Friday, January 31, 2014

Tech Problems

I suppose every library department, maybe every department everywhere, has their moment in the sun (in the shade?) where they really hit their stride in sucking. For the past month or so our Computer Services department has been, um, struggling. It started off slowly enough. A printer or computer would go down, sometimes an important one. The automation people would arrive on the scene, mess about, and leave with the problem fixed. But there was something alarming in how they would say it was fixed "for now".  Fifteen minutes or an hour or two later we'd go through the same thing with the same piece of equipment. It all accelerated from there. We'd repeat the process half a dozen times. Response times slowed or responses merely disappeared. Makeshift post it note signs saying "Work order sent in" would be put onto more and more pieces of equipment. Essential workstations would sit abandoned. Once friendly and voluble tech staff would clam up suddenly when the issues of the broken things were brought up. The makeshift post it note signs would get so old and tired that they'd curl and fall off the abandoned machines. The head of automation would make rare, Reaganesque appearances where he would evince surprise that anything was broken, say they would be taken care of, and disappear into his reclusive basement lair for several days, presumably too busy to respond to increasingly strident emails.

I have taken it hard. I heartily dislike the layout and inconveniences of the alternate workstations we're forced to use. And because of this I have perhaps been a bit immoderate in my scathing commentary about Automation Services. But it all might be a little unfair. We all hit bad patches sometimes. Automation Services could at any moment turn dynamic and effective once again. And my turn in the shade could come soon. What if, for mysterious reasons, I start shelving every single book alphabetically by the first name of the author, or registering every new patron under the name "Wansu Reeds Morbuks"? What if I transfer every call we get at the library to the home of a confused elderly patron of ours named Ethel Winton? What if I just can't help doing all this no matter what polite correctives people suggest to me? I could become self conscious and highly insecure about my sudden rash of failings. I could get cagey, hide in the bathroom, and deny everything: "Why would I transfer people to Ethel Winton's number? That's absurd! I don't even know her phone number very well." If it does happen like this, I hope others are more understanding of me than I have been of our Automation Services. I hope they are as understanding as I shall now endeavor to be.

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