Saturday, January 23, 2010

A guide To A Better Experience At The Library

There are some unwritten rules about the library most who go there don’t know about. Having worked there and come to an understanding about these unspoken policies, I’ve learned some things that can help make everyone’s next trip to there a bit easier.

Before heading to the library, check the bookstore first. Sure the books in the library are free. But in my short time there I’ve seen books on the shelf with pages missing, pages written in, and pages torn out. I’ve seen magazines with entire articles torn out. One book on the shelf had an entire chapter missing! Having a library book in hand does not guarantee that all of the book is there. From personal experience, I can tell you there’s nothing worse than doing research and finding the page or chapter you need to read is missing. This is even more frustrating if you’re reading fiction and enjoying the story.

So before heading to the library, I implore everyone to check the bookstore first. Most titles are available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble are brand new and will have all the pages. Used bookstores and eBay are a great place for cheap copies of out-of-print books and will have all the pages intact.

The person working the circulation desk is NOT a librarian. In most cases they’re an office assistant, clerk, volunteer or college student. While they are familiar with library policies, they aren’t familiar with the collection and aren’t going to be of much help finding a book for you. Their primary duty is to process the checking in/out of books and collect library fines.

Librarians nowadays are actually managers who work in the back to maintain and manage the collection. Librarians are usually often only available Monday-Friday and not on weekends when most patrons attend the library.

The Circulation desk closes 15 minutes before the library closes. Just because the hours posted on the door are 10-6 or 10-8 does not mean anyone can rush in at 5:45 or 7:45 to go look for a book. Staff shut down computers at 5:45 and 7:45, so there is no way to check a patron’s books in or out after then. So please come in an hour before the library closes to get any materials.

Don’t drop books down the Book Drop/Deposit chute. Book Drop/Deposit chutes are often the LAST thing checked by a busy library staff. A book returned through the Book drop chute on the due date may not be checked in by staff until DAYS or even WEEKS later. To ensure a book is checked into the library’s system as returned, go to the circulation desk and watch as the clerk scans it into the system

Bring Your Library Card. I can’t tell readers how many times I’ve dealt with people who leave their library cards at home and had meltdowns when they couldn’t take anything out. Without a library card, there is no way to take out any books, videos or anything else. Please don’t have a tantrum.

The library’s catalog can’t be trusted. I’ve watched as so many have checked out these listings thinking that books are available, some request that the library holds these books for them, and when they get there…Said book isn’t there, and individuals lose it.

The library catalog, whether online or paper only states if a book is part of a library’s collection. Availability on the shelf… well that’s another issue. Books that are lost or stolen can still appear in a library’s computer system for YEARS. Sometimes, catalog records aren’t updated for months after a book is reported missing to library staff. Library staff often leave the record open because they are doing a title search for the lost book.

Putting a book on hold does not mean you will get the book next. Another thing library patrons often do is put books on hold when someone else has them, thinking they’re guaranteed to be the next one in line to get said book three to four weeks later. It’s a crapshoot gambling on a chance the person holding the book will return it; usually it’s a gamble most library patrons lose. So instead of hedging bets on the return of a library book, take this time to head to the bookstore.

Requests for a title search are a waste of your time. Oftentimes, people won’t find a book on a shelf and will fill out a form where library staff will promise to search for it. The truth is it’s a way of giving patrons the run-around. Two weeks later, library staff will oftentimes tell the returning patrons the book is not there. In many cases, the book people are looking for is often lost or stolen, and in many cases the staff of the library knows it ahead of time. If library staff has to search for a book listed as available in the catalog, it’s GONE.

Instead of wasting time waiting for a title search, patrons should use that time to head to another branch, a used bookstore, eBay, or an online bookstore. It’s much more productive than hoping, wishing and praying the book will be there.

Bring change, preferably lots of one dollar bills, nickels and dimes. The library staff rarely has enough money to change a five, much less a twenty. So if a patron needs money for the copier, soda machine, or anything else, it’s best have your own singles and quarters. Some libraries have vending machines that dispense change, but they may or may not work. The best bet is to bring your own change.

Bring Wet Wipes. Older books on the shelf can be dusty. So bring wet wipes to clean hands before and after handling library materials.

