Monday Cancelled Due to RFID Fail

Our RFID system is a bit of Hell in a small package. When it works properly, which just lately has been less and less often, it acts like an automated kiosk combined with a robotic guard dog.

The gates guard the entrance to the library; they are connected to the internet with an Ethernet cable. Matching gate tracking software supplied by the vendor and installed on our circ PC tracks comings and goings. If a bo0ok is properly checked out via the circ computers, the gate reads an active tag and doesn’t go off. If the tag was improperly scanned or something similar, it reads an inactive tag and goes off.

This is standard stuff. Or, it should be.

Two weeks ago, the gates started sounding and nothing would make them stop. We pulled out the plug and the gates stopped, but when we plugged them back in five minutes later, they refused to go off for any reason.

E-mails were written, phone calls were made. A new gate part was sent over. A tech guy was sent over this morning to install it. I’ve worked with the vendor’s tech staff for three years and they know their stuff.

But Gate Guy doesn’t work for the gate vendor–he’s a subcontractor. So now that he’s here, he needs to get instructions from the vendor. That takes three phone calls, the draining of his cell phone battery and finally, a conversation with the guy at the vendor I generally talk to for gate related issues anyway. Finally, this is lower Manhattan and Gate Guy has the equipment truck with him, but his parking spot runs out at noon and he needs to find another one.

Finally, Gate Guy has found out that the part the vendor sent over as a replacement is not the same part which is inside the gate.

Yeah.

I’ll let you know.

 

Update: 3.44pm

Better news. The gates now have limited functionality, in that they can see (by way of the gate tracker software) tagged objects nearby, but still can’t sound the alarm.  That means another visit by another Gate Guy . . . kill me. Please.

Your Monday Dirt Pile

Here it is . . .

Pile o dirtI apologize for the crappy quality of the graphic, my phone is due for an update but you get the idea.

This particular pile appears on the corner of Canal Street as it intersects Varick Street in lower Manhattan. It’s not huge but it’s noticeable and it’s less than 200 feet from the front door of the building in which I work. It’s not even very tall as dirt piles go . . . 4 feet or so.

What amazes me about it, besides the fact that no pedestrian I saw on my way to work even noticed this thing except to walk around it, is that there’s no indication of how it arrived. There’s no ripped up pavement, no ditches, no uncovered pipes or gas tubes. There are no tire marks from where a truck would have had to pass. Nothing.

Are drive-by dumpings a thing now? I hadn’t heard.

I think it effectively symbolizes the beginning of the second week of the government shutdown. And on that topic, I direct you to this report from Inside Higher Education which describes just how the shutdown is affecting ongoing research efforts in the U.S.

In short:

In addition to forcing the closure of government buildings  where research is conducted — such as the Library of Congress and presidential libraries — the shutdown was also cutting off access to myriad electronic resources on which many researchers depend. Websites that were not operational included those of the Library of Congress, the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Science Foundation, the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Education Department’s research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences.

PubMed, a free repository of biomedical and life science research maintained by the National Institutes of Health, was operational but a notice on the site warned users that it would not be updated during the shutdown.

Researchers who had traveled to Washington for the purpose of using federal resources to advance their work said they were frustrated by the shutdown.

When a pile of dirt drops randomly out of the sky, you know that things are falling apart.

On a more positive note, I’m going through the manuscript of my wife’s second zombie novel, and to be honest, it’s pretty neat. She’s expecting a publication date later this month. I will, of course, let you know when that happens. And the first book remains available to readers of stout heart and strong stomach on Amazon.

Happy Monday.

A Horrible Historian Trashes Libraries

Author Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories line of children’s books, says that libraries are a drag on taxpayers and “no longer relevant.”

I think he’s an idiot.

The Huffington Post picked on this tidbit from Deary’s interview with the Guardian:

“I’m not attacking libraries, I’m attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant,” Deary told the Guardian, pointing out that the original Public Libraries Act, which gave rise to the first free public libraries in the UK, was passed in 1850. “Because it’s been 150 years, we’ve got this idea that we’ve got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers. This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that,” said Deary…

Bullshit. Of course he’s attacking libraries. All those people reading his books for free. (Bastards!)

