Author Archives: aladdin

Hear no good or evil, Speak no good or evil

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I left my email address at the Children’s desk for a reply to a question about a book. The librarian had the answer, but I could not get it from her via email, I had to walk in to get it.

I asked whether the Library would make its Oculus-donated Virtual Reality gear available for patron use outside the absurdly restricted hours of 3:30 to 5 PM Fridays (and only when chaperoned by donated UCB student labor.) Again, I left contact information, but no response. Consider the issue ducked.

I leave comments in the suggestion box with an email address for a response, but have never, ever, ever gotten a response.

I leave comments at the BPL website via their “Suggestions and Comments” box, but again, never get a response.

I left my contact information for staff regarding a course I suggested offering to the public at Central, but again, no response.

This is malfeasant performance, and especially if there is a policy in place prohibiting staff contacting patrons, is grounds for the removal of whoever imposed, and whoever maintains, the policy.

The opposite behavior is indicated: the library should be directed to answer all patron inquiries, and via the means the patrons provide – email, if preferred; telephone, if preferred; surface mail, if preferred. There is no valid excuse to do otherwise.

Can’t get there from here: can’t place a Hold on individual numbered titles

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{This appears to be incorrect, but the complaint translates to “it is not clear how one does the operation” instead of “one cannot do the operation.”}

When you do a search that ends up with multiple volumes, or items, in a series, the dialog box that shows you the multiple titles won’t let you interact with a specific volume, and you end up not being able to place a hold on a specific volume of interest.

Example: look for DVDs for the series “Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water”. You might find a major listing for volume 4 (of 5 volumes.) Try to put a hold on volume 1: but volume 1 is not separately listed in the catalog! So go back to the volume 4 entry, and there is a “see all” at bottom right. Click the link, and sure enough, volume 1 is listed – but there is no way to select the item to put a hold on it, and rather than being able to use the computer to request the hold, you’re forced to involve a staffer.

Figure this error affects every title with multiple volumes when the individual volumes are not separately listed – and that is likely the case for many multi-volume titles.

Visible Misdirection Two-step

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Looking for a book on Go, get a reference to 794.2 C435g. Since I’m on the first floor and I recall that the 800s are there, I walk over, and the sign on the end of the bookshelf loudly says

600 – 899

So I’m there, right? Wrong. I turn the corner and see a book 808 in what ought to be a wrong place. I then step back to the start of the shelf and see low 600s. So I scan to where 700 should be and I finally see a divider (a binder) with the label

700 – 799 on 5th floor

Well, (don’t) thank the shelf-end label. It obviously should have read

600 – 699
800 – 899
700 – 799 on 5th floor

because the shelf did not contain “600-899”, as anyone reading that label would infer. The shelf-end label was a misdirection. It is trivially easily correctable.

Breathtaking Sunsets seen from the 5th floor

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From the Fifth floor of the library one sees a great view of the Bay and of sunsets.
I propose that a camera be attached to the outside wall of the library to capture this view, and when the 5th floor staff sees a glorious sunset, they can click some link in their computer system that will display the sunset on the large monitors on the 1st floor as one of the rotated frames (and for fun, the sunsets could be digitally archived for replay and made available for public viewing.) Alternatively, the view can just be made permanently available on the library website as one of the things the user can select to see.

The camera should capture the view between the two tall segments of the apartment building, and exclude as much of the apartment building as possible from the frame, so the lens should be slightly telescopic. Once the view has been selected, it needn’t be changed. Cleaning the lens can be added to the monthly maintenance cycle, the camera can be made easily accessible to someone on the roof.

A toy idea, but they do get some breathtaking sunsets there.

Explain things

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The East elevator will not take you to the 4th floor. There is a button for the 4th floor, but it does nothing.

I asked a staffer why this was, and they said the 4th floor was the children’s floor and that the East elevator would not stop there for security reasons; apparently the area near the elevator cannot be watched, and whether the concern is for abductions or for children wandering away via the elevator, I don’t know. I’ll grant that the concern is valid, but then:

Instead of leaving people to wonder why the East elevator 4th floor button isn’t working, why not just tell people, so they get it immediately? Put a notice in the elevator near the buttons which says

4th floor access is restricted for security reasons

and then nobody will be confused about the elevator’s behavior. I had assumed the elevator was broken, but it’s not. Such a notice would have helped.

