Wednesday, November 13, 2013

plan B, or how to find library books during a zombie apocalypse

We are finally back in full swing in the studio with the new laptop (the chomebook was a nice temporary solution, but it was insane difficult to actually print from and manage, so I've now secured a nice Acer Aspire (the same model I had at home before I accidently ruined it) and it's humming along nicely.  There is a lot of catch up from the past couple of weeks to get underway, so I'm in early tomorrow--labels to print and ship, books to make and assemble.  It's a used one, but no older than the one I had before, so we should be good for a few years. I've spent so much on printers and computers the past two months, it's ridiculous, but it feels like every once in a while, all the technology in my life that can goes haywire.  

Back in the spring around the time I lost Sophie, the mother board went out on my work computer. In the span of two weeks, two buses I was on stalled out, my printer went kaput, and my modem at home malfunctioned (this was temporary, sadly not before I'd already invested in a new one).  This is probably why I will never get on a plane, or rely solely on e-books or GPS-- shit breaks.  And around me, it breaks a lot.  A train may break down or derail, there may be a car accident due to a blown out tire or faulty breaks, and I would probably not be surprised, but at least I'd hopefully live through it.   If your plane breaks down, you're pretty much a goner.

I guess I don't have a lot of all or nothing faith in mechanics or technology.  There have been a few times when the system has been down at work, and in a library that pretty much depends entirely on a catalogue to even know where to begin to look for something, it's always helped to know your dewey decimal system, just a little.  But with so many thousands of books, it seems to be a slender little thread of zeros and ones, chips and wires that holds it all together.   The giant, hulking card catalog seemed more solid, more permanent and immutable, but I can't even begin to conceive of the size that would be needed to hold a collection the size we have. 

When I worked at the elementary school library, my job before this, it was in those weird late 90's days when most libraries were in transition (or at least underfunded public school libraries were)  There was a still a card catalog, but it wasn't updated, so all of the new records were searchable, but on the measly two pc's that were available (and it was a temperamental  black screen system, not web-based.)  It was a job that was seriously underpaid (and a bit stressful), so there was a lot of turnover before I took the job (and a lot of turnover after I imagine.).  When I arrived, they were still charging out books old school, each student filling out their name on the cards, which were filed carefully in a wooden box by class, alphabetically, on the corner of the librarian's desk.  There was something rather re-assuring about it, the same way I'd checked out books as a grade schooler, all those copies of Beverly Cleary and Judy Bloom books. The battle over the Shel Silversteins (a battle that was still raging in 1999.)  Writing your name carefully on the card, a certain seriousness to being able to take a book HOME with you, to possess it even for a while.   I'm a library geek, probably why I ended up where I am today. We transitioned to having barcodes for the students and installing them on all the books (luckily the district did all of it's cataloguing, so it was a matter of just linking everything up and using the system).  By far it was infinitely more efficient, but it took some of my bookish joy away.  By the time I abandoned it for a liveable wage and the city I needed to return to, we were mostly digital. 

As someone who basks in the technological amenities quite often (the internet, e-mail, Netflix), I always take comfort in the back up plan..the stack of books that line my apartment, my rather archaic never-used landline, my weirdly accurate and extensive knowledge of Dewey. I always have a plan B (zombies or no).

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