Library staff does not handle copiers or issues with copiers. Outside contractors maintain all library copiers, copy card machines and printers. Only a company technician can service these machines when they out of order. So getting a refund if the copy machine eats a patrons’ money is a50/50 tossup. It often depends on the kindness of the clerk working the circulation desk.

Don’t put a lot of money on a copy card. In some libraries, people buy copy cards. Smart people don’t put more than $5 on these. If the card is defective it leads to the risk of patrons losing their money. It’s a headache trying to get money back from these since the library staff does not control the service of the copiers or the cards. The process for getting money back on these means filling out a dispute form and waiting…and waiting, sometimes even months. If patrons do eventually get a refund it’ll be in the form of well…A copy card. I’ve seen people put $20 or more on these only to get upset when there’s a read error or a defect in the card. Please use singles or change to minimize losses from issues with a defective copier.

Library guards protect the books, not you. Some libraries have the luxury of hiring guards. Their job is to actually deter people from stealing the books with their presence and clear the library of patrons who refuse to leave at closing time. They can’t help patrons if their stuff winds up missing. The most they can do is call the police. So please...

Look out for your stuff. While it’s often quiet, the library’s silence often lulls patrons into a false sense of security. Because many patrons often get too comfortable, they leave their belongings alone to go get a soda, go to the bathroom and find their stuff gone. I’ve watched as patrons have had computers, iPods, cell phones, coats, backpacks, USB keys, hats, scarves and everything else lying around them stolen. Patrons must understand that the library is open to everyone including criminals. So anyone going to the library should remain alert at all times and keep all their belongings in front of them.

Look out for yourself and your children. Supervise and watch children when going to the library. Keep an eye out for yourself when going to the library alone, or go there in a group. Remember, the library is “open to everyone” including the mentally ill, the homeless, pedophiles, and criminals who sometimes loiter there. In addition to the thefts of property, there have incidents of violence at library some library branches. On many occasions some library patrons have used library computers to look at pornographic websites. Other patrons have been caught performing sex acts in the library bathrooms and between library stacks.

Always bring hand sanitizer when visiting the computer lab. computers are in the lab are handled by just about everyone. In some extreme cases people are viewing pornography on these computers and well…masturbating. Library staff rarely ever cleans the keyboards and mice in the computer labs so they are NASTY! So if using library computers, please bring hand sanitizer and use it before and after handling the keyboards and mice there.

ALWAYS Bring a USB Drive with Anti-Virus Protection when using library computers. Some libraries have password protection on the BIOS of their public computers and have security policies on the guest accounts of their operating systems. These restrictions prevent patrons from saving anything to their hard drives, or modifying system files. Patrons can open software like Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop, on these computers but if they wish to save their information they must have a USB disk.

Other libraries have open and free public computers with no security restrictions where people have gone…Just about everywhere. Like porn sites known for having viruses, spyware and malware. Stuff that can totally screw up a computer. Some patrons e-mail files to themselves they’ve picked up for research from these library branches unaware of the risk it presents. Oftentimes, patrons wind up sending themselves a virus along with the information! So when doing research, always bring a USB drive along and make sure it has up-to-date anti-virus software installed on it before saving anything.

Have a software firewall and up-to-date anti-virus software installed on a PC laptop or Netbook when using Library Wi-Fi. Library networks are free and convenient, but they’re also open and unsecured, meaning they are extremely vulnerable to just about everything from hackers to viruses. When using these networks, always have a firewalls and anti-virus software installed and up-to-date.

Library Videos, and DVDs, and video games aren’t worth it. While it’s free to get movies and games from the library, it’s the last place anyone should go for one. Thieves often switch out DVD so the movie titled on the jacket is not the one inside. Some swap out blank discs, others swap out kids movies and others swap out adult films! In the cases where patrons do get the movie on the jacket the viewing experience is not a great one. DVDs from the library are dirty, warped and full of scratches. Playing these and can misalign a DVD player’s laser.

In the case of a damaged or defective movie, a patron could wind up with stuck with replacement costs and administrative fees of $55 or more for an old worn out movie or game that’s been played dozens of times. This is more than the cost of a brand new DVD or videotape! A cheaper fix for movies is to get a Netflix subscription instead. The replacement costs for Netflix are only $20.

Hoping these tips will help everyone have a better experience when attending the library.

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