Thursday, January 31, 2013

too long for a tweet

If the sense of entitlement that people have regarding ebooks was somehow transported back in time, it would have our patrons calling us each time they found a word in a book they didn't understand.

Which they did, now that I think of it. But not nearly as many would have called as those who call about every tiny aspect of their ebook devices.

So what would be comparable between NOW and THEN and how would the libararian have handled it?

"I downloaded the wrong ebook."
Oh, that's okay; it happens. I'll fix it for you.
THEN. [Possibly pre-1980 library.]
"I checked out the wrong book."
What? Are you a fucking idiot? You had the book in your hands for probably five minutes and you waited in a line to check it out and then you gave your library card to a library employee, and at no point during this time did you question whether this was the wrong book? What the fuck happened when you got home? The book didn't keep the table from wobbling? What the fuck made it the wrong book? What new information do you have when you got home that told you it was the wrong book? What an asshole. Can you understand this makes you look like an asshole? Yes? Okay, which book did you mean to borrow? Okay, let me got get it. I'll hold it here at the desk and since this is the past, gas is probably pretty cheap, so you can drive back over here and get it. Don't forget to bring the other book with you! Oh, no, you will forget. So go put it in the car now. Then go eat your lunch or whatever you need to do that will somehow cause you to forget to come and pick up this book. It's okay; I have nothing better to do than carry books back and forth to the stacks. Fuck you.

"I downloaded the book, but I can't find where it went."
Oh, that's okay; it happens. I'll find it for you.
"I just checked out a book, but I can't find it."
Did you call the police and file a report? Because the library will block your account if you don't return that book or if you don't give us a copy of the police report. And when we block your account, it stays blocked. Forever. Even if the library ever gets computers and you think that the records will just start all over again, they won't. Or even if you move away for ten years and then come back, you'll be blocked. We remember these things because a librarian never forgets the asshole who loses a library book.

"I just got this ereader, but I don't know how to use it."
"I just checked out this book, but I don't know how to use it."

[Past and Present librarians, in unison, as the time-streams merge.]
Give me that so I can beat you to death with it. Asshole.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What Apple can teach libraries

So I just saw the story on what it takes to be an Apple Genius... or maybe it was about what it takes to be in the Sea Org, it was confusing. But let's give the credit to Apple.
It's an old article, but I don't actively search for Apple news so I missed it.

But what it teaches is that your every behavior should be guided toward making your library patrons feel good, to make them feel like their concerns are important, but without ever committing to anything or accepting blame. Read the article, the manual is literally genius.

Apply this to your library. You listen to people. You empathize with their concerns. You say something like, I'm sorry this happened. And you redirect them to some other part of the library or out into the parking lot because, holy crap, enough is enough, and you have work to do.

But use that connection to promote some library service. Because part of your job should be Sales.
Most library employees don't realize that we have a product that we need to sell. It's the continuation of the library; it's more libraries; it's increased budgets for more stuff and people and raises. You are the product. You sell yourself and your job.
I sell library services every chance I get. Unless I'm drunk. Or naked. At the very least, I should be wearing a pair of socks before I'll promote my library. Or three socks? Who said that?

Apple has a formula for their brand of sales, and it spells APPLE:
(A)pproach, (P)robe, (P)resent, (L)isten, (E)nd.
Isn't that adorable.

Libraries should also adopt some similar cutesy acronmym-like thingie:
(L)isten. (I)-contact. (B)-present. (R)edirect. (A)void. (R)estate. (Y)-me?

You probably might want to mix those around depending on your particular situation, for example, I would always begin with (Y).

But you have to sell. If someone can't use a computer, direct him to one of your computer classes. Or online tutorials. Or if he won't stop being a pain in the ass, give him a program  schedule and suggest he look it over at home.

or if you can't find a book on the shelf, sell the Hold. Send the book to whichever branch they want. Or sell the ebook. No interaction with a patron should ever terminate with a direct answer. The response to "Where is the bathroom?" should include directions to the area for appropriate reading material: The books on bladder control are over here and the bathroom is down that hallway.

