Friday, August 14, 2009

What You Need to Know: Part 3 (Fall 2009)


That's all I can say after polishing off The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. It's kind of a crazy book, describing a sort of alternate universe where, after World War II, the Jews were resettled temporarily in Alaska instead of the Middle East. Temporarily, I said -- the book is set two months before the Jews have to turn over control of the land to the United States after occupying it for 50 years. In the middle of all this, a police detective finds a dead man in his apartment building, murdered in what appears to be a professional manner. It's police-department policy that all cases have to be cleared before the Americans take over, so our main character has to navigate his way through organized crime, the world of chess and its champions, a crazed rehab center, a shootout or two, the death of his sister years before, and a whole lot of alcohol before a lot of questions get answered in very surprising ways.

Oh, there's also American-government-funded international terrorism, a burning cow, and a whacked-out religious cult who thinks dynamite can bring back the Messiah. Surprisingly enough, it's also pretty funny. Highly recommended, worth the awards it's won, and available on the display table by the entrance facing the SAC!

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Now that we've gotten all the previous blogs out of the way, let's move on.

Back in May, I posted this. Did any of it happen? Let's go over it point by point.

New computers
Yes and no. We did get new computers, but instead of adding them to what we already have, we decided that everyone would be best served by using the new computers to replace some of our older ones, which were getting decidedly creaky. It happens to all computers after a while, especially when they see usage as heavy as ours have. We also had Information Technology Services (ITS) come in and load some fresh Gallaudet images on their hard drives (geekspeak for "They cleaned it all up"), so you should see things running a little quicker this Fall.

New Web site
This was covered in the subsequent week, but we're actually still tweaking and adding stuff. There'll be a pretty big change happening to the ALADIN Catalog next week as well, which will be covered in next week's post; it's a pretty big "What You Need to Know" that deserves a week to itself.

New Library hours
The hours for Fall 2009 have been posted (down at the bottom). The most immediate change you may notice is that starting Monday, August 31, we'll be open until midnight Sundays through Thursdays, and until 8 p.m. on Friday. That's a fairly significant change, one that's a little kinder to night-owls and people who need a little extra time to get work done.

As I mentioned in the original post back in May, LibGuides are basically quick and easy research guides that we can whip up on any given topic for a particular course. They also serve as a way for us to introduce students to all of our resources and teach them how to fend for themselves in the wilds of academic research. Some students -- particularly those in GSR courses -- may end up using one or two of them this Fall; we're sort of gingerly dipping our toes in the water when it comes to integrating LibGuides with the curriculum. As always, if you do use one, feedback is welcome!

Aside from that, I thought I'd add a little note about our current hours, which seems to have taken some by surprise. We are indeed closing at 5 p.m. until the start of the Fall semester, which is -- wow -- only two weeks from Monday. It's what we do during intersession (the break between semesters) in order to make sure everyone's here at the same time for various reasons. Come August 31, things will go back to what we so laughably call "normal."

Enjoy your weekend!

Question of the Week
I was curious about the borrowing limits. We're allowed to check out as many books as we want, but we can only take out three movies at a time. Why is that?
Simply put, we have a whole lot more books than movies -- about 260,000 books versus 8,000 movies, or around 30 times as many books. This is because we do our best to make sure that every conceivable topic that could be studied at Gallaudet is well-covered from a variety of viewpoints. The system works pretty well for one of the following four reasons:
  • When someone's researching a topic, it's usually with a fairly narrow focus -- only a few books on the subject will actually apply, while the rest are free for others to use (say, the Constitution of the Weimar Republic, as opposed to the subsequent rise of the Third Reich).
  • The sheer number of books makes it pretty hard to carry out everything we have on the more common topics (17th-Century British poetry, for instance).
  • If someone actually does do that, it's usually because their topic is so esoteric (like the mating dances of the Ruahuaparura tribe of the darkest Amazon as undertaken under the waning gibbous) that nobody else will be researching it at the same time.
  • If the above three fail to apply to a particular situation, the professor leading the class usually will have foreseen the problem and placed the most important books on reserve so nobody can hang on to them for more than two hours at a time.
In other words, our supply of books is well-matched to the demand for them.

However, our supply of movies is a bit less than the demand for them, so we try to make sure people have a reasonable number of movies and a reasonable amount of time to watch them in, before asking that they be returned so fellow Gallaudetians can enjoy them too!

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