Friday, August 28, 2009

What You Need to Know: Part 5 (Fall 2009)

What a busy week!

We did the GSO Arrival Day event on Monday and handed out plenty of fliers and goodies; then the GSO Lunch on Tuesday and had a great time meeting all the new grad students (and giving them the third degree about what they wanted to see from us, which will have an impact on this blog for the rest of the Fall semester; you can expect more reviews and research tips!); then spent all day Wednesday outside in the sun and warmth giving out ice-cold lemonade and even more goodies to new students and their families, earning, I am sure, the eternal gratitude of some on such a hot day; and welcoming faculty members into our Library on Thursday for Faculty Development Week.

In the middle of it all, I've been working hard on making electronic reserves available to the professors who need it, putting together materials for GSO Arrival Day and the lunch, trying to finish off a LibGuide that'll help you find good stuff to read in the stacks, keeping updated with important news and downloads (such as this PDF of our GSO Lunch presentation -- check it out, the trivia's good!), carrying heavy stuff, meeting new students, helping new faculty, and just generally being all librarian-ish.

Not to mention getting the new Library online catalog actually ... online. It should be up and running by Monday -- keep an eye out!

In the middle of it all, I actually managed to finish Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Really, the only reason I could pull it off was just that the book is one of the most page-turningest things I've read in a long time. Cory's one of my favorite authors; he's a very active blogger and all-around techie and is something of a prominent civil liberties advocate (he believes in copyfighting, the principle that information "wants to be free," works with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and distributes news about various government intrusions on individual rights in the Anglosphere). He's also a fantastic writer who's written some fascinating "in the very near future" books (almost all of which can be found as free downloads online under Creative Commons licenses), which includes Little Brother.

Little Brother is the story of a 17-year-old San Franciscan technological prodigy who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when San Francisco is attacked by terrorists. The Bay Bridge (and underlying BART tunnel) is blown up, thousands are killed, and San Francisco is cut in half. Predictably (this novel was published a year before the 2008 elections), the government swoops in, arrests the main character and his friends, and detains them all on suspicion of terrorism in a torture-prison camp in the middle of San Francisco Bay without any legal recourse. He just disappears for a few days and is tortured into giving up his secrets, then released. The rest of the book follows him as he becomes a cyberterrorist, using all the various technological means the government employs to keep track of every citizen in San Francisco against them to both foment chaos and make a point about overbearing government intrusion. Along the way, he finds love, frees his best friend from the government, causes massive traffic jams, stops the BART in its tracks (so to speak), and leads a movement of tens of thousands of people under the age of 25 in their fight to overthrow the Department of Homeland Security and take the city back for themselves.

It's an amazing read. You learn a lot about how some newer technology actually works (like radio-frequency identification (RFID) -- which you can find in your Metro SmarTrip card; it's what lets you just tap it at the faregate and move right on through) and how to subvert it, you meet some truly fascinating characters along the way, and you see what happens when Big Brother clamps down and Little Brother decides to fight back.

Ordinarily, because it's been a lazy summer, I'd say the book is on display. However, we've just swapped out the book recommendations for a display of books on college survival strategies. I would also strongly recommend checking out the other display table by the West entrance (near Peet) -- we just put up a bunch of Myron Uhlberg's other books in celebration of his memoir, Hands of my Father, being this year's Common Reading, as well as a few other CODA memoirs and videos.

Okay. On with the show.

We're going to wrap up "What You Need to Know" with just a straight clarification of our borrowing policies. The idea is just so you're clued in on how long you get our materials, how much of our materials you can get, and what happens if things get overdue. This way, you can read this and then come on over and start borrowing stuff!

The first and most important thing: you need a Library barcode. It's affixed to the back of your Gallaudet ID card (which means only students, faculty, staff, and alumni with a lifetime membership can get it). You will not be able to borrow anything without that barcode; we need to have that piece of plastic in our hand before we can check anything out to you. That's the first, most basic thing you can remember.

Now, let's talk about our borrowing periods for books. They're pretty context-specific, which means they vary according to who you are and what you're checking out. I'm just going to make a bullet-point list, categorized according to whether you're an undergrad, graduate student, faculty member, or staff member.
  • Undergraduate student
    • 4 weeks
  • Graduate student
    • Books from the General Stacks: 6 weeks
    • Books from the Deaf Stacks: 4 weeks
  • Faculty
    • Books from the General Stacks: 1 semester; all annual due dates are: 1/31, 5/31, 9/30. All books are subject to recall (very rare) after 4 weeks
    • Books from the Deaf Stacks: 4 weeks
  • Staff member
    • 4 weeks
  • All groups can check out an unlimited number of books
  • All groups have the same restriction on videos:
    • Each person can only borrow up to three videos at a time
    • Up to 3 days
    • The reason for this is explained in Part 3's Question of the Week
Alumni have a few different rules, according to the terms of the AA's lifetime membership:
  • 4 weeks, same as most other groups
  • 10 books max
  • Videos can only be checked up for up to 2 hours and cannot leave the building

Why? Well, because our alumni are fairly far-flung; many do not live anywhere near Washington, DC. A lot of times, when they come in to check out materials, it's while they're in town for a few days to visit. In the hubbub of visiting the ol' alma mater, it's easy to forget that you've got a Library DVD in a suitcase pocket until you're halfway to Dulles, and then what do you do? We also realize that there's a huge number of Gallaudet alumni still in the DC Metro area, but in the interest of fairness, the same limits apply to all alumni with lifetime memberships. Then there's the fact that our first responsibility is to our students, so we do what we can to make sure they have the best chance possible to use our collection, given the demand for our materials.

So, okay. You've checked out some books and movies with the understanding entailed by the bullet points above. What happens if you go past the due date without returning your stuff?

We start charging by the day. 25 cents for books, $1 for movies. We do this because it turns out to be a pretty good incentive for people to bring our things back. This way, we can make sure that others who may want the same book or movie can get it within a reasonable time. Our fines accumulate until the total for each item hits $10; after that point, the item is marked as 'Lost' and we hit you with $87 for replacement and processing (explained in further detail here). We also give a three-day grace period in case the book really is lost -- we'll waive everything if the book is returned within those three days, but if the book comes back after those three days are up, all of the overdue fines accrued since the end of the three-day period have to be paid.

If you've accumulated more than $25 altogether in fines, you won't be able to borrow anything else until you've gotten that number down to $24.99 or less. Hit $50, and you won't be able to register for classes. Hit graduation with any fines on your record, and you won't be able to get your diploma or any academic transcripts until your record's been cleared. Kind of tough, but it's for good reason: all of our books and movies actually belong to Gallaudet University. Things need to be even-Steven between you and the University before you can get that sheepskin, get a job, or stick around for the next semester.

Don't think we exact every cent we can from anyone who owes us money; we don't break legs, manufacture concrete overshoes, or encourage people to sleep with the fishes. We just want our stuff back. If the item was overdue because of unavoidable situations (like suddenly being called out of town due to a family member's medical emergency), come in and talk to the staff at the desk, and we'll work with you to figure something out. In the meantime, it's usually possible to renew books electronically through myALADIN to buy a little more time.

That about covers the basics of What You Need to Know before Monday, August 31 hits.

Next week, we'll talk a little bit more about Hands of my Father. It should be fun -- I was fortunate enough to attend a talk by Myron here on campus last spring, and he was just an incredibly energetic and entertaining speaker. Something to look forward to!

Question of the Week
I was watching that PowerPoint that was running on your computers this week, and noticed something about eReserves. I know it's for faculty, but what is it?
If you're a student, chances are you've had a course where the professor had all of his readings on Blackboard. Sometimes they're PDFs, sometimes they take you to a page on ProQuest or Ebsco. Those are eReserves -- we accept requests from faculty for help getting their readings online so they don't need to make 320 copies (say, 16 readings for 20 students) to hand out in class. It just cuts down on paper for everyone, especially since we used to offer actual, physical reserves here at the Library -- rows and rows of photocopied articles!

We also scan any readings that don't have electronic copies for professors who want those articles to be available online. We take care of any copyright issues that might come up and make sure everything's accessible, complete, and readable for all the students in a given course. It's a very popular service, and helps out a lot of harried, overworked faculty and keeps students from being loaded down with a bunch of dead trees.

All in all, it's just one way for us to contribute to the smooth running of Gallaudet's curriculum!

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