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All’s well that ends well so long as you can forget that part in the middle…

Santa Cruzans have been developing a love-hate relationship with our beloved public library. First the budget troubles, which resulted in Friday closures and the threat of closed branches. Then the about-face and the branches staying open, but for weird hours and with apparently new, unfamiliar, and sometimes less than helpful staff at the desk. Then the long lines. Then the short lines at the annoying self check-out stations.

And then there was the new online catalog.

Talk about adding insult to injury. We’d all been sucking it up and saying, OK, so we don’t like change but the library is going to change. OK, so my favorite librarian has apparently been replaced with a blank-faced young man who admits he doesn’t really know how to use the computer system. OK, so now we have to listen to those darn self check-out machines chanting over and over, “Scan barcode!”

I tell my kids it’s rude to chant, then the library undoes it all with a simple labor-saving device.

But the new catalog just about broke the camel’s back. One day in frustration, a friend e-mailed on a local e-mail list that she knows one person who has decided to buy all her books. The shocking — shocking, I say — lengths to which we must go in order to get our books without hassle!

We are big fans of open source everything in this house, and I am sure that the new software will be just fine in the long run, but this was no easy transition. It was a thrill that I could actually log in (I was expecting worse), but finding my way around a site all done in 8-point font isn’t my favorite activity. (Yeah, I know how to increase the font. But I shouldn’t have to!) The stark, dense design is already wearing thin.

And then there were the fees. I started to see the buzz on e-mail lists within days. “I went to the library and found out I had $25 in fees! The librarian said she couldn’t do anything about it.”

Turns out that when the library sent out that e-mail saying that e-mail notifications of overdues and requests would proceed as before, they forgot one, little word. Really, should one word make all that much difference? The one word: EVENTUALLY. No, the e-mail notifications weren’t working (and still aren’t as far as I can see). Apparently, some people at the library thought that this message had gone out to everyone. It hadn’t. Other people at the library thought that all the librarians knew that they were supposed to waive all fees until it was fixed. They didn’t. In fact, the librarian I got (another strange face at my local branch) said, “I’m not really trained to do front desk. I don’t know how to use this computer.” Great.

I love our library, and I love to give donations. But generally I prefer that the donations be a) planned, and b) tax-deductible. Rather than wait for our usual librarian to help (he was busy dealing with a shaggy-haired woman laden with shopping bags who was yelling that she needed the police — apparently someone had stolen her glasses while she was alone in the locked bathroom), I decided to let it slide.

The librarians had enough to do without my $2.50 to contend with.

Things are getting smoother. We’re all getting used to the tiny font and confusing layout, though e-mail notifications aren’t working yet and the system still thinks that my home library is Central. We’re starting to like some aspects of the site, such as the one I tried out today: Bookbag. You can actually save a list of books that you’re planning to check out at some point in your account. This is something I’ve always wanted. Yes, if I decided to check out lots of books about bomb-making and if I joined a fringe radical political group and if we were caught planning to overthrow our local library staff and take over, bombing all the self check-out stations back to the particles they were made from, I might be in trouble.

But since I am willing, always, to give my poor, beleaguered, hardworking, underpaid, understanding, knowledgeable, enthusiastic library staff a break, I won’t join that group… yet. I like to stay on their good side, especially when I’m leaving my under-12 kid alone in the kids’ section (just for a minute!), asking them to recommend readable King Arthur books, and informing them, sheepishly, that a mad woman out front is yelling to the world that the librarians have stolen her glasses.

Posted in Parenting.


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