I wonder if it’s worth noting that public libraries in the U.S. had very little to do with the Victorian example, and everything to do with a Scottish gentleman named Carnegie who thought that public libraries were essential to self-improvement, and led to success in life. (Nah!) For that matter, I seem to remember the Victorian age had a lot more to do with subjugating two thirds of the planet in the name of the crown than educating the masses, but hey, what do I know?

HuffPo followed up by noting that Deary is actually paid by the British government when his book is borrowed. When this was pointed out to him, Deary became incensed:

As one of the most popular library authors – his books were borrowed more than 500,000 times during 2011/12 – Deary will have received the maximum amount possible for a writer from the Public Lending Right scheme, which gives authors 6.2p every time one of their books is borrowed, up to a cap of £6,600. “If I sold the book I’d get 30p per book. I get six grand, and I should be getting £180,000. But never mind my selfish author perception – what about the bookshops? The libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back, whereas bookshops are selling the book, and the author and the publisher get paid, which is as it should be.

Earth to Deavy: you did sell those books. To libraries. How the hell do you think those libraries acquired them in the first place? it’s not like publishers hand us books for free. (Donations, I agree, are another matter.)

On top of that, after those books were sold they continued to earn royalties through this amazing program. The British government is paying him every time someone read that book. This creep is sitting on the ultimate sweet spot for any author and he’s still complaining? Putz.

He goes on to declare that libraries are forcing book stores to close, and if there were such things as “car libraries” the automotive industry would collapse as well. Which is stupid because the average rental fleet owns 1.86 million vehicles. For all the problems with the auto industry, people renting cars is not one of them. If he want to decry the loss of book stores, he should try denouncing video games. Those are direct competitors to reading.

Libraries are a primary force for book sales. That is a fact.

You’ll notice he didn’t bother to wonder how many of the folks who discovered his work at the library went out and bought the books for their kids. Nor did he care that those volumes loaned out by libraries already counted as part of his total sales.

An author–even a best-selling children’s author–need not be a saint (Roald Dahl certainly wasn’t.) But it takes a particular mindset to see the act of reading as a zero sum game.

I mean, how big an asshole do you have to be for Neil Gaiman to call you “selfish & stupid . . . mostly selfish”?

Stupid git.

Bite Me, Nabisco

I missed the Superbowl. Well . . . I didn’t miss it so much as I worked hard to avoid it, seeing as how the Cowboys weren’t playing and in my world if the Cowboys aren’t playing, then who cares?

So I missed this 30-second spot for Oero cookies wherein nerds destroy a library in a whisper fight.

Now, this psychotic episode in ad drama has already been handily dealt with here, here, and here , so I don’t think there’s much I can add to the Intarweb analysis machine other than saying, really, Nabisco? Really?

Let’s set aside that any librarian I’ve worked with would solve the problem of a fist fight in their library with a pair of baseball bats and a bunch of dirty words. (Not really, but we’d at definitely consider it.)

I get what the Mad Men were going for: both parts of an Oreo are so good that normally decent folk would wreck the joint to defend their honor. Or something.

A shushing war in a library would have been funny. A crowd of people all whispering hotly and shushing each other while beating each other up would have been funnier. But that’s not what the commercial showed. It showed them wrecking a place of learning. The guy flipping the table over was passable, but the next scene is the older guy in the stacks pushing the stacks over. At that moment, the wreckage becomes the primary point, not the subtext.

Not what America needs to see, fellas.

I’m wondering why a library was the setting for this mayhem and not, say, an art gallery, or the theater. (Everyone knows that talking at the theater gets you sent to the Special Hell reserved for child molesters.) But the Mad Men who came up with this bit of insanity didn’t go there. They didn’t trash a bank, or an office building, or a war zone, or the White House, or a college dorm, or a tween girls’ slumber party, or a camp ground, or a football game.

They wrecked the library. The message: the collective knowledge of the human race isn’t worth a ten second sugar high. Education isn’t worth being right about a stupid argument. Reading isn’t worth shit, and neither are you. Because all you should care about is which part of the fucking cookie tastes better.

I say: bite me, Nabisco.

What do you think?

