My second interview subject is a library assistant at the university library. I explained a bit about my project and her ears perked up a little. The librarian-on-duty seemed to be listening in as well, but was obviously sympathetic because she chimed in from time to time in utter agreement.
I asked “Dina” about libraries’ transition into the digital age, and she responded simply “We don’t like it. We’re old-school.” She then explained the built-in bureaucracy of certain processes, such as having to process fines three different ways per fine, and the precarious electronic catalog. She said that when the network goes down, so does the catalog, and if they want to check something out in that time, the systems might not communicate with each other. Student records must be entered in two different places, and their working system, “Voyager,” gets glitchy. She added that juvenile items are stored by their Dewey Decimal number, but everything else is Library of Congress.
Her main concern lies in the frequent changes and updates in technology. Oftentimes, their systems aren’t compatible and their equipment gets obsolete quickly. Dina mentioned the roomful of VHS tapes upstairs, and the miraculously still-functioning microfilm/microfiche viewers. “Older formats much be kept accessible.”
“We have multiple technologies,” she said. She motioned to the wall of DVDs, and spoke briefly of the DVD digitizer the library was in the process of acquiring. Meanwhile, access to a consortium called New Jersey Vid was an additional expense.
“I direct people to Youtube half the time,” she said with a sigh. “Universities have to be ready to put money into the libraries, but our budget is cut to the bone.”
“What does the university expect from leadership?” she asked. “We have a lot of concerns. The collection is becoming outdated, more like an archive than a library.”
She expressed enthusiasm for EZBorrow and ILLiad, and wished that more of the tech budget could go into a “virtual library that everyone can use.
“Instead of six DSMs, how about shared digital copies?” she asked.
I’m posting this late; a few weeks after the actual interview took place. Since then, my project has taken a radical turn into the science fiction realm. I can thank Dina for the initial idea-seed, and indeed earlier in the week I saw her in the library and did mention it. She remembered me, and our conversation, and seemed happy to be an unlikely source of inspiration. Maybe I’ll even give her a copy of the story when it’s done, depending on how the alternate world’s events turn.
Speaking of the story, I hammered out about 1,300 words last night. Thank you, Manbearchef, for being a breathtakingly awesome, intelligent, insightful, and responsive person to bounce ideas off. Sweetheart, I couldn’t do any of this without you.