September 13, 2011
I had a phone call last week from someone wanting to donate her sister’s cook book collection to our library. I usually like to honour such requests (particularly for someone who’s died) , with the proviso that we can offer them to students if they’re not suitable. It really wasn’t until she was in the library that she saw our dilema – space. We also have a new collection coming here at the end of the year, and we need to make room to accommodate it.
It’s a large collection, more than 30 large-ish boxes. I can only keep the tiniest portion of it, if anything. Opening the dust-sprinkled boxes, I found that they were mostly in wonderful condition. Their former owner clearly chersihed them. Looking at her collection, I wonder about the person who owned them, and how much of her life is represented by the books she left behind. In a throw away society, we accumulate ephemera that we discard without a thought, because it’s only a thing. But we collect so many things during our lives that have meaning for us, and that meaning’s shadow lingers when we die to the extent that it can touch strangers. I wonder about my things, and what they say about me, and what will happen to them when I die.
Like everybody, I have books and games that I’ll happily donate, sell or otherwise pass on to someone else. Many books I’ll read only once. I enjoyed them, but don’t need to keep them. But what of those items that have meaning outside of their use value? There’s my copy of Moby Dick that I bought during a wonderful holiday in Broken Hill. There are the biographies signed by Ian Chappell and Doug Walters. The second-hand copy of the Lord of the Rings bought at a charity shop in Stratford-upon-Avon. My Traveller modules that remind me of RPG sessions lunch during high school, and my copy of Squad Leader (a boardgame, folks) which I also played incessently while in high school. These and many other items have a meaning that is more than their function. I haven’t played my copy of Circus Maximus in 28 years, and will probably never play it again. The counters are almost rubbed bare from repeated play. But I can’t get rid of it.
Our lives are more than the sum of the stuff that we buy. But some of the things that we buy will carry meaning. I’ve always thought that we should live with as little clutter as possible (something that I’m increasingly failing at), and I still think it’s a good ideal. But Physical things are such great memory repositories. The smell as you open up a game box, the cover and heft of a book stimulate the memory – I suspect even more than photographs do, because of the added associations that an artifact brings. if you’ve watched a program like Time Team, you’ll know how it feels when someone’s lost coin, or a piece of jewellery s brought back into the sunlight.
So, though I can keep only a tiny proportion of them, I hope that this person’s books end up in a good home.
September 12, 2011
My manager and I, along with a few colleagues from TAFESA South Institute went over to Adelaide Uni this morning for the launch of their new Hub Central. It isn’t quite finished (so there’s not a lot of signage).
It has a warehouse/industrial feel, with lots of mobile IKEA-type furniture. There are study rooms, plus nook & cranny style spots for small groups to meet in. There are the ubiquitous bank of PCs, lots of places to sit with your laptop and, most importantly, a coffee bar. What they’ve done really well is use colour to signify the different areas: pink for printing, yellow for meeting spaces, blue for help and green for ‘serentiy spaces’ (these have lots of big cushions and bean bags). Like IKEA, the floor design helps guide people around the space. There was also lots of signage telling students how many PCs were free in which areas across the campus. The The Barr-Smith library is also one of the significant spaces adjacent to the complex
What really struck us was that it was a place designed to make the students comfortable. It was a great place to take photos. Next time I’ll take a camera……… It was also a good chance to get out of the office and recharge the brain. We aren’t in a position to have a project done at that scale, but it’s a good chance to see what ideas can be profitably borrowed.
June 30, 2011
To get done all that I need to do, I have to create lists. I’m probably not alone in this, but I also find that I have to create my lists as soon as I get to the desk. Otherwise, I start reading emails, and responding to things, and before you know it, I’ve let the day determine what gets done, rather than setting my agenda.
The trouble is, more often than not, the e-mailing happens before the list-making. It’s a habit that I’ve fallen into, and I need to alter it. Now, for me, the best way to create a new habit is to write down what I need to change…..
It can be done. I get up at 5.30 most mornings to go to the gym when I am, by inclination, a night-owl. I can even be persuaded to use the equipment therein. So I have a new habit to learn for the second half of the year.
I am also a fan of the email charter.
June 29, 2011
Today has been mostly a day of kleggich, as will tomorrow. Checking timesheets, completing on-line OHS&W modules (and checking that staff have done the same), writing the monthly report are all things that aren’t high on the list of things that I like to do. But it’s close to the end of the financial year, and I’d like to have a relatively clean administrative slate going into the second half of the year. The only thing on that list that was completed was the monthly report but, being the biggest task, it feels like the rest of it will be just mopping up.
The report is necessary as a reporting mechanism of course, but is also useful in that it allows reflection on achievements for the month. The rest of it could be lost, and I think that the world would continue safely on its course with nary a wobble. And, in the 21st century, I can’t believe how much paperwork is actually still on paper……..
June 28, 2011
Thanks to Tania for this meme:
B. Bed size: Queen
C. Chore that you hate: dusting
D. Dogs: None – I haz kitteh. I like dogs though.
E. Essential start to your day: Coffee. Strong.
F. Favourite colour: Red.
G. Gold or Silver: silver
H. Height: 5′ 11″
I. Instruments you play: None. when I was in high school I played the tuba.
J. Job title: Liaison Librarian
K. Kids: Not a one.
L. Live: Adelaide. Was born in Newcastle and have lived in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne. A Newcastle boy at heart.
