Pet Peeves

July 19, 2006

Bill Drew posted a rant yesterday about Out of Office messages, which made me laugh (in sympathy). While I understand why people use out of office auto-replies, I do admit to finding them annoying when sent to listservs. Of course, I try and get over my annoyance because I doubt the problem will ever go away and I make lots of mistakes too. I even find myself chuckling at certain times. On one of the listservs to which I subscribe, there is one person who always sets an out of office auto reply and (as far as I can tell) never sets the listserv option to nomail. I keep a mental calendar of when this person is “out of the office.” I often wonder if the person has gone away somewhere fascinating. For me, I never use the out of office auto-reply option – mostly because I can’t even remember how many listservs I subscribe to so there isn’t any way that I can set them to nomail.

In honor of pet peeves, I thought I add some of mine:

  • Unsubscribe messages sent to a listserv and the subsequent heated debate about it. What I find comical in this situation is when there is a heated debate about someone’s unsubscribe message that is immediately followed by at least one other unsubscribe command. Part of me thinks that people do this on purpose to keep the love alive. I keep a mental tally of how long it takes for the subsequent unsubscribe email.
  • Patrons taking data cables from computers. This tends to be the biggest reason why computers are out of order. Since patrons obviously need them, we try to supply them at the circulation desk – but they generally don’t ask. I now need to tie wrap everything to discourage this habit of removing the cables. I try and think of this as a game that we play. Since I don’t necessarily like to win, this is a good strategy for me. On the positive side, this must mean laptop use is up.
  • The fact that my husband doesn’t mind wearing two different socks. This can throw off my whole day and I can’t find anything funny about it (other than the fact that it is amusing and odd that it bothers me).

1/3 of the Way Through the Program – Some Reflections

July 19, 2006

Okay, I really won’t be 1/3 of the way through my masters program until August 4th, but it makes me happy to think of myself as being that far along. And, I like to be happy!! But given some recent posts about skills needed to be a librarian, it seemed like an appropriate time for some reflective introspection. So far, my experience in graduate school has been positive. I’m in my fourth class and in this short time, I have thought that the material covered in all of my classes has ranged from useful to extremely important. Nothing so far has struck me as downright useless. Overall, I am learning valuable information that I think will make me a better librarian – and that is the point, right? Are there problems, things that could be done differently or classes that could have been so much more??? You bet!! In a couple of classes, the majority of what I have learned happened outside of the virtual classroom and of the professor’s perview. Something in particular sparked my interest, confused me or challenged me. I felt the need to learn more, dig deeper and to think about something in a new and different way. This process probably would have been better served inside of the class, but that wasn’t to be. I’m way to early in the program to have a good handle on how many of Meredith’s “big topics” will be covered, but I’m hopeful.

Technical Skills & the Librarian

July 19, 2006

What type of technical skills do you need to be a librarian? A tough question to answer. Specific skills will vary depending on type of library one works in, will vary by departments within a library, will also vary from library to library – and will most definitely change rapidly. Most libraries do not have a tech support person in the building during all hours they are open – many do not have one in the building at all. This often requires that everyone have a good sense of basic computer troubleshooting skills. Some technical skills that I think everyone who works in a library should have are as follows:

  • Basic knowledge of a personal computer – knowledge of file folder structure – how to save and retrieve documents (including how to organize) – how to navigate between folders – knowledge of network folders vs. local folders – how to add a network drive – how to add printers – difference between local printers vs. network printers – knowledge of how to delete items and empty trash – knowledge of different file formats & ability to recognize virus files
  • Internet knowledge– how to search the web – what the internet is vs. what the world wide web is – good searching habits – knowledge of spyware and how it can disable a computer – how to use various browsers including IE, Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, Netscape and others – what a URL is – what the format of a URL is – knowledge of domain name structure – knowledge about pop-up blockers & how to disable them – idea of what can and cannot be found on the internet – what the notion of precision vs. recall is
  • Software knowledge– Microsoft Office products and other alternatives, anti-virus software, personal firewall software – ftp – telnet – HTML editors – basic ability to understand your operating system (os) – knowledge of what (os) you have on your computer – knowledge of how to figure out what (os) others have – ability to test & learn new software (librarians are often asked to troubleshoot any program installed on library computers), in depth knowledge of email software – understanding of POP3 vs. imap
  • Networking knowledge– what is the network? – what do you need to put a computer on a network? (network interface card & data cable) – wireless networks – how to connect to wireless on PCs with various operating systems & on a mac – how to determine if internet connectivity problems are network problems, computer problems or web site failures – what is an IP address? – some knowledge of the following concepts: DNS (internal & external), NAT (network address translation), VPN (virtual private network) – what is a proxy server & the basics of how it works
  • Hardware knowledge– familiarity with your cpu – understanding where your USB/Firewire port is – understanding of into where your mouse, keyboard & monitor & possibly barcode scanner plug- familiarity with laptops, tablets & PDAs – knowledge of mp3 players & iPods – familiarity with printers & how to troubleshoot printing problems – knowledge of thumb drives/flash drives – knowledge of projectors
  • Other Computer Concepts – Ability to troubleshoot basic computer problems – primary computer user is the first line of defense for their own computer – knowledge of how to reboot, soft and hard boots, and when to use them – ability to clearly articulate and define computer problems

Ultimately, it is extremely important for everyone to have enough technical knowledge to know when to escalate a problem and to whom to escalate the problem.

Other blog post on technology requirements for librarians:

How About Training in Customer Service?

July 19, 2006

In re-reading and pondering Meredith Farkas’s Skills for the 21st Century Librarian, it dawned on me that in addition to her well-thought out (and well written) competencies, there really should be some sort of expected competency in customer service. I believe that there is some small level of this in my current program. I have been pleasantly surprised at that in most classes the patron is experience is stressed heavily (as it should be). However, this could be more explicitly stated and studied more in depthly. I think a class that teaches about customer service and/or people skills would be a wonderful addition to any MLS program. Everyone has difficult experiences with patrons, co-workers, etc. and many of us could use help dealing with such problems. Ultimately, it is important for librarians to be able to deal effectively and professionally with patrons, to listen to them, to help them find the information they seek and to ultimately remember that without them we would not have a job.

In the same vein, Steve over at Blog About Libraries has written another great post about customer service (since this is a thinly veiled attempt to promote his original list, I thought I would help. Don’t forget his first followup post either). Steve talks a bit more about one of his original 20 Points on Excellent Customer Service: #3 Treat each other well and you will find that treating patrons nicely becomes easier. I think this harkens back to the old adage that smile and the world smiles back at you. I like the point that if we create a friendlier and more supportive work atmosphere, we will be creating a friendlier and more supportive atmosphere for our communities. These points seems so simple and yet, so often we find ourselves at the mercy of life’s demands and forget how important they really are.