Archive for January, 2010

Bandwidth vs. Regulars

Well, some of our regulars have learned the magic word that really runs the show: bandwidth!

When our bandwidth is maxed out, everyone can tell. Games, tunes, MySpace, Facebook, you name it, they all come to a virtual standstill. Our reference desk has “traffic grapher” so we can tell if it’s incoming or outgoing traffic that is maxing us out. But since our branch is small, we usually walk around to let people know the slow down is due to a bandwidth issue. While we’re strolling through the public PC’s, we also scan for possible culprits. Generally, it’s hard to tell, so we gently mention that “someone” is uploading (or downloading) a large file and it’s affecting everyone’s performance. We hope for a little peer pressure–sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The regular “boys” are the ones who get the most frustrated since their gaming is affected immediately: nothing worse than a medieval army getting caught up in a bandwidth vacuum. One day, our “Larry” (see previous post), decided to take matters into his own hands and came up to the desk and asked that we check the bandwidth. He said the librarians needed to walk the floor and get the other gamers off the pipe. When the librarian asked him why?, he informed her that he was at a critical point in his game and that took priority over the other games.

Interesting point of view.

It’s amazing how the expectations for service expand with the capability. It’s never enough. Certainly, we’ll never have enough bandwidth to satisfy the needs of all of our clients. As more and more apps move to the web, the demands will become greater, and not just for gamers. It’s a web world.

Amazingly enough, three of the seven guys who come in every day are now on laptops. I have no idea how they got them and I don’t ask. For them, it’s a huge win. They see it as a way to the web with less restraints and librarian monitoring. The only boondoggle? Bandwidth. I wonder if they’ll figure out that the laptops get dropped from the pipe first when traffic maxes? I think I’ll keep that piece of info to myself.

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Positively Chocolate

Our library has just initiated our annual Winter Reading Program. Although it is geared for adults, we also encourage teenagers to participate. In our little branch, historically, one of the librarians has gone to the high school to book talk and plug our winter and spring programs.

With the recent change in personnel, the task of overseeing teen programming and selecting materials for teens has fallen to me. Yikes! The last time I faced a classroom of teenagers, I was a substitute teacher. And that was a regular nightmare!

I was really sweating bullets as I thought about the kids and how I could possibly keep them engaged for twenty minutes while I talked about books and the library. My own son said he would cut class and even take a cut slip before he’d sit through it. That was encouraging. Not!

So, I devised the age old trick: chocolate.

It worked! I spent two days at the high school, talked to 20 different classes of English students, from AP and Honors to the lowest levels, from Seniors to Freshmen, and the chocolate was my foot in the door. As I walked from classroom to classroom, I’d hear kids say, “Hey, chocolate lady” or “There’s the Library lady with the chocolate.” And not just little Hershey kisses either, I was giving out the big chunky Hershey kind as well as Snickers, Butterfingers and Nestles’ Crunch. It was play. And it was fun. I had a great time and so did they. And for me, it was worth every penny.

I tossed out chocolate for every time they could answer the questions correctly about the program start and end dates or how many books they had to read or if they could name the titles I had chatted up after I put them away in my “green bag.” Of course, they also got chocolate if they could figure out who my son was… when one group of sophomore girls figured it out, the hormones hit the ceiling, “That’s your son? Oh man, he is HOT!” [Girls, girls…I’m his mother for crying out loud.]

Oh, and what about our numbers? Not bad, I think we’re up to 68 registered teens. But you know what I like the best? The kids who come in now and just talk to me like they know me. Of course, I’m thinking, maybe it wasn’t the chocolate at all but the notoriety that comes from being the mother of a “player.” Oh well, whatever works.

Helpful Censor

I’ve seen a lot of different types of censorship in the library, from a patron demanding that a book be removed from the shelves, to permanent markings through objectionable words, to pictures cut out of books. But, this is the first time I’ve seen a “helpful censor” use correction tape to cover over the the words and phrases and then, in several cases, offer “better” word choices.

The one book brought to my attention was the Spiderwick Chronicles. Now, just off the top, I couldn’t remember anything particularly dicey in this series, so I was surprised when our children’s librarian came forward with the evidence.

Here are some specific (and apparently, hotly contested) examples of impropriety:

  • divorce was replaced with the words, “had moved.”
  • crappier was replaced with “only older.”
  • candy butt was simply covered up.
  • “Crap” said Jered was replaced with “Jered was looking around.”
  • not as crappy was replaced with “older Mallory but nearly…” and,
  • “Oh Crap!” was simply covered up.

I guess I’m appreciative of the thoughtfulness of the censor for using correction tape that could be peeled off again bringing the book back to its savage original.

But, I do worry, what will we find when the young reader wants to graduate to something really deleterious like “It’s Not the Stork” or “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things.”