The Limits of Good Will

In accounting, credits go on the left and debits go on the right. (I think, so, anyway. It’s been a very long time since I took accounting.) The numbers have to balance. The concept of balancing the columns is so important in accounting that it’s better to have a wildly inaccurate balance than no balance. That’s just how it works.

Accountants also  have a term for things that don’t easily quantify: goodwill. Goodwill is the intangible stuff that a prosperous company can’t really afford to lose. It combines the value of the brand, the company’s reputation for ethical and moral behavior, and the quality of the product line into a catch-all term.

I’m working a double shift tonight because one coworker who works evenings got sick. That happens. Another coworker who generally works evenings thought that because yesterday was a holiday and they usually work Tuesday through Saturday, with Mondays off, and since today was a Monday class schedule, they were allowed to take today off, too. It was probably an honest mistake. I mean, it sounds reasonable. Logical. Doesn’t it?

Absolutely.

But this is not the first time this has happened. Additionally, Monday is our busiest day. Being here late is not what I would choose to do given an alternative, but I can’t really take it out on my students, either.

Anyway . . . goodwill is not infinite. People notice things: patterns, proclivities, procedures. When you cover for a coworker there’s an implied expectation that there was a good reason. If it turns out there isn’t, well, goodwill drops and things happen.

Yeah.

Two and a half hours until closing. Yowza.

Banish Alan Moore, Banish All The World (Part 2)

 

Beverly James means well.  I believe that completely.

And she’s correct when she says that librarians remove books from the collection all the time, We do it at MCNY, too. We just spent six grueling months taking out nearly four thousand volumes that were too old,  out of our scope, or inaccurate for our students’ use.

It happens. It’s necessary.

We even have a term specifically fort it: weeding.

But I do not have to agree with it, and I still don’t.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Drop a comment and let me know.

 

Your Tuition Dollars At Work

I was going to type out a quick rant about the lack of print management (at the moment) in the library but since a picture is worth a thousand words, I figured I’d go straight to the meat of the nut:

Waste paper

Can you believe this?

 

That stack is what was left after I emptied out all the discard bins this morning, which I tossed into the recycling bin. Three printers, three discard bins. They are rarely empty. That stack is 9 inches tall, something in the realm of 1200 sheets of paper.

Let’s do the math. 1200 x 300 operating days per year = 360,000 wasted sheets of paper. That’s roughly 20% of all the paper we use in a year. We’ve been waiting for IT to act on the print management plan that we devised over a year ago, and I am hoping that eventually it happens. We’ll see. In the meantime, this is what our students’ tuition dollars are helping produce. I intend to show them this photo the next time one of them demands to know what his or her tuition is paying for, anyway.

Yowza.

The Greatest Gateway Drug of All

With all due respect to Fred Clark:

They took offense.

It was easy to get. At parties, at work, after work, even on television. Some got theirs out of books or movies, some waited for an election season to begin (or end) before diving in. It was all over the internet. Some got theirs in church. It seemed harmless enough.

And it made them feel great. A shot of offense was enough to turn a boring discussion of minutiae into a great, roiling, one-act play about them. Lights, places, action! It was intense.

But like all gateway drugs, the intensity was temporary, almost a cheat. They took more and more offense to maintain the extraordinary high, to make it seems as if their lives were about something greater than themselves. About something, period. The illusion displaced the reality, too quickly. With each new hit the lows got lower and the highs were relegated to mere background noise.

Then they tried the hard stuff. Indignation. Umbrage. Tantrums. Wrath. Even pique, and Oh. My. God in heaven, self-righteousness. That stuff was the shit, and it was everywhere. The pros took it, the wannabes took it. The politicians, the businessmen, the college professors, the cops, the pundits, the bloggers, the social media geeks, the preachers, the teachers, the parents even took it.  It had a way of soothing the mind while energizing the body. On a bad day it felt like swallowing a five hundred cc engine. On a good day, they felt they could leap Mt. Everest in a single bound. Self-righteousness was the ultimate score.

There were consequences. They hurt people. They hurt themselves. They became known as fatuous gasbags, crybabies, whiners, hypocrites. But in the depths of their binges, they never noticed. All they knew was that they were right. (Say Hallelujah!)

Don’t take offense.

