Category Archives: Suggestions

Posts about things people would like to have or see, and improvements of current procedures

Breathtaking Sunsets seen from the 5th floor

Published / by aladdin / Leave a Comment

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

Published / by aladdin / Leave a Comment

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.

Interactus Interruptus

Published / by aladdin / Leave a Comment

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.

All AudioVisual content will be lost unless …

Published / by aladdin / Leave a Comment

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.

To Sort or Not To Sort the DVDs, is the question

Published / by aladdin / Leave a Comment

As the public is well aware, the DVDs on the 1st floor are only grouped by first letter of the title and are not sorted. This is certainly a nuisance, especially seeing several copies of the same title scattered throughout a specific section, asking the obvious question “can’t this be better sorted?”

In fairness, a library staffer told me that the public disarrays the sorting very rapidly, making keeping the DVD section sorted a thankless, time-consuming (time-wasting?) task.

Let’s examine the “public puts it out of order quickly” issue. When I remove a DVD from a stack to read the cover to see if I’m interested in the title, I do something to keep my place, the place the DVD came from, to be able to put it back where it came from (even though as things now stand, it doesn’t matter as long as I put M-something back in the M section.) Enough people are in a hurry or otherwise have sloppy habits so that at best they put the DVD back near where it belongs (if that.) We don’t want the slovens to do that. What would be better is to have an “I give up” pile, so the public does not refile a DVD in the wrong order.

Here is an instance where the public should be told to mind its behavior, and I endorse that the library can be firm with the public in this regard: put up signs in this area saying Please put it back exactly where it came from, or put it in the ‘refile’ bin. The subtext is If you can’t refile it correctly then don’t pretend to try. “Refile bins” should be put at the end of each shelf for this purpose. Once an hour a library staffer can refile all the DVDs, which should not take too long; and in the meantime not having found title M-something in order in the M section, the patron only has one other place to look, the M-refile bin.

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t:

As someone hostile to having my time wasted having to search a section end-to-end to see if a title is or is not in the section, there is the nasty guerilla tactic of putting a hold on a title, which makes a library staffer have to find it for me. That is unfriendly, but what else can I do at wit’s end close to closing time? The problem arises when many other people figure this out and do it as well. Now the time savings of not having to refile DVDs exactly is sucked away by staffers having to find titles (just as the public does) in a linear exhaustive search since the sections are unsorted.

As an IT professional (kissing cousins of librarians) I can tell you that sortedness is next to Godliness. Imagine that it is not 150 M-something DVDs in random order, but the phone book, and someone asks you to find the telephone number of John Smith who lives on Shattuck Avenue (as opposed to John Smith who lives on Hearst.) You immediately see this is a nearly futile task to perform (in any reasonable time.) Because you have to look through the entire phone book until you find the correct John Smith; and what if the person asking the question made a mistake, and the Smith they want actually lives on Allston Way, and not Shattuck? You have to read every entry in the phone book to know that the John Smith being sought is not listed. Back to reality: perhaps there are only 150 M-something DVDs, but I (as just one patron) face the “exhaustive search” problem to determine that a given DVD is not present. Multiply me by as many patrons who are trying to find things and see how much human time is being wasted because the DVD sections are not sorted.

Back to what the staffer said, then: the public’s bad habit of putting these sections out of order ends up costing everyone a lot of time and headache. From the IT problem-solving perspective (or Operations Research, or Economics, if you like), we have to determine what is “cheapest”: having the library staff put the DVDs back in order, or leaving things as they are and forcing everyone to do “bucket searches” for every DVD they want to find. Intuition suggests that the sorting is mandatory and that what must be done, then, is to eliminate the disarray. Thus my suggestion above: if you pull a DVD to look at it, either put it back where it belonged, or if there is any doubt where it goes, then don’t even try to refile it: put it in the “refile” bin and leave the refiling to the staffers. The public must try to eliminate “scutwork” on the part of the staffers to compensate for public laziness, inattention and sheer error.

Operations Research – what I suspect has not been done is for the library to assess how quickly the DVD section is in fact put out of order by the public given the public’s current habits. This would be nice to know within close bounds, so that the expense of reordering sections can be determined. Starting with the M-section completely ordered as of Monday morning, how soon is the M-section no longer reasonably ordered? By noon? By end of day Monday? By the end of the week? How quickly a given section is disarrayed tells us how often the expense of resorting must be undertaken. Every hour on the hour is obviously infeasible for the staffers. So if we say that having the sections totally sorted is paramount, then the means must be found to stop the public from screwing things up so royally so quickly. My suggestion above is one suggestion. Other people might think of other ways to finesse this issue.

And finally, if despite the suggestion above, the public insists on refiling things and puts the sections out of order regardless, then we see that we have to leave things unsorted because the public refuses to behave itself properly, and if that is the case – then so be it, and I and others are condemned to linear exhaustive searches by the unremitting slobs amongst us. Argh.