Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Friday, September 19, 2008  

The Secret Night Life of Librarians

So here it is, 3 a.m. And I've been awake for 3 hours. One of tossing and turning due to anxiety over unfinished work, and two of finishing up the work. Thank goodness for the Internets.

I am giving a presentation tomorrow at lunch to the local Womans Club on how to use our Find It
VA databases. All the federal $ that comes to local VA libraries goes into these databases and they really are a valuable resource. But like everything else in this business of librarianship, its use is governed by the Parents of Toddlers Theory of (Your) Life or Potty-L. That theory states that, like caring for toddlers, who don't need you all the time, but need you immediately when they do need you – and you better be ready when it happens, meeting the informational needs of the public involves the same long stretches of nothingness and sudden flurries of activity and responsibility. When it comes to information, we may not need a bit, a book or a database for ages, but by golly when the person walks in who Wants it Now, and believe me, she always Wants it Now, we had better be ready to hand it over. So we go to school to learn where to put the information, remember where we put it, and how to get it fast. We buy the books, we subscribe to the magazines and databases, and we readreadreadread all the time.

Not, mind you, the fun way you read, for pleasure, to while away a summer afternoon. We read the instruction manual on the digital projector. We read the book reviews of the books we buy but don't get time to read ourselves. We read the fine print on the latest legislation impacting library funding. That kind of reading.

If we work in a big enough system, we get to focus our tasks and concentrate our reading on our particular area: children, teens, general reference – and we don't also have to get the network up and running again after someone runs into a power pole down by the 7-11. We don't have to negotiate with the local post master to get a mailbox installed outside the building. We don't have to check books out or put them away. But if we work in little libraries, we have to and get to do it all. So some things get a lick and a promise and then get pushed aside till someone comes in and asks That Question and we scramble to track down That Answer.

And that's how it's been with our Find It VA databases. I took the initial training, I use it when I'm asked, but I haven't promoted it. And it's such a durn good tool and its available to anyone in VA with a library card and access to the Internet. So I decided to take this show on the road. Of course, knowing that when demonstrating technology, its rate of failure to perform is in direct relation to how many people are watching you, I wanted a nice little power point presentation that would take new users swiftly through the high points. Just enough to cover the bases and whet their appetites enough to tempt them to look on their own. Surely someone had made such a thing. Surely I could copy it. Surely, right? Yeah. Right.

Wrong. Like the little red hen I have had to do it myself. Only, I need more than one presentation, since it has to be tailored to the audience. It was fairly easy to create one for teachers and students. They're the ones most likely to have to “look something up”. For the general adult population, though, it's a little harder. Members of our local woman's club are probably not going to need a list of agricultural products from Brazil any time soon. It's taken me a lot longer to develop the search strategies and locate interesting types of information for them. Of course, other things also delayed my work. Someone did run into the power pole on Monday, knocking out power for the whole town and our Internet access was down all day Tuesday and the post office does insist I put up a mail box and I did have a meeting with the Friends to strategize (ooops. Not a word) about our spring Weekend with a Writer.

So. That is why I am up at (now) 3:50 in the morning, meandering through Find It VA. I don't have PP on my home computer, but I know exactly which screen shots I'll be saving tomorrow, sometime before noon.

Thank goodness it's Friday!

posted by Bess | 3:40 AM