Election Day 2012

It’s election day. You should vote.

You don’t have to care about the whole country. But you probably should.

President Obama has done a few things I question–giving trillions of dollars to giant banks who did flatly stupid things with borrowed money without asking for any re-regulation in return, for one–and a few that I absolutely disagree with (drone strikes everywhere all the time.) He’s done quite a lot that I do agree with: The Affordable Care Act is only the best known known in a long list of items. I don’t think he has much of a plan for the future of the country that doesn’t involved ideas that he’s already thought of, but it’s better than the alternative.

I look at his opponent and I cringe. I have never cringed from any politician before now, and it’s doing things to my head. I look at Mitt Romney and I see a robot who is programmed to make money and has no room for any other course of action. When he opens his mouth, I hear William Shatner’s (admittedly awesome) cover of Common People. If the three televised debates were any indication at all, the man has no concept that hasn’t been fed to him by a GOP advisor. The fact that he has said that federal disaster relief is immoral sits especially poorly with me after the ugly fact of a particular storm named Sandy. One of his church’s foundations is the death of every Jew on the planet.

The man is a bastard. I don’t mean that the way I’d say that Richard Nixon was a bastard. Nixon was a progressive compared to the freaks the GOP supports now. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Nixon wanted to give every American a guaranteed income. But Nixon thrived on power in a way that no President before him did. Romney is all about power. Making money is his only real skill. A president should be a statesman, a leader, a man who at least acknowledges that the nation he leads is inhabited by people who are not like him. He needs to know where Syria and Iran are located on a map and he needs to be someone who does not vow to strip a few million Americans of their health insurance. He should not be willing to say literally anything to any audience to get their votes.

Anyway, you don’t have to care about the country. You should however care enough about your little corner of it to get your ass out to your polling place and vote for someone. It takes a few minutes, and it is a freedom we have not yet lost–but may lose one day if too few people bother to take care of business today.

First, 33 states require some form of voter ID. Check this map to see what form of identification the laws in your state require.

You can find your Congressional District maps here. They aren’t particularly detailed but if you can read a map well enough to locate your house on one, then you should be able to use these. You can find your polling place here.

If you know your representative’s name, you can look up his or her voting record here. If you don’t know his or her name, you can find it there as well. (We’re currently in the 112th Congress.)

State ballot initiatives are listed here.  Opensecrets.org has a list of which corporate donors gave the most money to which congressmen. Sadly, one thing I can’t seem to find is a website that has listing for all the local races in each state. (If anyone comes across such a page, please post a link in the comments area. Thanks!)

If you are not registered to vote in your state, you can probably still volunteer at your polling place. They’re often short-handed, so head there and see what you can do.

So, yeah.

Everything goes BOOM!

“There’s always a boom. After a while . . . BOOM!”

–Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova

 

It’s Thursday, November 1, 2012. (Happy Day of the Dead!) Metropolitan College of New York remains closed until Monday morning due to the continued power outage in lower Manhattan. Which is just as well, because without power the subways aren’t running, which means I can’t get to work physically. The phones are out, but the school website and emergency text services work, as they are off-site services. Unfortunately, the mail server, which is local, is also out. So not only can’t I check my work e-mail, but the webinar links and contact information I needed to learn more about RDA yesterday are sitting, unused and unusable, on my work server. No working from home, either, it seems.

We rely on electricity to make our library work properly. Without it, it’s just a room at the top of a tall building with too many stairs to climb. No databases, no online catalog, no ILS, no contact with our own materials. I remain convinced that this is a real weakness in how we run libraries. Electric current is a marvel, and we rely on it almost completely at this moment in time. So completely that it becomes part of the background noise of our lives, noticeable primarily in its absence when it goes boom and vanishes.

At times like this, I wish we had a card catalog.

This is not a universal situation: there are libraries with power offering their services to hurricane Sandy’s victims. And power outages are only part of the story for libraries which claimed damage from the storm: collections are waterlogged, equipment damaged, and entire buildings remain flooded as I write this. Intellectually, I get that my building was luckier than some. Which leaves me feeling safe, but useless.

I am looking forward to re-opening the doors to our students and faculty on Monday morning.

 

 

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