Monday, February 23, 2009

Any color so long as it's black.

"You can have any color you like, as long as it's black." This quote often attributed to Henry Ford is one of the most profound bits of wisdom I've ever read.

I was just reading the Unshelved story arc where the woman wants Dewey to let her use a scanner in the library, and it really reminded me of me.

(I would just link to the picture, but Bill is always complaining about how broke he is, so click the link to help generate some ad revenue.)

I dislike giving technology to patrons. Because they don't know what to do with it. You learn this the first time you trade your old black and white copier for color or get one with a document feeder that does double-sided copies. For years, all you heard was, "Why don't you have a color copier?" Or "Why doesn't this copier do double-sided copies?" So you gave in and upgraded.

And now those same people stand there for five minutes looking at the buttons, too confused to copy anything. Or they make 20 black and white copies then demand their money back because they wanted color.

It doesn't pay to give people too many choices. At least not in libraries. Maybe in a casino.

I came into the library game a little late, but I don't remember all this fuss when people first found out about books.

Put the "book" on a flat surface with the cover facing up and the open end on the right. Lift the cover completely and continue on that arc until the cover touches the table.
Now begin looking at the top left corner of the left page and read the words from left to right from top to bottom. And when you get to the bottom of the left page, move your eyes to the top left corner of the right page and keep reading. If you need help, move your finger along the words.
When you get to the bottom of the right-hand page, lift the page and move it just like you did with the cover.
Don't handle the page too roughly or else it will tear and the words will scramble off the paper and escape from the book.

Come to think of it, I don't understand how libraries ever got started.

I don't like to argue with people. I don't venture into labyrinthine or circuitous paths of patron illogic as they try to convince me to do what they want. Here's a sample a conversation I just had with a problem patron:

  • How come I can't save to my disk?

  • Is your disk in the computer? Here, let me show you.

  • I'm just trying to save to my disk, man.

  • Oh, I don't see a disk. Are you trying to save to the Desktop?

  • No, my disk. My disk right here in the tray.

  • Oh. You have a blank CD. Well, that's not a CD burner. We don't have any CD burners in the library.

  • I just want to save to my disk.

  • If you have a flash drive or a floppy disk, we can. But we don't have CD burners.

  • Why can't I save to my disk?

  • We don't have CD burners. You need a CD burner to save to that disk.

  • So you can't help me save my file.

  • We don't have a CD burner. You need a CD burner to save to that disk.

As you can see, I don't argue. I can repeat my point twenty times and never raise my voice. I work with some librarians who begin to discuss why we don't have the latest technology, about library budgets and computer security, blah, blah, blah. And this always makes the problem worse for the librarian, who gets more and more upset as the assistance devolves into confrontation. But my tactic is to repeat over and over and over until the patron gets sleepy and vulnerable to suggestion. And then I tell him these are not the droids he is looking for, and to give me ten dollars. It's the Jedi way.

I don't like adding new tech to the library unless we can severely limit the options. Like if we had a scanner, I would need to find a way to limit what the scanner can do. I'd probably allow only a save to full color 300 dpi PDF or JPG. And even with those few choices, our patrons would have more problems than I could imagine. That's why our library doesn't have a scanner.

Now that I've thought about, I'm getting rid of the copiers, too. And the books. Okay, maybe just the pop-ups. Someone could put an eye out.