Friday, December 28, 2007

General Malaise

So let me start by saying that, while I admire the dedication of a doctor who will spend three hours examining a new patient, I am not particularly enthused that, two days later, everything still hurts from all the poking and prodding. If, after all that, he can't figure out what the problem is, I am going to have to start screaming and throwing reference books at the patrons.

Most of whom deserve it anyway.

I spent my morning today doing e-rate forms. This is the easy set, and it was still a pain in the butt. Why the federal government has to create this much paperwork for something as simple as funding my library's telecommunications I will never understand. Wouldn't it be a much more efficient use of everybody's time (not to mention money and energy and expertise) if they made it simpler? Like, only two sets of forms for each library instead of so much paperwork that it takes two file folders to hold it all?

I am also miffed at the people who manage the server that hosts for changing the file management software and not telling me. And not making it intuitive enough that I could barge right in and update our website without having to spend an hour figuring out the new program. And for making me have to rename every single image file on the site to comply with their new software's requirements. Nothing like making me waste inordinate amounts of time when all I wanted to do was post some new photos from the fall tour.

On the plus side, I suppose I should mention that the roofer the Carpenters recommended is going to be at the house today - yup, two whole hours after I called him - and might even manage to fix the leak in the next six months. I still can't get an electrician to come do the work the house needs, but seeing as I managed to wire in the new range hood myself yesterday I might just give up and learn how to ground outlets myself. Which probably violates sixteen different codes, or would if Pageland had that many. I refuse to figure out how to disconnect my own dishwasher and install the new one, though. Henry is just going to have to get someone out there and get the new dishwasher out of my living room. (And how bad a sign is it when you're on a first-name basis with your plumber and his entire crew?)

Friday, December 14, 2007


The library world lost one of its best last week.

Dr. Olsgaard, you will be missed.


Is it just me, or are meetings an astonishingly effective means of wasting an alarming amount of time?

The meeting I attended last Saturday (yes, Saturday - and no, I don't know what we discussed that could not have been covered in a meeting during actual business hours) consisted of fifteen people sitting around talking at each other. There was not a great deal of productive discussion because everyone was too busy throwing their point of view around to pay much attention at all to what anyone else was saying. Why we could not have put our ideas into writing and put them on a wiki or a website or the listserv and then actually taken the time to consider not only what other people were saying but what we wanted to say (and whether saying it at all was in fact necessary), I do not know.

Then there was the meeting I attended this morning. If we had just had wifi in the meeting room I could have accomplished a ton, but none of it would have had anything to do with what the meeting was supposedly about. I say "supposedly" because after about five minutes of stultifying boredom my brain shut down completely and I resorted to writing a to-do list, making art out of a roll of tape conveniently left on the table near me, and considering whether I could carve out a vacation sometime in the next few months. I think I said a couple of things during this meeting, but since I wasn't listening to myself I can't be sure. However, no one else was listening to me either, so it can't have mattered much. This particular group seems to meet mostly to repeat things they have already said, to state the obvious with various degrees of clarity, and to make themselves feel important. You would think I would have learned by now just how big a waste of time this is. Next month, I'm bringing a book.

Although even this morning's meeting was not as bad as one I attended earlier this week. (See? My job really is to fill out paperwork and go to meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.) We hadn't even made it half way through the day when I decided that this is hopeless. Not just the sitting through a meeting and expecting a solution from it. The whole task of being a library director in South Carolina is just hopeless. There is so much that we could be doing - if we had the people, or the money, or the space, or the infrastructure, or if things hadn't been done some other way for the past twenty years. But I as an individual am simply never going to be able to make enough of a difference to matter. Which was brought home to me quite forcibly somewhere around eleven thirty on Tuesday morning. This is not the fault of the person running the meeting, of course. It was just sort of the cumulative effect of the whole agenda.

So, what's worse than a meeting that is so boring you wish someone would start throwing rocks just because it would make a change? A meeting at which you realize that change is never going to happen, and that the job you do might as well involve beating your head against a brick wall for all the effect it's going to have.


Friday, December 7, 2007

A Typical Day in the Life...

So, this week has been interesting.

Let's take Tuesday as the perfect example of what is euphemistically referred to as a "typical" day.

At 9:00 I was greeted with a pile of mail and forms and other unidentifiable papers a foot high on my desk. After managing to deal with this (mostly by transferring it to other people's desks) I sent out a round of faxes to the branches reminding them of assorted things of various degrees of importance.

So far, so good.

At 10:00 I raced a requested book from here to one of the branches. While there, the day's newspaper was delivered. Said newspaper featured a prominent headline about a shooting. At a library branch.

Which I did not know about.

While I was still processing this information, a call came in from another branch, informing me that there was no heat, and the branch manager was in the process of freezing her tail off. She was, however, more concerned about her patrons, many of whom are elderly. Off I went to that branch to see what could be done. Two space heaters, one extension cord, and assorted phone calls to assorted people later, the temperature in the branch was no longer hovering at the freezing mark and the repair man had promised to come as soon as possible. Maybe even this week.

From there, it was back to the main library. On the way there I got an urgent call asking me to call one of the staff on her cell phone. Of course, I promptly drove into the black hole of the wildlife refuge, where there is no hope of a signal for my cell phone. On the outskirts of Chesterfield, twenty-five minutes later, my phone indicated that there might be hope of making a call. I called the staff member, who was having a minor health crisis, sorted things out with her, and arrived back at the headquarters.

Consultation with other staff members revealed that no one else had heard about the shooting either.

Back into the car for the drive to the branch where the shooting happened, where I had a conversation with the branch manager about why I had not been told about the incident, and why this would never happen again. We then agreed that she would call the police and arrange for them to patrol the library, while I ascertained whether any of the patrons had been injured or whether the bullet had hit the library. (If you injure a patron, I'll be mad, but if you hurt my library building I will have to kill you.)

According to the newspaper account, incidentally, this was not in fact a drive-by shooting. It was a pedal-by. We're working on making it into the bigtime, but so far all we can manage is a fifteen-year-old on a bicycle.

I then returned to the main library, to be greeted by yet another foot-high pile of mail, forms, paperwork, memos, and other paper crud on my desk, and a mile-long list of new emails in my in-boxes.

And this, my friends, is a typical day in the life of a library director.