Recovering from the 2015-2017 mass discard of titles

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Presuming the titles & info were kept, of those things discarded for the “open space” project, then even if the same objects cannot be retrieved, replacement copies should be requested, yes at the library’s expense (thus revealing it was a COSTLY mistake), of as many titles as the public indicates wanting back, so Studs Terkel’s autobiography, for just one example, must be restored to the collection.

Interactus Interruptus

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I check out a DVD to watch. It turns out that a former borrower has damaged the DVD so that it will not play to conclusion.
The Library has equipment that can clean and restore CDs/DVDs, but you cannot check a DVD out, find it is damaged, hand it to them to be fixed (process takes a few minutes), and take it back home to watch. Instead, you have to check it back in first. But then you have to go find it in the stacks again and borrow it again.

So the only way to be able to watch the fixed disk, is to return the item, and then place a hold on it.

A staffer told me that the front-desk people cannot take the disk in the back, use the machine to fix it, and return it to the patron, because that takes that person away from the help desk. Help desk people have to go in the back (step away) for other reasons, so I’m not sure this objection is valid; but if so, then there should be a consolidated process for dealing with this (common) situation, which is to take the DVD from the patron and requeue it then as a hold, so that once fixed, the DVD is returned to the patron whose viewing was interrupted.

BPL’s website programming should be done in-house.

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If management/programming of BPL’s IT, website and public interfaces is not done in-house, that must be corrected.

Outsourcing the work has the overhead of oversight, which is a task poorly performed. The programmer should be on staff in the library so that the loop of requests / programming changes / testing is kept short. If there is not enough work for the programmer to justify it as a full-time position, then make it a part-time position, or give that person other work to do.

Make the computer do the work

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You are required to re-enter your library ID for each LINK+ book you wish to request. That is tedious and unnecessary. You are logged in when you make the request, and the system knows your ID, so the website should simply resupply the ID for each next LINK+ book you request. Namely, have the computer do the work, that’s what computers are for.

BPL should refer this issue to the LINK+ people, who should fix it.

A competent programmer at BPL could make the feature work properly even if LINK+ does not cooperate.

Requiring confirmation of logout is a security hole

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When the user logs out they are challenged “are you sure”? and the user is NOT logged out if they ignore this challenge.

This is an obsolete practice. Business and Social outlets simply log you out when you request it. I have pointed out many times that this is a security hole, since alone of places online, BPL won’t log you out when you ask to log out, and a user used to other services will press Log Out and walk away, thinking they had logged out, when they hadn’t, and the next person who uses the terminal can mess the prior person over. Just the other day I logged a person out of a public terminal at the library who had walked away leaving the “are you sure?” on the screen.

When the user clicks “Log Out”, they should simply be logged out. If they genuinely hadn’t intended to log out, they can log back in trivially.

This is one of many “suggestions” I have filed (multiple times) in the suggestion box, only to have it totally ignored.

All AudioVisual content will be lost unless …

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The public is a slob and a vandal. People leave grease and marks on CDs/DVDs/vinyls. They scratch them. The items are rendered partially or totally useless for all later patron accesses.

I told the audio people on floor 5, and I insist this is true and actionable as I state it: whatever IPR legalese notwithstanding, if the library purchased a physical copy of title T, then the library is authorized to copy the content of T as a digital image, such that if the original physical disk or album is damaged, the library can cut a new copy of T (albums => CDs), so the investment in obtaining the original copy is kept good.

Note: I never said the library would ever offer these image copies to the public. They are only used to restore damaged units. We paid for them, so the IPR people who complain that the library must keep buying new physical copies can go to hell, this use is special, the items are being put into a domain where they will get rough handling; we bought the original; and there will only ever be on the shelves, as many copies of the content, as physical disks we bought, so the IPR people are having their rights respected and can shut up.

The audio staff said “oh we couldn’t do that”, but yes the library could if the Director would consult the city’s attorney, and then the project would be to insure the library had digital copies of everything, to protect their investment, and so that anyone could borrow and air a cataloged title, even if the last borrower ruined the former copy of it. Fair Use is Fair Use. As things stand, over time the pubic will damage 100% of the library’s CD/DVD(/vinyl) holdings.

Not Acceptable.

