Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Happens When Things Get Out of Hand

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will remember me complaining about The Lists. "Laura," you say. "Tell us more about these lists! Your life is infinitely more interesting to us than it is to you!"* Who am I to argue with that kind of talk? Of course I'll tell you about the lists! I just didn't want to bore you.** So, by popular demand, here is The Saga of The Lists!***
(This will also serve as my personal testimony prior to my commitment to some kind of Facility for the Criminally Insane. You know, for after my breakdown, which The Lists will cause.)

Here is The Complete List:

This includes every book (except five) that was checked in when our inventory began. That's about 550 pages printed from Excel.

During the inventory, over two days, we located every book on the shelves, checked them off The List, removing books with errors in their call numbers or labeling and books that should have been on The List but weren't there for one reason or another.

When inventory was over, we were left with five carts of books that had notes on them marked, "Not on List." This was, of course, not true.

See, if a book was mis-shelved, ideally, it was given to a person who found it on the section of the list dedicated to that part of our shelving. A biography of Mark Twain found in with Huckleberry Finn, for example, would be pulled, then marked with a check on the biographies list, then shelved. That isn't what happened.

The reason was, The List wasn't just one list. It was two. Three, really. And they were a mess. Entering data in an item record in a slightly different way meant not finding a book on The List when it was actually there. We had three different Nonfiction Lists. So, with three sheets of paper in hand, we scoured one shelf and marked off books on each sheet as we found them. Still, a few were missed.

So, when The "Finished" List was slapped on the desk, I grabbed it and went hunting. First, I found every book on the carts that was on The List but not checked off, the process took a week. That was all but one cart of books. Those had errors in their item records, which I fixed. The few left over that had issues with their labels, I sent upstairs for someone else to cope with. Because I can't print labels here. Also, no one can print them right now, because our new circulation software isn't friends with our printer. Or our labels. Or both.

I was left with this:

And this:

The first picture is The List of Books That Were Found. It is the biggest pile of paper right now. The second picture is of pages from The List Books That Were Not Found. I have started going through the second stack, typing up the titles of missing books, and adding them to the first stack, but it's a long process. I have to go look for the books on the shelves, see if they've been circulated in the last six years or so, check our paperback shelving, and check to see if we have a second item record in the computer for the same book--a duplicate record with, say, a different barcode and call number but all the same information. If that's the case, I withdraw the "missing" book, which in fact, does not exist.

I have spent over a week on this task. I'm betting I'll be spending a second week on it too. But when it is done, we will actually know what is in fact in our collection. Until we get another shipment of new books, someone withdraws a book without telling the computer what they're doing and making sure the computer remembers (saves the changes), or until we find a book with messed up info on it's labels and send it for a "fix" it but the fix isn't saved in the computer (right labels, wrong item record).****

As I do this, I'm focused on figuring out what exact circle of Hell I'm in. I can't really ask Dante, because he's dead. Is there one with Endless Toil? My solution last night was to order books from Amazon. My solution today was to pre-order books from Amazon. This inventory thing sure is expensive.

*No one actually said that. But I'm sure you all were thinking it.
**Really, The Lists are very exciting. I just didn't think you could handle the fun.
***What? Someone had to be wanting this. Just because none of you actually demanded an explanation doesn't mean you weren't secretly thinking about how great it might be to have one!
****This is my excuse for why there was no new blog post on Monday. I'll try to get you another one over the weekend to make up.


  1. ... Oddly, this makes me want to work in a library. It's like a treasure hunt. Or something. Which I'm sure looks infinitely more like gold from my outsider's perspective and more like fool's gold from your insider's perspective.

    All I'm doing at work this week is scheduling make-up exams for next week and contemplating how to make screencast tutorial videos. I think I'll start with scripts.

  2. You know, it really is fun! I love lists! And I am only now starting to run out of steam. I just am tired of sitting in the same position for days at a time, and bending over child-sized shelves hunting for books we should have caught the first time through. It makes my back hurt. And maybe it makes me a little crazy. Ask Rachael, she'll tell you.

  3. I love your blog and the way you are writing... keep on :-)

  4. It sounds hellish and satisfying at the same time. It must appeal to my Calvinist racial memory, or something.

  5. Oh, and writing of things that will get out of hand: I got my La Digitessa kit in the mail today! Holy cow. I'm sure I'll be visiting you even more often.

  6. You got your kit! That's fantastic! You will have so much fun! Be glad you got the newest version of the pattern. When Yarnissima got Knit Visualizer (I think that's her new software), the charts became much easier to read. Before, I called it the Chart of the Flying Bs, because there were Bs everywhere--the letter, not the flying insect--and decoding it was...interesting.