How would you deal with this patron?

PATRON: Ga-ga-ga-ba-ba-ba [Stops babbling, puts his fingers in his mouth and pulls out own tooth - drops it in an envelope addressed to the White House and puts the envelope in his robe pocket].

YOU: I can see how you'd feel this way. It can be frustrating. But many of our patrons use the library often. To wash their clothes in our bathrooms. So come back after your visit from the Secret Service.

Notice you said nothing substantial. You empathized with nothing. You promised nothing. But these kinds of interactions often make people feel good without requiring you do any work at all.

But remember to sell. And remember our acronym:
  • (L)isten, or just appear be to listening. Earbuds help.
  • (I)-contact, [eye contact] avoid it for crazies or keep it for normals.
  • (B)-present. I really don't have anything dopey to say about that. It's actually really useful when you give 100% to the listening and not laughing.
  • (R)edirect real problems to someone else. Anyone else. Maybe someone at your library who uses a cane and can't escape too quickly? This will save you a lot of headaches.
  • (A)void making promises. There's not much you can do to solve problems while working with no budget. So just empathize. Everything else costs money.
  • (R)estate the obvious. "The fax machine isn't working because the fax machine is broken. Our malfunctioning fax machine is not responding. The Out Of Order sign is taped to our non-working fax machine. Here is a copy of the sign to take with you."
  • (Y)-me? [Why me?] Because you're not the boss, that's why. Or maybe you are the boss, if you're one of those bosses that actually does stuff. Nah, you're not the boss.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Libraries, Chasing the 1%

WARNING: long ramble that didn't make me feel any better when I finished writing it.

The more I read about libraries, the more fear for their future. I keep reading about how libraries' days are numbered, but this is not why I fear for the future of libraries: it's all the solutions I read for non-existent problems. It's all these "visionary" librarians who reject all the useful things that libraries do and continually, perpetually chase after new things.

They get some idea that the library is in trouble and their first thought is, Well, then, let's do some new stuff!

FUCK YOU. Fuck your new stuff.

Oh, this is a new thing, they say. Everyone drop whatever it is I told you I liked 3 months ago, and do this new thing I just found now. And this new thing is: iPads, phablets, streaming video, downloadable songs, mastering Facebook privacy, on-demand publishing, digital magazines, 3-D genital printing, hacker spaces, book-themed games and social networks, location-based-reader-preference-app-sync-hyphen-something-something, mobile stalking, Google-search-history-scrubbing, reader-bullying, reader-hostility, nude chat, why manipulating metadata is like touching yourself, copywrong & private domain, global thermonuclear war,...


Look, ASSHOLES, nobody knows what libraries do. They still think we have books and only books. Because we do a shitty job marketing our services. So stop thinking that new shit will attract new people BECAUSE THEY WON'T KNOW WE HAVE IT.

So stop buying new shit and do a better job of telling your community what you do for then now. Market your library before you waste money on new shit.

What is marketing? Watch TV: marketing is, hitting the customer over the head with images until they can't avoid buying your product. And that takes money. And time. And money.

So here is a fact: almost every decision you made about your library in the last 5 years was wrong. That is a fact. So stop. Stop making decisions. Your library is probably doing a bunch of really good stuff, right now. So stop changing everything.

How many of you have read that your library patrons don't use the computer catalog? All of you? so I hear all this discussion about getting rid of the catalog. "If people don't like it, get rid of it." You know what AMERICAN BUSINESS would say when someone doesn't like their product: MAKE THEM BUY IT, ANYWAY. Or, Get one of our legislators to pass a law that requires the government to buy it.

But librarians don't like to make people do anything. So they don't like Marketing their libraries. Because marketing is aggressive behavior, and librarians are passive. Until you take their parking spaces.

But if the catalog is your problem, the what should you do? What is the library catalog? It's the way people find books in the library.

 So what other ways can you get that job done?