Natsume Sōseki:
forever misfiled and unfindable …

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{I have since determined that I got it wrong and that Natsume is not being misfiled. However, the complaint of non-responsiveness remains. — ecsd}

The Japanese author (English-syntax-named) “Natsume Sōseki” is being wrongly shelved as if his (English-syntax) name was “Sōseki Natsume”. The catalog reports the author correctly, but the author’s books cannot be found where they belong, and only intuitively did I guess the author had been misfiled under his first name or I would never have found the books. If I were to put a hold on a title I bet the staff would not know how to find his books, either.

I have complained about this three times. I have been told that the library uses a 3rd party service to supply call tags for the books. Fine, but the tags are wrong and I explained to BPL that their job is to get their supplier to fix the problem (and note that fixing the problem fixes it for every library that uses the same service.)

The floor people are not doing their job to refer the issue to the correct people within BPL,
those people are not doing their job to refer the issue to the tagging company,
the tagging company is not acting on corrections submitted by BPL, and by the way, just anyone in the world can verify on Wikipedia that an English Language speaker would name the author as “first name Natsume, last name Sōseki”. It is not a “matter of interpretation”. Jun’ichiro Tanizaki is not misfiled; Haruki Murakami is not misfiled; Shusako Endo is not misfiled. Only Natsume Sōseki is misfiled.

is that it appears that nobody will take responsibility, the author remains misfiled on BPL’s shelves, and everyone who uses the tagging service is misfiling that author in the same way. Now, you’d think that it would be a point of pride for a library to get an author’s name right and file the author properly, but since nobody at BPL will accept responsibility, it seems BPL is content to ignore their manifest appearance of illiteracy — for the sake of being lazy, or due once again to the systemic failure to delegate and failure to designate a finally responsible party. This is mismanagement and lack of accountability and the public is disserved while all the staff at BPL and the tagging company are free to pretend that nothing is amiss. All the staff I have spent time talking to about this never took it upon themselves to record the problem and forward it to anyone at BPL who would undertake to solve it; instead, they remanded the problem to me, expecting me to seek out the correct persons at BPL to address the issue to — and note, I have complained about the issue via the “Suggestions and Comments box” and nothing was done nor was my complaint acknowledged. That is just bogus. See about fixing this nonresponsiveness.

If the problem died at the tagging service then BPL should indicate it will change tagging services. You do not keep rewarding people who refuse to do the jobs they are stated to have. If you were obliged somehow to keep using that tagging service, then embarrass them for refusing to do their job properly and by the way, since BPL has admitted that this author is misfiled, and they pretend helplessness at solving the issue, you’d think that the least someone at BPL would do is put a note where author “Sōseki” should be found, saying <<please find “Sōseki” under “Natsume” due to circumstances beyond our control.>> And they won’t even do that much.

What does “Closing Time” mean?

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The “Open Hours” are the hours of operation, but the Library Staff treat it as the “drop dead time to walk out the door and go home.” Anyone patronizing any commercial or other service establishment knows that “open” means “open” and if I have 30 seconds of business to do and you close at 6:00:00 PM, I can walk in at 5:59:00 PM and do my business.

Not BPL. They shut down the elevators at 10 minutes to closing — to hell with the elderly and handicapped, I guess. They shut off the checkout stations on the 5th floor – I think even if you are in the middle of checking things out – and you are forced to check out on the 1st floor.

So I give the library two choices:


you honor the closing time as all retail stores do – and people can enter as late as 5:59:30 versus a closing time of 6:00:00 – and still be fully served. In this case, tough darts, the staff has to stay a little longer (so compensate them accordingly.)


if you want to behave as you do now, then be honest and knock 15 minutes off the currently stated closing times. You are closing at 5:50 if you turn the elevators off at 5:50 and there is no two ways about that. Also, the checkout machines are all on or all off, period.

I have no problem with either solution, but I do have a problem with the “cake and eat it too” approach of pretending to close at 6:00 if they’re spending the last 10-15 minutes of that time telling you they can’t do anything for you because they’re closing. And shutting off the elevator is hostile. I know it is to discourage people from going upstairs near closing time, but closing time is closing time and this “social engineering” of the public’s behavior is not very clever (or polite) at all. If you’re shutting the elevator off to halt the public you can only do that when the public is already gone, so you cannot do that until 6 PM (and if someone needs to sue BPL under the disability act to make this point, then the statute they’ll sue under should be cited to BPL before that suit is filed so they will act before they get sued.)

A final word: the elevator must never be shut down so as to force patrons to use the stairs to reach the 1st floor. For anyone on the 5th floor with business still to do (since you turned off the checkout machines on the 5th floor), this is just grossly, gratuitously rude.