.

"Do you get to read books for a living?"
Not really. Sometimes I'll skim a book here and there if it's been donated and I think it could be a good addition to the collection, but actual reading material is more a byproduct of the job. A perk, if you will.

That squares away this week; no Question of the Week -- I've answered plenty as it is.

June starts on Monday, and that's when you know it's really going to be summer. If it ever stops raining, get out there and enjoy the sunlight! See you next Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments Policy

For specific questions regarding personal accounts, please do not post a public comment. The best way to get a response and maintain privacy is to e-mail or with as much detail as possible.

All comments and suggestions may be anonymous and are moderated for clarity, brevity, and appropriateness. We reserve the right to post as is, decline to post, or edit. We will not post comments that contain obscenities or otherwise lack civility and respect for any persons, groups, or this university.