I guess you could create a software program with voice recognition so people could just speak to a kiosk and get directions. Or an app for a mobile device. But then people would be yelling the software when it didn't work. And all that yelling would be going on in your library.

You could eliminate the public catalog completely and force everyone to ask for the book at the information desk. Which is a great solution if you can afford the staff.

You could shelve all the books in some sort of bookstore order, but I FUCKING HATE THAT. I can never find anything in the book stores. Unless it's an extremely finite area, like manga. Otherwise, I look and look and look. It the book with chapter books, or easy books or by author with the juvenile books? It is a general cookbook or in the Italian cooking section or maybe in the vegetarian cooking? So, yeah, I would fucking hate that.

And it doesn't matter what you choose, someone won't like it. So you need to choose the option that satisfies the most people or doesn't confuse the most people or doesn't get your library burned down by a hostile mob. But you can't just pick some solution that works on an iPad just because iPads are cool. This is the worst solution. But this is what libraries do.

Librarians often chase after the newest coolest things. Things that one percent of their users have. And they justify this on the "potential growth" for that thing. Again, based on that one percent of users. So, of course, they will seem to be right for about a year or two when that one percent grows to six or fourteen percent.

But what about the other 86 percent of your public? Did you abandon them for that new thing? No; you will force them to buy into that new thing. But in a typical passive-aggressive-librarian way. So you'll force your borrowers to buy ereaders, then buy tablets, then get brain implants... because YOU want to be part of that ever-changing 1%.

That's why your library has a published Mission, so that you don't make these stupid decisions.

Regarding ebooks, libraries are driving themselves out of business by paying for them. Instead of providing free ebooks or negotiating contracts with publishers who will allow us to host content and distribute from our own servers, you continue to pay 3X retail for ebooks LEASES and pay hosting services and maintenance to outside companies. You also encourage the big publishers to reduce print production thereby reducing the number of print books you can OWN. So the reduction of print will only reduce the number of physical libraries so that some point in the future, your library will just be someone who pays that Overdrive or Google Books or Amazon bill. Because you won't offer any services that require people.

So if you want to keep your library and your librarians, get back to your MISSION. Offer services that benefit the community and hire the people to provide those services. And build libraries to give the public a place to meet those librarians and receive those services.

And this might not be part of your Mission, but MARKET those services and the people who help your community. So you should probably add that to it: "Promote library services."

There is one fact I have never heard disproved: "more people would use your library, if more people knew about your library."

Try and prove that wrong. Seriously.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

HEY, ASSHOLE! It's the future of libraries.

Everyone is trying to come up with some solution to the non-existent problem of what should we do with our libraries. It's a non-existent problem, imo, because I think libraries do a great job of taking a bunch of money and hiring great people and buying lots of cool, useful shit.

But as much as we do great stuff with all that money, there are people outside and WITHIN the profession who claim it isn't enough and that libraries don't fit into our speedy groovy shiny new world.

Fuck you, is what I say.

Because I can fix libraries with two simple words: Hey, Asshole.

You might have noticed that the modern world is a tiny bit ruder and coarser than it was when those imaginary people in those 1950's television shows were kids. In reality, when I was 5 my friends were already smoking cigarettes, and when we were 6 or 7, we got drunk once in while and about the time I was 8, I was stealing from grocery stores and even stealing from my neighbors. And I felt like I was one of the good kids.

But the world is probably a little more adult now than it once was.  Every TV show is loaded with sexual dialog and boobies and lots more blood than when Barney Miller was on. I hear people say "shit" on TV all the time. And on popular shows.

So the masses have spoken. People want to read romance novels that include ben wa balls and they want suspense novels with torture and eye-gouging. And I guess they want cooking manuals that include some ass-play; I haven't seen one yet, but I guess there's got to be some recipe where you're told to keep a carrot in your ass until the oil is sizzling. Or something.

So my solution is to just be rude to people. Add, Hey Asshole to your signage. "Hey, Asshole, the Library is CLOSED on Martin Luther King Day." Or, Hey, Asshole, this email is to remind you to return you overdue materials."

