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Full moon but wintry economics - Altivo's Horse Tails — LiveJournal
Wandering about distractedly
altivo
altivo
Full moon but wintry economics
Makes it feel like Wednesday already. This morning before dawn the moon shone into my window through the trees and it was like a painted picture in a children's book maybe. Slate blue sky and big yellow moon setting behind the winter branches, it was almost surreal in the sharp edges and simple forms of the image.

One of the monthly details of my work is maintaining the "new books" selection. As new titles are added to the collection, we mark them with blue stickers on the spine that just say "New" and put them on a special group of shelves near the entrance so library users can browse the latest additions. The blue label reminds everyone to return these books to the special display after they are checked out. Of course, at some point, they have to move into the regular collection. The blue label is peeled off, the location in the computerized catalog changed appropriately, and the book is shifted to the normal place for its subject matter. This happened rather haphazardly until I took over the process.

Now I generate a report from the catalog itself each month, listing the titles that have been on the "new books" shelf for six months or more, so I can pull those books and switch them over to the regular stacks. If a book on the list is checked out, I place a hold request for it so that it will be given to me when it is returned and I can process it then. This works more reliably, provided I remember to run the report at the first of the month. Sometimes things are busy and I let it slip. For a while last spring I was getting behind and the lists of books to pull got longer and longer. Our circulation manager even asked me when I was going to get around to it because the shelves were overflowing. Fortunately I was able to catch up.

Today's list seemed excessively short. Just two pages, in fact. Last month's list was similar. Then it dawned on me that we began to feel the budget pinch of the economic slowdown just about six to eight months ago. Fewer titles have been purchased, in part because the state has been very tardy in paying us our legislated percentage from state revenue. The check for 2008/09 didn't arrive until well after the end of the fiscal year. The number of new books purchased has been accordingly smaller. Because we have a private non-profit trust fund based on the original legacy of the founder, it has been somewhat easier for us than for the libraries in neighboring communities, though. We have had no staffing or hours reductions, for instance, and have continued to offer our regular education and entertainment programs. Other communities have not fared as well.

Another sign of the tight economy seems to be a boom in interlibrary loan requests. We are lending more books to other libraries, perhaps twice as many per month as we were before the meltdown. We are also borrowing more, as people come to us requesting books that they probably would have just purchased for themselves two years ago. In spite of the claims that the economy has "turned the corner" I don't see much evidence of it yet. The newspapers are still full of foreclosure notices, there are virtually no help wanted ads in those papers or anywhere else, and we continue to see large numbers of people in the library asking for help with resume writing, faxing applications, and using the internet to hunt for and apply for work. Ironically, I also note that bank executives have once again reaped massive (I'd call them obscene) financial bonuses for their work in clear-cutting the economy and sucking all the loose money into their own privileged pockets. And, in spite of all of that, people in this area continue to resist any shakeup in the familiar status quo of politics. Any suggestion that a reform is in order produces shrieks of "socialism, socialism" and in a frightening number of cases, mutterings about armed resistance. I'm not inclined to optimism about the intelligence or survivability of human society right now.

The very same users who come into the library to read a newspaper because they don't want to spend the money for it themselves, who use our internet connections and books that were purchased with community funding are "utterly opposed" to socialism. Yet what is a public library other than a socialist institution? Pooled resources are used to build and maintain a common facility for the benefit and use of everyone in the community. Don't try to point that out to them, though, unless you want a huge display of histrionics to ensue.

EDIT: As it turns out, this post is my 2000th. I have been posting to LJ for six years this month, and have received nearly 30000 comments. Thanks to everyone who has participated in the conversation, for your encouragement, enlightenments, and yes, your disagreements and criticisms as well.

Tags: , ,
Current Location: Frozen oak grove
Mood: aggravated aggravated

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Comments
From: avon_deer Date: March 3rd, 2010 09:26 am (UTC) (Link)
sucking all the loose money into their own privileged pockets. And, in spite of all of that, people in this area continue to resist any shakeup in the familiar status quo of politics. Any suggestion that a reform is in order produces shrieks of "socialism, socialism"

Makes you want to bash your head against a brick wall doesn't it? :/ This kind of attitude is common in the UK as well. It's akin to running after the man who just just robbed you, shouting that he missed a few pennies in the bottom of your pocket.
altivo From: altivo Date: March 3rd, 2010 07:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, or even denying that the robbery has happened just because the robber was wearing an expensive suit of clothes.
schnee From: schnee Date: March 3rd, 2010 10:42 am (UTC) (Link)
The very same users who come into the library to read a newspaper because they don't want to spend the money for it themselves, who use our internet connections and books that were purchased with community funding are "utterly opposed" to socialism. Yet what is a public library other than a socialist institution? Pooled resources are used to build and maintain a common facility for the benefit and use of everyone in the community. Don't try to point that out to them, though, unless you want a huge display of histrionics to ensue.

Ah, you're not using the same logic as those people, though. To them, "socialism" means "I fund things that help others"; if it's "others fund things that help me", then that's good and patriotic and as American as apple pie. :)
altivo From: altivo Date: March 3rd, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Unfortunately, I think you are mostly correct in this.
dakhun From: dakhun Date: March 3rd, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
We are also borrowing more, as people come to us requesting books that they probably would have just purchased for themselves two years ago.

That's an interesting observation! I think an increased amount of frugality is the reality these days, so people may well be using free resources like public libraries more as a result. And that change might even be permanent to a large extent.

