Friday, June 25, 2004

Without your space helmet, Dave, you're going to find that rather difficult.

Today was to be a day off for me, but Mrs. A asked me to come in and close with Miss E, who hasn't had as much experience with our new computer system and who might need questions answered. Miss E did fine, but if she'd had any questions she would have had to get in line. The whole day was one question after another from a wide variety of sources and everyone seemed to think I had the answers.

Mrs. D, from a neighboring county library, called five times and two of those were for the exact same question. I don't know what she thought would have changed about my answer of "I don't know" between calls, but nothing had.

In order to celebrate finally going live with Millennium, we held a patron appreciation day and brought in food and lemonade. The food mostly consisted of a box of Nilla wafers, some home made chocolate chip dipping sauce, a few brownies, some mixed nuts, meringue cookies and scones. We figured the food would distract patrons from our taking forever to make them a new library card. It may have helped, but to hear Mrs. A tell it the whole morning was a series of chaos explosions.

We keep learning new and unsettling things about Millennium and each day brings yet another item to our growing list of "Things We'd Better Pay Attention to if we want to Prevent Massive Headaches in the Future."

Mostly, my part of the day went fairly smooth right up until Mrs. A and Mrs. B departed for the day and Miss E and I were left to man the ship. That's when our blessed new circulation program went all Hal 9000 on our ass and started offing people. We were probably lucky to escape with our lives. Several patrons were not so lucky and they began disappearing.

Here's how it went down: A patron would fill out our application, we would input that information into the computer and save it, the patron would then check out several books with their new card, but as soon as we closed out the patron record, according to instructions, that patron record and all evidence of their existence would vanish into the ether.

We didn't discover this until we went back to try and put one new patron on hold for several books he asked us to save for him. When we did, we couldn't find his record. I chalked it up to Miss E possibly not having saved it or spelled his last name wrong, but she insisted neither was the case. Then the next two patrons we entered also vanished without a trace, taking the record of several of our books with them.

Soon, Mrs. D was calling back to ask if our patrons were disappearing like hers were, so we knew it was an epidemic.

Our solution was to start writing down the new 14 digit patron barcode and the barcodes of all of their chosen books just so we'd have some kind of record should the computer eventually start behaving.

My theory was that they were being saved, but that the database just wasn't updating to reflect the new data. Don't know if that's right. I just know that none of my usual computer repair techniques, such as switching the damned thing off and starting it up again, had no effect. I phoned Mrs. A to let her know, in case she wanted to call for the computer cavalry. I'm just glad I wasn't the one to have to deal with it all day tomorrow.

Poor Miss E.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.