Some people might be annoyed by it, at first, but they'll get used to it. And talk about publicity! Some library already announced being the first bookless library. And some other library is the first maker space library. So what's left? Be the first "New York Style" library!

Take my advice, and just add Hey, Asshole to everything. But if it doesn't work for you, you might have to get nastier and try Hey, Shit-for-brains.

But don't use Hey, Fucknuts. We already use that at our library.

Monday, January 14, 2013

time's up

not very many people downloaded I Came in Peece, so it's no longer available for free.  I hope the people who got it will read it.  and after reading it, weep from its genius. but the rest of you can go fuck yourselves.

kidding. but it sounds cool to say that. I would never say that all of you should go fuck yourselves.

some of you can go fuck yourselves.

What They Shoulda Done: Downton Abbey


So Matthew inherits some money that could save Downton since Lord Grantham was suckered into investing in some bogus Canadian railway... but because it's money from the father of his dead fiance whom he had betrayed by kissing another woman, he felt he didn't deserve it.

So this goes on for much much too long... until Matthew receives another letter stating that the dead girl had written a letter on her death bed which somehow said something or other, that I swear, if I tried to sort out in my head, would make my brain hurt.  It's all become very much like a bad, very bad, extremely bad soap opera.

But then the money issue is resolved and Downton is saved.  But Poor Edith (that's her official character's name from now on) is left at the alter when Sir Anthony takes everyone's advice and runs off.

But what they shoulda done is: cut to Edith's wedding.

Sir Anthony and Edith are about to take their wedding vows, when.. Lavinia appears. The formerly dead Lavinia Swire appears at the church and approaches Matthew and Mary as women faint and the priest blesses himself.

She says to the wedding party, "You thought I was dead.  But my illness only made me appear to be dead.  Isn't that correct, doctor?"

"Yes, it's possible," the good, well, bad Dr. Clarkson agrees.  "She could have only appeared to be dead. To someone with a nineteenth century medical education, I mean.  This sort of thing happens."

And then the doctor addresses the crowd. "Sometimes someone appears to be be dead when it is just a slowing of the heartbeat.  And other times, someone appears to be alive, when they have in fact, been dead for several days.  Sir Anthony suffered a heart attack just last week and was dead, but I declared him fit to attend this wedding."

Just then, Sir Anthony's eyes become white and foam appears on his lips and he moans like a zombie.  And he grabs Edith and bites her as she screams and he begins to eat her brains.

At seeing this zombie attack, the doctor adds, "This happens more often than one would like."

That's what they shoulda done.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

#1 cause of librarian stress: NO CLEAR GUIDELINES TO SHOOT

Everyone has stress. I can't get the package of Pepperidge Farm Milanos open without tearing the fuck out of it, so that creates stress. A soldier in Iraq hears an explosion and that creates stress. A police officer hear gunshots and that creates stress. A firefighter see huge fireballs erupt from an auto parts store and that creates stress.

Stress arises from fear or frustration or uncertainty, or even certainty.

So don't tell me librarians don't suffer from stressful work environments. No, the cause for the stress isn't fire or bombs or bullets, so you can say librarians are being pussies if you want. But the one advantage that soldiers and police and firefighters have over librarians is that they know when they can say, "Fuck It."

Firefighters aren't required to fight every fire. If it's unsafe, they don't go in.

If the environment isn't safe, soldiers and police have guns to shoot you.

Librarians have nothing. We can't turn you away unless you are truly awful; and we can't shoot you.

So don't say we don't have legitimate stress.

If the librarian could shoot you, we would shoot your ass every day. Not all of you, but a few of you. Every fucking day.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

read I Came in Peece (please)

yes, there are typos aplenty and sections that need complete rewrites, but I don't write the way most people do (should); I write to get funny gags out of my head an on paper so I don't forget them.  Because I have a terrible memory.  So if the funny stuff comes across as funny, then hurray me.  And if the story makes sense, then that's good, too.

get free epub here
 or scan the code to get to the download page.