Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New Year, New Library: Making Lemonade

Once again, the power is out, but this time we're not being passive. Last time we lost power for an extended period of time, this happened:
Due to Hurricane Irene, sometime between the close of business on Saturday and our opening on Sunday, the library lost power. Conferring with the powers that be and staff on the ground, we closed the building for Sunday, hoping that we could reopen in time for the start of the workweek and the second week of courses. So we waited. And waited. We were without power for about 80 hours, and this is what happened, and what we learned.  
On Monday library staff were relocated to a basement classroom in another building. It seemed that nobody missed us. We had a few e-mails, but no walk-ins, nobody asking about reserve books, even. It looked like a failure; a library goes dark and nobody notices. 
We've learned from that experience. I have a laptop, a smartphone, and some swag (thanks, vendors!), and I'm walking around campus offering research assistance to all who ask for it. I'm also showing initiative by asking. One lucky patron will win $25 to our campus bookstore. I'll be in both the dining hall and the on-campus deli at times, and if you can stump me, think of it as "Ask Me Anything," you might get another $25 to the bookstore. Picture an itinerant, wandering librarian, traveling around campus, solving problems, like a geeky David Carradine. 

The email that went out emphasizes that the building itself is only part of the story:
"As we continue to weather the after-effects of the storm, particularly in the lack of access to our physical library, we want to be sure you know that many of our library’s resources can be accessed online.
The library website continues to function normally: link.  As always, databases can be accessed electronically and remotely from the landing page of this website. Additionally, e-journals, e-books, and other virtual references can be found on this site.
Should you have questions for a librarian, please email our Library Director, Jacob Berg, at link, for virtual reference help.
To help provide you access to computers, we have opened up several computer labs in Main as well for your computing needs today: Main 238, Main 242, and Main B-9 are all air-conditioned and will be open for student use until classes start at 4pm.  The computer lab and lounge in the basement of Main continue to remain open and available for use per their regular schedule.
You will receive a separate message shortly regarding how to access Academic Services, Disability Services, the Writing Center, and Career Services.
Thank you for your patience as we negotiate the effects of this weekend’s storm.  We remain grateful for everyone’s good spirits. 
Jacob Berg, Library Director and ___________, Provost"
However, with few people on campus until about 4pm, the reality is more like this:
Random thoughts: 
  • Some public libraries are getting creative as well.  
  • It would be nice if there were integrated library systems apps for tablets, because laptops are heavy and it's hot outside. This situation makes Web Scale look even better.
  • It feels much better to do this than to sit in a room (or building) and wait for patrons. We're going to do this more often. 

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