Sunday, April 02, 2006

Mrs Zen in her cosy library

An update on my day in the library yesterday: What an April Fools Day that was.

We had been told that major maintenance to the university's network was going to take place Saturday morning, but all services important to the library would be back up by noon. Library opens at 1 p.m. - not a drama, right? Hah!

Get there at 12.30 to find that services are NOT back up, loans desk staff start frantically activating their backup system so they can at least issue books. But what was I going to do without a catalogue, access to databases, yea to the internet itself? Zilch, nada, nichts, zip. Before we could get a sign at the front door organised, letting people know the situation, it was opening time, students streaming in. For the next nearly two hours I would need to field phone calls from students trying to access library services from home, students in the library asking me when services will be restored. Meanwhile I can't even answer the simplest reference question: Do we have such and such a book and what is the call number. The catalogue, the key to our entire collection, is not available. Aaargh!

Despite this, people seemed to find alternative activities: some found books and journals by browsing the shelves (!), and others used the workstations to type up essays and assignments. It was with great relief when the system came back up shortly before 3 p.m. and I was able to announce this over the library's public address system.

So, zen-like was not how I would describe the first half of yesterday's shift.


Sue said...

Many years ago when I worked in a library checking out was done on cards. If you wanted to know if a book was stocked, you went to the card catalog, then checked the shelf.
Now we are all so attached to the internet. Good thing or not?
(I sure don't want to give up my internet!)

Lucy Tartan said...

Sounds nightmarish. Knowing a few favourite call numbers off by heart is useful sometimes.

Is there some kind of non-electronic backup of the catalogue?

Val said...

Unfortunately, most of the queries were for books outside the humanities areas. I do know the call numbers for a few sections in literature, linguistics, history, etc. But these days students want to be sent to the exact number, and fair enough, with over a million books in the collection.

The card catalogue was thrown out in the early 90s. I too would not like to be without computers and the internet, but they do seem to have taken over in libraries these days.

Val said...

Oh dear, why is the computer networks IT people ALWAYS forget the library! "Lets do it at the weekend, it wont affect anyone" Hummpphh. I know exactly how you feel Val. My sympathies. Sounds as if you handled it really well. Librarians rule, yay!

I will ask you offline all the techie questions like "how does Millennium backup cope?"! (we have our next set of four training days starting Tuesday) No need to bore people reading the comments!

Kerri said...

Last school year we went for months with a network problem before the 'techies' figured out what it was and were able to finally fix it. Our library computer(s) (and all the others) was down more than up, and oh, what a pain having to write down all the book numbers (and enter them into the computer later) was so much slower! And this is just a small elementary school library. No wonder Mrs. Zen was unzenlike! Glad you survived :)