ASSOCIATES (vol. 10, no. 3, March 2004) - associates.ucr.edu
*My View from the Back Room*
Winona Public Library Associate II
firstname.lastname@example.org (write me!)
I was just stamping a book that had a stained back cover and pages with my "damage noted" stamp and realized this was the perfect topic for this months rant, I mean column. All of us here at WPL could use a DAMAGE NOTED stamp on our foreheads. I mean that way the general public might ask what was wrong, or what happened, or even murmur a, "There, there, you poor dear." Instead of asking things like, "Can you tell me if you have…." Which of course we can, but it seems to take FOREVER!!
The staff is looking pretty grim lately, a little hollow eyed and everyone is tired, and I have noticed that we are not even complaining about the new Dynix system as much. This is because we have become so tired and therefore resigned to the way the system (doesn’t) work. So, this column appears to be headed in the direction of how "the powers that be" have worn us down and brought out the DAMAGE NOTED stamp.
Since my last column when I explained how things just were not that great, I decided I would write to Dynix and ask if they ever sent out customer satisfaction surveys to the people in the libraries who went over to their system. I further asked if those surveys were ever actually sent out to the nuts and bolts people who did the daily work in said libraries. I actually got an answer. It was recommended that I join the Horizon/Dynix list serve and maybe some of my questions would be answered there. But I should be aware that I probably wouldn’t get the same answer from the list that I would from an official Dynix person. (ha ha ha) This sounded pretty good to me. Please note that there was no response to my question about the surveys, and there hasn’t been to this day. Not from our consortia either.
So, I signed up and joined the list serve. Most of the questions asked and answered were way over my head, having to do with System Administration, and writing scripts, etc. Like I could fit that in along with the load of ILL packing and unpacking I handle daily. But what I found out was that I wasn’t alone in wondering how to come up with an easier way to get things done using Dynix. Does that sound like a familiar theme? I have mentioned it before in other columns, how great it feels to NOT BE ALONE with a problem or situation. In fact I was on my way to making new friends and working out problems until I POSTED A QUESTION TO THE LIST! I would like to take time to mention that Big Brother is alive and well here in the SELCO system. I was told not to ask such questions because the list people wouldn’t understand how our consortia worked, or our problems.
Hear my sigh of resignation.
Then Dynix decided to make the list private because there was too much complaining, and they requested you rejoin using your library’s secret decoder ring number. I wrote to SELCO asking for the number so I could rejoin because I felt I was really getting some valid information from the list. Guess what? BUZZZZ—request denied. SELCO was going to limit the people who could join the list, and would have to discuss it and get back to me. I am still waiting. It appears that people who take the initiative, ask questions, and do not toe the party line are not exactly admired. Big surprise. Also, just a plain ole support staff person can not complain or ask for help directly, they have to go through channels, and only certain people are allowed to ask the question for you, and the answer (or not) is then reported back through them. NO DIRECT CONTACT OR EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION ALLOWED. Somehow that doesn’t seem like the best way for a library to function, but that might be another question to avoid asking.
--Another sigh of resignation.
This time last year or BD (Before Dynix) we had our regular staff, and 90 hrs a week student help, and the outlook of 160 hours of student help through the summer programming events. We also had an older system (DRA Classic) that we were used to working with, and did what we wanted and needed when we wanted and needed it to do so. This year we are working with the Dynix system and still trying to get it to do what we want and need, and because it just won’t, we are slowly just accepting that things just are NOT going to get better or faster or smarter so we might just as well work with it. That is where the resigned part comes in.
The fact is that every day, everything we do takes longer that it once did, but we are stuck with it, so we might as well quit griping about the problems. WHAT PROBLEMS? NO ONE ELSE HAS ANY PROBLEMS. Not so, according to the list-serve I got to be on, briefly! And then this year along with working harder and longer to do the same daily functions in a different, less convenient way, due to budget cuts we have much less student help. That means for summer programs instead of 160 hours a week we will only have 75 hours. Another reason why the staff is looking pretty damaged (noted).
Because of the nature of people who work in libraries—helpful, dedicated, friendly & more!—the staff is wearing out trying to cover for the lost work hours by assuming more desk time, shelving more books, and doing everything possible so long lines don’t form and the patrons are not inconvenienced at all. If I could just stamp everyone’s forehead DAMAGED NOTED I feel it would at least validate their heroic attempts to carry on as though everything is fine, just fine.