Just the same, don't mistake local or temporary cold weather patterns for global cooling or the next ice age.
altivo From: altivo Date: March 3rd, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, you know I'm not falling into that particular trap on climate change. While I do think there's something serious going on, I agree that pointing at some local anomaly in either direction is irrelevant.

I have a lot more objective data about library activity, though, as you might expect.
animist From: animist Date: March 3rd, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
There are people who parrot whatever Glenn Beck says, but others of us favor the middle path of federalism versus privatization or socialism. Schools and libraries have historically been under local control with state guidance. They are part of our intellectual infrastructure, just as roads are part of our physical infrastructure. Any true conservative (note the small "c") ought to support schools and libraries, regardless of party - or what any talking head my say.
altivo From: altivo Date: March 3rd, 2010 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Unfortunately what we usually see is "qualified" support. Libraries are OK as long as they don't have Darwin on the shelf or too many books that are critical of conservative attitudes and politics. Likewise schools are OK as long as they don't teach evolution, sex education, or critical thinking.
mondhasen From: mondhasen Date: March 3rd, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
So many thoughts, so little space.

I can't convince 'them' at work to use the new stickers on the hard cover books: these are only applied to the paperbacks. It's up to Circ to change the books' status, odd as that might seem.

The card pocket (yes, we still use cards) is stamped with the date the book is first catalogued, and we give fiction one year, non-fiction six months, from that date. When we notice the date is past, during checkin, we then change the status from 'new' to 'adult,' 'adult non-fiction,' 'adult paperback,' an so on, and the type from some nebulous-to-non-catalogers number to another nebulous-to-non-catalogers number (a 248 to a 94, for Fiction, or to a 100 for Mystery, for example...).

We are in that 'small library that wants to provide services like the big boys' category. I'll rant about that on my own pages sometime rather than tie up yours, though ;o)
altivo From: altivo Date: March 3rd, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Circ staff used to be responsible for changing books from "new" to ordinary status here. So many were missed or incorrectly done that I took it over.

The stickers we use are "removable" which means they actually fall off some books before the six months is up, and the books end up in the regular stacks even though the catalog location still says "New Books" and the new book loan rule (no renewals) is still being applied. Those were never being corrected using the old methods. My approach catches those. I've started putting a sticker on the outside and one on the inside next to the barcode with the idea that when the book is checked in they should look to make sure the outside sticker is still there, but that doesn't seem to help.

You still actually use book cards as in "patron signs card and we file it until the book is returned?" Surely not? There are still blank book cards in the supply cabinet, but there haven't been any used in books here since long before I arrived in 2002. They are used in an arcane "system" for circulating periodical issues that is nearly hopeless and should have been dumped years ago as well.

"Type" codes here identify physical types such as DVD, Book, or Music CD, and affect loan periods and renewal rules. The numbers sometimes seem arcane but that's because of the way computers work, and there are relatively few codes actually in use. Moving a book from new to general circulation does not require changing the type or the statistical coding, only the location code. That would seem simple enough, but... A new book can be adult fiction, non-fiction, YA fiction, juvenile fiction, science fiction, mystery, large print, video, and more. Each has a different location code and that's one of the things frequently mixed up when circ staff do the transfers.
mondhasen From: mondhasen Date: March 4th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I'll have been here 11 years this month, and for almost ten of them I never bothered changing any codes except the ones identifying location, and the item type to determine whether or not the book could take holds (1=adult, 8=new/no holds). Nobody told us to change the item codes! until last summer. I hate to think how many books are 'wrong' in the system.

We find books in the stacks all the time that are supposed to be in the New Books or on display. Of course it's my co-workers who screwed up because I would never do that...

The cards we use have due-date stamps only. We still have books with the olde-tyme stamp-and-file info cards in them, but those cards are no longer used except to confuse patrons (and co-workers).
altivo From: altivo Date: March 4th, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're on Millennium there, right? I know much of RI is. Anyway, the ICODE1 field is largely of use in statistical reports and not much else. It has no effect on circulation policies or anything else. Most places have failed to use it consistently as far as I can see, but fixing it isn't necessarily difficult either. So I wouldn't worry about it. ;p We have a huge list of silly codes that are assigned in ICODE1 that was created by people who had no idea what they were doing. We continue to put them in there, but nobody uses them for anything productive.
mondhasen From: mondhasen Date: March 4th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
III it is. They changed from Horizon about 4 or 5 years ago, from Dynix maybe 8 years back. Thanks for the input.

You still actually use book cards as in "patron signs card and we file it until the book is returned?" Surely not?

Actually, we did use those cards a couple of years back when the Middle School gave us a pile of YA books for a required summer reading program. The Gospel According To Larry, and Parvana's Journey were the books. The books belonging to the school were handled with the card system and not a barcode.
From: cabcat Date: March 4th, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's probably the one thing that makes me mad when I see reports of US politics this weird thing that any kind of social benefit is shouted down under the chant of socialism.

I mean grow up really.

Australia's economy seems to be rather strong still mainly due to resources and has grown even during the GFC so we haven't really seen what's happened in other countries, hell house prices are still insane and rents never go down. And it won't change there's just too much demand for house prices to drop,
altivo From: altivo Date: March 4th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's largely the result of clever brainwashing by powerful forces on the right. At one time, "communism" was their magic word that they could use to scare people into following them like lemmings, but that lost its power after the collapse of the Soviet block. Starting about the time of the Reagan administration, they have carefully prepared a knee-jerk reaction to two new terms. One of those is "socialist" and the other is "liberal." They have a third one on deck in the wings, and have been taking it on trial runs: "gay agenda."
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