Friday, April 20, 2018

library report

After many days of scouting around university libraries, the Tolkien Studies annual bibliography is completed. It has 227 items on it, some of which I still haven't actually been able to locate copies of or even confirm on WorldCat, but I'm confident they exist (the ones that I'm not are out) and I'll be trying to track them down later. I've got about two-thirds of the items in my personal collection, and about 50 articles in PDFs that I made at the library, ready for next year's "Year's Work in Tolkien Studies" which is based on the previous year's bibliography, and there lies the story.

Once upon a time libraries made photocopies, and I still have a file drawer full of old ones from long-ago installments of the Year's Work. But then that clever invention the flash drive or memory stick or thumb drive or USB drive - pick your cognomen - made it to libraries, and it got easier both to take files from hard drives and to download them from computers. Sometimes.

Because library policies differ, and here's some of the ones I've been dealing with.

Library 1. This is one of the major research libraries in the western world, but you can't take hard-copy files onto a flash drive. It has two rancid old photocopiers by the circulation desk, where the flat screen will let you e-mail files to yourself. For security purposes you have to painfully type in your e-dress before each file, carefully looking for typos because the flat screen, like all flat screens, does not always register that you touched a key.

Then, after you've made the copy, you have to rush over to the public computer terminals and log into your webmail to find out if the copies came through and how they look, because there's no feedback on the photocopiers. Did both pages of the two-page spread make it onto the copy? No way to tell until later, honey.

Library 2. Gives weird error messages when you try to download a chapter from an online book. Go and ask for help. Be assured this can be done. Librarian comes back to the computer with you, gets the same error messages, and then says these files are only downloadable by students and faculty, not guests. (They already know you're a guest: you're wearing the prominent adhesive nametag they order all guests to wear.) You can read them online, but you can't copy them. Mind, they didn't tell you this before.

Fortunately I was able to get this item from another library. Otherwise I was going to come back with a digital camera and photograph the screen.

Library 3. This one has but one scanning device, and it takes flash drives, but it's so mysterious and complicated to use, and its user interface so opaque, that even the people who work at the tech desk (they've got three desks: circulation, reference, and tech) can't figure out how to use it. Go through the usual thing where the self-confident tech says he can make it work and then fumbles through the screen, going into the same options over and over again and they're not coming up with anything useful this time either, while you say "You already tried that" and they ignore you.

Library 4. This is the other major research library of the western world around here, and it is amazing. First, they have scanning machines all over the library, at least two on each floor. No waiting, no trucking books down to the circ desk. The scanner's got a big flatbed without an annoying photocopier cover, the machine knows how to trim the output so you don't get big black margins, and the interface is clear. Stick your flash drive in the USB slot, the screen comes alive and tells you to scan. Put the book on, touch the big green "scan" button on the screen, up comes a miniature preview of the scan so you can see if it worked. You now have a choice of 3 buttons: "scan" for the next page, "discard" if you don't like the last scan, or "next" if you're done and want to save the file, and which point it allows you to name the file or leave it with a default name, and a progress bar confirms it's being saved to your drive.

Then it says it's either waiting for you to scan the first page of a new file or remove your flash drive (no going through an eject procedure).

Who wrote this program? They actually know what users need, and are unique in the computer industry and should be preserved under a glass scanner.

No comments:

Post a Comment