M. Mother’s name: Janice.
N. Nicknames: Explanation Man (only my wife calls me that though). No other current nickname. Previous nicknames include Nib and Gunnery.
O. Overnight hospital stays: Lotsandlotsandlots. Somewhere in the 3 figures mark. As a kid I had asthma and was in and out of hospital lots.
P. Pet peeve: Apostrophe abuse. Untidiness (which, if you could see my desk, means much self-loathing…).
Q. Quote from a movie: “These aren’t the ‘droids you’re looking for”.
R. Right or left handed: Right.
S. Siblings: Two younger sisters.
T. Time you wake up: 5:30 am (when I work), 7:30 or 8.00 am when I don’t .
U. Underwear: Yes. I guess this is really about brand?
V. Vegetable you hate: Peas
W. What makes you run late: Me
X. X-Rays you’ve had: back, chest
Y. Yummy food that you make: pumpkin soup
Z. Zoo animal: Elephants.
June 27, 2011
It was a quiet day, partly because I was at home looking after my wife, who is recovering from a (not serious) operation. On the excitement-meter today were three packages:
1) the memoirs of General James Longstreet (Confederate corps commander during the American Civil War): from Manassas to Appomattox. One day I’d like to write a Flashman novel that covers his Civil War exploits, so this kind of constitutes research.
2) a boardgame on the Kokoda track campaign called Soldiers of the Rising Sun
3) most exciting of all is a copy of a book that I lost many years ago: Mika Waltari’s Sinhue; The Egyptian. I had a 1950s hardback copy (sans dust-jacket), and my wife has her own copy. She tells me that the French translation reads better than the English….. Figured it was time to use (sparingly) my new CC. Woohoo!!!
June 26, 2011
We usually have my father-in-law and one or more step-sons over for lunch every Sunday. Today it was vegetarian lasagna, and full of cheesy goodness it was. My step-father brought a lovely shiraz from Seven Hills, which is a Jesuit-owned winery in the Clare Valley. They make communion wine, but their table wines are also delicious. There was much cleaning and tidying and generally trying to make the house look like it’s inhabited like human beings.
Then it was off to our evening church service, and it was casserole night. Then home to finally catch up on last week’s episodes of Offspring. And now it’s to bed, and I’ll spend some time slowly getting through Latro in the Mist and listening to Stephen Watkins. This is a copy from the local library, but I think that I’ll have to hunt down a copy to have for my very own. Next on the shelf will be Viktor Frankel’s Man’s search for meaning, which I pinched from my step-father. And there endeth the weekend!
June 24, 2011
This week I’d have made an excellent absent-minded professor. If I’d been professorial. Most mornings I go to the gym before work, which gives me excellent opportunities to forget things:
- On Monday I left my towel (for the gym showers) at home.
- On Tuesday, it was my work shoes
- On Wednesday I left my work shirt at home
- yesterday I left my gym gear at work
- today I went shopping sans wallet
June 23, 2011
A couple of recent customer service experiences has gotten me thinking about customer service at work. All of us in the library profession are in customer service in some way. Our records can be perfect, our shelves neat and organised, but the point of our service is connecting people with information. The rest is a means to that end. So what’s on my extremely non-comprehensive list?
- Even if you don’t know the answer, a smile always helps
This was something one of my staff said yesterday, and I think it’s true. I tried to enrol in my course for semester 2 yesterday, but the new Student Information System wasn’t loading course data correctly. The person that I spoke to was bright, cheerful and as helpful as she could be. Which wasn’t a lot. But I didn’t have to wait long, and I I was happy to let them follow it up and get back to me.
- Don’t make assumptions
I had to log a job with our ICT people about 12 months ago. They are as helpful and competent group of people as you would wish to find. But one guy I called left me incandescent with rage at the end of my phone call. The issue was that our student PCs weren’t accessing the internet, but staff ones were OK. At the time I was also on Amazon ordering something for our collection.
Me: Yes, our staff PCs can access the internet OK. I’m on Amazon at the moment and everything is fine.
Him <raised voice>: You’re not supposed to be browsing Amazon! <Heavy sigh> You’re supposed to use your PC for work purposes only.
Me <terse voice>: Um, I’m a librarian. Buying books is part of my frickin’ job description.
Him: Yes, but you’re supposed to order them from Australian sites.
- The answer should be as simple as possible
My wife calls me Explanation Man because, apparently, my answers are a little longer than they need to be. Knowing where to find lots of useful information is great. Knowing what the right information for your patron is just as important.
- Make sure that you’re right
Your information should solve a problem, not create a new one. I recently went to another campus to collect some boxes of books to transfer to our collection. I found my way out of the carpark and up to the library. One of the staff there is a really lovely guy, but on this occasion,his ‘help’ getting me and the trolley to the carpark was worse than the route that I’d discovered for myself. The fact that I was able to catch up with him for a bit longer made up for it
- Don’t look too busy at the cirulation desk
There’s always the need to get stuff done, and staff take work out to the desk to do when it’s quiet. Sometimes, its possible to look so busy that people are afraid to approach you for fear of interrupting you. On the other hand, it’s not good looking like you’ve got nothing to do. It can be a difficult balancing act. Of course, I’ve never missed someone standing in front of me wanting to ask me something. No, not at all….
I’ve noticed on Twitter over the last couple of days that there seems to have been more people suffering from caffeine deprivation. As a result, tToday I’ve also discovered a new goal for myself: